Penelope from BL Royal 16 G V, f. 45v
Detail of a miniature of Penelope weaving, and the slaughter of her suitors. Image taken from f. 45v of De claris mulieribus in an anonymous French translation (Le livre de femmes nobles et renomées). Written in French.
Giovanni Boccaccio, 1313 – 1375, was an Italian writer and poet and an important Renaissance humanist. He wrote mostly in the Italian vernacular, as well as some works in Latin, and is particularly noted for his realistic dialogue which differed from that of his contemporaries. Boccaccio spent his childhood in Florence. His father had no sympathy for Boccaccio’s literature inclinations and sent him to Naples, to an office of the Bardi, who were money lenders, to learn business. In Naples, Boccaccio became a consul (or senior officer) of the Arte del Cambio (the Guild of the moneychangers and money lenders) and met with the learned men of the court and the friends and admirers of Petrarch. It was about 1340 when Boccaccio returned to Florence due to the bankruptcy of the Bardi and brought in a store of literary work already he already completed. After 10 years and financial challenges, in 1350 he became a Florentine ambassador and visited Rome, Ravenna, Avignon and Brandenburg. During this period he formed a lasting friendship with Francesco Petrarch. In 1358 he completed his main work, the Decameron. During the plague at Florence in 1348, seven ladies and three gentlemen left the city for a country villa and over a period of ten days told one hundred stories. Boccaccio selected the plots of his stories mostly from the fabliaux which had passed into Italy from France, medieval stories that had classical form. The influence of the Decameron on European literature is enormous. Chaucer and Shakespeare both borrowed from it.