The Decameron. Relations and Connections between Characters
From a sly monk, to a sarcastic Marchioness, these stories in the Decameron tell different tales yes, but all of them have a thread to connect them all. Each of these stories contain characters who are in dire circumstances or trouble, and each of these characters each use their wits to help themselves out of any misfortune they may have encountered.
On the first day, story five, the Marchioness of Montferrat was being pursued by King Philippe Le Borgne whilst her husband was away on a Crusade to the Holy Land. His actions were spurred by tales of a courtier who boasted about how beautiful the lady was and such simple words left an impression on the King. He decided to not go on a Crusade but instead go to visit the Marchioness. He sent a letter prior to his arrival and the Marchioness, being the smart woman she was, basically assumed the worst and decided to thwart the horny King before he had his chance at anything. She ordered all the chickens to be collected and prepared as dishes for a royal banquet for the Kings arrival. (pg. 48-51)
When the King arrived, he was welcomed and then escorted to the feast. Chicken and chicken dishes were all around so the King, being the intuitive man he was asked if they only had hens and no cocks. The Marchioness said “No, my lord, but our women, whilst they may differ slightly from each other in their rank and the style of their dress, are made no different here than they are elsewhere.” (pg. 51) The King realized his great seduction would not work on such a sophisticated woman and simply learned to dine and dash. The wit the Marchioness used to avoid shaming a King for his lust in public while also being able to entertain him in a decent fashion allowed her to avoid a sticky situation. She kept her head about her and used what she had to protect herself from any harm and or other situations. Her humor is remarkable in this story because the stomach is the way to a man’s heart but, who would have thought that it was also the way to his brain. The moral of this story seems to correlate throughout the book as we go on to the next story about another witty woman.
The next story that conveys a sneaky type of wit is the ninth story of the first day. A gentlewoman of Gascony was assaulted by a pack of ruffians as she was returning from her pilgrimage. She knows she cannot get revenge with her own strength but she hopes to bring the matter up to the King to get some sort of compensation. Others around her tell her it will be a ineffective effort because the King is weak and allows wrong doings to go unpunished by law. The woman decides getting revenge will not be possible but to use her wit to prick the King’s ego. (pg. 61-62)
She presented herself to him stating “My lord, I do not come before you in the expectation of any redress for the wrong inflicted upon me, but by way of reparation for my injury, I beg you to instruct me how you manage to endure the wrongs which, as I am led to understand, are inflicted upon you, so I might learn from you to bear my own patience…” (pg. 62). This little speech from the woman perks the Kings ears and woke his pride. The king then firstly deals with the ruffians who assaulted the woman and worked his way down from there, punishing those who had scoffed at his crown or dared to say anything against him as King.
This gentlewoman, who in no way had any power had twisted the will of a King to do her will with just her wit. There was no army behind her yet the power of her words changed the fate of the King, herself, and the bandits who dared to attack her as she returned from a pilgrimage. The entire story seems to come full around as this smart woman uses her words to simply change someone in higher powers decisions, in comparison to the previous story of how the Marchioness avoids being seduced by the King with a chicken dinner.
The fourth story on the first day of the Decameron takes place in Lunigiana where there was a monk and an Abbot. The monk was simply walking around when he saw a beautiful girl. He takes her back to his cell to have a bit of fun with her. The Abbot overhears them and waits for the monk to come out guiltily. The monk, hearing footsteps outside his door peeks around to see his Abbot waiting for him. Calmly, the monk tells the girl that he was sated and will find a way of letting her out without being seen. The monk goes straight to the Abbots room and hands him the key to his cell saying “Sir, this morning I was not able to bring in all the faggots that were cut or me, so with your permission I should like to go to the wood and have them brought in.” (pg.46) The Abbot complies and see no reason to publicly shame the woman, as she might be from a distinct family and he didn’t want to offend them, and so he decided to let the monk go out to the woods to collect any faggots he hadn’t brought in.
The Abbot then went to the room and unlocked it. The girl inside freaked out and started crying feeling shame for the deeds that she had just committed. The Abbot, seeing how beautiful she was, decided nobody was there to judge upon him so why not join in the fun? He comforted her and then explained what he had in mind.
The monk didn’t actually go to the wood, but instead sneakily hid himself in the corridor and saw the Abbot go into his cell. When he perceived that the door had indeed been locked from within, he went to a chink in the wall and heard and saw everything that the Abbot had said and done to the girl. When the abbot returned to his room he heard the monk had returned from the woods. He went to the monk ready to scold him for giving in to sin and lock him up so he could keep the girl to himself.
The monk turned the tables on the Abbot by stating, “Sir, I have not yet been long enough in the Order of Saint Benedict to have had a chance of acquainting myself with all its special features, and you had failed until now to show me that monks have women to support, as well as fasts and vigils….” And so forth. The Abbot realized soon enough that the monk had seen everything and not wanting to be a hypocrite and punish the monk for something that he had just done himself, he decided to swear the monk to secrecy and helped the monk slip the girl out without anyone else noticing. It is thought that maybe afterwards they slipped her in from time to time. The monk using simply wit to not only turn a situation into a benefit for himself whilst avoiding punishment is quite an anecdote but also, he gets to keep the girl around and share in a fun activity with his Abbot, so win-win I guess.
These stories demonstrate how someone with less power and less money, and basically less everything learned to turn a situation around in their favor. Whether it be avoiding seduction or simply getting revenge, these characters show this moral throughout each of the stories. These stories have a similar thread or tune that ties them all together in this conglomerate that jumps out and ties to each other making the lesson that much more in depth.
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