The Decameron

The Decameron

by

Giovanni Boccaccio

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Decameron can help.

The Decameron: Day 1: Seventh Tale Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The company is delighted by Emilia’s story, and after the laughter dies down, Filostrato prefaces his tale with the claim that it’s easy to hit a sitting target, like the evil clerical greed. In contrast, he thinks his hero deserves more praise because he criticizes a wealthy and powerful prince.
Filostrato’s tale moves from the “soft” target of greedy priests and sinful monks into much more delicate territory. Everyone criticizes the clergy, but it’s much more dangerous to criticize the rich and powerful.
Themes
Class and Character Theme Icon
Can Grande della Scala is one of the best princes Italy has seen in modern times. He invites courtiers and entertainers to a festival, but then changes his mind and sends everyone home with poor token gifts. One of the invited entertainers, the witty Bergamino, hangs around but while he waits, he must pay his innkeeper with two rich robes given to him as gifts by other princes.
Like other characters throughout the book, Can Grande della Scala is based on a historical figure who was renowned (and praised by Dante) for his generosity. In the context of a ruler’s court, the “gifts” that Bergamino expects are payment for his services as an entertainer. In this way, they function to mediate the relationship between the ruler and others. He’s not being greedy, but rather is waiting around for the fair payment of his wages.
Themes
Class and Character Theme Icon
When Bergamino is down to his last robe, he tells Can Grande the story of witty Parisian priest Primas, who decided to visit the famously generous Abbot of Cluny at breakfast to get a free meal. Since he had to walk a long way, he brought three loaves of bread to eat if he got lost. At the monastery, the Abbot disliked his scruffy guest and refused to allow him a meal. Primas ate his bread, and by the time he started the third loaf, the Abbot felt guilty and asked his guest’s identity. Discovering that he was none other than Primas, the Abbot gave him food and gifts. Chastened by this parable, Can Grande settled Bergamino’s bill at the inn, rewarded him richly, and sent him on his way.
Like Filomena (I, 3), Filostrato nests the story of Primas and the Abbot of Cluny within the story of Can Grande and Bergamino. This allows Bergamino (like Melchizedek in I, 3) to demonstrate wisdom and tact, because he’s not directly implicating Can Grande even while he’s criticizing his lack of generosity.
Themes
Intelligence Theme Icon