The last novella of Giovanni Boccaccio's Decameron
tells the story of a lower-class girl, Griselda, who the marquis Gualtieri di Saluzzo marries and submits to incessant cruel tests to prove her docility. Firstly, he takes the children away from her making her believe he wanted to kill them, then he repudiates her, and finally he asked her to come back to the court to serve as maid to his new wife (who in reality is her daughter). Griselda, after having suffered everything without rebelling, is welcomed again in the house of her husband and honoured according to her worth.
When, at the beginning of 1373, Petrarch received from Boccaccio a copy of the Decameron
, he appreciated the novella of Griselda (already familiar with the story, having heard it many years before) to the point that he wanted to freely rewrite it in Latin. The translation entitled De insigni obedientia et fide uxoria
was sent to his friend in exchange (Seniles
XVII 3), softens the sourness of Boccaccio's story and expressly makes Griselda an even greater moral exemplum
worthy of appearing in a hagiographic text. Nevertheless, Petrarch's work has an ambiguous meaning: on the one hand it pays homage to the narrative abilities of Boccaccio; on the other, translating in Latin only the passage worthy to be detracted from the population's fruition, he disqualifies the work in vulgar from its foundations.
The Petrarchian version of the novella of Griselda, expressly because it was written in Latin, had an enormous circulation in Europe displacing the original one. One of the earliest testimonies of its fortune is the English translation completed by Geoffrey Chaucer in the Canterbury Tales
, who affirms having learned it in Padua
from Petrarch; an unlikely circumstance, but one that demonstrates the intermediary function carried out by the Italian author on an international level. Moreover, he set an example for the succeeding humanistic narrative that preferred the isolated novella to the collection of novellas.