The Decameron

The Decameron

by

Giovanni Boccaccio

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Gardens Symbol Analysis

Gardens Symbol Icon

Gardens symbolize the possibilities that exist outside of the traditional spaces of society or the constraints of “real life.” The book begins in plague-ravaged Florence, but when the ten members of the brigata (the ten young people who narrate the tales) agree to leave the town to get some relief from the danger, trauma, and social upheaval caused by the plague, they retreat to a series of country estates which have lush and beautiful gardens. Throughout The Decameron, gardens are distinguished from nature by the care and order with which they are planned and constructed; they contain decorative elements like paths, fountains, flowerbeds, walls, and semi-domesticated animals. They thus represent the order that human beings can impose on chaos and function as a middle space between the wholly constructed world of the city and the often-lawless realm of nature. And they belong to the literary tradition of the locus amoenus, or “pleasant place,” representing safety and harbor from the danger and the harshness of life—especially in the context of the Black Death as described on Day I. Pleasant gardens are also markers of class, belonging to princes like Tancredi and King Frederick or wealthy, often noble men like Neri degli Uberti, Bernardo Puccini, and Torello.

The Decameron’s gardens are also linked to the medieval idea of the hortus conclusus, or “enclosed garden,” which has its roots in the Song of Songs, a book in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. In medieval Christian theology, the hortus conclusus is linked to the Garden of Eden and the inviolable purity of the Virgin Mary; in The Decameron, gardens represent an Edenic space apart from the messiness of life and the pain of death. In medieval literature, the hortus conclusus is further linked to fin’amors (refined love) stories. Accordingly, lovers like Andreuola and Gabriotto, Simona and Pasquino, Caterina and Ricciardo de’ Manardi, and Dianora and Ansaldo meet in gardens. In fabliaux-inspired tales (raunchy stories about illicit sex), the association of gardens with love can devolve into metaphors for female genitalia: Massetto wants to tend the nuns’ garden and their sexual needs; lovers access the bedrooms of the Florentine Noblewoman and Francesco’s Wife through their gardens; and Dioneo describes Tingoccio’s affair with Monna Mita as gardening in her rich soil.

Gardens Quotes in The Decameron

The The Decameron quotes below all refer to the symbol of Gardens. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Love and Sex Theme Icon
).
Day 3: Introduction Quotes

The sight of this garden, and the perfection of its arrangement, with its shrubs, its streamlets, and the fountain from which they originated, gave so much pleasure … that they all began to maintain that if Paradise were constructed on earth, it was inconceivable that it could take any other form, nor could they imagine any way in which the garden’s beauty could possibly be enhanced … [And] the garden was liberally stocked with as many as a hundred different varieties of perfectly charming animals […] Here were some rabbits emerging from a warren, over there hares were running, elsewhere they could observe some deer lying on the ground, whilst in yet another place young fawns were grazing. And apart from these, they saw numerous harmless creatures of many other kinds, roaming about at leisure as though they were quite tame, all of which greatly added to their already considerable delight.

Related Characters: Boccaccio (speaker)
Related Symbols: Gardens
Page Number: 191
Explanation and Analysis:
Day 5: Tenth Tale Quotes

And since, as on previous occasions, the task I am about to perform has no other object than to dispel your melancholy, enamoured ladies, and provide you with laughter and merriment, I shall tell you the ensuing tale, for it may well afford enjoyment although its subject matter is not entirely seemly. As you listen, do as you would when you enter a garden, and stretch forth your tender hands to pluck the roses, leaving the thorns where they are. This you will succeed in doing if you leave the knavish husband to his ill desserts and his inequities, whilst you laugh gaily at the amorous intrigues of his wife, pausing where occasion warrants, to commiserate with the woes of her lover.

