The Portrayal of Religion in Italian Literature 

Throughout this semester, we have learned and read the works of several Italian writers and poets, including Dante Alighieri, Francesco Petrarca, Giovanni Boccaccio, and Niccolò Machiavelli. While one topic in these texts was women, it was apparent that religion was a runner-up in terms of significance and popularity. In fact, the majority of these writers followed the Christian, Catholic religions and discussed their points of view on the religion as a whole. 

Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell

Firstly, this can be viewed in Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. Dante states unequivocally that Christianity is the only genuine religion. Belief in Jesus’ divinity is required for admission to Paradiso (heaven), Purgatorio (purgatory), and, in most cases, Inferno (hell). Dante believes that non-belief is not excused by ignorance of Jesus’ presence. He considers Christianity to be not only the path to happiness but also a necessary component of his concept of what it is to be a virtuous, genuine person, which in turn is a strong opinion for one to have in today’s society since there are so many religions and ways of life. Dante’s devotion to orthodox Christianity and criticism of priests reflect his fears and concerns about the Church’s foundation. He was also very adamant about his beliefs of the separation of church and state. He describes his constant anger for church officials who abandon their religious duties in order to obtain wealth and power. For instance, in Canto 33, Archbishop Ruggieri is found in the second band of the ninth circle. Here Ugolino, an innocent man found guilty alongside his four sons by Ruggieri, is found chewing on Ruggieri’s head. Since the archbishop left them locked in a tower and starved them to death after Ugolino clearly put his trust in the archbishop, he was now condemned to Antenora, the traitor’s band of the ninth circle, with his head being chewed off by the man he betrayed forever. This is one of many stories portrayed in the Divine Comedy by Dante that clergymen are punished due to their wrongdoings in life. 

Illustrations of Laura and Petrarca

 Additionally, religion, though not the main factor in Il Canzoniere by Francesco Petrarca, is a vital factor in the development of the text. His poems, mainly inspired by his lover, Laura, show him on his path to reach happiness and glory. However, he realizes that only faith in Christianity is how he can achieve this glow and happiness. This leaves him in a constant war with himself regarding love and religion. In Canzoniere 264, Petrarca states “I go thinking, and so strong a pity for myself assails me in thought, that I’m forced sometimes to weep with other tears than once I did: for seeing my end nearer every day, I’ve asked God a thousand times for those wings with which our intellect can rise from this mortal prison to heaven.” (“Petrarch (1304–1374) – The Complete Canzoniere: 245-305”) This depicts Petrarca contemplating the cost of his devotion to Laura. He is in excruciating pain as a result of it. He considers his love for Laura to be a threat and distraction to his faith. 

Although Catholicism was prominent during this time, Boccaccio on the other hand made it clear that he did not approve of the Church’s activities and behavior, remarkably similar to Dante. Religion was seen to be practiced by foolish people in The Decameron. He saw that the church was a breeding ground for evil, and “marriage” was a meaningless transaction. The Decameron Web also describes that these texts were seen to be “a favorite topic of mockery” when it came to religion. His Day One, Story One in The Decameron regarded a man that made many sins, by the name of Messire Chappelet du Prat, but because he confessed all of his sins before he died, The Friar left thinking that this enormous sinner was a truly holy man. This man was declared a saint and was admired by Catholics. The main narrative was criticism of saint adoration and the Catholic Church’s organization and infrastructure, but not on Catholicism as a religion. 

Also similar to Dante, Machiavelli attempted to subjugate religion to the state and give the state a non-religious character by totally separating religion from politics. He considered politics to be a separate activity with its own set of rules and regulations. In The Prince, Machiavelli frequently argued that religion was fabricated and that it was utilized to impose oppressive laws, additionally believing that Christianity made people unproductive and weak. The Prince cannot be bound by moral or religious reasons and he exists beyond morality. He may achieve his goals by depending on faith. Religion has no power over politics, and the church has no authority over the state. As a result, he proposed separating religion, morality, and politics. In political concerns, the king has the last say, and all other centers must be subject to political authority. In Chapter 18, he instructs Lorenzo with astounding, if not reckless, honesty, “There is nothing more important than appearing to be religious.” Here he is stating that even if a Prince may act the opposite, he should always be perceived as religious amongst other things. Machiavelli understands that many individuals are prepared to accept all types of dishonesty as long as their country is wealthy, prosperous, and peaceful. The most problematic component of Machiavelli’s life was his views on religion, particularly Christianity because the worst aspect of the age in which he lived was the prevalent corruption and greed among the Italian authorities and church officials. 

Overall, religion is a common theme amongst these writers. Though many of them are known to be religious, they do not agree with Church. In other words, they disagreed with the Christian and Catholic infrastructure because of the constant corruption found and had no issue sharing their opinions on this. Many were in fact known as humanists of the Renaissance era. 

The Intersection of politics and writing in The Prince and The Divine Comedy

Politics and art are usually thought to be on two different planes, politics is the real world and art is an imaginary world created by the artist but that is completely wrong; Dante’s The Divine Comedy and Machiavelli’s The Prince prove that they both affect each other very much. Both Dante Alighieri and Niccolo Machiavelli tied their work to the politics of their hometown, Florence Italy but they did so in very different ways. 

The Divine Comedy was written by Dante in the 1300s while he was living in exile from Florence due to his allegiance with the white Guelf political party in Florence who were defeated by the black Guelfs. Throughout this exile and even while writing his poems, it is evident that he believes an emperor would be the best person to lead Florence. This was clear in Canto 34 when Dante the pilgrim, sees Satan in the Ninth circle of hell and described what he sees. Lucifer is described as having three heads with a sinner being held in each mouth. Two of the sinners, one in the right and another in the left, were two of the biggest betrayers of Julius Cesar, one of the greatest and most powerful emperors to ever walk the Earth who held power over all of the Roman Empire, including Dante’s native Florence. The inclusion of both Brutus and Cassius highlights how much Dante the author believes in the power of an emperor, so much so that instead of relegating Brutus and Cassius to just the Ninth circle of inferno, he makes them suffer the most in Satan’s mouth where he “with gnashing teeth he tore to bits a sinner, so that he brought much pain to three at once.”, which shows just how much their betrayal of Julius disgusted Dante the author. However, the third sinner that was the biggest traitor of them all, was Judas Iscariot, the man who betrayed Jesus Christ. He is in Satan’s middle mouth, which shows just how deep his betrayal had been, even when compared to Brutus and Cassius.

