Federigo is the son of Signor Fillippo Alberighi (Fillippo Alberighi does not appear in the story. He is mentioned only to draw attention to the prestigious reputation of the Alberighi family.) Federigo falls in love with the lady Giovanna. Despite Giovanna’s continued ambivalence toward Federigo’s advances, Federigo continues to spend his fortune extravagantly. In Giovanna’s honor, Federigo hosts banquets, feasts, jousting tournaments, and other grand events. He sends her all manner of gifts, sparing no expense in the process. Eventually, he has spent everything he has and is forced to live on a small farm in the country, with only one reminder of his former wealth—his rare and prized falcon. The narrator observes that Federigo bears Giovanna no ill will for being the cause of his poverty; rather, his love for her grows more intense. When Giovanna visits Federigo at his home, he receives her like a gentleman, exchanging polite greetings and refusing to admit—despite Giovanna’s offer to make amends for her past behavior—that she has ever caused him any harm. Upon hearing that Giovanna has offered to grace him with her company for dinner, Federigo behaves in his usual fashion and is prepared to give up all he has for his love. Clearly in a state of panic, Federigo is described as running around the house (after he has conducted Giovanna, and the gentlewoman accompanying her, into the garden), desperate to find something to prepare for dinner. Spying his falcon and realizing he has nothing else, Federigo admits that his noble bird will make an appropriate meal for a noble lady. After dinner, upon hearing that Giovanna wanted the bird for her ill son, Federigo feels intense grief and comments on how cruel Fortune has been to him. He explains his actions and receives Giovanna’s reprimand. When Giovanna and Federigo are finally wed, the narrator observes that having loved Giovanna for so long, and having given everything to her, enables Federigo to be a better husband than he would otherwise have been.
Fiammetta is the narrator of ‘‘Federigo’s Falcon.’’ Elected by her peers as the queen of the fifth day of storytelling, Fiammetta selects the theme, the introduction to the fifth day informs the reader, of ‘‘lovers who have won happiness after grief or misfortune.’’ Fiammetta introduces the tale, cautioning the other young women in the group to not be rash or careless in the selection of their suitors, and to take into account the worthiness of the suitor rather than simply the suitor’s fortune. Fiammetta takes no part in the story herself.
Giovanna is the noblewoman with whom Federigo is in love. (The word monna, short for ‘‘madonna,’’ is Italian for the title of ‘‘lady,’’ a title used in Boccaccio’s day.) She is described as the most beautiful woman in all of Florence. Despite her beauty and her other reputed virtues, such as her honesty, Giovanna ignores Federigo and all the ostentatious displays of his affection. No matter how lavish the banquet given in her honor or how expensive the gift, Giovanna does not acknowledge Federigo in any way, even though Federigo is, like Giovanna, from a wealthy and respected family. Once his fortune is lost, Federigo abandons the city to live on a small farm with his falcon. Meanwhile, Giovanna’s husband dies and her son grows gravely ill. Giovanna remains by her son’s side during his illness, offering him whatever she can to comfort him and telling him that, if he desires anything at all, she will do everything she can to bring it to him. The boy then tells her of his wish to have Federigo’s falcon for his own. Giovanna’s thoughts reveal some torment upon hearing the request of her dying son. She understands that Federigo gave up his fortune for her, and that all he had left was his prized falcon. Although she considers the fact that Federigo may no longer wish to go on living if his falcon were taken from him, Giovanna feels compelled to ask him for the bird. Confident that Federigo will give her his falcon if she asks for it, Giovanna promises her son to retrieve the animal. While Giovanna’s earlier indifference to Federigo’s attentions, combined with her disregard for his feelings about his falcon, demonstrate her to be an arrogant woman, Giovanna nevertheless approaches Federigo with the polite respectfulness that is expected of a woman of her stature. She does not immediately tell Federigo why she has come but states her desire to make amends for her previous treatment of him, and to offer him her company for dinner. Her delay in making her request has disastrous results: she eats the falcon she had intended to retrieve for her son. After an initial outburst, in which Giovanna chastises Federigo for sacrificing the noble animal for any woman, she reveals that she is touched by his gesture. While she finds contentment living alone, when pressured by her family to remarry, Giovanna claims she will only have Federigo as her husband. He has finally won her heart with a grand gesture of his love.
Giovanna’s son, whose name is not mentioned in ‘‘Federigo’s Falcon,’’ is described as having a great interest in hawks and a familiarity with Federigo and his falcon. According to the narrator, the boy delights in watching Federigo’s falcon, but seeing how much Federigo loves his falcon, the boy makes no attempt to try and claim it as his own. Through this statement, the boy’s sense of arrogant entitlement is revealed, although it is somewhat modified by his respect for Federigo’s feelings. The narrator seems to imply that if the boy had not noticed how much Federigo loved his falcon, he would have somehow procured it for himself simply because he desired it. Once he becomes ill and is told by his mother that she will get him anything he wants if it will ease his suffering, the boy requests that Giovanna obtain Federigo’s falcon for himself. The boy tells his mother that his illness will perhaps be alleviated if only he can have Federigo’s falcon. Later, when Giovanna reveals that she is unable to bring him what he desires, the boy dies. The narrator observes that his death results either from ‘‘grieving over the fact that he could not have Federigo’s falcon or from the extremity of his disease.’’
Sara Constantakis, Thomas E. Barden – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 28 (2010) – Giovanni Boccaccio – Published by Gale Cengage Learning.