Tales from the Decameron

Giovanni Boccaccio (Author) Peter Hainsworth (Translator)
& 1 more


"The Decameron reads in some ways as a guide to social distancing and self-isolation." --The New York Times

"The 14th-century Italian book that shows us how to survive coronavirus." --New Statesman

Bawdy and moving, hilarious and reflective: these stories offer the very best of Boccaccio's Decameron--the inspiration for the new film The Little Hours--in a brilliant, playful new translation.

In the early summer of the year 1348, as a terrible plague ravages the city, ten charming young Florentines take refuge in country villas to tell each other stories--one hundred stories of love, adventure, and surprising twists of fortune that later inspired Chaucer, Keats, and Shakespeare. Now, this hugely enjoyable volume collects the best stories of Boccaccio's masterwork in a fresh, accessible new translation by Peter Hainsworth. It includes such celebrated, thought-provoking tales as "Isabella and the Pot of Basil" (famously adapted by Keats) and "Patient Griselda" alongside many boisterous and daring stories featuring faithless wives, philandering priests, and curious nuns. Written in an early Florentine dialect and influencing scores of literature that followed, The Decameron is a masterpiece of classical Italian prose.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

Product Details

Penguin Books
Publish Date
May 10, 2016
5.1 X 0.9 X 7.7 inches | 0.75 pounds
BISAC Categories:

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About the Author

Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375) was born in Florence, Italy. His life thus coincided with the flowering of the early Renaissance, and indeed his closest friend was Petrarch, the other towering literary figure of the period. During his lifetime, Boccaccio was a diplomat, businessman, and international traveler, as well as the creator of numerous works of prose and poetry. Of his achievements, The Decameron, completed sometime between 1350 and 1352, remains his lasting contribution to world literature, immensely popular from its original appearance to the present day. Peter Hainsworth (translator) is an emeritus fellow and professor of Italian at Oxford University.


"The Decameron, by Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375), made a great impression on me. . . . Ten youths--seven women and three men--take turns telling stories for 10 days. At around the age of 16, I found it reassuring that Boccaccio, in conceiving his narrators, had made most of them women. Here was a great writer, the father of the modern story, presenting seven great female narrators. There was something to hope for. . . . The seven female narrators of the Decameron should never again need to rely on the great Giovanni Boccaccio to express themselves. . . . The female story, told with increasing skill, increasingly widespread and unapologetic, is what must now assume power." --Elena Ferrante, The New York Times