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Summary of Boccaccio's "The Decameron: Day 2, Story 4"

Giovanni Boccaccio's The Decameron quote: "Most gracious ladies, in my opinion there can be no greater act of Fortune than to see someone raised from the depths of poverty to a royal estate, as Pampinea's story demonstrated to us in the case of what happened to Alessandro...I am very well aware that when the previous story is kept in mind, my own will be listened to less attentively, but I trust you will forgive me, since it is the best I can do."
Storyteller: Lauretta

In Ravello, which is a small town in Italy, there lived an extremely wealthy man named Landolfo Rufolo. He was very greedy, and while trying to double his wealth he almost lost everything, including his life.

He purchased a large ship, and packed it with goods that he paid for himself, and sailed the ship to Cyprus. When he arrived there he discovered that there were many other ships there, which had the same goods that he had. He was forced to sell the products for less money than he had originally paid for them; this almost ruined him. He decided that he could not go home poor, so his only two options were to kill himself or steal back his wealth. He sold his large ship, and used the money to buy a small ship that was suitable for a pirate. He tricked out the ship with the things needed to be a successful pirate, and set out to steal other's property. He was especially interested in the property of the Turks.

He was very successful as a pirate, and in the space of a year he had doubled his previous wealth. He decided that it would be wise not to make the same mistake twice (losing all of his money), and decided that he should return home. In Archipelago, he experienced a strong sirocco wind that was too much for his small ship. He decided to pull into an inlet on the small island and wait out the storm. Soon after Landolfo had pulled into the inlet, two large merchant ships pulled in as well to escape the wind. The Genoese recognized Landolfo's ship and knew how rich he was; they decided to rob him. They surrounded Landolfo's ship, and seized it with little effort. They dressed Landolfo in only an old coat, put him on one of their little row boats, and then sank his ship.

The winds changed the next day, and the two large ships continued on their course; however, by nightfall the winds changed again, and the two large ships were separated. The wind caused the ship that Landolfo was in to crash against the island of Cephalonia, splitting it apart; those on the ship that could swim grabbed onto pieces of the ship as they floated by. Landolfo had wished for death the day before, but when it was right in front of his face he was scared, so he clung to a piece of the boat. He hoped God would come to his rescue. The next day, Landolfo found that a chest was floating closer and closer to him, and he was afraid that it would crash into him. He pushed it away with his dwindling strength. The wind caused the sea to swell, and push the chest right into the plank that Landolfo was hanging onto. Landolfo was cast into the sea, and his plank floated off; he was forced to fling himself on top of the chest.

The next day, Landolfo was carried to the island of Corfu. A poor woman spotted him; at first she was not able to make out who he was, but as the current brought him closer she was able to tell that he was a man on a chest. The lady dragged Landolfo to the shore, and carried him like a child back to her house. She put him in a warm bath until he regained his strength. She gave him wine and confections. She cared for him for a few days until he recovered enough to know where he was. She gave him the chest that he had floated on at sea, and told him that it was time for him to go.

Landolfo waited until the lady left him alone to open the chest. Inside he found many precious gems.




He was glad that God had not abandoned him. He wrapped the gems in an old cloth, and gave the woman the chest in return for a sack.

He began to travel home. In Trani, he ran into some people from his hometown, and he told them about his ordeal, leaving out the part where he lost all of his money. They gave him clothes, loaned him a horse, and got him a guide that would take him back to Ravello.

When he reached home he sorted the stones, and discovered that the stones were worth a lot; selling them would restore him to his previous wealth. He sent money to the woman in Corfu as a way of thanking her, and he gave money to the men who had helped him in Trani. He kept the rest of the money, and never again did he want to be a merchant. He lived very happily the rest of his life.

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 94.


Published on July 21, 2014 by Sophia Brookshire © All Rights Reserved

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