by Giovanni Boccaccio

Giovanni Boccaccio - Decameron

BBC Radio 4: The Classic Serial

In the early summer of the year 1348, as the Black Death ravages their city, ten charming young Florentines (seven women and three men) take refuge in a country villa in the (then) countryside of Fiesole for two weeks. To pass the time, each member of the party tells one story for each one of the nights spent at the villa. Although fourteen days pass, two days each week are set aside: one day for chores and one holy day during which no work is done. In this manner, 100 stories of love, adventure and surprising twists of fortune are told by the end of the ten days.

These stories later inspired Chaucer, Keats and Shakespeare. While Dante was a stern moralist, Boccaccio had little time for chastity, poked fun at crafty, hypocritical clerics and celebrated the power of passion to overcome obstacles and social divisions.

Translated by Jonathan Dryden Taylor from Giovanni Boccaccio's, "The Decameron", a collection of 100 novellas probably begun in 1350 and finished in 1353. A medieval allegorical work best known for its bawdy tales of love, appearing in all its possibilities from the erotic to the tragic.

Fifteen stories over three episodes dramatised for radio by Don Taylor.

Music directed, composed, and arranged by Anthony Rooley.

Directed by Don Taylor.

Produced by Richard Blake.

1) Part 1 of 3 (Sunday 12th July 1998 @ 3:00 p.m.)

In 14th-century Florence, ten young aristocrats escape to the country to avoid the Black Death. To pass the time of their exile, they decide to tell each other stories.

Pamfilo tells the first story of the wicked Master Ciapperello da Prato (aka Master Ciappelletto) who, having been in his lifetime the worst of men, dupes a holy friar with a false confession, then promptly dies. Believing Ciappelletto to have been the holiest of men, he is reputed a saint and called Saint Ciappelletto. In a humorous way, the story shows how God's grace can turn evil into good and a hardened sinner into a focus for everyone's prayers.

Filostrato tells the second story about Rinaldo d'Asti who, having been robbed, makes his way to Castel Guglielmo, where he is hospitably entertained by a widow lady and having made good his loss, returns to his own house, safe and sound.

Fiammetta tells the third story of unexpected twists about Andreuccio of Perugia, who goes to Naples to buy horses and in one night is overtaken with three grievous accidents, but escapes them all and returns home with a ruby.

Filomena tells the final story about the merchant Bernabo of Genoa, duped by a fellow mechant, Ambrogiuolo, and loses a bet of 5,000 florins on the innocence of his wife. Believing her to be an adultress, he commands that she be put to death. She convinces the servant who is to kill her to set her free and flees to Egypt to serve the Soldan, disguised in a man's habit. There, she finds the deceiver of her husband and manages to turn the tables on him.

With Roger Allam [Giovanni Boccaccio], Rebecca Front [Pampinea / The Lady of Naples], Helen Atkinson-Wood [The Old Lady], John Grillo [The Friar / Bernabo Lomellini of Genoa], Eleanor Tremain [Lauretta / The Widow], Abigail Thaw [Fiammetta / Madam Ginevra], Lucy Tregear [Filomena], Sarah Griffths [Neifile], Lucy Taylor [Emilia], Kate Byers [Elissa], Christopher Staines [Pamfilo / Andreuccio, a Horse Dealer from Perugia], Jonathan Dryden Taylor [Dioneo / Rinaldo d'Asti, a Merchant], Roger May [Filostrato / Ambrogiuolo of Piacenza, a Merchant], Max Digby [Master Ciapperello da Prato aka Master Ciappelletto], Anthony Jackson [Knuckles / The Florentine], and Charles Edwards [The Marquis Azzo / The Soltan].

Other parts played by members of the company.

Re-broadcast on Saturday 18th July 1998 @ 9:00 p.m.

60 minutes

2) Part 2 of 3 (Sunday 19th July 1998 @ 3:00 p.m.)

In a shaded garden, the subject turns to love as Neifile decrees that the stories to be told this day are about people who achieve their desire. But the characters in the Florentines' stories are not the only ones to feel their hearts stirring. ...

