Literature Study GuidesThe DecameronSixth Day Tenth Story Summary

The Decameron | Study Guide

Giovanni Boccaccio

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The Decameron | Sixth Day, Tenth Story | Summary

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Summary

Dioneo tells a story that takes place in Boccaccio's birthplace of Certaldo. Brother Cipolla is a red-haired pleasant scoundrel, well-liked by the populace. He promises to show the people a feather from the angel Gabriel left behind in the Virgin Mary's bedroom after the Annunciation (the biblical event when Gabriel tells Mary she will conceive a son to be named Jesus).

Two young men, Giovanni del Bragoniera and Biagio Pizzini, hear his proclamation and decide to play a trick on him. While Cipolla is out to lunch, Biagio will keep the man's servant busy while Giovanni goes to the Brother's bedroom to retrieve the feather.

The servant, a man called Guccio the Mess, sees a serving girl named Nuta and leaves his post guarding his master's things to woo her. Giovanni and Biagio enter Brother Cipolla's lodgings, and find the feather (it looks like a parrot's). The two men take the feather, and fill the box it rested in with charcoal.

Brother Cipolla gives his sermon, and goes to open the box with the feather. When he sees it is full of charcoal, he closes it and tells the congregants he was also given a box with the remnants of the coals over which Saint Lorenzo was roasted. He confused the boxes and this is what he brought with him today. And since the Feast of Saint Lorenzo is almost upon them, it is a sign from God. The congregation happily believes him. Giovanni and Biagio laugh at Cipolla's quick thinking, tell him what they had done after the sermon, and return his feather.

Analysis

The tenth story of the sixth day contains another clergy/con man. Brother Cipolla (the Italian word for "onion") has been making money with a feather he claims came from the angel Gabriel. He is bilking the public to line his pockets. Two of his friends decide to play a trick on him and embarrass him in public, but Cipolla thinks faster on his feet.

Deception is rife in this story. Cipolla uses a regular parrot feather as Gabriel's feather, the two men exchange the feather for a box of charcoal and ashes, and Cipolla cons entire congregations. The trade in fake religious objects was rampant in the Middle Ages, and these objects were used to fleece the gullible public. However, Boccaccio again calls back to the power of faith. If one believes in the miracle, whether or not it is one, that is what is truly miraculous. The charcoal is just ordinary charcoal, but the people's faith in it is what turns it into something special.

Fortune is also present. Cipolla dodges a bad turn through the quickness of his wit, and ends up in a better position than he was when he started. The charcoal makes him more money than the feather. Fortune also favors the two young men when they go to sneak into Cipolla's room to steal the feather. The man Cipolla is paying to guard his room is distracted by a serving girl and leaves his post, allowing Giovanni and Biagio to enter the room. Cipolla is also lucky in the Feast of Saint Lorenzo is nearly upon them, and the two men replaced the feather with something that worked so well with its timing.

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