Day, Tenth Story
(Andrea Del Castagno)
211, Dr. Richie
Loukens Jacques, Robert Magara
Four Jasmine Bell, Lou Jarques, Ma
Giovanni Boccaccio was a great writer of the thirteen
hundreds that sparked new ideas of human values and behavior during the
time of the European Renascence. In 1313 he was born in France out
of wedlock to a French women and an Italian merchant. Boccaccio leaves
France with his father in 1327 to Florence to peruse a career in banking.
Boccaccio became bored with banking and began to study Greek and Roman
classical literature. A woman named Maria d`Aquino becomes his interest
of love 1336, and she influences much of Boccaccios first writings with
topics concerning love and chivalry. The famous poet Petrach meets
Boccaccio in Florence in 1350 and they become life long friends.
Boccaccio writes two romance classics the Filostrato I and II from 1337-1340.
Boccaccio returns to Florence 1340 to write The Decameron. The Decameron
translated means ten days of work, and tells of people who escaped the
black plague by seeking refuge in the country and tell over 100 stories
over the course of ten days. The Decameron serves as a prime example
for Boccaccios idea of humanism. Humanism was a renascence theory
that viewed people as intelligent and placed and emphasis on values.
Boccaccio becomes ambassador to Bavaria and in 1354 he becomes Ambassador
to Papel court in Avigon. In 1359 he meets Petrach in Venice and
learns Greek from Lion Pilatus, and this inspires Boccaccio to take his
writing in a new direction. In 1374 Boccaccios life long friend
Petrarch dies and his own death follows a year later in 1374. Boccaccios
contribution to society was greatly significant in terms of how people
view touchy issues.
During the Middle Ages everything in Italy was based
around the Holy Roman Church. The Church was in the center of the
universe and controlled everything for example education, government, and
even the economy. According to the Church, divine revelation was
the only method of acquiring true knowledge. The Pope was the one
in charge when decisions were to be made regarding the government.
Even the economy was part of the Church. Agriculture was controlled
through determining what season was best for work and what the farmers
By the end of the Middle Ages a lot of changes
were taking place. Opportunities became much more available where
education was concerned and these educational institutions began a petition
for political independence. Many of the same texts that had been
used throughout earlier centuries were found in the hands of these scholars.
They were trying to reconcile reason and religion faith. But the
Holy Roman Church believed that because God created nature and life, the
study of nature and life was actually the study of God through His works.
One of the students, Thomas Aquinas, and his colleagues attempted to finally
resolve the conflict between reason and faith. They went on by saying
"God is the cause of all things and therefore God is truth" and there should
be no conflict between reason and faith. The Church wasn't happy
but after a while did accept it.
The influence of the Church suffered greatly during the late
Middle Ages. The power would shift from the Church to individual
secular rulers. The Church found itself in more trouble when their
ruler, Pope Gregory XI, passed away. They finally elected a French
Pope by the name of Clement VII, that did not sit to well with the Italians.
The Church was being separated, and their power was diminishing.
There were three Popes, two of the schismatic Popes were deposed, the third
resigned and a single new Pope, Martin V, an Italian, was elected.
During the Middle Ages Italy enjoyed an economic
and agricultural boom. Agricultural techniques allowed lands that
had previously been marginal or even infertile to become fully productive.
But just like everything else the economy and agriculture took a fall.
The decreased agricultural output could no longer support the same level
of economic activity; the economy was beginning to weaken even more
Ninth Day, Tenth Story:
This is a tale told by Dioneo, during which he emphasizes
the importance, to all that have gathered to listen, of following the instructions
of a spell down to the very last detail. If one does not take this
rule seriously, they will eventually learn the downfall of even the slightest
deviation(596.Decameron), and so the tale begins
It all started in Barletta with a priest by the name of Father
Gianni di Barolo. Unfortunately the priest couldnt survive on the
minimal income of the church, as a result he ventured into the city of
Puglia, accompanied by his mare, and brought with him goods for buying
and selling. In time, he developed a friendship with Pietro de Tresanti,
whom was also a man of the marketplace. Whenever either traveled
to the others home, they would welcome each other with sincere hospitality
and offer a place to stay. Although Pietro was a man of poverty,
with a home barely big enough for him, his wife, and their donkey, he still
managed to house him and show him a good time.
Trouble begins when Comare Gemmata suggest to the Priest that
he sleep in her bed with her husband rather than on a pile of straw out
in the stable, for she feels this is the only hospitable thing to do for
a guest. The Priest, a clever man, replies:
You see, whenever I want to, I can change this mare of mine into a
beautiful young girl and lie with her. Then, whenever I wish, I can
turn her back into a mare. And so Id never want to be separated
from her. (597.Decameron)
Comare Gemmata is fully convinced that the Priest is a man of magic
and with out doubt can perform such a task. When the Comare learns
of the Priests ability she informs her husband and tries to convince him
that they could double their income if he would turn her into a mare for
transporting goods during the day and at night back into a women.
Compare Pietro, without question, feels that this is a great idea and persuades
the Priest to teach him the magic spell in spite of how ridiculous the
Priest perceives the situation.