Filostrato begins the first story. Young and handsome Masetto ventures to a convent that houses eight nuns and an abbess, all of them young, after running into a little old fellow by the name of Nuto, their former gardener. Masetto disguises himself as a mute pauper and gets a job as gardener, but the nuns desire more than just a gardener. ...

In the second story, Pamfilo tells of many persons who, while they study to enter Paradise, unwittingly send others thither; which happened, not long ago, to a neighbour of his. He tells the story of the monk Dom Felice who teaches Fra Puccio di Rinieri how he may become beatified by performing a certain penance every evening. While this is going on, Dom Felice enjoys a merry life of it with Puccio's wife, Isabetta.

Lauretta tells the third story of how a man's jealousy was cured by being entombed for dead. In a rather remote abbey in Tuscany, an abbot, who was a very holy man in everything, save in the matter of women, was so discrete that no one knew or even suspected him of being anything but a saintly and pious man. He became friendly with a young farmer named Ferondo, a coarse and unrefined fellow that the abbot liked for his openess and simplicity and even more for his beautiful, young wife, so much so that he became completely infatuated with her. He could think of nothing else day or night but knew Ferando was an extremely jealous man. To cure him of this jealousy, the abbot and Ferondo's wife hatch a plan that sends him to purgatory ... for a few days.

The fourth story is told by Filomena. In Messina, there were three brothers, merchants, left rich by the death of their father. They had a sister named Lisabetta whom they had not yet given in marriage but unknown to them, she had fallen in love with a young Pisan named Lorenzo who worked with the brothers as a Director of Trade. But the brother's get wind of their love affair and decide to kill Lorenzo ... but Lorenzo returns to Lisabetta in her dreams to tell her what happened to him and where he can be found ...

The last story is told by Pampinea, also about love frustrated, but on a lighter note than the last one. Berto della Massa of Imola was a crook, a thief, thug, seducer, swindler, and murderer. Eventually, no one in Imola believed a word he said, even if he was telling the truth. He was so desparate, he had to go to Venice and joined the church calling himself Friar Alberto and being a con man through and through, became famous for his abstinence and the passion of his preaching. All the ladies of Venice came to him for confession but the most stupid of all of these was an empty-headed woman named Lisetta Da Ca Quirino, the wife of a rich merchant, whom he was able to convince that the Angel Gabriel wants to enter her body but can only do it in human form ... using the Friar's body.

With Roger Allam [Giovanni Boccaccio], Rebecca Front [Pampinea / The Abbess], John Grillo [Puccio di Rinieri / The Abbot], Richard Hope [Ferondo / Berto della Massa of Imola (aka Friar Alberto)], Abigail Thaw [Fiammetta / Lisetta Da Ca Quirino, aka 'Madonna Braindead'], Lucy Tregear [Filomena / Mona Isabetta, Puccio's Wife], Lucy Taylor [Emilia / Lisabetta], Kate Byers [Elissa / Ferondo's Wife], Eleanor Tremain [Lauretta], Sarah Griffths [Neifile], Roger May [Filostrato / Dom Felice, a Monk], Christopher Staines [Pamfilo / Masetto], Jonathan Dryden Taylor [Dioneo / Lorenzo, a Youth of Pisa], and Anthony Jackson [The Bolognese Monk].

Other parts played by members of the company.

Re-broadcast on Saturday 25th July 1998 @ 9:00 p.m.

60 minutes

3) Part 3 of 3 (Sunday 26th July 1998 @ 3:00 p.m.)

The ten Florentines are approaching the end of their storytelling, but there is still time to hear about Peronella and the tub, the abbess's braces, and how a man becomes pregnant.

Filostrato begins the first tale about Peronella and the tub. Not long ago in Naples, a poor man took a beautiful young woman called Peronella to be his wife. He was a bricklayer and she a spinner, and between them they didn't earn much but managed as best they could. One day, Peronella caught sight of a particularly attractive young man called Giannello Strignario and fell in love with him almost at once, so that they quickly became lovers. The way they arranged it was that every morning, the husband went out to work or job hunting, the young man would wait until he left and then come inside her house. This happened many times until one morning, the lovers in passion, they hear the husband knocking at the door ...

