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History of Italian Literature 101: Medieval Times - Introducing the Obscene

Foreword


The grotesque domain unveils a complex connection with human belief systems, folklore and “subcultures”, evoking a sense of macabre fascination. Within this series, we shall delve into the deep interplay between grotesque aesthetics and comic discourse, always keeping an eye out for comedy and satire. The captivating evolution of grotesque crosses multiple historical eras, each one bearing distinct comical genres that reflect the societies from which they emerged. By scrutinizing the historical contexts, we aim to discern the pivotal role they play in shaping humorous expressions, with a particular emphasis on the literary grotesque and its association with comedy in folklore. This series belongs to a course of Italian literature. Our focus shall concentrate on Italian comic literature, clarifying its intricate connections to its Latin and Greek origins.


Additionally, we venture into the realm of fables, timeless narratives that transcend cultural boundaries, leaving an indelible mark on our perception of humor. Both folktales and fables contribute to our collective understanding of how hilarity should be portrayed, providing enduring narratives that continue to resonate until now. Our exploration reveals that the quest for laughter remains a universal pursuit, intimately woven into the fabric of humanity and its literary creations.


This 101 series will be composed of seven articles, as follows:


  1. History of Italian Literature 101: Unraveling the Grotesque in Comedy and Satire

  2. History of Italian Literature 101: Classical Era I - the Greek Origins of Comedy

  3. History of Italian Literature 101: Classical Era II - Latin Comedies and Satire

  4. History of Italian Literature 101: Medieval Times - Introducing the Obscene

  5. History of Italian Literature 101: Medieval time - Carnival and Dante

  6. History of Italian Literature 101: The Renaissance - The Success of the Commedia dell’Arte

  7. History of Italian Literature 101: The Folk-tale and its figures


History of Italian Literature 101: Medieval Times - Introducing the Obscene


The transition from the classical ages to the medieval period is a complex and intriguing journey through history, marked by a scarcity of documented information. The mystery that revolves around it makes the crucial, as experts can only make hypothetical assumptions. The chasm that divides these two eras is as vast as it is enigmatic, posing questions about the transformation of culture, knowledge, and societal norms. To navigate this profound shift, this article aims to embark on an exploration of the world between two ages, where Europe witnessed a transformation that would shape its cultural landscape for centuries to come. At the heart of our journey lies the influential work of Ernst Robert Curtius, whose seminal book, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages (1976), offers a unique key to unlock the mysteries of this transition. Curtius, a luminary in the field of medieval studies, provides invaluable insights into the interconnectedness of language, culture, and societal dynamics during this pivotal period. As the article delves into the tapestry of medieval Europe, Curtius's work serves as our guiding beacon, shedding light on the division that defined the medieval population—those who could speak and write Latin, and those who could not.


The division of society into two distinct cultures during the Middle Ages is a noteworthy phenomenon. This division was not merely linguistic but extended to encompass two worlds—one meant for the common people and the other tailored for the distinctly cultivated and privileged classes. It is within this dichotomy that a rich tapestry of comedic expression is found, the grotesque, and the obscene, each reflecting the unique character of the society that nurtured it.


Figure 1: Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (The Limbourg Brothers, calendar page, 1415).

It is essential to grasp the significance of this cultural divide. The division between Latin-speaking elites and the vernacular-speaking masses was not a mere linguistic or social distinction; it was the cornerstone upon which a multifaceted, complex, and contrasting medieval culture was built. The Latin-speaking elite, predominantly composed of clergy, scholars, and aristocrats, possessed the means to access the written word and engage in intellectual discourse. Their culture was steeped in the classical tradition, yet it was an exclusive realm, far removed from the everyday experiences of the majority (Varvaro, 2015).

On the other side of the divide, the vernacular-speaking population, the common people, lived in a world where their language and culture were distinct. This culture was rooted in oral tradition, folklore, and a more immediate connection to the earth and daily life. These two worlds, coexisting but often unaware of each other, laid the groundwork for the fascinating developments we are about to explore—the birth of medieval comedy, the grotesque, and the obscene.