Dante’s Satan

The decision to use that subtle detail highlights Dante’s most important political thought, the idea that any emperor as powerful as they may be, is still subordinate to God. Similarly, Dante believes that the only way to achieve peace is to have a political system where all politics is “seen as deriving from that of the Emperor, who in turn derives his political authority from God.”[1] This is why Judas is in the middle, although the betrayal of Julius Cesar was tragic, nothing and no one is more important or powerful than God and to betray God as Judas did is the biggest sin one can commit. This is where Dante differs from Machiavelli, Machiavelli’s writings display a somewhat secular way of ruling, he talks much more about human nature than God’s will and guidance when it comes to ruling.

Machiavelli’s The Prince was written over 200 years after The Divine Comedy was written but yet it still is still heavy in the author’s political opinion. It is much more logical and straightforward than The Divine Comedy, but it is just as, or even more opinionated in terms of politics than Dante’s writings. In The Prince, Machiavelli describes what he believes a good leader should do while ruling over his or her land and it acts as a guidebook for rulers. Machiavelli himself was exiled from Florence after the ruling family at the time, the Medicis, did not like his involvement in a movement to drive them out of the city. He in turn writes The Prince while in exile to Lorenzo De Medici, the current leader of Florence, as a way to get back on his family’s good graces; to put it simply, without politics The Prince wouldn’t exist at all. He writes about how he believes a prince should act towards his people, sometimes even stating that being evil in terms of politics is not an inherently bad thing, as well as tackling questions such as “is it better for a ruler to be feared or loved by his people?” He calls for a balance between being ruthless and being merciful as a leader and just generally gives secular and straightforward advice as compared to the poetry that was lined with allegories that Dante wrote 2 centuries prior and he uses “..his own experience as a foreign secretary in Florence.”[2] as a background for The Prince. However, Christian thought and biblical mentions can be seen throughout his writing, especially in Chapter 6, where he mentions Moses and his rise to power using force. Although he speaks about Moses in a more historical sense than a Christian sense, it is clear he still looks to the Bible as a basis for his ideas. He speaks about God in a more religious sense in the finishing chapter of The Prince chapter 34, where he speaks about God favoring the Lorenzo Medici which somewhat suggests that he agrees with Dante, that God should be placed above leaders(or that at least he’s willing to write that to get back to Florence.)

In today’s society, it is incredibly easy to divide the world into the arts and the “real world”, but both these writings from two different time periods show that there most art is a mix of both the artists’ real world experiences and opinions and their imagination.

A portrait of Niccolo Machiavelli




Women Protrayed in Boccaccio & Dante.

Throughout the entirety of this semester, we have read several pieces of Italian literature by some well-known literary scholars/figures. We started from Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy and ended on Niccolai Machiavelli’s The Prince. But the two texts that I found the most thrilling to read and that grasped my attention were Boccaccio’s The Decameron and Dante’s The Divine Comedy. During the times that both of these works were written, women had no power, rights, or say in anything socially. While men were supposed to be strong, powerful, and “manly”, women were expected to be compliant, weak, and naive. As we analyzed both texts we discovered that women were portrayed in a different light than how they were treated in those times. Boccaccio illustrated most women from his tales to have more of a say and less dependence on men. Dante had a similar approach but executed it in the way of showcasing women as important goddess-like figures. 

In Boccaccio’s The Decameron, the women stated in the tales told were extremely strong. Now they were mentally strong, not the type of strength that men are usually known for. An example of this being true was on the tenth story on the tenth day, where a woman named Griselda had several “tricks” played on her by her husband that held heavy topics. One of the many tricks her husband Gualtieri played on her was when he told her that her children were sent to be killed due to the fact that she was a villager and not royal. Despite the fact that she loved her kids she agreed to have them killed, little did she know that her husband was sending them to a boarding school in Bologna. Having her go through all this emotional and mental distress from her husband and still manage to take him back, in the end, shows how strong-willed and how strong she is mental. Given the time, of course, Griselda was compliant towards all of Gualtieri’s tricks, all she wanted was for his happiness even if they got in the way or affected her own. “My lord, do with me as thou mayst deem best for thine own honor and comfort, for well I wot that I am of less account than they, and unworthy of this honorable estate to which of thy courtesy thou hast advanced me.” (029) As a result of the way women were treated in those times, she felt as though she didn’t deserve all that she received by marrying a Marquis, but is still strong enough to put up with his tricks. But this isn’t the only time that Boccacio has presented a story about a strong woman. In many stories than this one woman was at the basis of deceiving men, they were able to use their knowledge and the little power they possessed to trick men who believed they were better than them. In one instance, the second-day ninth story, Filomena told a story about a woman named Zinevra and how she was dragged up into a lie and deceived everyone into having the truth revealed. While her husband was away from Italy and in Paris with some other lads, they were all discussing how they didn’t care what their wives do when they are away because they relinquish the moment and enjoy any woman they come across. To which Bernabò, Zinevra”s husband opposed by stating that his wife would never set eyes on another man and that she was noble as a knight. Bernabò’s claim was challenged by a man named Ambrogio, so much so that they made a bet. They betted that if Ambrogiulo could sleep with Zinevra and get her intimate clothes as proof and bring it back to Paris to show her husband he had to pay him 6,000 florins. Ambrogio convinced a friend of Zinevra’s to sneak him into her room via a trunk, to which the friend agreed. At night while Zinevra was asleep he got out of the trunk, took one of Zinevra’s undergarments and examined her naked body. He went back to her husband, gave him his findings and got paid the 6000 florins. Bernabò was crushed and planned to kill Zinevra, of course, was confused. Zinevra convinces the servant sent to kill her to let her go and in return, she will keep him off the hook. She disguised herself as a cabin boy in a ship and changed her name. Once she got to Paros she heard Ambrogiulo bragging about how he “slept” with Zinevra which answered the question she thought of while pleading with the servant “ “ Mercy for God’s sake; make not thyself the murderer of one that has done thee no wrong, at the behest of another. The all-seeing God knows that I never ought to merit such a requital at my husband’s hands.  But enough of this for the present: there is a way in which thou canst serve at once God and thy master and myself, if thou wilt do as I bid thee: take, then, these clothes of mine and give me in exchange just thy doublet and a hood; and carry the clothes with thee to my lord and thine, and tell him that thou hast slain me; and I swear to thee by the life which I shall have received at thy hands, that I will get me gone, and there abide whence news of me shall never reach either him or thee or these parts. ”.” (026) After hearing that she took it upon herself to try and expose Ambrogiulo of his lies. Successful in her endeavors she revealed her true identity, exposed Ambrogiulo”s lies, and had Bernabò on his knees begging her to forgive him. In this story not only do we get a story where a woman is strong/brave enough to try and convince the man who is about to take her life to spare her and was smart, independent enough to disguise herself and uncover the truth and expose Ambrogio. 

