The Decameron — Boccaccio

The Decameron was written by Boccaccio after the Black Death in the fourteenth century. It was written for learned men, which in that day meant the elite. It is the biggest and the most informative document regarding the Black Death. Boccaccio wrote about the effect on society that the Black Death had.

The Black Death caused most people to become alienated from their customary morals, religions, ethics, etc…. The typical view of the Renaissance people was that the Black Death was sent as a punishment from God.

The plague spread like wildfire. Anyone who caught it, normally died within three days of incubation. Because the transmission of the germs was extremely easy, as it could happen through breathing on someone else or contact with rats (the main carrier of the disease), anyone who came in contact with a sick person was likely to die.

It was because of this that the healthy people strictly stayed away from the sick to the point of cruelty, causing a breakdown in society. They began to ignore laws, authority, and government, all because there was a loss of hope for the future. People lost their desire to live. There was a general resignation to whatever fate life had in store for them. “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you die,” became a popular saying. Nothing mattered anymore to them.

After the rather depressing section on the Black Death, Boccaccio changes the tune and begins to tell stories. Continue reading

The Song of Roland

The Song of Roland (written after 1095) is a heroic epic about an honorable knight, Roland, and his king, Charlemagne, who are fighting against the invading Muslims in Spain.

The thrilling story begins with the advisor of the Muslim King Marsilie, wanting to deceive Charlemagne, the Frankish Holy Roman Emperor, into leaving Spain. When the Islamic king agrees, Blancandrin (the king’s advisor) goes to tell Charlemagne, who in turn asks advice from his closest men: Roland, Ganelon (Roland’s father) and the prominent Barons. Roland strongly advises against accepting the offer but a duke and Ganelon convince the King otherwise.

When Ganelon goes to the Islamic camp to tell Blancandrin of the Franks’ decision, the two wicked advisors plot against Roland and decide to kill him. When Charlemagne and his troops leave Spain, Roland is left behind in the rearguard with twenty thousand troops.

The Muslims attack Roland with 400,000 troops. After a heroic and amazingly even-sided battle, Continue reading