What is the Obscene?

Obscene, derived from Ancient Greek, is translated to “No and scene” or ”off-scene”. Why is the obscene so relevant when it comes to society? Clearly, it traces the boundaries of what is considered virtuous and what is grotesque. The dichotomy between these two poles fascinates experts. Matthew Kieran states in On Obscenity: The Thrill and Repulsion of the Morally Prohibited (2002) that it has both a philosophical and practical significance. He describes the Western approach to the obscene as puzzling and intriguing, linked to negativity and condemnation of the obscenity per se. The idea of being off-scene implies the judgment of being seen. Therefore what is obscene is usually hidden from the eyes of others. He underlines the strong connection between the obscene and morality, which is parallel tothe value of grotesque as previously discussed. This article will follow the lead of obscenity as it is a top-tier mark for society during medieval times. Although the general catharsis connected to the theatre was not in the act at that time as it was during Ancient Greece, the grotesque served the same goal. It is crucial to understand that in order to have the obscene, a scene is needed and the setting of it is society. It is contrasted with ugliness and immorality.


Discussion about obscenity frequently arises concerning sexual matters, and many comedies play with this notion. Similarly, satire shares this aspect. Satire was indeed one of the many ways in which the grotesque could be portrayed since it was the most direct way authors could illustrate their humour. For example, this occurs with Cecco Angiolieri (1260-13100-1313), and Dante Alighieri himself with the literary genre of the “Tenzone” (Ferroni, 2012). The "Tenzone" was a challenge between two poets, as they had to dispute each other with poems, often insulting their counterpart.

Figure 2: Illustration representing two troubadours during a "tenzone".

In essence, the obscene serves as a vast reflection of societal values and boundaries, casting light on the enigmatic interplay between what is virtuous and what is considered grotesque. It is a testament to the intricate mosaic of human morality, an ever-present force that continues to intrigue, repel, and challenge the understanding of societal norms and taboos.


The Role of Comedy

Within the cultural context of the Middle Ages, comedy took on various forms and functions. It provided respite, a mirror to society's fears, and a tool for social criticism. It was, in essence, a reflection of the societal attitudes, norms, and taboos of the day. Yet, comedy was not merely an intellectual exercise; it embraced its lowest and obscene functions, daring to explore the fringes of human experience. This transformation is perhaps most visible in Italy, where authors like Giovanni Boccaccio left an indelible mark on the evolution of comedic literature, influencing other authors of “novelle” (English short stories), such as Geoffry Chaucer (1343-1400). Boccaccio's masterwork, The Decameron, stands as a testament to the audacity of the medieval comedic tradition. Within its pages, we encounter tales replete with sexually explicit and scatological elements, defying the conventional expectations of medieval literature (Battaglia Ricci, 2000). By stating that Comedy was within a book, it becomes clear that it was possible to attain comedy in multiple ways. The fact itself of the emergence of a more private sphere of humour unveils the most important actor in the shaping of comedy, the Christian Church (LeGoff, 1988).


However, stating that the atmosphere during Medieval Times was strict and authoritarian, would be inaccurate. Comedy blossomed in many diverging ways, but quite often conveying on one point, the portrayal of the obscene.


The journey through the medieval comedic landscape shall unravel these layers, unveiling the various facets of humor, satire, and obscenity that marked this transitional period. The following paragraphs will explore the inspirations drawn from regional and folkloric bases, highlighting the diverse cultural tapestry of medieval Europe. A deeper understanding of the medieval world implies that comedy and the grotesque transcended societal barriers and mirrored the complex and multifaceted nature of a civilization in transformation. In this sense, oral literature becomes meaningful and has a strong impact on society (Bronzini, 1994).


