The Renaissance was an important episode in the social and cultural development not only of Italy but also of the world. It was the start of critically evaluating the hold that the Catholic religion has on the people. The focus on the importance of man as a rational being capable to think reasonably for himself without the clutch of outside influential forces that press them into how they act and how they live was the main idea for the era. The ‘Decameron’ also known as ‘the epic of the merchant class’ was direct in reaching out to the people the ideas that are inherent in everyday life.
Contrary to Marga Cottino-Jones interpretation of Griselda as Christ, I maintain that Griselda represents the enduring pain of a mother who is willing to go past the ego of a man to satisfy what she deems as her god-given role to be a good wife to a husband. Griselda as figura Christi and the marquis as the Lord. A ‘sacrificial character needed to save everyone around her, she is a substantiation of the linkage to the implied religious predisposition of the book (Cottino-Jones, p. 297). Women in the past are fashioned in a way to become subservient to men. I believe that Giovanni Boccaccio wrote Griselda as the epitome of a woman and her enduring life. Gualtieri was the exaggerated stereotypical man who heeds the emotion of a woman for his own entertainment. The alpha male domination that men seek is often easily achieved through their domination over the women in their lives who they can control.
The theme of the tenth day revolved around women who are idealized and their love. Cottino-Jones describes the story of Griselda as her martyrdom for love (p. 296). The Marquis was a representation of the rich man and his imposition of superiority among common people. The fact that Gualtieri chose Griselda, a woman who was below him in many ways in the social strata proves that he was specifically picking a person that he can dictate. As it was with tradition, he asked for her hand from her father. In fact, he demanded it and it was immediate since someone like him is not likely to take someone as Griselda for his wife. Instead of giving her father a promise that she would be loved and well taken care of, he asked him a plethora of questions that are all self-serving. He specifically picked her because he knows she will yield to his every request. It is a manifestation of a man who hides his own insecurities by consciously surrounding himself with weaker people.
Her manner when the time came for the servant to take her daughter and son was indescribable. Even though she had the knowledge of imminent death for her child, she had let everything take its course without a second thought. All of these took place and Gualtieri was just marveling at her reaction, entertained and devious in his demeanor. Griselda never saw herself to be the equal of Gualtieri even if they have already been married for so long. “My lord, I ever knew my mean estate to be nowise sortable with your nobility, and for that which I have been with you I have still confessed myself indebted to you and to God, nor have I ever made nor held it mine, as given to me, but have still accounted it but as a loan. It pleaseth you to require it again and it must and doth please me to restore it to you. Here is your ring wherewith you espoused me; take it” (Boccaccio, p.360).
When a man and wife wed they become responsible for each other. They are partners in life who take on their future together. The wife is not a slave to the husband but someone who stands side by side with him. Griselda was the personification of a woman who is seen as an object by her husband. The way that he had played with her emotions has exceeded capacity for rationalization but she has remained loyal to him despite his foibles. The last story in ‘Decameron’ is an overstated relationship between man and woman. Through Griselda, we are faced with a woman who has tolerated everything just to please her husband’s unreasonable obsession. It wasn’t her patience that was being tested but a woman’s capacity to love and accept despite it.
Boccaccio, Giovanni. Decameron. New York: Walter J. Black, Inc., 2007.
Cottino-Jones, Marga. “Fabula vs. Figura: Another Interpretation of the Griselda Story.” Boccaccio, Giovanni. The Decameron. New York: Norton, 1997. 295-305.