The story of Griselda in Iceland

By Halldor Hermannson

First published in:

About this book

This book is part of the Fiske Icelandic Collection

There are probably few tales which have enjoyed so great a popularity and which have been so frequently translated and re- told as the last story of the Decameron , the story of the patient Griselda. There may be different opinions about it ; some may shed tears over it with the Paduan, others remain unmoved with the Veronese ; but on the whole it certainly can not make a strong appeal to our age, and we are somewhat at loss to explain the hold it had for centuries upon the people of many lands. That the church helped to spread it, is unquestionable. The fame and authority of Boccaccio, Petrarch, and Chaucer must also be taken into account. But one might be inclined to agree with the German critic that the reasons for its wide circulation are principally to be sought in the lack of fine taste and in thoughtless, excessive sentimentality. 1 That it represented the reaction against the common mediaeval conception of the woman as faithless and as a shrew, does not impress one strongly, and this can scarcely have been Boccaccio’s idea ; we find it usually presented as an example to be followed, not as describing traits common among wives. The somewhat illogical construction of the story, the unnatural submission of the wife, and the wanton cruelty of the husband must, however, have often been felt, and led to attempts to give more plausible reasons for their actions, such as we find attempted even in one of the Icelandic versions.