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The Pleasant Nights - Volume 1

The Pleasant Nights - Volume 1

Edited with Introduction and Commentaries by Donald Beecher
Translated by W.G. Waters
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  • Book Info
    The Pleasant Nights - Volume 1
    Book Description:

    Immensely entertaining and readable,The Pleasant Nightswill appeal to anyone interested in fairy tales, ancient stories, and folk creations.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-9951-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-140)

    The seventy-three stories compiled by Straparola in hisPleasant Nightsconstitute a miscellany, a Renaissance story book, an anthology of folk and literarynovelle, fables, wonder tales and jests, a cabinet of literary curiosities, and a dramatized festal entertainment. Straparola was conventional in his use of the framing tale, but enigmatic in referring to all of his stories asfavole. He was anomalous in his mixture of high and low styles and boldly experimental in presenting such a large component of materials extrapolated from popular culture. His precise sources, in nearly all cases, are elusive, increasing the likelihood that he...

  5. The Greetings from orfeo dalla Carta
    (pp. 141-142)

    Dear Ladies, I have been thinking about how many heaven-born and illustrious spirits there have been, how truly excellent, both ancient and modern, who have written those various fables which, in reading them, have given you so much pleasure. you are aware, I am certain, that they were motivated to write for no other reason than to provide you with entertainment, comfort, and consolation. Such is my opinion, or rather my certainty, pleasant and adorable as you all are, that you will not now be angry if I, as your good servant, should publish in your name the fables and...

  6. The First Night

    • Proem
      (pp. 143-148)

      Milan, the principal city and one of the most ancient of Lombardy, is well furnished with fair and gracious ladies, adorned with splendid palaces, and contains all things appropriate to a famous city. Therein dwelled Octaviano Maria Sforza, bishop elect of Lodi, who, by right of succession, was entitled to assume the lordship and sovereignty of the state, now that Francesco Sforza, duke of Milan, was dead. yet by reason of those dangerous and evil times, cruel hatreds, bloody battles, and the never-ending hazards and changes of state affairs, it was necessary for him to leave the city and take...

    • I. Fable 1 The Disobedience of Salardo
      (pp. 149-171)

      In every endeavour that we undertake, or think to undertake, whether good or bad, we should first consider the results. Now that we are about to begin our pleasant and playful entertainment, I could have wished that another besides myself had been chosen for the first recitation. In truth, I feel unequal to the task, for I am not experienced in the art of ornate and polite discourse in which my gracious companions are so adept. But if it is your pleasure, insofar as the drawing of lots has decided that I must go first, I will commence in order...

    • I. Fable 2 Cassandrino the Master-Thief
      (pp. 172-198)

      Most honourable ladies, herewith let me propose that the wit of man is so keen and subtle that there is hardly anything in the world that can baffle it, for in time matters of the greatest complexity or difficulty are solved with ease and facility. Indeed, there is a familiar saying of the common folk which goes, ‘Where there’s a will there’s a way,’ and this very proverb has suggested to me the tale I’m about to tell. It contains little comic business, I’m afraid, yet it may give you some pleasure and even some practical knowledge by showing you...

    • I. Fable 3 How Scarpacifico Swindles the Swindlers
      (pp. 199-222)

      The end of Alteria’s story, which she set forth with such wise skill, supplies me now with a theme for my own, which by chance may please you no less than hers. But there will be a difference on one point. Her story pictured to us Father Severino neatly entrapped by Cassandrino, while here, Father Scarpacifico throws the net just as adroitly over a group of rogues who were trying to get the better of him, as the plot of my fable will fully reveal.

      Not far from Imola, a city always plagued by factious quarrels which in our own...

    • I. Fable 4 Doralice and Her Incestuous Father, Tebaldo
      (pp. 223-254)

      I believe there is not one among you who has not learned by experience how great the power of Love is, and how sharp the arrows are that he shoots into our corruptible flesh. Like a puissant sovereign, he directs and governs his empire without a sword, but by the sole might of his will, as you will understand from the story I’m about to tell.

      My fair ladies, according to the story I’ve many times heard told by my ancestors, Tebaldo, prince of Salerno, had a modest and prudent lady from a good family for his wife, and by...

