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The Decameron | Study Guide

Giovanni Boccaccio

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The Decameron | Second Day, Fifth Story | Summary

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Summary

Fiammetta tells a story about a young man from Sicily named Andreuccio di Pietro, who sets out for Naples with 500 gold florins in his purse to buy some horses. When he arrives, he tries to buy horses, but is unable to, despite flashing around the money he carries. A beautiful young prostitute (Madam Fiordaliso) sees him with his money, and decides she wants it for herself. She is walking with an older woman who recognizes Andreuccio. Seeing this, the young woman questions the older woman about him, and learns as much as she can about the young man.

The young woman sends a servant to where Andreuccio is staying, and invites him to her home in the Malpertugio (a district in Naples that translates to "Evilhole"). Andreuccio goes with the servant, thinking the woman must have fallen in love with him. When he arrives at her house, she greets him and tells him she is his sister. Using the information gleaned from the older woman, she tells him a long tale of how they are related and what she has been through in the intervening years.

Andreuccio believes everything she says. She invites him to stay for dinner, and then the evening. When he goes to the privy, his foot crashes through a plank that sends him through the floor and into the filth in the alley below. The young woman then takes the money from his clothes and locks the doors.

Andreuccio realizes he has been tricked. When he bangs on the door to her house, Madam Fiordaliso tells him she doesn't recognize him, and tries to send him away. He proceeds to get a large rock and beat on her door. At this point her pimp threatens him, and her neighbors warn Andreuccio to just go home.

Andreuccio begins to walk to the sea to wash off, but he meets two men who tell him he was in the house of a mafia leader, and he was lucky to get out alive. Taking pity on him, they offer Andreuccio the chance to share in the loot of a robbery they plan to pull off. An archbishop had been buried that day with all of his treasure, and they plan to break into the tomb and take it.

Andreuccio agrees to join them, but first he needs to get cleaned up. They go to a well, only to find the bucket is no longer attached to the rope. Andreuccio lowers himself via the rope to clean himself with the agreement the two men will pull him up. Unfortunately, the police come by and the two men run away, leaving Andreuccio at the bottom of the well. When the police pull up the rope hoping for a drink of water, they pull up Andreuccio instead. As he climbs out of the well, he scares the watchmen and they run away.

Andreuccio meets up with the two men again, and they go to the archbishop's tomb. When it comes time to go into the tomb to get the treasure, the other two men refuse, and it is up to Andreuccio to do so. He realizes the men will likely cheat him out of his share of the robbery as soon as he is done passing all of the treasure to them, so he keeps the archbishop's ring for himself.

The two men close him in the tomb as punishment. Andreuccio is understandably upset, especially when he hears the people coming to and fro in the church above him. When a priest opens up the tomb and climbs down, Andreuccio grabs his leg, frightening the priest and causing everyone to run away. He leaves with no one the wiser, and returns to Sicily with a ring rather than a horse.

Analysis

The second day's theme calls for stories containing reversals of fortune, and Andreuccio's tale has a lot of them. He begins the tale with 500 pieces of gold, but because of his naïveté, he is quickly divested of his wealth. When it appears he is out of luck, two men show up and offer him the option of getting some of it back. When they double-cross him, it looks like he is going to be entombed or at least caught. Instead, fortune favors him and he is able to make it out of the crypt with no one the wiser, and with the same amount of money (the ring) in possession as he leaves the city.

The story also explores the theme of deceit. Fiordaliso pretends to be a family member when she is really a prostitute. She dresses up in wealth, and decorates her home to give herself this appearance. When Andreuccio joins up with the robbers, they plan to double-cross him, take the ring, and leave him in the tomb so they don't have to split the money with him. He figures this out and double-crosses them by refusing to pass the ring over.

Andreuccio nearly loses everything because of his lack of experience—it is only through the vagaries of fortune he isn't left destitute or dead. Andreuccio's story showcases the way people will cheat and lie to each other in order to achieve their ends while still being able to go on with their lives. Fiordaliso and the robbers never get caught or punished, and Andreuccio leaves the city with the same amount of money he entered with. There is no lesson to be learned here, and no greater moral; this is human nature at its most realistic.

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