Wednesday, 13 May 2015

The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio: Day Eight.

Detail of Boccace lisant le Decameron à la reine Jeanne de Naples by Gustave Wappers (1868).
Day V | Day VI | Day VII | Day VIII | Day IX | Day X

I'm starting to reach the end of The Decameron! Today is Day 8, I'm hoping to write about Day 9 on Saturday, and I'm aiming to finish completely early next week. I can't say I'm not looking forward to it - this has been a tougher challenge than I'd originally anticipated! It has made me re-think some of my 2015 challenges, and I've decided I'm quite probably going to leave The Canterbury Tales until 2016 just to have a little break from all the Medieval reading I've been doing this year. I have been wanting to read some Homer and Virgil this year, and after reading Tales from Ovid by Ted Hughes I do wonder if it might be more helpful anyway to revisit Ovid before embarking on The Canterbury Tales which I wanted to do but had ruled it out. Leaving Tales until next year will free me up a bit! The Decameron along with the posts has been particularly hard (I've written about 70 stories; when I finish this post it'll be 80) and I think it would do me some good to move away from the 14th Century for a little while. All that said, I would to still read another Chaucer biography and his A Treatise on the Astrolabe at some point this year. I'm thinking autumn.

For now, Day VII: Lauretta is the queen and the theme is
the tricks that people in general, men and women alike, are forever playing upon one another
This neatly follows Day 7's theme "the tricks which, either in the cause of love or for motives of self-preservation, women have played upon their husbands, irrespective of whether or not they were found out".

First Story: Told by Neifile (1.2, 2.1, 3.9, 4.8, 5.5, 6.4, 7.8). It's the story of Gulfardo and Guasparruolo: Gulfardo is in love with Madonna Ambruogia, Guasparrulo's wife. Madonna Ambruogia returns his affections but at a price: the affair must be secret, and she also wants money. Irritated, Gulfardo borrows the money from her husband Guasparruolo and tells her to return it to her husband.
The lady took the money, thinking Gulfardo had used this form of words simply so that his comrade should not suspect he was giving it to her by way of payment.
Thus confused, she accepts the payment. Gulfardo then tells Guasparrulo he did not need the money after all and he returned it to his wife.
... thus the sagacious lover had enjoyed the favours of his rapacious lady free of charge.
This story went on to inspire Chaucer's 'The Shipman's Tale' from The Canterbury Tales.

Second Story: Narrated by Panfilo (1.1, 2.7, 3.4, 4.6, 5.1, 6.5, 7.9). He tells the story of Monna Belcolore who attracts the eye of the wayward priest Varlungo. In order to get his way with her Monna Belcolore demands payment, which he promises however is unable to provide at present. So, by way of collateral, he leaves her his cloak. However, Varlungo does not have the promised five pounds and he wants his cloak back, so he sends word to her asking to borrow a mortar. When he sends it back he instructs the messenger to say,
Father says thank you very much, and would you mind sending back the cloak that the boy left with you by way of surety. 
Belcolore sends word back,
Belcolore says that she swears to God you won't be grinding any more of your sauces in her mortar, after the shabby way you've treated her over this one.
And Varlungo replies,
... tell her that if she doesn't lend me her mortar, I shan't let her have my pestle. It's no use having one without the other.
The Search for the Heliotrope by Henry Perronet Briggs (1819).
Third Story: Told by Elissa (1.9, 2.8, 3.5, 4.4, 5.3, 6.9, 7.3). In this a group of friends decide to play a trick on the painter, Calandrino, who is notoriously gullible. In his earshot they talk about magical stones, including one, the Heliotrope, that can make the holder invisible. He finds the stones and the friends naturally pretend they can't see him. He returns him where, obviously, his wife can and, believing she is responsible for the magic no longer working he beats her, and he is left with nothing but useless stones. Not a pleasant story, that one.

Fourth Story: Told by Emilia (1.6, 2.6, 3.7, 4.7, 5.2, 6.3, 7.1). It's about a priest who falls for beautiful widow however she does not return his affections. Yet, she knows she is in a difficult position as he is a powerful man, so having failed at deterring him she tells her maid Ciutazza to pretend to be her and sleep with the priest (she gets a new smock for her efforts). She does so, meanwhile the widow and her brothers get the bishop so he may witness the act. He is forced to do 40 days of penance, and meanwhile he gets mocked for sleeping with Ciutazza, who is not a pretty girl. She doesn't mind, though, as she has her new smock.

Fifth Story: Told by Filostrato (1.7, 2.2, 3.1, 4.9, 5.4, 6.7, 7.2). This is a very simple tale: in short, three friends Saggio, Ribi and Matteuzzo take a dislike to a badly dressed judge, Messer Niccola so, whilst he is in court, they pull his pants down.

Sixth Story: Told by Filomena (1.3, 2.9, 3.3, 4.5, 5.8, 6.1, 7.7). It's about two friends, Bruno and Buffalmacco, who steal a pig from their other friend Calandrino who had previously refused to sell it. When Bruno and Buffalmacco visit him and he tells them the pig is gone they pretend that they think he's given in and decided to sell it after all. They then tell him they'll be able to tell if he's telling the truth by use of magic sweets. Whoever stole the pig will not be able to eat the ginger sweets because it will taste bitter, and of course Bruno and Buffalmacco give him the bitter one. They then tell him they think Calandrino has stolen the pig himself and is having an affair, and unless Calandrino gives them all his birds they'll tell his wife. They do and poor Calandrino is left to "scratch his head and rue his losses".

