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Amusing Reply of a Judge to an Attorney Who Quoted the “Clementina“ and the “Novella“

In Venice there came up once before a secular court a case in litigation of a will. The attorneys for both sides were present and presented briefs in defense of the interests of their clients. One of these, a priest, made reference in his argument to the “Clementina” and the “Novella,” and quoted passages therefrom.

Upon this, one of the judges, a very old man who nevertheless had little in common with Solomon and to whom these names were utterly unknown, assailed the speaker with great scorn: “Are you not ashamed, sir, to bring the names of these lewd women before the court?”


Of A Florentine Who Was Engaged to the Daughter of a Widow

A Florentine, who considered himself a cunning fellow, was betrothed to the daughter of a widow. He visited frequently at her home and one day, during the absence of the widow, seduced the innocent girl. When the widow heard the story from the daughter, she charged him bitterly with having besmirched her house and vowed that she would do all in her power to dissolve the betrothal.

The girl was stricken with grief when she found her mother resolved on this course. But desiring, nevertheless, to obey her wishes, she summoned the young man to her, when she was alone again, and inquired of him if he knew how the release might be properly effected. To which the cunning fellow replied in this manner: “The first time it was I that possessed you; now you must take me, 95 in order that the original act may be cancelled by an opposite one.” To this the maiden agreed and thus the betrothal was dissolved.

Shortly thereafter she took unto herself a husband and he a wife. At the celebration of his wedding she chanced to be present, and they both exchanged affectionate smiles at the memory of their earlier affair. His wife, seeing this interchange, demanded to know what it signified; and upon her insistence, he related the entire story. Whereupon she cried scornfully:

“What a fool the girl was to tell her mother in the first place. It was utterly unnecessary. I slept with the servant of our house many times, but I never told my mother a word about it.”

Hearing this, the man was silent, realizing that he had brought this revelation upon himself.


Of a Woman Who Discovered a New Phenomenon

A young woman, while visiting her parents in the country with her husband, went walking with him through the woods, and saw how certain sheep in a flock were exceptionally courted by the rams. “Why are these preferred above the rest?” she asked. To which her husband replied that nature had so fashioned these matters that the rams hastened first to those sheep which let out a strong odor from the rear. And this is also true of humans, he added.

The woman was silent. But on the following day, as they walked through the woods again, she became desirous of her husband’s embraces and, recalling his words, permitted herself to break wind.

Whereat the young man, recognizing the sign, did not fail to satisfy her desires.


Of a Widow Who Desired a Husband of Advanced Age

A widow once said to a neighbor that, though she cared little for the things of the world, she still would like to find a peaceful man of advanced years, more for the sake of company and the mutual comforts of their daily lives than for the joys of the flesh.

The neighbor promised to search for such a man as she described; and in fact of the very next day returned to the widow and announced that she had found a man who possessed all the virtues that she sought, and who above all should meet with her approval, in that he was a eunuch.

Upon which the widow cried: “Such a man I would not take under any conditions. For if we should quarrel, as happens between man and wife, there would be no way to make peace again.


Concerning the Son of a Prince Who Was Commanded to be Dumb

A Spanish prince had a grown son, whose shameless, vile tongue had brought him into ill repute. On this account, the prince commanded his son never to speak another word and the lad obeyed.

Now, it transpired soon thereafter that both were present at a celebration given in honor of the king and queen, who were visiting the city. The boy attended closely upon his father, and played the role of a mute. And the queen, believing him to be really deaf and dumb and thinking to make use of him, requested of the prince that he be left in her care. The latter agreeing, the queen, who led an unchaste life, placed the boy in her service, and he soon became privy to all her secret affairs.

Two years later the father attended a 99 similar celebration. The king, who had meanwhile frequently seen the young man, thought to inquire of him whether the boy was dumb from birth or through an accident. Thereupon the old prince explained how he had commanded his son to be mute on account of his foul tongue. Hearing this, the king requested that the boy be permitted again to speak, and upon his insistence the father finally relented and gave his reluctant consent, although he greatly feared the result.