See the source image
beatrice by gustave dore

In Dante, although he took a somewhat different approach in the way he decided to showcase women it overall displayed them to be somewhat praised and empowered. In the Divine Comedy, a pilgrim named Dante is taken through this journey from Inferno to Purgatorio all the way to heaven also known as Paradiso. In the beginning, when Dante the pilgrim is at the beginning of his journey near the entrance to hell (inferno) he is beyond frightened and lost. Thankfully due to the help from Beatrice, the true hero in his story, he was able to go through Inferno. Beatrice resided in Paradiso and witnessed as Dante the pilgrim’s faith was slowly slipping away so finally, she sent for Virgil to help guide Dante and protect him in his journey. “Among those was I who were in suspense, And a fair, saintly Lady called to me. In such wise, I beseech her to command me…A friend of mine, and not the friend of fortune, Upon the desert slope is so impeded. Upon his way, that he has turned through terror, And may, I fear, already be so lost, That I too late have risen to his succour, From that which I have heard of him in Heaven….Beatrice am I, who do bid thee go; I come from there, where I would fain return; Love moved me, which compelleth me to speak…‘O Lady of virtue, thou alone through whom The human race exceedeth all contained Within the heaven that has the lesser circles, So grateful unto me is thy commandment, To obey, if ’twere already done, were late; No farther need’st thou ope to me thy wish. (Inferno, canto 2) Despite her few appearances and mentionings she still remains one of the most important female figures in the entire piece of literature. If it weren’t for her sending Virgil Dante wouldn’t have made it far within Inferno. With all the horrors that inhabit the 9 rings of hell, it is less than likely that Dante wouldn’t have made it out safely and with his faith. With her stance as almost a guardian angel, she is mentioned as kind, generous and independent. 

Within both Boccaccio’s Decameron and Dante’s Divine Comedy their ability to empower and illustrate women in a different light than how they were normally perceived in the 14yth century is why they remain the two most entertaining pieces of Italian literature to indulge in compared to the rest discussed in class. From the way, Boccaccio displays women’s mental and emotional strength as well as intelligence to Dante’s Beatrice demonstrating the power and independence of a woman. Both show how the women in their tales didn’t need men, and how in fact the men needed the women. Beginning with Gualtier’s desire to have a woman who was compassionate and could stand by him, to Bernabò’s mistake of almost executing his wife, to finally Dante’s need for guidance. The women in their stories not only helped and guided them but showed their independence/strength along the way. 

Work cited 

“DANTE ALIGHIERI THE DIVINE COMEDY HELL (Inferno) Canto 2 ENG.” Yeye Book, unknown, Accessed 14 Dec. 2021.

Alighieri, Dante. “The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri: Inferno” ProQuest eBook Central, 29 Feb. 1996,

Brown Students. “Second Day – Novel IX.” Decamaron Web, Brown Students, 15 Feb. 2010,

Brown Students . “Tenth Day – Novel X.” Decamaron Web, Brown Students, 15 Feb. 2010,

The Portrayal of Women In Italian Literature

Over the course of this class, we’ve discussed and analyzed many famous Italian authors who are widely regarded as some of the greats within their field. However, while these authors remain influential today, their works were published at a point in history where women were generally considered to be inferior to men and were often forced into lesser roles in society. As a result of this, we can see the influence of gender roles and its impact on the representation of women in Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’, Boccaccio’s ‘The Decameron’, and Petrarch’s ‘Canzoniere’. 

‘The Divine Comedy’ focuses on the journey that Dante, the pilgrim, takes through Hell, Purgatory, and eventually Heaven (referred to as ‘Paradise’ within the text). Over the course of this journey, Dante speaks to countless souls that have moved on to the afterlife and writes about their stories. However, men tend to dominate these conversations while women are sidelined. In fact, there are only two significant women in ‘The Divine Comedy’ that we discussed: Francesca and Beatrice. Francesca first appears in Canto 5, which centers around the second circle of Hell – lust; Dante asks Francesca and Paolo ended up being damned, to which Francesca recounts the story of reading ‘Lancelot du lac’ with her lover and that “one point alone was the one that overpowered us” (canto 5, lines 131-132). While Dante feels pity for the couple, as apparent from him fainting as the canto ends, he still believes that they should be punished for their love. In canto 3, the gates of Hell read “Justice moved my high maker; divine power made me, highest wisdom, and primal love” (Canto 3, lines 4-6), which makes it evidently clear that Dante believes all souls in Hell deserve their punishment, no matter how much pity he feels. On the other hand, we have Beatrice, who plays a significant role in Dante’s literature as a whole. In ‘The Divine Comedy’, Beatrice is the woman who made Dante’s journey possible in the first place. As opposed to Francesca, who Dante shuns for her sin, Beatrice is the exact opposite; he reveres Beatrice as graceful, beautiful, and holy. This is especially evident once we reach ‘Paradiso’, as Beatrice is the woman who allows Dante to come into contact with God, which is shown in the quote “The role that Dante assigns to her is reminiscent of the role that Christ plays in allowing humans to know God and achieve Heaven” (Carey, 2007, p.93). The portrayal of these two women are obviously very different, which makes it clear that Dante believes women should embody purity like Beatrice, and that those like Francesca who do not, should be punished. 

An illustration of Beatrice guiding Dante by Gustave Dore in 1857 (from: Gustave Doré – Dante Alighieri – Inferno – plate 7 (Beatrice Stock Photo. Alamy . (n.d.). Retrieved December 23, 2021, from

On the other hand, we have ‘The Decameron’ which features several stories centering around women. As opposed to Dante, Boccaccio depicts many strong, witty women that are able to stand up for themselves despite the stigma around doing so at the time. A prime example of this is seen in the story of the Madonna Filippa, which is the 7th story of the 6th day; This story centers around Filippa, who is caught cheating on her husband and is then taken to trial, where she could be put to death if found guilty. Instead of denying her crime, she admits to the judge that she was guilty of adultery and defends her actions by stating that she’s never denied her husband anything, that she simply has surplus love to give and asks the judge “Am I to cast it to the dogs? Is it not much better to bestow it on a gentleman that loves me more dearly than himself, than to suffer it to come to nought or worse?” (line 17). Seemingly through her wit alone, she’s able to get the crowd and judge on her side, and gets the law changed such that only women who commit adultery for money are punished. However, upon further inspection, this story isn’t as empowering as it seems. Firstly, while many women in The Decameron stand up for themselves (which was revolutionary in literature at the time), they generally don’t challenge specific laws or roles placed on women by society. This rings true for Filippa as well. She does challenge the law on her own, but even after her defense, it remains put in place and is only changed such that “thenceforth only such women as should wrong their husbands for money should be within its purview” (line 18); Filippa is only able to change the law to fit her given circumstances rather than calling for the abolition of said statute, or to have men included in it’s punishment. Additionally, Boccaccio seems to allude that Filippa’s beauty played a big part in her success. As Marcel Janssens states, women in The Decameron are often able to succeed in defending themselves “provided she is beautiful, witty, and tricky” (Wright, 1991, p. 27), and Filippa falls into this category as well. Early on in this story, it’s stated that Filippa’s beauty and poised nature caused the judge to feel sympathetic towards her, as shown in the quote “The Podestà, surveying her, and taking note of her extraordinary beauty, and exquisite manners, and the high courage that her words evinced, was touched with compassion for her” (line 11). While Filippa made a compelling argument that was able to get the crowd on her side, the prior quote begs the question: If Filippa did not have her “extraordinary beauty”, would she have been as successful?

Finally, we have Petrarch, whose work is unique as it only focuses on one woman: Laura. Despite nearly all of Petrarch’s poems being centered around his love for Laura (even after her death), she never actually speaks in any of his work. Instead, Petrarch decides to speak about her and describe how much he loves her, rather than depicting any direct interactions the two may have had. Similar to the depictions of Beatrice in ‘The Divine Comedy’, Petrarch describes Laura as if she’s a holy figure rather than a normal woman. This is especially seen in sonnet 90, where he states “The way she walked was not the way of mortals but of angelic forms;” (lines 9-10) and refers to her as “a godly spirit and a living sun” (line 12). While Petrarch clearly loves Laura deeply and praises her highly, this does little to let the reader know who she was as a person in real life. Due to Laura’s lack of a voice within the text, Nancy Vickers points out that “bodies fetishized by a poetic voice logically do not have a voice of their own; the world of making words, of making texts, is not theirs” (Cox, 2005, p. 3). Ultimately, Petrarch’s depiction of Laura is one that many women deem to be fetishizing, as she seemingly has no thoughts or words of her own and is only seen through the eyes of the poet.

An engraving that depicts both Laura and Petrarch done by Antonio Salamanca (from: Antonio Salamanca (1500-62) – Laura and Petrarch. Royal Collection Trust. (n.d.). Retrieved December 23, 2021, from

Overall, Dante, Boccaccio, and Petrarch are all very influential authors, and their works should still be taught and read today due to how much they’ve impacted literature as we know it. However, it’s also important to note that these works were products of their time, which is evidently clear from how each author portrays women; ranging from Boccaccio’s depiction of women who use their wits and beauty to get what they want, to Petrarch and Dante’s love interests who embody holiness. 


  1. Dante, A. D. (1996). The divine comedy of dante alighieri : Inferno. Oxford University Press USA – OSO. 
  2. Carey, Brooke L., “Le Donne di Dante: An Historical Study of Female Characters in The Divine Comedy” (2007). Syracuse University Honors Program Capstone Projects. 573.
  3. Decameron web. Decameron Web | Texts. (2010, February 15). Retrieved December 23, 2021, from 
  4. WRIGHT, E. C. (1991). Marguerite Reads Giovanni: Gender and Narration in the “Heptaméron” and the “Decameron.” Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme, 15(1), 21–36. 
  5.   Cox, V. (2005). Sixteenth-century women Petrarchists and the legacy of Laura. Retrieved December 23, 2021, from  
  6. Petrarca, Francesco, Selected Poems from the Canzoniere
  7. Antonio Salamanca (1500-62) – Laura and Petrarch. Royal Collection Trust. (n.d.). Retrieved December 23, 2021, from  
  8. Gustave Doré – Dante Alighieri – Inferno – plate 7 (Beatrice Stock Photo. Alamy . (n.d.). Retrieved December 23, 2021, from 

How women were portrayed in Boccaccio’s: ‘Decameron’

The way that women are portrayed in media and literature is a longstanding issue that has seen constant changes over time. We see much more representation for women in literature now, and this is thanks to many writers of the past, such as Giovanni Boccaccio, who helped break these stereotypes. Boccaccio was the creator of the text, ‘The Decameron’, created in 1358. It is a book that contains a series of stories played out within a 10 day time frame, 10 stories written each day, all occurring during the Black Plague of 1346. In this series of stories, Boccaccio covered many topics, such as fortune, nature, trickery, violence, and many others. However, one of the most common and talked about themes in ‘The Decameron’ is women and they’re role in society.

In ‘The Decameron’, Boccaccio portrays women as being smart and cunning. In the 1300’s, women were not allowed to have a say in their choices due to the sexist laws and strict gender roles that were forced upon them. Boccaccio, however, showed that women could stand up for themselves in many stories, such as in Day 6 Story 7. In Day 6 Story 7, Madonna Filippa gets caught cheating on her husband, Rinaldo. At the time, there was a law in Prato, Italy that stated that any woman that gets caught cheating will be burned alive. Many of her family and friends were telling Filipa to run away so she doesn’t get killed, but she didn’t believe the law was fair and equal and wanted a chance to stand her ground. She went to her trial and started talking to judge, saying that, “which conditions are wanting to this law, inasmuch as it binds only us poor women, in whom to be liberal is much less reprehensible than it were in men” (Day 6 Story 7, line 14). Through the use of her voice, Filipa was able to save herself from death and explain to the judges at the trial how it was unfair that the law targeted women and not men. She states how they could “ask my husband if I ever gainsaid him, but did not rather accord him, when and so often as he craved it, complete enjoyment of myself”(Day 6 Story 7, line 15), and how she had much more love to give to others. This was also seen in Day 7 Story 3, when Madonna Agnesa also cheats on her husband with Rinaldo. In this story, Rinaldo falls in love with his neighbor, Agnesa, and tries to get closer by asking her to consider having him as the godfather. Agnesa isn’t interested by efforts, and Rinaldo becomes a friar. Rinaldo, like the most friars during that time, becomes corrupt, and persuades Agnesa into having an affair. She agrees, but almost gets caught by her husband in which she lies too and says that her son “was taken but now, all of a sudden, with a fainting fit, so that I thought he was dead: and what to do or say I knew not, had not Fra Rinaldo, our sponsor, come just in the nick of time” (Day 7 Story 3, line 30). Based on these two stories, it’s made clear that Boccaccio believes women, like men, can be cunning and use their wit to defend themselves.

Master of Griselda Legend (1490-1500), The National Gallery London

Throughout this text, it’s clear that Boccaccio believed women should follow what their heart desired, even if it involved cheating on their partners. In many stories, such as the ones that were previously discussed, many of the women ended up having an affair and cheating on their husband because “Boccaccio demonstrates that women are significantly more sexual than men” (Kulshrestha, page 1). For example, in Day 4 Story 9, Guillaume de Roussillon has a wife that he found was cheating with his best friend, Guillaume. Guillaume de Roussillon found out about the affair between them, and ended up killing Guillaume and serving his heart to his wife. However, when he informed the wife about eating the heart, she stated “but God forbid that fare of such high excellence as the heart of a knight so true and courteous as Sieur Guillaume de Cabestaing be followed by aught else” (Day 4 Story 9, line 23), saying that since this was the best thing god has given her to eat, she will ever eat again. She then started “stepping back to a window that was behind her, without a moment’s hesitation let herself drop backwards therefrom” (Day 4 Story 9, line 24). This is a good example of women giving into nature because although his wife cheated, she gave into nature, and ended up dying for the person she loved more, ultimately cheating and leaving Guillaume. By including this story in ‘The Decameron’, Boccaccio shows women should give into their needs, without the consideration of others.

