Today’s class discussion on The Decameron touched on a range of topics including fate, fortune, religion, and social hierarchy. However, one topic that could potentially diversify the conversation is that of “immunity.”
As discussed last class, immunity can take on several different forms, and The Decameron proposes an entirely new, and rather contemporary view on the subject matter. Pampinea’s idea to escape to the countryside was an attempt to be rid of the plague and all of its collateral damage, but it was also a mechanism for immunity. After their arrival to the estate, and their role distribution, Pampinea insists that her servants are not to bring “tidings of the world outside these walls unless they are tidings of happiness” (Boccaccio, 21). In the subsequent quote, it is evident that being physically far from the plague is not enough to be immune to it. In broader terms, the effects of the plague are more far-reaching than illness, they bring a type of misery to the body that can consume one’s thoughts, and that too can be all-consuming. Therefore, the idea of immunity in the first introductory story of The Decameron is one that encompasses thoughts, and not just physicality. Furthermore, this illusion of immunity seems to completely isolate sick thoughts, people and behavior from ideas, people, and behavior that is well.
Nevertheless, If the sick are victim to their bodily troubles, then the well are burdened by their guilt and fear-often perpetuated by their immediate surroundings. There is no option for an external force of immunization, but rather the conscious decision to be immune by separation and choice. Such a realization begs to ask certain questions about our modern understanding of immunity. What does it mean to be fully immune? On a more meta level; if one practices positive thoughts, actions, and is separated from extraneous circumstances, can they truly be “sick”?
In this regard, Boccaccio’s description of the plague is far from mystical, yet his remedy for it is quite far-fetched. Hope this expands the conversation we had in class today and poses a new lens for future readings. Thanks!