In Day 1 Story 8 of the Decameron, narrated by Lauretta, she digresses to engage in a long rant about how jesters nowadays aren't what they used to be:

[T]here came to Genoa a jester of good parts, a man debonair and ready of speech, his name Guglielmo Borsiere, whose like is not to be found to-day, when jesters (to the great reproach be it spoken of those that claim the name and reputation of gentlemen) are rather to be called asses, being without courtly breeding, and formed after the coarse pattern of the basest of churls. And whereas in the days of which I speak they made it their business, they spared no pains, to compose quarrels, to allay heart-burnings, between gentlemen, or arrange marriages, or leagues of amity, ministering meanwhile relief to jaded minds and solace to courts by the sprightly sallies of their wit, and with keen sarcasm, like fathers, censuring churlish manners, being also satisfied with very trifling guerdons; nowadays all their care is to spend their time in scandal-mongering, in sowing discord, in saying, and (what is worse) in doing in the presence of company things churlish and flagitious, in bringing accusations, true or false, of wicked, shameful or flagitious conduct against one another; and in drawing gentlemen into base and nefarious practices by sinister and insidious arts. And by these wretched and depraved lords he is held most dear and best rewarded whose words and deeds are the most atrocious, to the great reproach and scandal of the world of to-day; whereby it is abundantly manifest that virtue has departed from the earth, leaving a degenerate generation to wallow in the lowest depths of vice.

(I learned a couple of new English words from this [translated] passage: guerdons and flagitious.)

What's the purpose of this rant? Is it the author, Boccaccio himself ranting through the mouthpiece of his character, reflecting a real change in the style of jesters in 14th-century Italy, in the same way as 20th-century comedians might bemoan that humour nowadays is all about dirty words? Or is it supposed to tell us something about the character of Lauretta that she would make such a complaint?

  • Interesting question. It could be a satire against who say "entertainment sucks today" and we are just missing the cues.
    – Mike
    Commented Dec 7, 2021 at 13:04
  • @Mike From more than six hundred years ago. Some things never change :-)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Dec 7, 2021 at 13:05


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