The Decameron

The Decameron

by

Giovanni Boccaccio

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The Decameron: Day 7: Fourth Tale Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Lauretta begins her tale by praising Love, whose mighty powers regularly save his disciples. In Arezzo, a wealthy man named Tofano is unreasonably jealous of his beautiful wife, Monna Ghita. Frustrated by his baseless suspicions, she resolves to give him a reason to feel jealous, cultivates the affections of a young man, and becomes his lover. She takes advantage of Tofano’s “fondness for drink” by getting him “blind drunk” and putting him to bed before going to visit her lover.
Tofano, like others before and after him (for example, Ricciardo di Chinzica in II, 10; Ferondo in III, 8; Folco in IV, 3; the Jealous Merchant in VII, 5; and Arriguccio Berlinghieri in VII, 8), performs the stereotypical role of the jealous husband: he fears that his wife will stray sexually, and he keeps a close watch on her to prevent it. Unfortunately, it’s the jealousy itself that causes Ghita to stray. Tofano displays two forms of immoderation and excess for which he will be punished in the tale: excessive jealousy over a faithful wife (or, at least, faithful until he became jealous) and excessive drinking.
Themes
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Moderation and Excess Theme Icon
But eventually, Tofano notices that Monna Ghita never drinks with him, and becomes suspicious. One night he pretends to be drunk, locking her out of the house when she leaves to visit her lover, and refusing to let her in when she comes home again. When pleading doesn’t work, Monna Ghita swears she will make him sorry and threatens to throw herself into a well. This way, she would avoid disgrace and make it look like he murdered her. Tofano refuses to give in, and she throws a rock into the well instead. When he rushes out to save her, she runs into the house and locks him out. 
Initially, Ghita’s plan backfires on her and Tofano catches her in sneaking around. But Ghita has many more weapons in her arsenal, thanks to antifeminist stereotypes of the lying, cheating, shrewish (ill-natured) wife: when wheedling and pleading fail, she becomes angry and abusive and comes up with a second clever trick. Just as Tofano’s jealousy and drunkenness signaled his excessive personality and made him susceptible to his wife’s tricks, rushing headlong into Ghita’s trap demonstrates his devotion to his wife, despite her faults. It is also in character for a man who looks before he leaps and doesn’t consider the consequences of his actions moderately and rationally.
Themes
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
Moderation and Excess Theme Icon
Intelligence Theme Icon
Monna Ghita now heaps abuse on Tofano for his drunkenness, at such a loud volume that she draws the attention of the neighbors. She casts herself as the victim of his drunkenness; when he protests that she’s been sneaking out to visit her lover, she convinces the crowd of onlookers that he went out partying and then threatened to throw himself in the well if she didn’t let him in. Siding with her, the crowd maligns Tofano.
Ghita continues to play the part of the shrew-wife, heaping verbal abuse on her husband. And Tofano continues to demonstrate his excessive nature in shouting at her until they wake the neighbors. His inability to control himself means that he advertises his cuckolding to the neighborhood. And the reputation he’s developed for drunkenness (another form of excess) plays into Ghita’s hands and makes her accusations against him believable.
Themes
Men and Women Theme Icon
Moderation and Excess Theme Icon
Eventually, the commotion reaches Monna Ghita’s family, who come to their home, beat Tofano “black and blue,” then take her back with them. But because he loves her, Tofano eventually succeeds in arranging her return. He promises to never be jealous again and allows her to “amuse herself to her heart’s content” if she does it discreetly.
Ghita’s family retrieve her, which ends the standoff with Tofano. But it also demonstrates the position of women in a patriarchal society: if Ghita is not (and cannot safely be) under the authority of her husband, she must revert to the authority and protection of her family. She isn’t free to act outside of these protections, even if she finds clever ways to subvert them. And while the day’s theme didn’t specify that the women needed to get away with their tricks, in the end, Ghita does, thanks to her quick thinking. Not only does Tofano forgive her and take her back, but he allows her to do what she will in the future as long as she doesn’t bring shame on him—even though he draws attention to her nighttime wanderings himself. This story has thematic and narrative details that closely mirror the tale of Arriguccio Berlinghieri and his wife Sismonda in VII, 8.
Themes
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
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