Lastly, Boccaccio also portrays women as people who are resilient and patient. In Day 10 Story 10, Gualtieri becomes the Marquis of Saluzzo and needs to marry to provide the family with an heir; he ends up falling in love with a poor girl of low-nobility, Griselda, and buys her marriage through her father. After marrying Griselda, he then wants to test her goodness and purity, through a series of cruel trials. Through cruel acts such as taking away her kids and telling her that they were dead, it became clear to Gualtieri that Griselda was a very resilient and patient woman, and that no matter what obstacle he put her with, she always fought through and stayed by his side. Gualtieri then divorces her and marries another woman to “to put her patience to the proof by prolonged and intolerable hard usage” (Day 10 Story 10, line 27), even still Griselda held strong. He remarries her, and proves her strength in the end by forgiving him for these tests that she had to go through. Boccaccio “demonstrates that women tolerate more adversity than men do, this increased tolerance for adversity may stem from a basic lack of options”  (Kulshrestha, page 1). This is clearly shown in Day 10 story 10, as Griselda stayed without being able to do much, and just giving into whatever Gualtieri said. 

As seen throughout ‘The Decameron’, it’s clear that Boccaccio shined women in a high light. He portrays them as being resilient, patient, lustful, smart and cunning. He gave a different perspective on the way women were seen, and gave readers an idea as to how he portrayed women. 

Decameron web. Decameron Web | Texts. (n.d.). Retrieved December 20, 2021, from

Kulshrestha, S., 2021. Giovanni Boccaccio’s “The Decameron” and the Roles of Men and Women. [online] Inquiries Journal. Available at: <> [Accessed 20 December 2021].

The Divine Feminine

The role of women in our society has long been a topic of discussion. Though it is much more common to see examples of liberated women in today’s literature and in all respective forms of media, this wasn’t always the case. Female writers were often excluded from the scene, which meant that their stories were usually told through the lens of men. This is part of the reason why there was such a profuse amount of dependent and submissive female roles in literary work. However, there is always an exception to every rule; three Italian writers, who aside from contributing to the Renaissance, also displayed forward-thinking in their writing. Dante Alighieri, Francesco Petrarca, and Giovanni Boccaccio have all credited women for being their main source of inspiration. They have also presented strong examples of female characters which reinforces the idea that women have a right to occupy spots in literary spaces.

In The Divine Comedy, Alighieri takes us on a journey through the different realms that are commonly referred to as the Christian afterlife: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. When Dante the pilgrim wakes up in a dark forest, right beyond the entrance of Inferno, he is visibly frightened and in need of some guidance. That is where Beatrice steps in; his savior in the story, but also his muse in the real world. She watched as Dante strayed further away from his faith, and wanted nothing more than to guide him to the light. She sends Virgil to protect Dante while he makes his way through Hell and witnesses all the atrocities first-hand. At one point, Dante confesses, “Oh full of pity she who has helped me! and you courteous, who have quickly obeyed the true words she offered you! Your words have so filled my heart with desire to come with you, that I have returned to my first purpose” (Inferno, Canto 2). In other words, Dante is attributing his will to Beatrice’s generosity and kindness. Perhaps the most interesting thing about Beatrice’s role in The Divine Comedy, is that Dante characterizes her as a religious figure rather than a normal lover. She has an undisputed divine nature throughout the story and plays such an important role in the pilgrim’s salvation (Beatrice: Inspiration, Divine Love, and the Key to Salvation). Although her moments in the Comedy were few and far between, she strikes me as one of the most notable figures in the entire story and the antithesis of a woman who relies on a man.

Beatrice depicted by Dante Gabriel Rosetti.

In Il Canzoniere, Petrarca professes his love for his muse with hundreds of poems. The vast majority of these poems are written in sonnet form and they detail an array of emotions, from when he first fell in love with Laura to when she passed away. In sonnet 90, for example, he describes her appearance to us in a thoughtful manner and portrays her as a source of light in his life. He says, “She’d let her gold hair flow free in the breeze and whirled it into thousands of sweet knots … The way she walked was not the way of mortals but of angelic forms, and when she spoke more than an earthly voice it was that sang.” Though it was not uncommon for Italian poets to dedicate sonnets for the women they admired, Petrarca’s love for Laura was especially haunting because his passion for her only multiplied after she passed. He expressed his heavy feelings about her death in sonnet 319, where he says that his days seem to just pass him by now that she’s gone. Furthermore, he calls the world “wretched” and “arrogant” for taking Laura away and leaving him in a broken state. It’s evident that Petrarca thinks very highly of Laura, but more than anything, I think this also communicates just how much he values the women in his life. After her death, Petrarca had a tough time getting by because of how lost and abandoned he felt. When her soul moved on to the Heavens, as he said, a piece of him died too. Without her, he felt vulnerable and incomplete.

Petrarch and Laura de Noves, Ashmolean Museum.

Boccaccio’s The Decameron was written at the height of the Bubonic plague. Death and grief overtook all of Europe as sickness spread from one person to another. One of the main reasons he wrote The Decameron was, of course, for entertainment. As you could imagine, humor and joy were very scarce given the circumstances. However, Boccaccio also mentions in the preface of The Decameron, that he’s dedicating this work to women. He writes, “the ladies just mentioned will, perhaps, derive from the delightful things that happen in these tales both pleasure and useful counsel, inasmuch as they will recognize what should be avoided and what should be sought after. This, I believe, can only result in putting an end to their melancholy.” Simply put, he hopes that the women reading his work will take notice of the good and the bad, and possibly apply it to their own lives. Boccaccio also gives women the opportunity to recount the parables in The Decameron, as well as lead them. In a lot of the stories, there’s a common theme of men who try to outsmart their female counterparts, to no avail. With this, he implies that women can in fact be superior in terms of skill, which is something that has long been missing in fictional and historical texts alike (Kulshrestha).

To conclude, imbedded in these three written pieces by revolutionary contemporaries are high commends for the women who make them feel complete. Whether it’s done by depicting them as religious figures, describing how lost they feel without them or dedicating their work to them, these men gave women a leading role in their stories during a time period where women were seen as subordinate to men.

