Lauretta, the name given by Boccaccio to one of the female narrators, implies Justice. The defining characteristic of Lauretta is the way in which that Justice is meted out. In her world view, women should obey men.


Contextual Role

Lauretta serves as a vocal reminder of the male dominance of medieval society. She counters the novellas of the "empowered" members of the brigata with tales grounded in the brutal realities of their society. On her day as Queen, she responds to Dioneo's transgressive theme. As ruler of the Seventh day, Dioneo requested stories regarding the tricks which women play on their husbands. These stories clash directly with conventional gender roles and social orders, which dictate that women never should cross their husbands. Having listened to the tales, Dioneo then presents the crown to Lauretta, practically taunting her to respond to his theme's attack upon the traditional power structure.

This deliberate placement of Lauretta in a difficult social situation indicates that Dioneo, if not other members of the brigata, dislikes her attitude toward the imbalance of power. When Lauretta selects Neifile as the first speaker on the eighth day, Neifile begins, "Since God has ordained that I should tell the first of our stories today...". As references to God by the narrators had been sparse, this comment can be taken as an acerbic remark directed at Lauretta. The brigata is a fairly liberal group, as shown by the risqué nature of their stories, exemplified by the tale of putting the Devil back in Hell (III.10). Lauretta, however, reminds the group of the society and the plague which they have attempted to escape from, and they are resentful to a certain extent.

Repeated themes

Boccaccio states in his Introduction that women at home are the Decameron's intended audience. Just as Prince Gallehault brought relief to Queen Guinevere, so too does Boccaccio aim to alleviate the suffering of housewives by relating tales of merriment and escapism. But for whatever reason, Boccaccio does not wish for his narrative framework to sever its ties to reality completely. Lauretta serves as the bond between the brigata's stories and the harsh realities of 14th-century Italy. She counters Pampinea's proto-feminism with misogyny. The tenth story exemplifies this concept, for it finds Lauretta relating a tale involving a woman, Madonna Caccianemico, treated as an object which one man discards, and another man claims. This focus upon the rights of men over women, representative of the traditional order of family and business, serves as Lauretta's rallying point.

(J. Q.)