The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio: Day Three.

Motiv aus der Erzählung des Dekameron (Il Decamerone) von Giovanni Boccaccio by Salvatore Postiglione (1906).
Day V | Day VI | Day VII | Day VIII | Day IX | Day X

I'm up to Day Three of Boccaccio's The Decameron, the collection of one hundred tales told by seven women and three men over a ten day period written by Boccaccio somewhere between 1348-52. The theme for Day Three is "People who by dint of their own efforts have achieved an object they greatly desired or recovered a thing previously lost" and Neifile is queen of the day.

First Story: This is told by Filostratio (1.7, 2.2). He tells of Masetto of Lamporecchio, a man who "considering that he was of peasant stock, possessed a remarkably handsome physique and agreeable features". Wishing to seduce nuns at a near-by convent he pretends to be dumb and applies to work in their garden. He starts work and finds seducing them easier than anticipated until,
Eventually, Masetto, being unable to cope with all their demands, decided that by continuing to be dumb any longer he might so himself some serious injury.
He tells the Abbess he is now able to talk (claiming he had that night recovered from an illness which prevented him talking). They decide to tell the neighbouring village that his powers of speech has been restored by the prayers of the nuns, and then Masetto is appointed to replace the old steward of the convent.
They divided up his various functions among themselves in such a way that he was able to do them all justice. And although he fathered quite a number of nunlets and monklets, it was all arranged so discreetly that nothing leaked out until after the death of the Abbess, by which time Masetto was getting on in years and simply wanted to retire to his village on a fat pension. Once his wishes became known, they were readily granted.
This tale was possibly inspired by Il libro di novelle et di bel parlar gientile, written by an anonymous author between 1280 - 1300.

King Agilduf, King of the Lombards
between 590 - 616 A.D.
Second Story: Told by Pampinea (1.10, 2.3); it's about a servant who sleeps with his master's (King Agilduf) wife Theodelinda. Each night King Agilduf goes into her room in darkness to have sex with her, and the servant sees this and decides to do the same. One night, upon the King's visit, Theodelinda says,
Heavens!... Whatever has come over you tonight, my lord? You no sooner leave me, after enjoying me more passionately than usual, than you come back and start all over again!
The King realises someone has been before him, and knowing his wife is not to blame he leaves with some tactful words. He goes to the servants quarters and discovers the man to blame, and rather than cause a scene then and there he simply shaves off a portion of the man's hair so he may properly be discovered the next day. On realising what has happened the servant, once the King has left, does to the same to all the other servants so his secret won't be revealed in front of all. The next day the King is thus forced to address them all with,
Whoever it was who did it... he'd better not do it again. And now, be off with you.
Having got away with it, the servant wisely decides never again to risk it!

This story may be inspired by a few different stories - Histories by Herodotus (450-20 B.C.), or the Panchatantra (पञ्चतन्त्र; 3rd Century B.C.).

Third Story: Told by Filomena (1.3, 2.9). She tells of a noble woman "of striking beauty and impeccable breeding, who was endowed by Nature with as lofty a temperament and shrewd an intellect as could be found in any other woman of her time". By making false claims about a man with whom she is attracted to a friar, she manages to trick the friar into providing the directions to her bedroom to the young man. Following these directions the friar has unwittingly offered, the man is quickly in the bed of the noble woman. "'A thousand thanks to our friend the friar,' she said, 'for instructing you so impeccably how to get here.'" This tale does not appear to have a source.

Fourth Story: Narrated by Panfilo (1.1, 2.7), he tells of how Dom Felice taught Friar Puccio how to attain blessedness by doing a penance:
It is necessary, first and foremost, for the penitent to confess his sins with very great thoroughness immediately before beginning the penance; and next, he must start to fast and practise a most rigorous form of abstinence, this to continue for forty days, during which you must abstain, not only from the company of other women, but even from touching your wife. In addition, it is necessary to have some place in your own house from which you can look up at the heavens after the night has fallen, and to which you will proceed at compline [evening prayers], having first positioned a very broad plant there in such a way that you can stand with your back resting against it, and keeping your feet on the floor, extend your arms outwards in an attitude of crucifixion; and by the way, if you want to support them on a couple of wall-pegs, that'll be perfectly all right. With your eyes fixed on the heavens, you must maintain this same posture, without moving a muscle, until matins. If you happen to be a scholar, you would, during the course of the night, be obliged to recite certain special prayers which I would give you to learn; but since you are not, you will have to say three hundred Hail Marys in honour of the Trinity. As you gaze towards Heaven, you must completely bear in mind that God created Heaven and earth. And at the same time, you must concentrate on the Passion of Christ, for you will be re-enacting His own condition on the cross.
As Friar Puccio performs this penance, Dom Felice has his way with the Friar's wife, Monna Isabetta.

