Italian Stories = Novelle Italiane Characters

Robert A. Hall, Jr.
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Italian Stories = Novelle Italiane Summary & Study Guide Description

Italian Stories = Novelle Italiane Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

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Bistino, appears in Bistino and the Marquis

Bistino is a retired servant in his sixties. He was born into his service as a peasant and gradually rose up through the ranks until he was the Marquis' constant companion and helper in nearly everything. He traveled extensively with the Marquis and would help him woo women; generally, when the Marquis would seduce a woman, Bistino would, almost automatically, make love to her servant. The Marquis often treated Bistino harshly and yelled all kinds of insults at him when he thought he was doing something slowly. Sometimes he would even throw objects, like shoes, at him. Bistino, however, did not mind his master's severity. In fact, he read into it a kind of affection and cherished those moments; it is not clear, however, whether the affection existed only in Bistino's mind.

Eventually, when the Marquis runs out of money, Bistino is forced to stop working for him. He takes a job as the Coachman for the Countess who employs his future wife, Nunzia. Nunzia is also a servant and it does not take long for the two of them to realize they like one another and marry. As described in the story, their marriage is a very successful one. Bistino, whose sexual experience is rather extensive thanks to the time spent with the Marquis, realizes Nunzia is not exceptionally beautiful, but they are a perfect match for one another in terms of personality.

As the story opens, there is one point they disagree upon, however: the Marquis. Though now retired, Bistino still has great affection for his old master. Pitying his misfortune, Bistino frequently meets him for lunch and pays for the meal, and sometimes even gives him a little extra money. Nunzia shocks Bistino one day asking to invite the Marquis over for dinner. Bistino instantly agrees but is disappointed to find that the Marquis does not seem to be his old, cranky self. Nonetheless, the dinner visits multiply and eventually the Marquis moves in. Bistino tries to establish their lost servant-master relationship and the Marquis initially resists, but finally yields and treats Bistino with the same severity he once had, much to Bistino's delight.

Malpelo, appears in Rosso Malpelo

Rosso Malpelo is a poor boy who works long, difficult hours in a mine. He is notorious among his fellow miners and the townspeople in general for his unpleasant, even hostile temperament. He hardly talks to anyone and when he does, he usually only has insults. He frequently pulls mean-spirited pranks on people he works with for no reason other than malice. He is such a malicious child that some suspect that he has been possessed by a demon. They attribute his bright red hair to the devil, whence comes his name, "Malpelo" (in English, "evil hair"). In truth, however, Malpelo's mean disposition is certainly a result both of his father's tragic death and the distant, almost contemptuous attitude the remaining members of his family regard him with. His father, also a miner, died while trying to clear a pillar in a mineshaft. The pillar supported the shaft's ceiling and he was buried alive. His father was the only member of the family who valued him at all, and as Malpelo's personality grew dark and bitter they drew away even more.

Despite his exterior coarseness, however, there is still a soft spot in his heart, however small. When another young boy, Ranocchio, comes to work in the mine, Malpelo adopts him, so to speak. He tries to teach the quiet and passive Ranocchio lessons about surviving in the world. His lessons are generally taught through extreme harshness and he frequently hits and yells at Ranocchio to make his points. One day, Ranocchio becomes very sick and, after Malpelo strikes him, he starts to cough up blood. In the most transparently tender moment in the story, Malpelo tries to reason that his blow could not possibly have caused Ranocchio to cough up blood; he cannot bear the thought that he might have seriously injured his only friend in the world. When Ranocchio stops coming to work, Malpelo visits his house. Ranocchio is still alive, but hardly conscious, his mind fixed firmly on the afterlife. Malpelo is perplexed to see Ranocchio's mother crying. His own family had always been so hateful towards him and had valued him only for his meager wages. Since Ranocchio could no longer work, and made very little anyway, he does not understand why his mother would be upset that he is dying.

Calandrino, appears in Decameron - Eighth Day, Third Story

Calandrino is a painter who has a reputation for being gullible. His friends take advantage of him and trick him into searching for a fictional stone that grants its possessor the power of invisibility. While on this expedition, they pretend that they cannot see him, making him believe he has the stone. However, when he returns home, his wife yells at him for coming home late and he believes that she has broken the spell on his stone. Angry, he beats her severely.