Seventh Story: Told by Pampinea (1.10, 2.3, 3.2, 4.2, 5.6, 6.2, 7.6) - this is, I believe, the longest story of The Decameron, and perhaps one of the most brutal. It's about a scholar, Rinieri, who falls in love with a widow, Elena. One day she tells him to meet her and he does so, waiting outside on a cold snowy winter night. But she does not come, she is with her lover delighting in the fact that he is outside freezing half to death. Some months later Elena's lover leaves her for a younger woman and she finds herself longing for Rinieri. He consents and manages to trick her into waiting naked for him on a tower. Winter has gone; it is midsummer, and she is trapped. She suffers severe sunburn, severe dehydration, and is half eaten by the flies. Her maid tries to rescue her and ends up falling, breaking her thigh bone. Satisfied, Rinieri lets her down. Pampinea concludes,
This, then, was the foolish young lady's reward for supposing it was no more difficult to triffle with a scholar than with any other man, being unaware that scholars - not all of them, mind you, but the majority at any rate - know where the devil keeps his tail.
Having read it I can't help but wonder if "scholar" was somehow lost in translation and what was meant was malevolent, sadistic psychopath.

Eighth Story: Narrated by Fiammetta (1.5, 2.5, 3.6, 4.1, 5.9, 6.6, 7.5). She tells of two neighbours, Spinelloccio Taverna and Zeppa di Mino. Spinelloccio begins an affair with Zeppa's wife, not realising that Zeppa has witnessed everything. He confronts his wife and makes her take part in his revenge. He manages to lock Spinelloccio into a chest then proceeds to make love to Spinelloccio's wife on top of the chest. Now they're equal, and Fiammetta concludes,
... all four breakfasted together in perfect amity. And from that day forth, each of the ladies had two husbands, and each of the men had two wives, nor did this arrangement ever give rise to any argument or dispute between them.
Ninth Story: Told by Lauretta (1.8, 2.4, 3.8, 4.3, 5.7, 6.3, 7.4). It's about Master Simone, a doctor, who cannot believe Bruno and Buffalmacco (the same chaps from the sixth story of this day) are as poor as they claim. He tries to find their secret source of income and the two tell him they are a part of a top secret society. Eventually they say Simone can come with him, however they throw him into a ditch.

Tenth Story: Told, of course, by Dioneo (1.4, 2.10, 3.10, 4.10, 5.10, 6.10, 7.10). He begins by telling how when a ship comes to dock in Sicily the ship's cargo goes into a warehouse owned by the government and is not released until the fees have been paid. The lists made are public, and a consequence is the beautiful women of Sicily are able to see what a merchant is worth and how much they can extract from him. Dioneo's story is about Salabaetto, who is handsome and rich and attracts the eye of Madonna Jancofiore. She tricks him out of his money then refuses to see him, however he manages to convince her that he is richer than ever and wants to set up a shop, however he is only rich on paper - he's awaiting another cargo. She lends him money seeing it as investment, and he returns to Florence leaving her with nothing.

And there ends the eighth day. They decide on the ninth day Emilia will be queen and there won't be a theme - the group may tell a story on any subject they wish.

← Pʀᴇᴠɪᴏᴜsʟʏ: Day VII
Nᴇxᴛ: Day IX


  1. Brava! You're almost at the end! I can remember when we planned to make this a tandem read but you've certainly accomplished more than I have! And you have some wonderful posts to remember it by.

    I really enjoy how you put your reading plans into some of your posts. I've always wanted to do that but I've been so poor at sticking to my plans that it's been embarrassing. For instance, from my last summer's reading plans, I read: 4 of the 7 books I'd planned to complete but only 1 of those was in summer; 3 of the 8 new books I'd planned and 2 of those were in summer; and none of the 7 new books on my list. How shameful! I'd never thought of myself as a spur-of-the-moment person but perhaps I am when choosing books.

    1. Well, last summer I stuck to my reading plan because it involved finishing the Classics Club list. Usually, however, I don't either! Most of my plans don't usually pan out :) I normally like to make the attempt though and blog about it on the first of the month but what with one thing and another I honestly was in no mood to make plans. I do like making lists, though, and I sort of wish I'd made a May plan even if I didn't stick to it.

      Really though, short term plans are impossible. You make your list which suits your frame of mind, but then that changes, different books spring forth, and there's no point to being a slave to a list. Spur of the moment is good :)

      And yes, nearly finished The Decameron! I'm so pleased. I'd still like to do that Day 9 post on Saturday and that way I can finish totally next week. I'll write about Day 10 then final conclusion within that. Very excited - these posts have been incredibly tough! Glad I did them, though! :)

      Are you still aiming to get to Canterbury Tales this year? If you're leaving it to next year I may join you. I think for me jumping from this straight to Chaucer would be tough. I'd like reading break - it's fun to read on a theme, but it's also fun not to!

    2. I'm going to try to get to the The Canterbury Tales around October. I believe the Bleak House read-along is coming up in June and also a Hamlet read-along in July, but otherwise I'm keeping my schedule free. I'll work on my Austen project and the biographies and I also want to read Metamorphoses. I hope these plans work out and, if they do, I should be able to read it in October and then my friend's book The Brubury Tales. I feel rather responsible now that I proclaimed on my blog that I'd read it this year. Pressure! But it's good because otherwise I'd be too tempted to put it off. However, if TCT ends up not getting fit in this year, I'll check with you again.

      I can certainly understand that you need a little break. You've don't some heavy reading and quickly this year. I'm left in amazement!

    3. I forgot about the Bleak House read-along! Definitely up for that :)

  2. I saw your post on the Decameron when I was visiting Cleopatra's blog and it stood out as I've just finished Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well. I'd read that he based his play on a story from the Decameron (9th, 3 ??). Interesting to read your review & I think the header on your blog is just lovely.

    1. Thank you! :D

      I think, yes, it's the ninth tale of the third day. I meant to read the Shakespeare again not long after reading it but never did. Must get round to that :)


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