Few books in the world designate their readers in the preface. Boccaccio, in the Preface to the Decameron, begins by saying that he has experienced the pain of brokenhearted love and knows the importance of consolation. Boccaccio was once a young man full of life instinct. He lived a quiet life while traveling in Naples and learning business. He was full of passion and plunged into a love affair, and when he failed, he was filled with disappointment and chagrin. These experiences naturally influenced his creation. If the Decameron were a play, Boccaccio would be a character who appears at the beginning, middle and end, experiencing changes of mentality and attitudinal vacillation. The author’s praise and empathy for women makes it easy to think that he is a writer who advocates “equality between men and women”, a man who cares about women’s lives and wants to bring comfort to women through these stories. At present, academic circles often hold such views out of the background of The Times, but whether it is really so needs further discussion.
Flattery and slander
At the beginning of the Decameron, the author’s dialogue objects are some girls who fall in love. The author fairly explains the different situation of women and men imprisoned in boudoir at that time.
Who can deny that the slender women need these words more than the men? Yes, there is the flame of love hidden in their timid bosom, and those who have experienced or are experiencing love know that secret love is fiercer than open love. In addition, they were subject to their parents, brothers, and husbands, and had to do their bidding. Most women live in boudoir and often sit around bored. They are easy to mope and think wildly. (Preface to decameron)
At the end of the Decameron, the author once again reiterated his purpose of writing: “From the beginning of my writing, I have been working hard to finish the work, I have always kept in mind that I am trying to write this book to amuse women who have leisure.”
The reverse of flattery is slander. Boccaccio, at the age of forty, on his way to becoming a scholar, under the tutelage of Petrarch, seems to have completely repented. In his later work, The Big Crow, he was decidedly against women, which seems to be related to his failed pursuit of women in middle age. In “The Big Crow” he raves about the evils and meanness of women, a change of attitude. The seventh story of the eighth day, one of the stories that the Big Crow and the Decameron devote most attention to, has something in common. The story on the eighth day is more than 10,000 words long, but the plot is not very complicated: it is about a scribe who falls in love with a widow, who has a lover, and coaxed him to wait in the snow for a night in winter. The scribe took his revenge by exposing the woman naked on top of the tower for a day in July, and being bitten by gadflies and flies. It was a long story of personal abuse and humiliation, and even of exhorting the widow to jump from a building because the woman was in love with a young man and had not accepted the advances of the scribe. In the text, the scribe said:
See that, as long as the world lasts, my life is of more use to the world than a hundred thousand women like you… Why don’t you jump down if you want to? If god had any sense, you could break your neck… (Decameron)
Boccaccio summed up the way women were degraded in social life at that time through the monologue of the scribe. The scribes thought their own lives were more useful to the world than thousands of widows. They control the right to speak, but also feel free to stigmatize these women in society, so in retaliation, he said: “Even if all my plans fail, I have a pen in hand, you can write all kinds of behavior, make you regret being born in this world.” (Decameron)
“The Big Crow” is also the story of the author’s passionate love for a widow, who is shunned and teased by a woman. The hero falls asleep and in a dream comes to a terrible place, when the ghost of the widow’s husband, commissioned by the Virgin, comes to rescue him. Only a man can save a man, although the ghost is his “rival in love”. The widow’s husband did his best to show him the faults of women, especially the ugliness of his wife. Boccaccio has also reached the stage of breaking away from the bondage of lust. The soul of the Dead in The Big Crow argues that men of a certain age should be promoted and devoted to their studies, arguing that marriage and love are bad for the aged literator.
The Decameron begins on the fourth day, when the author “shows up” again. The author begins with a Florentine version of “The woman under the mountain is a tiger,” emphasizing that natural instincts cannot be resisted. There is a story about a man named Filippo who keeps his son living in the mountains and they do penance together. The son went down the mountain for the first time, but he was only interested in brightly dressed women. He could only lie to his son that they were “bad things” and “geese” that were difficult to raise. The story is to justify male desire, but in this story, the sexes are completely separated, and women are purely set as objects of desire in the story.
In 1363, when Boccaccio was fifty years old, he went to Venice at the invitation of Petrarch, and they lived happily for several months. Their association with Petrarch made Boccaccio realize the importance of the ancient humanities. This meeting was also closely related to his spiritual crisis and made him gradually transform into a scholar. With the growth of age, he finally got rid of his obsession with male and female love affairs. In his later years, he explained the Divine Comedy in church and regretted his early creation of the Decameron.
In any case, boccaccio’s meditation and dedication to classical texts such as philosophy did not elevate him to the level of wisdom. Later in life, he wrote books like “The Big Crow,” in which hostility and prejudice let emotion and instinct get the better of him.