Figure 3: Detail of the manuscript Florentine (Banco Rari 217, f. 2r.).
The Role of the Church

During the Middle Ages, the role of the Church in shaping cultural awareness towards society was essential. The Church, with its powerful influence over the spiritual and intellectual spheres, played a central role in shaping societal norms and values. In this context, it was a pervasive force in both preserving and regulating culture, as well as in forming perceptions of the obscene and the grotesque. The Church often assumed a moralizing stance, positioning itself as the guardian of virtuous conduct, and it used its authority to influence art, literature, and public discourse (LeGoff, 1988).


Ecclesiastical teachings and sermons were essential in disseminating moral guidance, and many religious leaders emphasized the importance of piety and restraint. However, this moralizing facade often concealed a stark contrast with the Church's practices and manifestations. While condemning the obscene in various art forms, the Church's rituals and religious artworks occasionally displayed elements that modern audiences might consider grotesque or explicit. This inherent contradiction became particularly evident during the Middle Ages when the Church's sway over the cultural landscape was marked by a complex interplay of moral guidance and the tacit acceptance of a certain level of obscenity within its rituals and practices. While references to specific encyclicals regarding the obscene or grotesque are not readily available, it is well-documented that the Church's stance on these matters evolved and varied among different popes and regions, reflecting the intricate relationship between the Church's moral authority and the cultural norms of the era (Ferroni, 2012).


Figure 4: Illustration (detail) of the "Crusader Bible" (1240 A.D.).
The Role of Satire

Satire played a pivotal role in the cultural landscape of the Middle Ages, acting as a powerful response to the Church's authoritative and often hypocritical stance on regulating the obscene. As the Church sought to maintain moral authority and control over cultural expressions, many satirists found a means to subvert and challenge the established order through humor and irony. Satirical works, often produced in vernacular languages, served as a direct and sometimes irreverent commentary on the Church's moralizing efforts. Satire was a formidable force within medieval comedy. In a society marked by rigid hierarchies and the ever-present influence of the Church, satire was a means of levying criticism against the clergy and institutions. Satire, with its capacity for social commentary and subversion, provided a vital outlet for dissent and critique within the medieval world (Reiss, 1981). In this tumultuous environment of cultural division and burgeoning comedic traditions, medieval comedy found its footing. The dichotomy between the Latin-speaking elite and the vernacular-speaking masses created a vibrant, multifaceted landscape of humor, satire, and entertainment. As we delve deeper into this rich tapestry, we uncover the audacious spirit of medieval comedy, a tradition that both reflected and defied the constraints of its time. It is fundamental to understand that Satire and Irony came from a magmatic environment, in which no categorization was possible. Nevertheless, it was possible to understand towards whom the irony was directed.


One of the key targets of satire was the Church's hypocrisy. While the Church preached against obscenity and the grotesque in various art forms, it was not immune to accusations of hypocrisy. Satirists were quick to point out that the Church itself, in its rituals, artworks, and even some of its members' behaviors, occasionally embraced elements that modern audiences might find explicit or grotesque. These satirists used humor and wit to unveil the contradictions between the Church's moralizing rhetoric and its practices, thereby undermining its authority (Ferroni, 2012).


Cecco Angiolieri, an eminent Italian poet of the 13th century, was known for his biting satirical works. His humorous verses often critiqued the moral pretensions of the Church, as well as the societal norms of his time. In his poems, Cecco ridiculed the clergy and the ecclesiastical hierarchy, pointing out their flaws and moral failings with irreverent wit. His satirical poems, such as "I' mi son pargoletto" and "I' vo' bene," offered a critical lens through which he exposed the Church's moral contradictions and hypocrisies, making it clear that the Church itself was not immune to practices that could be deemed obscene (Bologna & Rocchi, 2010).

Giovanni Boccaccio, renowned for his work The Decameron, employed satire and humor to comment on various aspects of society, including the Church. Within The Decameron, Boccaccio's tales often featured characters who questioned the Church's moral authority or engaged in behaviors considered obscene. Notably, he used his storytelling to subtly challenge the institution, shedding light on the tension between the Church's teachings and the actions of its clergy, particularly in the context of love and human desires (Battaglia Ricci, 2000).


