Boccaccio's Dante and the Shaping Force of Satire

Robert Hollander
Fresh views about Boccaccio's reliance on Dante


Before the publications of Robert Hollander and Attilio Bettinzoli in the early 1980s, there was little recognition of the surprisingly large debt owed by Boccaccio to Dante hidden in the pages of the Decameron. Boccaccio's knowledge and use of the works of Dante constitute a challenging topic, one that is beginning to receive the attention it deserves.

Among commentators, it had been an unexamined commonplace that the "young" Boccaccio either did not know well or did not understand sufficiently the texts of Dante (even though the "young" Boccaccio is construed as including the thirty-eight-year-old author of the Decameron.) In Boccaccio's Dante and the Shaping Force of Satire , Robert Hollander offers a valuable synthesis of new material and some previously published essays, addressing the question of Dante's influence on Boccaccio, particularly concerning the Commedia and the Decameron.

Hollander reveals that Boccaccio's writings are heavy with reminiscences of the Dante text, which he believed to be the greatest "modern" work. It was Boccaccio's belief that Dante was the only writer who had achieved a status similar to that reserved for the greatest writers of antiquity. Most of these essays try to show how carefully Boccaccio reflects the texts of Dante in the Decameron. Some essays also turn to the question of Boccaccio's allied reading of Ovid, especially the amatory work, as part of his strategy to base his work primarily on these two great authorities as he develops his own vernacular and satiric vision of human foolishness.

Boccaccio's Dante and the Shaping Force of Satire is a welcome addition to the field of Dante studies and to medieval studies in general.

Robert Hollander is Professor in European Literature and Chair, Department of Comparative Literature, Princeton University. He has received the city of Florence's gold medal for work advancing our understanding of Dante.

Praise / Awards

  • ". . . offers an authoritative analysis of the Commedia's textual presence in Boccaccio's major work, the Decameron, successfully contradicting the received wisdom (according to which Boccaccio knew relatively little about Dante at the time of the Decameron's composition) and arguing that Boccaccio's essentially satiric vision is indebted at least as heavily to his great Tuscan predecessor as to his Roman forerunner Ovid. . . . Rescuing these magisterial articles from the obscurity of learned journals and giving them new and more permanent life between hard covers will be a signal service to all scholars—graduate students through faculty—of Italian and European literature of the later Middle Ages."
  • "[Hollander] invites us to listen along with him as he speculates about the full force and effect of Boccaccio's textual borrowings. And it is at the verbal level that Hollander operates, tracing echoes and allusions and pulling them like so many threads that can unravel the mystery of the relationship between Dante and Boccaccio. Hollander wants not so much for us to believe him in every detail but to become sensitized to Boccaccio's tendency to satirize Dante. If I am right, then I would say he succeeded with this reviewer."
    —Michael Calabrese, Medieval Review
  • "The book allows the reader to have immediate access to a series of challenging interpretations. At the same time it gives a sense of Hollander's continuity of thought in analyzing Dantean and classical contributions to Boccaccio's work, beyond his two major monographs. The collection is also an important source of erudite information and textual data (lexical as well as structural), which are essential to further the reader's understanding of Boccaccio's work."
    —Eugenio Giusti, Vassar College, Speculum, January 2001
  • Winner: International Nicola Zingarelli Prize for Dantean Philology and Criticism

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 240pp.
  • 50 tables.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 1997
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-10767-4

Add to Cart
  • $89.95 U.S.



  • Boccaccio, Dante, satire, history, literary studies, literary criticism, lit crit, European studies, Europe, European literature, Ovid