Related Characters: Dioneo (speaker)
Related Symbols: Gardens
Page Number: 432-433
Explanation and Analysis:
Day 10: Fifth Tale Quotes

“What I want is this,” replied the lady, “In the month of January that is now approaching, I want a garden, somewhere near the town, that is full of green plants, flowers, and leafy trees, exactly as though it were the month of May. And if he fails to provide it, let him take good care never to send you or anyone else to me again. For if he should provoke me any further, I shall no longer keep this matter a secret as I have until now, but I shall seek to rid myself of his attentions by complaining to my husband and kinsfolk.

Related Characters: Dianora (speaker), Ansaldo Gradense, Gilberto, Emilia
Related Symbols: Gardens
Page Number: 727
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Decameron LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Decameron PDF

Gardens Symbol Timeline in The Decameron

The timeline below shows where the symbol Gardens appears in The Decameron. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Day 1: Introduction
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Moderation and Excess Theme Icon
Intelligence Theme Icon
...miles outside of Florence. It’s a palace on a hill surrounded by shrubs, trees, courtyards, gardens, meadows, and wells of cool water. It’s well-stocked, clean, and decked with flowers. Dioneo declares... (full context)
Day 1: Tenth Tale
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Moderation and Excess Theme Icon
...that he’s in love, they begin to mock him. They invite him into their splendid garden and ask him why he loves Malgherida, who has more appropriate suitors. (full context)
Day 2: Introduction
Moderation and Excess Theme Icon
As the sun rises, illuminating the gardens and meadows, the young men and women wake up to wander through the pleasant countryside... (full context)
Day 2: Seventh Tale
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
Moderation and Excess Theme Icon
...should know how lethal her beauty can be, he prepares a banquet in a beautiful garden so that he can show her off. (full context)
Day 3: Introduction
Moderation and Excess Theme Icon
...is every bit as beautiful and well-appointed as the first. It has a lavish, walled garden so full of fragrant flower beds, elaborate fountains, and clever streamlets that they consider it... (full context)
Day 3: First Tale
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Intelligence Theme Icon
Faith vs. Religion Theme Icon
A long time ago, there is a convent with a very beautiful garden where eight nuns and their Abbess live. When their gardener quits, he complains to a... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Intelligence Theme Icon
Masetto plans to tend more than one kind of garden, and because the Abbess thinks he’s “lost his tale as well as his tongue,” she... (full context)
Day 3: Eighth Tale
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Moderation and Excess Theme Icon
Intelligence Theme Icon
Faith vs. Religion Theme Icon
...lovely, and Ferondo is jealous and protective. The three often walk together in the monastery’s grounds, and eventually Ferondo’s Wife comes to the Abbot for confession. (full context)
Day 3: Conclusion
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
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The company remains in the delightful garden—some hunting, some singing songs about romances, others playing games—until supper, after which they prepare to... (full context)
Day 4: Introduction
Love and Sex Theme Icon
...of the fourth day, the companions arise and pleasantly while away the hours in the garden until Filostrato gathers them together and asks Fiammetta to tell the first tale. (full context)
Day 4: First Tale
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Men and Women Theme Icon
Moderation and Excess Theme Icon
...fortune. Tancredi habitually comes to Ghismonda’s bedroom to chat. One day, while she’s in the garden, he sits down behind her bed to wait for her, and he falls asleep. He... (full context)
Day 4: Sixth Tale
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Class and Character Theme Icon
...is from a lower class. They marry in secret and frequently meet in her father’s garden. (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
One night, Andreuola dreams that she and Gabriotto are making love in the garden when a dark shadow comes out of his body, takes ahold of him, and pulls... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Class and Character Theme Icon
...Andreuola’s to mourn the young man’s death, and he is grieved in splendor in the garden before being buried as a nobleman. Although the Magistrate reiterates his proposal, Negro da Pontecarraro... (full context)
Day 4: Seventh Tale
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Class and Character Theme Icon
...her story immediately. While it bears a similarity to Panfilo’s—hers is also set in a garden and her lady also escapes the law—it’s different because it demonstrates how love can also... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Class and Character Theme Icon
...two are soon lovers. One day, they plan to make love in a certain pleasant garden. They meet there with their friends Lagina and Puccino (called Stramba or “Dotty Joe”). They... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