Figure 5: Portrait of Boccaccio (Andrea del Castagno, 1450).

Both Cecco Angiolieri and Boccaccio used satire as a means to provoke societal discussions about the Church's role in shaping cultural awareness and the regulation of the obscene and the grotesque. Through their satirical works, they showcased the dual nature of the Church, which, while striving to maintain a facade of moral rectitude, often fell short in its practices. Their use of satire in Italian literature was instrumental in critiquing the Church's authority and highlighting the need for reform. In this context, satire became a vital mechanism through which medieval society confronted the complexities of its relationship with the Church, illustrating the institution's moral contradictions and the societal implications of its regulation of the obscene.


The Cultural Chasm and Origins of Medieval Comedy

Medieval Europe was a realm of stark contrasts, where the echoes of antiquity mingled with the burgeoning vernacular voices of the common people. Within this dynamic milieu, the origins of medieval comedy take root, marked by the profound division between two distinct cultures. This section delves into the emergence of medieval comedy, tracing its roots and significance within this cultural schism. Central to the evolution of medieval comedy was the profound division within society (LeGoff, 1988). At the heart of this division was the linguistic and cultural chasm separating the Latin-speaking elite, predominantly composed of clergy, scholars, and nobility, from the vernacular-speaking masses. The Latin-speaking culture was an heir to classical traditions, steeped in the writings of ancient Greece and Rome. It was an intellectual realm, distinct from the everyday lives of the common people who spoke their vernacular languages. This cultural bifurcation set the stage for the development of medieval comedy, with each side crafting its own brand of humor, satire, and entertainment.




Figure 6: A scene of a Medieval theatre from Le Théâtre en France I, du Moyen Âge (1789).


Language was the fulcrum upon which the medieval world balanced its cultural expression (Varvaro, 2015). The Latin language was not only a means of communication but a marker of one's social and intellectual status. Latin was the language of scholarship, the Church, and the learned elite, making it the conduit for classical literature and religious texts. In contrast, the vernacular languages were the tongues of the masses, brimming with regional variations, folklore, and colloquial expressions. This dichotomy in language usage would deeply influence the forms and themes of medieval comedy, with the Latin culture rooted in intellectual wit, and the vernacular culture shaped by the immediacy of daily life and oral tradition.


The Jester: A Capital Figure of Medieval Comedy

The medieval world bore witness to the rise of the jester, an iconic figure in the realm of comedy. Jesters were skilled entertainers, often associated with courts and noble households, tasked with providing levity and amusement to their aristocratic audiences. Their role was multifaceted, encompassing not only humor but also social critique, as jesters were granted the privilege to address truths that others dared not speak. Jesters, with their wit and jests, straddled the divide between the cultured elite and the common folk, bridging the gap through humor that resonated with both audiences. Their performances, while entertaining, often concealed deeper layers of commentary, offering subtle insights into the complexities of the medieval society they served (Bronzini, 1994).


The jester, known as the "giullare" in Italian, was a vibrant and vital figure in the tapestry of medieval Italian culture. The term "giullare" finds its roots in the Provençal Occitan "joglar," which, in turn, can be traced back to the Latin word "iocularis." It was a broad term used to describe a diverse group of performers and entertainers who earned their livelihood by captivating audiences. This group included actors, mimes, musicians, charlatans, animal trainers, dancers, and acrobats. Giullari were also expected to amuse and engage the royal court, with a particular focus on entertaining the king. In ancient times, these entertainers were often young slaves. However, during the 13th and 14th centuries, giullari evolved into individuals with modest education, frequently wandering clerics who made their daily living as storytellers, jesters, and jugglers (Predelli, 1981). They played a crucial role in bridging the gap between highbrow literary traditions and the narratives and entertainment enjoyed by the general public. With origins deeply rooted in ancient traditions of court entertainers, jesters held a unique and multifaceted role in the courts and households of the Italian aristocracy. These jesters were not mere purveyors of amusement; they were astute and versatile performers, graced with the ability to deliver both laughter and critique. Adorned in eccentric and colorful attire, the giullare was a fixture in the Italian courts, where their performances were as much a source of joy as they were a catalyst for introspection.


