The Illegitimate Story

“Why did Boccaccio have the first story teller invoke God?”

In the first novel of Boccaccio’s Decameron Boccaccio had one of the characters (one of the story tellers) invoke God at the beginning and at the end of the novel.   [For clarification purposes invoke means to call for with earnest desire.] With the definition of invoke now set in our minds we can understand the question asked at the beginning of the essay a bit easier.

The story teller invoked God- he called Him with an earnest desire. But why did Boccaccio, the author, have the story teller do this? Maybe the author wanted his readers to believe that the story was more legitimate since one of the characters invoked God, maybe it was done in order for the story to be thought of as more “religious” or spiritual.

Whatever the case invoking God in his book probably gave his readers an excuse to continue reading it- it invoked God, so how could it be a bad book? But in reality this book is actually not a very decent or legitimate book. It may be entertaining to read for some but as a person is reading it he might pick up bad ideas or habits. In other words, the Decameron could be a bad influence.

The potential bad influence that I witnessed in the Decameron took place when a criminal was on his death bed and requested to confess his sins before a friar. What a wonderful thing to desire- not a bad influence at all! Under other circumstances yes, it is a good influence and a great thing to confess your sins, but this criminal didn’t confess all of his sins. He only told the friar about the smallest sins that he had committed; sins that could appear not to be real sins. In the story the criminal was described as “..the worst man that was ever born,” because he forged documents, swore, and probably even murdered people, yet he did not confess any of that to the friar.

Meanwhile, as the criminal confessed his few petty sins to the friar, the friar began to think of this man as a holy saint-like person. By the time the criminal died the whole town believed that the deceased man was in fact quite holy- the townspeople even expected miracles from him.

In my view that story is a bad influence for people. It encourages the readers to act untruthfully. This first novel is harmless compared to the many more influential stories to come later on in the Decameron.

What is your take on this? Was what I described to you decent or legitimate? Do you believe that God would look upon these stories favorably? They invoked His name, so how could they not be legitimate?

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