The Decameron

The Decameron

by

Giovanni Boccaccio

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The Decameron: Day 7: Seventh Tale Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Filomena tells the next tale. In Paris, Lodovico (primarily called by his assumed name, Anichino),  the son of a Florentine nobleman-turned-merchant, grows up in the French royal household. As a young man, he hears stories about Madonna Beatrice, the incredibly beautiful wife of Bolognese nobleman Egano de’ Galluzzi. Based on her reputation alone, he falls in love. Eventually, he gets permission from his father to go on pilgrimage as an excuse to see her.
Filomena’s tale is heavily invested in (and drawn from) medieval romances and the ideas and codes of fin’amors (refined loving). These include the noble status of both Anichino and his beloved, Madonna Beatrice; the idea of falling in love with her by reputation, from afar (“amor du lonh”); and the suggestion of religious imagery in the pilgrimage. Although Anichino isn’t going on a true pilgrimage (a trip to a holy site for purposes of religious devotion), his trip to see (and worship) the woman he’s fallen in love with is a secular, amorous pilgrimage. The overpowering nature of Anichino’s desire for a woman he's never seen with his own eyes points to the irresistible power of love over human behavior.
Themes
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Class and Character Theme Icon
Taking the name Anichino, he travels to Bologna, where he finds Madonna Beatrice to be even lovelier than reported. He insinuates himself into her household as a servant to Egano de’ Galluzzi. Anichino serves his master diligently and soon becomes his favorite. One day, while Egano is out, Beatrice invites Anichino to play chess, which he lets her win. And as her attendants drift away, he tells her who he really is, how he heard of her reputation, and how much he loves her. He begs her to pity him and grant his desires. While many men have wooed Beatrice, none have moved her before Anichino, whose love she immediately reciprocates. She tells Anichino to sneak into her room and wake her around midnight. 
One of the primary metaphors of fin’amors casts the woman as a goddess-like figure of worship, while the man who loves her casts himself as her humble servant, reversing the normal gender hierarchy. In this tale, Anichino literalizes this metaphor by taking on the role of a servant to get close enough to Beatrice to tell her about his feelings. The depth of his love and his genuine devotion move Beatrice in a way that other men haven’t; this both suggests the power of love and implies that Anichino’s devotion is superior to what her other suitors felt. The artificially reversed gender hierarchy of fin’amors is also on display when Anichino lets Madonna Beatrice win the chess game, both literalizing her conquest of his heart and putting her in the superior position.
Themes
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
Class and Character Theme Icon
When Anichino steals into Madonna Beatrice’s room and places his hand on her bosom, she takes hold of it and tosses and turns in the bed until she wakes Egano de’ Galluzzi. She then asks him which of their servants is most loyal, and when he answers that it’s Anichino, she tells him that Anichino had asked her to “minister to his pleasures” that day. Thinking that Beatrice has tricked him, a terrified Anichino tries to free himself from her grasp. But then she tells her husband that she promised to meet Anichino in the garden after midnight; if he puts on her clothes and waits there, he can see the proof himself. Egano struggles into her skirt and leaves the lovers alone.
The scene in Madonna Beatrice’s bedroom injects danger into the tale, once again replicating the outlines of a courtly romance (where a knight loves a lady and does brave deeds according to the dictates of fin’amors) more than a fabliau (a story where a woman cheats on her husband). The day’s theme means that the story will replicate the latter more closely, so the contrast between these two genres also generates humor, as does Anichino’s alternating terror and relief. To trick her husband—and fulfill the day’s theme—Beatrice basically describes the situation accurately…until she portrays herself as the virtuous wife joining forces with her husband to punish Anichino for his adulterous lust and his attempt to cross class boundaries to sleep with his mistress.
Themes
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
Class and Character Theme Icon
As frightened as Anichino was previously, he is equally overjoyed to get into bed with Madonna Beatrice now. After a while, she tells him to dress and go to the garden, where he can entertain them both by beating the gullible Egano de’ Galluzzi with a stick. Seeing Anichino approaching, Egano (in character as his wife) prepares to embrace him. But Anichino curses “Beatrice” for her willingness to cheat on her husband and proceeds to beat “her.” Battered and bruised, Egano returns to his bedroom,  pleased to think that his wife is virtuous, and his servant is so loyal. He frequently laughs over the night’s events, while Madonna Beatrice and Anichino find it much easier to be together whenever they want, at least as long as he stays in Bologna.
The wife and her lover not only duping the husband but inflicting physical violence on him is a standard plot point in fabliaux. It displaces the punishment for the guilty sex from the lover (the truly responsible party) to the husband, suggesting that stupidity is a bigger sin than adulterous sex. In this way, fabliaux perfectly demonstrate the book’s thesis that the irresistible power of love drives human behavior. And, like other husbands in this day’s tales, Egano repays the trick played on him with undeserved respect and trust for the wife who’s cheating on him and the servant who just beat him black and blue.
Themes
Love and Sex Theme Icon
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