Fortune In The Decameron

Lady Fortune and Her Wheel
Lady Fortune and Her Wheel: Fortune is often depicted as a woman with a blindfold, spinning a wheel to represent the different outcomes and possibilities being chosen out of chance.

Reading through the stories of the Decameron, we see many instances in which there are “unlucky” or “unfortunate” situations, causing a bad ending; but we can also see how some people have been blessed with good fortune, resulting in a good ending. What stands out to me and interests me more would be those with “bad fortune”. We can see many cases of bad fortune in day 4, where love ends unhappily.

In day four, stories one and five, with Ghismunda and Lisabetta, they both fall in love with a man, but their family intervenes and kills those men. When I first read these stories, I believed that the family members of Ghismunda and Lisabetta were evil for doing this, but after reading “The Conception of Fortune in the Decameron” by Vincenzo Cioffari, it leads me to believe that it isn’t completely due to their corrupt morals; but that fortune played a big part in these heinous actions done by Tancredi (Ghismunda’s father) and Lisabetta’s three brothers.

To build more on this, let’s talk a little about Tancredi. “Never was daughter more tenderly beloved of father than she of the Prince, for that cause not knowing to part with her, kept her unmarried for many a year…” (Decameron, day 4, first story). Tancredi the prince, was blessed with good fortune to have a beautiful daughter that he loved with all his heart. We can see that because he loved her so much, he didn’t want her to marry. Not knowing how to part with her, he has a strong desire to “protect” her. To keep his “good fortune”. “In the Decameron the primary function of Fortune is to determine the outcome of a course of action: to help toward a successful accomplishment if Fortune is favorable…” (Ciofarri, 130). With Tancredi’s actions, we see how this is true. By keeping Ghismunda unmarried, he wanted to keep his “good fortune”. But when she fell in love, Tancredi felt threatened that his “fortune” would be taken away, causing him to murder Guiscardo, the man Ghismunda loved.

The fifth story of the fourth day presents how bad fortune can affect one’s actions. In the fifth story of the fourth day, Lisabetta falls in love with Lorenzo, a man who works with her three brothers. Unfortunately, her brothers find out and kill him. Eventually, Lisabetta finds out and decides to preserve Lorenzo’s head. She decides to put his head in a pot and plant basil, “Fostered with such constant, unremitting care, and nourished by the richness given to the soil by the decaying head that lay therin, the basil burgeoned out in exceeding great beauty and fragrance.” (Decameron, day 4, fifth story). Here we see Lisabetta faced with bad fortune, having her love killed by her brothers. We can see how this bad fortune caused her to do crazy actions. “Human reason and will do enter into the activity of Fortune, but not to dominate the fortuitous events” (Cioffari, 130). We can see that here, where Lisabetta’s decides not to overcome what happened to Lorenzo, but instead try to stay with Lorenzo, or have him close to her.

This is why fortune in the Decameron interests me, as it can be seen as a big factor playing in the actions of the characters. It was very interesting to read other stories, seeing how the characters reacted in different ways to their fortune, good or bad.

Cioffari, Vincenzo. “The Conception of Fortune in the Decameron.” Italica, vol. 17, no. 4, American Association of Teachers of Italian, 1940, pp. 129–37,

Decameron web. Decameron Web | Texts. (n.d.).

Women Prevail in the Decameron

In Boccaccio’s writing, there are many themes that were brought to light. For me, the most significant was women. I love the way women were portrayed in his writing because I feel like it gave them an edge that they did not really get in Dante’s writing, nor Petrarca’s. Overall, his stories delivered different perspectives on women that I found intriguing to read about. On the third day, ninth story, we learned about Giletta. She is a wealthy young woman and also the daughter of a physician. She was separated from her love, Beltramo at an early age. When Beltramo’s father died, he was instructed to go to Paris and she never had a reason to go there. Even when she reached a marriageable age, she never forgot about Beltramo. Her love for him grew stronger when she found out he turned into the most handsome young man. When the news reached her about the King of France being very ill and not having a physician cure him, she was overjoyed. Now she had a real reason to go to France. 

Using her father’s techniques, she made a powder from particular herbs that she believed helped with the illness that the King suffered from, and she rode her horse to Paris. She used her looks and age to convey the King and show her the fistula from the badly treated tumor on his chest. As soon as she saw it, she immediately knew how to cure him. She told him that she will have him cured in eight days, but he did not believe her. He said it made no sense that this girl would do something that professional doctors couldn’t do. When he was about to dismiss her, she told him, “My lord, you despise my art because I am young and a woman, but let me remind you that I practice medicine not only with my own knowledge of Master Gerado of Narbonne, who was my father and a famous physician in his day.” The King said fine. She told him that if she does not cure him, he can have her burned. However, if she cures him, the King offers her a husband. When the King was cured, he stuck to his word and let her have Beltramo. This proves that Giletta was able to use her young beauty and skill to get what she wanted from the King. 

