Treatment of women in The Decameron

Essay by pilot1 March 2004

download word file, 3 pages 5.0

Downloaded 108 times

The Decameron is a book consisting of smaller stories, written by Boccaccio. It was written in the Middle Ages. From The Decameron you can learn how women were treated during this time. Women were generally not treated well; even the best treatment they were given would be looked on as bad treatment in today's culture.

The story that showed the best treatment of women was that of Sir Federigo. Federigo fell in love with a women named Monna Giovanni, and spent all his money buying things to try to win her love. Soon after, Monna's husband died; he left all his possessions to his son instead of to his wife. The story ends soon after Federigo kills a falcon he was very fond of, in order to provide a meal for Monna and her son. In this story, Monna Giovanni was treated better than the women in any of the other stories, but she still wasn't treated well by today's standards.

For example, Monna's husband left his possessions to his son instead of Monna, his wife. This act shows that the author had the attitude that women are inferior, and incapable of taking care of things.

Another story in The Decameron that shows how women were treated was that of Calndrino and the Heliotrope. Calandrino was tricked into believing that a rock made him invisible, but when he took it home to his wife she could see him. He thought that she had caused him to become visible, and became angry with her. He beat and kicked her, and when some friends asked what was going on, he explained it to them and said "Women cause everything to lose it's virtue."

The next story is that of Griselda and Gualtieri. Griselda was a poor peasant girl, whom Gualtieri married. Gualtieri decided to test his wife to see how much he could take, so he had their daughter sent away, and told her that she had been killed. Griselda didn't complain, so he did the same with their son. He divorced her, and even then she didn't complain. He told everyone he was marrying someone else, and at their supposed wedding he showed Griselda their children were alive, and remarried Griselda. Even though everything turned out alright in the end, Gualtieri didn't to care about Griselda's feelings in the story. Gualtieri made life miserable for Griselda, just so he could satisfy his own curiosity about how much she would take. This shows that women were not cared about very much in The Middle Ages, since the mans curiosity was much more important than the woman.

In the story of Isabetta, women were treated the worst. Isabetta loved a man named Lorenzo, but when her brothers discovered this, they killed Lorenzo. In a dream, Lorenzo told Isabetta where he was buried, and she dug up his head and placed it in a vase. When the brothers discovered his head, they took it away from her and Isabetta died crying. This is yet another example of how women were not cared about during The Middle Ages - the brothers killed Lorenzo for no other reason than the fact that he was from a different social class. They didn't even say anything to Isabetta about it first; the brothers treated her like she was unimportant.

As show in the above examples, women in Italy were treated very badly during The Middle Ages. The very best treatment they were given wouldn't be considered good treatment today, as seen in the story of Sir Federigo. Even in the Preface to The Decameron, Boccaccio said that women needed men to be able to do anything. However, it is impossible to say that women everywhere were treated badly during The Middle Ages without further evidence, since the different cultures would have probably varied.