The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio

BBC description: Terry Jones introduces five ripping Renaissance yarns from The Decameron, starring John Finnemore, Ingrid Oliver, Carrie Quinlan, Lydia Leonard, Samuel Barnett and Colin McFarlane.

The one hundred stories which make up Giovanni Boccaccio’s humane and comic masterpiece, come from all over the world. They are vividly reset by Boccaccio among the flourishing merchant classes in the cities of Renaissance Italy. But their witty, satirical, bawdy voice sounds utterly modern, and their subjects – love, fate, sex, religion, morality – are universal.

Radio 3 is retelling ten of these choice Florentine Fancies, this week and next, adapted by Robin Brooks. Tonight’s selection box of five tales has been broadcast every evening this week in the Essay. A further five dainties will be served in next week’s Drama on 3.

Boccaccio was born to a Florentine banking family in 1313. After an unsuccessful start in law, he turned to his true love: poetry. A humanist and a pupil of Petrarch, Boccaccio’s Latin poetry was famous across Europe, and provided the sources for his near-contemporary Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde, and The Knight’s Tale. But his real innovation was the vibrant, vernacular prose in which he wrote The Decameron. Beautifully realised in the teeming voices of merchants and prostitutes, knights and nuns, shopkeepers and conmen, these stories have become a bedrock of our storytelling tradition, mined ever since by Chaucer, Shakespeare, Moliere, Lope de Vega, Christine de Pizan, Swift, Keats, Shelley, Tennyson, Edgar Allan Poe, Caryl Churchill and many more.

The music for the series is arranged and performed by Robert Hollingworth, Director of I Fagiolini, and the lutenist Paula Chateauneuf, with translations by Silvia Reseghetti. The script consultant is Guyda Armstrong.

SAINT CIAPPELLETTO: All is not what it seems, when a fourteenth-century Tony Soprano makes his deathbed confession.

FEDERIGO AND HIS FALCON: Courtly Federigo spends every last groat trying to win the affections of the beautiful Monna. But there is only one thing of his that she wants. And it has feathers.

HOW ELENA BLEW HOT AND COLD: Widowed Elena sleeps around, though she likes to keep up appearances. But when she snubs one man for the amusement of another, she picks the wrong victim.

HOW TO GET IT OFF YOUR CHEST: When Zeppa discovers his wife with his best friend, he’s keen to make a proportionate response.

KIND HEARTS AND BAYONETS: Mithridanes wants to be a wise and generous benefactor. Sadly, his neighbour Nathan is always wiser and more generous. How best to deal with this problem? Wisely and generously? Or…. not so much?

THE SWEETEST YOUNG MAN IN PERUGIA: A young bride can’t work out why her marriage seems flat. Until she and her husband both meet the sweetest young man in Perugia.

THE WAGER: When Bernabo makes a bet on his wife’s chastity, and his friend sets out to prove him wrong, neither man imagines the matter will change their lives forever.

A JOB FOR THE BOYS: Masetto’s having a quiet drink, when the chance of a new job comes his way.

LOVES LIES SLEEPING: In the middle of the night, Beppo’s wife wakes him up to tell him a story. But his night is only just beginning.

A QUIET NIGHT IN NAPLES: Country boy Andreuccio comes to Naples to buy a horse. If only life in Naples were so straightforward.


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