The Sixth Day Of The Decameron, By Giovanni Boccaccio

1583 words - 7 pages

In Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron, each day is foucused around a theme, which the members of the lieta brigata seek to incorporate into that day’s stories (with the exception of Dioneo). For the sixth day, the theme is decided to be people who employ a witticism to escape punishment or discomfort. To convey this message, many of the tales employ the usage of a bon mot, or a brief, humorous phrase. Throughout this day, unsightly persons, frequently employ the bon mot, which contrasts their wit with their less than desirable appearances. In addition to this, people of inferior rank are often shown to be more intelligent, and make better use of the bon mot than their masters, or other noble persons. All of these uses of wit go to show to the power of words, which is a recurring theme throughout the Decameron. In the sixth day of Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron, the lieta brigata tells stories wherein the characters escape humiliation or pain by means of a witticism. This theme is summed up in the use of the bon mot and people of less than desirable appearance, and of a lower class often uses the use of this device; all of these things go to show the power of words.
This power of words is most often shown in the sixth day through the use of the bon mot. A bon mot (literally French for “good word”) is a witticism used at the right moment, which often provides a humorous comment to the goings-on in a story. The sixth day of the Decameron specifically focuses on the use of the bon mot by a character to escape unpleasantness or punishment. Although the bon mot is central to all stories in the sixth day, Chichibio perhaps best exemplifies the use of the bon mot in the fourth story. When Chichibio’s position as chef is threatened, “in some mysterious way he suddenly thought of an answer… Currado was so delighted with this answer that all his anger was converted into jollity and laughter,” (Boccaccio 456). Chichibio uses a bon mot here, which immediately changes his master’s anger to laughter, and saves his own hide as a result. Chichibio is able to invent a witticism quickly, and he utters a bon mot, which allows him to escape the situation with no ill effects. Similar bon mots are used throughout the day, with the day being centered upon their use.
One interesting theme throughout the day is that wit is not limited to those people who are found in the upper classes of society. Pampinea states that she “cannot decide myself whether Nature is more at fault in furnishing a noble spirit with an inferior body, or Fortune in allotting an inferior calling to a body endowed with a noble spirit,” (Boccaccio 448). Here, Pampinea states that a noble spirit is the root of an individual’s wit, and that rank or appearance does not matter. A person of inferior rank is displayed to particularly witty in the tale of Cisti the Baker. Cisti, despite being a simple tradesman, is able to deliver a well-timed comment to the Papal Emissary when he asks for an amount of wine,...

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