The Decameron and other tales

  1. Gualtieri had never desired to marry. He tells his friends that he had set his mind “firmly against’ doing so (1357). After much pressing from his friends around him, he resolves to marry. Even after he decides to do so he is filled with dread. He is certain that the marriage will, more likely than not, end badly, or that he will be left miserable with an ill-suited wife.

So skeptical Gualtieri is of women, that he torments his wife Griselda, pushing her far beyond a typical woman’s breaking point. By testing her in such a way he hopes to see whether her compliant disposition will change, or whether she will continue to unquestioningly follow her husband’s desires.

So far does Gualtieri push Griselda that it seems that he wishes her to fail his tests. It is interesting that to Gualtieri, the mark of a good wife is one who does not ever question her husband, even when his actions are morally unjust.

 

  1. In The Thousand and One Nights the stories were formed and articulated in such a way as to stall for time. They were also meant to educate the King; to give him a new perspective. By changing the King’s viewpoint the vizier’s daughter hoped to change his heart and keep him from murdering more women. The stories were extremely successful in stalling for time and, over time, the heart of the King did change. In this circumstance the relationship between the tale and the teller is extremely important, because through the fabric of the tale the King was able to get to know Shahrazad as a person rather than a threat or enemy.

The stories of the Decameron are meant to be nothing more than a distraction. They are meant to keep the horrors of the world off of the listeners mind. The servants who work for the ten young people are commanded to bring no news that is negative of the outside world, but only tidings of happiness and joy. The stories are meant to build and alternate reality.

I do not think the stories do a very good job of uplifting the mood of the party. The stories, although they end joyfully or humorously, have sorrowful undertones. In the story of the First Day, the main character is a depraved man who is supposed to have gone to hell. In the tale of the Fifth Day, the only way Nastagio is able to convince his lover to marry him is by threatening her with punishments she may face in the afterlife. Throughout the Tenth Day story, Gualtieri is lying to and tormenting his wife. It is odd that these stories, full of sorrow, would be the choice of entertainment for those who wish to shut out sorrow. Perhaps these stories demonstrate that sorrows, although ignored, still exist. I do think that these tales fulfill their purpose as a distraction. It is also likely that the stories reveal a great deal about the teller’s view of themselves, the world, and society.

 

  1. The nightingale represents the unattainable love of the women and the knight. The bird represents freedom, its beautiful songs are the words of love spoken between the lovers. Their love seems so natural. As easily as the nightingale hides itself in the trees, they are able to hide their love from the eyes of her husband. Just like the nightingale’s song, it can be enjoyed from their windows at night without prying eyes. The hope of their love, like the bird, is snuffed out. With the nightingale dead, the women has no pretense to go to the window at night. It seems, however, that had they attempted, they would have been able to see each other at other times. After the death of the bird, the women and the knight cannot pretend anymore. They accept their fate; they will never love each other and they will therefore never love again.

 

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