The tenth story of the third day in the Decameron is an exploration of language just as the rest of the book. Within this story, the smallest of words can make the biggest differences in how the themes can be interpreted. The genius of Boccaccio’s writing is that while he may have had different aspirations for the Decameron, the interpretations can be as modern as the Decameron is celebrated.
Although Dioneo introduces the story as a story of love, it is nothing of the sort; in fact, the story of Alibech and her religious journey is a tale that completely strips a young woman of the concept of love. Alibech is given a perception of God’s work that is disguised as rape; she not only does not consent to copulation, she does not know what it even is. Sex is presented to her for the first time in negative language: male genitalia is “the devil”, while female genitalia is “hell”. In the introduction, love is personified, capitalized, and given the pronoun he: “. . . Love is more inclined to take up his abode in a gay palace and a dainty bedchamber than in a wretched hovel. . . “ (274). This assumes that Love is a male, and because the Decameron is written for “women in love”, a woman may only experience love through a man. This also suggests that Love is a physical force as opposed to metaphysical: without a physical man, a woman is Love-less.
As Alibech progresses through her journey, several men turn her away: she first leaves her father, as he is unable to relate to her desires to become a Christian. She is then directed by a nameless Christian to travel far from her home to serve God. She meets the first holy man, who directs her further into the desert; though this first holy man provides her with food—a physical need—but no more, for Alibech was perhaps a test that the devil had sent to him. (Migiel 167) This idea of the woman as the temptation comes up again when she meets the second...