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The Novellino of Masuccio Salernitano, long known for its gruesome scenes of violent humor and horror, is arguably the most important collection of short stories in Italian renaissance literature after the Decameron. This study, the first thorough analysis of the tales in English, explores the hidden literary, political, and cultural background of Masuccio's mordant satire. It uncovers the Novellino's sources, from the French fabliaux to Catalan poetry, from the Bible to Boccaccio, and examines the reflections of aristocratic fears in fifteenth-century Naples regarding the growing mendicant movement and the Turkish threat from the East. This volume closes with a new consideration of the modern theories of the grotesque and presents a convincing alternative to a Bakhtinian reading of Masuccio's classic work.