March 19, 2016

Summary of Giovanni Boccaccio's The Decameron: Day 3, Story 10 & Day 3 Conclusion

Storyteller: Dioneo

Day 3 Story 10

Giovanni Boccaccio's The Decameron
In the town of Capsa in Tunisia, there lived a very wealthy man. He had several sons, but only one daughter, who went by the name of Alibech. They were not Christians, but Alibech was fascinated by Christianity and wished to serve God.

One day, she asked one of the Christians: "What is the best and quickest way to serve God?" She was told that those who served God the best were those who denied themselves all worldly possessions and set out to live in the Egyptian desert. Alibech, being a naïve fourteen year old, did exactly what the Christian said and set out for Egypt the next morning without telling anyone. The journey took her several days. When she finally arrived she saw a small hut and went to speak to the holy man. She asked him how to serve God. The man feared that her youth and beauty would tempt him, so he sent her to another holy man who was more qualified to help her. When she arrived at the dwelling of the next holy man, he directed her on like the previous one had.

She was sent to the cell of a young devout hermit by the name of Rustico, and when she arrived she asked him the same questions that she had asked the two previous holy men. Rustico wanted to test his willpower, so he set up a bed of palm leaves in one of the corners of his cell for Alibech to sleep. When night came he found himself overtaken with desire and putting aside his willpower he surrendered to it. He asked a few questions and ascertained that she had never been with a man, and was actually quite naïve about the whole subject. He decided that under the guise of serving God he would be able to fulfill his desires. He told her that the best way to serve God was to help him put the Devil back into Hell, which is where God had damned him. She was eager to help Rustico put the Devil back into Hell and asked him how they might do it. He told her to do exactly as he did. First, he took off all of his clothes, and then she did. Next, he kneeled on the ground, and then she did also. As he sat looking at her beautiful young flesh he became sexually excited; Alibech noticed and asked what that was sticking out on him. He told her that it was the Devil, and the Devil was very painful. Then, Rustico explained to her that she was his salvation because she had Hell in between her legs, and asked her take pity on him and allow him to put the Devil back into Hell. He led her to one of the beds and put her into position and put his Devil into her Hell. Alibech commented that: "this Devil must certainly be an evil thing and truly God's enemy, father, for he not only hurts others, but he even hurts Hell when put back into it" (279). He told her that it would not always hurt like that, and to prove it he put the Devil back into Hell seven more times before he became completely exhausted.

Alibech became quite fond of this game, and was always eager to help Rustico put the Devil back into Hell; in fact, she liked the game so much that she wore him out. She finally understood why those Christians said that serving God was so pleasurable. She would beg Rustico to help her quench the pains of her Hell, which he tried to do as often as he could.

While Alibech was with Rustico a fire broke out in Capsa, which killed her entire family. Alibech was left as the sole heir of her family's fortune. A young man by the name of Neerbale, who had squandered away all of his money, heard where Alibech might be and went to retrieve her. Rustico was relieved when Neerbale took Alibech away, but Alibech was furious. He took her back to Capsa and married her. Before Alibech had the chance to sleep with her husband, some of the townswomen asked her how she had served God in the desert. She told them and they all laughed and told her that people here serve God in the same way, and added that Neerbale would be very helpful in helping her serve God.

Day 3 Conclusion

When Dioneo finished his story every laughed hysterically. When they had quieted down, the Queen took the crown off of her head and placed it on Filostrato’s head and said: “Soon we shall see if the wolves know how to guide the sheep better than the sheep have guided the wolves” (281).

Filostrato told them that the topic for the next day was to be about those whose loves come to unhappy endings. He named this topic, because he was unlucky in love; even his name, which means “overcome, vanquished by love” hinted at his unluckiness in the love department (282).

After supper Filostrato asked Lauretta to sing a song, which goes as follows:

There is no helpless lady
Who has more cause to weep than I,
Who sigh in vain, wretchedly in love.

Heaven’s mover and that of every star
Made me for His delight
So light and lovely, gracious to behold
That I might show to every noble mind
On earth some trace of that
Beauty which dwells forever in His presence;
But mortal imperfection,
Which cannot comprehend,
Finds me undelightful and I am spurned.

There was one man who held me dearly,
And I was young when he
Embraced me with his arms and all his thoughts—
My eyes had set him all aflame,
And time, which flies away
So lightly, he spent it all in courting me;
And I, in courtesy,
Made him worthy of me;
But now, alas, I am deprived of him.

But then appeared before my eyes a vain,
Presumptuous young man,
Through known to be most valiant;
He made me his and through a false belief
He turned to jealousy;
And then, alas, I came to despair,
For now I realized
That I who had come to this world to please
All men was now possessed by only one.

I curse my wretched fate
Forever saying “Yes, I do”;
So beautiful was I in widow’s black,
So happy did I feel, but now in a wife’s dress
The life I lead is harsh
And one with far less honor than before.
Oh, wretched wedding feast,
If only I had died
Before I had experienced such a fate!

Oh, first sweet love with whom I once had been
More than content,
Who now in Heaven stands before the One
Who made him, ah, take pity on this soul
Of mine, who for another man
Cannot forget you: make me feel
That the flame which for me in you burned
Is not yet spent,
And pray that I may soon be there with you (283-5).


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

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