The Wheel Of Social Structure In Boccaccio's Decameron
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Since the first story of Day 1, Boccaccio has devoted a considerable proportion of Decameron to ironic stories of catholic clergies’ hypocrisy, folly and dishonesty. Meanwhile, through the storytellers in the frame stories, Boccaccio seems to approve and advocate modern liberal values like women’s freedom. Such different treatment could easily lead to an indiscreet conclusion that Boccaccio is a progressive humanist that is unequivocal about tearing down the corrupted and restraining old social institutions.
Boccaccio was said to be a “humanist” with “one foot in modernity and the other in the Middle Age” (Andrew Hui, 2016). This observation seems incomplete, implying that Boccaccio believes the social institutions evolve and improve from containing, coercive and corrupted ones to human centric and liberal ones. However, Boccaccio views the more liberal society neither superior to, nor more sustainable than a society with established social institutions. In Decameron, Mortals’ luck depends on the “wheel of fortune” that rotates in a cyclic manner, back and forth between auspicious and treacherous encounters (Andrew Hui, 2016). Similarly, this essay argues for the presence of a “wheel of social institutions” in Decameron, an inevitable cyclic transformation that could occur in both directions, driven by human desires, between rigid social institutions and a liberal human-centric social norm. This argument also aims to clear the myth that Boccaccio considers human nature and