Figure 7: Miniature of a jester and animals from the "Libro d'Ore Trivulzio" (15th Century).

Their importance lay in their capacity to entertain, but also in their ability to provoke thoughts on the complexities of their society. The jesters' humorous acts served as a mirror to the socio-political dynamics of their time, a time when rigid social hierarchies and ecclesiastical authority reigned supreme. It was not a role limited to jesting; it encompassed an astute form of social commentary delivered with a dose of whimsy. The giullare was one of the few individuals allowed to criticize the nobility, the Church, and even the ruling elite, using humor to veil the seriousness of their criticism (Bronzin, 1994).


Jesters in medieval Italian literature were known for their sharp and poignant wit, using humor as a means to challenge the powerful and question the established order. This was an invaluable contribution to the cultural and literary landscape of the time. In works of Italian literature, jesters often feature prominently as characters who not only entertain but also hold a mirror to the intricate nuances of their society. Through these jesters, Italian literature highlighted the intersection of humor and social commentary, shedding light on the complexities of medieval Italian culture. The jester's ability to seamlessly blend laughter and criticism made them a treasured and indispensable component of society, leaving an indelible mark in the annals of Italian literary history (Ferroni, 2012).


Moreover, the colorful and eccentric garments of jesters were a key element of their identity. These wandering artists of the Middle Ages wore multi-colored clothing with vertical stripes, bells on their hats, and curious objects on their belts. This flamboyant attire served to identify and capture the attention of the public while simultaneously marking them as outsiders in society.

Figure 8: French Tarot Card of the (19th Century).

The vibrant colors and alternating stripes, along with the use of musical instruments, made jesters eccentric and amusing characters, whose appearance and behavior were often interpreted as diabolical and mad. This countercultural role allowed jesters to challenge social norms and provide a form of entertainment and social critique. Furthermore, their attire represented an intrinsic need in society to possess alternatives and diversities through which one could distinguish oneself while also finding enjoyment. Jesters, with their eccentricity, embodied a rebellious and countercultural voice in opposition to ecclesiastical culture, and although they were often considered "fools" or "madmen," they represented one of the most recognizable and intriguing aspects of medieval culture (Predelli, 1981).


The Literature of Jesters

Jesters are one of the very first figures who were capable of living only relying on their creative capacity, especially in the field of writing. Still, their poetry was usually anonymous. This most likely occurred because of the intrinsic orality of the production. The poems were usually collected by second-hand writers, generally authors of Chronicles. As Bronzini points out in his essay Poesia Popolare e Poesia Giullaresca (1994), the work of jesters, particularly through the classic epic and religious poems of the 14th and 15th centuries, contributed significantly to minor texts in Italian literature. However, their creative output extended beyond this genre, encompassing a substantial and notable presence in the realm of minor literature. They played a crucial role in introducing elements of popular culture into written and poetic forms. Jesters formalized and structured this popular material, providing a unique narrative or performative framework for the free circulation of existential themes. These themes included the capriciousness of Fortune and exotic locations from the East and beyond the Alps.


While orality was a significant aspect of their profession, it coexisted with written forms. The jesters' oral tradition was detestable, especially among those who condemned the jesters' use of written records. They employed both oral and written means to convey their content. This dual approach resulted in a rich and diverse body of work that blended oral traditions with written adaptations. The jester's role, particularly in the art of "cantare" or singing, was multifaceted, occasionally transitioning from oral performances to written records, depending on the context and the intended audience. The writing of this particular type of literature not only includes but necessitates orality as a stimulus for the literary formalization of the text. This formalization, in turn, serves the oral use of the text under specific conditions of place and audience, with precise service-oriented goals. For the Italian jesters of the early centuries, as well as the preacher-storytellers of the Franciscan tradition (whose connection with jesters of God and the Saints was not merely formal), these goals aligned with the mercantile ideology of the communal city and later with the power balance of their lord.


