Boccacio, through the Decameron tales, adopts a satirical strategy which ultimately brings out the flawed nature from individual, to institutional and all through to societal failings. The manner in which he juxtaposes vices and virtues and plainly provides no personal angle leaves the huge task to the readership to interpret the tales. Boccacio is not only aware of the critique and even ridicule his work of art will arouse amongst the critics, but also seems aware that the kind of literature he produced would equally serve to critique and ridicule the mannerisms that characterized the 14-th century Italian society. Through exquisite narration enshrined in ten narrators and set at a time when the plague had ravaged the society, the confines to the narrative views of the ten narrators act perfectly to justify literature as a mirror for the society to gauge itself. Boccacio uses the themes of patriarchy, the pursuit of desires and lust, wealth and class in the society and, dominance and abuse to the society to invoke the flawed nature that characterizes the society.
To begin with, most of the tales satirically place the woman in a pole position, probably ridiculing the patriarchal setting of the society. The women in most of the tales bring wealth and prosperity to their men or restore it to the men. In so doing, Decameron vindicates the societal actions that have seen the men dominate over their women, beat them up and even dictate the person to which they should be married. Through the use of humor, Boccacio ensures that the women cheat on their men and even have as much a choice as far as choosing the person to carry their baby is concerned. Indeed, Boccacio concedes that he ‘made the ladies say or listen to things not considered proper for the virtuous lady’ (pg 143). Though this could be considered a deviation from the ideal patriarchy that shouldered the 14-th century society, Boccacio was probably exploring the possibility of, ‘what if,’ albeit in a humorous manner. For instance, in a society where the men take the pole position and can cheat, Alatiel (2nd day, story 7) amuses eight different men and is still considered a noble worth marriage to marry a king. It brings to the fore the societal orientation of see nor hear no evil.
For a society which values are set by the church, the manner in which the clergy conduct themselves is questioned albeit not vindictively. Boccacio seems to extrapolate the fact that the church is no creation of the clergy rather than an institution hinged on supernatural power. Thus, though the malpractices of the Catholic Church enshrined in the wayward acts of the priest and nuns which range from immorality through to corruption abound, Boccacio affirms his societal belief in divinity, but as well satirizes the revered institution of religion (Koff & Schildgen, p. 57). Thus, through the corruptible canonization, to the spread of Christianity which is not founded on the ideal values, the flaws in the church are brought to the fore. This is a disguised attack not just on Rome but also on the society who still believe in the same church for spiritual nourishment.
Finally, the society is projected as having placed sexual desires, wealth and power to the fore. Boccacio never alludes to this directly but by highlighting the weaknesses that the institutions and society perceive as normal, the question of ideal society, sexual relations and means of wealth acquisition and thus prosperity come into mind. The pursuit of all these human desires seems to have blinded the society and thus a corrupt image characterizes the interaction of all the characters in the tales. Ultimately, conventional morality and Christian values poked fun by Boccacio through envisaged demoralization of the church highlight the satirical bias in this 14-th century masterpiece.
The profound dissection though does not harbor the opinions of the author thus enabling the reader to expeditiously opine on the society based on the information given in the tales. Through sarcastic endorsement of immorality among the clergy, the use of trickery and imperfect avenues to wealth amassment and, a representation of a flawed man to women relationship in the pursuit of wealth and sexual satisfaction as well as class, The Decameron satirically capture the 14-th century society.