    • I. Fable 5 Polissena and the Priest
      (pp. 255-270)

      We often see, dear ladies, great inequality in the degrees of love. How often the husband fondly loves his wife and she cares little for him, while at other times the wife loves her husband only to receive hatred in return. In conditions like these, the passion of sudden jealousy is often born, the destroyer of all happiness. It renders a decent life impossible; it leads to dishonour and untimely death, with all attendant reproach and disgrace to our sex. I say nothing of the headlong perils and the numberless ills into which both men and women hurl themselves by...

  7. The Second Night

    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 271-272)

      Already Phoebus had dipped his golden chariot wheels in the salt billows of the Indian Sea and withdrawn the splendour of his shining rays from the earth, already his sister the crescent moon had shot her clear and flashing beams in sovereign wise through the dusk of night and the gay, sparkling stars had patterned the heavens with their points of light when the same honourable and courtly company made their way once more to the accustomed meeting to continue their pleasant recreation. And when they were all seated according to their several degrees, Signora Lucrezia set out the terms...

    • II. Fable 1 The Pig Prince
      (pp. 273-298)

      Fair ladies, if a man were to spend a thousand years in rendering thanks to his Creator for having made him in the form of a human being and not of a brute beast, he could not say enough in gratitude. This thought brings to my mind the tale of one who was born a pig, yet afterwards became a handsome youth, and was known ever after by all men as King Pig.

      you may well remember, dear ladies, that Galeotto, king of Anglia, was a man equally blessed with worldly wealth and with gifts of the mind. His wife...

    • II. Fable 2 Filenio Sisterno’s Revenge upon the Three Ladies
      (pp. 299-317)

      I should never have thought or imagined, gracious ladies, that the Signora would have laid upon me the task of telling a story, seeing that, according to the drawing of lots, we should be calling upon Fiordiana to give us hers. But since it is the pleasure of the assembly, I’ll take it upon myself to tell you something that may by chance fit your humour. And God forbid that my narrative should prove tiresome to you all, or that it crosses the bounds of civility. If so, I must simply crave your indulgence, for the blame is to be...

    • II. Fable 3 Carlo da Rimini among the Pots and Pans
      (pp. 318-330)

      Dear ladies, the clever story just told to us by Molino has made me give up all thought of the one I had in mind and induced me to offer another in its place, which, if I’m not mistaken, will be equally pleasing to you ladies as Molino’s was to the gentlemen. And to the degree that his was rather long and obscene, to the opposite degree mine will be brief and upright.

      I must tell you then that Carlo da Rimini, as I think many of you may know, was a man whose trade was fighting. He was a...

    • II. Fable 4 The Devil’s Marriage to Silvia Ballastro
      (pp. 331-351)

      The frivolity and want of judgment that is nowadays to be found among most women – I’m speaking of those who heedlessly let the eyes of their intellect feed their fancies with unbridled desires – gives me occasion to tell this noble assembly a story which may not be familiar. Although you may find it a little on the short side and not well put together, nevertheless I hope it may serve as a wholesome lesson to you women to be less irksome to your husbands and less demanding than before. And if I seem rather too biting, don’t blame...

    • II. Fable 5 The Beating of Simplicio de’ Rossi
      (pp. 352-364)

      one cannot deny, dear ladies, that Love has a gentle nature, yet rarely does he grant happy and glorious results to his followers. That’s how it turned out in the case of the lovesick Messer Simplicio de’ Rossi, for just as he was flattering himself that he was about to enjoy the woman he so ardently desired, he had to make his escape carrying about as many bruises as any man possibly could. I’ll relate this entire story if you’ll listen intently, as it is your gracious custom to do.

      In the village of Santa Eufemia, situated just below Camposempiero...

  8. The Third Night

    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 365-366)

      Already the sister of the sun had begun her reign in the sky above the forests and the gloomy gorges of the hills, there displaying her golden circle over half the heavens. Already the car of Phoebus had sunk beneath the western waves, the wandering stars had lighted their lamps, and the pretty birds, ceasing their tuneful songs, had sought repose in their nests amid the green boughs when the ladies and their gallants met once more at the customary time to renew their storytelling. As soon as all were seated according to their ranks, Signora Lucrezia commanded that the...

    • III. Fable 1 Pietro the Fool and the Magic Fish
      (pp. 367-386)

      There is ample proof, dear ladies, both in the chronicles of the past and in the doings of our own day, that a fool, whether by lucky accident or by sheer force of blundering, may sometimes score a success where a wise man might fail. For this reason it has come into my mind to tell you the story of one of these fools, who got for his wife the daughter of a king and became a wise man into the bargain through just such an incredibly foolish deed.

