Feather and Coals in Decameron

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Feather and coals and the role of relics

The feather and the coals represent a broader concept, namely relics.

In the Middle Ages it was common for fake religious objects to be presented as real relics. Dioneo narrates this novella with which Boccaccio means to mock the worship of relics and critiques the way the church profits from the ignorance of the people. Thus the story could be seen as a satirical piece of work.It is not a coincidence that Fra Cipolla is part of the brotherhood of Saint Anthony. In fact, Pope Gregory IX convicted this brotherhood because of the deceptions. (Boccacio 2020) Even though Boccaccio is mocking the people of Certaldo, his hometown, one can also sense a certain kind of affection towards them. And while Boccaccio condemns Fra Cipolla, he also shows him some sympathy because of his speaking ability.

The feather is said to be part of the wings of the angel Gabriel, while in reality it is just a parrot feather. The second object that plays a role in the novella is coal. In the novella, the friar presents the coals as those that were used to roast Saint Lorenzo. These are both fake relics with which the friar cashes in on the ignorance of the people from Certaldo.

Thus, deception is an important part of this story. First, Fra Cipolla deceives the people from Certaldo by pretending that the regular feather is something special, after which the two men in their turn deceive him by replacing the feather with coals. Once again the friar knows how to use his wit and intellect to deceive the congregation by claiming that a simple object is something else and something impressive, maybe even godly.

While this is the gist, there is even more to discover about the role of the feather and the coals in this novella. So, before you’re off to a new literary object, please do follow the button below to learn more.

Would you like to dive deeper into the topic?A long story version is available