Giovanni Boccaccio

Gualtieri, the Marquis of Saluzzo, spent so much time at hunting and other sports that he gave no thought about marrying and establishing a family. His friends and subjects, fearing that old age would overtake him before he acquired an heir, pressured him to take a wife. Finally, more to silence his critics than to satisfy any desire that he might have for matrimony, he resolved to court a beautiful, but poor young woman from a neighboring village. Her family's low station in life would spite those who had so urgently insisted that he marry, and her beauty, he thought, would make living with her at least bearable.

Gualtieri informed Griselda -- that was the young woman's name -- of his intention to marry her, and asked her if she would accept him as a husband, to love, honor, and obey, for better or for worse, and never criticize him nor question his authority. She readily agreed, and their wedding was celebrated forthwith.

Griselda appeared to be a worthy addition to Gualtieri's noble household, but the marquis, unsure of the depth of her character, decided to test her loyalty and her patience. Thus, soon after the birth of their first child -- it was a beautiful girl -- he informed her that his subjects were unhappy with the child and that it was to be put to death. Without hesitation she acceded to her husband's demands and surrendered the child. However, instead of killing the baby girl, Gualtieri had her spirited away and tended in a secret place.

Some time later Griselda gave birth to a son, and her husband, intent on carrying his test still further, berated her and insisted that her child be put to death. She again yielded to his demands without complaint, and as before, he took the child to a secret place where he was well cared for.

Still unsatisfied, Gualtieri devised a final test. He publicly denounced Griselda, claiming that the pope had granted him dispensation to divorce her and to take a more deserving wife. Griselda, wearing only a shift, was sent back to her father. All these indignities she bore without complaint.

As the day approached when Gualtieri, as it was supposed, was to take a new bride, he asked Griselda to return to his palace, for no one knew better how to prepare for guests than did she. Griselda returned to her former residence, now as a cleaning woman and servant, to make preparations for her former husband's wedding.

Gualtieri had his and Griselda's daughter, who was now twelve years old, dressed in bridal clothes, and he presented her to Griselda, who could not have known that this was her own child. "What do you think of my new bride?" he asked.

Griselda replied without guile, "If her wisdom matches her beauty, then the two of you will be very happy together."

At last recognizing Griselda's sincerity, faithfulness, and patience, Gualtieri revealed to her the trials that he had devised to test her loyalty. With tears of joy, she received her children and once again assumed her position as Gualtieri's ever patient and obedient wife.

Revised November 13, 2003.