By Giovanni Boccaccio
Fifth Day, Fourth Story
Lit 211 Dr. Richie http://webpage.pace.edu/erichie/211s99.html
Giovanni Boccaccio was born in 1313 in Florence, Italy; in 1375 he dies in the same city. He was born to an Italian merchant and a French noblewoman. In 1327 Boccaccio traveled with his father, "an agent of the Bardi Bank", to Naples. Two years there after Boccaccio moves to France where he studies canonical law from Cino da Pistora, "Jurist-poet and friend of Dante and Petrarch." In 1332 Boccaccio decides to pursue his great interest for literature and enrolls himself in the University of Naples. The work of Petrarch, Boccaccio’s friend and mentor begins to influence the direction Boccaccio’s literary works. Boccaccio is also influence by La Fiammetta the great love of his life. La Fiammetta becomes a great inspiration for Boccaccio for "she dominates most of his early works." Boccaccio’s best-known accomplishment, The Decameron, remains to best representation of literature at it’s best.
The "Fifth Day, Fourth Story" illustrates the pervasive nature of the European aristocrats in 1300's. The human tendency to protest norms and mores can be seen in Caterina's deliberate plots to be united with her lover, Ricciardo. Despite the disapproval that she knows she will face from her parents and the society. It is just as true today as it was in the old days to feel the desire to go against the expectations of family and also society.
Ricciardo and Caterina both exhibit an apparent characteristic in which earthly desire overcome the expectations of others. Caterina is raised under an aristocratic environment under overprotective parents. She recieves everything she desires from her parents Messr lizio da Valbona and Madonna Giacomina. As many overprotective parents, they would do anything to please their little princess.
In this tale Caterina demands to have her bed set up on the balcony as a solution to her insomnia, which of course is an attempt to meet her lover Ricciardo. Although her father is dismayed and outraged by such absurd demand, he still complies in order to please his wife. The next morning Messer lizio da Valbona finds his beloved daughter in bed with Riccardo. He is of course enraged by the fact that Caterina disgraces the family honor when sleeping with Ricciardo. However, he manages to calm down and retreat himself when he realizes the young man who committed disgraceful act with his daughter is actually of prestige background. Valbona’s rage is immediately transcends into joy for he is able to elevate the family’s position by marrying his daughter to this young man of elite background.
Caterina’s mother Madonna Giacomina is full compliance and obedience to her husband’s desire. This action illustrates the women’s role during this time in European society. Giacomina is just as enraged as her husband upon revealing the dark secret of their daughter and she even attempts to punish Ricciardo in that moment of outrage. She declines to her action when her husband analyzes the situation and the benefits to the family. She obeys and respects whatever actions her husband desires to take.
The dark side of human nature has always been a popular theme among writers of all times. Human nature is extremely defective therefore provides great materials for great stories be it tragic, humorous, or romantic.
Historical and Cultural Background
In the 1300’s, municipal and royal laws were very strict about sexual crimes, especially cases involving fornication and adultery. Couples caught in fornication and adultery were subject to fines or compelled to marry. Marriage was the more practical solution for young couple in order to save the family’s honor. That is why Messer Lizio da Valbano "suggests" Riccardo Manardi to marry her daughter, for he is of honorable origin. In addition, if a noble man raped a woman of peasant origin, he would most likely get away without the punishment.
Throughout the Middle Ages, marriage was very sacred act. Most people would either marry or choose celibacy, which was the preferred choice for the peasantry. When a girl reached the puberty, she was ready to marry, as well as boys. Also marriage frequently involved the exchange of property among the noble families. These families further fortified their positions through the arranged marriages. The nobility and the land possession converged in Riccardo Manardi and made him a very desirable groom for Messer Lizio desired this kind of alliance. He urges her wife not to scream when they caught Riccardo lying with their daughter. He says:"Riccardo is a noble and rich young man; we have only to gain from such a match"(339). For these reasons, they both chose to establish a family link through the marriage of Riccardo Manardi and Caterina Lizio da Valbano.
"Emilia in the Garden" "http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Italian_Studies/dweb/med_soc/med_soc.html"__http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Italian_Studies/dweb/med_soc/med_soc.html _8 June 1999
"http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Italian_Studies/dweb/lifework/life1.html" 8 June 1999
Boccaccio, Giovanni.The Decameron.Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Mentor 1982.