Literature Study GuidesThe DecameronSecond Day Seventh Story Summary

The Decameron | Study Guide

Giovanni Boccaccio

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The Decameron | Second Day, Seventh Story | Summary

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Summary

Panfilo tells the following tale. A long time ago, the sultan of Babylon had a daughter named Alatiel. She was promised to the king of Algarve in return for his assistance with an invading army. The sultan sends Alatiel on a ship to meet her future husband. Unfortunately, a storm sends the ship off course, and her guards abandon ship, leaving just Alatiel and a few of her ladies-in-waiting.

Alatiel is found by a gentleman named Pericone da Visalgo. They speak different languages, but Pericone falls passionately in love with her. When she resists his advances, he gets her drunk and enjoys her favor.

Pericone's brother, Marato, also seeks Alatiel's favor. Marato and two Genoese men murder his brother, kidnap Alatiel, steal his property, and take her away on a ship belonging to the Genoese men. Marato "comforts" Alatiel, and she is happy for a short time until fate intervenes once more.

The two Genoese men fall in love with her and throw Marato overboard. But they argue over who will bed Alatiel first, and they come to blows. One of them ends up dead, and the other gravely wounded. They land in Chiarenza where Alatiel catches the attention of the Prince of Morea who falls in love with her. He takes up with her, treating her more like a wife than a mistress.

The Duke of Athens hears of Alatiel's beauty, and journeys to Chiarenza to see her under pretense of meeting with the prince. He marvels at Alatiel's beauty, and quickly falls in love with her. He plots how best to get her for himself. With the help of the prince's chamberlain, the Duke of Athens stabs the prince, shoves him out the window, and takes Alatiel for himself. Since he is already married, he keeps her in secret.

The duke's treachery is discovered and the prince's brother prepares for war. The Duke of Athens is allied with Constantine, the son of the emperor of Constantinople. When Constantine sees Alatiel, he is smitten by her beauty and proceeds to contrive a way to make her his. He abducts Alatiel from the Duke of Athens via ship and takes her to Chios.

The king of the Turks, Osbech, who is at war with the emperor, hears Constantine is at Chios and attacks. He captures Alatiel and marries her. But the king of Cappadocia, in alliance with the emperor of Constantinople, attacks Osbech's forces and they fight. Osbech leaves Alatiel behind with his servant, Antiochus, who happens to speak her language. The two become intimate, but when they learn of Osbech's defeat, they flee to Rhodes where Antiochus later dies.

One day a gentleman named Antigono sees Alatiel, and thinks he recognizes her from somewhere. She reveals who she really is, and they make a plan to return her to the sultan and her betrothed without either of them ever truly knowing what happened to her. She tells her father she was shipwrecked and taken into a nunnery where she lied about who she was for fear the abbess would throw her out for not being a Christian. She stayed there until recently when she was returned to Cyprus and returned home.

The sultan is pleased to have his daughter returned to him, and makes arrangements to have her married to the king of Algarve. She is somehow able to convince the king of her virginity and they live happily ever after.

Analysis

Here is another story that involves fortune to a great extent. Alatiel has remarkably little control of her life in a story that is about her. She is buffeted about by events, but has no say in her future from her first appearance in the story. Once she is shipwrecked, she even loses the possibility of having a voice—she is silenced because she doesn't speak the language.

Alatiel is reduced to a body and a pretty face. In fact, her pretty face seems to be the cause of all of her problems. Men see her and lose their senses over her beauty. They kill each other over possession of her. She is a prisoner of her own beauty as surely as she is of other men, but in the end it all works well for her through her ability to remain flexible and have things work in her favor.

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