Cassandrea and Cipolla


Cassandrea may be an elaborated Italian form of Cassandra, a Greek name which means “shining upon man.” She appears in the first story of the fifth day of The Decameron, one of my least-favourite stories. A man named Ormisda convinces Cassandrea’s parents to okay their marriage rather last-minute, so he can enjoy a double wedding with his brother Pasimunda. However, a fellow named Lisimaco has been in love with her for a very long time, and won’t hear of letting some other man steal her.

Lisimaco and his chowderhead best friend Cimone (the main character) abduct both Cassandrea and Cimone’s unmutual crush Efigenia on the high seas. I absolutely hated Cimone, and am very uncomfortable at how this is cast as a love story with a happy ending. Some overgrown bully throws his weight around and forces a woman to marry him. That’s not love!

Cipolla (Chee-pol-la) is Italian for “onion.” Brother Cipolla appears in the tenth story of the sixth day. He’s described as a short redhead with a cheerful face, with no education, a skillful and quick talker, and the nicest scoundrel in the world. He’s from Certaldo, which may have been author Giovanni Boccaccio’s birthplace.

Brother Cipolla promises some peasants he’s going to show them a feather from Angel Gabriel. When he makes this announcement after church, two of his friends, Giovanni del Bragoniera and Biagio Pizzini, decide to have a laugh at his expense and steal the pretended relic. They want to see how he’ll explain its disappearance.

The plan is for Biagio to keep Brother Cipolla’s hapless servant Guccio the Mess (also called Guccio the Whale and Guccio the Pig) occupied while Giovanni steals the feather. However, Guccio is so taken by the innkeeper’s ugly maid, Nuta, he leaves Brother Cipolla’s door unlocked. The tricksters easily get access to Brother Cipolla’s room and belongings, and replace his parrot feather with charcoal.

When it comes time for the show, Brother Cipolla discovers the trickery and curses himself for trusting Guccio with his belongings, since he’s so negligent, careless, and absentminded. He cooks up a huge fish story for his fleeced flock, and concludes by claiming he misplaced his relics. The charcoal he explains away as the coals over which Saint Lorenzo was roasted. After services, Giovanni and Biagio tell him what they did and give him back the feather, and they all have a good laugh.


4 thoughts on “Cassandrea and Cipolla

  1. You are right, the second story sounds a lot better than the first.
    (Also I love the name Cassandra but I think a lot of people who pick it for their kids are not familiar with Greek mythology…)

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary – Epics from A to Z
    MopDog – 26 Ways to Die in Medieval Hungary

  2. Pingback: A to Z Reflections | Onomastics Outside the Box

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