The Decameron

1. The Tenth Story of the Tenth Day: Why is Griselda being tested?

Gualtieri was perfectly content to live a bachelor’s lifestyle – until his followers began pestering him to get a wife and produce an heir. (In their defense, Gualtieri was a marquis with a large land holding, and they all lived on that land.) In order to appease his followers, Gualitieri found a wife named Griselda that he thought would fit his bachelor lifestyle – obedient, patient, and above all, didn’t question his decisions. Apparently, Gualtieri didn’t believe that Griselda would stay true to those qualities, and so began a series of tests to, well, test them. First he took away her (their) children, making her believe that he’d had them murdered. Then, after twelve years had passed, he let her believe he was divorcing her to marry another woman. As a final test, he had Griselda make the house perfect for his new bride. Of course, these were all tests, as he really did love Griselda, and the “new bride” and her brother were actually their children. I know I wouldn’t have held on to my patience like Griselda did; one implication that my husband was going to murder my child and I would have left an Amy-sized hole in the door! (With the baby, of course.)

2. Compare the frame tales in the Decameron and the Thousand and One Nights. In each case, what is the reason for telling stories? Do the stories accomplish the purpose for which they are intended? How important is the relationship between the tale and the teller?

In the Decameron, the stories (at least the ones selected for the Norton Anthology) are moral tales, as are the tales in the Thousand and One Nights. In the Thousand and One Nights, Shahrazad is obviously trying to prolong her life by keeping her stories interesting (and moralistic so the king will stew on  the  morals presented for another night)  and cutting  them off when she gets to the good part. In the Decameron, the stories are meant to entertain a group of people; but the stories that we’re presented with mostly involve teaching the women that are present how to be a good wife (obedient and good-tempered like Griselda, who got everything she wanted in the end). In both tales, the frame stories certainly fulfill the purpose which they intended – Shahrazad’s life is spared, and the “pleasure” party is entertained, so their purpose was fulfilled, and the relationship between all the tales and their tellers simply reflects what they find to be most important (like preserving your own life while passing on some good morals).

3. In Laustic, what does the nightengale symbolize? Explain your answer.

When a knight and his neighbor’s wife fall in love, the wife needs to be able to hide the real reason she has been standing at the window for hours every night (really to gaze lovingly to her lover). She explains to her husband that she enjoys the nightengale’s song, and so longs for it that she can’t sleep. In response, her nasty husband tracks down the nightengale and kills it, spilling its blood across his wife’s chest. Poor nightengale, seriously. But here, it symbolizes all the unfulfilled love between the knight and the wife. When her husband rips off the bird’s head, it symbolizes the love that can never happen, and when the knight gently places the bird’s body in a tiny golden casket, he’s symbolizing that while he knows the relationship is now over, he will always cherish it.

5 thoughts on “The Decameron

  1. Michaela

    Haha, “Amy size hole”.. I would have not been able to remain calm either like Griselda. It was hard to believe she could would not put up a fight, even when he took her kids away from her.. Just insane.

  2. jtodd

    I know I would not have been able to let someone take my children without a fight. My character and loyalty to my husband would not have been that strong. I am reminded in this story of Prince Rama who did what was right no matter what the cost. Only instead of following the Gods commands she follows her husbands and she is not rewarded with spiritual enlightenment but with her children and place as wife. So in a way it was a test of faith and she passed.

  3. kjs93

    I agree that by putting the nightingale in the miniature casket the knight means to memorialize the relationship. I think its a bit extreme that he carries it everywhere with him. Creepy!

  4. sharissewatkins

    Ahh! Love this post! I like that even if I had not read the stories I could get the just of exactly what happened in all of them. Ha-ha at the “amy-sized” hole! I definitely agree with you there, might I even go to the lengths to say that he would be the one running for his life! But that might be the difference between us as woman today and Griselda. I also think though sweet the knight carries the bird around it is a little disgusting, because it will rot eventually, right? However, the hopeless romantic in me *sighs* at the thought of the story of these hopeless lovers.

  5. bdfleagle

    I too would expect nothing less but a door damaged by such fury! I also can’t help but admire your answer on #2. You point out the same things as I but also you add in the bit about how Shaharazad nips off the endings. Of course that is obvious, but it brings your point home better then my own! Well done.

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