Antifeminism/Misogyny Quotes in The Decameron
For not only did people die without having many women about them, but a great number departed this life without anyone at all to witness their going. Few indeed were those to whom the lamentations and bitter tears of their relatives were accorded; on the contrary, more often than not bereavement was the signal for laugher and witticisms and general jollification—the art of which the women, having for the most part suppressed their feminine concern for the salvation of the souls of the dead, had learned to perfection.
It is not our foresight, ladies, but rather your own good sense, that has led us to this spot. I know not what you intend to do with your troubles; my own I left inside the city gates when I departed thence a short while ago in your company. Hence you may either prepare to join with me in as much laugher, song, and merriment as your sense of decorum will allow, or else you may give me leave to go back for my troubles and live in the afflicted city.
The girl, who was not exactly made of iron or of flint, fell in very readily with the Abbot’s wishes. He took her in his arms and kissed her a few times, then lowered himself on to the monk’s little bed. But out of regard, perhaps, for the weight of his reverend person and the tender age of the girl, and not wishing to do her any injury, he settled down beneath her instead of lying on top, and in this way he sported with her at considerable length.
Just as the sky, worthy ladies, is bejewelled with stars on cloudless nights, and the verdant fields are embellished with flowers in the spring, so good manners and pleasant converse are enriched by shafts of wit. These, being brief, are much better suited to women than to men, as it is more unseemly for a woman to speak at inordinate length, when this can be avoided, than it is for a man. Yet nowadays, to the universal shame of ourselves and all living women, few or none of the women who are left can recognize a shaft of wit when they hear one, or reply to it even if they recognize it. For this special skill, which once resided in a woman’s very soul, has been replaced in our modern women by the adornment of the body. She who sees herself tricked out in the most elaborate finery, believes that she should be much more highly respected and more greatly honored than other women, forgetting that if someone were to dress an ass in the same clothes or simply load them on its back, it could still carry a great deal more than she could, nor would this be any reason for paying it greater respect than you would normally accord to an ass.
When he learnt about the circumstances of her arrival in the city, he saw no reason why he should not be able to have her. And indeed, once the wounded man’s relatives discovered that the Prince was putting out inquiries, they promptly sent her off to him without asking any questions. The prince was highly delighted, but so also was the lady, who considered that she had now escaped from a most dangerous situation. On finding that she was endowed with stately manners as well as beauty, the Prince calculated, since he could obtain no other clue to her identity, that she must be a woman of gentle birth, and his love for her was accordingly redoubled. And not only did he keep her in splendid style, but he treated her as though she were his wife rather than his mistress.
Sweet friend and master, dearest one of all, since you are wise you will readily acknowledge that men and women are remarkably frail, and that, for a variety of reasons, some are frailer than others. It is therefore right and proper that before an impartial judge, people of different social rank should not be punished equally for committing an identical sin. For nobody would, I think, deny that if a member of the poorer classes, obliged to earn a living through manual toil, were to surrender blindly to the promptings of love, he or she would be far more culpable than a rich and leisured lady who lacked none of the necessary means to gratify her tiniest whim.
On hearing these words, the King immediately came to the conclusion that the Queen had been taken in by an outward resemblance to his own physique and manner. But he was a wise man, and since neither the Queen nor anybody else appeared to have noticed the deception, he had no hesitation in deciding to keep his own counsel. Many a stupid man would have reacted differently, and exclaimed “It was not I. Who was the man who was here? What happened? Who was it who came?” But this would only have led to complications, upsetting the lady when she was blameless and sowing the seeds of a desire, on her part, to repeat the experience. And besides, by holding his tongue his honor remained unimpaired, whereas if he were to talk he would make himself look ridiculous.
Friar Puccio thought he could detect a certain amount of vibration in the floorboards. When […] he had recited a hundred of his paternosters […] without leaving his post, he called out to his wife and demanded to know what she was doing.
His wife […] who at that moment was possibly riding bareback astride the nag of Saint Benedict or Saint John Gaulbert, replied:
‘Heaven help me, dear husband, I am shaking like mad.’
‘Shaking? … What is the meaning of all this shaking?’
His wife shrieked with laughter […] ‘What,’ she replied, ‘You don’t know its meaning? Haven’t I heard you saying, hundreds of times: “He that supper doth not take, in his bed all night will shake”?’
‘Wife,’ he replied […] ‘I told you not to fast, but you would insist. Try not to think about it. Try and go to sleep.’
Am I to be abused by these people, then am I to be mauled and mangled for liking you and striving to please you, when Heaven has given me a body with which to love you and when my soul has been pledged to you since childhood because of the light that gleams in your eyes, the honeyed sounds that issue from your lips, the flames that are kindled by your sighs of tender compassion? […] it is perfectly clear that those who criticize me on these grounds are people who, being ignorant of the strength and pleasure of natural affection, neither love you nor desire your love, and they are not worth bothering about.
Leaving the house full of blood, tumult, tears, and sadness, they made their way unimpeded to the ship, keeping close together and carrying their spoils before them. Having handed the ladies aboard, Cimon and Lysimachus followed with their comrades just as the shore began to fill with men who were coming to the rescue of the two ladies. But they plied their oars with a will, and made good their escape.
“Heaven be praised!” said the Provost, who could scarce contain his joy. “To tell you the truth, madam, I am amazed that you should have held out for so long, seeing that this has never happened to me with any woman before. And in fact, I have sometimes had occasion to reflect, that if women were made of silver you couldn’t turn them into coins, as they bend too easily. But no more of this, when and where can we be together?”
But even supposing I were a charitable man, you are not the sort of woman who deserves to be treated with charity. For a savage beast of your sort, death is the only fit punishment, the only just revenge, though admittedly, had I been dealing with a human being I should already have done enough […] I intend to harry you with all the hatred and all the strength of a man who is fighting his oldest enemy.
...it was not for lack of trying that you failed to murder a gentleman (as you called me just now), who can bring more benefit to humanity in a single day than a hundred thousand women of your sort can bring to it for as long as the world shall last.
And even supposing that all my little schemes had failed, I should still have had my pen, with which I should have lampooned you so mercilessly, and with so much eloquence, that when my writings came to your notice (as they certainly would), you would have wished, a thousand times a day, that you had never been born.
The power of the pen is far greater than people suppose who have not proved it by experience. I swear to God […] that you yourself, to say nothing of others, would have been so mortified by the things I had written that you would have put out your eyes rather than look upon yourself ever again.
Lovable ladies, if the order of things is impartially considered, it will quickly be apparent that the vast majority of women are through Nature and custom, as well as in law, subservient to men, by whose opinions their conduct and actions are bound to be governed. It therefore behooves any woman who seeks a calm, contented, and untroubled life with her menfolk, to be humble, patient, and obedient, besides being virtuous, a quality that every judicious woman considers her especial and most valuable possession.