The Decameron

Poetic Justice in Boccaccio's Decameron VIII:7 with References to Dante's Inferno

Poetic Justice, with her lifted scale,

Where in nice balance, truth with gold she weighs,

And solid pudding against empty praise.

-Alexander Pope

In the Seventh Story of the Eighth Day in Boccaccio's Decameron, the storyteller states "Many of the stories already narrated have caused us to laugh a great deal over tricks that people have played on each other, but in no case have we seen the victim avenging himself". The poetic justice of Boccaccio's version of hell lies in the fact that the tortured becomes the torturer and vice-versa. The poetic justice is enhanced by the fact that throughout the story the characters of Rinieri and Elena switch from God-like to Satan-like roles. This essay will also highlight some points in the story which are very similar to ideas in Dante's Inferno.

Boccaccio immediately sets up a comparison between Elena and Lucifer with his portrayal of her as "dressed (as our widows usually are) in black" and his description of Rinieri's immediate infatuation with her at precisely the moment when he was "in need of a little diversion" (i.e. idle hands do the devils work). It should also be noted that Rinieri found Elena, like sin, very tempting and intriguing:...

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