Bocaccio’s ‘‘Federigo’s Falcon’’ is a story told within the larger framework of the Decameron. ‘‘Federigo’s Falcon’’ is the ninth story told on the fifth day. It is offered by Fiammetta, the young woman elected queen for the day.
Fiammetta opens the story by urging the women in the group not to discriminate among potential suitors regardless of ‘‘chance or fortune.’’ Fiammetta then tells of a young man, a gentleman named Federigo, a member of the wealthy and respected Alberighi family. As Fiammetta’s narration continues, she reveals that Federigo loves the rich and beautiful Monna Giovanna. Despite the fact that Giovanna is already married, in order to win her heart Federigo holds feasts and tournaments in her honor and sends her expensive gifts. In spite of the lavishness of his offerings, however, the lady is unmoved by Federigo’s displays of affection. Federigo loses the entirety of his wealth in pursuit of Giovanna. He retains only a small farm, where he takes up residence, and his prized falcon. Meanwhile, Giovanna’s husband eventually becomes sick and dies, leaving his wealth to his son and, in the event of his son’s death, to Giovanna.
The widow Giovanna, Fiammetta informs the reader, moves to the country; her estate is near Federigo’s now impoverished farm. Giovanna’s son spends much of his time wandering the countryside and comes to know Federigo and his falcon. The young boy loves Federigo’s falcon and wishes it to be his. The child becomes very ill. Giovanna scarcely leaves his side and promises him anything his heart desires, hoping this will enable him to recover. The boy tells his mother that if she can procure Federigo’s falcon for him, he believes his sickness will be cured. Giovanna resolves to ask Federigo for his falcon, knowing it is all he has left in the world but believing she must try and save her son.
The next morning, Giovanna sets off, certain that Federigo will be pleased to see her. Federigo hurries to greet her. Giovanna appeals to his former feelings for her, telling her onetime suitor that she has come to make amends for anything he might have suffered in pursuit of her by offering to dine with him. Federigo, humbled and happy to receive her, promises her a meal. Once alone, Federigo despairs that he has nothing to offer Giovanna. Moved by the love he still feels for Giovanna, Federigo is convinced he must offer her something in order to demonstrate his honor and respect for the lady. Having no money, refusing to beg for goods, and knowing none of his poor neighbors have anything they can lend him, Federigo realizes he has but one thing with which to make a meal: his falcon. After cleaning and roasting the bird and setting the table, Federigo offers the meal to Giovanna. After dining on Federigo’s falcon, Giovanna reveals to Federigo her reason for visiting him. Giovanna begins by acknowledging Federigo’s former pursuit of her. She describes a mother’s love for her child. After expressing her understanding of Federigo’s situation—that he has lost his fortune and now has nothing left except his falcon—Giovanna goes on to explain how ill her son is, and how much he loves Federigo’s falcon. Claiming to make her request not on the grounds of Federigo’s love for her but only based on her understanding of his kind and gentle nature, Giovanna tells Federigo that if she does not return home with Federigo’s falcon, she fears her son will die.
Speechless, Federigo begins to weep. Federigo tells Giovanna how, out of respect and love for her, he made a feast for her of the only thing he had, his falcon. Giovanna first scolds him for having killed such a rare bird for the base purpose of appeasing a woman’s appetite. At the same time, Giovanna inwardly marks the nobility of Federigo’s actions and understands that despite his poverty Federigo has remained a true gentleman. She returns home to her son after thanking him. Shortly thereafter, Giovanna’s son dies. After a period of time has passed, Giovanna’s family encourages her to marry again, as ‘‘she was very rich, and yet but young.’’ Giovanna tells her family that she does not mind living without a husband and that she is content. However, if they insist she marry, she will have no one except Federigo. Initially Giovanna’s family members protest that Federigo is but a poor beggar, but Giovanna defends him, acknowledging his lack of wealth but praising him as a gentleman. Eventually, Giovanna’s family consents to the match, and Giovanna showers her wealth upon her new husband. The couple, as the story concludes, ‘‘lived and loved in equal joy and happiness.’’
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.