Coming To Netflix This Month: The Decameron

By Olivia Emily

2 weeks ago

This star-studded comedy is described as a ‘wine-soaked sex romp’


Are we back in our swashbuckling medieval movie era? Mirroring the ’00s preoccupation with this theme – think A Knight’s Tale (2001), Stardust (2007), and earlier, The Princess Bride (1987) – there’s been an influx of comedy costume dramas as of late. If you’ve been enjoying My Lady Jane, or if you’re after something a little lighter than Mary & George, add this upcoming Netflix series to your watchlist. Based on a 14th century short story collection, The Decameron is a medieval black comedy with a cast brimming with recognisable faces. Here’s everything we know so far.

The Decameron: Plot, Cast, Release Date & More

As repellent as a pandemic drama sounds, this one has caught our attention. The Decameron is backdropped against a different pandemic: the Black Death, which ravaged much of medieval Europe. But don’t worry, this isn’t anything serious – though there is some class commentary woven in. The Decameron is best described as a black comedy romp, brought to life by a whole host of amusing actors, spanning cunning characters to the more outrageous.

In production as early as 2022, The Decameron was written and created by showrunner Kathleen Jordan, who has previously written for shows like Teenage Bounty Hunters and American Princess.

(L to R) Leila Farzad as Stratilia, Douggie McMeekin as Tindaro, Zosia Mamet as Pampinea, Saoirse-Monica Jackson as Misia and Tony Hale as Sirisco in Episode 105 of Decameron

(L to R) Leila Farzad as Stratilia, Douggie
McMeekin as Tindaro, Zosia Mamet as Pampinea, Saoirse-Monica Jackson as Misia and Tony Hale as Sirisco in Episode 105 of Decameron. Giulia Parmigiani/Netflix © 2024

What Is The Decameron About?

Florence, 1348: the Black Death is ravaging the city, and its nobles naturally need somewhere to hide. With their servants in tow, a coterie of aristocrats retreat to Villa Santa in the Tuscan countryside to wait out the plague. How to entertain yourself? With plenty of wine and sex, of course. But as the plague continues, what starts as a party descends into a fight for survival.

Summarising the series, Jessica Plummer, who plays noblewoman Filomena, said: ‘Think Love Island, but back in the day. A lot of drama, a lot of sex, a lot of craziness.’

(L to R) Saoirse-Monica Jackson as Misia, Jessica Plummer as Filomena and Tony Hale as Sirisco in Episode 103 of Decameron

(L to R) Saoirse-Monica Jackson as Misia, Jessica Plummer as Filomena and Tony Hale as Sirisco in Episode 103 of Decameron. Courtesy of Netflix © 2024

A Guide To The Cast & Characters

  • Amar Chadha-Patel as Dioneo, a cocksure physician whose profession puts him in the frustrating limbo between the upper and lower classes
  • Leila Farzad as Stratilia, the wise and steady, backbone of Villa Santa
  • Lou Gala as Neifile, a god-fearing and highly libidinous woman of paradoxes
  • Karan Gill as Panfilo, the charming and cunning son of a prominent political family in Florence
  • Tony Hale as Sirisco, the affable, ill-prepared and eager-to-please steward of Villa Santa Zosia Mamet as Pampinea, the unselfaware soon to be the lady of the villa
  • Saoirse-Monica Jackson as Misia, the co-dependent servant of Pampinea
  • Douggie McMeekin as Tindaro, a rich noble from a prominent family, whose perfect pedigree as an eligible bachelor is undermined by his blunt disdain for women
  • Jessica Plummer as Filomena, a spoiled oddball with a chip on her shoulder and the last surviving child of her noble family
  • Tanya Reynolds as Licisca, an obedient yet unpredictable servant with a heart of bronze, whose life has been defined by her hard work, thick skin and devotion to the family she serves – until now
(L to R) Lou Gala as Neifile, Douggie McMeekin as Tindaro, Tanya Reynolds as Licisca, Amar Chadha-Patel as Dioneo and Tony Hale as Sirisco in Episode 103 of Decameron

(L to R) Lou Gala as Neifile, Douggie
McMeekin as Tindaro, Tanya Reynolds as Licisca, Amar Chadha-Patel as Dioneo and Tony Hale as Sirisco in Episode 103 of Decameron. Courtesy of Netflix © 2024

Where Was The Decameron Filmed?

