Volume 42, 2021

Gur Zak
Pages 187-225

Boccaccio’s Filocolo and the Polyphony of Consolation

One of the striking features of Giovanni Boccaccio’s early vernacular prose epic, Il Filocolo, is the prevalence of scenes of lament and consolation throughout the narrative. Despite the evident centrality of consolation to the Filocolo, scholars have by and large ignored this aspect of the work. The aim of this article is to elucidate the centrality of consolation to the Filocolo’s overall meaning and to highlight the novelty of Boccaccio’s approach to consolation in it, arguing that the work establishes a significant literary alternative to the Boethian consolation of philosophy. Deeply influenced by Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Boccaccio’s Filocolo subverts the judgmental, universalist, and otherworldly approach of Boethius’s Lady Philosophy and offers instead a vision of consolation that is empathetic, this-worldly, and strongly attuned to the sufferer’s particular needs and abilities.