In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Giovanni Boccaccio

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Bibliographies
  • Journals
  • Conference Proceedings
  • Biographies
  • Boccaccio and Antiquity
  • Boccaccio and the Visual Arts
  • Boccaccio and Cinema

Medieval Studies Giovanni Boccaccio
Chris Kleinhenz
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 December 2010
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 December 2010
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0007


Giovanni Boccaccio (b. 1313–d. 1375) is generally considered the father of Italian prose because of his masterpiece, the Decameron, which had a major shaping effect on the development of the frame-tale narrative both in Italy and in the rest of Europe in subsequent centuries. Together with Dante and Petrarch, he is one of the “Three Crowns” of Florence, for these authors essentially began the Italian literary tradition and set the standards of style in poetry and prose for centuries to come. Among Boccaccio’s other prose works in Italian are L’elegia di madonna Fiammetta, often called the first psychological novel, and Il filocolo, a prose romance. He also made major contributions in the areas of narrative poetry (for example, Filostrato, Teseida, and Amorosa visione), Latin treatises (for example, De casibus virorum illustrium, De claris mulieribus, and Genealogia deorum gentiliumlibri), and poetry (Egloghe). Among his other works are numerous lyric poems (Rime); a prosimetrum (L’ameto); a pastoral in terza rima (La caccia di Diana); an enigmatic, apparently misogynist work in prose (Il corbaccio); a biography of Dante (Trattatello in laude di Dante); and a major commentary on the Inferno (Esposizioni sopra la Comedia), which resulted from his public lectures on Dante in Florence. The one hundred tales in the Decameron were a major source of themes and plots for subsequent authors of short stories, novels, and plays. Because of their elegant classicizing style and lexical richness, Boccaccio’s tales also served as models of excellence in Italian prose for centuries.

General Overviews

There is no shortage of books and articles about Giovanni Boccaccio—his life and works—and the age in which he lived. Some of the volumes listed here (for example, Bergin 1981) follow the standard practice of presenting the life of the author and his times followed by synopses of his works, one by one, with some critical commentary. Other studies depart from this formula, preferring a more synthetic presentation of the material (for example, Serafini-Sauli 1982, Battaglia Ricci 2000, Surdich 2001). Grabher 1945 provides an engaging introduction to Boccaccio within the larger medieval context. Muscetta 1989 presents a concise overview of Boccaccio’s life and then selections from his works to demonstrate their particular significance. Bruni 1990 offers an overview of all of Boccaccio’s works with regard to the different major themes that emerge in his early and late literary works. Smarr 1986 presents Boccaccio’s works with regard to the changing roles of one of his principal protagonists, Fiammetta.

  • Battaglia Ricci, Lucia. Boccaccio. Rome: Salerno Editrice, 2000.

    A general account of Boccaccio’s life and works, with a bibliography and indices. About half the book is devoted to the Decameron.

  • Bergin, Thomas G. Boccaccio. New York: Viking, 1981.

    A thorough presentation of Boccaccio’s life and works with notes, a bibliography, and index.

  • Bruni, Francesco. Boccaccio: L’invenzione della letteratura mezzana. Bologna, Italy: Il Mulino, 1990.

    An attentive examination of the entire literary production of Boccaccio, divided into two distinct phases: the younger works concerned with love and entertainment and directed toward a more popular audience and the later ones composed on the basis of higher philosophical themes for a more elite public.

  • Grabher, Carlo. Boccaccio. Turin, Italy: Unione Tipografico-Editrice Torinese, 1945.

    A readable biography of the writer followed by presentations of each of his works.

  • Muscetta, Carlo. Giovanni Boccaccio. 3d ed. Bari, Italy: Laterza, 1989.

    Provides a detailed overview of Boccaccio’s life and works, with representative selections from his poetic and prose works in Italian and Latin and a bibliography.

  • Serafini-Sauli, Judith Powers. Giovanni Boccaccio. Boston: Twayne, 1982.

    An adequate overview of Boccaccio’s life and works with notes, a bibliography, and an index.

  • Smarr, Janet Levarie. Boccaccio and Fiammetta: The Narrator as Lover. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986.

    An in-depth study of Boccaccio’s works with particular attention to the changing roles of the figure of Fiammetta, to the presentation of the narrator as a lover, to the function of readers and narrators in the text, and to the development of Boccaccio’s methods as a writer.

  • Surdich, Luigi. Boccaccio. Rome: Laterza, 2001.

    A synthetic presentation of the life and works of Boccaccio with a bibliography and indices.

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