Study Guide

Decameron Seventh Day, Eighth Story

By Giovanni Boccaccio

Seventh Day, Eighth Story

Arriguccio Berlinghieri

  • Storyteller: Neifile
  • This is the story of an upstart, rich merchant who marries an aristocratic wife and ends up regretting it.
  • Arriguccio Berlinghieri, the merchant, marries Monna Sismonda, a gentlewoman who immediately falls in love with a man called Ruberto.
  • Sismonda has a great time with her lover, but eventually even a busy merchant like Arriguccio figures out what's going on.
  • So he starts watching her carefully, making sure she's in bed before he falls asleep.
  • But Sismonda gets an idea. Once Arriguccio drops off, she can spend some quality time with Ruberto.
  • She ties a string to her toe and dangles the end of it out the window. When Ruberto arrives, he gives it a tug to let her know it's "magic time."
  • If all is clear, Sismonda would release the string. If not, she'd haul the string up.
  • The plan works beautifully. Until it doesn't.
  • One night, Arriguccio catches his toe on the string.
  • Long story short, he winds up chasing Ruberto down the street and fighting with him.
  • Sismonda thinks fast. She puts her maid into her (Sismonda's) bed and blows out the lights.
  • She bribes her maid to bear up under the beating she's about to receive.
  • When Arriguccio gets home, he returns to his bedroom and beats his "wife" black and blue and cuts off her hair.
  • Then he goes to fetch Sismonda's brothers so that they can finish the job.
  • Sismonda returns to her room and takes care of her black-and-blue maidservant, giving her enough money to make her feel better.
  • When the brothers, mother and husband return to the house, Sismonda is sitting there, calm and unharmed.
  • Arriguccio thinks he's lost his mind.
  • Sismonda denies everything, of course, saying that he'd never even been home that night.
  • And then she accuses him further: he's been hanging out with harlots.
  • Sismonda's mother launches into an attack on the nouveau riche merchant class.
  • Sismonda's brothers are ready to thrash Arriguccio, but they let him off with a warning.
  • So Sismonda not only gets off the hook, she ensures that she can do whatever she wants with Ruberto. Forever.