Literature Study GuidesThe DecameronSecond Day Eighth Tenth Stories Summary

The Decameron | Study Guide

Giovanni Boccaccio

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The Decameron | Second Day, Eighth–Tenth Stories | Summary

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Summary

Second Day, Eighth Story

Elissa tells the story of the Count of Antwerp, known as Walter. The queen of France tries to seduce him but when he refuses, she lies, and accuses him of trying to rape her. Walter takes his children and flees to England, and the king of France orders him exiled. Walter fosters his children with two different families, and goes to work in Ireland. When he returns, he finds his children happy and successful. He joins his son and son-in-law on a mission to the king of France, who has since discovered the truth of his wife's falsehoods. Walter is pardoned and reinstated to his former station.

Second Day, Ninth Story

Filomena is the storyteller for this tale. A merchant from Genoa named Bernabò makes a wager with Ambroguiolo regarding his wife's fidelity. When Ambroguiolo successfully deceives him, Bernabò orders a servant to kill his wife, Zinevra, as punishment for her faithlessness. Zinevra convinces the servant to let her go and lie about killing her, while she dresses as a man, and ends up in service to the sultan at his court in Alexandria. She then discovers Ambroguiolo's deception and brings both him and Bernabò before the sultan. Ambroguiolo confesses his deceit. Zinevra reveals herself to her husband, who begs her forgiveness. Ambroguiolo is killed for his crimes, and Zinevra and Bernabò return to Genoa.

Second Day, Tenth Story

Dioneo narrates this story. In Pisa an old judge named Ricciardo is married to a beautiful young woman named Bartolomea. He is far too old to satisfy her. She is carried off by the pirate Paganino. When Ricciardo confronts them in Monaco, Paganino says he will happily return Bartolomea if she recognizes Ricciardo, and wishes to return with him. Bartolomea acts like she doesn't know Ricciardo, but when they are alone, she takes him to task for marrying such a young wife when he knows he can't satisfy her needs. He returns to Pisa alone, and dies shortly thereafter. When Paganino discovers the man has died, he marries Bartolomea.

Analysis

While fortune plays a role in these stories, deceit and deception are also present. The deception of a scorned woman incites Walter to flee, resulting in his reversal of fortune. Zinevra must flee her home and husband because of another man's lies. Bartolomea pretends not to recognize her husband so she doesn't have to return with him.

The vulnerability the lower classes have within the social order is also very clear. Walter is accused by the queen of France, and even though he is innocent, he still flees to England because he knows he won't be believed. He is a count, but she is the queen. In similar fashion Zinevra has no recourse when her own husband is trying to kill her, and certainly won't be believed when another man accuses her. It takes her dressing as a man, and providing good advice to the sultan for her to eventually overturn her situation. In order for Bartolomea to escape marriage to a much older man, she must pretend not to know him after being kidnapped by pirates. People must use their wits above all else and believe in fortune that might turn to favor them too.

If the "Ninth Story" sounds familiar, that's because it is—it was the inspiration for Shakespeare's famous play Cymbeline.

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