Literature Study GuidesThe DecameronEighth Day Third Story Summary

The Decameron | Study Guide

Giovanni Boccaccio

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The Decameron | Eighth Day, Third Story | Summary

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Summary

Elissa tells the following story. A simple-minded painter named Calandrino overhears a man telling his friend about the magical properties of special stones, and asks the man where he can find them. The young man is named Maso del Saggio, and he decides to play a trick on Calandrino. He tells the painter the stone is called heliotrope, and can be found in the Mugnone River. The stone will render the holder invisible.

Calandrino gets his much sharper friends, Bruno and Buffalmacco, and they go to the river to find the stones. Calandrino believes they can use the stones to become invisible, and steal from the wealthy bankers and merchants.

As Calandrino gathers up stones, Bruno and Buffalmacco play a trick on him. They pretend they can't see him, that the stones he collected made him invisible to them. On their way back to town, they throw stones at him but Calandrino remains silent to keep up the invisibility. When they return to town, the two men have already asked the city guards not to acknowledge Calandrino when he passes by to continue the prank.

Calandrino returns home and is greeted by his wife Tessa. He is upset because he thinks she broke the charm, and beats her. Bruno and Buffalmacco chide him for hurting his wife since he didn't tell her what he was doing, all the while laughing at his antics.

Analysis

Calandrino is a simpleminded painter who appears in several stories. His simplicity and belief in folk magic makes him the butt of many a prank by his two compatriots, Bruno and Buffalmacco. Readers have read instances of the power of belief in relation to religion, but here is an instance of faith in magic. It isn't significantly different from believing in the power of charcoal dust or an angelic visitation. Both have miraculous effects based on the mind of the believer. Boccaccio compares the belief in folk magic with belief in a religion.

Bruno and Buffalmacco play on Calandrino's gullibility, using the opportunity to abuse him, and pelt him with rocks knowing he won't say anything because he believes he is invisible. His belief in the power of folk magic leaves him vulnerable to his friends' pranks. Calandrino appears in other stories, and in each of them he is duped by believing in the folk magic of the time.

Bruno and Buffalmacco follow Calandrino home to enjoy the show when he meets his wife. They set him up, then watch as he berates and beats his wife for "breaking his spell." They take him to task for abusing his wife, although this would not be uncommon in the Middle Ages.

Fortune also plays a role in this story. Calandrino overhears the man talking about the stones, and thinks he has found the key to his future fortune. But the wheel of fortune turns again because the man plays a trick on him. While it appears to Calandrino fortune has favored him with invisibility, it has not. His luck continues to deteriorate, especially when Bruno and Buffalmacco continue their prank.

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