      In the Ligurian Sea there is an island called Capraia, which,...

    • III. Fable 2 Livoretto and His Wonderful Horse
      (pp. 387-422)

      It is no easy matter for the helmsman, no matter how wise, if he is troubled by envious and contrary fortune and driven amid hard and jagged reefs, to bring his tempest-tossed vessel safely into a sheltered harbour. So it happened to Livoretto, son of the great king of Tunis, who, after many dangers, heavy afflictions, and tiring ventures hardly to be believed, succeeded at the last, through the fortitude of his spirit, in trampling under foot his wretched fortune, and finally to reign peacefully over his kingdom from the great city of Cairo. I will make all of this...

    • III. Fable 3 Biancabella, or the Damsel and the Snake
      (pp. 423-455)

      It is most laudable and necessary that a woman, no matter what her condition might be, should bear herself with prudence in everything she does, for without prudence, nothing will come to a commendable issue. If a certain stepmother, of whom I’m about to tell you, had used it with due moderation when she wickedly plotted to take another’s life, she would not herself have been cut off by divine judgment in such fashion as you shall now hear.

      once upon a time, now many years ago, there reigned in Monferrato a marquis called Lamberico, who was a man of...

    • III. Fable 4 Fortunio, the King’s Daughter, and the Mermaid
      (pp. 456-483)

      It is a common proverb in the mouths of men, often repeated among them, that we should never be the cause of affliction nor make light of the truth, for whoever keeps his eyes and ears open and holds his tongue is not likely to harm his fellow men and will always live at peace.

      once upon a time there lived on the frontiers of Lombardy a man called Bernio. Although he was not overly endowed with the gifts of fortune, yet he was generous of heart and very intelligent. This man married a worthy and amiable woman named Alchia....

    • III. Fable 5 Isotta and the Cowherd Travaglino
      (pp. 484-502)

      So great is the power of truth, our infallible guide, that according to the Holy Scriptures it would be easier for the heavens and the earth to pass away than for truth to fail. It has so far-reaching a character, according to the writings of the wise the world over, that truth conquers even time itself and not the inverse. As with oil, which ever rises when mixed in a vessel with water, so too will truth rise above lies. No one should marvel at this prologue of mine, for I have written it because I was moved by the...

  9. The Fourth Night

    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 503-504)

      Already the golden-haired Apollo with his radiant chariot had left our hemisphere, plunged into the sea, and gone to the antipodes, and the folk who had been labouring in the fields, weary with their long toil, felt a desire only to repose quietly in their beds, when the worshipful and high-born company assembled themselves joyfully once more at the customary place. And after the ladies and gentlemen had spent some time in mirthful conversation, the Signora Lucrezia, once silence was restored, requested them to bring out the golden vase. Then, having written with her own hand the names of five...

    • IV. Fable 1 Costanza, the Girl-Knight
      (pp. 505-536)

      I must tell you first, fair and gracious ladies, that the fable which Eritrea told to us last evening has so dashed my confidence that I don’t feel much in the mood to play the storyteller tonight. Nevertheless, my sense of obedience to all the commands of the Signora and the respect I feel for the whole of this honourable and gracious company compels and encourages me to make an attempt with a certain story which, although it will assuredly not be found so pleasing as Eritrea’s, I will give to you for what it is worth. you will hear...

    • IV. Fable 2 Erminione and Filenia, or the Jealous Husband Outwitted
      (pp. 537-558)

      Of a truth, gracious ladies, there would be no condition sweeter, more delightful, or more happy in all the world than the service of love, were it not for that bitter fruit that springs from sudden jealousy, the foe to gentle Cupid, the betrayer of kindly ladies, the enemy that, day and night, seeks their deaths. This brings to mind a fable in which you’ll understand immediately the hard and piteous fate that befell a gentleman of Athens, who, because of his cold-hearted jealousy, sought to have his wife slain by the sword of justice, but was himself condemned in...

    • IV. Fable 3 Dancing Water, Singing Apple, and the Truth-Speaking Bird
      (pp. 559-603)

      Gracious ladies, I have always understood that man is the noblest and cleverest of all living creatures fashioned by nature, insofar as God has made him in His own image and similitude and willed that he should rule and not be ruled. It is rightly said, therefore, that man is the perfect animal and of greater excellence than all others, because all of these, including women, are subject to him. For that reason, anyone who by deceit and cunning causes the death of so noble a creature commits a heinous crime. It is no wonder that such persons, seeking to...

