Literature Study GuidesThe DecameronFirst Day Fifth Tenth Stories Summary

The Decameron | Study Guide

Giovanni Boccaccio

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The Decameron | First Day, Fifth–Tenth Stories | Summary

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Summary

First Day, Fifth Story

Fiammetta tells a story about the marchioness of Montferrato, who learns the king of France intends to pay her a visit while her husband is away. Suspecting his motives are of an amorous nature, she concocts a plan to shame the king into acting properly. Through the use of hens and subtle wit she manages to turn his unwanted advances elsewhere.

First Day, Sixth Story

Emilia narrates this story. A wealthy man drinks too much in public, and says something blasphemous that sets a greedy inquisitor upon him. The wealthy man is punished, but he turns the friar's greed back on him to embarrass him, and is dismissed from further punishment.

First Day, Seventh Story

Filostrato tells the tale of Bergamino, a comedian who hasn't been paid by the usually generous lord of Verona, Cangrande della Scala. Bergamino tells him the story of the abbot of Cluny and his brief lack of generosity to guilt the lord into realizing the error of his ways.

First Day, Eighth Story

Lauretta narrates this story. A rich Genoese man named Ermino de' Grimaldi is known for being a terrible miser. When a courtier named Guiglielmo Borsiere hears of this, he visits the man. When Ermino asks Borsiere if he has any suggestions for what to paint on his walls, Borsiere responds with, "Generosity." Ermino takes the courtier's suggestion to heart and becomes known as the most generous man in the city.

First Day, Ninth Story

Elissa relates a story about a woman who is attacked by a group of men in Cyprus on her way back from the Holy Land. She plans to lodge a complaint with the king, but is told he will do nothing on her behalf. The woman meets with the king, asks how she can learn to take insults because he is so adept at doing so, and shames him into behaving in a properly kingly manner.

First Day, Tenth Story

Pampinea finishes the day with the tenth tale about an older physician named Master Alberto. He is in love with a much younger woman named Malgherida. She and her friends make fun of the old doctor, eventually asking him why he would even fall in love when he has no chance against the younger men vying for her attention. He tells them he has learned the qualities of patience and hope in his life, an answer Malgherida takes to heart and appreciates.

Analysis

While this is an open day as far as story themes go, the last five stories all deal with people who use their wits to achieve a favorable outcome. The protagonists vary in social class and wealth, but almost all of them manage to shame someone higher up in the social strata. A marchioness shames a king, a man shames a friar to avoid further punishment, a courtier shames a wealthy man into generosity, and a pilgrim woman shames a king.

The reader sees an upending of the social class in these cases, as these characters remind those higher up they are behaving inappropriately for their rank. When a king isn't exhibiting kingly behavior, it is up to his people to remind him to change his ways. Boccaccio introduces the idea of some accountability to the people these characters sit above, the true ideals of what nobility and holiness represent. Not only is he "teaching" women about love, Boccaccio is saying to his readers perhaps they should look beyond what they are told, the world is changing, and they should be discerning and questioning of both the clergy and the nobility, who are not what they claim to be. With the rise of the middle and merchant classes, this illustrates the shift in power that was beginning after the great disruptions of the plague.

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