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Religious Toleration in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Age

An Anthology of Literary, Theological, and Philosophical Texts

Albrecht Classen

More than ever before do we need the critical engagement with religious tolerance. Historical perspectives allow us to gain access to the discourse on this universal, often very contested topic. Already the Middle Ages and the early modern age witnessed the emergence of significant voices addressing toleration, if not even tolerance. This anthology opens many new perspectives toward this centrally important topic, adding a cultural-historical, religious, literary, and philosophical dimension mostly unknown today.

„Albrecht Classen reminds us in this volume that, "we all know just too well that the survival of the human species and its future development depends existentially on its ability and willingness to subscribe to the fundamental ideals of at least toleration, if not tolerance." As with others of Classen's works on the full range of medieval and early modern culture, this book could not be more timely or more urgently needed, especially for its positive approach to a highly volatile topic."

Fidel Fajardo-Acosta, Creighton University, Omaha, NE

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Il Novellino (Late Thirteenth Century)


This collection of tales written in Italian belonged to the old and extensive tradition of short narratives that were highly popular throughout the Middle Ages, first in courtly verse (Marie de France), then in drastic, burlesque fabliaux. Boccaccio, Chaucer, Heinrich Kaufringer, Franco Sacchetti, Poggio Bracciolini, and Marguerite de Navarre were the famous heirs to this tradition. The Novellino was previously identified also as Libro di novelle e di bel parlar gentile. We have to be careful not to confuse it with Il Novellino by the Renaissance poet Masuccio Salernitano (1410–1475), which consists of fifty stories, each prefaced with a letter addressed to a famous person and concluding with an epimythium, or a moral explanation.100

Our Novellino has survived in six manuscripts and one early modern print, and it originally probably emerged at the end of the thirteenth century, consisting of 120 novellas. The critical edition, prepared by Cesare Segre, is based on the most reliable manuscript Ms Vat. 3214 and the early modern print, the editio princeps, Gz, by Gualteruzzi, created in Bologna in 1575.101 The range of possible sources for these tales is quite wide, including ←183 | 184→religious and secular accounts, romances, religious texts, classical sources, and so forth. Although the Novellino still belongs to the world of the Middle Ages, we encounter here protagonists from all social classes, and the traditional tripartite structure no longer seems to hold true here, since new powerful agents appear on the narrative stage. Intelligence, wit, and...

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