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Boccaccio's The Decameron: Day 4, Story 2 (Summary)

Summary of Giovanni Boccaccio's The Decameron Day 4 Story 2


Pampinea told the second story of the fourth day.

"The man who is wicked and thought to be good
Can do no wrong, for no one believes that he would" (304).

There once lived a man by the name of Berto della Massa in the city of Imola. He was a corrupt and evil man, who tried to take advantage of all those around him. The townspeople wisened up to his tricks and began not believing a word he said, so in desperation he moved to Venice. He decided that he would have to change his tactics, so he decided to pose as a humbled religious man. He posed as a minor friar and went by the name of Brother Alberto da Imola. He pretended to live an abstemious life. He even made it a point to cry during the Mass for the Passion of Our Lord once he had been ordained as a priest. People were so convinced by his act that "he was almost always made the trustee and guardian of every will that was made, the keeper of many people's money, and confessor and adviser to the majority of men and women" (305-6).

One day, a foolish young woman by the name of Madonna Lisetta da Ca' Quirino, who was the wife of a great merchant, came to be confessed by the holy friar. She was halfway through her confession when he asked her if she had a lover. She was irritated by his question, and began to go on about how beautiful she was and how she could have as many lovers as she wanted. Brother Alberto became bored with the subject, so he resumed her confession and then sent her off. He thought that she was a complete moron and ripe for the taking; he fell passionately in love with her.

A few days later he went to her house with a trusted companion of his. When they got there he took her off into another and threw himself at her feet. He apologized for speaking to her the way that he had the previous Sunday, and told her that he had been punished for his words; he wasn't even able to get up until today. She asked him who had punished him, and he told her that while he was praying that night a handsome young man appeared out of a glowing light and beat him with a large stick for reproaching the celestial beauty of Madonna Lisetta, the woman that he loved more than anyone except God. He asked this young man who he was, and the young man told him that he was Angel Gabriel. He told her that begged for forgiveness, and Angel Gabriel told him that he would forgive him on one condition: that he go to Madonna Lisetta and ask her for her forgiveness, and if she didn't forgive him then Gabriel would come back and beat him again. She enjoyed Brother Alberto's words, and told him that she had been right to say that her beauty was heavenly. She decided to forgive him on the condition that he told her what Gabriel said next. He told her that she mustn't tell anyone what he was about to say, because it would spoil everything. He went on to tell her that Gabriel wished to spend the night with her, but since he is an angel he has to take the form of a man. Brother Alberto then asked her when and in whose form the angel should come in. she told him to tell Gabriel that he could come whenever and as whoever he liked as long as he didn't leave her for the Virgin Mary. Brother Alberto then asked her if it would be alright with her if he had Gabriel come in his form, so that while Gabriel was in his body he would be able to spend a little time in Paradise. She agreed. He then told her to leave her door unlocked that night so that Gabriel could visit her, and then he left.

That night, pretending to be the Angel Gabriel, he went to Madonna Lisetta's house and went straight to her bedroom. When she saw him she immediately fell to her knees before him. He blessed her and motioned her over to the bed. They enjoyed each other many times that night much to the lady's delight, and when they parted at daybreak they made plans to see each other again.

After breakfast, Madonna Lisetta went to tell Brother Alberto about what had happened. He told her that he did not know anything about what had gone on between her and Gabriel because his soul had been transported to Heaven.




Madonna Lisetta and Angel Gabriel spent many nights together. One day, she was discussing the nature of beauty with one of her neighbors when she said "you would not talk about any other women if you knew who really appreciates my beauty" (310). She then went on to tell her neighbor that her lover was Angel Gabriel, and that he chose her because she is the most beautiful woman in the world. Her neighbor wanted to burst out laughing, but was able to contain herself; instead, she told her that she believed her, but that she didn't know angels did things like that. She also told her neighbor that Gabriel did it better than her husband.

In less than two days, Madonna Lisetta had become the talk of the town. Her in-laws heard the story and decided to keep watch for the angel and see if he really knew how to fly. Brother Alberto had heard the gossip and went to see Lisetta to scold her. He went up to her room, like he always did, and had just finished undressing when he realized that her in-laws were at the door about to open it. He couldn't think of any way out of this other than jumping out of her bedroom window and into the Grand Canal, which he did.

Brother Alberto managed to swim to the other side of the canal. He made up a story about why he was there in that condition and begged the good man to help him. The man pitied him and let him in, and told him to remain there until he came back. The man locked him in and then left. Early the next morning, while the good man was in town, he heard the story about Lady Lisetta and Angel Gabriel. He soon realized that the man in his house was the man from the story, and went home. He promised to keep quiet if Brother Alberto paid him fifty ducats. Alberto paid him the money.

The good man then told Brother Alberto that the only way to escape without being detected was to dress-up for the festival that they were having in St. Mark's Square that day. Alberto agreed and the good man smeared honey all over Alberto and then covered him with feathers. He put a chain around Alberto's neck and gave him a mask to wear. In one hand Alberto held a large club, and in the other two huge dogs. The good man secretly sent someone to Rialto to announce that Angel Gabriel would be in St. Mark's Square that afternoon. He then led Alberto to the square and chained him up to a column. It wasn't long before the square had become crowded. Once there were a lot of people there he tore off Alberto's mask and announced that this was Angel Gabriel. Everyone immediately recognized him and started saying the foulest things to him and throwing garbage at him. His brother friars eventually heard about this and went to the square. They threw a cloak around him and led him back to the monastery where he was locked up. He died locked up in that monastery.

Sources

Boccaccio, Giovanni. The Decameron. New York: Signet Classics, 1982.

Published on March 20, 2016 by Sophia Brookshire © All Rights Reserved

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