Fancy visiting Villa Santa for yourself? Sadly, most of The Decameron was filmed on set at Rome’s Cinecittà Studios. However, some of the series was filmed on location in Italy’s Viterbo province, including at the gardens of Castello Ruspoli and the San Pellegrino quarter which serves as 14th century Florence (gutters, cables, some windows and flues were covered to ensure the mediaeval look).

Amar Chadha-Patel as Dioneo in Episode 102 of Decameron

Amar Chadha-Patel as Dioneo in Episode 102 of Decameron. Courtesy of Netflix © 2024

What Is The Decameron Based On?

The Decameron is loosely based on Giovanni Boccaccio’s 14th century short story collection of the same name. Boccaccio’s collection tells the story of a group of nobles and their servants hiding from the plague in the grand Villa Santa outside of Florence. To pass the time, the nobles take turns telling stories ranging from the witty to the debauched. The Netflix series uses this as a starting point but, as their time together progresses, social rules wear thin and cabin fever sets in, a Lord of the Flies style twist heightens the drama.

Series creator Kathleen Jordan took these ‘short little horny tales’ (her words) as a starting point to tell a tale about class disparity. ‘When at times of crisis, the chasm between the haves and the have-nots grows wider and wider,’ Jordan told Netflix. ‘Obviously, that’s something we’ve seen in the last few years, in particular with COVID.’

She’s not the only writer to have been inspired by Boccaccio’s work: Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (written between 1387 and 1400) was inspired by The Decameron, with a quarter of Chaucer’s tales mirroring those in The Decameron.

Karan Gill as Panfilo, Saoirse-Monica Jackson as Misia, Douggie McMeekin as Tindaro and Tony Hale as Sirisco in Episode 108 of Decameron

(L to R) Karan Gill as Panfilo, Saoirse-Monica Jackson as Misia, Douggie McMeekin as Tindaro and Tony Hale as Sirisco in Episode 108 of Decameron. Giulia Parmigiani/Netflix © 2024

Is The Decameron A True Story?

The Decameron is made up of a whopping 100 tales (ranging from the erotic to the tragic, witty to moral), framed by the story of seven young women and three young men hiding from the Black Death in a secluded villa just outside of Florence. So what did Boccaccio base this framing tale on? It is believed he composed The Decameron after the epidemic of 1348, completing it by 1353, meaning he very much could have been inspired by the movements of his noble friends.

It’s not clear from historical documents whether Boccaccio was in Florence in 1348, but – having lived there before and after this bout of plague, which is thought to have killed three quarters of the city’s population – he certainly knew people who were living there at the time. His stepmother, for one, died of the plague around this time, while his father died in 1349, leaving Boccaccio as head of the family.

(L to R) Tony Hale as Sirisco and Zosia Mamet as Pampinea in Episode 103 of Decameron

(L to R) Tony Hale as Sirisco and Zosia Mamet as Pampinea in Episode 103 of Decameron. Giulia Parmigiani/Netflix © 2024

What Does ‘Decameron’ Mean?

‘Decameron’ literally translates to ‘10 day event’, combining the Greek words for ‘ten’ (δέκα, déka) and ‘day’ (ἡμέρα, hēméra). This refers to the 10 day period in which Boccaccio’s 10 nobles tell their 100 tales.

Jessica Plummer as Filomena and Tanya Reynolds as Licisca in Episode 101 of Decameron

(L to R) Jessica Plummer as Filomena and
Tanya Reynolds as Licisca in Episode 101 of Decameron. Giulia Parmigiani/Netflix © 2024

WATCH

All eight episodes of The Decameron will be available to stream on Netflix from 8am BST on 25 July 2024. netflix.com