Figure 9: Portrait of a medieval court fool (15th century).

Orality alone has rarely been successful in providing access to Literature, even when these texts are stylistically formalized. Oral songs often precede or follow the written creation of great epics, as seen in the ancient case of the Homeric poems. Orality may have a delayed effect, as seen in the late medieval genre of Gallo-Roman epic-lyric songs, which emerged in France as a domestic surrogate for chivalric epics and found wide dissemination in the territory of Romance-speaking Western Europe (Varvaro, 2015). The international identity or affinity of types, themes, and motifs in traditional popular narratives, which circulated orally from the Middle Ages onward in various European countries in corresponding forms, prevented this material from becoming part of a single national literature or multiple national literatures.


The Importance of Fables and Parables

Another form of medieval comedic expression found in the cultural milieu was the fable, often employed with a religious interpretation. Fables were moral tales, parables, or allegories that conveyed lessons or ethical values through the experiences of animals, mythical creatures, or everyday people. These fables, derived from both classical sources and vernacular traditions, served to educate and entertain simultaneously (Marcozzi & Crimi, 2014). They not only entertained audiences but also conveyed religious and moral teachings, reflecting the pervasive influence of the Church on medieval culture. The Middle Ages were characterized by a rich tapestry of literary traditions that encompassed an array of genres and themes. Amidst the religious texts and epic narratives of the time, comedy found its unique expression in the form of fables and parables. Fables, often succinct and allegorical narratives, and parables, moral tales with didactic intent, became powerful vehicles for conveying humor and satire while simultaneously delivering moral or ethical lessons. A significant precursor to the use of comedy in medieval fables and parables can be traced to the Physiologus, an early Christian text from the second century. This collection of allegorical stories about animals, plants, and stones laid the groundwork for the incorporation of humor and wit into these genres. The Physiologus often employed anthropomorphism, endowing animals with human characteristics and behaviors to convey moral lessons. This fusion of the animal world with human qualities set the stage for the medieval bestiaries, encyclopedic works that detailed the natural world alongside moral and spiritual interpretations (Kay, 2016).


Medieval bestiaries, such as the Liber monstrorum de diversis generibus (8th Century), embraced the comic potential of animal tales. Animals, both real and mythical, served as the central characters in these narratives. Through their antics, the bestiaries often combined humor with moral teachings, making them engaging and accessible to a wide audience. These narratives often featured animals behaving in absurd or amusing ways, effectively employing comedy as a pedagogical tool. For instance, in the "Aberdeen Bestiary," the portrayal of the pelican reviving its young with its blood, although incorrect in terms of natural history, was a comical metaphor for Christ's sacrifice (Folio 35r). In the Physiologus the beaver was described as a creature that castrated itself to evade hunters, resulting in a humorous and moralistic anecdote (Physiologus, 23).

Figure 10: Miniature from the folio of the pelican in the Aberdeen Bestiary (12th Century).

The fusion of comedy with fables and parables during the Middle Ages was not confined to written works alone. This tradition was also embodied in art, where manuscript illuminations brought these tales to life, often with a whimsical and satirical touch. These illuminations further enhanced the comedic aspect of these narratives, amplifying their accessibility and impact. In summary, comedy in fables and parables during the Middle Ages represents a unique and multifaceted tradition that drew from early Christian texts like the Physiologus and evolved through the medieval bestiaries. It demonstrated the enduring appeal of humor and satire as pedagogical tools, blending entertainment with moral and ethical lessons. These narratives, whether in written or visual form, provided medieval audiences with amusement and a deeper understanding of the complexities of human behavior and the world around them.


