The Decameron

The Decameron

by

Giovanni Boccaccio

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The Decameron: Day 1: Eighth Tale Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Lauretta picks up on the theme of greed and rebuke with the tale of Ermino de’ Grimaldi, the wealthiest and most miserly Italian of his day, also known as “Ermino Skinflint.” While he’s busy building his wealth, a courtier named Guiglielmo Borsiere arrives in Genoa. In an aside, Lauretta reminds her audience  that back in Grimaldi’s day, courtiers were refined and eloquent, occupied in making peace and negotiating treaties, unlike modern courtiers who engage in lewd acts, indulge gossip, and generally sow divisions among people.
Lauretta’s story of Ermino de’ Grimaldi picks up on the stinginess shown by the Abbot of Cluny and Can Grande della Scalla in the previous tale. In doing so, Giovanni Boccaccio draws on proverbial Florentine stereotypes about Genoese stinginess. Guiglielmo Borsiere appears in Dante’s Inferno, as a homosexual who nevertheless demonstrated virile bravery and generous manners. Lauretta’s aside provides an opportunity for the book to look back at the good old days when courtiers were moderate in their manners and refined in their attitudes.
Themes
Moderation and Excess Theme Icon
Guiglielmo visits Grimaldi because he’s curious about the miser’s reputation. Grimaldi seeks his advice on the image he should commission to decorate the hall—he wants something no one has ever seen. Guiglielmo can’t suggest something totally new, but he can suggest something that Grimaldi hasn’t ever seen: generosity. Chastened, Grimaldi becomes the most generous man in Genoa from that day forward.
Like other protagonists in Day I’s tales, Guiglielmo tactfully rebukes Grimaldi for his failings in a way that preserves the latter’s dignity. Thus, Grimaldi can change his miserly ways without losing face and find his reputation enhanced for the rebuke, rather than diminished by it. 
Themes
Moderation and Excess Theme Icon