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Famous Women

3.55  ·  Rating Details ·  75 Ratings  ·  8 Reviews
The more than 100 women whose life stories make up this volume range from the exemplary to the notorious, from historical and mythological figures to Renaissance contemporaries of its author, the master storyteller Giovanni Boccaccio. The first collection of biographies in Western literature devoted exclusively to women, Famous Women affords a fascinating glimpse of a mome ...more
Paperback, 282 pages
Published April 30th 2003 by Harvard University Press (first published 1362)
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Mar 23, 2017 Lynn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting read. Boccaccio's misogyny can be a bit galling at times, but it's still worth reading for entertainment, not information.
This book is marvelous fun.

Look at the terrible things Circe (the temptress) made her captives do:
"With her wiles and charming words not only did she entice many who reached her shore to join in her wantonness: some she pushed into robbery and piracy; others she induced with her tricks to cast all honor aside and take up commerce and trading; many she made arrogant because they loved her inordinately." (p. 75)

GASP! She turned respectable men into merchants?? Oh the horror!

Sep 04, 2012 Kelsi rated it really liked it
Shelves: school
I had to read this for a class and throughout the book was looking for what society thought women should be at the time. This book was written by a man and so it was obviously biased. After just reading Cleopatra: A Lifeby Stacy Schiff, the chapter on Cleopatra was a nice comparison. Her story has been distorted and in Boccacio's world she was a whore, a temptress, and a sly, awful woman. One of the main morals I picked up on was it is better to die than be an impure woman. Oh how the times have ...more
Jun 24, 2007 Dennis rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people interested in renaissance literature, history
The good, bad and ugly of famous women in history and mythology. There is a lot to learn about renaissance attitudes towards women and their place in society. Some genuine heroines and some seriously dastardly ones too. The book is largely short accounts of literally hundreds of famous women. At times there are fascinating observations on courage, morality and duty in feminine character.

I enjoyed it.
Jan 12, 2014 Hope rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Primarily of interest to historians and scholars of the Renaissance. The moralizing about chaste women gets old pretty quickly.
Apr 25, 2012 Marianna rated it it was ok
Shelves: school-reading
Did not like the author's portrayal of women. But it was an interesting look at the views of the times.
Mills College Library
920.72 B6642 2003
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Giovanni Boccaccio (1313 – 21 December 1375) was an Italian author and poet, a friend and correspondent of Petrarch, and an important Renaissance humanist in his own right and author of a number of notable works including the Decameron, On Famous Women, and his poetry in the Italian vernacular. Boccaccio is particularly notable for his dialogue, of which it has been said that it surpasses in veris ...more
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