EARLY MODERN WEBCOMICS 1: BOCACCIO’S MAL DI LEGNO

In 2001, Italian archivists were tickled to discovered a previously unknown group of stories by Renaissance humanist Giovanni Bocaccio. Referred to as the “Mal di Legno” stories after the fictional estate in which they take place, these tales do not attain the popularity of the Decameron upon publication, but do attract a cult following. Readers praise Mal di Legno for its strong characterization as well as its absurd and often bawdy humor. Favorite tales include (the normally lacksaidaiscal) Count Raimondo’s triumph at a tournament with the help of his stalwart, low-born counselor Arrosto Manzo; young Filippo’s wandering off to find Prester John and the efforts of Raimondo and his retainers to recover the boy; and morose troubadour Teodoro’s coming into possession of a mandolin that, when played, turns Raimondo into a beast. Many of the stories are accounts of the characters good-naturedly jesting with each other at feasts, with little “action,” per se. Some scholars claim that the characters “Mendacino” and “Suffacatino,” wooden men whose purposes are to spread lies and laughter (respectively) might be the first depiction of secular sentient automata in Western literature.

EARLY MODERN WEBCOMICS 1: BOCACCIO’S MAL DI LEGNO

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