In the midst of The Black Death, ten wealthy Florentines decamp to the countryside with their retinue, and pass their days in storytelling, an attempt to reclaim a world that everywhere is dying.
Over the course of ten days, the three men and seven women tell a hundred stories, full of generous aristocrats, clever tricks, toilet humor, lustful women, wicked churchmen and lots of illicit sex. Boccaccio himself steps out of the shadows twice (once in the introduction to the fourth day, once in the epilogue) to deliver impassioned, hilarious, self-deprecating, and (in the case of the epilogue) incredibly obscene defenses of his work.
Famous stories include:
- Day 1, story 1: Ciapelletto, a notoriously wicked Amoral Attorney and scoundrel (he's a murder, forger, perjurer and Depraved Bisexual among many other things) on business to a region he is unknown in and falls terminally ill. His slightly less evil companions bring a monk from a nearby convent to confess him and give him last rites. Ciappelletto proceeds to tell him the most ridiculous lies about his life and how holy he's been the whole time, while pretending to cringe over venial sins. He is completely believed by the friar, who preaches a sermon on his life and ends with everyone there believing him a genuine saint and attributing miracles to him.
- Day 1, story 2: A Jew converts to Catholicism after seeing the corruption of Rome, reasoning that if Christianity can still spread even when its hierarchy is so sinful, it has to have something else going for it
- Day 3, story 1: Masetto da Lamporecchio feigns to be dumb to win a seat as gardener in a convent. He ends up having sex with all of the nuns.
- Day 3, story 10: Long considered the most obscene and was censored or removed in translations for a significant period. Might be a codifier of Is That What They Are Calling It Now.
- An Aesop: All the stories end with some kind of lesson. However, some of them fall into other categories:
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Ciapelletto's List of Transgressions includes blasphemy, sacrilege, inciting violence, and many felonies such as assault, robbery, and murder, but concludes by noting that he's known to use loaded dice.
- Bed Trick: More than once, used in various ways.
- Black Comedy Rape: (Day 3, story 10).
- Blasphemous Boast: (Day 1, story 6).
- Brainless Beauty: Cesca (Day 6, story 8).
- Buried Alive: (Day 3, story 8).
- Corrupt Church: Very frequently referenced.
- Domestic Abuse: It will lead to your wife stop being so stubborn (Day 9, story 9). You where warned about the Family-Unfriendly Aesop.
- Downer Ending: Day 4, although the second tale has a comedic tone and the person who suffers is an Asshole Victim.
- Distinguishing Mark: Teodoro is recognized by a strawberry shaped birth mark (Day 5, story 7).
- Flat Character: The ten storytellers.
- Historical Domain Character: A lot of the people in the stories are historical figures- most of the time, they are merchants/aristocrats who were contemporaries of Boccaccio, but there's also some figures who are well-known today, such as the painter Giotto.
- I Call Him "Mister Happy": "The Devil".
- Insane Troll Logic: Abraham's reasoning for becoming a Christian in Day 1, Story 2.
- In Which a Trope Is Described
- Karma Houdini: In some stories
- Literary Agent Hypothesis
- Mummies At the Dinner Table: Messer Gentile even has a child with her lover. She has been reanimated by then, of course (Day 10, story 4).
- National Stereotypes: Several stories note stereotypes associated with various Italian regions. For instance, people from Sienna were supposedly stupid and all Venetians are greedy and corrupt (because Venice was a rival of Boccaccio's city state, Florence).
- Naughty Nuns: In a couple of the stories; also frequent is the Sexy Priest and Dirty Old Monk.
- Out-Gambitted: It happens to some of the characters (e.g., Day 7, story 4).
- Rape Is Love: The sixth tale of the third day.
- Stockholm Syndrome: (Day 2, Story 10).
- Sympathetic Adulterer: Lots of them, generally involving a woman cheating on a much older husband and it often the case that the woman is an Impoverished Patrician and the husband a Nouveau Riche.
- Toilet Humour
- Unusual Euphemism: "Putting the Devil back into Hell".
- Villain with Good Publicity: Ciapelletto
- Villain Protagonist: (Day 1, story 1), (Day 4, story 2), (Day 5, story 1).
- Virginity Makes You Stupid: Alibech (Day 3, story 10).
- If you must insist: Tunisian girl goes to a nearby Christian monastery because she's heard that the best way of life is to serve God, particularly by sending the Devil back to Hell. Long story short, the monk calls his cock "the Devil" and her pussy "Hell", and he teaches her how to put the Devil back into Hell. She enjoys it so much, she tires the monk out and marries someone who doesn't subsist on limited food.