Literature Study GuidesThe DecameronSeventh Day Third Ninth Stories Summary

The Decameron | Study Guide

Giovanni Boccaccio

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The Decameron | Seventh Day, Third–Ninth Stories | Summary

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Summary

Seventh Day, Third Story

Elissa tells the following story. Rinaldo falls in love with his neighbor's wife, Agnesa, but she is not interested. She is pregnant with her husband's child, so Rinaldo offers to be the godfather as a way of staying close to her. Rinaldo then becomes a friar and convinces Agnesa to sleep with him. All is well until Agnesa's husband returns home earlier than expected, surprising her and Rinaldo. She tells Rinaldo to take the baby and go with her to the door where her husband waits. Agnesa then explains Rinaldo saved the baby's life by praying over their son. Her husband is so relieved he invites Rinaldo and a friend to dinner.

Seventh Day, Fourth Story

Lauretta narrates this story. Monna Ghita is married to a man named Tofano who loves to drink. To be able to meet with her young lover, she encourages her husband to drink so she can be with her lover after she puts Tofano to bed. One night, her husband only pretends to drink, and locks her out of the house when she goes to visit her lover. When she comes home, Tofano refuses to let her inside. She threatens to throw herself down the well. She gets a large rock and throws it into the well. Tofano runs out of the house, thinking she made good on her threat. Ghita sneaks into the house and locks him out.

Ghita shouts at him, alerting the neighbors. When Tofano tells the truth of the matter, no one believes him. She returns to her family, but Tofano realizes he misses her and goes to get her back. They are reconciled and he promises not to be jealous again.

Seventh Day, Fifth Story

Fiammetta tells the story of a husband so jealous of his wife he doesn't even let her stand at the window. Angered over the way her husband treats her, the wife begins talking to their neighbor, a man named Filippo, through a crack in the wall between their houses. Her husband is even suspicious when she asks to go to church to confess her sins, so he runs to the church and pretends to be the priest to hear her confession.

His wife recognizes him for who he is and makes a false confession, stating she is in love with a priest and she meets him every night. The husband resolves to stay up all night and wait for this priest to show up. Meanwhile, the wife lets Filippo in through the window and they spend the night together.

After many nights of watching, the husband finally tells his wife of his deception. She confesses she knew it was him all along, and explains how her confession was not a lie because she knew who he was. Her husband now feels ashamed of himself, and believes his wife to be wise and faithful.

Seventh Day, Sixth Story

Pampinea tells the following story. Isabella is a married noblewoman. She falls in love with a lower-class young man name Leonetto. Another man, Lambertuccio, also loves Isabella, but she is not interested in him. When she leaves the city for the summer, she invites Leonetto to come see her when her husband is away. Lambertuccio comes too.

When her husband comes home unexpectedly, Isabella tells Lambertuccio to run around with a dagger. He does so and runs away. Isabella tells her husband this man came looking for another one who begged for her help. Leonetto hears everything she is saying, so he knows the part he is to play. Isabella's husband escorts the young man back to Leonetto's house.

Seventh Day, Seventh Story

Filomena narrates the story of a young man named Lodovico. Lodovico hears of a most beautiful woman named Beatrice, who lives in Bologna. He goes to see for himself, and finds her even more beautiful than he was told. He pretends to be a servant, and is hired by Beatrice's husband. When Beatrice invites Lodovico to her bed, he finds her husband there as well. Beatrice wakes up her husband, asks him if he trusts his servant (Lodovico), and then tells him she was supposed to meet him outside. Her husband, pretending to be Beatrice, goes off to wait for him. She and Lodovico enjoy themselves, then Beatrice sends Lodovico down to the garden with a stick to beat "Beatrice" for daring to accuse him of disloyalty to his master. Her husband is pleased because he has a loyal servant and faithful wife.

Seventh Day, Eighth Story

The narrator of this story is Neifile. Arriguccio is a wealthy merchant who marries a noblewoman named Sismonda. Sismonda has a lover named Ruberto. Arriguccio realizes his wife is having an affair, and attempts to catch her at it. Sismonda devises a way to signal her lover it is safe to meet via a hidden string on her toe he can find and know she is free to be with him. Everything works fine until Arriguccio discovers the string signal. While he is out chasing Ruberto, Sismonda convinces her maidservant to pretend to be her, and take the beating Arriguccio will deliver once he returns.

When Arriguccio gets back, he beats his "wife" before leaving to fetch Sismonda's family. He returns with her mother and brothers, only to find her waiting for him, unharmed. She denies the affair and instead accuses him of infidelity. Sismonda's family believes her, and Arriguccio is nearly beaten by her brothers for his treatment of Sismonda.

Seventh Day, Ninth Story

Panfilo tells the ninth tale. Nicostratus is a rich old man who lives in Greece with his wife, Lydia. He has a young, handsome retainer named Pyrrhus whom Lydia has fallen in love with, but he spurns her attentions because he wants to be sure she truly loves him. Pyrrhus asks Lydia to perform three tasks to show her intent: kill Nicostratus's favorite sparrow hawk, pull out a piece of Nicostratus's beard, and remove one of Nicostratus's best teeth. She agrees. Then she says she will even make love to Pyrrhus in front of Nicostratus.

Lydia completes the tasks set by Pyrrhus, and comes up with a scheme to fulfill her part of the bargain. She feigns illness, and asks the two men to help her walk in the garden. She requests a pear, and Pyrrhus goes to get her one, then shouts he can see Nicostratus and Lydia having sex, which they are not. Lydia and Pyrrhus convince Nicostratus the tree is magic and will make anyone in it think he sees people having sex. When Nicostratus climbs the tree, Pyrrhus and Lydia do consummate their relationship. When he climbs down, Pyrrhus and Lydia act offended he would suggest they did such a thing. Lydia orders Pyrrhus to chop down the tree so this never happens again. Nicostratus apologizes for offending them.

Analysis

The gullibility of husbands continues in this grouping of tales, each more outlandish than the last, ending with the machinations of Lydia and the supposedly magical pear tree. In most of these stories, the husband is overly jealous and the wife is teaching him a lesson as much as she is cheating on him. The women use their wit to get what they want, just as much as the men use theirs in other stories in The Decameron. In several cases the wives dole out physical punishment to their husbands for daring to doubt them, either through their lovers or their family members. In all of the tales the husbands learn their lesson about life, and vow to be less jealous and distrusting, allowing the women to get what they want. Even when the wife is caught, as in the "Fourth Story," she is able to reverse her fortune, and make her husband pay by getting the neighbors (who usually don't believe the poor man's story) involved. The husband is silenced in the court of public opinion. There is an equality between the sexes in Boccaccio's world.

The "Ninth Story" is a precursor to Chaucer's "The Miller's Tale" in The Canterbury Tales.

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