Additionally, on the fourth day, first story, the daughter of the Prince of Salerno, Tancredi, also did something similar. She was also a beautiful young lady who was very loved by everyone, especially her father. She secretly fell in love with a man named Guiscardo, her fathers valet, and wanted to find a way to meet him in secret. She wrote him a letter and gave him instructions on how to get to an abandoned cave. She put the letter in the hollow of a reed plant. When she gave him the letter, she stated, “Make a bellows of this tonight for your serving girl to keep the fire burning.” Once he read the letter, he felt like the luckiest man on Earth. The cave was hollowed out of a hill for a long time and it was lit by a small opening in the side of the hill. The cave had been abandoned for so long so it was covered by brambles and weeds. The cave can be reached by a stairway that is blocked by a strong door that no one knew how to open, so it was forgotten about. After days of the young lady trying to open the secret door in the cave, she finally opened it with the right tools. She was finally able to walk down the cave and see the outer entrance. She used the ladies-in-waiting to tell Guiscardo how to get there, and without hesitation and without anyone knowing, he made a rope with loops to climb into the cave, and he wrapped himself in leather skin to protect himself from the brambles, and waited down there for the lady to show up. This proves that in the Decameron, women prevailed and exploited men with graciousness when needed, which is not how women are typically portrayed. For instance, “The Ethical Dimension of the ‘Decameron’ states, “Many contemporary readers, believing that the right to secual freedom is inviolable and that control of one’s personal circumstances is supremely desirable, prefer seeing women like Ghita as “victims” or “heroes” and men like Tofano as “villians.” Moreover, many people now seem predisposed to side with a winner even when that winner is a clever manipulator of appearances.” This quote from Marilyn Migiel proves the stories written by Boccaccio portrayed women in a more prevailing manner, as they were able to use their personal skill or tendencies to get what they wanted. 


Decameron Web | Texts. (n.d.). The Decameron: Day 3, Story 9.

Decameron Web | Texts. (n.d.). The Decameron: Day 4, Story 1.

Migiel, Marilyn “The Ethical Dimension of the Decameron” University of Toronto Press, 2015-09-02

Desiderio, Inganno e Fortuna

Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, Paris
Illustration from a French edition of The Decameron, fifteenth century

Desiderio, inganno e fortuna sono tre temi ricorrenti nel Decameron di Giovanni Boccaccio. Questi tre temi diventano sempre più evidenti quando compaiono in storie improbabili sui monaci in I-4. L’articolo di Marga Cottino-Jones, Desire and the Fantastic in the Decameron: The Third Day, pubblicato nel 1993 dall’American Association of Teachers of Italian, spiega che Boccaccio intende sfidare il modo moralmente imposto in cui vengono viste determinate figure della società. Come bussole morali, ci si aspetta che i monaci diano l’esempio di purezza; proprio per questo Boccaccio li usa come soggetti perfetti per mostrare che le persone soccomberanno alla loro natura umana quando i loro desideri saranno spinti a limiti straordinari.
Il primo giorno di narrazione, Dioneo intrattiene il gruppo con la quarta storia di un monaco e un abate che vivevano in un monastero appartato. Qui Boccaccio allude ai dettagli specifici della posizione del monastero, creando una cornice per rendere possibile un evento improbabile. Un giorno un monaco, giovane e virile, nota una giovane ragazza che raccoglieva delle erbe nei loro campi, ed è subito colpito da una passione sensuale e desiderio carnale per la ragazza. Qui si può apprezzare come i suoi impulsi curiosi e naturali confrontano la castità del monaco. Dopo un po’ di conversazione, rendendosi conto che la ragazza era ben disposta alle sue avances, il monaco la porta di nascosto nella sua camera mentre gli altri dormivano. Ad un certo punto un abate si sveglia e si rende conto di ciò che sta succedendo all’interno della camera del giovane monaco. Allo stesso tempo, Il monaco è consapevole che l’abate lo aveva scoperto e lascia la ragazza nella sua stanza con la scusa che deve finire il suo lavoro e la rinchiude nella sua stanza per non essere scoperti. Poi dà la chiave all’abate che li aveva trovati. Quando l’abate entra nella stanza del monaco e vede la giovane, anche lui è tentato dalla giovane. Dopo aver preparato la sua trappola, il giovane monaco attende che l’abate cada vittima dei suoi desideri carnali. Una volta che l’abate esce dalla stanza del monaco, il monaco decide di tornare. A quel punto torna, l’abate lo affronta su ciò che ha trovato nella sua stanza. Il monaco risponde che è nel monastero da poco tempo e che non ha ancora appreso tutti gli insegnamenti. Tuttavia, ora che ha visto esattamente come l’abate gestisce una situazione del genere, sa come agirci se dovesse accadere di nuovo. Rendendosi conto che il monaco era consapevole della sua perversità con la donna, l’abate ritiene inopportuno castigare il monaco per lo stesso errore che lui stesso ha commesso. Lo perdona, e insieme scortano la giovane donna fuori dal monastero ma continuerà a visitarli. Alla fine della storia, la fortuna premia le malefatte del monaco e del suo complice (l’abate) permettendoli di continuare con i suoi impulsi naturali.

