Posted in Adicia, Books, Decameron, Gemma

Favorite Decameron stories, Part II

4. Ninth story of the tenth day. “Saladin, disguised as a merchant, is entertained by Messer Torello; a crusade is launched; Messer Torello gives his wife a date before which she is not to remarry. He is captured, but because of his skill in training hunting birds, he comes to the attention of the Sultan, who recognizes him and reminds him of their first meeting, entertaining him most lavishly. Messer Torello falls ill, and by magic he is taken back overnight to Pavia; and at the celebration of his wife’s remarriage, he makes himself known to her, and then returns with her to his home.”

The tenth and final day is taken up with stories about those who have exhibited magnanimity of character, something which Sultan Saladin truly exemplifies. Even in Christocentric Medieval Europe, he was renowned and greatly respected and admired for all of his virtues, like hospitality, generosity, courage, kindness, fairness, intelligence, and conduct in battle. He wasn’t bashed and made out to be some evil immoral villain incapable of positive virtues just because he wasn’t a Christian.

5. Ninth story of the fifth day, the first Decameron story I ever heard. “Federigo degli Alberighi, who loves but is not loved in return, spends all the money he has in courtship and is left with only a falcon, which, since he has nothing else to give her, he offers to his lady to eat when she visits his home; then she, learning of this, changes her mind, takes him for her husband, and makes him rich.”

Monna Giovanna had actually married another man and had a child by him, but at the time of the main action of the story, the husband had died. Her son became very sick and asked his mother for Federigo’s wonderful falcon. Unknowing the true reason for her visit, he has his bird killed and served to her, and is understandably crushed when she tells him her son wants the bird. Since she’s still young, her brothers urge her to remarry, and she says that if she must remarry, it will only be to Federigo. When they mock her, saying he hasn’t a penny to his name, she shoots back with “I would rather marry a man in need of money than money in need of a man.”

6. Tenth story of the sixth day. “Brother Cipolla promises some peasants that he will show them a feather from the Angel Gabriel; but finding only bits of charcoal in its place, he tells them that these were the ones used to roast Saint Lorenzo.” Although Brother Cipolla is yet another of the unholy people of the cloth populating these stories, unlike someone such as Brother Alberto, “he was the nicest scoundrel in the world.”

While his lazy negligent servant Guccio the Mess is off in the kitchen chatting with a servant girl named Nuta, some of Brother Cipolla’s friends go into his unlocked room and take the parrot’s feather, which he’d been planning to fool the peasants with, out of the box and replace it with some charcoal. They want to hear how he’s going to explain its disappearance to the foolish ignorant masses, but he doesn’t lose his bearings for a second. He comes up with a truly outlandish and funny story about how he mistook the box with St. Lorenzo’s coals for the box with Angel Gabriel’s feather, complete with some funny made-up names of people and places.

7. Eighth story of the seventh day. “A man becomes jealous of his wife, and she ties a string to her toe during the night, so that she will know that her lover has come to visit her; the husband notices this, and while he is off chasing her lover, the wife puts another woman in her place in bed, whom her husband beats and whose hair he cuts off; then he goes to fetch his wife’s brothers, and when they discover what her husband claims is not true, they revile him.”

Monna Sismonda totally turns the tables on the jealous violent Arriguccio when he returns to the house with her mother and three brothers. His entire story about how he found out she was cheating and then gave her the worst beating in the world is blown to smithereens when they see her without a scratch. Sismonda also tells them Arriguccio is a drunkard, and that he probably did do all of this with some other woman, but because he’s probably still half-drunk, he believes it was she.

My love of this Decameron story inspired something in Adicia’s story. When Gemma is staging her big scene where she announces to her entire family how she’s had enough of the abusive Francesco and has divorced him, she says much the same thing. Francesco demands to know how the hell they could’ve gotten divorced when he never appeared in court or even got a notice in the mail, and Gemma (who threw all the notices away) responds:

“You know how sometimes you get so drunk you act like a madman.  Maybe you tossed ‘em out the window or used ‘em as toilet paper in your drunken state.  And from the look on your face now, I wonder if you came here half-drunk.”

“That still don’t explain how the hell my name came to be on these papers unless you forged it!”

“I got you rip-roaring drunk last week and had you sign it.  You were so drunk you didn’t know or care what you were signing.”

Allen and the girls burst out laughing.  Francesco is so shocked he can no longer find his tongue to yell at Gemma, and just stares around stupidly.

8. Fourth story of the eighth day. “The Rector of Fiesole is in love with a lady who is a widow; he is not loved in return by her, and while he is in bed with one of her maidservants, thinking that he is in bed with her, the lady’s brothers arrange to have him discovered there by his Bishop.” Thrice in this story, this unholy man of the cloth is called “the good Erector.” The best part of this story is that the maid whom Monna Piccarda gets to impersonate her in exchange for a new blouse, Ciuta (called Ciutazza), is incredibly ugly, one of the most hideous and misshapen faces ever, complete with crooked teeth and a horrible complexion.

Monna Piccarda’s two younger brothers, who also live in her house, after having spent the night entertaining the local Bishop, tell him they’ve got something they’d like to show him. It’s the good Erector, and he’s beside himself with shame, indignation, and embarrassment when the blazing torches intruding into the room reveal whom he’s really been sleeping with. He also can’t show his face in public for quite some time without children pointing at him and saying, “He’s the one who slept with Ciutazza.”


Writer of historical fiction sagas and series, with elements of women's fiction, romance, and Bildungsroman. Born in the wrong generation on several fronts.

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