Lisetta and Landolfo


Lisetta is a pet form of Elisabetta, the Italian form of Elizabeth. The full name means “my God is an oath.” She appears in the second story of the fourth day of The Decameron, one of my favouritest Decameron stories. I’ve read it so many times, I practically know it by heart.

Berto della Massa of Imola is a scoundrel who flees to Venice and reinvents himself as a minor friar, Brother Alberto da Imola. He privately still commits all the same vices from before, but he has the people believing he’s some great, pious, holy man. Then one day, he confesses Madonna Lisetta da Ca’ Quirino, and realises what a perfect target he’s got. Even better, her husband is away in Flanders.

Brother Alberto convinces Madonna Lisetta the Angel Gabriel is in love with her, and wants to use his own body to sleep with her. This woman is so stupid, she doesn’t even suspect she’s really sleeping with Brother Alberto all these many times. Several times in the text, she’s derisively referred to as Lady Silly, Lady Dimwit, and Lady Lighthead. Things go south after Lady Silly opens her big mouth about the affair, which is soon the talk of all Venice. One night her in-laws come by to try to catch this scoundrel in the act, and Brother Alberto leaps out the window into the Grand Canal, leaving his angel costume behind. He’s taken in by a poor man who believes his fish story about why he’s naked, and what he was doing in the canal at night.

The next day, the good man realises just who he is, from the talk along the Rialto. He pretends he’s going to smuggle Brother Alberto to safety by taking him in disguise to a masquerade hunt in St. Mark’s Square. Once in St. Mark’s Square, the good man unmasks Brother Alberto, and everyone recognises him, curses him, and throws garbage in his face until word reaches his fellow friars. Six of them come, and in the midst of the great commotion, they unchain him and lead him back to the monastery, where he’s locked up for the rest of his days.

Landolfo is the Italian form of Landolf/Landulf, a Germanic name derived from the elements “land” (lant) and “wolf” (wulf). Landolfo Rufolo appears in the fourth story of the second day, as a very wealthy merchant who almost meets a very bad end through his own greed. He buys a very large ship, loaded down with goods he also purchased entirely with his own money, and sails to Cyprus to try to double his wealth. Once docked, he discovers many other ships selling the same type of goods, and so has to give his merchandise away at practically nothing. This incurs a huge loss upon him.

Landolfo finds a buyer for the ship, buys a smaller ship for himself, and proceeds to become a pirate. Determined not to make the same mistake twice, he sails home after he feels he’s made enough of a fortune through robbery. While he’s waiting out a ferocious storm on the way home, he crosses paths with some ships he’s previously pirated, and proceeds to be robbed himself. After the storm breaks, he’s put aboard one of the ships as a prisoner, but then another storm hits, and there’s a shipwreck.

Landolfo makes it to Corfu by holding onto a chest, and is taken in by a kindly woman who nurses him back to health. Of course, Landolfo discovers the chest contains precious stones, but isn’t willing to risk bankruptcy a third time. He wraps the jewels in rags and makes his way home, and sells them for a vast fortune. In gratitude, he sends some of his riches to the good woman of Corfu. He doesn’t tempt Fate anymore, and settles down as a rich man.


3 thoughts on “Lisetta and Landolfo

  1. The first story sounds hilarious, and the second one is interesting… 🙂 And “Land Wolf” is a cool name… especially for a pirate XD

    @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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