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Summary of Boccaccio's "The Decameron: Day 1, Story 1"

Storyteller: Panfilo

I wish to begin our tales with one about Him, since everything that is done by man should begin with Him. If God had not granted us strength and foresight we would not be able to endure the worries, anguish, and toil that mortal beings experience. This gift has been blessed upon us by Him and the prayers of his followers that are now eternal. We worship these saints and offer our unworthy prayers to them.

Musciatto Franzesi was a famously rich merchant in France who was bestowed the honor of knighthood. He went to Tuscany with Lord Charles Landless, who was the brother of the King of France. Lord Charles had been sent for by Pope Boniface (VIII). Being the successful merchant that he was, Musciatto could not liquidate his assets quickly; so he entrusted them with several people. The only thing left was to find a person to collect loans from several people in Burgundy. The Burgundians are said to be very quarrelsome, disloyal, and have an evil disposition. He couldn't think of anyone with an equal personality, at first. He then remembered Sir Cepparello from Prato. He was short, but still dressed elegantly. He was often called Ciappelletto, because he was short.
Ciappelleto was a notary; he was very ashamed of his documents when they were discovered to be fraudulent. He would draw up as many as requested of him, free of charge and would willingly do so for a large sum of money. He loved to give false testimony and had no problem swearing false oaths, which won him many lawsuits. He took great pleasure in stirring up a scandal, the more evil he caused the happier he was. He was a blasphemer of God. He made fun of the Church and their sacraments. He had no conscience. He was gluttonous. He was a gambler who would load dice. He has served Sir Musciatto for a long time, helping him with his wealth and authority. Musciatto decided that this was the man he wanted to deal with the Burgundians.

Musciatto then asked Ciappelletto to collect his debts for him. He offers him a portion of the money he recovers for his trouble. Ciappelletto was currently unemployed and jumped at the chance. Ciappelletto was given power of attorney and letters of recommendation from the King.





When Ciappelletto arrived in Burgundy he began collecting the debts in a gentle manner. He stayed with two Florentine brothers who were lenders; they lent money out at outrageous rates. Ciappelletto fell ill and the brothers did everything to restore him to health, but it did no good. The brothers discussed what to do while they were within earshot of Ciappelletto; if they threw him out as sick as he is, they would be seen as heartless monsters. On the other hand, if he refuses the sacraments of the Church and dies, he will not be allowed to be buried in consecrated ground. If he is not absolved it will look badly on them, possibly leading to people revolting against them; robbing and killing them. Sir Ciappelletto heard everything. He summoned the brothers to him and told them that he will make everything right for them. He told them to call the most holy and worthy priest that they could find, if one existed.

They got an old friar. The friar asked him how long it had been since his last confession; Ciappelletto had never confessed, but he told the friar that he usually confesses at least once a week, but since he has been sick for the last eight days he has not been able to go to confession. The friar told him that since he has confessed so often there will be little for him to hear. Ciappelletto replies that he wishes to confess as if he had never been confessed before.

The friar asked him if he had ever sinned in lust with a woman.

Ciappelletto tells him that he is a virgin.

The friar asked him if had sinned by being gluttonous.

Ciappelletto told him that he had. Along with the many fasts observed during the year, he fasted every week for at least three days only having water and bread. But he drank the water with the same enjoyment of wine, especially after a long day of pilgrimage and prayers. He sometime craved for one of those little salads with the wild herbs.

The friar told him that these were natural sins; so they were minor.

The friar asked him if he had ever committed the sin of avarice by taking or keeping what did not belong to him.

Ciappelletto told him that he had noting to do with the profession of the brothers; in fact, he came here to save them from themselves. When his father died he was left with his father's fortune, which he gave most of to charity. To maintain his lifestyle he participated in small business ventures, which he wanted to profit from, but he always split my earnings in two, giving half to charity.

The friar asked him how many times he has lost his temper.

Ciappelletto told him that he had lost it many times and who could blame him. All around there are people doing evil.

The friar told him that that was righteous anger and he would not be punished for it. Then he asked if his anger ever led him to commit murder or to abuse someone in any way.

Ciappelletto relied that of course he had not, because that was the evil of men.

The friar then asked if he had ever given false testimony, spoken ill of, or taken the property of anyone against their will.

Ciapelletto answered yes indeed, he once had a neighbor who beat his wife and he told her relatives about it.

The friar asked if he had ever been a merchant and tricked someone.

Yes, replied Ciappelletto. Once this man paid him for some cloth and without counting it put it he put it in his strongbox and he only discovered that the man had overpaid him. He held onto the money for over a year; so as to return it to him, but finally donated it to charity.

The friar went on asking him questions until finally he was ready to give him absolution. Ciappelletto told the friar that there was another sin he hadn't mentioned.

He told the friar that one Saturday after the hour of nones he had his servant sweep and thus disrespected the Sabbath.

The friar told him that it was a small matter.

Ciappelletto disagreed saying Sunday should be respected, because it is the day that He rose from the dead.

The friar asked him if there was anything else.

Ciappelletto said that he spit in church.

The friar said it was no big deal, as priests do it all day long.

To which Ciappelletto replied that the priests were sinning, because the house of God should be kept clean.

Ciappelletto finally said that there was one last sin that he could never say, because God would never forgive him.




The friar told him that God would forgive any sin no matter how bad it was.

After a prolonged period of weeping suspense, Ciappelletto told the friar that one time he cursed his mother.

The friar told him that men curse God all day long, but He forgives them.

The friar absolved him thinking that Ciappelletto was a holy man. They asked him if he would like to be buried in the church's monastery. Ciappelletto said yes and he begged the friar to send the true blood of Christ so that he may partake of it and afterwards receive Holy Extreme Unction; so that if he had lived as a sinner he would die as a Christian. The friar agreed to this and the sacrament was brought immediately.

The brothers had been eavesdropping the entire time. They had a hard time not laughing. Once they heard that he would be buried by the church they were no longer worried.

Ciappelletto died that day. The brothers used his money to bury him. They called the monastery to watch over the body. The friars came to collect the body the next morning to escort it to the church. They did so with great ceremony befitting a great Holy man. Everyone in town followed behind Ciappelletto body.

The friar that had absolved him spoke at his funeral. He told the people present all about Ciappelletto's holy life. After the sermon, Ciappelletto's Holy life was so stuck in everyone's minds that they all went up and kissed his hands and feet. His clothes were torn off of him, because people thought he was like a saint. People worshipped his tomb. No other saint received so many vows. He was the saint to poor people who were having a difficult time. They called him Saint Ciappelletto.

We do not know if he is indeed in heaven or whether he is in hell. Panfilo says that he thinks that he is in hell, because God knows the difference between actions and words, penitence and falsehood.

Sources

Boccaccio, Giovanni. The Decameron. Translated by Mark Musa and Peter Bondanella, Signet Classic, 1982.

Quote in Graphic at the top of the page can be found on page 25.


Published on July 28, 2014 by Sophia Brookshire © All Rights Reserved

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