Short summary - The Facetious Nights of Straparola - Giovanni Francesco Straparola

Italy literature summaries - 2023

Short summary - The Facetious Nights of Straparola
Giovanni Francesco Straparola

The bishop of the small town of Aodi, after the death of a relative, the Milanese Duke Francesco Sforza, becomes one of the contenders for the ducal throne. However, the vicissitudes of turbulent times and the hatred of enemies force him to leave Milan and settle in his episcopal residence in Lodi; but even there, near Milan, rival relatives do not leave the bishop alone. Then he, along with his daughter, the beautiful young widow Lucrezia Gonzaga, departs for Venice. Here, on the island of Murano, a father and daughter rent a magnificent palazzo; in this palazzo, around Signora Lucrezia, the most refined society soon gathers: beautiful, educated, pleasant girls and gentlemen who are in no way inferior to them.

The grandiose Venetian carnival is in full swing. In order to make the pastime even more enjoyable, the beautiful Lucrezia suggests the following: let five girls every evening after dancing,

determined by lot, they tell entertaining short stories and fairy tales to the guests, accompanying them with ingenious riddles.

The girls who surrounded Lucretia turned out to be extremely lively and capable storytellers, and therefore were able to give the listeners great pleasure with their stories, equally fascinating and instructive. Here are just a few of them.

There once lived in Genoa a nobleman named Rainaldo Scaglia. Seeing that his life was drawing to a close, Rainaldo called on his only son, Salardo, and ordered him to forever keep the three instructions in his memory and never deviate from them for anything. The instructions were as follows: no matter how strong love Salardo had for his wife, he should in no way reveal to her any of his secrets;

not under any circumstances raise as his son and make heir to the state of a child not born of him; in no case should you give yourself into the power of a sovereign who rules the country as an autocrat.

Less than a year after the death of his father, Salardo married Theodora, the daughter of one of the first Genoese nobles. No matter how much the spouses loved each other, God did not bless them with offspring, and therefore they decided to raise the son of a poor widow, nicknamed Postumio, as their own child. After a certain time, Salardo left Genoa and settled in Monferrato, where he very quickly succeeded and became the closest friend of the local marquis. Amid the joys and luxury of court life, Salardo came to the conclusion that his father, in his old age, simply lost his mind: after all, having violated his father’s instructions, he not only lost nothing, but, on the contrary, gained a lot. Mocking the memory of his father, the wicked son decided to violate the third instruction, and at the same time to assure himself of Theodora's devotion.

Salardo stole the marquis's favorite hunting falcon, took it to his friend Francois and asked him to hide it for the time being. Returning home, he killed one of his own falcons and told his wife to cook him for supper; he told her that it was the falcon of the marquis he had killed. The submissive Theodora obeyed her husband's orders, but at the table she refused to touch the bird, for which Salardo rewarded her with a good slap. The next morning, getting up early in the morning, all in tears from the insult suffered, Theodora hurried to the palace and told the Marquis about the atrocity of her husband. The marquis was inflamed with anger and ordered Salardo to be hanged immediately, and his property to be divided into three parts: one for the widow, the second for the son, and the third for the executioner. The resourceful Postumio volunteered to hang his father with his own hands, so that all the property would remain in the family;

Theodora liked his cleverness. Salardo, who bitterly and sincerely repented of his filial disrespect, was already standing on the scaffold with a noose around his neck, when Francois delivered irrefutable proof of his friend's innocence to the Marquis. The marquis forgave Salardo and ordered Postumio to be hanged instead of him, but Salardo persuaded the gentleman to let the villain go on all four sides, and in return for the property he wanted to take possession of, he handed over the noose that had almost tightened around his neck. No one else heard anything about Postumio, Theodora took refuge in a monastery and soon died there, and Salardo returned to Genoa, where he lived serenely for many more years, distributing most of his fortune to things pleasing to God.

Another story took place in Venice. There lived in this glorious city a merchant named Dimitrio. He kept his young wife Polisena in a luxury unprecedented for their class, and all because he loved her very much. Dimitrio often left the house for a long time on business, while the pretty and spoiled woman in his absence began to get confused with one priest. Who knows how long their tricks would have continued if not for Manusso, godfather and friend Dimitrio. Manusso's house stood directly opposite the house of the unlucky merchant, and one fine evening he saw how the priest stealthily slipped through the door and how he and the hostess were engaged in what is inconvenient to call words.

When Dimitrio returned to Venice, Manusso told him what he knew. Dimitrio doubted the veracity of his friend's words, but he suggested to him a way to make sure of everything himself. And then one day Dimitrio told Polisena that he was leaving for Cyprus, while he himself secretly made his way from the harbor to Manusso's house. Later in the evening, he dressed up as a beggar, smeared his face with mud, and knocked on the door of his own house, begging him not to let him freeze on a rainy night. A compassionate maid let the beggar go and gave him a room for the night, adjacent to Polisena's bedroom. There was no trace of Dimitrio's doubts, and early in the morning he slipped out of the house, unnoticed by anyone.

having washed and changed, he again knocked on the door of his own house, in response to his wife's bewilderment, explaining that, they say, bad weather forced him to return from the road. Polisena barely had time to hide the priest in a chest of dresses, where he hid, trembling with fear. Dimitrio sent a maid to call the Polisena brothers to dinner, but he himself did not go anywhere from home. The brother-in-law gladly accepted Dimitrio's invitation. After dinner, the owner began to describe in what luxury and contentment he kept their sister, and as proof he ordered Polisena to show the brothers all his countless jewelry and outfits. She, not herself, opened the chests one by one, until finally, together with the dresses, the priest was taken into the light of day. The Polisena brothers wanted to stab him, but Dimitrio convinced them that it was not good to kill a spiritual person, and besides, when she was in her underwear, it was not good. He ordered his brother-in-law to take his wife away. On the way home, they could not contain their righteous anger. They beat the poor thing to death.