Filomena tells the second story about Lodovico, the son of a Florintine nobleman who lived in Paris. One day, while talking with a group of Knights who had just returned from the Holy Sepulchre, he hears of the most beautiful woman in the world, Madame Beatrice, wife of Egano de' Gulluzzi of Bologna. Desparate to see Beatrice, he disguised himself as a servant named Anichino and sets out for Bologna. Within days he sees her in the street and she's even more beautiful than imagined. He fall in love with her on the spot and finds a way to enter Egano's service, soon to become one of his most trusted servants. After he confesses his love to her and she to him, Beatrice sets up a humorous plan by inviting Lodovico to her bed one night which she shares with the sleeping Egano. ...

Elissa tells the third story of an abbess from a convent in Lombardy, very famous for sanctity and religion. The convent women find that one of them, Isabetta, has been having a man come to her rooms at night. Instead of reporting it to the Abbess Usimbalda right away, they decide to wake the Abbess up the next night Isabetta and her lover met and thus, catch them in the act. When this night comes, the nuns are unaware that it is the same night that the Abbess has secretly brought a priest to her rooms. Hearing the nun's cry and fearing that their eagerness will push open her door and discover the priest, she quickly rises and dresses herself as best she might in the dark. Thinking to take certain plaited veils, which nuns wear on their heads and call a psalter, she caught up, by chance, the priest's breeches and threw them over her head in lieu of the psalter and heads out with the nuns to Isabetta's room. ...

Dioneo tells the fourth story that happened not to long ago, in Perugia, about a man named Pietro di Vinciolo who, partly to abate suspicions about his true nature, took a wife. She was red-headed, ripe, and beautiful, and her passions were quite as powerful as her husband's. She could quite easily handle two husbands at a time paticularly if one of them had Pietro's taste. Her life, however, was starved and miserable and she began to brood. If she wanted to be celibate like her husband, she would have become a nun. If Pietro could break his marriage vows, so can she. ...

Filostrato tells the fifth story of the simple-minded and gullible painter Calandrino, and his two friends, Bruno and Buffalmacco who were both great practical jokers. An aunt of Calandrino's died, leaving him about 200 lira with which he plans to buy some land. But his friends feel the money would be best spent on drink and begin a plan to part Calandrino from his money. ...

Lauretta tells the final story of where love leads to extraordinary generousity. It's the story set in Bologna, a very noble city of Lombardy, where Messer Gentile de' Carisendi, a gentleman very notable for virtue and nobility of blood, fell desparately in love with a noble lady called Madam Catalina, the wife of one Niccoluccio Caccianimico. On hearing of her death, Gentile rushes to her sepulchre to give her one last, stolen kiss only to find that she is not dead. She is only just alive, however....can he bring her back?

With Roger Allam [Giovanni Boccaccio], Rebecca Front [Pampinea / Peronella], Helen Atkinson-Wood [The Abbess Usimbalda], Richard Hope [Peronella's Husband / Calandrino], Max Digby [Egano de' Gulluzzi of Bologna / Pietro di Vinciolo], Sarah Griffiths [Neifile / Pietro's Wife], Eleanor Tremain [Lauretta / Madam Beatrice, Egano's Wife], Abigail Thaw [Fiammetta], Lucy Tregear [Filomena], Lucy Taylor [Emilia / Madam Catalina], Kate Byers [Elissa], Roger May [Filostrato / Gentile de' Carisendi], Christopher Staines [Pamfilo], and Jonathan Dryden Taylor [Dioneo].

Other parts played by members of the company.

Re-broadcast on Saturday 1st August 1998 @ 9:00 p.m.

60 minutes


Back to top


Radio Plays
Wine Making
Cosby Methodist Church
Gokart Racing
Links to other sites
Sitemap xml
Contact Us