Desire and the Fantastic in the Decameron: The Third Day

Men Tricking Women in the Decameron: 3.6 and 10.10

Throughout the Decameron, Giovanni Boccacio shares a number of tales that each hold a hidden message. There are a total of 100 stories excluding the prologue, ten stories for ten days. One theme that I found to show up a few times throughout the stories is men deceiving women.

On the tenth day and tenth story, we were introduced to a man named Gualtiero. Gualtiero was the Marquess of Saluzzo, and with such a title came responsibility. His people were worried about the future of the estate is that he still wasn’t married, so he made a pact to them that he would get married to the woman of his choosing. He chose to marry a village girl named Griselda. They were happy for the first few years of their marriage, Gualtiero’s people loved her and thought of her to be compassionate and kind. It wasn’t until Griselda and Gualtiero started having children that Gualtiero began his tests/tricks. Once their daughter was born Gualtiero’s entire demeanor change, he began to treat Griselda poorly and claimed that his vassals disliked the fact that the next of kin was a child of one of a lower class. He convinced Griselda that the soldiers took the baby and murdered her when in reality he sent her to Bologna. Griselda was compliant the entire time, for all that women in those times knew about being a wife is being submissive and compliant to everything the husband wishes. He continues his tricks and tests when Griselda gave birth to there son. Although pleased by Griselda’s submissiveness he decided to further deceive her. He sent the boy to bologna and told griselda that he was murdered and that his subjects resented being ruled by a child whose grandfather is a farmer. Not only this but he starts to tell her that the pope allowed for them to divorce. Gualtiero asks to tell Griselda about the divorce in front of all his people and that he wishes for her to be of assistance with the wedding, of course, she obeys and does as he asks. Gualtiero tricks Griselda once more by bringing his daughter back from Bologna and telling Griselda that she was his next wife. He expected her to be jealous and rude towards the girl but in reality, Griselda was nice, welcoming and even advised Gualtiero to “spare her those tribulations” and treat her differently than how she was treated. This is when Gualtiero took the opportunity to reveal his schemes and tricks. Griselda was pleased to know that it was all a trick and that her kids were in fact not dead, she stayed with Gualtiero. 

Mary Eliza Haweis (1848-1898), Griselda’s Sorrow (1882), illustration in ‘Chaucer for Children’, further details not known. Wikimedia Commons.

Griselda’s story wasn’t the only one that housed men deceiving women. On the Third Day Sixth story, we are introduced to the story of Ricciardo and how he tricked a woman named Catella to be with him. Catella was found to be the most beautiful in the town and when Ricciardo tried to pursue Catella he was unsuccessful because she is deeply in love with her husband, Filleppo. It has been made a known fact that Catella was extremely jealous when it came to her husband which allowed for Ricciardo’s tricks to conjure themselves. Ricciardo told Catella that her husband was having an affair with his wife (Ricciardo’s wife) and that they were going to meet up at a restaurant. Being the jealous wife she is, she believed every word. Later that day she went to the restaurant to pretend to be Ricciardo’s wife in hopes of tricking her husband and getting the opportunity to call him out. What she didn’t know was that Ricciardo set the whole thing up so that they were in a dark room and she would believe he was Filleppo. It wasn’t until they slept together that she tried to expose “her husband” of cheating when he revealed himself. He held her so tight she couldn’t get loose and convinced her to be with him “Sweet my soul, be not wroth: that which, while artlessly I loved, I might not have, Love has taught me to compass by guile: know that I am thy Ricciardo. ” instead of her husband Filleppo. 

