Giovanni Boccaccio: Biography, Facts & Works

Instructor: Monica Gragg

Monica has taught college-level courses in Tourism, HR and Adult Education. She has a Master's in Education and is three years into a PhD.

In this lesson, we will explore the life of Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375), a world-renowned Italian scholar. We'll look at how his works influenced notable figures like Shakespeare, as well as made an impact on the future of European literature.

Giovanni Boccaccio Today

In 2013, Brown University celebrated the birth of Giovanni Boccaccio (1313). The Italian Consulate General, and representatives from the National Giovanni Boccaccio House in Italy, came to celebrate and present The Boccaccio AfterLife Prize. The prize was awarded to the best adaptation of Boccaccio's Decameron. But who exactly was Giovanni Boccaccio, and what makes him worth celebrating 700 years later?

Biographical Timeline

The image below highlights important times throughout Boccaccio's life. It allows us to get a glimpse into his background and accomplishments.

Boccaccio's Literary Influence

Boccaccio was an Italian Scholar whose written works included prose (folktales and fairytales), pastorals (poems about the life of shepherds), and other poetry. His works were written in both Italian and Latin. Many people may have heard of Boccaccio because of his ties to Shakespeare. Shakespeare wrote his play, All's Well That Ends Well based on Boccaccio's most famous work, The Decameron,which was written nearly 300 years earlier. Even before Shakespeare, the Father of English literature, Geoffrey Chaucer, was influenced by Boccaccio's epic poem Teseida for work of his own. This can be seen in The Knight's Tale which is the first story of Chaucer'sThe Canterbury Tales. Hollywood put its own spin on the story when it released the movie, A Knight's Tale starring Heath Ledger in 2001.

Notable Works

La caccia di Diana (1334-1337)

One of Boccaccio's first works, this mythological poem depicts two Venuses, erotic and virtuous love, and two Dianas, virginal and marital chastity.

Teseida (1339-1340)

An epic poem about the struggle between one woman and two friends, both of whom are in love with her. Remember, this is the poem that Chaucer used for The Knight's Tale.

Filocolo (1336-1339)

A long medieval romance, this work of prose tells the story of Florio, son of the king of Marmorina, and Biancifiore, a poor girl disguising her Roman heritage.

Elegia di Madonna Fiammetta (1343-1344)

Another work of prose, this is the story of a wealthy lady's love affair that unfortunately, ended tragically.

Decameron (1349-1351)

Boccaccio's masterpiece that tells the tale of ten people fleeing the Black Death to retire to the countryside. Each night, one of the ten people take turns acting as King or Queen and determining how the days will be spent. This usually involved leisure activities such as walks, dancing, and storytelling. As mentioned earlier, this story formed the basis for Shakespeare's play, All's Well That Ends Well.

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