Giovanni Boccaccio: A Biographical Study

Giovanni Boccaccio: A Biographical Study

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Giovanni Boccaccio: A Biographical Study

Giovanni Boccaccio: A Biographical Study

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Excerpt

Of the three great writers who open the literature of the modern world, Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio, it is perhaps the last who has the greatest significance in the history of culture, of civilisation. Without the profound mysticism of Dante or the extraordinary sweetness and perfection of Petrarch, he was more complete than either of them, full at once of laughter and humility and love -- that humanism which in him alone in his day was really a part of life. For him the centre of things was not to be found in the next world but in this. To the Divine Comedy he seems to oppose the Human Comedy, the Decameron, in which he not only created for Italy a classic prose, but gave the world an ever-living book full of men and women and the courtesy, generosity, and humanity of life, which was to be one of the greater literary influences in Europe during some three hundred years.

In England certainly, and indeed almost everywhere to-day, the name of Boccaccio stands for this book, the Decameron. Yet the volumes he wrote during a laborious and really uneventful life are very numerous both in verse and prose, in Latin and in Tuscan. He began to write before he was twenty years old, and he scarcely stayed his hand till he lay dying alone in Certaldo in 1375. That the Decameron, his greatest and most various work, should be that by which he is most widely known, is not remarkable; it is strange, however, that of all his works it should be the only one that is quite imper-

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