Gualtiero used tricks and deceived Griselda to put her loyalty to the test. He wanted to see whether or not Griselda would remain submissive and compliant to his every wish; he was happy to find that she passed. As a woman all Griselda knew about being a wife was that they were supposed to do and follow everything told by the husband. This is why she never put up a fight or disagreed/disobeyed his orders. I also believe that she stayed with him not only because she was taught to stand by her husband no matter what but because she was no longer a virgin. Back in the day, it was known that if a woman wasn’t a virgin she was found undesirable, it was found that if you weren’t a virgin and were older in age it would be a struggle to remarry. I think that played a small role in her taking Gualtiero back in the end. Ricciardo used tricks to ultimately use Catella’s emotions and love towards her husband against her. He was so fixated on wanting her that he had to trick her into believing that her husband Fileppo was cheating on her. “However you may say that I lured you hither by guile, I shall deny it, and affirm, on the contrary, that I induced you to come hither by promises of money and gifts, and that ’tis but because you are vexed that what I gave you did not altogether come up to your expectations, that you make such a cry and clamour; and you know that folk are more prone to believe evil than good, and therefore I am no less likely to be believed than you.” Once she recognized Ricciardo’s voice, he gaslighted her and threatened the fact that no one was going to believe that, he tricked her into bed with her, to be with him. When she asked him to “let her go” he refrained at first but then allowed for a kiss. That kiss is what changed it all for her, “Indeed the lady, finding her lover’s kisses smack much better than those of her husband, converted her asperity into sweetness, and from that day forth cherished a most tender love for Ricciardo.” His tricks and deceit ultimately worked in his favor, the same as Gualtiero.

Works Cited

“Decameron Web.” Decameron Web: Day 10, Story 10

“Decameron Web.” Decameron Web: Day 3, Story 6

“The Decameron: The suffering of Griselda” by hoakley

Woman and Romance in the Decameron: 4.5 and 10.10

A Woman Weeping - Wikipedia
“A weeping woman” by  Rembrandt in 1644

As discussed multiple times in class, women were to be seen not heard in the time when Boccaccio wrote The Decameron, but Boccaccio really dismissed that idea in the stories of the Decameron. Women are included as main characters in a lot of his stories, and one of the topics most spoken of is that of romance and lust. Throughout the stories, he writes a lot about the drama that often comes when women engage in romance, especially in day 4 story 5 and day 10 story 10.

On day 4 story 5, Filomena tells the story of Lisabetta, the sister of 3 merchants who fell in love with one of their employees. The 3 brothers do not approve and end up murdering him but Lisabetta keeps the head of her dead lover inside a flower pot. This story was very farfetched and crazy and I think Boccaccio did this on purpose to show the reader the grasp that love has on people. especially on women who are sometimes deprived( as Lisabetta was) of who they want to be with. This story in particular showcases how women can go insane from a lack of romance, in my opinion. I infer that Boccaccio views romance as something beautiful yet crazy.

In addition, the Decameron also shows women who are in very tumultuous relationships, as shown in the telling of Griselda’s story on day 10 story 10. Griselda’s husband, Marquis of Saluzzo, tests her to see how “worthy” she was to be his wife, even going as far as to pretend to kill her children; Griselda is still submissive and tolerates all his tests and still loves him. I think this story is a hyperbole to show the extreme lengths women would go to please their husband. I definitely think Bocaccio included this story to mock how submissive some women are when they shouldn’t be. I also think he thinks that women are more able to handle tough situations than men are, in day 4 story 5 Lisabetta’s brothers couldn’t even handle their sister being in love with their client, while Griselda could tolerate the cruelty her husband showed her. According to Sujay Kulshrestha in her article, Giovanni Boccaccio’s “The Decameron” and the Roles of Men and Women, Griselda’s story demonstrates that Boccacio believes “that women tolerate more adversity than men do.” Both Griselda and Lisabetta are examples of the power that love has on people but especially women in a society where they are either stripped of their lover or face cruelty from their husbands.