Belfagor, appears in Belfagor; Story of the Devil Who Took a Wife

Belfagor is an arch-devil who is picked among the demons to see if there is any truth to a holy man's claim that wives are responsible for the damnation of most souls. He takes a human body and is given a large sum of wealth. In a short period of time, he meets, falls in love with, and marries a woman. Immediately, his life goes into a downward spiral and he soon finds himself heavily in debt. He tries to flee the city but his creditors pursue him. He hides on the farm of Gianmatteo and, in return, promises to make him wealthy by possessing the daughters of rich men and leaving at the peasant's command, making it appear that Gianmatteo had the power of exorcism. The plan works as intended and Belfagor warns Gianmatteo to stay away, since he will try to harm him in the future; he is, after all, a devil. Belfagor possesses another woman, a king's daughter, and the king seeks Gianmatteo, who has established a reputation for himself as a man capable of casting out demons. He is finally able to cast Belfagor out of the woman by threatening to bring his wife there. Belfagor is terrified and chooses to return to hell rather than to be with his wife.

Monsignor Filiberto, appears in Madonna Zilia

Monsignor Filiberto is a noble, well-respected soldier who falls in love with Madonna Zilia but is rejected by her. In exchange for a kiss, he vows to stay silent for three years. During this time, he fights valiantly against the English for the King of France and earns great favor in his court. The King, under the impression Filiberto's silence is caused by some physical ailment, offers a reward for anyone who can cure him, but warns that anyone who tries and fails will be beheaded. Madonna Zilia, moved upon hearing that he kept his vow, which she attributes to love, goes to see him. He is angry at her for the vow she made him take but has sex with her anyway. He continues to stay silent, however, to punish her by making her think that she will be killed. At the last moment, he speaks and saves her from execution. He lectures her on playing with the hearts of men and sends her back home.

Madonna Zilia, appears in Madonna Zilia

Madonna Zilia is a young widow and mother. She does not want to remarry so that she can devote her entire life to raising her child and thus she rejects Filiberto's romantic overtures to her. She finally yields to his request for a kiss but makes him vow to stay silent for three years in return. When she hears that he has kept his vow two years later she is moved by his apparent devotion and goes to see him. He is angry with her, in part because of the severity of the vow and in part because he believes she has come only to collect a reward. He nearly has the king execute her but intervenes at the last moment. Through this punishment she learns the lesson that she ought not to play with the hearts of men.

Ranocchio, appears in Rosso Malpelo

Ranocchio is a poor boy who works in a mine with Malpelo. He falls ill one day and eventually dies.

Bianca, appears in An Idea of Hermes Torranza

Bianca is a young woman who is married to Emilio. Their marriage is strained because she does not like his parents and thinks that he does not do enough to protect her from them. Thus, she returns home to live temporarily with her parents. She has a close friendship with an aged poet named Torranza. While they are nothing more than friends, their relationship is tinged with hints of romance. When Torranza dies, she receives a letter from him. He urges her to reconcile with Emilio and promises her that he will send her a sign from the afterlife that night. As it turns out, the sign is Emilio, and she joyously embraces him and restores their marriage.

Torranza, appears in An Idea of Hermes Torranza

Torranza is an elderly poet who has a close friendship with Bianca. His romantic feelings for her lead him to advise her to leave her husband. He reverses his advice when he learns he is dying and begs her to reconcile with Emilio.

Emilio, appears in An Idea of Hermes Torranza

Emilio is Bianca's husband. Their marriage is strained because Bianca does not think he does enough to defend her against his parents.

Giacobbe, appears in The Idolaters

Giacobbe is an eccentric man whom the people of Radusa believe to be a kind of prophet. He leads the barbaric excursion to exact revenge on the people of Mascalico.

Professor Gori, appears in The Tight Frock-Coat

Gori is a professor at an unnamed Italian university. Cesara Reis was one of his students and he helped arrange her marriage to Migri. When he sees that the wedding may not take place because of her mother's death, and discovers that the groom's parents are plotting against it, he takes action and ensures that it take place as planned.

Cesara Reis, appears in The Tight Frock-Coat

Cesara Reis is a former student of Professor Gori whose marriage to Migri is thrown into doubt when the wedding is canceled on account of her mother's death. However, at Gori's urging, the marriage goes on as planned and the couple is wed.

Nunzia, appears in Bistino and the Marquis

Nunzia is Bistino's wife. The two met when he became a servant of the Countess she had worked for for years. The two live comfortably, mainly because the Countess, who earned a great reputation for kindness and virtue, ensured that Nunzia would be taken care of after her death. Nunzia does not like the Marquis initially because of his reputation for immorality. However, she grows fond of him when he moves in and treats her with gentlemanly respect. She also finds him useful, exploiting his title as a way to rise up in the Italian social ranks.

The Marquis, appears in Bistino and the Marquis

The Marquis is an aristocrat who lost all of his fortune and, in his poverty, is forced to move in with his former servant, Bistino. He has a reputation, well-deserved, for immorality and irresponsibility. He pays none of his bills and whatever money he is able to lay his hands on is immediately spent on some imprudent purchase.

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