Literature Study GuidesThe DecameronIntroduction And Second Day First Fourth Stories Summary

The Decameron | Study Guide

Giovanni Boccaccio

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The Decameron | Introduction and Second Day, First–Fourth Stories | Summary

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Summary

Introduction to Second Day

Filomena is queen on the second day. Her choice of theme is misadventures that have happy endings. She chooses Neifile to go first.

Second Day, First Story

Three men, Martellino, Stecchi, and Marchese arrive in Treviso where a man has just been made a saint. Martellino pretends to be paralyzed to get close to the saint's body, said to have healing powers, and then pretends he is cured. His falsehood is discovered by a man from Florence, and he is beaten and almost hung. His friends go to the prince and explain what happened. The prince intervenes with the magistrate, and Martellino is freed. The prince gives the three men a new set of clothes each.

Second Day, Second Story

Filostrato tells the second tale. A merchant named Rinaldo d'Este falls in with a group of thieves pretending to be upstanding travelers. The thieves beat him, steal his things, and taunt him about praying to St. Julian—the patron saint of innkeepers—before leaving him. Rinaldo takes shelter near a castle, where the lady of the house offers him lodging and food. The thieves are caught and Rinaldo's property is returned to him.

Second Day, Third Story

Pampinea narrates a story about three men who inherit their father's wealth, and squander it all. Their nephew, Alessandro, has to return to Florence from England and joins up with an abbot traveling to see the pope. He discovers the abbot is really female, and they fall in love and marry. She reveals she is the daughter of the king of England in disguise, and she was supposed to marry the king of Scotland, but married Alessandro instead. She settles his uncles' debts and gets them out of debtor jail. They then return to England to make peace with her father.

Second Day, Fourth Story

Lauretta tells the story of Landolfo Rufolo, a merchant who loses nearly everything and turns to piracy. He is very successful, but is captured by the Genoese, who sink his ship and take his cargo. A storm sinks the Genoese ship, and Landolfo escapes on a chest. They wash up on the island Corfu where a woman takes care of him until he can return home with the chest full of gems.

Analysis

All of these stories deal with the vagaries of fortune in their protagonists' lives. Each of the characters start from a place of wealth and/or power, only to have circumstances—either beyond their control or not—deprive them of it. After this reversal, the characters use their wits and skills to improve their situation. In some cases as with Rufolo, this works for a period of time. In other stories they require the intervention of someone else to save them. There is very much a "right place, right time" concept present by luck and good fortune in these stories after instances of "wrong place, wrong time."

Another anti-religious story is told with Neifile's tale of the saint and Martellino. Boccaccio's stories call out the gullibility of the populace, especially with regards to religious relics and saints. So much of what is included in The Decameron cautions against believing what is being said or shown. This first story illustrates how willing the populace is to believe in the outlandish, if it is couched in religious terms.

The stories also speak to the power of faith. People follow religions even if they know subconsciously that some of what they read in a holy book is not exactly true. Even in modern times, people choose to believe, to have faith in what cannot be seen or touched. Humanity's choice to believe is what is important in Boccaccio's stories, not necessarily the religion being worshipped.

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