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March 20, 2016

The Decameron Day 4 Story 5 by Giovanni Boccaccio- Summary

The Decameron Day 4 Story 5 by Giovanni Boccaccio- Summary

Storyteller: Filomena

In Messina, there lived three brothers, who were all merchants. They all lived together with their unmarried sister, who went by the name Elisabetta. The brothers employed a young Pisan by the name of Lorenzo. Elisabetta and Lorenzo fell in love with each other. It took a while but they finally gave in to their desires.

One night, the eldest brother saw Elisabetta going to Lorenzo’s bedroom, which made him angry. He didn’t let Elisabetta know that he had caught her; instead, the next morning, he told his brothers what he had seen. They decided that the only course of action was to pretend that didn’t know about their sister and Lorenzo’s relationship, because they didn’t want to damage their sister’s reputation or damage their honor. They also resolved to deal with Lorenzo at a later time so as not to draw suspicion on themselves.

They acted normally around Lorenzo, and one day they invited him to take a trip outside of the city with them, which was not unusual. When they came to a very remote and deserted spot they killed him and then buried his body. When they returned to Messina they told everyone that they had sent Lorenzo on a business trip, which was also not unusual. When Lorenzo didn’t return Elisabetta began incessantly asking her brothers why he hadn’t returned yet. Finally, one of her brothers snapped at her, asking why she cared so much; she stopped asking questions after that.

At night she would sometimes call out Lorenzo’s name and begged him to return. One night, Lorenzo came to her in a dream; he was pale and his clothes were all mangled hanging on his rotting body. He told her not to cry for him anymore, because he could never return. He also told her that her brothers had killed him and where she could find his body. When she awoke she believed everything that she had seen and heard in her dream and decided to go see for herself if it were true. She asked her brothers for permission to leave the city for a while with a lady friend of hers. When she arrived at the spot Lorenzo said he had been buried she began to dig and it was not long before she uncovered her beloved’s dead body. She wanted to give him a proper burial, but she knew that she would not be able to so she cut off his head and wrapped it in a cloth. She covered up the rest of his body and returned home. She took Lorenzo’s head up to her room and sobbed over it and kissed it all over. She then took a large vase and put Lorenzo’s head wrapped in a cloth inside of the vase and covered it with soil. She then planted several sprigs of basil in the vase; she would only water the plant with rose or orange water or with her own tears. She spent most of her time with the vase and would weep into the vase whenever the moment struck. The basil grew to be very fragrant and beautiful.

One day, her neighbors told her brothers about her ritual with the vase, and her brothers scolded her for it, but that did not deter her. Finally, the brothers took the vase from her room. She begged for the vase back, but they refused to give it to her. She fell ill, and still continued to ask for her vase back. The brothers became curious so they poured the contents of the pot out and found Lorenzo’s head. They were amazed by what they found and feared that they would be discovered as murderers, so they buried Lorenzo’s head and left Messina for Naples. Elisabetta continued to cry and demanded that her vase be returned to her, but to no avail. She died crying.


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