The Decameron discussion questions
It’s classics month on the blog, and so here are some discussion questions for reading groups who decide on the (admittedly daunting) task of reading The Decameron.
Each of the ten days of The Decameron has a distinct theme, and this colours the enjoyability of stories told on that day. Which day did you prefer? Did you find day four (tragic stories which end unpleasantly) a hurdle? Do you feel medieval readers would have enjoyed Day Four more than modern readers. or less, and why?
Some readers think that the participants in The Decameron represent certain virtues and vices. Do you think this is accurate? Which storyteller is which virtue or vice?
Is Dioeno a Mary Sue?
The characters take turns slagging off foreigners, poor people, wealthy people, religious people, and several other sets of people, and yet it has retained appeal over the centuries. How is this possible?
The religious views of the characters are complex. What do you think would be their consensus about the existence of God? The role of the Church? The nature of the plague?
The characters have views about their gender roles which are neither modern, nor the roles which modern feminism was reacting against. What are the remarkable features of how men and women are expected to behave, both in terms of their public action, and in terms of the private actions which are the substance of most of the tales?
The Decameron’s stories have been repeated endlessly in other media. Are you familiar with any, more modern, versions of any of the stories?
Love, particularly forbidden love, plays a central role in most of the stories. Love in these stories can be seen as a form of resistance. What pressures do the characters use love to resist?
Is the framing story, in essence, callous? The rich flee the plague to live in luxury while the poor, who cannot flee, die. In this is some sense the fault of the frame characters? If you compare The Decameron with The Masque of the Red Death, are you tempted to barrack for The Red Death? How about in Sandman: Endless Nights?