No sooner was this made known to the boy than he turned to the king and said: “You have a wife who is more loose and shameless than a whore.” The king was deeply embarrassed and forbade him to speak again.

It is the custom of some people, no matter how seldom they open their mouths, to always speak insultingly.


Concerning a Noblewoman Whose Inkwell Was Empty

A messenger once asked a high-born lady of my acquaintance whether she desired him to take any letters from her to her husband, who was long away from home, as ambassador of the republic.

“How can I write him,” she said, “when he has taken his pen away with him and left my inkwell empty?”

Which is a clever and honorable retort.


A Courtesan Derides the Venetians

There lived in Venice a public prostitute who moved among men of every conceivable nationality.

This woman was once asked by someone, what particular group of men appeared to her to be favored with the largest male organ.

Without meditating, she answered immediately: “The Venetians.” And being pressed for the reason of her choice, said: “Because among these the male member is so long, that even when the owners are in strange lands across the sea, it still suffices to reach back to their wives and produce children.”

With this she meant to deride the Venetian women, who are frequently left by their wayfaring husbands to the care of others.


Giovanni Andrea is Surprised in an Act of Infidelity

Giovanni Andrea, a doctor of Bologna widely reputed for his wisdom, was surprised by his wife as he lay with the housemaid.

Utterly astounded by his unexpected infidelity, she cried: “Where is your famous wisdom now, Giovanni?”

To which the doctor answered laconically: “Right here in bed, my dear, a place ideally suited for it.”


Of a Tailor Who Avenged Himself Upon a Deceitful Doctor

A tailor of Florence summoned a doctor, whom he knew well, to attend his ailing wife. The latter came while the tailor was away from home and took his satisfaction of the sick women, in spite of her protests.

When the tailor, upon his return, found his wife in tears and learned of his friend’s iniquity, he was silent. But eight days later he betook himself with a piece of fine cloth to the wife of the doctor, and informed her that he was sent by her husband to make her an undergarment.

That he might better take her measure and fit the garment perfectly, he requested the woman to disrobe completely. And as soon as she was undressed, none being present, he seized upon her and avenged himself for the doctor’s betrayal.


Nor did he fail to inform his friend of his deed, recalling with great pleasure the loveliness of her form.


Woodcut of a man holding a rope standing behind a woman in a gown in a bedroom



Francesco Filelfo’s Dream

Francesco Filelfo was jealous of his wife and lived in continual fear that she would betray him, so that his days and nights were spent in watching her.

One night, as he slept, there came to him in a dream a spirit who promised to rescue him from any doubts about his wife, if he would do what he was told. And when Francesco in his dream eagerly agreed, and promised to repay him with loving gratitude as well as a reward in gold, the spirit said: “Take this ring and keep it carefully on your finger. So long as you wear it, your wife will never betray you without your knowledge.”

Overjoyed, Francesco awoke from his slumber to find that he had his finger in his wife’s vagina. And it is certain that this is the best safeguard for a jealous husband, for in this manner his wife cannot be unfaithful to him without his knowledge.


A Threatened Woman Finds Safety in the Youth of Her Daughter

A Roman courtesan, with whom I was acquainted, had a lovely daughter whom she dedicated to the service of Venus.

Once there arose a sharp quarrel between this woman and a colleague, who heaped vulgar abuse upon mother and daughter, and threatened injury to them through the intercession of certain high personages whom she pretended to know.

The mother, however, simply placed a hand lovingly upon her daughter’s body below, saying: “So God protect and keep this from all harm, I have no fear of your threats.”


Concerning a Venetian Who is Tricked by a Quack

One day there came to Venice a quack who set up his stand and exhibited a chart, upon which was portrayed an image of the male member, divided by colored stripes into a number of parts. Among those who gathered about him was a citizen, who inquired innocently concerning the meaning of the bands.

Thinking to jest with the man, the quack answered that his member was so constructed that with its first quarter he could create merchants; with the half, soldiers; with three-quarters, army generals; and with the whole of it, popes. And for each service he required a commensurate price.