Kulshrestha, Sujay. “Giovanni Boccaccio’s ‘The Decameron’ and the Roles of Men and Women.” Inquires Journal, vol. 2, no. 12, 2010,

Women in the Decameron: 6.7 and 10.10:

‘The Story of Griselda, Part 1: Marriage” commission by the noble Spannocchi family in 1494 (The story of Griselda, part I: Marriage. The National Gallery. (n.d.). Retrieved November 14, 2021, from

The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio is a collection of stories told by 10 young people, comprised of 7 women and 3 men, told over the course of 10 days after fleeing to the Italian countryside to escape the Black Plague. While it might not seem like it on the surface, each story has a greater message and is often a commentary of issues that plagued Italy at the time, such as corruption in the church and social hierarchy. What makes The Decameron so unique is the fact that many of it’s stories focus on the theme of women, particularly the role of women in society, which is something that not many writers of Boccaccio’s era were daring enough to cover.

In Day 6, story 7, Filostrato tells the story of a woman speaking out against the strict laws that often targeted women more strictly than men. In the city of Prato, the law states that a woman will be put to death and burned if she’s caught committing adultery whether it’s with someone she loves or a complete stranger. This story focuses on Madonna Filippa, who is caught cheating on her husband, Rinaldo de’ Pugliesi, with Lazzarino de’ Guazzagliotri. Instead of “falling upon them and killing them on the spot”, Rinaldo resorted to charging Filippa with adultery to have her killed. In an act of courage, Filippa showed up on the day she was summoned despite her family and friends’ attempts to dissuade her, as she would rather speak the truth and face the possible consequences than flee and live in exile. When questioned about whether or not she’s guilty of her crime, she simply responds with “True it is, Sir, that Rinaldo is my husband, and that last night he found me in the arms of Lazzarino, in whose arms for the whole-hearted love that I bear him I have ofttimes lain; nor shall I ever deny it…” She then elaborates on her admission, stating that this law is unjust as it was put in place without the consent of women, despite the fact that it only impacts women who cheat and not men. In her closing statement, she defends her actions by stating that she has “surplus” love to give, and that she deemed it better to show that love to a man who loves her as well than to “cast it to the dogs”. The crowd which has gathered around to see the trial ends up siding with Filippa, and doesn’t leave until the Podesta amends the law so that women who love the person they’re cheating with aren’t punished. In this story, Boccaccio essentially shows that women should be allowed to love whoever they please, even if it involves adultery. In my opinion, Boccaccio also shows how powerful just one woman can be, as Filippa was able to single handedly avoid persecution through her testimony, but was also able to get the law changed by getting the townspeople on her side.  

On the other hand, we have the story of Griselda on day 10, the 10th story. This story focuses on the relationship between Griselda, a woman of low nobility, and Gualtieri, the Marquis of Saluzzo. Gualtieri takes Griselda as his wife despite the fact that she’s not royalty or rich, and they have an extravagant wedding. However, Gualtieri suddenly wants to test his wife’s loyalty and puts her through multiple trials. He sends away Griselda’s children (a daughter and a son), making her believe the children are dead when they’re actually in the care of someone else. He also tells her that he’s taking another woman as his wife, and again, she puts up with this behavior and encourages him to be happy with his new wife. Gualtieri then reveals that he was testing Griselda’s loyalty all along, and the story ends with them remaining happily married together. The story closes with the line “Who but Griselda had been able, with a countenance not only tearless, but cheerful, to endure the hard and unheard-of trials to which Gualtieri subjected her?”, which many interpret to mean that women are able to deal with hardship better than men.

While many commend Boccaccio for his inclusion of women, some believe that his representation of women is actually harmful. In Gender, Power, and the Female Reader, Mihoko Suzuki argues that Griselda’s story doesn’t have the message of how strong women can be, but is actually about Gualtieri’s dominance over his wife. Suzuki contrasts Griselda with other women that we’ve seen in The Decameron; while women in previous stories have been shown to disobey men (either through adultery or by outwitting them), Griselda is the complete opposite. As Suzuki puts it “And that is precisely the point: Dineo all but erases her sexuality and makes her an embodied fantasy of a constant and obedient wife…” (page 234). She then elaborates by stating that because Griselda’s personality has been watered down to that of an obedient wife and nothing else, Boccaccio is playing into the fantasy that men should have “total control and power” over their wives. 


  1. The story of Griselda, part I: Marriage. The National Gallery. (n.d.). Retrieved November 14, 2021, from
  2. Decameron web. Decameron Web | Texts. (n.d.). Day 6, story 7. Retrieved November 14, 2021, from
  3. Decameron web. Decameron Web | Texts. (n.d.). Day 10, Story 10. Retrieved November 14, 2021, from
  4. Suzuki, M. (1993). Gender, Power, and the Female Reader: Boccaccio’s “Decameron” and Marguerite de Navarre’s “Heptameron”. Jstor. Retrieved November 14, 2021, from

Generosity in the Decameron

The Decameron is a series of stories written by Giovanni Boccaccio. These stories are told by three men and seven women in the year 1348, during the rise of the Black Plague. In these texts, there are many mentions of themes, morals, and lessons learned throughout. One of the many themes that often came up in his writing is generosity. This theme is greatly shown throughout Day 10, Novel 3 and Day 1, Novel 1. 

