The figure of the doctor and the science of medicine through Boccaccio’s “Decameron”


Sgouridou M. The figure of the doctor and the science of medicine through Boccaccio’s “Decameron”. Le infezioni in medicina [Internet]. 2014;22(1):62-68.


In the person of Boccaccio the humanism of Florence found its major representative. In 1358 he completed his great work, The Decameron, begun some ten years earlier. Considered the prelude to the new spirit that was to be manifested by the Renaissance, it was written in the spirit of a human-centred era. In the tales of The Decameron, based on events occurring during the plague at Florence of 1348, Boccaccio provides a detailed outline of how medical events were viewed at a time of transition from the Middle Ages to the new age of change. The Decameron opens with a description of the Bubonic Plague (Black Death). Boccaccio knows that it started in the East, and attributes it either to the influence of heavenly bodies or to God's anger over the wicked deeds of men. But the symptoms of the plague are not like those in the East, where he has heard that a sudden gush of blood from the nose is a sure sign of impending death. Instead, there are swellings, the buboes, in the groin and under the armpit, growing to the size of a small apple or an egg, then large purple or black spots on other parts of the body, and death soon afterwards. This leads to the story of a group of seven young women and three young men who fled from plague-ridden Florence to a villa outside the city walls. To pass the time, they organized themselves so that each person at night has to amuse the others by telling a story. The stories, told over ten days, contain dramatic and or humorous, elements, and many refer in one way or another to the way illness was conceived and managed in those times.

Publisher's Version