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Huck  Huck is offline
Join Date: 02 Jul 2003
Location: Germany
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Framed Story: Decameron

Giovanni Boccaccio (1313 1375): Decameron (c. 1350 - 1351/53)

Giovanni Boccaccio
Full text version (English, sorted according chapters and stories)
Full text version (in one text; valuable, if you attempt to search the text for keywords)
(warning: both translations have considerable differences between each other)

The Decameron is structured in a frame narrative, or frame tale, completed by Giovanni Boccaccio in 1351 (or, according to some critics, in 1353). It opens with a description of the Black Death and leads into an introduction of a group of seven young women and three young men who flee from plague-ridden Florence to a villa in the (then) countryside of Fiesole for two weeks. To pass the time, every night, all of the members tell one story each. Although fourteen days pass, two days each week are set aside: one day for chores and one holy day during which no work is done. In this manner, 100 stories are told by the end of the ten days.

Each of the ten characters is charged as King or Queen of the company for one of the ten days in turn. This charge extends to choosing the theme of the stories for that day, and all but two days have topics assigned:

["Before beginning the story-telling sessions, the ten young Florentines, referred to as the Brigata, gather at the Basilica di Santa Maria Novella ...

... and together decide to escape Black Death by leaving the city to stay in a villa in the countryside for the next two weeks. Each agrees to tell one story each day for ten days. The stories are told in the garden of the first villa that the company stays at, which (although fictional) is located a few miles outside the city.
Under the rule of Pampinea, the first day of story-telling is open topic. Although there is no assigned theme of the tales this first day, six deal with one person censuring another and four are satires of the Catholic Church."
From ]

[2]examples of the power of fortune; ["Filomena reigns during the second day and she assigns a topic to each of the storytellers: Misadventures that suddenly end happily."]

[3]examples of the power of human will;["Neifile presides as queen during the third day. In these stories a person either has painfully acquired something or has lost it and then regained it."]

[4]love tales that end tragically; ..
[Intermzzo: "Boccaccio begins this day with a defense of his work as it is thus far completed. ... Boccaccio is probably just shooting down potential detractors.
... Boccaccio tells a story explaining how natural it is for a man to enjoy a woman's company. In this story Filipo Balducci is a hermit living with his son on Mount Asinaio after the death of his wife and travels occasionally to Florence for supplies. One day his son - now eighteen and having never before left the mountain - accompanies him because Filipo is too infirm to make the journey alone. While there the son becomes fascinated with women, even though he had never seen one before and Filipo regrets ever bringing his son to Florence.
This is commonly referred to as the 101st story of the Decameron."]
["Filostrato reigns during the fourth day, in which the storytellers tell tales of lovers whose relationship ends in disaster. This is the first day a male storyteller reigns."]

[5]love tales that end happily; ["During the fifth day Fiammetta sets the theme of tales where lovers pass through disasters before having their love end in good fortune."]

[6]clever replies that save the speaker; ["During the sixth day of storytelling, Elissa is queen of the brigata and chooses for the theme stories in which a character avoids attack or embarrassment through a clever remark.
Many stories in the sixth day do not have previous versions. Boccaccio may have invented many of them himself. He certainly was clever enough to have created the situations and the retorts."]

[7]tricks that women play on men; ["During the seventh day Dioneo serves as king of the brigata and sets the theme for the stories: tales in which wives play tricks on their husbands. Stories of this type are typical of the misogynistic sentiment of the Medieval era. However, in many of the stories the wives are portrayed as more intelligent and clever than their husbands. Though Boccaccio portrays many of the women of these stories in a positive light, most of the men in the stories are stereotypical medieval/Renaissance cuckolds."]

[8]tricks that people play on each other in general; ["Lauretta reigns during the eighth day of storytelling. During this day the members of the group tell stories of tricks women play on men or that men play on women."

[9][Emilia is queen of the brigata for the ninth day. For the second time there is no prescribed theme for the stories of the day (the only other time was during the first day)]

[10]examples of virtue [Panfilo is the king of the last day of storytelling and he orders the company to tell stories about deeds of munificence. These tales seem to escalate in their degrees of munificence until the end, where the day (and the entire Decameron) reaches an apex in the story of patient Griselda.]

