As the sun begins to set, Pampinea addresses the company, crowning Filomena the next sovereign. Filomena overcomes her modesty and gives her first commands: she confirms the assignments that Pampinea gave the servants and declares that the next day’s activities will be the same—free time, breakfast, siesta, storytelling—except that she will announce a theme, so everyone has time to prepare their story in advance.
In the countryside and away from the chaos of plague-ridden Florence, the brigata live a moderate, orderly, and enjoyable life. The contrast between the two worlds highlights the importance of moderation in human societies but also contributes to the otherworldly, idyllic, and even Edenic feeling of the Tuscan countryside—the lives of the brigata are lovely, but aspirational, and it’s not likely that anyone could replicate them in real life.
Everyone is subject to fortune, so Filomena wants to hear stories about “those who after suffering a series of misfortunes are brought to an unexpected state of happiness.” Dioneo asks that an exception be made so that he can tell his stories on any theme he likes. To avoid messing up the flow, however, he offers to always go last. Because Filomena knows that he’s funny and entertaining, and that he can change the mood if the stories get too heavy, she agrees.
Filomena introduces the first theme for the tales; except for the first and the ninth days, a predetermined theme links the tales together. Importantly, the first theme is fortune. The goddess Fortuna survived the shift from the Roman religion to Christianity and persisted as a powerful symbol into the Middle Ages, where the turns of her wheel, which changed a person’s luck for the better or worse, were often seen as an extension of God’s divine will. Given the horrors the brigata left behind in Florence, it’s not surprising that Filomena would ask for tales where bad fortune is followed by good fortune and a happy ending. This is also the introduction of Dioneo’s exception, which allows him to tell The Decameron’s dirtiest stories without upsetting the carefully balanced, moderate order of the rest of the tales.
After supper, the company plays music and dances while Emilia sings a love song in which the singer delights in her own beauty so much that she can’t love anyone else. Although they wonder what it means, the company are pleased enough with the song to join in on the chorus.
The songs at the end of each day are often places where Giovanni Boccaccio includes the tropes of the fin’amors (refined loving) that was widespread in medieval literature and popular culture. The singer’s delight in her own beauty invokes the classical myth of Narcissus, a youth so exceptionally beautiful that he fell in love with his own reflection in a pond and eventually died of starvation when he couldn’t tear himself away, making him an example of the dangers of immoderation as well. Narcissus and his pool (often transformed into a fountain in medieval texts) are key symbols of fin’amors.