Upon learning of the death of his wife, Dimitrio thought about the maid - she was beautiful, kind and plump. She became his adored wife and owner of the clothes and jewels of the late Polisena.

Having finished the story of Dimitrio and Polisen, Ariadne, as agreed, made a riddle: “Three good friends somehow feasted / Over the dishes laid out on the table, <…> / And then the servant brings them in the finale / Three doves on an expensive platter. / Everyone of his own, without wasting money on words, / Cleaned up, and still two remained.

How could this be? This is not the most ingenious of those riddles that the storytellers offered to the audience, but she also baffled them. And the answer is this: just one of the friends was called Everyone.

But what happened somehow on the island of Capraia. On this island, not far from the royal palace, lived a poor widow with a son named Pietro, and nicknamed the Fool. Pietro was a fisherman, but a poor fisherman, and therefore he and his mother were always hungry. Once the Fool was lucky and he pulled a large tuna out of the water, which suddenly pleaded with a human voice, they say, let me go, Pietro, you will be more useful from a living me than from a fried one. Pietro took pity and was immediately rewarded - he caught as many fish as he had never seen in his life. When he returned home with booty, the royal daughter, Luciana, as usual, began to make fun of him angrily. The Fool could not stand it, ran ashore, called the tuna and ordered to make Luciana pregnant. The due date passed, and the girl, who was barely twelve years old, gave birth to a charming baby. They launched an investigation:

all male islanders over the age of thirteen were gathered to the palace on pain of death. To everyone's surprise, the baby recognized Pietro the Fool as the father.

The king could not bear such a shame. He ordered to put Luciana, Pietro and the baby in a tarred barrel and throw it into the sea. The fool was not at all afraid and, sitting in a barrel, told Luciana about the magic tuna and where the baby came from. Then he called the tuna and ordered to obey Lucian as himself. She first ordered the tuna to throw the barrel ashore. Coming out of the barrel and looking around, Luciana wished that the most luxurious palace in the world was erected on the shore, and Pietro from being dirty and a fool turned into the most beautiful and wisest person in the world. All her wishes were fulfilled in the blink of an eye.

The king and queen, meanwhile, could not forgive themselves for treating their daughter and grandson so cruelly, and, in order to alleviate mental anguish, went to Jerusalem. On the way, they saw a beautiful palace on the island and ordered the shipbuilders to land on the shore. Great was their joy when they found their grandson and daughter alive and unharmed, who told them the whole wonderful story that had happened to her and Pietro. They all then lived happily ever after, and when the king died, Pietro began to rule his kingdom.

In Bohemia, the next storyteller began her story, there lived a poor widow. Dying, she left only sourdough, a breadboard and a cat as a legacy to her three sons. The cat went to the youngest, Konstantin the Lucky. Courageous Constantino: what good is a cat when the belly sticks to the back from hunger? But then the cat said that she would take care of food herself. The cat ran into the field, caught the hare and went to the royal palace with the prey. In the palace, she was led to the king, to whom she presented the hare on behalf of her master Constantino, the kindest, most beautiful and most powerful man in the world. Out of respect for the glorious Mr. Constantina, the king invited the guest to the table, and she, having sated herself, deftly secretly stuffed a full bag of dishes for the host.

Then the cat went to the palace more than once with various offerings, but soon she got bored with it, and she asked the owner to completely trust her, promising that in a short time she would make him rich. And then one fine day she brought Constantino to the bank of the river to the royal palace itself, stripped him naked, pushed him into the water and shouted that Messer Constantino was drowning. The courtiers ran to the cry, pulled Constantino out of the water, gave beautiful clothes and took him to the king. The cat told him a story about how her master was heading to the palace with rich gifts, but the robbers, having learned about this, robbed and almost killed him. The king treated the guest in every possible way and even married his daughter Elisetta to him. After the wedding, a rich caravan with a dowry was equipped and, under reliable guard, was sent to the newlywed's house. Of course, there was no house at all, but the cat arranged everything and took care of everything. She ran forward and whoever she met along the way, ordered everyone, under pain of death, to answer that everything around belonged to Messer Konstantin the Happy. Having reached the magnificent castle and found there a small garrison, the cat told the soldiers that at any moment they were to be attacked by an innumerable army, and that the only way they could save their lives was to call Messer Constantine their master. And so they did. The young people settled comfortably in the castle, the real owner of which, as it soon became known, died in a foreign land, leaving no offspring. When Elisetta's father died, Constantino, as the son-in-law of the deceased, rightfully took the Bohemian throne.

Many more fairy tales and stories were told in the palace of the beautiful Lucrezia on the island of Murano during thirteen carnival nights. At the end of the thirteenth night, a bell ringing was heard over Venice, which announced the end of the carnival and the beginning of Great Lent, urging pious Christians to leave amusement for the sake of prayer and repentance.