Zima and Messer Francesco.
Fifth Story: Told by Elissa (1.9, 2.8), this is about Zima and Messer Francesco: Zima is in love with Francesco's wife, and in exchange for Zima's horse, Francesco agrees to let Zima talk to his wife. His wife resolves not to speak back, but he pleads with her and she falls in love, however is still unable to speak to him because she promised her husband she wouldn't. Ultimately, however, she decides to leave a signal indicating to Zima that she is alone; he's quickly in her bed and "they tasted lobe's ultimate joys".

This tale may be inspired by the Hitopadesha (हितोपदेशः; unknown date) and the Seven Wise Masters (possibly 1st Century B.C.).

Sixth Story: Told by Fiammetta (1.5, 2.5); she tells of Ricciardo Minutolo who loves the wife of Filippello Signinolfo, Catella. Ricciardo, knowing she is of a jealous disposition, he pretends, once she knows he is in love with her, that he no longer loves her but another woman. He then tells her that her husband is having an affair with his own wife. Catella goes where she believes her husband is and sleeps with him in a dark room, thinking that he believes he is having sex with his mistress. She then discovers it is she who has been tricked into sleeping with Ricciardo. He then convinces her to carry on the affair. This tale is rather dark in tone at times, and, like the fifth tale is possibly inspired by the Seven Wise Masters.

Seventh Story: This is probably the longest of the day and is narrated by Emilia (1.6, 2.6). She tells of Tedaldo, who, exasperated with his mistress Monna Ermellina who suddenly refuses to sleep with him, leaves Florence. Monna Ermellina's husband, Aldobrandino Palermini is accused of murdering him, however he is very much alive and doing well in Cyprus. When he returns disguised as a pilgrim he finds his family in mourning of his death. Through rather lengthy trickery, he finally manages not only to clear Aldobrandino of murder, but also to continue to have his way with Aldobrandino's wife. Happy days!

Ferondo and the Abbot.
Eighth Story: Narrated by Lauretta (1.8, 2.4), it's about Ferondo, who is given a special powder by an Abbot (who is having an affair with his wife) making him appear dead. The Abbot then removes Ferondo from his tomb and imprisons him, tricking him into believing he is in Purgatory, spending half his time beating Ferondo and the other half sleeping with his wife. One day Ferondo's wife finds she is pregnant, and the Abbot decides he must 'bring Ferondo back to life'. He does so, the other monks believe they are witnessing a miracle, and Ferondo returns to his wife, and when she has her child he believes it to be his. This tale was most likely inspired by Le Vilain de Bailleul by Jean de Boves (12th Century).

Illustration for All's Well That Ends Well
by Artuš Scheiner
Ninth Story: This is told by Neifie (1.2, 2.1), the queen of the day. She tells of Gillette of Narbonne and Bertrand of Roussillon. Gilette cures the King of France of a fistula (a fistula is "an abnormal connection between two hollow spaces ... such as blood vessels, intestines, or other hollow organs") having told the King if she fails to cure him he may burn her at the stake. He says if she does succeed, he will arrange a suitable marriage for her. She is already in love with Bertrand and has been parted from him, so the King agrees that they will be married. Bertrand is thus forced to marry her against his will (he dislikes her because she is working class), and he says he'll only return if she has his baby (tricky stuff as he won't sleep with her) and wears his ring. So, with, of course, some trickery she disguises herself as her husband's lover, gets pregnant, and also secures the ring. She succeeds, he is impressed with her efforts, and so they live happily ever after. This tale was originally by Kālidāsa and was called The Recognition of Śākuntalā (अभिज्ञानशाकुन्तलम् or Abhijñānaśākuntalam; between the 1st and 4th Century A.D.) It also inspired William Shakespeare's All's Well that Ends Well (written between 1604-5).

Tenth Story: Told by Dioneo (1.4, 2.10), it's about Alibech and Rustico the Monk. Alibech sets out to live in the Sahara believing she will best serve God there. She is eventually taken in by a young hermit, Rustico who, tempted by her beauty, tells her the best way to serve God is to put the devil back into hell. To do this, he says, they must pray together naked. As Dioneo observes, Rustico experiences "a resurrection of the flesh", and when Alibech innocently asks what his erection is, he says it is the devil. And of course they sleep with each other (this seems to be the unofficial theme of Day Three!). Ultimately she leaves, marries another man, and her female friends and acquaintances reassure her that he too 'knows how to put the devil back into hell'.

And so ends Day Three, a rather lively day indeed! Filostrato (I.vii, II.ii, and III.i) is declared king for Day Four and the theme will be "those whose love ended unhappily".

← Pʀᴇᴠɪᴏᴜsʟʏ: Day II
Nᴇxᴛ: Day IV


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