Giovanni Boccaccio

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In the affairs of this world, poverty alone is without envy.
Do as we say, not as we do.
Sin that is hidden is half forgiven.
A sweet little mouth with lips like rubies.
Whereas a single cock is quite sufficient for ten hens, ten men are hard put to satisfy one woman.

Giovanni Boccaccio (16 June 131321 December 1375) was a Florentine poet and story-writer who helped to initiate the humanist movement. His most famous work is The Decameron, a collection of 100 novelle or tales.


  • Se medesimi esaltando con parole da fare per istomacaggine le pietre saltar del muro e fuggirsi.
    • They boosted themselves with such nauseating self-praise as to make the stones jump out of the walls and flee.
    • Il Corbaccio (c. 1355), "The Labyrinth of Love" (tr. Normand Cartier)

The Decameron (c. 1350)

Unless otherwise stated, translations are from The Decameron, trans. G. H. McWilliam (Penguin, 1972), ISBN 0140449302
  • Non come uomini, ma quasi come bestie, morieno.
    • Dying more like animals than human beings.
    • First Day, Introduction
  • Natural ragione è di ciascuno che ci nasce, la sua vita, quanto può, aiutare e conservare e difendere.
    • Every person born into this world has a natural right to sustain, preserve, and defend his own life to the best of his ability.
    • First Day, Introduction
  • Peccato celato e mezzo perdonato.
    • A sin that's hidden is half forgiven.
    • First Day, Introduction
    • J. M. Rigg's translation: Sin that is hidden is half forgiven.
  • Le cose mal fatte e di gran tempo passate son più agevoli a riprendere che ad emendare.
    • Wrongs committed in the distant past are far easier to condemn than to rectify.
    • Second Day, Fifth Story
  • Bocca baciata non perde ventura, anzi rinnuova come fa la luna.
    • A kissed mouth doesn't lose its freshness, for like the moon it always renews itself.
    • Second Day, Seventh Story
  • Lo ingannatore rimane a pié dello ingannato.
    • The deceived has the better of the deceiver.
    • Second Day, Ninth Story (tr. J. M. Rigg)
  • Io ho inteso che un gallo basta assai bene a diece galline, ma che diece uomini posson male o con fatica una femina sodisfare.
    • I have always been given to understand…that whereas a single cock is quite sufficient for ten hens, ten men are hard put to satisfy one woman.
    • Third Day, First Story
  • La gente è più acconcia a credere il male che il bene.
    • People are more inclined to believe in bad intentions than in good ones.
    • Third Day, Sixth Story
  • Fate quello che noi diciamo e non quello che noi facciamo.
    • Do as we say, not as we do.
    • Third Day, Seventh Story
  • Sola la miseria è senza invidia nelle cose presenti.
    • In the affairs of this world, poverty alone is without envy.
    • Fourth Day, Introduction
  • Chi è reo e buono è tenuto
    Può fare il male e non è creduto.
    • He who is wicked and held to be good, can cheat because no one imagines he would.
    • Fourth Day, Second Story
  • Come la copia delle cose genera fastidio, cosl l'esser le desiderate negate moltiplica l'appetito.
    • While superfluity engenders disgust, appetite is but whetted when fruit is forbidden.
    • Fourth Day, Third Story (tr. J. M. Rigg)
  • Una boccuccia piccolina, le cui labbra parevan due rubinetti.
    • A sweet little mouth with lips like rubies.
    • Fourth Day, Conclusion
  • E poco appresso levatasi la luna, e 'l tempo essendo chiarissimo, [egli] vegghiava.
    • Shortly afterwards the moon rose with a very clear sky, and [he] kept watch.
    • Fifth Day, Third Story (tr. J. M. Rigg)
  • Se egli fu lieto assai, la letizia della giovane non fu minore.
    • And if his own joy knew no bounds, the girl was no less delighted on seeing him.
    • Fifth Day, Third Story
  • Uno amore...a lieto fin pervenuto, in una novelletta assai piccola intendo di raccontarvi.
    • I propose to tell you a very brief tale about a love which...ran a smooth course to its happy conclusion.
    • Fifth Day, Fourth Story
  • Ci cacciano in cucina a dir delle favole colla gatta.
    • They banish us to the kitchen, there to tell stories to the cat.
    • Fifth Day, Tenth Story (tr. J. M. Rigg)
  • Essere la natura de' motti cotale, che essi come la pecora morde deono cosi mordere l'uditore, e non come 'l cane: percio che, se come cane mordesse il motto, non sarebbe motto, ma villania.
    • The nature of wit is such that its bite must be like that of a sheep rather than a dog, for if it were to bite the listener like a dog, it would no longer be wit but abuse.
    • Sixth Day, Third Story
  • Sempre non può l' uomo un cibo, ma talvolta desidera di variare.
    • It frequently happens that people grow tired of always eating the same food, and desire a change of diet.
    • Seventh Day, Sixth Story
  • Per lo primo colpo non cade la quercia.
    • An oak is not felled by a single blow of the axe.
    • Seventh Day, Ninth Story (tr. J. M. Rigg)
  • Ogni giusto re primo servatore dee essere delle leggi fatte da lui.
    • A just king must be the first to observe those laws that he has himself prescribed.
    • Seventh Day, Tenth Story
  • Le forze della penna sono troppo maggiori che coloro non estimano che quelle con conoscimento provato non hanno.
    • The power of the pen is far greater than those people suppose who have not proved it by experience.
    • Eighth Day, Seventh Story
  • Chi mal ti vuol, mal ti sogna.
    • Who means ill, dreams ill.
    • Ninth Day, Seventh Story (tr. J. M. Rigg)
  • Leggiadre donne, infra molte bianche colombe aggiugne più di bellezza uno nero corvo, che non farebbe un candido cigno.
    • Charming ladies, the beauty of a flock of white doves is better enhanced by a black crow than by a pure white swan.
    • Ninth Day, Tenth Story

Quotes about Boccaccio

  • There are few works which have had an equal influence on literature with the Decameron of Boccaccio. Even in England its effects were powerful. From it Chaucer adopted the notion of the frame in which he has enclosed his tales, and the general manner of his stories, while in some instances, as we have seen, he has merely versified the novels of the Italian. In 1566, William Paynter printed many of Boccaccio's stories in English, in his work called the Palace of Pleasure. The first translation contained sixty novels, and it was soon followed by another volume, comprehending thirty-four additional tales. These are the pages of which Shakespeare made so much use. From Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, we learn that one of the great amusements of our ancestors was reading Boccaccio aloud, an entertainment of which the effects were speedily visible in the literature of the country. The first English translation, however, of the whole Decameron, did not appear till 1620. In France, Boccaccio found early and illustrious imitators. In his own country he brought his native tongue to perfection, and gave stability to a mode of composition, which before his time had only existed in a rude state in Italy; be collected the current tales of the age, which he decorated with new circumstances, and delivered in a style which has no parallel for elegance, naivete, and grace. Hence his popularity was unbounded, and his imitators more numerous than those of any author recorded in the annals of literature.

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