July 15, 2014

Summary of Giovanni Boccaccio's "The Decameron: Day 4, Story 10 & Day 4 Conclusion"

Storyteller: Dioneo

Day 4 Story 10

Giovanni Boccaccio's The DecameronIn Salerno, there once lived a very famous surgeon by the name Doctor Mazzeo della Montagna. He did not marry until the last years of his life; however, he married a woman much his junior. He gave her everything that she could possibly want as far as material items, but he neglected her physically. He explained to her—as Messer Riccardo di Chinzica had—that it took countless days to recover from a single bout of sex.

Now, Doctor Mazzeo’s wife was very intelligent, so she decided that in order to protect her marriage and material possessions she must find herself a lover. She looked over all the young men that she came across until one day she saw the one that she wanted. His name was Ruggieri d’Aieroli; he was of noble birth, but had fallen from the good graces of his family. He was famous in Salerno for his thievery, but the lady did not care. The lady and Ruggieri made love many times, with the help of the lady’s maidservant. She would chastise him for the way he lived and then she would give him money, so that he wouldn’t have to steal anymore.

One day, Doctor Mazzeo took in a patient that needed a bone in his leg removed. The doctor had to wait until nighttime to perform the surgery, so he had a liquid sedative made and delivered to his home. The doctor put it into his bedroom without telling anyone about what it was. That evening the doctor was called to Amalfi due to a violent brawl that had occurred. When the lady found out that her husband was not coming home she sent for her lover, and when he arrived she locked him in her room until some of the servants had left.





While Ruggieri waited for the lady to come to him, he got thirsty and drank all of the doctor’s liquid sedative by mistake. He fell fast asleep. When the lady came back to her room she found Ruggieri and was convinced that he was dead. She wept over her misfortune. Her sadness soon gave way to fear, so she called for her maidservant and asked her for her advice. The servant came to the same conclusion that the lady had—Ruggieri was dead—and told the lady to get him out of the house. The servant—with the lady’s help—got Ruggieri up onto her shoulders and carried him to a chest outside of the lady’s neighbor’s house and then they put Ruggieri’s body inside.

A few days prior, a couple of men who loaned money to people, moved in down the street. They noticed the chest there in front of the carpenter’s house and decided that if it was still there they would take it. That night they took the chest home with them—not knowing that Ruggieri was inside of it. They put it down by the room where their wives slept and went to bed.

Ruggieri regained consciousness not long after that. He wondered how he had ended up in the chest, but figured that his mistress’ husband must have returned unexpectedly and she had hidden him in there until it was safe. He grew uncomfortable in the chest, so he tried to reposition himself turning the chest over in the process. The wives woke up, but remained silent. Ruggieri realized that the chest had opened, so he decided that it would be safer if he just left. He began groping around the house trying to find a way out, knocking things over in the process. The wives began to scream, but their husbands didn’t hear them, so they yelled out the windows at the top of their lungs “thieves!” Ruggieri was taken into custody by the magistrate’s guard, and was made to confess to trying to rob the moneylenders. He was immediately sentenced to be hanged.

The next day, the news of Ruggieri was all over Salerno. The lady was worried sick when she heard about Ruggieri. The Doctor returned home and found his carafe of sedative was empty, and he began raving about how he couldn’t leave anything unattended; it was then that the lady figured out what had happened.

The lady’s servant had gone into town to find out what people were saying about Ruggieri, and when she returned she told the lady about how the chest and Ruggieri ended up in the moneylender’s home. The lady begged her servant to help her save Ruggieri, and the servant agreed. The servant went to the Doctor and told him that Ruggieri was her secret lover and that she had given him the liquid in the carafe thinking that it was water. She apologized for what she had done and begged the Doctor to let her help Ruggieri. He allowed her to go, but warned her not to bring him into his house again.

The maidservant went to the jail where Ruggieri was and asked to speak to him. She told Ruggieri exactly what to say, and then she went to see the magistrate. She began to tell the magistrate her story, but the judge found her quite appealing and made it clear what he wanted before he would hear her out. She was not appalled by this at all and gladly consented to the judge’s desires. Once they finished, the maidservant told the judge the whole story—leaving out the part about the lady—and after the judge confirmed her story he had Ruggieri released, which made both him and the lady very happy.





Day 4 Conclusion

This last story made the ladies laugh so hard that they forgot about how the first few stories had saddened them. The sun was setting and Filostrato’s reign was ending. He apologized for picking such a sad topic and then placed his laurel crown on Fiammetta’s golden head and proclaimed her the Queen for the following day.

Fiammetta decreed that the following days stories would be love stories that have a happy ending. She then excused everyone to do as they pleased until dinner.

At dinner Fiammetta ordered that Filostrato should sing a song:

With my own tears, I show
How rightly grieves the heart
When Love’s faith is deceived.

Love, when you first
Placed in my heart the one for whom I sigh
Hopelessly in vain,
You showed her so full of grace
That I considered every torment light
Which came through you into my mind,
Which now is left bereaved;
But no I recognize
My error, and not without great pain.

I learned of the deceit
When she in whom alone I placed
My hope abandoned me,
For when I thought myself to be
Most in her grace and in her service
And could not see the coming
Of all my future pain,
I found that she had welcomed to her heart
Another and had driven me away.

Once made aware I had been spurned,
There was born in my heart the pain of sorrow,
And it still dwells therein;
And often do I curse the day and hour
When first appeared to me her lovely face,
Adorned with every charm,
More radiant than ever!
My faith, my ardor, and all my hope
My dying soul will never cease to curse.

Just how bereft of comfort is my grief,
Love, you know for you hear how forcefully
My grieving voice calls you.
I tell you that I burn with such fierce pain.
Let death come, then, and end
My cruel and painful life,
The madness of it all, with its swift blow—
Wherever I may go, I’ll suffer less.

No other way means of solace
Remains to soothe my grief save death.
Grant it to me now
And with it put an end, Love, to my woes,
And take away my heart from this vile life.
Ah, do so now, for wrongly have I been
Deprived of my happiness and of my solace.
And Lord, make her happy with my death
As you made her when you gave her a new love.

My song, if no one learns to sing you,
I do not care, for no one ever could
Sing you as well as I.
One task alone I charge you with:
Find Love for me and tell him, him alone,
How worthless to me is
My sorry, bitter life,
And beg him in the name of his own honor
To guide me to a better port than this (364-5).


This song was a reflection of Filostrato’s current state, which would have been clearer if the shadows hadn't been concealing the blush cheeks of a certain woman dancing.

Sources

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

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