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Brander Matthews (1852–1929).  The Short-Story.  1907.

By Boccaccio  [1313–1375]

Notes to The Story of Griselda

BOCCACCIO was one of the masters of the brief tale which the Italians call the novella and which might vary in length from a mere repartee, a simple anecdote, to a more elaborate narrative, having almost plot enough for a full-blown romance. It was in 1353 that he published the “Decameron,” in which there are one hundred specimens of the novella, supposed to be told on ten days by ten friends gathered in a country house to escape the plague in Florence. The contrast between the “Gesta Romanorum” and the “Decameron” is striking. Although the several stories are sometimes identical, the advance in the art of narrative is obvious. The earlier book is a miscellany of ill-told tales, and the later is a formal work of literary art containing brief models of narration. Boccaccio was a born story-teller; and he seems to have had a favorite formula. Generally he begins by the introduction of his chief characters, then he proceeds to develop the plot, and finally he gives us the solution of the situation.
Griselda is one of the favorite figures of the Middle Ages; and that the tale of her sufferings was acceptable, sheds a strange light on those distant days. Boccaccio tells it anew with no suggestion of revolt against the intolerable brutality of the husband. He tells it adroitly, as was his custom; but his interest is wholly in his narrative. His characters are but outlined; and they exist for the sake of the story itself. The analysis of the feelings of the suffering heroine does not tempt him. He is satisfied to set forth the sequence of events, without entering into any explanation or discussion.