Work Cited

Alighieri, Dante. “The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri: Inferno” ProQuest eBook Central, 29 Feb. 1996,

“Beatrice: Inspiration, Divine Love, and the Key to Salvation” Digication EPortfolio, Boston University, 24 Oct. 2010, 

Petrarca, Francesco. “Il Canzoniere”

Boccaccio, Giovanni. “The Decameron”

Kulshrestha, Sujay. “Giovanni Boccaccio’s ‘the Decameron’ and the Roles of Men and Women.” Inquiries Journal, 1 Dec. 2010,

Religion represented in Dante, Petrarch, and Machiavelli

Dante Alighieri’s portrait by Sandro Botticelli, 1495, Portrait of Petrarch by Florentine School, Portrait Of Niccolo Machiavelli By Santi Di Tito A

Religion is mentioned in the works of Dante Alighieri, Francesco Petrarca, and Niccolò Machiavelli. Religion is the belief in a God or Gods by a group of people. During the time of Machiavelli and Dante, there was religious and political unrest. Dante lived during the conflict between the pope and emperors. People who backed the pope are known as Guelphs, whereas those who backed the emperor are known as Ghibelline. Petrarch was a Christian who was religious. In their writings, Dante, Machiavelli, and Petrarca all portray religion in different ways.

The concept of Dante’s “The Divine Comedy” is deeply religious. It discusses inferno, paradisio, and purgatorio, which are all aspects of the Christian afterlife. Sinners are punished by God in Dante’s inferno with a penalty according to their sin. This is called contrapasso. This is how he constructs the good versus evil narrative in his work. Evil is punished and good is praised. For example in canto 25 of inferno, the souls of thieves are being punished by having their physical form merge into a serpent. Dante writes that “At the end of his words the thief raised his hands with both the figs, crying: “Take them, God, I’m aiming at you!” From then on snakes have been my friends, because one of them wrapped itself around his neck…”( Canto 25, line ). This shows that Dante is in agreement with the justice that is displayed to the sinners. The line “From then on snakes have been my friends” suggests that Dante thinks the sinners deserved to be punished. This also shows the use of contrapasso. Since the thief stole other people’s belongings, they are punished by taking the only thing they have left, their human form. Furthermore, canto 5 also shows how evil gets punished. In this canto, the spirit Francesca had an affair with her husband’s brother Paolo. Her husband kills both of them. They both weep as the story is being told. Their punishment is an “infernal whirlwind, which never rests, drives the spirits before it’s violence..”. Their sin was lust. This punishment was formed to leave them in their passion as their in the wind forever. Dante feels bad for them as they tell the story. This demonstrates that, while they had a love for each other, they still did something wrong. They must be punished for it.

Petrarca’s Il Canzoniere depicts his struggle with devotion to God. Throughout his sonnets, he sees God as someone to be followed. Petrarch, unlike Dante, does not feel that love is a good thing. He regards it as a distraction from his devotion to God. His account of his sentiments for Laura demonstrates the conflict between love and God. He believes that other possessions are a distraction as well. In canzone 81, Petrarch writes that “ I am weary under the ancient burden of my sins and evil ways, That I fear I shall faint beside the road and fall into the hands of my enemy”(paragraph 1). This line expresses Petrarch’s fear of straying away from God and “fall into the hands of my enemy”. He’s worried that his old sins will ruin his reputation with God. He is so consumed with being good that he is constantly distressed about making a mistake. Furthermore, he sees his love for Laura as something that can threaten salvation. For example, in canzone 264, Petrarch expresses his pity for loving Laura so much. He states “I’m always thinking, and I’m caught in thought by such abundant pity for myself that often I am led to weeping for a different kind of grief:” (paragraph 1). This shows Petrarch reflecting on how his love may have cost him. He is in agony over it.

Religion is not taken as seriously in Machiavelli’s “The Prince” as it is in Dante’s and Petrarch’s works. He advises leaders not to adhere to religion but asserts that it is beneficial to their appearance. Machiavelli was not a religious man and even criticized it. He believes that it is important to be immoral and violent when it’s necessary. For example, in chapter 11, Machiavelli states that “It only remains now to speak of ecclesiastical principalities, touching which, because they are acquired either by capacity or good fortune, and they can be held without either, for they are sustained by the ancient ordinance of religion, which are so all-powerful” (paragraph 1). This displays Machiavelli’s sarcastic tone towards religion by referring to it as “which are so all-powerful”. He doesn’t believe that they can effectively defend their states with the rules of religion. He thinks that ecclesiastical principalities cannot defend. In religion, morality is too important. This morality can influence the ruler’s decision in negative ways.

 Dante, Petrarch, and Machiavelli all have different perspectives on religion. Dante and Petrarch share the same belief in the importance of following God. Petrarch shows more of his struggles with God than Dante. Machiavelli does not place the same value on religion because it is ineffective for ruling. Machiavelli places very little value on the benefits of religion. How does he feel about the community being religious? Can Machiavelli and Dante relate to the corruption in religion since they were born in Florence? Dante has written other works in reference to God and religion. He’s focused on the unpredictableness of God in Il Convivio, De Monarchia, and the “Letter to Can Grande.” 

Marciano, Lisa. “‘Our God Is a God of Surprises’: The Mystery of God in Dante’s Writings.” Christianity & literature 68.4 (2019): 580–604. Web.

Dante Alighieri, Dante et al. The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri: Inferno. Cary: Oxford University Press USA – OSO, 1996. Print.

Petrarca, Francesco, 1304-1374. Petrarch’s Canzoniere in the English Renaissance. Amsterdam ; New York :Rodopi, 2005.

Boccaccio and Machiavelli: Desire

This semester, we read the works of several Italian literary figures. Two figures that really stood out to me were Machiavelli and Boccaccio. It was very interesting reading “The Prince” and “The Decameron”. Reading the Prince, I found myself being shocked at how Machiavelli thought a ruler should rule. It was way different than what a ruler looks like in my mind. It felt like he had a very cynical view of people. With Boccaccio, he provided a very human point of view in the Decameron, writing all these interesting stories, each presenting a theme that shows some insight into human behavior. Reading both pieces of work, some passages felt very similar to one another.

The way that they feel similar to one another to me would be how they present morality. For Machiavelli, it seems that morality is not something that should be prioritized. In the eyes of Machiavelli, he feels that the prince should rule based on the circumstances, and not what may be considered good. “Hence it is necessary for a prince wishing to hold his own to know how to do wrong, and to make use of it or not according to necessity.” (Chapter 15). Throughout the chapters, he suggests more immoral ways of ruling. A prince should know when to lie, not keep promises, when to be cruel, etc. With these lessons, Machiavelli ultimately decides that morality is out of the question; that the prince should act on the desire to keep his power, no matter what. Power is the priority, not your morals. This in a way is similar to what Boccaccio writes about in his stories, where desire overcomes morality. 

