However, the change was not only of an economic nature. According to the evidence provided by the medievalist Zvi Razi in his study on England, before the plague, families were large and lived huddled around their lands, which were passed on in inheritance from father to son. Union and solidarity were extended to poor and elderly friends, the extended medieval family being the main support structure for the underprivileged villagers. However, after the plague, a demographic plunge, the abundance of land, the fear of new outbreaks, and the experience of pain gradually brought about more individualistic societies. Families began to disperse, vacant land passed easily from one hand to another, and new homes were gradually limited to the nuclear family.
There were many who refused to live in fear, and dedicated themselves to playing out scenes such as those Boccaccio tells of, following his recipes of “drink a lot, enjoy life to the full, sing and have fun, and satisfy every craving when the opportunity arises, and discard everything as if it were a big joke.” In the end, the pandemic brought to light a relatively new reality: Death would come for all, regardless of class, age, or condition. To better understand this change in the context of the medieval mentality, I find it helpful to recall a comic strip by the brilliant Spanish humorist Antonio Mingote, published in the midst of post-conciliar religious polemic. In it we see two elegant elderly ladies, talking about the news of the Second Vatican Council: “No, my dear, all of this about freedom of conscience is just to make modern people feel better because, as far as going to heaven is concerned, we’ll still be the same lot going.”