Order and Ethics
Women with beautiful faces will inevitably fall into ethical dilemma under the competition of men. How to coordinate the relationship between husband and suitor is a problem that women in Boccaccio’s Decameron often face. Boccaccio’s treatment of this situation is very modern. He has no intention to destroy the marital order and the hierarchical order at that time, and the only reference is the intensity of male desire. The male desire is the truth, the female will is reversible, this is reflected in many stories. The most typical is the eighth story of the fifth day: Nastaccio of the House of Ornesti falls in love with a lady of the House of Traversari, spends his fortune for her, and loses her favour. At the request of his relatives and friends, he went to Kiassi for leisure. In the woods, he saw the ghost of a knight chasing a girl, killing her and feeding her to two dogs. Later, he learned that the girl had refused the pursuit of the knight, so she had to repeatedly suffer the torture of “the hunt of hell”. Nastaccio invited his friends and relatives to dinner with the young lady, who saw the same scene and, terrified that she might suffer the same fate, agreed to marry him.
The story through the “Hell hunt” shows that a unmarried woman, despite the noble family, if cold to a suitor, ignore, if the other party is trapped by love, lost his life, it is a crime to hell. After being “coerced” by Nastaccio, the noble lady finally agreed to marry him, and everyone was happy. What the story does not tell is that the aristocratic lady is troubled, and the life she will endure for the rest of her life.
Another situation women face is that they are married and how to deal with their lover. The seventh story on the third day made the situation very clear. Tedado broke up with the woman he loved and left Florence in a huff. He returned years later disguised as a pilgrim, talked to the woman, made her realize her mistake, and saved her husband, who was accused of murder — because of a misunderstanding, Tedado’s brothers thought he had killed Tedado. Tedado reconciles the lover’s husband with his brother, and he reunites with the woman. The woman confessed that she and her lover’s decision, just because of the priest’s threat:
He has never been unworthy of me, and I am done with him because of the words of a wicked priest. Once I confessed to the priest about the young man’s love for me and my intercourse with him. The priest’s words are still ringing in my head, and I’m still afraid to think about them. The priest said that if I don’t stop with my lover, THEN I will fall into the depths of hell, into the devil’s mouth, eternal fire. I was so afraid of going to hell that I decided to stop seeing my lover.
In Boccaccio’s story, monks are a potential threat to secular men and competitors for sexual resources. The Decameron’s whipping of the priestly class also has its roots in the author’s emotions: “They deplore the world’s lust so that they may take their place and feast on women.” In this story, Tedado just wants to get his lover back. He has no intention of destroying the social order of marriage. He even rescues his lover’s husband who is in prison to make everything in order, and also reveals the priest’s disgraceful role in this story.
If boccaccio’s female mastermind is able to use deception to perfectly coordinate the relationship between husband and lover, that would seem to be an admirable act. In the seventh and sixth story, Lady Isabella is having a tryst with her lover Leonetto and is visited by the adoring Knight Lamuberto. When her husband came home, Isabella told Ramberto to draw his sword and run out of the house, so that her husband could escort Leonetto home. The meeting of the husband and his wife’s two lovers, a thorny affair perfectly resolved by Lady Isabella. Although this matter caused a lot of discussion, but Isabella’s husband never discovered his wife’s plan, also let readers marvel at the noble woman’s methods.
Rewards and punishments
Decameron clearly rewards and punishes female characters, and women who indulge in lust will not be punished. For example, the seventh story of the second day: the Sultan of Babylon sent his daughter to marry king Gabor. Along the way, the princess met with all kinds of twists and turns. In four years, she fell into the hands of nine men. Her father married her to King Garbo as he had decided. Because of her beauty, the princess brought misfortune and killed many men who fought for her. She drank and indulged in lust, and did not get any punishment from fate, but returned to her hometown in honor. To lose oneself to men is not to be punished, but to be rewarded by fate.
What kind of woman in the Decameron suffers a miserable punishment? That is a woman who does not listen to her husband and goes against his will. In the ninth story, two young men asked King Solomon for advice. One wanted to know how to be loved, and the other asked how to deal with his disobedient wife. Solomon told one to “love” and the other to “go to the Goose bridge”. At Goose Bridge they saw a stableman beating a disobedient mule with a stick, and the penny dropped. The story follows the wise advice of King Solomon, in which a young man empowers himself by beating his wife until she can’t stand up, in the presence of his friends, as a matter of “righteousness”. The message of the seventh story, on the ninth day, is also clear: Tarano Dimmolese dreams of a Wolf biting his wife’s throat and face, and urges her to be careful. The wife did not listen, and the dream came true. The wife in disfigurement, suddenly repent, hate before did not listen to her husband’s words.
