The Decameron

The Decameron

by

Giovanni Boccaccio

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The Decameron: Day 1: Ninth Tale Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Elissa, hoping to give the company a good and useful moral, relates how a Gascon Gentlewoman, returning from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, is raped while passing through Cyprus. She wants to complain to the King of Cyprus, but he’s so cowardly that he not only fails to punish criminals generally, but also won’t even defend himself from insults. Without hope of justice, she hopes to make herself feel better by taunting the king.
The King of Cypress—cowardly, unjust, and thin-skinned—is the opposite of what a good king should be. In this way, he provides a parallel with Ermino de’ Grimaldi, whose wealth and status should make him generous, rather than stingy (I, 8). As in the previous tale, the Gascon Gentlewoman realizes that a direct statement of the King’s failings won’t accomplish much of anything, so she relies on her intelligence to find some form of relief for her suffering—in this case, mocking a man who should be able to protect her but who does not. Her experience of rape while on pilgrimage (a trip to visit sites of religious importance, usually in the area that is modern-day Israel and Palestine) points to the gender-based violence to which medieval women were subject, and her inability to avenge herself in any meaningful way emphasizes this vulnerability.
Themes
Men and Women Theme Icon
The Gascon Gentlewoman asks the King of Cyprus to give her advice about how to endure being wronged, since he’s a master at ignoring insults. Her words seem to rouse the King from sleep, and he both avenges her rape and from that day forward defends his reputation with vigor.
The Gascon Gentlewoman is the book’s second example of the power of feminine wit to rebuke and correct men. Female wisdom and retort are a running theme of the book, which Pampinea picks up when she starts to speak next. 
Themes
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Intelligence Theme Icon