Literature Study GuidesThe DecameronIntroduction And Third Day First Story Summary

The Decameron | Study Guide

Giovanni Boccaccio

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The Decameron | Introduction and Third Day, First Story | Summary

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Summary

Introduction to Third Day

Neifile is queen on this day. She suggests they skip Friday and Saturday, days of religious observance,and reconvene on Sunday. She also moves the brigata to a different palace, one with a magnificent garden. Neifile asks for stories about ingenuous people who have gotten something they wanted, or regained something they've lost through their wits.

Third Day, First Story

Filostrato tells the first story. He begins by claiming people are stupid if they think a woman loses her sexual desires when she becomes a nun. He is going to tell a story to prove this idea wrong.

A man named Nuto returns home to Lamporecchio after working for some time as a gardener at a convent famed for its sanctity. A young man named Masetto talks to him about his time with the nuns—all young women—and decides to apply for the gardening job himself. Because he is young and handsome, Masetto is afraid he won't be hired, so he pretends to be deaf and mute.

He takes himself to the convent and, through sign language, speaks to the steward and helps him with various chores. After several days, the abbess notices him, and tells the steward to ask him to take on work as their gardener. Masetto accepts.

Masetto is napping in the garden one day when two nuns began to talk near him. They have heard of the pleasures of the flesh, and wish to experience them for themselves, and think Masetto would be perfect for this since he would be unable to tell their secret. He overhears everything and happily goes along with their plan. Eventually all of the nuns have the same idea, and Masetto begins sleeping with all of them.

The abbess also finds Masetto napping, and decides to take advantage of the situation. She leads him back to her room and enjoys him for several days, but her demands make it so he cannot satisfy all of the other nuns. He finally speaks—claiming God has just performed a miracle—and tells the abbess everything that has been going on. She realizes they will have to be more careful. The convent hires him as the steward (the old man had died just a few days prior) and things continue in the same manner. After a number of years, Masetto returns home, an old, wealthy man having fathered a number of children.

Analysis

Here is another story of deceptive clergy, this time on the female side. Masetto practices deception as well, pretending to be deaf and mute, and appearing as something he is not so he can get what he wants. This story poses the question: "Who is using whom?" Masetto goes to the convent planning to service the nuns, and they use him for the same purposes, feeling secure he will be able to keep their secrets.

Even the abbess, the head of the convent, indulges. In fact, her appetites are so ravenous Masetto is unable to service the other nuns in his care. This is a common character trope to show the greediness and lustfulness of the clergy. This story also holds an example of class inversion—Masetto, a day laborer, tricks not just nuns, but the head of the convent, a woman belonging to a higher social class. In the end sexual appetite and cleverness win the day.

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