After a bit of discussion, they all agree that the spell will
be performed early the following morning. The Priest immediately
informs them that they must do what [he] tell[s] [them] to do if [they]
want it to succeed.(598.Decameron) As they go step by step through
the spell, the Priest begins to fondle and perform sexual acts on Compare
Pietros wife. Yet Pietro does not say a word in fear that if he
does the spell will be ruined completely. Finally, Compare
Pietro cant keep quiet any longer when the Priest begins to have anal
intercourse with his wife and tries to justify it to Pietro by telling
him he is only putting the tail on the mare, the last step in completing
the spell. As soon as Pietro opens his mouth and the consummation
is interrupted, the Priest ridicules him by saying, Didnt I warn you
not to say a word about what you saw? The mare was just about to
be made, but now your babbling has ruined everything, and theres no way
of ever making another one. (598-599.Decameron) And so the spell
was not completed and neither ever asked for the same favor again.
The Ninth Day, Tenth Story written in the Decameron
depicts just one incident that proved the naivetÚ of the peasants
during this era. This is evident when the Queen states that because
of her simple ways and her many differences in comparison to her audience,
she should be given the utmost precedence in regard to the story she is
about to tell them. Because of her candor and verbal manipulation,
the Queen slants the attentions of those present towards her and off of
themselves. Signs of this type of manipulation are also seen in the
story itself. (As we open with the Priest, we see that with his high
society stature and his demanding of respect, he uses intelligence and
cunning to keep the Compare and Comare in the dark about his actual intentions).
Being that the Compare and the Priest have
a history, it is quite understandable that the Compare would accept almost
anything that Priest said. We see that the peasants of this time
were to trusting and were easily taken advantage of. An example of
this is shown when the Comare suggests that the Priest turn her into a
mare so that the Compare would be able to do his daily business using both
mare and donkey. In this, the Priest takes advantage of the na´ve
couple by telling then that he has this power and uses his cunning as an
attempt to perform sexual intercourse with the Comare. Not only did
the Priest premeditate the scenario, but he also played on the innocence
and caring that the Comare is showing for her husband.
Once it has been decided that the spell would commence, the Priest
then tells them to watch carefully everything I do and memorize what I
say, and no matter what you hear me say or do, be sure you do not utter
a word; otherwise you will ruin everything. And pray to God the tail
sticks on firmly" (p. 598) With this, we see that the Priest is already
placing emphasis on the fact that since every detail must be adhered to,
it is imperative that there be no outside influence, no matter what is
going on. In this segment we see the trusting nature of the peasants
is abused again.
As the spell commences that the Comare is placed
on all fours to represent the stance of a mare. While
reciting phrases the Priest is acting in an inappropriate sexual
manner. During this, the Priest caresses certain parts of the Comares
body. Even though the Compare sees this he still does nothing because
of his respect for the Priest. Not until the last phase of the cantation
does the Compare show signs of ill feeling towards the situation at hand.
The Priest attempts to place the tail on the Comare to finish her transformation
and the problem arises when the Compare sees the instrument used to complete
the Priest task. Finally the Compare says Oh father Gianni, no
tail! I really don't want a tail there!" (p. 598) With this statement
the Priest exclaim:
Alas! Compare Pietro! What have you done?
Didn't I warn you not to say a word about what you saw? The mare
was just about to be made, but now your babbling has ruined everything,
and there's no way of ever making another one. (p. 598)
In this, we see that the Priest has placed an amount of guilt on the
Compare even though the Priest was acting in an unscrupulous manner, thus
reiterating his lack of common sense towards the adultery that he allowed
the Priest to perform with his wife. Additionally, the Comare is
incensed by the fact that the Compare has destroyed all chances of using
the Comare as a mare for business. She then exclaims
idiot! Why did you ruin both your business and mine? Have you
ever seen a mare that didn't have a tail? So help me God, poor man
that you are, you deserve to be even poorer With this statement,
it is seen that not only was the Comare going through with this spell for
her husband, but she also lets him know that she had some interest in the
procedure being performed on her.
Although Comare and Compare were consumed in poverty
this can't be held accountable for the reason behind the Priest's ability
to trick them.
Rather, "it seems to be directed simply at those susceptible
to harmful superstition at large or foolish people in general, whether
men or women, who lack intelligence and easily believe whatever tantalizing
disguised rubbish someone directs their way" (The Decameron Web).
by having sex with her from behind; the position has a "beastly" connotation.
"Confused the boundaries between human and animal behavior.
In all that has happened, we see that in the end
the Priest has taught both the Compare and the Comare a valuable lesson
about life and how no matter what someone's stature the laws and impulses
of nature may take precedence over any type of virtue or good. Additionally
it is apparent that in most cases there is no easy way out of a situation
especially via magic. The importance of this story does not lie in
the actual actions being performed, but the manner in which they were brought
The Black Plague which occurred during this time
period explains Boccaccio's reasoning behind the freedom he uses to express
ideas not commonly discussed or accepted in the society of his time.
Devastating as it was, the Plaque acted as a way to bring both men and
women together during a time when this was not considered common practice.
Many looked at the plague as a "justification of the formation "(The Decameron
Web) of the relationships they established. This was the reasoning
behind the union of the Comare and the Compare. As well as the Priest's
justification for playing such an unholy trick. The Plague was ment
to explain all of the unusual behavior, relationships, and language of
the time period.
(The Escort of Death)
"Andrea del Castagno, c. 1450: Boccaccio"
The Decameron Web. 24 May 1999.
>(8th June 1999).
Boccaccio, Giovanni, The Decameron.
New York: Penguin Books, 1982.
"Italy Map" Perry-Castaneda Library
Map Collection. 14 June 1999. <http://www.lib.utexas.edu/Libs/PCL/Map_collection/europe/Italy_pol96.jpg>
(6th July 1999).
"The Escort of Death" The Decameron Web.
24 May 1999.
>(6th July 1999).