The dull Venetian believing this, and having consulted with his wife, summoned the quack to his home and engaged his services 110 for the production of a soldier. And when the charlatan accompanied his wife to her chamber, the husband concealed himself beneath the bed to watch that he be not cheated.

Suddenly as he saw the magic organ completely disappear, he sprang from his concealment and cried jubilantly: “By the holy saints! The child will be a pope!” And seeing that he had paid only for a soldier, he was overjoyed at his bargain.


A Man Complains to an Extravagant Wife

A man, who had just purchased an expensive gown for his wife, figured that every time he lay with her it cost him at least a ducat.

Hearing his complaint, the wife replied: “It is your own fault. Why don’t you lie with me so often that each time will cost you but a penny?”


Francesco Draws a Distinction Between the Children of Genoa and Florence

Francesco Quartente, a Florentine merchant, had occasion to dally with his wife and family in Genoa. His children were slender and delicate of form; while the children of the Genoese were customarily well fed and strong.

One day a citizen of Genoa asked Francesco why his children were so frail and thin, in contrast to those of his townsmen. To which Francesco gave answer: “The reason is, indeed, a simple one. I make my children by my own efforts, while the Genoese require the help of many others in the production of their offspring.”

For the average Genoese, after he marries, goes immediately to sea, and surrenders his wife for a number of years at a time to the care of others.


Of a Merchant Who Maintained that His Wife Never Broke Wind

A merchant once praised his wife highly to a patron and maintained, among other virtues, that she never broke wind. The patron marveled at this and, declaring it to be impossible, wagered that before the expiration of three month’s the merchant’s wife would break wind many times.

On the following day, he besought the merchant for a loan of five hundred ducats for eight days’ time. The latter found the request no easy burden but finally got the money together. At the end of eight days, during which time he was beset with worriment for his money, he went to his client to collect the loan. But the other pretended to be still in dire distress and demanded a further loan of five hundred ducats more, promising to repay both sums within a month.


The merchant hesitated for a long time, but at last, fearing to lose the money he had already advanced, he agreed helplessly to the second loan. That night, overcome with distress and worry, he found himself unable to sleep. As he lay wide awake in his bed, he heard his wife fart frequently in her sleep.

When the month had passed, the patron summoned him and inquired of him whether during this period he had not heard the telltale sound from his wife. Whereupon the merchant confessed his error, saying: “Indeed, I did, and so often that I could have lost not only my wager but even my entire fortune.”

The patron, pleased with his ruse, smilingly paid back the loan, remarking that many things escape those who sleep soundly.


Humorous Remark of a Woman About to Give Birth

A young woman of Florence, who was not too richly endowed with wisdom, lay at the point of child-birth and suffered great pain. When her travail had endured for a long time, the midwife took up a candle and looked below to see if there was any sign of the child.

At this, the suffering woman instructed her also to look behind for the child, inasmuch as her husband had on occasion also used the back road.


Concerning a Puritan Who Was Proven to be a Hypocrite

One of our townsmen, who maintained a reputation for strict piety and chastity among his acquaintances, was surprised by a friend in the act of consorting with a prostitute. The latter charging him publicly with his sin, he made answer, “Surely, you do not believe that I took this woman with any lustful intent? On the contrary, my only purpose was to subdue and punish this wretched body of mine and cleanse my loins.”

Thus do hypocrites permit themselves every indulgence, while they conceal their desires and vices beneath a cloak of virtue.


Concerning the Strange Practice of the Roman Doctors

It was the custom in Rome for those who were ill to send sample of their urine to the doctor, together with one or two silver coins, whereupon he would write them a prescription.

One doctor, whom I knew personally, was accustomed each evening to write down the medicines for various ailments on separate notes, in the form of prescriptions, and stick them all into a pouch.

On the following morning, when the urine samples were brought to him and a remedy demanded, he would stick his hand into the pouch and draw out the first note that came to hand, saying at the same time to the patient in Latin: “Pray to God that you have caught the right one.”


