Study Guide

Decameron Second Day, Sixth Story

By Giovanni Boccaccio

Second Day, Sixth Story

Madame Beritola


  • Storyteller: Emilia
  • It's good for both the happy man and the miserable man to hear stories of Fortune's fickle nature, says Emilia.
  • It keeps the happy man on his toes and gives the miserable one hope that things might get better.
  • To prove this, she's going to tell a true tale that has a happy ending but in which things got worse before they got better.


  • A man called Arrighetto Capece governed the island of Sicily during the reign of Manfred.
  • Arrighetto has a beautiful wife named Madame Beritola and enjoyed the high regard of King Manfred.
  • But all good things come to an end. Manfred's killed by Charles I and Arrighetto tries to flee the island ahead of the conquering forces.
  • He's captured and handed over to King Charles. Meanwhile, a pregnant Beritola has to flee with her young son.
  • A storm blows up and puts them off course. They wind up on the island of Ponza.
  • Beritola leaves her sons on the beach and finds a private place to cry her eyes out over her fate. She does this every day.
  • But one day, a pirate ship appears while she's off by herself. When she returns, her sons are gone and she finds herself alone on the island.
  • She makes friends with a doe that has given birth to two little bucks. Since Beritola still has breast milk from her own recent pregnancy, she begins to feed the deer from her own breasts.
  • This continues for some time, until Beritola has become quite wild from all the weeping and living on a diet of grass and water.
  • This is called an "identity crisis."
  • Months later, Currado of Malaspina and his wife anchor in the bay of the island and discover Beritola in the cave with her doe and baby bucks.
  • They convince her to come away with them to a place where she isn't known, and the deer family goes with them.
  • Beritola stays with Currado's wife as her "maid of honor" and the scene shifts to Genoa, where Beritola's sons have been left with their nurse to be slaves in the house of Guasparrino d'Oria.
  • The nurse changes the boys' names so that they'll be safe from political backlash, and they wait patiently for their luck to change.
  • But the older boy, now called Giannotto, runs away from servitude when he turns 16 and becomes an accomplished seaman.
  • And as fate is a funny thing, he winds up in the service of Currado Malaspina on the very same estate as his lost mother.
  • Giannotto learns that his father's not dead at all, but has been left to rot in the dungeons of King Charles I.
  • And though the young man sees his mother often, neither of them recognizes the other.
  • Now we add a love story to this drama: Currado's daughter, Spina, comes home a widow and falls in love with Giannotto. The feeling's mutual.
  • But they get a little careless about their "meetings," and pretty soon they're caught by Currado and his wife.
  • Daddy's upset, to say the least. He's all for killing them both in the worst possible way, but his good wife dissuades him. She convinces Currado to banish them to the dungeon instead.
  • So things stand for a year, with the two lovers languishing away in jail.
  • Then Fortune's wheel spins again, and the political balance changes. Sicily is taken out of Charles I's control.
  • When Giannotto hears about this in prison, he tells his jailer who he really is. The jailer passes on the info to Currado.
  • Currado realizes that Giannotto must really be Madame Beritola's son, Giusfredi. After speaking with both Giannotto and Beritola, he knows the truth and has a plan.
  • He offers Spina's hand in marriage to Giannotto and arranges for them to get married in prison.
  • Currado keeps everything a secret from the rest of the family, until the youngsters can gain some weight and look a little more presentable in front of the ladies.
  • When Currado presents the couple to Beritola and his wife, Beritola eventually understands that the young man is her lost son, Giusfredi. She does what any refined lady would do—she passes out.
  • Giannotto, now called Giusfredi, asks Currado to send someone to fetch his younger brother and the nurse. He also requests that an emissary be sent to Sicily to find out about his father.
  • Back in Genoa, the emissaries explain to Guasparrino just who he'd been mistreating all those years. He's pretty appalled, because he knows how important Arrighetto is in the new political climate.
  • He makes amends to the younger son, named The Outcast, by giving him his 11-year-old daughter for a bride. Ick.
  • Anyway, they all go to Currado's estate and there's rejoicing and feasting.
  • During the feast, the emissary to Sicily comes back with good news: Arrighetto has been restored to his former glory and is sending his people to collect up the family.
  • After more days of feasting, Madame Beritola and her family get on a ship and sail for Sicily.
  • And in the end, Emilia says, they manage to live happily ever after. She thinks, anyway.

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