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==Boccaccio and the birth of the Novel==
Despite writing a great deal of poetry Boccaccio is best known for his prose and he is acknowledge to be one of the masters of Italian prose. The Florentine was one of the founders of the modern novel and his most famous work is the Decameron. This work begins with a vivid description of the Black Death and provides one of history’s most terrifying accounts of societal breakdown <ref> Bowsky, William M. The Black Death: A Turning Point in History (Hold Rinehart & Winston, New York, 1971), p. 13</ref>. Following this, the reader is introduced to a company of young people who flee the plague in the city to the safety of the countryside. The novel consists of 100 tales that are told by seven young women and three young men. The tales, often love stories, range from the romantic to the erotic. The Decameron was not just a collection of love stories they provide an overview of the human condition. The characters in the story came from all classes of the Early Renaissance and many feature nuns, priests and monks <ref>McWilliam, p 6</ref>. The stories are all based on folk tales from Italy, France, and as far away as India, but skilfully adapted by the Florentine. All of the stories are in Italian and they are all very realistic and the characters behave in a very natural way. This is one of the reasons why the Decameron is still read and admired to this day as it delightful captures the range of human emotions, strengths, and weaknesses. The tales in the Decameron had many admirers and influenced
many writers throughout the Renaissance in Italy and beyond. The work was the inspiration for Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales Wright, one of the first great works in the canon of English literature<ref>Herbert G. Boccaccio in England: From Chaucer to Tennyson (London, A&C Black, 2014), p 13</ref>. Many of the tales in the 14th-century work were adapted by dramatists of the stature of Shakespeare, Lope De Vega, and Moliere. The Florentine’s work was a shift away from Medieval Romances to literary realism. He demonstrated that prose could capture the complexity of humans and their situations and while poetry remained the dominant mode of literary expression, after the Decameron, literary prose became more popular and widely accepted. The second great prose work of Boccaccio is the Elegy of Lady Fiammetta (1345-1347) and this is regarded as the world’s first psychological novel. This work is in the form of a monologue by a young woman narrating her tragic love for a young merchant. Boccaccio’s work was unlike anything else written before and its psychological realism was a radical departure from medieval literature where characters were stereotypes and not individuals. Boccaccio inspired many writers to abandon allegory, so typical of the Middle Ages and adopt a realist style of writing <ref> Burckhardt, Jacob, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (London, Penguin Books, 1987), p 67</ref>. The Florentine was also one of the first biographers and his work on the Life of Dante is one of the first literary biographies. His potted accounts of the lives of famous people also decisively shaped the Renaissance tradition of biography, for example, Vasari’s Lives of the Artists. The impact of Boccaccio on literature in Europe cannot be overstated <ref>McWilliams, p 4</ref>.
[File: Boccaccio 2.jpg|200px|thumb|left| A 15th century painting of a scene from the Decameron]]