in the late 1500's Giambattista Basile collected oral tales being told in Naples and Venice. He wrote them
down in Neopolitan Italian, in a parody of the flamboyant pre-Baroque style.The published work was known
as Il Pentamerone because, in the manner of the Decameron, it consisted of a frame story and inner tales
told over a period of five days.
Basile's stories and the existing translations of them are filled with extraneous material and redundancy.
The language is opulent, elaborate, and exaggerated with the result that the plots are almost smothered. But
dig underneath to remove what pertains to the intrigues of court at the time, the many topical references and
the mannered descriptions and colloquialisms, and there are gems of stories to be retold. For that reason
I have put those forty nine stories into narrative verse, eliminating the embellishments and going straight
for the plot.
The poems adhere strictly to the story motifs. I have allowed myself a little playfulness at the end of each
story when the original morals appended appeared to be incomprehensible in our time.
I have necessarily worked from translation, principally those of Nancy L. Canepa in “Giambattista Basile’s
The Tale of Tales, or Entertainment for Little Ones” Wayne State University Press, Detroit 2007, and those
by John Edward Taylor, 1848.
Click on the buttons to read and listen to the tales.