Henry II of Cyprus, Rex inutilis: A Footnote to Decameron 1.9

Speculum 72 (3):763-775 (1997)
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The ninth story of the first day, the shortest in Boccaccio's Decameron, tells of una gentil donna di Guascogna, a gentlewoman of Gascony, who stops off at Cyprus on her return from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Assaulted and humiliated by a group of ruffians, the woman proposes to seek justice from the king of Cyprus but is told that the king is too weak and pusillanimous either to correct wrongs done to others or to avenge insults to himself. Indeed, when people in the kingdom are angry about anything, they freely insult the king with impunity. The gentlewoman, despairing of justice but now bent on revenge, goes to the king and asks him to explain to her how he is able to bear his great shame, since she would like to learn how to bear her own. Her words sting the king, and, like one roused from a sleep, he avenges the injury to the woman and goes on to become the scourge of all those who have shamed him and dishonored his crown



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