Literature Study GuidesThe DecameronThird Day Second Ninth Stories Summary

The Decameron | Study Guide

Giovanni Boccaccio

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

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Summary

Third Day, Second Story

Pampinea recounts the tale of King Agilulf, his wife, and the groom. The groom falls in love with the king's wife, and beds her while cleverly pretending to be the king. When Agilulf discovers this, and realizes his wife knows nothing of how she's been duped, he investigates the servants and discovers it was the groom. King Agilulf cuts off a lock of the man's hair so he can identify him come morning, but the groom is wise to this ploy and cuts off a lock of all of the servants' hair so the king cannot tell them apart. The king, realizing the cleverness of the groom, issues a warning to everyone, thus saving his reputation, his wife's honor, and ensuring the groom knows better than to try again.

Third Day, Third Story

Filomena narrates this tale of a married woman, a fat friar, and a young man. The woman uses the friar as an unknowing go-between to arrange her affair with the young man without either her husband or the friar knowing.

Third Day, Fourth Story

Panfilo tells the fourth story of the day. A pious man named Puccio has a beautiful young wife named Isabetta. She and a monk named Dom Felice use Puccio's desire for saintliness to further their affair. While Puccio spends the nights praying and performing penance, Isabetta and Felice are sleeping together.

Third Day, Fifth Story

The storyteller is Elissa. A gentleman named Francesco is appointed governor of Milan and requires a fine horse on which to make his entrance. Zima has an excellent horse but is in love with Francesco's wife. Zima offers to give Francesco the horse if he can speak with his wife. Francesco agrees and then tells his wife to listen to Zima but not to talk to him. Zima confesses his love, filling in her portions of the conversation when she doesn't speak, and they arrange a signal to meet while her husband is away, circumventing his rules.

Third Day, Sixth Story

Fiammetta narrates. Ricciardo is a married man, but he has fallen in love with Catella, who is married to Filippello. She is jealously possessive of her husband and Ricciardo uses this to his advantage. He convinces Catella that his wife is having an affair with her husband, and they intend to meet in a Turkish bathhouse. Instead, Ricciardo goes to the bathhouse and pretends to be Catella's husband. When she discovers she has slept with Ricciardo and not Filippello, he convinces her to continue their affair.

Third Day, Seventh Story

Emilia tells this story of a man name Tedaldo who is in love with a married woman, Ermellina. When she cuts off her affections, he leaves and makes his fortune in Cyprus. After seven years away, he returns to his home only to find his brothers in mourning and Ermellina's husband in jail for his murder. After discovering why Ermellina spurned him—a friar told her to, or risk damnation—he convinces her to restart their affair, frees her husband, and helps catch the real murderers who killed a man who looked just like him.

Third Day, Eighth Story

Lauretta narrates the eighth tale. An abbot falls in love with jealous Ferondo's wife. He mixes a powder into Ferondo's wine, which causes everyone to think he's dead. Ferondo is entombed, but the abbot removes him to a cell inside the cloister and tells Ferondo he is in purgatory (according to the Catholic Church, a temporary place where souls are made ready for heaven). The abbot visits Ferondo's wife while he's being "punished" until she becomes pregnant with the abbot's child. He gives Ferondo another dose of drugged wine, puts him back in his tomb, and watches as he returns from the dead. Ferondo returns to his wife, thinks the son she bears is his, and stops being such a jealous husband.

Third Day, Ninth Story

Neifile's tale centers around a doctor's daughter named Gillette, and a nobleman named Bertrand. Gillette falls in love with Bertrand, following him to Paris where she ends up curing the king of France of a fistula. In return for her help, he says he will find her a husband, and she requests Bertrand who does not want to, to marry her. They marry, but do not consummate their union as Bertrand leaves for Italy. In his absence Gillette runs his estates wisely, but asks him to return.

Bertrand tells Gillette he will live with her only based on certain conditions. Gillette goes to Florence to find out Bertrand has been wooing a young woman there whose mother does not approve of him. They hatch a scheme where Gillette pretends to be the young woman, gains his secret ring, and becomes pregnant with twins. When she finally confronts Bertrand in public, he accepts her, and they live in happiness.

Analysis

This day gives the reader a number of tales of marital infidelity, though Boccaccio has a number of women taking control of the affair. Aside from the second and ninth story, the female characters happily and enthusiastically engage in sex with someone other than their husbands. Boccaccio turned the medieval trope of courtly love on its head: women were supposed to be loved from afar, placed on pedestals, and the relationship rarely consummated. Usually this trope revolved a highborn lady and a knight, or noble. But Boccaccio allows his women to have sexual appetites, to be rather insatiable, cunning and aggressive in pursuit of what they want. Most of the women in these narratives are not highborn ladies. Their class enables them to engage in these types of extramarital relationships with an ease not readily available to their highborn counterparts.

Deception again plays a role here. Complicated schemes allow the men and women to get what they want. In most cases the duped party remains unaware, although the second story plays out a bit differently than the others. While the wife remains unaware of sleeping with someone other than her husband, the king realizes exactly what has happened. He wishes to both shield himself from the infamy of being betrayed, and his wife from the shame of infidelity (and possibly putting into doubt the royal succession, which is why queens were watched with such fervor—the dynastic line of succession was threatened by an unfaithful queen). He manages to warn the groom his offense will not be tolerated a second time while still saving face. The king thus helps perpetuate the deception, which is needed for the society to function.

Finally, the "Ninth Story" recounts Gillette's determination to collect what is hers. The king of France promised her a good husband for her service to him, but Bertrand makes things nearly impossible for her. Rather than rely on someone else, Gillette sets out on her own to catch her husband and bring him home to her. She deceives him so she can fulfill his (he thinks) nearly impossible requirements to get him to honor the contract they've entered into together. Gillette's wits and skills provide her a great amount of control throughout the story. This tale also supplied the basis for Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well.

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