The Decameron

Giovanni Boccaccio's The Decameron is a literary masterpiece from the 14th century that provides a fascinating glimpse into the medieval perception of the obscene. This collection of one hundred tales, composed during a time when the transition from feudalism to city-states was underway, is a fundamental example of how the Middle Ages saw a flourishing of storytelling as a form of entertainment and moral instruction. While The Decameron is renowned for its portrayal of love, wit, and human nature, it also boldly delves into themes and narratives that today might be considered obscene. The Middle Ages, with its societal divisions and evolving urban culture, set the stage for Boccaccio to explore the boundaries of what was deemed obscene, thereby challenging the prevailing moral and social norms (Battaglia Ricci, 2000).


One narrative, in particular, encapsulates this exploration of the obscene with comic ingenuity: the tale of Calandrino, Bruno, and Buffalmacco, nestled within the Eighth Day of storytelling. This raucous yarn dances on the precipice of decorum, unabashedly flaunting humor, farce, and candid references to the human. Calandrino, a hapless and unwitting character, becomes ensnared in a web of deception spun by his fellow painters and pranksters, Buffalmacco and Bruno. They cunningly persuade him that a mythical "heliotrope stone" can make him invisible and, by extension, free to engage in an array of obscene and blasphemous activities. What ensues is a cascade of comedic and grotesque escapades, where Calandrino, cloaked in the illusion of invisibility, confronts a series of bizarre misfortunes. This narrative, in its irreverent hilarity and candid exploration of the profane, not only testifies to Boccaccio's predilection for mirthful and risqué tales but also provides a poignant reflection on the moral and societal boundaries of the time (Ferroni, 2012).

Figure 11: Illustration of the tale of Calandrino e l’elitropia, from an italian manuscript (15 Century).

Yet, it is in the surprising outcome of this tale that a narrative stroke of brilliance is unveiled. As Calandrino finds himself in a seemingly inescapable predicament, the veil of obscenity is lifted, and a moral lesson emerges. An unsuspecting protagonist grapples with the consequences of his reckless pursuit of the obscene, offering an astute commentary on the delicate equilibrium between societal norms and individual folly. Boccaccio's craft lies not merely in weaving tales of ribaldry but also in using them as a mirror to reflect the complexities and paradoxes of medieval existence, where laughter and the obscene walk hand in hand.


The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio stands as a testament to the multifaceted nature of the Middle Ages. Within its pages, the obscene is interwoven with humor and satire, reflecting the dynamic social changes of the time. Boccaccio's storytelling, as exemplified by the tale of Calandrino, Bruno, and Buffalmacco, pushes the boundaries of what was considered obscene in a society in transition, providing both entertainment and a thought-provoking commentary on the shifting moral landscape of the Middle Ages.

Bibliographical References

Battaglia Ricci, L. (2000). Boccaccio. Salerno Editrice.


Boccaccio, G. (2013). Decameron. BUR.


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Curtius, E. R. (1973). European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages. Bollingen Series / Princeton Press.


Ferroni, G. (2012). Storia della Letteratura Italiana: Dalle Origini al Quattrocento. Loescher.


Kay, S. (2016). The English Bestiary, The Continental “Physiologus” and the Intersections between them. Medium Ævum, 85(1), 118–142. https://doi.org/10.2307/26396473


Kieran, M. (2002). On Obscenity: The Thrill and Repulsion of the Morally Prohibited. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 64(1), 31–55. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3071018


LeGoff, J. (2003). I riti, il tempo, il riso. Economica Laterza.


LeGoff, J. (1988). L'uomo medievale. Laterza.


Marcozzi, L. & Crimi, G. (2013). Dante e il mondo animale. Carocci.


Predelli, M. (1980). La Ciarlataneria nel Medioevo e al Giorno D’Oggi. Lares, 46(4), 453–486. http://www.jstor.org/stable/44628401


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