A more subtle admonition is the tenth story of the tenth day, which the author takes great pains to tell, and is placed at the end to emphasize its importance. The Marquis de Sanruzzo was forced by his courtiers to take a wife (his disdain for women was deeply ingrained). In the end he married a farmer’s daughter as he liked, and they had two children. The marquis first convinced his wife that the child was being executed, then said he was tired of her and wanted to marry another. He later picked up his daughter, whom he had sent out to raise, claiming to be his new wife. His wife was evicted and returned to her mother’s house wearing only a shirt, but she endured patiently and eventually came to nothing. Marquis greets her grandly to come back, let her recognize with the children that grow up, affirm the position of her marquise, also let everybody respect her.
Through the story of a woman who endured humiliation and abuse from her husband and was rewarded later, this story shows that if a woman gives up her ego and does everything according to her husband’s will, she will finally get a perfect ending. Compared to the previous stories, this one is the most insidious in persuading women to accept men’s advances. It emphasizes the gender order and feudal hierarchical order, completely wiping out a woman’s feelings, needs and existence, making her value completely dependent on a man, making her everything endowed by her husband, everything she owns can be lost at any time, and everything depends on her husband’s mood. This is the last story of the Decameron. Boccaccio deliberately imitates the Divine Comedy. The humiliated woman is presented as a perfect moral model, recognized and rewarded by her husband and society, just as the ideal state presented in the last chapter of Paradiso.
The current researchers or translators of the Decameron, because boccaccio said a few words sympathetic to women, tend to say that the Decameron advocates “equality between men and women”, his women have their own independent consciousness, etc., or just emphasize his misogyny. As a matter of fact, boccaccio’s change of attitude towards women was first determined by men’s different needs for women at different ages. If you can’t get a woman who is totally committed to giving up who you are, you throw her away and trounce and humiliate her. Interestingly, on the eighth, ninth and tenth days of the Decameron, some stories began to show strong misogyny attitude, revealing the change of Boccaccio’s ideology. Because the writing span of Decameron is relatively large, we can obviously see the influence of the fading of the author’s male instinct on his creation.
There are mostly female characters in Decameron. First of all, seven women and three men tell these stories, but the women in these stories are typical “others”, who are seen through male desire. Boccaccio’s value of women is not the value of people, but the value of things he loves. Don’t have to out of history stage, efforts to promote the ideas of the author, highlighting his advancement, said the work “attacked feudal privilege and gender inequality” “praise the beauty of women is a natural creation and argue that women should enjoy equal status with men” (” the decameron “translator preface, Dai Mian translation, literature and art press, 2012) in the north, Or “Boccaccio shows great compassion and respect for women in his novels, praising their kindness, compassion and wit, and criticizing feudal privilege and inequality between men and women.” Even Qian Hongjia says: “Boccaccio respected women, defended women’s rights and advocated equality between men and women, which is fully reflected in the Decameron.” (Decameron, Translated by Qian Hongjia et al., Yilin Publishing House, 2011) The reason is also boccaccio’s statement in The Preface. In fact, without proper guidance, it is easy for women to become self-loathing after reading these stories, rather than seeing them as promoting equality between men and women.
Decameron is a realist work, and Boccaccio’s vivid description of the social customs of that time has enabled it to survive the test of hundreds of years. This is undoubtedly an all-embracing world, and its richness and revelation of human nature still have practical significance up to now.
If we use Freud’s personality theory, we can see boccaccio’s ID, ego and superego are all reflected in the text in decameron. The author’s superego is reflected in the framework of the novel, that is, the ideal society composed of three men and seven women. They abide by moral ethics and social norms, enjoy music and natural scenery even when the plague is rampant, and have high moral sentiment. The author’s ego is the narrator in the preface and follow-up, and has a realistic side. He explains his writing and position and coordinates the relationship between id and reality. And the author’s id is often present in the stories he tells, many of which follow the “pleasure principle”, with both men and women unleashing their desires in an unrestrained way.
“The decameron” is the book of life, is also a book of men and women, received a great deal of wisdom in this book, the male vitality thriving desire and also got to defend, to the middle ages produced the impact against sexual social order, but put down the work is said to be advocated “equality between men and women,” the book, it is out of the historical background and the reality. The young Boccaccio’s interest in women was real and pure, much like that of the blind boy in the mountains. It was instinctive. The admonition to women in Decameron is very obvious, and Boccaccio’s attack on women in his old age also shows that the previous all-out efforts to please are only out of temporary interest. Decameron is based on real human nature and real desire, so it still has its charm.