Spectacula praedae. Historia Akteona i Nastagia degli Onesti

Joanna Pypłacz


In the present article I have attempted to investigate the sources of inspiration for Boccaccio’s Nastagio degli Onesti, with its peculiar motif of an infernal hunt. It is precisely this motif that links the story with the ancient myth of Acthaeon, a theme much-loved in art and literature since the Metamorphoses of Ovid.
It appears that this myth was the source of a mediaeval legend about an infernal hunt, which had been told by Helinandus Frigidi Montis and later translated into Italian by Jacopo Passavanti. As scholars have pointed out, this translation was in all probability Boccaccio’s primary source of inspiration. In my analysis, I have shown that – on the one hand – Boccaccio associated the motif of an infernal hunt in that story with Ovid’s version of the myth of Acthaeon and – on the other hand – he connected the motif of winning a lady’s heart by means of a terrible exemplum with the myth of Vortumnus and Pomona, which he also knew from the Metamorphoses. Moreover, it seems almost certain that the characteristic ring composition of Boccaccio’s novel was derived directly from this very story.
Nastagio degli Onesti is therefore a highly intertextual novel in which Boccaccio merged three separate sources: two distinct myths told by Ovid in the Metamorphoses and Helinandus-Passavanti’s version of a mediaeval legend, which was probably a direct continuation of one of  them.

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