Of a Quack Whose Pills Had Remarkable Qualities

Not long ago there lived in Florence a man full of self-confidence and enterprise, who had no profession. One day, reading in a medical book of certain pills that were helpful for numerous distempers, he conceived the idea of posing as a doctor, with the aid of these pills.

He therefore had a large quantity of the pills prepared, left the city, and wandered through villages and towns, offering the pills for every manner of ill.

Having accidentally in one case achieved a cure, his reputation spread widely among the small townspeople. And one day there came to him a peasant who had lost a donkey and desired to know if the pills might help him find it.

The quack gave him the assurance he 119sought, and instructed him to take six pills. Having done this, the peasant started out on the following day to search for his donkey. But in the midst of his search, he was compelled to seek hurried relief from cramps, due to the action of the pills. Leaving the road in search of a likely spot, he struck into the fields and came accidentally upon a reed-bank, where he found his lost donkey.

This incident served to increase the high reputation of the quack, so that pilgrimages were made from every part of the countryside to secure the marvelous pills that could even bring back lost donkeys to their owners.


Of a Man Who Took the Devil for a Woman

Cencio, the Roman, a very learned man, has often told me tales that are difficult to accept. The one which follows was narrated to him as an actual experience by a neighbor who was in no sense a fool.

This neighbor rose from his couch one night by moonlight, thinking that the dawn had broken — for the night was exceptionally clear — and prepared to inspect his vineyard. (The Romans are noted for the anxious care they give their vineyards.) As he stepped from the house, the figure of a woman appeared before him, and drew rapidly away. Some devout female, he thought, desirous of paying her devotions to St. Paul. And seeing that she was alone and the desires of the flesh were strong upon him, he hastened his steps to overtake her.


A man on a hill path with a robed figure in front of him by a few steps, overlooking a town



As he drew near, the woman left the highway and began to mount a steep footpath. Fearing to lose his opportunity, the man increased his speed and soon overtook her at a bend of the road. Here he overcame her and satisfied his desires upon her. But no sooner was he done than the figure of the women disappeared completely, and nothing remained save a sulphurous odor, strongly reminiscent of the devil.

The poor fellow, terrified by his experience, hurried home; and all who heard his story were of the opinion that he had been the victim of a satanic jest.


In Which Gonella, the Jester, Wins a Wager

It is told of Gonella, the clever jester, that he wagered with a man from Ferrara that he would make a soothsayer of him.

He took his companion to bed with him and, breaking wind softly, instructed him to stick his head under the covers. The other obeyed, but immediately withdrew, offended by the foul odor.

“It appears to me that you have farted,” he said. Upon which Gonella cried: “Correct! I win the bet, for you are already a soothsayer!”


Of a Preacher Who Preferred Ten Virgins to One Married Woman

The good people of Tivoli were once harangued by an imprudent monk, who thundered in a long, furious speech against the sin of adultery.

Among other things, he declared that violation of the sanctity of wedlock was a crime of such grave character, that he would rather lie with ten virgins than with one married woman.

And many of those present were of the same opinion.


Concerning the Pregnant Sister of a Citizen of Constance

In order to illustrate the type of freedom that was being demanded by many of the members of the Council of Constance, a prominent British bishop, at a grand conclave of prelates, related the following incident:

There lived in Constance a citizen whose unmarried sister was gotten with child. When the former discovered the telltale enlargement of her loins, he snatched up a sword and, making as if to pierce her through, demanded to know what it meant and how she had come by her shame.

Utterly dismayed, the maiden cried that it was the work of the Council; the Council of Constance had gotten her with child. When the brother heard this, partly from fear of the Council and partly from awe, he desisted from punishing his sister.


While the others were striving for freedom in other things he placed at the very head of the list freedom of sexual intercourse.


A Woman’s Clever Answer

A woman who was once asked by a man, why, if the pleasure of cohabitation was equal for both sexes, it was generally the men who pursued and importuned the women rather than vice-versa, replied:

“It is a very wise custom that compels the men to take the initiative. For it is certain that we women are always ready for sex; not so you men, however. And we should therefore be soliciting the men in vain, if they happened to be not in the proper condition for it.”

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