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Boccaccio's The Decameron: Day 4 Introduction (Summary)

Summary of Giovanni Boccaccio's The Decameron Day 4 Introduction

Boccaccio to his fans and critics:
"Only misery is without envy in this world" (286).

My critics have said that I, being an older man, take too much pleasure in pleasing, consoling, and praising you dear ladies with my tales. Also, they question the validity of the stories that I have been telling you, but I dare them to find the original stories and compare them to my own, and then tell me that I'm a fraud. Furthermore, I pose that it is by Nature's design that I wish to please you ladies, and should not be looked down upon. Guido Cavalcanti, Dante Alighieri, and Messer Cino da Pistoia were all older gentlemen who took pleasure in writing for women, so why should I be persecuted for following their lead. "I realize that no reasonable person could say that I and the others who love you at in any way but according to Nature whose laws (that is, Nature's) cannot be resisted not only in vain but with very great damage to the strength of the one who attempts to do so. I confess that I do not possess nor wish to possess such strength, and if I did possess it, I would rather lend it to others than employ it myself. So let those critics of mine be silent, and if they cannot warm up to my work, let them live numbered with the chill of their own pleasures, or rather with their corrupt desires, and let me go on enjoying my own for this short lifetime granted to us" (292-3).

I will leave you now with an incomplete story to ponder.

Filippo Balducci was born into a modest but rich family. He was both well versed and an expert in the things he needed to know. He loved his wife dearly and she loved him in return. As it happens, she passed away leaving Filippo alone with their two year old son. He was so grief-stricken that he renounced the world and devoted himself completely to serving God. He gave away all of his possessions, and took his son and went to live atop Mount Asinaio in a small hut. They survived on prayers, alms, and fasts. Filippo refused to let his son have any contact with anyone but him, and only taught him about the glory of God and the holy prayers.

Filippo would go to Florence from time to time to see to their needs, but would never allow his son to go because he did not want to expose him to that way of life. When Filippo's son was eighteen he asked to go to Florence with his father, so that his father wouldn't have to keep making the strenuous journey. Filippo was reluctant, but in the end decided to let his son go with him, believing that his son had been indoctrinated enough with prayers and the such that he would not be affected by the great things in Florence. When they got to town his son was amazed by all that he saw. When he saw a group of elegantly dressed women he immediately wanted to know all about them for he knew nothing of them. Filippo was afraid to tell him that they were called "women" because he thought that it might awaken some carnal desire, so he called them "goslings" instead. He told his son that goslings were evil, but the young man could not help wanting one. He begged his father to let him take one home with them, promising that he would take care of the gosling and feed it; it was then that Filippo realized that Nature had overpowered his son's intelligence, and he regretted bringing his son.

Here is where I will end the tale.


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

Published on March 19, 2016 by Sophia Brookshire © All Rights Reserved

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