The Decameron

The Decameron

by

Giovanni Boccaccio

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The Decameron: Day 6: First Tale Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Filomena prefaces her story with Pampinea’s words from the first day about wit being the best way to improve polite conversation. Unfortunately, she continues, it is exceptionally rare in modern ladies.
In introducing her sixth tale, Filomena quotes something Pampinea said in the introduction to her first (I, 10) almost word for word. In painting the witty woman as the rare ideal, her statement simultaneously points to the antifeminism that contextualizes most of the tales, and contributes to the book’s celebration of intelligence generally. 
Themes
Men and Women Theme Icon
Intelligence Theme Icon
Most of the company probably knows—personally or by reputation—their fellow Florentine, Madonna Oretta. The wife of Geri Spina has a “silver tongue,” and the excellent character that comes from “gentle breeding.” While walking with her in the country one day, a knight offers to make her journey as pleasant as if she was riding a horse by telling a story.
The knight offers a clever metaphor for a journey when he compares his story to the comfort of riding on a horse. But because Filomena warns readers that Madonna Oretta is an excellent example of womanhood, nobility, and wit, it's clear that the knight must do an excellent job to make good on his promise. 
Themes
Intelligence Theme Icon
Class and Character Theme Icon
His theme is excellent, but he bungles the story with redundant phrasing, repeated plot points, and asides about his lack of skill. His terrible performance makes Madonna Oretta feel physically ill. She interrupts him, noting that his “horse” trots very jerkily, and she would like to dismount. The knight accepts her witty criticism cheerfully and turns to tales he can tell more skillfully.
The idea of the badly-told story making Madonna Oretta physically ill recalls the horse metaphor—her reaction is like an aural motion sickness from trying to follow the knight’s convoluted narration. In a self-consciously constructed literary project that offers as  many tales entertaining tales as The Decameron does, it also suggests how difficult the task is that Giovanni Boccaccio has pulled off with such elegance. Aristocratic Oretta’s retort, witty and funny enough to avoid coming across as rude, contrasts with the abuse that Liscia (a common servant) heaped on Tindaro during the argument that immediately preceded the tale, because she was able to disarm the knight without making him feel belittled, angry, or hurt.
Themes
Intelligence Theme Icon
Class and Character Theme Icon
Quotes