The Decameron

The Decameron

by

Giovanni Boccaccio

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The Decameron: Day 9: Seventh Tale Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Pampinea picks up on the nighttime theme by telling a tale featuring a dream which comes true. Talano d’Imolese is a respectable gentleman who lives with a terribly shrewish wife called Margarita. She is beautiful, but also an “argumentative, disagreeable, and self-willed” person who refuses to heed anyone’s advice. One night, while they are at their country estate, Talano dreams that a ferocious wolf came out of the woods and grabbed Margarita by the throat, mauling her. She escaped but her throat was “torn to ribbons.” Although she is the bane of his existence, he recommends that she stay inside to avoid harm.
On the previous day, Pampinea told a decidedly misogynistic tale in which scholar Rinieri brutally punished Elena for repudiating and mocking him (VIII, 7). This tale returns to the stock characters and morals of antifeminist literature, picking up on the traits of vanity, peevishness, and disobedience she criticized in Elena. The portrait of Margarita is extremely unflattering. It is a parody of wifely disobedience in that she doesn’t just fail to obey her husband, she actively works to contradict his wishes. In contrast, her husband is presented as a gentle soul who still has tenderness for his prickly wife.
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Margarita asks why, and Talano d’Imolese tells her his dream. She “toss[es] her head in the air” and declares that the dream expresses his wish that harm would come to her rather than offering a warning about the future. When he tries to suggest that she at least stay away from the woods, she suspects that he plans to meet a lover there. Instead of avoiding them, she goes directly to the woods to wait for him and his imagined lover.
As an embodiment of an antifeminist stereotype, Margarita is perversely opposed to anything Talano says to her. She also exhibits suspicion and jealousy when she misconstrues his warnings as a ploy to allow him to meet a lover. In disregarding her husband’s words, she commits the sin for which she will be punished, and she places herself within the wolf’s reach.
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After a while, a wolf comes along and attacks Margarita. The force of its grip on her throat keeps her from screaming as it drags her away. Luckily, some shepherds see her and scare it off, rescuing her from its grasp. They take her home, where she eventually recovers. But she’s “ashamed to show herself in public” because her face and neck are permanently scarred. Thus, she regrets her refusal to heed Talano d’Imolese’s warning.
In the antifeminist context of this tale, Margarita’s disfigurement is clearly intended as punishment for her earlier disobedience. Her only redeeming quality was her beauty, and now she has lost even that: her external ugliness mirrors the malice that characterized her relationship towards her husband. 
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