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Boccaccio, Giovanni

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The important and influential author and scholar Giovanni Boccaccio is known as the founder of Italian prose literature. Educated in Florence and Naples, he associated with a cosmopolitan and courtly group of humanists, scholars, artists, and authors, including *Petrarch and perhaps Giotto. His works show inspiration from wide-ranging sources: classical mythology and history, medieval theology, contemporary poetry, and historical works. Of Boccaccio’s many works in both Latin and Italian, the Decameron is considered his masterpiece. It contains 100 tales, narrated by seven young women and three young men, who sought refuge from the plague of by leaving the city and escaping to country villas and gardens outside Florence. The stories range from serious to sensual, intellectual to comic. The Decameron immediately became a popular “bestseller,” widely copied and frequently illustrated (for wealthier patrons). Boccaccio was also active in politics, traveled widely in Italy, and delivered a series of sixty public lectures about *Dante. He was enormously popular and respected during his time and an inspiration to many later authors, including *Chaucer and Shakespeare.

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