The Decameron

The Decameron

by

Giovanni Boccaccio

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The Decameron: Day 6: Introduction Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In the morning, the members of the brigata wander the gardens and fields, talking about previous days’ tales. After breakfast, some nap, others play games, and Dioneo and Lauretta sing about Troilus and Criseyde. As they gather for the day’s stories, a commotion arises in the kitchen. The steward (Parmeno) explains that Liscia and Tindaro are arguing. Elissa commands them to appear and explain themselves.
The fact that members of the brigata are still discussing previous days’ tales suggests the power of storytelling generally, and the value of Giovanni Boccaccio’s stories, including both The Decameron and his version of the Troilus and Criseyde story, titled Il Filostrato, which he wrote in the 1330s. The quarrel between Liscia and Parmeno is the only time that anything infringes on the country pleasures enjoyed by the brigata. Elissa was able to get Dioneo to restrain his excessive naughtiness the day before (V, Concl.), and this argument offers Elissa another opportunity to show her ability to maintain the brigata’s sense of moderation and balance.
Themes
Moderation and Excess Theme Icon
Tindaro is about to speak when Liscia, spoiling for a fight and considering him an “ignorant lout,” interrupts. She tells Elissa that Tindaro thinks he knows Sicofante’s Wife better than Liscia herself. Tindaro tried to tell her that Sicofante had to “force an entry” into her “Castle Dusk” on their wedding night because she was a virgin. In fact, he found easy entry. Tindaro credulously believes that girls squander their youths waiting for their husbands and fathers to arrange their marriages. She doesn’t know one woman who went to her husband a virgin, and most of the wives she knows get up to tricks behind their husbands’ backs.
This argument points directly back to some of the claims made by the Beldam in Dioneo’s fifth tale (the last tale told before the argument). Both claim that women who wait for husbands to fulfill their sexual needs are foolish and wasting their precious time and youthful beauty. Both are rooted in deeply misogynistic views of women as lustful, dishonest creatures. In addition, Liscia herself embodies antifeminist stereotypes about women’s love of argument and gossip. The metaphor, in which Sicofante had to force his entry into his wife’s “Castle Dusk,” describes a common medieval understanding that equated female virginity with the integrity of the hymen (a membrane partially covering the vagina). Sicofante’s easy entry means that someone before him cleared the way to his wife’s “castle.” And the very use of “castle” to discuss sexual access subtly reinforces the idea that a woman’s sexual integrity (virginity) was considered a valuable possession.
Themes
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
Elissa can’t silence Liscia during this speech, but when it ends, she asks Dioneo to pronounce a verdict. He agrees with Liscia. Elissa must command her to hold her tongue when she begins to taunt Tindaro, then commands them to return to the kitchen before Liscia takes over the entire day with her “prattle.” She then asks Filomena to begin.
Liscia’s excessive talking and disrespect for authority—Elissa can’t get a word in edgewise—make her an embodiment of more antifeminist stereotypes. By posing the case to the rest of the brigata, Elissa suggests a common feature of fin’amors (refined loving) literature: the so-called “court of love,” in which ladies and gentlemen would debate the merits of a particular scenario according to the codes of fin’amors. In this case, however, there is no debate: Dioneo asserts that Liscia is right and that women are, by nature, lustful.
Themes
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon