Renaissance Comic Tales of Love, Treachery, and Revenge

Valerie Martone, Author, Robert L. Martone, Editor
Valerie Martone, Author, Robert L. Martone, Editor Italica Press $9.5 (248p) ISBN 978-0-934977-31-9
Reviewed on: 05/31/1993
Release date: 06/01/1993
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These 16 post- Decameron tales are testaments to Boccaccio's literary revolution, demonstrating his then-new style of entertaining tales written in the vernacular, and showing (again) that Shakespeare swiped all the best plots from the Italians. These liberated tales cast off the notion that literature should teach, and instead portray the triumph of cleverness over conventional morality. Two major themes prevail: lovers who must deceive to unite, and gentlemen who go to great lengths to play scandalous practical jokes on each other. The collection's stars feature both, such as ``Giacoppo'' by Lorenzo de' Medici, in which a simpleton ends up begging his wife to sleep with her heart's desire. Shakespeare might have lifted Romeo and Juliet from Gentile Sermini's ``Montanina's Deception,'' only Montanina and Vannino must overcome Montanina's unwanted marriage rather than, more nobly, the political history of their families. Sermini's lovers fake a death which deceives an entire city in grand comic style, so that Montanina can return to town years later to wed her love as ``a Milanese lady'' who--amazing!--resembles Vannino's deceased love. The tricksters always win, and in today's post-minimalist fictional haze, these stories seem bawdy in the extreme (the Renaissance Italians had a fabulous way with sexual euphemism) and a little bit bad for you. The translators capture each author's gift of gab with clarity and distinction, and the result is truly entertaining. (Aug.)
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