The Decameron

The Decameron

by

Giovanni Boccaccio

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The Decameron: Day 9: Eighth Tale Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Just as the rest of the day’s tales have almost all recalled something said on an earlier occasion, Lauretta’s tale will answer Pampinea’s from Day 7 by describing a much less brutal vendetta where the revenge outweighed the initial harm.
This tale looks back to VII, 8—the story of Elena’s punishment for repudiating and mocking the lovesick scholar Rinieri—but in its critique of excessive revenge, it also engages with the imbalance and excess typified by Cecco Fortarrigo in IX, 4.
Themes
Moderation and Excess Theme Icon
In Florence, there is a glutton called Ciacco. His humble means are unequal to his appetite, but he’s cultured and witty enough to impose himself on the wealthy for meals. His rival in professional mooching is Biondello, an elegantly dressed, dapper little man.
Thanks to an episode in Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy in which a glutton named “Ciacco” speaks to Dante in hell, by Giovanni Boccaccio’s day, the name had become a shorthand for those with excessive tastes for food and wine. Ciacco’s rival, Biondello, combines the sins of gluttony and vanity in his dapper appearance, although the two otherwise seem evenly matched. 
Themes
Moderation and Excess Theme Icon
One morning during Lent, Ciacco finds Biondello buying fish at the market. Although he’s buying for Vieri de’ Cherchi, Biondello tells Ciacco the fish is for a meal at Corso Donati’s home, which he suggests Ciacco attend. At what seems like an appropriate hour, Ciacco presents himself at Corso Donati’s home and is welcomed to breakfast. But he is surprised when the meal ends without a hint of the fine fish. Indignant at Biondello’s prank, Ciacco vows to repay him. 
During Lent (the 40 days leading up to the Christian holiday of Easter), Christians were expected to fast (abstain from certain types of food) and practice penance. Eating meat was not permissible during Lent, although fish was permitted on certain days. Thus, Biondello’s trick involves convincing Ciacco that a particularly spectacular meal is about to happen at Corso Donati’s home during a period in which spectacular meals are hard to come by. Rather than taking this as an opportunity to reconsider his excessive appetites, Ciacco instead bends his mind towards revenge.
Themes
Moderation and Excess Theme Icon
Faith vs. Religion Theme Icon
A few days later, Ciacco hires a man to take a wine bottle to Messer Filippo Argenti—a wealthy and ill-tempered man—with a request from Biondello to “rubify [it] … with some of [his] excellent red wine.” Filippo, quick to take offense, is enraged by what he believes  to be Biondello’s mockery. So when Ciacco tells Biondello that Messer Filippo wants to see him, and Biondello approaches the gentleman, Filippo punches him in the face, tears his clothes, musses his hair, and dumps him in the mud. A group of onlookers eventually disentangle Biondello and explain about the request for wine. Impotently protesting his innocence, Biondello slinks home. 
The prank that Ciacco settles on—which involves making it seem like Biondello is greedily asking a famously wealthy (and wrathful) man for a handout—recalls the tale of Geri Spina’s servant greedily asking Cisti the Baker for an excessive amount of his fine wine in VI, 2. The punishment Biondello receives at Filippo Argenti’s hands is greater than the harm Ciacco received (especially since he still got a free meal, just not one as nice as he was expecting), but it still falls short of the grievous bodily harm Rinieri visits on Elena in VIII, 7.
Themes
Moderation and Excess Theme Icon
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After his bruises heal, Biondello meets Ciacco in the street. Ciacco asks how Filippo Argenti’s wine tasted, and Biondello replies he thought it was as good as Ciacco must have found Corso Donati’s fish. Warning him that another invitation to breakfast like that will earn Biondello another one of these drinks, Ciacco warns Biondello that it’s better to silently dislike him than to try to pay him back.
With Ciacco revenged on Biondello, balance is restored, and the two men enter a stable,  if antagonistic, peace.
Themes
Moderation and Excess Theme Icon