9. Eighth story of the third day. “After eating a certain powder, Ferondo is buried for dead; and the Abbot, who is enjoying his wife, takes him out of the tomb, imprisons him, and makes him believe that he is in Purgatory; after he is resurrected, he raises as his own a son which his wife has had from the Abbot.”

There are so many great stories about monks, priests, friars, and nuns behaving badly in here, but this is one of the best. Ferondo is so stupid he actually believes he’s in Purgatory and being punished daily by the Abbot on orders from God, and that he’s being resurrected after enough time has gone by, instead of realising he’s been alive the entire time and being held in a burial vault used for errant monks.

10. Tenth story of the fourth day. “The wife of a physician, believing her lover to be dead after he has fallen asleep from taking a drug, puts him inside a chest, which is carried off with the man inside by two usurers to their home; when the lover comes to his senses, he is arrested as a thief; the lady’s servant tells the authorities that she was the one who put him inside the chest stolen by the usurers; whereupon the lover escapes the gallows and the moneylenders are condemned to pay a fine for making off with the chest.”

This is an era well before the concept of a love match, when people had no say in whom they married. While there are some stories here about young people in love who get married, by and large the spouses in these stories have been put together by third parties. Dr. Mazzeo is an old guy, and his very young wife is quite displeased at having to be married to someone who barely even sleeps with her. Refusing to live this practically celibate life, she selects a young man named Ruggieri as her lover, even though Ruggieri has a bad reputation.

Some time after they get together, she rebukes him for his bad lifestyle and criminal past, encourages him to change, and even starts giving him money to reform himself. While the doctor is away, the misadventure in the story happens. And since this is also an era long before the modern judicial system, Ruggieri is interrogated and tortured, and sentenced to be hanged the next day. There’s no lawyer, jury, or trial involved, and since he already has such a horrible reputation, he’s immediately judged guilty anyway. One of my favorite parts of the story is when the maid goes to the chief magistrate to plead Ruggieri’s innocence:

“But before the judge would hear her out, since she was a fresh and lusty girl, he meant to get his hook into such a delightful one of God’s creatures, and in order to receive a better hearing, she found this not at all distasteful; and once he got her off his hook, she picked herself up and said:

“‘Sir, you have arrested Ruggieri d’Aieroli as a thief, but there is no truth in it.'”

11. Ninth story of the seventh day. “Lidia, the wife of Nicostrato, is in love with Pirro; in order to test her love, Pirro asks her to perform three tasks, all of which she does for him; besides this, in Nicostrato’s presence, she makes love to him, and gives Nicostrato to believe that what he has seen is not true.”

Lidia, like Dr. Mazzeo’s wife, is also unhappily married to some over the hill coot who doesn’t have the capabilities to sexually satisfy her, and doesn’t even spend a lot of time in bed with her. She falls in love with a servant, and faithfully carries out what he thought were some pretty tough tasks to prove her love: kill Nicostrato’s best sparrow hawk, send him a lock of his beard, and send him one of Nicostrato’s best teeth. Queen Lidia also successfully has sex with Pirro right in front of Nicostrato and they both convince him it was the result of a bewitched pear tree.

This story is very similar to the Merchant’s Tale in The Canterbury Tales, one of a number of Chaucer’s stories which seem like plagiarism of Boccaccio, who wrote The Decameron first. The Oxford Scholar’s tale is even admittedly a practically word-by-word retelling of the final Decameron story.

4 thoughts on “Favorite Decameron stories, Part III

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