Boccaccio’s The Decameron is set within the framework of a group of ten men and women who have taken refuge from the plague in a country villa outside Florence for ten days. Throughout these ten days, the group tells hundreds of stories that reveal characteristics of fourteenth century lifestyle. By using ironical story telling, the author takes on a non-judgmental view in revealing the shockingly immoral characteristics in order to allow the reader occasion for ethical meditation.
When studying different cultures, we find that each have different moral codes. What is seen as acceptable in one part of the world may not be tolerable in another. Even different times call for different views on moral behavior. There is no “universal truth” and objective standards should not be applied to criticize one societal code more than another.
In his collection of almost scandalous stories, Boccaccio portrays 14th century society. Perhaps he is a little overboard in his descriptions, but this gives the


readers an opportunity to distance themselves from the
material and better analyze the point that Boccaccio wanted to get across. He wanted to provide a forum into the study of culture during his time.
As a society, we have learned to deem different types of behavior either acceptable or unacceptable. However, there is a danger in rejecting some types of conduct as not appropriate merely because the practice would be morally reprehensible in our society today. Boccaccio would have wanted us to reflect on values present in other cultures, not to judge them, but to apply principles that we drew from the reading to our own lives.
Should we be moral relativists or not? I believe that Boccaccio would answer “no” to that question. He would have argued the advantages of evaluating other civilizations, but would not have approved of passing judgment on them.

Category: History