Favorite Decameron stories, Part V

More of my favorite runners-up.

5. Eighth story of the second day. “The Count of Antwerp, being unjustly accused, goes into exile; he leaves two of his children in different parts of England; he returns to Scotland, unknown to them, and finds them in good condition; then he joins the army of the King of France as a groom, and after he is proved innocent, he is restored to his former position.”

Gualtieri, the Count of Antwerp, is left a widower with two small children, and besides being a single parent, he also is much respected at the French court. Because he’s so handsome, charming, and well-mannered, the King’s daughter-in-law falls in love with him, and one day reveals her feelings. After he rejects her and rebukes her foolish passion, she quickly changes track and rips her clothes, screaming that he’s trying to rape her.

Believing this woman will be believed more than he’d be, he gets out of there asap, rushes home, and without taking a moment to reflect, puts his kids on a horse, gets on another horse, and flees as fast as possible to Calais, then takes a boat into England. Luckily, he finds people to take in first his daughter and then his son, whose names he’s changed to protect them.

I like how the innocent man and his children win out in the end, even though it seemed as though luck had turned against them, and that good prevailed because they were innocent. In particular I like this line, in the part where the noblewoman raising the daughter, Giannetta, decides to arrange an honorable marriage for her according to the social class she was led to believe she occupies:

“But God, the just discerner of the merits of others, knowing her to be of noble birth and blamelessly suffering the penitence of another’s sins, disposed matters differently; and we must believe from the events which followed that he out of his lovingkindness allowed all this to happen in order to prevent the noble young lady from falling into the hands of a man of inferior station.”

6. Sixth story of the third day. “Ricciardo Minutolo is in love with the wife of Filipello Sighinolfi; hearing that she is jealous, he tells her Filipello is going to the baths to meet his own wife on the following day and persuades her to go there, and believing that she is lying with her husband, she finds out it was Ricciardo.”

Catella, the jealous wife, gives Ricciardo, whom she believes to be her husband, a great earful after they’ve finished a marathon sex session. My translation does such a better job of it than the older one I first read; that older edition didn’t do justice at all to a lot of the raunchy language. For example, in the story about Ruggieri and the doctor’s wife, it says “He wanted to joust with such a fine Christian woman” of the part where the chief magistrate gets his hook into the maidservant. That’s really intellectual dishonesty and deception, making the dirty language into something so untruthful and innocuous.

Well, Catella lets him have it, saying that because he believed it was another woman, he put a lot more love and effort into it than he ever had with her. He paid her more amorous attention in that short time than he ever had in the entire 8 years they’d been married.

“‘….Today, you disowned dog, you were full of life doing it, and at home you’re most of the time so weak and worn-out that you can’t keep it up. But, praise be to God, it was your own field you were plowing and not someone else’s, as you thought! No wonder you didn’t come near me last night! You were waiting to unload yourself somewhere else, and you wanted to arrive fresh as a knight entering the battlefield; but thank God and my wits that the water ended up flowing in the right direction!….'”

7. Third story of the third day. “Under the pretense of going to confession and being of the purest of minds, a lady, who is in love with a young man, induces a sanctimonious friar, who is unsuspecting, to arrange things to the entire satisfaction of her pleasure.”

This woman is of noble birth yet married to a common wool merchant, and as rich as he is, she doesn’t believe she deserves a merchant for a husband. Once she discovers her much more appealing crush is friends with this friar, she starts going to confession to tell him this man has been bothering her with unwanted attentions. The friar rebukes the man for his bad behavior, and the woman continues going to confession and reporting he’s getting worse and worse, more and more personal and intrusive. In this way the man realises she’s in love with him, and even the way to get to her house and bedroom.

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