Before talking about desire, what are the morals being presented in the Decameron? According to Robert Hastings in “Nature and Reason in the Decameron”, he states  “Arguably, the moral base of the Decameron is Nature.”. In the Decameron, it seems that our desires and morals are intertwined; as nature can be seen as our natural desires. A big example of a natural desire is love. In day four of the Decameron, a common theme among the stories is love ending unhappily. “Those who oppose themselves to the law of Nature are bound to failure and also perhaps to causing great harm.” (Hastings). In the fourth day, there are characters that oppose the love between two people, and end up causing “great harm”; causing the love to end, as the theme suggests, unhappily.

Desire can be seen as a strong force that drives the characters’ actions in each story. This desire is what causes the characters to abandon their morals and oppose nature. “Determined to quench the heat of her love by wreaking his vengeance on her lover, and bade the two men that had charge of Guiscardo to strangle him noiselessly that same night…” (Decameron, fourth day, first story). In this instance, the one wreaking vengeance is Tancredi, a prince. Tancredi has a daughter who is dear to him, and does not want her to marry. With this desire to keep his daughter close to him, he opposes his daughter’s love and kills her lover. Unfortunately, this causes the daughter to kill herself, showing the “great harm” that is caused by Tancredi’s opposition to nature. With this, we can see a similarity between the Prince and the Decameron.

Both works present a different moral system, but both present desire as a way to overcome those morals. One’s desire is strong enough to ignore these morals, and can cause them to carry out actions, good or bad, to pursue that desire. It was really interesting to read these two pieces of literature and see this. Each work provided a compelling insight into morals, and how we as people act with these morals, or how it affects us.


Boccaccio, Giovanni. G. H. McWilliam, trans. The Decameron. London: Penguin Books, 197

Hastings, R. Nature and Reason in the Decameron. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1975.

Marriott, W. K. “15.” The Prince, Project Gutenberg, 2017.

Verità e Satira

Niccolò Macchiavelli, Santi di Tito

È sempre stato difficile per me prendere Il Principe di Machiavelli come una guida per essere un dittatore, rendendo il suo nome sinonimo di ipocrisia, malevolenza, comportamento immorale in generale (482). L’articolo di Garrett Mattingly, ¨Prince¨: Political Science or Political Satire? di Machiavelli, pubblicato nel 1958, esplora proprio questo. Quanto era serio Machiavelli quando ha presentato l’argomento per benevolenza contro l’agire spietosa-mente? In tutta onestà, è molto serio su questo. Tuttavia il fatto più importante di Machiavelli è che lui è stato il primo ad affrontare i fattori realistici di un governo con successo, come ha ritenuto opportuno durante la sua epoca. La domanda che Mattingly pone è come una persona che ha esperienza diretta di governo, come Machiavelli, potrebbe scrivere un libro che evidenzi un modo così estremo di gestire un principato come il modo corretto? Come afferma Mattingly, non è mai stato inteso come una guida strategica, ma più che altro come satira politica.
Un punto cruciale sollevato da Mattingly è il modo in cui Il Prince come opera riesce a mettere in ombra ogni altra pubblicazione machiavellica. Nella sua carriera, Machiavelli ha pubblicato molte opere in cui è chiaro che preferisce una repubblica piuttosto che un principato, ¨so serious a stumbling block. The notion that this little book was meant as a serious, scientific treatise on government contradicts everything we know about Machiavelli’s life, his writings, and about the history of his time. ¨ (484). In Il Principe s’apprezza come Machiavelli mette in mostra la questione italiana, che non è poi così diversa dall’epoca di Dante, dove c’è una Firenze costantemente tirata in due direzioni diverse da guelfi e ghibellini allo stesso tempo. Al tempo di Machiavelli, quasi duecento anni dopo, l’Italia è ancora afflitta da fazioni rivali, il papato, gli spagnoli nel sud ei francesi nel nord. Gli esempi che Machiavelli mette in evidenza nel Principe sono tratti dal periodo classico e dalla sua epoca contemporanea. In un momento in cui essere eccessivamente etici di solito ti vede intrappolato negli affari di qualcun altro. Lui lascia da parte le solite battute moralistiche su come un re dovrebbe comportarsi, e va dritto al punto come afferma nella sua dedica a Lorenzo il Magnifico ¨La quale opera io non ho onorata né ripiena di clausule ample o di parole ampullose e magnifiche, o di qualunque altro lenocinio o ornamento estrinseco con il qualei molti sogliono le loro cose descrivere et ornare; perché io ho voluto, o che veruna cosa la onori, o che soltanto la verità della materia e la gravità del subietto la facci grata.¨ (5) Fu Johan Gottfried Herder a dichiarare Il Principe né una satira né una guida iniqua per lo studio della politica. Machiavelli offre una visione oggettiva della politica italiana del cinquecento, fornita da un patriota al servizio del suo paese, che fece per facilitare il destino dell’unificazione italiana. (483).
Un tema ricorrente in tutto Il Principe è l’idea che uno stato forte otterrà senza dubbio il rispetto dei suoi vicini. Questo fatto vale in ambito regionale, nel senso che sono pilastri di forza tra le altre città-stato, e su scala internazionale tenendo duro contro la costante presenza spagnola e francese. Dando un’altra occhiata alla storia di Firenze fino a quel momento, ebbero sempre difficoltà a mantenere detto rispetto nella loro regione a causa dell’abbandono della loro forza militare, che in passato ebbe le sue conseguenze. Durante il suo periodo nella seconda cancelleria, Machiavelli ha sollevato il punto ¨Other people learn from the perils of their neighbors, you will not even learn from your own or trust yourselves, nor recognize the time you are losing and have lost. I tell you fortune will not alter the sentence it has pronounced unless you alter your behavior.¨ (485). In questo caso, Machiavelli sembra implorare con insistenza Firenze di imparare dai suoi errori passati mentre era in una repubblica in modo che la città-stato aiutasse a guidare l’Italia nel suo destino d’unificazione. Il sogno di uno stato italiano unificato è sempre stato l’obiettivo di Machiavelli e in questo senso trattare la situazione con ingenuità non era più un’opzione sostenibile.
A differenza del suo predecessore omonimo, Machiavelli dedica Il Principe all’attuale Lorenzo de’ Medici, che aveva meno esperienza nella guida di una città-stato. Aggiungendo l’idea che Machiavelli preferisca una repubblica al principato, sono propenso a pensare che questo libro intenda aiutare Lorenzo tanto quanto espone prematuramente al popolo fiorentino le possibili intenzioni del nuovo principe. Mattingly afferma che Machiavelli ¨was delicately aware of the tastes and probable reactions of his public. No one could have written that magnificent satiric soliloquy on Fra Timotheo in Mandragola, for instance, who had not an instinctive feeling for the response of an audience. ¨ (486). In questo senso Machiavelli scrive aspettandosi la reazione dei suoi lettori. Si può dedurre che scrive con l’intenzione di esporre ogni possibile azione che Lorenzo potrebbe intraprendere, facendo sapere al suo pubblico quale di queste azioni deve essere consentita e quale dovrebbe causare ulteriori indagini. Se questo nuovo principe dovesse intraprendere azioni che assicurino la stabilità fiorentina, dovrebbe essere consentito poiché ciò alla fine assicurerebbe il destino dell’unificazione italiana. Ma nella strana possibilità che Lorenzo abusi del suo potere nei molti modi mostrati in questo manuale, il popolo saprebbe esattamente quali sarebbero i segni rivelatori, e quindi ha anche gli strumenti adeguati per la loro difesa tanto quanto Lorenzo.
Per concludere, è insondabile che una mente come quella di Machiavelli sarebbe stata su un unico filo di pensiero quando scriveva Il principe. A mio avviso è più facile accettare un libro che affronti molteplici sfaccettature della realtà italiana del suo tempo, ovvero: l’Italia che è governata da città-stato dove le loro famiglie comandanti gestiscono gli stati come tiranni, rivelando come questi aristocratici arrivano al potere alla gente comune, e allo stesso tempo mettendo in fuoco la soluzione alle pretese apparentemente infinite che francesi e spagnoli hanno sulla penisola italiana.


