Giovanni Boccaccio

Giovanni Boccaccio

The greatest figure of the early Italian Renaissance
Date of Birth: 16.06.1313
Country: Italy

Biography of Giovanni Boccaccio

Giovanni Boccaccio was the greatest figure of the early Italian Renaissance. Born in 1313 in Paris, France, he was the illegitimate son of a Florentine merchant, Boccaccio del fuccio Kellyno. Boccaccio's mother, Jeanne, was a Frenchwoman.

Boccaccio grew up in Florence, where he was educated in grammar and later studied arithmetic. In 1327, he was sent by his employer, the Bardis banking house, to Naples. There, he worked as an apprentice to a Florentine merchant and spent his time yearning for fame as a poet. After six years, Boccaccio returned to Florence and dedicated himself to studying canon law.

In Naples, Boccaccio had access to the court of King Robert of Anjou, where he mingled with soldiers, sailors, wealthy merchants, and philosophers. During this time, he also experienced several romantic relationships. However, it was on March 30, 1336, in a small church called San Lorenzo, that Boccaccio met Maria d'Aquino, who would later become known as Fiammetta. Their love affair inspired much of Boccaccio's early works.

In 1339, Boccaccio's employer, the Bardis banking house, collapsed, leaving him without a job and support. He attempted to live off a small estate gifted to him by his father but struggled financially. Boccaccio's life took a turn for the worse after the deaths of his stepmother and half-brother in 1341. He returned to Florence, where he found solace in his friendship with the poet Petrarch and his love for his illegitimate daughter, Violante.

Florence appointed Boccaccio as its treasurer, entrusted him with acquiring the city of Prato from Naples, and sent him on important diplomatic missions. He traveled extensively throughout Italy, visited Avignon, and likely ventured to Tyrol. However, his later years were marked by hardships. He fell in love with a widow who ridiculed him, which led him to write "Il Corbaccio," a scathing critique of women. A monk named Joachim Chanis chastised Boccaccio for his "sinful" writings and urged him to burn all his books. Only a letter from Petrarch prevented Boccaccio from taking that drastic step. He then embarked on a trip to Naples, only to find disappointment and rejection. He eventually settled in Certaldo, his father's hometown.

Boccaccio made a final public appearance in 1373 when he was commissioned to give a series of lectures on Dante in Florence. However, his health was failing, and he was only able to deliver a small portion of the planned lectures. Boccaccio died in Certaldo on December 31, 1375.

Boccaccio's literary legacy is vast and diverse. His most famous work, "Decameron," a collection of novellas, is widely regarded as a masterpiece of Italian literature. He also wrote four epic poems, a novel, allegorical works, satires, a biographical book on Dante, and commentaries on Dante's "Divine Comedy." Additionally, Boccaccio composed numerous poems, letters, and Latin eclogues.

His works had a significant influence on later writers. Geoffrey Chaucer, for example, relied heavily on Boccaccio's "Filostrato" for his own work "Troilus and Criseyde." Boccaccio's "Teseida," written in octaves, provided Chaucer with material for one of the stories in "The Canterbury Tales." Boccaccio's other works, such as "Ninfale Fiesolano," "Filocolo," and "L'Elegia di madonna Fiammetta," also left a lasting impact on literature.

Despite his Ciceronian style, Boccaccio's language in "Decameron" is lively, colorful, rich, elegant, and melodic. He was gallant, balanced, experienced, and sometimes cynical, but always compassionate. Boccaccio painted a vivid picture of the vibrant and tumultuous era of the Late Middle Ages. His influence can be seen in the works of Chaucer, William Shakespeare, Molière, Madame de Sévigné, Jonathan Swift, Jean de La Fontaine, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Lord Byron, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, among others.