In Day 10, Novel 3, which is narrated by Filostrato. In this story, Nathan, a wealthy and generous man, has a palace built so he can provide help and places to stay for any travelers that may need assistance on the way. He is met with Mithridanes, a man who is jealous of Nathan’s very giving nature, and is set to be more generous than Nathan, as he sees it as a competition. He creates a plan to kill Nathan, and ends up meeting Nathan himself without realizing. Once Mithridanes realizes the faults in his plan to kill Nathan after meeting him, he instantly backs down. Nathans suggests switching bodies with Mithridanes, as he still believed in giving Mithridanes what he needed. Ultimately, this gives Nathan a stronger sense of accomplishment with his generosity. Day 10, Novel 3 states, “Nathan for some days honourably entreated Mithridanes; Mithridanes, being minded to return home with his company, took his leave of Nathan ”. Nathan fulfills his promise, always giving people what they want and need, and Mithridanes becomes the person who is known for giving, additionally learning how to be generous. 

Another example of generosity is in Day 1, Novel 1, as told by Panfilo. In this story the main character, Master Ciappelletto, is known as the towns’ ‘fool’. He goes against many rules, he creates fake documents and testimonies, never goes to church, and often uses profanities. Due to this, many people were not fond of him, his actions or personality. He ended up moving to continue his practice, but became ill when staying at the house of two Florentine lenders. This became an issue for them, as if Master Ciappelletto did die, no one would bury him, but instead leave them with the body. Ciappelletto, however, was listening in on this conversation between the two lenders, and came up with a plan: meeting a friar to give his confessions before he died. The friar goes to see Ciappelletto,  but ends up getting tricked, as Ciappelletto he ends up lying about his confessions and creating lies. The friar ended up believing him, and Ciappelletto died that same day. Since he lied to the friar, he ended up getting buried at the friar’s convent, as he believed Ciappelletto was holy enough. Day 1 Story in the Decameron states, “The holy man was mightily delighted with these words, which seemed to him to betoken a soul in a state of grace”. At the end of this story, the narrator explains how this is an example of generosity on friar’s end, as he still gave Ciappelletto his rights, despite the opinion of others. He states that this story was a mix of good and evil in the main character, Master Ciappelletto, that had “an end with generosity glorified for its own sake and for God” (The Frame Characters of the Decameron: A Progression of Virtues). 


Decameron web. Decameron Web | Texts. (n.d.). Retrieved November 14, 2021, from

Decameron web. Decameron Web | Texts. (n.d.). Retrieved November 14, 2021, from

Joan M. Ferrante, The Frame Characters of the “Decameron”: A Progression of Virtues (n.d.). Retrieved November 14, 2021, from 

Salvatore Postiglione (1861–1906)

Murder in the Decameron: 4.1 & 4.9

Human Heart -Die Frau als Hausarztin 1911

In “The Decameron”, Giovanni Boccaccio writes many tales related to topics that reflect his views. I noticed that death is a recurring theme. He tells us stories involving murder. Various characters murder each other in gruesome and brutal ways. These murders are motivated by either love or social class.

On Day 4, Story 1, Boccaccio tells the story of Tancredi and Ghismunda, a father and daughter. Tancredi was the prince of Salerno. He marries his daughter Ghismunda off to the Duke of Capua. Unfortunately, the duke later died, leaving Ghismunda without a husband. She returns to her father’s house. When Ghismunda returns she has intentions to find herself a husband. Tancredi has no intentions of remarrying her. Ghismunda falls in love with Guiscardo, her father’s valet, and they secretly see each other. One day Tancredi falls asleep in her room and catches Ghismunda and the valet. That night Tancredi tells the guards to capture Guiscardo. He confronts him about his relations with his daughter. Tancredi couldn’t believe that Ghuismunda would sleep with someone that’s in a lower class. Ghismunda said she doesn’t regret loving Guiscardo. She becomes enraged at her father for being upset that she was with someone of a lower social class. She tells her father that if Guiscardo is punished so should she. He tells his guards to strangle Guiscardo and remove his heart. He sends the heart to Ghismunda in a golden goblet. After seeing the heart Guismunda kills herself by pouring poison into the heart and drinking it. This is one example of the brutal murders shown in “The Decameron”. Tancredi acts as if killing another person is nothing. He orders people to strangle him and take his heart. The taking of the heart gives this murder a gruesome feel. Sending the heart to his daughter made Trancedi seem more violent and heartless. Guiscardo’s life was regarded as less than, so Tancredi murdered him as if he were less than. He had no remorse for taking the life of somebody his daughter loved. This demonstrates Boccaccio’s creativity. He used the taking of the heart as a symbol of the love that the characters have for each other.

