PLBC - 01 - Mrs Rosie and the Priest - Giovanni Boccaccio
PLBC – 01

The first book from the Penguin’s Little Black Classics collection of 80 works includes four short stories by Giovanni Boccaccio placed in the fourteenth-century Florence. They are but a sample from “The Decameron”, where we can find 100 stories in total told by a group of people trying to kill time while they spend two weeks in isolation in a villa to avoid the Black Death.

Andreuccio’s da Perugia’s Neapolitan adventures

We start with “Andreuccio’s da Perugia’s Neapolitan adventures”, which is a hilarious tale of misadventures (this being the theme of the stories to be told for the day). This is a jewel if you want a classic account of adventures in rapid succession with several delicious turns of events. The writing is simple in that there are no complicated words or metaphors or anything like that, but it has a style that just flows beautifully and it does indeed feel like a “by word of mouth” experience. I really enjoyed this one.

Ricciardo da Chinzica loses his wife

Then we have “Ricciardo da Chinzica loses his wife”, which follows the same theme of misadventures but falls a bit short compared to the first one. It’s about an old man marrying a young woman, with the moral of the story being: don’t do that! and: young people should live their lives to the fullest that they can! Overall a nice story, but nothing to write home about really.

Mrs Rosie and the priest

When the men were off somewhere, he would come visiting their wives more solicitously than any priest they’d had before…

This is the main quote of the book and it catches the essence of the next story “Mrs Rosie and the priest”. It’s a silly little tale about cheating but it has a couple of little writing gems. My favourite is how he is trying to convince Rosie that priests are better lovers than other men in his effort to get “a bit of free access” to her. It was an amusing light story.

Patient Griselda

The last one is “Patient Griselda” which… confused me quite a lot. This is a story about deeds of munificence. There’s a Marquis who’s marrying this girl and after a period of happy marriage “a strange idea came into his head. He felt the need to test her patience by inflicting unbearable torments on her over a prolonged period of time.” And this is where things get so twisted that I felt the need to look into this a bit further. It turns out that Griselda is an example of patience and obedience from European folklore, which appears in quite a few works of literature and also operas and this one from “The Decameron” is the most famous account of it. So I learned something new…. but I still find this story disturbing and not in a good way.

Overall, I enjoyed this little first book. It was a quick easy read with some beautiful comical writing and engaging stories, which made me want to read the full 100 tales.

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