Stories and Storytellers.
A Comparative Essay of Boccaccio’s “Author’s Introduction” to The Decameron (pp. 3-10) and Chaucer’s “General Prologue” to The Canterbury Tales (lines 1-78).
It is only natural to relate Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales to Boccaccio’s Decameron and find obvious similarities. Both works were written at similar periods of time and have in common a very distinctive structure. In both cases the narrator introduces the different characters that will be telling a series of stories, the place where all these characters have met, and the reason for their summoning there. This reason is the device used by Boccaccio and Chaucer to frame the stories; while Chaucer chose the pilgrimage to Canterbury as a framing device, Boccaccio decided on the more sinister Black Death. Another relevant trait both works have in common is the use of a wide range of literary genres displayed throughout the story telling: songs, romances, fabliaux, etc, and the use of similar topics.
The question whether Chaucer had read The Decameron or not is still a recurrent topic of discussion among authoritative literary scholars. Although Chaucer would have considered The Decameron a valuable reference for the writing of his Canterbury Tales, hence the obvious similarities, Chaucer’s work differs from Boccaccio’s as far as the goals of both authors are concerned. Chaucer’s goal, representing the whole of society, led him to concentrate on the portraits of characters; Boccaccio’s work, a piece of advice for the reader, stresses the message, the narrative flow. We are going to analyse how both Boccaccio and Chaucer tackled the tasks of portraying characters and that of developing the narrative flow; in order to do that, we will compare Boccaccio’s “Author’s Introduction” (pp. 3-10) and Chaucer’s “General Prologue” (lines 1-78).
The first thing worth noticing when one starts reading the “Author’s Introduction” to The Decameron is the fact Boccaccio openly addresses the female...