Day 24: Self-isolation
This morning, I had a meeting with an editor who wanted to know a little bit more about my work. It was a pleasant conversation in which we exchanged observations about the current situation and discussed subjects I might be able to cover for her.
During the course of the conversation, we talked about The Canterbury Tales and the fact that Chaucer's initial plan (which was never fulfilled because he died before he could finish the work) was to write more stories than Boccaccio had done for the Decameron. I did the usual thing we do when we compare Chaucer with Boccaccio, that is, I remarked on the almost absolute lack of characterization of the storytellers in The Decameron, while The Canterbury Tales is masterful in expressing human psychology.
There are 100 stories in Boccaccio's, told over two weeks. However, at this moment, the stories are less interesting than the frame that holds them together. During the Plague, ten young Florentine men and women escape to Fiesole, where they hide in a villa to avoid infection. One could only jokingly say that Boccaccio invented self-isolation. In reality, he must have witnessed such behaviour from the nobility and anyone who might have had the means to withdraw completely, without much worry. The 1348 plague killed three in four Florentines, so there was a lot to be worried about, and yet, the characters in The Decameron seem, while in the villa, quite playful and content. In fact, their most pressing problem is boredom. Each night (ten of the fourteen), they choose a King or Queen who will preside over the events. As I recall it, the role of the ruler is to set the theme for the stories to be told, the ones that will help them pass the time in amusement, a medieval Netflix of sorts. The issues seem to be precisely the same: in order to distinguish one day from another, gather together to tell stories. If despair has forced you to watch The Tiger King, you should try to figure out how to put the devil back in Hell. Boccaccio already had figured it out.
Canada cases 19,290
World cases 1,514,866
World deaths 88,444
World recoveries 329,492