The Decameron

The Decameron

by

Giovanni Boccaccio

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In Pampinea’s eighth tale (VIII, 7), Elena is a young and lovely widow who has taken a lover instead of remarrying and who becomes the object of scholar Rinieri’s affections. She is vain, selfish, and shallow, willing to string Rinieri along because of her vanity and then to trust he has her best interests at heart even after she harmed him. She is an example of the “cruel” woman who ignores a man’s love, going even farther in playing a mean-spirited and humiliating trick on Rinieri. Her painful punishment is an extremely misogynistic lesson that women shouldn’t try to outsmart men or pretend to have virtue when they’re willing to take lovers.

Elena Quotes in The Decameron

The The Decameron quotes below are all either spoken by Elena or refer to Elena. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Love and Sex Theme Icon
).
Day 8: Seventh Tale Quotes

Feeling somewhat aggrieved that things had not worked out as the scholar had told her, she said to herself: “I strongly suspect that he was trying to give me a night like the one I provided for him; but if that was his intention, he’s chosen a feeble way of avenging himself, for the night he spent was at least three times as long, and the cold was far more severe.” But as she had no desire to be found up there in broad daylight, now prepared to descend, only to discover that the ladder had gone.

Related Characters: Pampinea (speaker), Elena, Rinieri
Page Number: 597
Explanation and Analysis:

But even supposing I were a charitable man, you are not the sort of woman who deserves to be treated with charity. For a savage beast of your sort, death is the only fit punishment, the only just revenge, though admittedly, had I been dealing with a human being I should already have done enough […] I intend to harry you with all the hatred and all the strength of a man who is fighting his oldest enemy.

...it was not for lack of trying that you failed to murder a gentleman (as you called me just now), who can bring more benefit to humanity in a single day than a hundred thousand women of your sort can bring to it for as long as the world shall last.

Related Characters: Rinieri (speaker), Elena
Page Number: 600
Explanation and Analysis:

And even supposing that all my little schemes had failed, I should still have had my pen, with which I should have lampooned you so mercilessly, and with so much eloquence, that when my writings came to your notice (as they certainly would), you would have wished, a thousand times a day, that you had never been born.

The power of the pen is far greater than people suppose who have not proved it by experience. I swear to God […] that you yourself, to say nothing of others, would have been so mortified by the things I had written that you would have put out your eyes rather than look upon yourself ever again.

Related Characters: Rinieri (speaker), Elena
Page Number: 602
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Decameron LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Decameron PDF

Elena Character Timeline in The Decameron

The timeline below shows where the character Elena appears in The Decameron. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Day 8: Seventh Tale
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
Intelligence Theme Icon
...while before the company came together, a very beautiful, proud, and gently bred widow named Elena lives in Florence. Swearing to never remarry, she has taken a “charming young man” of... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Believing Elena to be interested, Rinieri cultivates her maid as a go-between, and when the maid carries... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Elena invites Rinieri to visit her after dark on the day after Christmas, and the maid... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
Moderation and Excess Theme Icon
Seeing Rinieri left outside to freeze to death nearly convinces Elena’s lover that she doesn’t care for the scholar at all. While they’re having sex all... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
Elena calls Rinieri through a crack in the door. He gratefully expects to be allowed in... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
After some time, fortune gives Rinieri a chance to enact his revenge. Elena’s lover leaves her for another woman, and she’s heartbroken. Her maid thinks Rinieri may know... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
Moderation and Excess Theme Icon
Elena, forgetting how badly she mistreated him, pours out her troubles to Rinieri. Although magic displeases... (full context)
Men and Women Theme Icon
Faith vs. Religion Theme Icon
Rinieri describes the ritual. He will make a tin figure of her lover. Elena must wait for a dark night, then hold the figure in her hand while she... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
...Rinieri makes the tin figure and writes out some nonsense spell words, sending both to Elena. Then he  takes a servant with him to a friend’s house near Elena’s farm. Elena... (full context)
Men and Women Theme Icon
Moderation and Excess Theme Icon
Elena climbs to the top of the tower and recites the spell while Rinieri silently dismantles... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
Moderation and Excess Theme Icon
By the time the sun rises, Elena is so desperate she’s nearly suicidal. While searching around for help, she sees Rinieri. Lying... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
Rinieri tells Elena that she could have expected some compassion from him now if she had shown him... (full context)
Men and Women Theme Icon
Moderation and Excess Theme Icon
Rinieri resents Elena’s attempt to avoid punishment “for [her] wickedness” by appealing to his “better nature.” Even if... (full context)
Men and Women Theme Icon
If Elena is so anxious to descend the tower, Rinieri suggests that she make him happy by... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
Rinieri retorts that Elena confided in him out of desperation, not respect. He brags that he could have punished... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
Moderation and Excess Theme Icon
Seizing on his new love, Elena asks Rinieri to pity her for the sake of his lady, and he pretends to... (full context)
Men and Women Theme Icon
Moderation and Excess Theme Icon
Late in the afternoon, Rinieri returns. A weakening Elena bursts into tears and begs him in God’s name to end his unreasonably severe revenge,... (full context)
Men and Women Theme Icon
...that his revenge is complete—although he would like to punish her maid, too. He brings Elena’s clothes to her maid and has his servant take her to Elena. The maid arrives... (full context)
Men and Women Theme Icon
Elena undergoes a lengthy and painful recuperation from her burns, shedding her skin several times over... (full context)
Day 8: Eighth Tale
Men and Women Theme Icon
Moderation and Excess Theme Icon
While the ladies consider Elena’s punishment grievous, their compassion is restrained by “the knowledge that she had partially brought [it]... (full context)