Establishing new moral and social norms can be a controversial issue, especially if these norms contradicted the social flow in the fourteenth century. A close vision to such breakthrough can be seen through the book “Decameron” by Giovanni Boccaccio – a hundred novels narrated through ten days in the company of ten young men and ladies. The flow of the novels can criticized for the simplicity by which the author used anecdotes, urban folklore, and religious moralizing examples all combined together.
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Nevertheless, the ideas in the Decameron can also be paralleled to philosophical reasoning and thinking calling for the problems of morals of the man in this world as well as human and natural laws. Right from the first line in the book , the author started with an appraisal of human qualities stating that “to have compassion for those who suffer is a human quality which everyone should posses, especially those who have required comfort themselves in the past and have managed to find it in others.” (Boccaccio 3). In that regard this paper analyzes the concepts of human and natural laws Boccaccio presented through the books ideas.
Taking as an example the eighth story told on the third day (Boccaccio 255), the human laws can be apparent through the story. The issue of trust is narrated through the story’s events, where the novels argues that trust is of human nature, showing how Ferondo’s wife believing in the power of her beauty, described by the abbot as pleasing “even the saints who accustomed to gazing upon the beauties of heaven” (Boccaccio 258), easily agreed to abbot’s requests.
In the nature of human there is not only ideal but also material needs, such as the love for money and jewelry. The words of the abbot himself describing the naturalness of his needs can also be an indicator of the differences between the natural and the human, where holiness that resides in the soul, is human, while the sin of Ferondo’s wife body is a natural. Thus, it can be stated that the novel argues that human remains human, regardless of the role he is playing. The force against nature cannot lead to anything good, in that sense.
In the same manner, Boccaccio represented opposing nature laws in the beginning of the fourth day. The story of Filippo’s son, a young man who was raised far from the city’s fuss, saw young stylish women for the first time, and was amazed: “I have never seen anything more beautiful or pleasing than they. They are more beautiful than the painted angels which you have pointed out to me so many times.”(Boccaccio 289). Boccaccio follows with his words stating that, resisting the laws of” [N]ature, whose laws cannot be resisted without exceptional strength”, requires a great strength which he did not posses. And in saying so, Boccaccio, argues that some laws are better not to be resisted.
Although the words and the morale of the novels can interpreted both ways, it can be sensed that Boccaccio had a philosophical meaning in regard the natural and the human laws. In that sense, the laws created by human cannot compete with the laws of nature based on the original needs.
Boccaccio, Giovanni. The Decameron. Trans. Mark Musa and Peter Bondanella: Signet Classic, 2002.
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