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Decameron’s Lesson for the 21 Century

My favorite Decameron stories are the ones presented in the First day. They appeal to me because they deconstruct the church’s authority. At the time of Decameron’s writing, the Church was probably the most important aspect of life for Europeans, rivalling kings in authority. The Pope, monks, priests were regarded by many as conveyors of truth, whether moral or factual. Decameron showed their inner corruption and inability to handle the crisis.

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Probably, the most comical story is the Second Tale, in which a Jewish man Abraham travels to Rome to assess the Church’s hierarchy to decide whether to convert to Christianity. He sees for himself the corruption and moral degradation of the priests and the Pope. Yet, he also looks at the spread of this religion and its significance across the countries. Abraham comes to the startling conclusion that only a religion driven by the Holy Spirit can survive and develop despite the rampant corruption and incompetence.

These stories are significant for any time period, including this century. Power is still frequently seen as infallible, with many people subconsciously believing that political leaders know truths and complete understanding of morality. I believe that this unconscious faith in the rightfulness of leader is born out of fear and the lack of consideration. Black Death showed the Church’s incompetence in managing epidemics. The contemporary pandemic is as enlightening, as many governments’ efforts to curb the first wave were inadequate.

Ultimately, the lesson to be learned from Decameron is that there is no power or figure in authority, which would know or possess the knowledge of proper moral decision. Each person has to use their judgement to analyze which actions constitute a virtue, and which of them lead to suffering. It has always been a critical skill, yet it is especially important today, when anyone can access the Internet, state their opinion and deem it the most objective and truthful.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Decameron’s Lesson for the 21 Century'. 27 August.

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