Only Dioneo, who usually tells the tenth tale each day, has the right to tell a tale on any topic he wishes, due to his wit. Many authors have argued that Dioneo expresses the views of Boccaccio himself. Each day also includes a short introduction and conclusion to continue the frame of the tales by describing other daily activities besides story-telling. These frame tale interludes frequently include transcriptions of Italian folk songs. The interactions among tales in a day, or across days, as Boccaccio spins variations and reversals of previous material, forms a whole and not just a collection of stories. The basic plots of the stories including mocking the lust and greed of the clergy; tensions in Italian society between the new wealthy commercial class and noble families; the perils and adventures of traveling merchants.

Well ... coming so far, I got the opinion, that a key to the study of the Decameron would be to make a system, which describes the movement of the persons.

The scheme develops in 10 steps with 10 persons. In only few steps a person stays at the position where it had been before. The great exception is Dioneo, who in the first step takes position 4 (with this 3 positions behind Panfilo, who has No 1, and is with that 3 positions before Filostrato, who has No 7). So the 3 male members of the groups seem to be at the start mathematically arranged (1-4-7), each with two women following (Position 1 followed by 2 and 3, Pos. 4 by 5 and 6 and Pos. 7 by 8 and 9) ... above them (at the start) the queen Pampinea, which is considered the oldest of the women (with a little less than 28 years).

Well, this start position looks a little bit like a dance structure ...

The idea, that the 7 women present not "natural women", but have to be identified allegorical, for instance with the "7 virtues", is not new. In a side path I found an opinion of somebody else, that Elissa would present "Hope". Elissa is the youngest of the seven women (a little older than 18 years), so Hope might be a good choice ... so I thought. After some analyzes I agreed with my earlier assumption and the idea of somebody else: Elissa is Hope.

Position 1 ... from which I think, that it is a dance

1 Panfilo - 2 Neifile - 3 Philomena
4 Dioneo - 5 Fiammeta - 6 Emilia
7 Filostrato - 8 Lauretta - 9 Elissa
Queen of the day: 10 Pampinea

... now 9 days pass (and all the persons move), and at the 10th day (which has the theme "Virtues"), the figures have this position:

1 Neifile
2 Elissa
3 Filostrato ... man
4 Lauretta

5 Emilia
6 Fiammeta
7 Pampinea
8 Filomena
9 Panfilo ... man

10 Diodeo ... man

Diodeo has now the meta-position 10, which he already had since the evening of day 1, when the society seems to have realized, that he's the real poet ... :-) ... as explanation is given, that at the end of the first day, Diodeo asked:
[quote]Dioneo, however, when the rest had done speaking, said: Madam, as all the rest have said, so say I, briefly, that the rule prescribed by you is commendable and delectable; but of your especial grace I crave a favour, which, I trust, may be granted and continued to me, so long as our company shall endure; which favour is this: that I be not bound by the assigned theme if I am not so minded, but that I have leave to choose such topic as best shall please me. And lest any suppose that I crave this grace as one that has not stories ready to hand, I am henceforth content that mine be always the last. The queen, knowing him to be a merry and facetious fellow, and feeling sure that he only craved this favour in order that, if the company were jaded, he might have an opportunity to recreate them by some amusing story, gladly, with the consent of the rest, granted his petition. [quote]

Dioneo takes with this the "moderator place" (Nr. 10) after the "king of the day (position 9 usually) told his story".
The king of the 10th day (position number 9) is Panphilo and beside him (Nr. 8) is Filomena. Filomena had been at the 1st day one of the two ladies dancing with Panphilo ("1 Panfilo - 2 Neifile - 3 Philomena").
For both - Dioneo and Panphilo - one could say, that they reached the "highest position in the scheme" (typical for men ... :-) ...).
If we look now for the remaining man, Filostrato, then we see, that for unknown reason he has fallen down at the 10th day to position No 3, near to Elissa the youngest and possibly "Hope" (No 2) and also "Lauretta" (No. 4). And if we go now back to the "Dance of day 1", then we find precisely "7 Filostrato - 8 Lauretta - 9 Elissa" ...

If we (the readers) would expect for the last day a sorted representation of the 7 virtues, we would accept easily ...

10 Diodeo
9 Panfilo
8 Filostrato
and then (at 7-1) the seven virtues in row

... as the key system of the work (and we would know, if "Elissa is Hope" and who all the the other hidden virtues are).
But ... poets are poets, and they love to puzzle around a little bit and so Boccaccio complicated the matter. Actually the row of virtues is given in the last days , but Boccaccio also wanted to point to the hidden roles of Filostrato, Panfilo and Diodeo, naturally.

