Literature Study GuidesThe DecameronIntroduction To Fourth Day Summary

The Decameron | Study Guide

Giovanni Boccaccio

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The Decameron | Introduction to Fourth Day | Summary

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Summary

Filostrato is king for the fourth day, and he chooses stories filled with people whose love ends unhappily.

Before beginning the storytelling with his narrators, however, Boccaccio interjects himself to talk about envy and how he has always tried to rise above it, but others have torn him down with their jealousy. He speaks of the people who criticize him for writing these stories that entertain the ladies, and for not making a real living. So at this point, the amusing tales stop while the author tells a story as part of replying to his critics.

A man named Filippo Balducci was a good and wealthy man with a lovely wife. She died when their only son was two years old. Balducci decided to devote himself to God. He sold all of his possession and took his son up the top of Mount Asinaio where they lived on alms and prayers. He never spoke to his son about the outside world, and never let him venture outside the hut or speak to anyone.

Balducci would go to Florence from time to time. When his son was 18, he asks his father if he can go with him into the city to help him since his father was growing old. Balducci—thinking his son is immune to the temptations of the world—agrees, and together they go into the city. The young man is amazed at what he sees there.

When he sees several beautiful young women, he asks Balducci what they are called. His father tells them they are called "goslings," and are evil. His son cannot believe something so beautiful could be so evil and begs his father to take one of them home. His father realizes he cannot fight human nature, and he should never have taken his son into town.

Boccaccio stops here to address his audience of women. He told the story as an answer to his critics who say he cares too much for women and their beauty. If a young man raised without an idea of what a woman even was is so enamored of them after seeing them once, who can blame him for wanting to be around such beauty?

Analysis

Boccaccio's interlude is a preemptive address to his presumed detractors for having written The Decameron. First, the author says he has used what was considered a "lesser" type of narrative style in this work and in his poetry. He popularized and elevated the everyday vernacular of the time period, when most writers worked in a more traditionally accepted classical style (Latin). Fictional prose done in this style was not well-regarded during the 14th century, and Boccaccio was well aware of this prejudice.

Second, Boccaccio writes his main audience and those he plans to entertain are women. He mentions some may find it unseemly a man of his age is interested in women, but he can think of nothing worthier, even if it won't bring him much money. As an argument, he tells a story. Here is another instance of a frame story: this time a frame within a frame. The tale of Balducci's son is meant to bolster Boccaccio's assertions. If a young man who has never had contact with women can be so thunderstruck by them (because it is within man's nature to love women), how can anyone possibly blame Boccaccio who has lived among them his whole life? He is only doing as nature intended.

He addresses the money remark briefly by saying he is doing fine financially, and it is really no one's business. Again, he is preemptively answering any detractors with imagined arguments and criticisms. It is known Boccaccio's suffered through bouts of poverty, but if this would negatively impact his argument, he doesn't go into it here.

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