The tale of Nastagio degli Onesti is one of the best known in Boccaccio’s Decameron, no doubt due in part to Botticelli’s vivid paintings of four scenes from it. Boccaccio’s conversion of his immediate source, a passion-chastening exemplum, into an erotic homily has led many readers to consider the tale playfully parodic. For others, it is grim and disconcerting. All agree, however, that the story occupies a central position in the Centonovelle.
In this talk, I approach the tale by discussing the way it engages two other texts, Ovid’s tale of Vertumnus and Pomona, and Dante’s portrayal of spendthrifts in the forest of suicides in the Inferno. My thesis is that Dante’s own reshaping of Vergil in the Inferno and himself in the Purgatorio influenced how Boccaccio refashioned Dante in the tale of Nastagio. The spirit that superintended his alterations, however, was Ovidian.
Warren Ginsberg is Philip H. Knight Professor of Humanities Emeritus at the University of Oregon. He also taught at Yale University and the University of Albany, State University of New York. His chief research interests are ancient Latin, medieval English, and medieval Italian literature. His books include Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (Oxford, 2015), Chaucer’s Italian Tradition (Michigan, 2002), Dante’s Aesthetics of Being (Michigan, 1999), The Cast of Character: Personality and Representation in Ancient and Medieval Literature (Toronto, 1983). A Guggenheim Fellow (2000), he is currently a member of the Executive Committee of the Dante Society of America.