The Decameron

If you have never read The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio, you should check it out. I first learned about this delightful book while reading Character Sketches of Romance Fiction and The Drama by The Rev. E. Cobham Brewer, LL.D., 1892. Or rather, Volume 1, as that series is quite a lengthy one. Several of The Decameron‘s stories were referenced in that book, which led me to look for a copy. I found a very early copy with all the wonderful misspellings that made it almost as much fun to read from an entomological standpoint as it did as a novel. And the stories are hilarious!

One of the best is Dineo’s tale of a Pisan judge who marries a young and handsome wife without the means of satisfying her very natural lust. In an effort to excuse himself from what other men would consider not only a duty but a pleasure, he hands his wife a calendar, which he’s carefully marked with all days devoted to saints on which “a man and his wife ought to keep asunder”. This proves to be NEARLY every day of the calendar year.  At the same time, he keeps “a strict watch over her, for fear some other person should teach her what belonged to working-days, as he had done with respect to holidays.” At length, the distressed damsel is rescued by a pirate, who “proceeded to administer…practical consolation; for he had lost his almanac, and had clean forgotten all distinction between workdays and holidays”.  Perfect fodder for one of day’s bodice rippers, but The Decameron was written in 15th century.

Alibech and the Monk is another wonderful tale, where a horny monk uses a little clever maneuvering to get an innocent (and credulous) young girl to please God by pleasing him! A great book–funny then and funny now!

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