chapter  2
16 Pages

The Crisis of Word and Deed in Decameron V, 10

The interplay between the notions of words and deeds through literalization and metaphorization is a common and noted theme throughout the f:ci'wmeron. Teodolinda Barolini begins her discussion of the sexual poetics of the Decameron with the adage "Ie parole son femmine e i fatti son maschi" (words are female and actions are male), noting that the two categories necessarily contaminate each other by virtue of the fact that "fatti" is itself a paroia. 3 Barolini reminds us of Boccaccio's insistence on the forced immobility of his supposedly female audience, who are physically racchiuse while they are by nature-at least according to Pampinea in I, Intro., 75-metaphorically mobili. By contrast, men have ample freedom to enjoy a variety of faui: "a loro, volendo essi, non manca I'andare a torno, udire e vedere molte cose, uccellare, cacciare, pescare, cavaIcare, giucare 0 mercatare" (Proemio, 12).4 (lI]f they wish, they can take a walk and listen to or

look at many different things; they can go hawking, hunting, or fishing; they can ride, gamble, or attend to business.)5 The old woman in V, 10 echoes the author's assertion, insisting that women can do only one thing-sex-while men can do thousands ofthings.6 Barolini, however, argues that the wide variety of metaphors used to describe sex in the Decameron allows "the one thing women do to take on the dimension of the many things men do" (196). Barolini concludes that the Decameron essentially reverses another proverb so that "Ie parole fanno fatti" (197). Barolini's hypothesis seems valid for the Decameron as a whole; however, it is my contention that, at the central point of the Decameron, the gendered categories of word and deed are both profoundly blurred and irremediably separate at the very point at which they should connect: the passage from the day of deeds to that of words.