Class and Character Theme Icon
...pressing the magistrate to interrogate Simona. Unsure what to think, he takes her to the garden and asks her to show him what happened. Simona demonstrates everything, including rubbing a sage... (full context)
Day 4: Conclusion
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The men and ladies entertain themselves in the endlessly beautiful garden. After supper, so that his sad woes will blight no further days, Fiammetta asks Filostrato... (full context)
Day 5: Intro
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...awakens to the sounds of birdsong. The company whiles away the time pleasantly in the garden and surrounding fields until it is time for breakfast. Then, after their siesta, they gather... (full context)
Day 5: Fourth Tale
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...da Brettinoro suggests that Caterina ask for permission to sleep on a balcony overlooking the garden, where he can climb up and join her after dark. Complaining that the late May... (full context)
Day 5: Sixth Tale
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Men and Women Theme Icon
...but as he’s currently feeling somewhat unwell, he puts her in a villa inside his garden for safekeeping until he can enjoy her. Learning about the abduction, Gianni hires a frigate... (full context)
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Men and Women Theme Icon
In Sicily, Gianni catches sight of Restituta when he’s walking past the garden one day. She shows him how he can enter the garden and climb through her... (full context)
Day 6: Introduction
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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... (full context)
Day 7: First Tale
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Men and Women Theme Icon
...meal, Gianni Lotteringhi turns up unexpectedly. She has a maid leave the meal in the garden but forgets to leave an explanation for Federigo, so he comes to the door. The... (full context)
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Intelligence Theme Icon
Faith vs. Religion Theme Icon
...that it should leave her and her husband alone but could find food in the garden. Federigo di Neri Pegolotti understands, and he and Monna Tessa laugh about their close call... (full context)
Day 7: Seventh Tale
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...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... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Day 7: Ninth Tale
Love and Sex Theme Icon
...condition. Pretending to be ill, she asks Nicostratos and Pyrrhus to take her to the garden, where she sits at the foot of a pear-tree and asks Pyrrhus to climb up... (full context)
Day 7: Tenth Tale
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Moderation and Excess Theme Icon
...much to Meuccio di Tura’s dismay. But Tingoccio digs so much in Monna Mita’s rich garden that he falls ill and dies. And after a few days, as agreed, he appears... (full context)
Day 10: Fifth Tale
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
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...“love him and do his bidding” if he proves his love by making her a garden in the middle of January. If he can’t, and he continues to provoke her, she... (full context)
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In the exact middle of January, the Magician conjures a beautiful garden, and Ansaldo Gradense presents its fruits and flowers to Madonna Dianora, both to show her... (full context)
Day 10: Sixth Tale
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Moderation and Excess Theme Icon
...He buys a home amid the olive and nut-trees and sets about constructing a splendid garden, with a well-stocked fishpond at its center. (full context)
Men and Women Theme Icon
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The lovely garden attracts King Charles’s attention when he vacations in Castellammare. He decides to visit informally because... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
After leaving Neri degli Uberti’s garden, King Charles can think of almost nothing except Ginevra and her sister. He becomes so... (full context)
Day 10: Seventh Tale
Love and Sex Theme Icon
...to improve. That evening, the king calls (as if unexpectedly) on Bernardo Puccini in his garden. When he mentions the apothecary’s daughter, Bernardo says she’s not yet betrothed to anyone, in... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
Class and Character Theme Icon
...queen about appropriately rewarding her love. They return with a great retinue to Bernardo Puccini’s garden, where they summon Lisa. To honor her noble behavior, King Peter offers to give her... (full context)
Day 10: Ninth Tale
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Torello rushes to his estate, sets tables for a feast in the garden, and is ready to welcome Saladin’s group when the servant brings them to the gates.... (full context)
Author’s Epilogue
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...too!), or in a school. They were told by respectable and level-headed young people in gardens, places designed for pleasure. (full context)