On day 4, story 9, Boccacio tells of two knights Guillaume de Roussillon and Guillaume de Cabestanh. These knights were friends. Cabestanh falls in love with Roussillion’s wife. Roussilion finds out and kills Cabestanh. He cuts his heart out. Roussillon orders it to be cooked and served to his wife. He tells her what she ate after she finishes. After she throws herself out the window. This shows a murder motivated by betrayal. Roussillon’s wife and friend fell in love with each other so he punished them together. The nature of the love the wife and Cabestanh had was stranger than staying loyal to the title of friend and wife. Cutting out the heart was a common theme in both stories.

Boccacio uses these stories to show the issues of class and the nature of love. These murders emphasize these topics in extreme ways. It makes the reader pay attention to the reason behind this violence. In these stories, women are represented “as the secondary victims of violence unleashed by sexual love” according to “A Rhetoric of the Decameron” by Marilyn Migiel.


Migiel, Marilyn. “Domestic Violence in the Decameron.” A Rhetoric of the Decameron. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2016. 147–159. Web.

Boccaccio, Giovanni, 1313-1375. The Decameron. London :New York : Penguin Books, 1995.

Blog Post 3: Physical Violence in the Decameron

1427-1430 Image of Attack made by Gerbino and his men to the ship where his lover was to be married off.

In Giovanni Boccaccio’s, “The Decameron” there were a wide range of meaningful themes, messages and topics that are very impactful.  The one theme I was most intrigued by was the use of physical violence throughout the stories. Physical violence was a tactic that was greatly used by many characters involved in the stories. 

In Day 4, story 4 the physical violence is associated with men’s natural sexual rivalry for women.  The story is told by Elissia, in the story Gerbino the grandson of King William II of Sicily  who is not only a famous warrior but a man of chivalry falls for the daughter of the King of Tunis. They fall in love without ever being in each other’s sight due to this Gerbino gets a friend to be his messenger that will help the two exchange love letters and gifts back and forth from the lovers traveling from Sicily to Tunis. The long distance love remains until the King of Tunis makes the announcement that he will be marrying her off to the King of Granada.  He is aware of the love affair the two lovers are currently having of which he does not approve of causing him to reach out to King William. He is promised that Gerbino will not interfere, but of course Gerbino has other plans. He takes two ships full of men and attends to his lover’s bridal entourage with intentions of capturing her. Unluckily, his unwanted presence and interruption leads the Tunisians to kill Gerbino’s lover right before his eyes.  As a result Gerbino breaks out into ultimate physical violence and rage being the warrior he is, he and his men begin to fight and kill.  Day 4, story 4 states, “Just like a starving lion who falls upon a herd of bullocks, slashing this one with his teeth and that one with his claws, intent on satisfying his anger rather than his hunger, so Gerbino, sword in hand, cut down one Saracen and then another, slaughtering a host of them without mercy.”  Many of Gerbino’s men died and so did many of the others, as a result Gerbino’s grandfather had Gerbino beheaded before his eyes.

Another instance in which Physical violence is presented is Day 2, story 1 which is illustrated by Neifile. In the story Arrigo a poor laborer in Trevisa who is believed to be a saint by the people dies, after his death a variety of miraculous things occur which was a way of confirming this belief to the people. Many want to come into contact with his body to either cure an illness or win favor with him. Three entertainers from Florence , Stecchi, Martellino and Marchese happen to show up in town during this exciting time. They wanted to come into contact with Arrigo’s body for themselves but the crowd was way too big to get by so they came up with a scheme. Martellino pretends to be  a paralyzed man who needs the healing powers of the saint, it works and they get through the crowds. The men surrounding Arrigo’s body lift Martellino up and lay him across the corpse, he then pretends as if he has been cured. Unfortunately  there’s another Florentine in the crowd who recognizes him and reveals the sacrilege to the crowd, after this the mood automatically alters. The crowd becomes angry and starters to beat him up they are even on the verge of hanging him for mocking the saint. Day 2 story 1 states, “they grabbed him {Martinello} and dragged him down from where he was standing.  Holding him by the hair, they tore all the clothes off his back and started punching and kicking him.  … Although he did his best to defend himself, it was no use, and the crowd on top of him just kept getting bigger and bigger.” Marchese and Stecchi  get the watchman to keep the crowd from killing Martellino, they claim that Martellino had “cut their purses” so that the watchman will save his life by taking him into custody. Other men claim he did the same to them, and were told to say when and where the events occurred but they all chose days he was not in the city. The magistrate has a grudge against Florentines and is tempted to hang Martellino just for fun. While Marchese and Stecchi go back to their lodgings and ask the landlord to help them, who sends them to Sandro, a Florentine living in Trevisa. Sandro takes them to the prince. The prince is amused by the situation but he does go to the magistrate and saves Martellino. The three men then safely return to Florence in the new set of clothing given to them by the prince.

