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Summary of Boccaccio's "The Decameron: Day 5, Story 2"

Summary of Giovanni Boccaccio's The Decameron Day 5 Story 2


Emilia told the second story of the fifth day.

"Love should merit pleasure rather than pain" (379).

On an island near Sicily named Lipari, there lived a very beautiful and noble girl named Gostanza. Also, on this island there lived a very handsome, well-mannered, and very skillful (at his profession) young man named Martuccio Gomito. Martuccio was in love with Gostanza and she him; so one day Martuccio asked her father for her hand in marriage. Gostanza's father said no because Martuccio was too poor. Angry, Martuccio left Lipari and stating that he would only come back if he became rich.

He turned to a life of piracy off the coasts of Barbary. Fortune shone upon him and his companions and they became very successful very quickly. They would have been able to continue on like this had they simply limited their ambitions, but greed got the better of them. One day, they saw a fleet of Saracen vessels and decided to attack, but the battle did not go as planned and Martuccio and his friends were defeated. Most of the crew had been killed during the altercation, but Martuccio was taken prisoner and transported to Tunisia, and his ship was sunk.

It did not take long for word to reach Lipari that Martuccio's ship had sunk and everyone had drown. Upon hearing this, Gostanza declared that she no longer wanted to live. Gostanza not having the courage to end her life herself devised a plan to end her life through the help of mother nature: she would steal a small fishing boat and sail it out to sea, once she was far enough away from shore she would throw the oars and rudder overboard and let fate take care of the rest. This plan did not go accordingly; instead, her boat drifted ashore to a place called Susa, which is about a hundred miles away from Tunis.

She was asleep on the boat when it ran up on shore and did not awake until an old woman came to check on the inhabitants of the boat. When Gostanza realized that she had not perished at sea like she had planned, she began to cry. The old woman brought Gostanza home with her and offered her something to eat. Gostanza started to feel hopeful again and begged the old woman to help her figure out what to do. The old woman left Gostanza in her cottage while she went back to the shore to finish picking up the fisherman's nets. When she returned home she wrapped Gostanza in her cloak and took her into Susa to the home of a kind elderly Saracen woman for whom she often worked. Gostanza was to live with the elderly woman as her daughter until God granted her a better solution.

Gostanza moved in with the elderly woman and the several other women who lived there. The ladies all worked with their hands making things out of silk, palm, and leather; it didn't take long for Gostanza to learn to make a few of these things also, which earned her much affection and goodwill from the other ladies.

Gostanza's family thought she was dead.




The King of Tunis was threatened by a young man, who came from a very powerful family in Granada; the young man claimed that the kingdom of Tunis belonged to him, and had already assembled an army, in order to march against the King of Tunis to win it back.

Martuccio Gomito learned of all this while he was in jail. He also learned that the King was assembling his own army to defend his kingdom. Martuccio told one of the jailers that if he could only speak to the King, he knew that he would be able to give the King the advice he needed to win. Upon hearing of this the King ordered that Martuccio be brought before him.

Martuccio told the King that the way to win the battle was through archers; the King's archers needed to have an abundance of arrows, so that the King's adversary would run out of arrows long before the King's army would. He went on to tell the King that he must, in secrecy, produce bowstrings for the bows that were much thinner than normal, and make arrows with smaller notches, so that they would only fit the thinner bowstrings. The reason for this being that once the King's adversaries ran out of their own arrows they would begin to pick up the arrows shot by the King's army and shoot them back as would the King's army. The King's adversaries would not be able to use the arrows with the small notches because their bowstrings would be too thick, so the King's enemies would run out of arrows before the King's army would; thus, the King would win the battle. The King followed Martuccio's advice completely and won the war, which earned Martuccio high favor with the King. The King gave Martuccio a very powerful and wealthy position as a thank you for his help.

News of Martuccio Gomito spread throughout the land. Gostanza heard that her beloved Martuccio was still alive and the love that she had for him was rekindled. She told the lady, with whom she had been staying, everything and that she wished to go to Tunis to see him. The lady went with Gostanza to Tunis and went to Martuccio's estate to tell him that a former servant of his from Lipari wished to speak with him. Martuccio followed the lady back to where she and Gostanza were staying, upon arrival Gostanza began to cry and flung herself into Martuccio's arms. Martuccio was shocked, but overjoyed to learn that his beloved with still alive (he had heard that she died a long time ago). She told him everything that had happened and about the kindness of the lady who took her in; when she was finished Martuccio left her and went to the King. He told the King the whole story and how he wished to marry her with the King's permission. The King sent for Gostanza and upon hearing her recount the same story that Martuccio had told him, he ordered that she and Martuccio would be married. The kind lady was greatly rewarded for helping Gostanza. Martuccio and Gostanza took their leave of the King and the lady and returned to Lipari with great celebration and were married.

Sources

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

Published on March 9, 2015 by Sophia Brookshire © All Rights Reserved

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