As the 7 women are "hidden virtues", so naturally also the 3 men are "something". If one has no better idea, then the 3 men are just the author (Boccaccio himself) and the 3 men personal aspects of Boccaccio.

Diodeo ... naturally is the poet.
Panfilo ... means "I love all"
Filostrato means somehow "I love you", but possibly he has difficulties about the question, whom he means. At the begin he dances with Elissa and Lauretta (first day), and at the end (last day) he still doesn't know, whom he should prefer.
And in the midst of it he exclaims:
[quote]"... nor willingly would I be called by any other name,
but only, the miserable and unfortunate Lover."[/b]

If we now - for the real order - put Filostrato at position 8 as the "3rd man" and exchange him with Filomena (moved to position 3, where she had been at day 1), then we would have in the "repaired 10th day":

1 Neifile = cardinal virtue Temperance
2 Elissa = theological virtue Hope
3 Filomena = cardinal virtue Prudentia
4 Lauretta = theological virtue Caritas
5 Emilia = cardinal virtue Fortitudo
6 Fiammeta = theological virtue Fides
7 Pampinea = cardinal virtue Justice
8 Filostrato ... man
9 Panfilo ... man
10 Diodeo ... man

The page "Brigata" presents the 10 figures in single aspects ...

1 Neifile is (in this text) honored for Modestia, which would fit with the virtue Temperance

2 Elissa is associated to Hope

3 Filomena is the only one, who plays chess (with Panfilo).. "Philomena and Pamphilus playing at the Chesse, all sporting themselves as best they pleased." ... after the third day. This might demand some prudence, so Prudentia might be correct.

4 Lauretta: The text gives her to "Justice", but I don't think, that this is correct. I give Lauretta to Caritas, mainly cause I think, that Justice is made by Pampinea, the oldest, at the first day, when she defined the rules for 10-day-stories experiment. Further I think, that Justice is the natural middle between 3 theological virtues and 3 remaining cardinal virtues.

5 Emilia is (by the text) presented as an example for narcism - I think, that this fits well with Fortitudo. It seems, that she is the "dancing-Queen".

6 Fiammetta is the great love in Boccaccio's real life and in Boccaccio's Decamerone she should present the "secret lover of Diodeo". According the "day-1-dance" Diodeo has Fiammetta and Emilia as possible partner. This is mirrored by the condition, that Fiammetta get's "somehow" the final words of all the Decamerone

7 Pampinea ... as already explained, I think, that she presents Justice.


Most difficulties in this "my representation" I see for Lauretta = Caritas and Fiammetta = Fides ... it might well be, that it was meant as Lauretta = Fides and Fiammetta = Caritas. In the Mantegna Tarocchi (which gives to Rome) Fides is higher than Caritas, however, in the Minchiate (which is from Florence) Caritas is higher than Fides. Boccaccio wrote in Florence, but the Mantegna is (possibly) nearer in time to the Decamerone. And the assumed "basis row" of the cardinal virtues in Decamerone ...

1 Neifile = Temperantia
3 Filomena = Prudentia
5 Emilia = Fortitudo
7 Pampinea = Justice

... is identical to Mantegna Tarocchi

34 Temperance
35 Prudentia
36 Fortitudo
37 Justice
38 Spes (Hope)
39 Caritas
40 Fides

.. the Minchiate (Florence), however, shows this row ..

6 Temperantia
7 Fortitudo
8 Justice
16 Hope
17 Prudentia
18 Fides
19 Caritas

... and this (again) shows a "high-flying" Prudentia, as it doesn't appear in the basis row, but ALSO at the final day of the Decamerone (with Filomena = Prudentia) taking the 8th position.

The one big confusing element about all riddles of the Tarocchi-row is "where is Prudentia gone too ?".

From the situation of the Pierpont-Morgan-Bergamo Tarocchi (painted by two artists) and the from this deck developing 5x14-theory it's stated, that the first 14 trumps (made by Bembo) only included the virtue "Justice", which at this state not naturally was meant as a a "cardinal virtue". With the addition of six cards by the second painter, who, as it seems, added two triads

Sun - Moon - Star
and the 3 missing Cardinal Virtues
Temperantia - Fortitudo - Prudentia (= World)

With the Charles VI Tarot the idea, that "card World meant Prudentia", was confirmed, cause in this deck Cardinal Virtues got a signifying "octogonal halo" and the card "World" had such a halo like her sisters Fortitudo-Temperantia-Justice.

