Some believe many parts of the tales are indebted to the influence of The Book of Good Love. Many notable writers such as Chaucer are said to have drawn inspiration from The Decameron. The title is a portmanteau of two Greek words meaning "ten" (deka) and "day" (hemera).
The Decameron is structured in a frame narrative, or frame tale. The Decameron played a part in the history of the novel and was finished by Giovanni Boccaccio in 1353. This work opens with a description of the Bubonic Plague (Black Death) and leads into an introduction of a group of seven young women and three young men who fled from Plague ridden Florence for a villa outside of Naples. To pass the time, each member of the party tells one story for every one of the ten nights spent at the villa. The Decameron is a distinctive work, in that it describes in detail the physical, psychological and social effects that the Bubonic Plague had on that part of Europe. It is also interesting to note that a number of the stories contained within the Decameron would later appear in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. However, it is unclear as to whether or not Chaucer had known of the Decameron. One of the women, Pampinea, is elected Queen for the first day. Each day the company's previous king/queen elects who shall succeed them and nominates the theme for the current days storytelling. Each day has a new theme assigned to it except for days 1 and 9: misfortunes that bring a person to a state of unexpected happiness; people who have achieved an object they greatly desired, or recovered a thing previously lost; love stories that ended unhappily; love that survived disaster; those who have avoided danger; tricks women have played on their husbands; tricks both men and women play on each other; those who have given very generously whether for love or another endeavor.
The circumstances described in the Decameron are heavily infused with a medieval sense of numerological and mystical significance. For example, it is widely believed that the seven young women are meant to represent the Four Cardinal Virtues (Prudence, Justice, Temperance, and Fortitude) and the Three Theological Virtues (Faith, Hope, and Love). It is further supposed that the three men represent the traditional Greek tripartite division of the soul (Reason, Anger, and Lust). It should further be noted that the names given for these ten characters are in fact pseudonyms chosen as "appropriate to the qualities of each". The Italian names of the seven women are Pampinea, Fiammetta, Filomena, Emilia, Lauretta, Neifile, and Elissa. The names of the men are Panfilo, Filostrato, and Dioneo.
Boccaccio made similar Greek etymological plays of words in some of his other works. The subtitle is Prencipe Galeotto, which derives from the opening material in which Boccaccio dedicates the work to ladies of the day who did not have the diversions of men (hunting, fishing, riding, falconry) who were forced to conceal their amorous passions and stay idle and concealed in their rooms. Thus the book is subtitled Prencipe Galeotto, that is Galehaut, the go-between of Lancelot and Guinevere, a nod to Dante's allusion to Galeotto in "Inferno V", who was blamed for the arousal of lust in the episode of Paolo and Francesca.
Boccaccio gives introductions and conclusions to each story which describe the days activities before and after the story-telling. These inserts frequently include transcriptions of Italian folk songs. Boccaccio spins, from the interactions among tales told within a day (or across multiple days), variations and reversals of previous material to form a cohesive whole which is more than just a a collection of stories.
On Famous Women, edited and translated by Virginia Brown. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001 ISBN 0-674-00347-0 (Latin text and English translation)
The Decameron, ISBN 0-451-52866-2
The Life of Dante, translated by Vincenzo Zin Bollettino. New York: Garland, 1990 ISBN 1-84391-006-3
The Elegy of Lady Fiammetta, edited and translated [from the Italian] by Mariangela Causa-Steindler and Thomas Mauch; with an introduction by Mariangela Causa-Steindler. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990 ISBN 0-226-06276-7
Consoli, Joseph P. (1992) Giovanni Boccaccio: an Annotated Bibliography. New York: Garland ISBN 0824031474
Works - Alphabetical listing of selected works
Amorosa visione (1342)
Buccolicum carmen (1367-1369)
Caccia di Diana (1334-1337)
Comedia delle ninfe fiorentine (Amato, 1341-1342)
Corbaccio (around 1365, this date is disputed)
De Canaria (within 1341 - 1345)
De Casibus Virorum Illustrium (c.1360). Facsimile of 1620 Paris ed., 1962, Scholars' Facsimiles & Reprints, ISBN 9780820110059.
De mulieribus claris (1361, revised up to 1375)
Decameron (1349-52, revised 1370-1371)
Elegia di Madonna Fiammetta (1343-1344)
Esposizioni sopra la Comedia di Dante (1373-1374)
Filostrato (1335 or 1340)
Genealogia deorum gentilium libri (1360, revised up to 1374)
Ninfale fiesolano (within 1344-46, this date is disputed)
Rime (finished 1374)
Teseida delle nozze di Emilia (before 1341)
Trattatello in laude di Dante (1357, title revised to De origine vita studiis et moribus viri clarissimi Dantis Aligerii florentini poetae illustris et de operibus compositis ab eodem)
Zibaldone Magliabechiano (within 1351-1356)