Ghismunda and Gabriotto


Ghismunda is a name I can’t seem to find an etymology for. She appears in the first story of the fourth day of The Decameron, whose theme is love stories which ended unhappily. Her cruel father Tancredi, the Prince of Salerno, murders her lover Guiscardo and delivers his heart in a golden goblet. Ghismunda weeps over the heart and kisses it, then pours poison into the goblet and drinks it. Tancredi repents too late, and has them buried in one tomb.

Gabriotto may be an old, elaborated Italian form of Gabriele, which ultimately derives from the Hebrew Gavriel and means “God is my strong man.” He appears in the sixth story of the fourth day of The Decameron, as the short-lived, secret husband of Andriuola (alternately spelt Andreuola). Shortly after their marriage, Andriuola has a horrible nightmare about Gabriotto dying, and when she tells him about it, he just laughs it off and tells her about his own nightmare where he died horrifically. Not too long after this conversation, Gabriotto drops dead.

While Andriuola and her maidservant are taking Gabriotto’s body for burial, they’re discovered and arrested by some officers on duty. The investigation finds he died of some burst abscess near the heart, but the podestà still wants to hold Andriuola accountable in some way. He offers to release her in exchange for sex, but Andriuola refuses. Not easily deterred, the podestà returns her to her father and asks for her hand in marriage. Andriuola then confesses to her father about the secret marriage, and the old man is moved to tears. He honours Gabriotto as his own son, and arranges a magnificent funeral. Andriuola continues to refuse the podestà and becomes a nun.

5 thoughts on “Ghismunda and Gabriotto

  1. I knew a different version of the first story, which it’s actually a legend based on true historical events. The woman’s name in that legend is Rosmunda. Maybe Boccaccio was inspire by the legend too.

  2. Gismunda is a compound of Proto-Germanic *gaisa, *gaiza ‘arrow’ and Old Saxon mund or Old High German munt ‘hand, protection’

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

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