    • IV. Fable 4 The Physician’s Wife
      (pp. 604-627)

      I must tell you, noble ladies, that there are many men who, because they have spent long years in the study of letters, think they know everything, when in truth they know nothing, or next to nothing. And while men of this sort think they bear the badges of wisdom on their brows, in reality they’re blind in both eyes. This happened to a certain physician who might have been most skilled in his trade but who was ignominiously duped just when he thought he was about to dupe someone else, and to his very great cost, as you’ll find...

    • IV. Fable 5 Flamminio in Seeking Death Discovers Life
      (pp. 628-650)

      There are many men who go searching for things with care and diligence. But some things, once they’re found, they wish they had never set eyes on, fleeing from them as fast as the Devil from holy water. This was the case for Flamminio, who when he went in search of Death found Life, but only after encountering Fear and making trial of Death. You will find all of this clearly set forth in my fable.

      In Ostia, an ancient city situated not far from Rome, there lived in former days, as is commonly told, a young man somewhat wanting...

  10. The Fifth Night

    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 651-652)

      The sun – the glory of the shining firmament, the measurer of fleeting time, and the true eye of the universe from which the horned moon and all the stars receive their radiance – had now hidden his ruddy and resplendent rays beneath the briny waters of the sea, and the chaste daughter of Latona, environed round by bright and beaming stars, was already lighting up the dim shadows of dusky night. The shepherds, leaving the wide and open fields, the fresh herbage, and the cool and limpid streams, had returned with their flocks to their folds and, worn out...

    • V. Fable 1 Guerrino and the Wild Man of the Woods
      (pp. 653-687)

      I have heard by report, and also gathered from my own experiences, most gracious ladies, that a kindly service done to another – even when the identity of the benefactor is unknown – more often than not will return multiple benefits to the giver. This happened to the son of a king who, having liberated from one of his father’s prisons a wild man of the woods, was more than once rescued from a violent death by the captive he had freed. This will be made clear by the present tale. And because I care for you all, I exhort...

    • V. Fable 2 Adamantina’s Astonishing Doll
      (pp. 688-704)

      Man’s wit is so clever, strong, and subtle that there can be little doubt it surpasses every other human force in the world. Not without cause it is said that the wise man is above the stars. This brings a fable to memory that, in the telling, will make clear to you, I hope, just how a young girl of mean and poor estate by the help of fortune became the wife of a mighty king. Although my fable is short, still you’ll find it no less pleasing and amusing. So lend me your closest attention and listen carefully as...

    • V. Fable 3 The Three Hunchbacks
      (pp. 705-730)

      It is really difficult, most pleasing ladies and gracious madonnas, I mean really difficult ‘to kick against the pricks’ (durum est contra stimulum calcitrare), for the kick of an ass is a cruel thing, but that of a horse is worse. So seeing that fortune wills me to tell a tale, well, patience, for obedience trumps sanctimoniousness; obstinacy is wickedness and he who is such will surely go to the devil’s house. But then, if I tell you something that is not to your tastes, don’t place the blame on me, but on the Signora over there who has put...

    • V. Fable 4 Tia Rabboso, or the Ruses of an Adulterous Wife
      (pp. 731-752)

      In very truth, my lady mistress and fair damsels, what more would you have? Hasn’t Messer Antonio acquitted himself well? Has he not told you an excellent story? Well, by dog’s blood, I’ll make an effort to do something for my own honour.

      We village folks have always heard tell that among the gentlemen of the world, this man will manage his affairs in one way and that man in another. But me, well, I’m me, an ignorant yokel who knows nothing of learning except what I’ve always heard from our elders, which is that he who dances badly raises...

    • V. Fable 5 Madonna Modesta’s Shoes
      (pp. 753-764)

      Commonly it happens that ill-gotten wealth and riches are dispersed after a short time or perish altogether, for it is the divine will that their return should follow the same path by which they arrived. This was indeed the case with a certain woman of Pistoia, for had she been as honest and wise as she was dissolute and foolish, the occasion leading to the story I’m about to tell you would never have come about. This fable of mine may scarcely be suitable for your ears, because it ends up with a picture of shame and dishonour which obscures...