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July 28, 2014

The Decameron Day 1 Story 7 by Giovanni Boccaccio- Summary

The Decameron Day 1 Story 7 by Giovanni Boccaccio- Summary


Worthy ladies, it is one thing to strike a target that does not move, but it is quite another thing, something marvelous, when the unexpected suddenly appears and is quickly brought down by the archer (pp.55).

Messer Cane della Scala was the most noble and wealthy lord of Italy. He decided to throw a festival in Verona; he invited many entertainers and guests to this festival. Suddenly he canceled the festival; he gave the entertainers only part of their fee and told everyone to go away. There was only one man left, Bergamino, he was not paid nor was he told to leave. Messer Cane thought that this man was a waste of his time so he didn't say anything to the man.

Several days went by and he received no word from Messer Cane. He did not know if he should leave or not, but he was worried because he was paying for himself and his men to stay in the inn. Bergamino had brought three beautiful suits, which had been given to him by other lords, who wanted him to look respectable at their festivals. The inn keeper had to be paid so Bergamino gave him one of the suits for payment. As time went on he gave him the second suit also. He vowed to stay as long as his third suit would allow him.

One night Bergamino was eating dinner with Messer Cane. Bergamino had a sour look upon his face and Messer Cane asked him why he looked upset, in the hopes of being able to mock him. Bergamino replied quickly with the story that was not unlike his own predicament.

Primasso was a very famously respected composer of verse. Everyone knew his name and most knew him by sight. On a trip to Paris he heard of the Abbot of Cluny who was said to be the richest prelate except for the Pope. Primasso decided to make the six mile journey to the home of the Abbot; he hoped to reach their by meal time.

He decided to bring three loaves of bread with him in case he lost his way and he assumed that he would be able to find water anywhere he went, even though he did not like water that much.

He reached the Abbot's home earlier than expected and when he went into the dining room he marveled at its splendor. The steward came in and ordered water to be brought in so that people could wash their hands. Everyone was seated; Primasso was seated across from the door where the Abbot would be entering from. No food or drink was to be put on the table until the Abbot had come and sat at the table. The Abbot came in and the first person he saw was Primasso, who not dressed very well. The Abbot did not know who he was. As soon as he saw him an evil thought crept into the Abbot's mind, "just look at the kind of person I'm feeding!" (58). The Abbot asked those with him if they knew who that man was; they all said no.

Primasso was very hungry so while waiting for the Abbot to come into the dining hall he took out one of his loaves of bread and began eating it. The Abbot sent one of his servants to see if he had left yet; the servant returned to the Abbot and said he was still there eating his own bread. The Abbot retorted: well let him eat his own bread because he will have none of mine.

The Abbot wanted Primasso to leave on his own. Primasso, having finished his first loaf began eating is second loaf of bread and then his third. This got the Abbot thinking: why is it that this person in particular has made me so discourteous. I have dined with countless people rich, poor, and scoundrels; why does this one irritate me? The Abbot wished to know who this man was and when he was told that it was Primasso he felt very ashamed. He knew that Primasso was a worthy man. To try and make up for his naivety he showered Primasso with all the gifts that such a person deserved; the Abbot gave him money, a horse, clothes, and gave him the run of the house.

Primasso was very pleased and returned to Paris upon his horse.

Messer Cane understood the meaning behind this story and announced that Bergamino had cleverly outlined Messer Canes wrongdoings and how to make up for it. Like the Abbot I am ashamed and have never treated anyone as I have treated you. Messer Cane paid the innkeeper. He gave Bergamino some money and a horse. He even gave him one of his own suits. Finally, Bergamino was given the run of the house while he was there.


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