Furthermore, the stories are similar in such that they both show how the characters reckless actions lead to very negative outcomes. It can clearly be concluded that physical violence played a great role in life at the time. Seemingly Boccaccio’s view of physical violence remains somewhat unclear but he does present it greatly throughout the stories which reflects the gruesome role in how physical violence was the main way to discipline and approach issues. 


Decameron Web | Texts. (n.d.). The Decameron: Day 4, Story 4

Decameron Web | Texts. (n.d.). The Decameron: Day 2, Story 1.

Deceit in the Decameron 10.3 and 10.10

Throughout the Decameron, Bocaccio shares several tales that are designed to teach the audience moral lessons. The parables are told by the characters in the book for the duration of ten days, and each one is cleverly laden with social commentary. Though readers may pick apart several themes from the collection of stories, the one that was consistently established within the tenth day, especially, is deception. In stories 3 and 10, we are introduced to good-hearted protagonists who are double-crossed by manipulative people looking to gain something. But similar to standard fairytales, they end off on a happy note, reinforcing the idea that immorality does not prevail.

Image may contain Art Painting Human and Person
John William Waterhouse’s The Decameron. Depicts the young storytellers from The Decameron.
Source: Columbia University  

The main characters of story three are named Nathan and Mitridanes. Both are equally as wealthy, but only one of them has a heart of gold. Nathan has a notable reputation for being a generous person because he extends his riches to commoners passing by his palace. Mitridanes, on the other hand, only cares about renown, which is why his growing jealously for Nathan points him in the direction of murder. Mitridanes devises a plan to disguise himself as someone in need of Nathan’s services, but his plan falls through when he accidentally reveals his intentions to Nathan. Although Mitridanes was completely unaware that he was revealing his plan to Nathan, it’s interesting to think about why he was so motivated to tell a random person such a deep secret. It turns out, that he, too, is enthralled by Nathan’s kindness. When Mitridanes has a conversation with Nathan, who poses as a servant, he is able to witness how good of a person Nathan actually is. He goes from wanting to murder a then-stranger, to feeling shameful for even thinking about killing his friend. In typical Nathan fashion, he forgives Mitridanes and allows him to stay at the palace for several days. However, Mitridanes decides to leave upon realizing that “‘twas not possible to surpass him [Nathan] in liberality” (Tenth Day, Novel 3).

On the tenth day, we meet The Marquis of Saluzzo, Gualtieri, who chooses a woman named Griselda to be his wife. Griselda is described to be the complete opposite of Gualtieri, not only in social status, but in character too. She is someone who is well-mannered and very compliant, while he subjects her to the horrors of a man with a fragile ego. He makes her believe that both of their children are dead and that he is leaving her for another woman – all in the name of testing her patience and humility. Griselda almost never flinches at his requests, but there is one moment where she lets Gualtieri know what she’s feeling. She pleads that he treats his “new wife” with respect and that he “spare her those tribulations” which he once inflicted on her (Tenth Day, Novel 10). This serves as the turning point in the story, where Gualtieri reveals his true intentions to Griselda, and they vow to restore their relationship. Many people were not pleased with this ending, calling it an “extreme example of female submission” (The Griselda Tale and Women in The Decameron). However, things are left off in this note because as damning as this experience was for her, Griselda does restore her wifely status and Gualtieri’s dirty truths come to the light.

Work Cited

“Decameron Web.” Decameron Web: Day 10, Story 3 

“Decameron Web.” Decameron Web: Day 10, Story 10

Allen, Shirley S. “The Griselda Tale and the Portrayal of Women in The Decameron”