Now we meet in a text, which is about 100 years older than the Pierpont-Morgan-Bergamo Tarocchi (and beside that it's a text, which had been very influential for Italian and European culture) a similar "high-flying and disguised" Prudentia called Filomena, which jumps out of the general order of the normal virtues.

"Filo..." as in "Filostrato" and "Panfilo" and also in "Filomena" translates generally as "I love" as in "Philosophy" (which means "I love wisdom" from Sophia" = "wisdom"). "Filo ... mena" lets me think of "mens, mentis", and I would translate the meaning of it with "I love understanding" or "I love thinking" and that would be a rather good name for "Prudentia" (the "babynames" literature comes to the opinion, that Filomena means "beloved", other thought of Philomela, the "Nightingale"). And I take my flight to the literary fact, that Filomena (as the only one of all 7 girls) plays chess - with Panfilo.

"Panfilo" was already before Boccaccio a literary figure with different writing forms Pamphilo, Panfilio ...

Here as a Magician in the Sola Busca deck, "Panfilio", in 1491

And here in "Andria" .. an old comedy of Terence ..

[b]Pamphilus' father had arranged for him to marry Philumena. After much curious developments it finishes luckily with Pamphilus marrying the sweet Glycerium and Philumena is free to marry Charinus, the friend of Pamphilus.

And in the Decamerone at 10th day, story 8 (Filomena's last literary contribution, which naturally has a deeper meaning) Filomena tells about a Sophronia, who shall be married to Gesippus, but Gesippus has a close friend, who falls deeply in love to the bride of the friend and finally turns about his inner conflict nearly mortal sick ... and the good friend Gesippus opens all the lucky ways, that the friend gets Sophronia, and he himself gets the sister of his friend.

This theater play "Andria" (from Terence, with Pamphilus and Philomena) was given in a big theater show in Ferrara 1491 for the wedding of Alfonso d'Este with Anna Sforza, and the Sola Busca (with a card Panfilio as "Magician") was dated to the same date "1491" cause a quote at one of the cards referring to the foundation of the city Venice. Alfonso d'Este in 1491 - short after the wedding (January 1491) - visited Venice (February/March 1491). Everybody might think, what he takes from this "strange coindence", but I would think, that the Sola Busca had been made for the marriage of Alonso d'Este.

Anyway ... but it sounds, as if this high-flying Filomena seems to be a women between two men. Usually the man has the choice ...

Pamphilus appears then also in this older text "Pamphilus de amore", described with translation here ...
... in which Pamphilus discusses with an old woman called "Anus" the conditions of his love life to Galathea (everybody might think what he wants with that, what "Anus" means in the given context, indeed Anus is also an old Latin name for "old woman ... here is the Latin text with "Anus ad Pamphilium" and "Panphilium ad Anum"
... ) and it's said in the description, that this work influenced a Pamphilus figure appearing as a seducer in Boccaccio's work "Fiammetta" (before Decamarone).

Further Boccaccio wrote a text "Filostrato" (also before Decamarone), so the conclusion is given, that Boccaccio had generated content already before the Decamarone, which filled the background - and this naturally isn't present in the Decamarone itself, but might be for Boccaccio and his contemporary readers might be taken as "known". So if we read ...
"... and Dioneo and Fiammetta sat singing together the song of
Palamon and Arcite" at the begin of the 8th day, which belongs to LAURETTA (who was just crowned then, with a LAUREL CROWN of course as all the lterary Kings and Queens in the Decamaron) and then know, that Palamon and Arcite became the first story of Chaucer's Canterbury stories, the "Knight Tale", and even more than this, it appeared already as theme in Boccacio's own "Teseida della nozze di Emilia" ...."
... then complex details show up, just indicated with a few words

And Emilia is also in the Decamerone as Fortitudo.

Filostrato appears before the Decamerone ...


Alright, I've given and interpreted a few details, based on the speaker lists of the first and the last day (which surely have an important value), which in my opinion lead to the virtue identification.
But there are more details given with the speaker lists of 2nd till 9th day, then the literary King's and Queens list and additionally a singer for each day. Further each day has a theme. And there are 100 stories at this 10x10 chess board ...

Chess ... how often does chess appear in the text? Not very often, aber it often appeas at significant places.

Maybe I tell this in my next post to this theme.
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