Mattingly, Garrett. “Machiavelli’s ‘Prince’: Political Science or Political Satire?” The American Scholar, vol. 27, no. 4, The Phi Beta Kappa Society, 1958, pp. 482–91,

Machiavelli, Niccolò. ¨Il Principe¨, Ali Ribelli Edizioni 2020.

The Roles of Men and Women in “The Decameron”

Giovanni Boccaccio’s “The Decameron” is set at a time period in which in society women were generally held at lower social standings than those of men. In The Decameron although women were demonstrated to have no significant social status, it is seeming that women did have an upperhand in some aspects. Throughout the 100 stories when it did come down to Boccaccio comparing men and women he did seem to favor the women as better in the terms of evil and good. Taking a closer look into female/male relationships in the stories Boccaccio has shown the idea that women are much more stronger, cunning and lustful than men. 

While men are portrayed to be “strong” the women have to tolerate a lot more adversity than men, which follows back to women having a lack of alternatives. Women must bear the hardships because they have no sense of power to eliminate them. For example, the tenth day, tenth story in The Decameron the story of Griselda is told in which she puts up with such horrors and abuse of power acted upon by Gualtieri, her supposed husband.  Gualtieri uses his role and power to temper with Griselda’s emotions through various “tests”, which was fine at first but he got carried away and put her through a lot of emotional distress but her reaction was rather the same through it all. She was sad and heartbroken but had no choice but to put up with it because she vowed to do anything to keep him happy. In the Decameron web it states, “My lord, do with me as thou mayst deem best for thine own honour and comfort, for well I wot that I am of less account than they, and unworthy of this honourable estate to which of thy courtesy thou hast advanced me. ” [ 029 ] By which answer Gualtieri was well pleased, witting that she was in no degree puffed up with pride by his, or any other’s, honourable entreatment of her. [ 030 ] A while afterwards, having in general terms given his wife to understand that the vassals could not endure her daughter, he sent her a message by a servant. So the servant came, and: “ Madam, ” quoth he with a most dolorous mien, “ so I value my life, I must needs do my lord’s bidding. He has bidden me take your daughter and . . . ” [ 031 ] He said no more, but the lady by what she heard, and read in his face, and remembered of her husband’s words, understood that he was bidden to put the child to death. Whereupon she presently took the child from the cradle, and having kissed and blessed her, albeit she was very sore at heart, she changed not countenance, but placed it in the servant’s arms,” Boccaccio’s descriptive language use detailing the cruel acts Gualtieri made towards Griselda serves to prove how women are much more able to tolerate more adversity than men and show his point of view.

Furthermore, Boccaccio had also depicted women to be superior to men because of their cunning ways. Women have ways of outsmarting men in this society, though men are viewed to be the more physically able, “smart” and powerful they did not possess the capabilities of women. In The Decameron Boccaccio writes about the story of a young woman, Madonna Fiordaliso who creates a great plan to outsmart  Andreuccio on the second day, fifth story. Andreuccio goes about his way with merchant friends to purchase some horses in Naples, he was unable to come to an agreement with any sellers. As a result he went around showing the gold florins within his purse, as a way of basically showing the sellers that he was actually serious about purchasing the horses. Unfortunately for  him many others were able to see his revealed purse including  Madonna Fiordaliso. Along with her was a woman who was Sicilian like her who is much older, and she claims to recognize Andreuccio and greets him. The older woman also tells  Madonna Fiordaliso that she knows a whole lot about him, as a result Fiordaliso uses the information to her advantage and creates a wicked plan. She invites him to her home and plays the trick that they are somehow siblings. After doing so he goes to quickly use the bathroom and is encountered with the trap she has set, he stays stuck while she is able to attain his purse. In The Decameron Web it states, “ It was a very hot night; so, no sooner was Andreuccio alone than he stripped himself to his doublet, and drew off his stockings and laid them on the bed’s head; and nature demanding a discharge of the surplus weight which he carried within him, he asked the lad where this might be done, and was shewn a door in a corner of the room, and told to go in there. [ 038 ] Andreuccio, nothing doubting, did so, but, by ill luck, set his foot on a plank which was detached from the joist at the further end, whereby down it went, and he with it. By God’s grace he took no hurt by the fall, though it was from some height, beyond sousing himself from head to foot in the ordure which filled the whole place, which, [ 039 ] that you may the better understand what has been said, and that which is to follow, I will describe to you.” 

There have also been times in which men have both outsmarted and used power against women in The decameron but they have only done so through their own depravity and not because their intellicity superior. An example of so is presented in the Decameron fifth day, third story in which the story of Pietro di Vinciolo and his wife is told.  Pietro finds his wife’s lover in their chicken coop and decides the suitable punishment for them would be for the man to have sex with them both. Pietro was only able to obtain what he desires not through superior cunning or intellect but through his fortune in catching his wife’s lover.

Boccaccio’s The Decameron, touches on a variety of topics and themes, providing a significant amount of  perspectives on the differing characteristics of men and women. The stories propose that women are significantly superior in many aspects. In the stories, the various narrators compare both male and female attempts with characteristics to provide a reference of which to compare the genders.


Tenth Day – tenth story (February 15, 2010)

Second day- fifth story (february 15, 2010)

Fifth day- third story  (february 15, 2010)