Orlando Furioso (1516-1521-1532) by Ludovico Ariosto

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ORLANDO FURIOSO (1516-1521-1532)
Presentation by Franco Manai
Ludovico Ariosto 1474 – 1533
Orlando Furioso’s editions
Ariosto worked on Orlando Furioso for much of his
life: when he died he was still busy re-elaborating it
Three editions: 1516, 1521, 1532
 1516:
40 cantos, dedicated to Cardinal Ippolito of the
Este Family, his employer
 Composition started in 1504 as ‘complement’ to the
Orlando Innamorato by Matteo Maria Boiardo (end of
the 15th century, unfinished)
1521 edition: Language was more polished, structure
was much the same
Great success: Between 1524 and 1531 there were 17
reprints in different parts of Italy
1525: Pietro Bembo publishes Prose della vulgar lingua
1532 edition: 46 cantos
Style conforms to Bembo’s rules (from Petrarch)
More balanced
 More use of parallelisms
 Contrapositions
 Symmetries
 Regular tones and rhythms
Orlando innamorato (end of 15th century)
Orlando Innamorato by
Matteo Maria Boiardo (1441-1494)
Boiardo was part of the Estense court in Ferrara
and had a humanist education
Wrote love poetry, Amorum Libri (books of love), in
the Petrarchan style
Epic poem Orlando Innamorato (Orlando in love)
Two books plus nine cantos of a third book
Orlando in Love
Orlando Innamorto
Orlando Innamorato by Boiardo:
Arthurian legend
 Carolingian epic
 Classical tradition of Homer, Virgil and Ovid
 Complex narrative of love in its many forms
 Celebration of Este family
 Incomplete
 Extremely popular in Italy in its time
Orlando Furioso by Ariosto
Continuation of Boiardo’s poem
Orlando in Love: first book
Angelica is sent by her father to ensnare the
Christian knights with her beauty. The plan is to
have them joust with Argalia, her brother, who has a
magical golden lance. Things go wrong and chaos
ensues. Orlando becomes besotted with Angelica
and chases her to Cathay in the east. Orlando kills
the king of Tartaria, Agricane. Charlemagne is
attacked by the Indian king Gradasso and is saved
by one of his paladins, the clumsy by nice Astolfo.
Orlando in Love: second book
Orlando and the other paladins return to France
with Angelica to defend Charlemagne from the new
invasion by Agramante, king of Africa
Muslims succeed in defeating the Christians in the
Pyrenee mountains
Orlando in Love: third book
Charlemagne’s army retreats in Paris, where it is
besieged by Agramante
Orlando and Rinaldo keep chasing Angelica
The magician Atlante confuses everything by trying to
gain back Ruggiero, the Muslim who has fallen in love
with Bradamante, Rinaldo’s siter
The poet (Boiardo) prophesizes that from Bradamante
and Ruggiero’s marriage, the Este family will descend
The author dies, probably poisoned by his relatives,
leaving the poem incomplete
Orlando Furioso
Orlando Furioso
Resumes the story where Boiardo left off
Retains many of the main characters
Makes references to episodes of Orl. Inn.
Celebrates the Este family
Entertaining composition of epic stories and knightly
Intertwines, like Boiardo, Charlemagne and Arthurian
Ennobles them with motifs and styles from the classical
The title
Orlando Innamorato
 Orlando
in Charlemagne saga was a stern and severe
 Becomes a knight in love, as a hero from the Arthurian
Orlando Furioso
 Furioso:
from Latin “crazy” (reference here to Seneca’s
Hercules Furens)
 Orlando not just in love, but crazy, furens, for love
Perfect fusion of the various elements
from different traditions
Typical Carolingian hero, protagonist of
feudal wars, dynastic fights and rebellions against
Charlemagne, is immersed by Ariosto in the quasiArthurian atmosphere of the Scottish forests
 ASTOLFO: Typical of popular poems about knights:
bizarre, dandy and a boaster. In Ariosto he is a
gentleman and knight, incarnation of the Renaissance
man, seeking adventure, favoured by fortune, who
gradually relinquishes his illusions and regains his own
wisdom and heroic dignity
Background theme: War between the Saracens
and the Christians, at the time of Charlemagne
Saracens guided by King of Africa, Agramante, have
attacked France with the help of King Marsilius of
Spain and two powerful warriors, the African
Rodomonte and the Tartar Mandricardo
War goes through three phases:
Siege of Paris during which Rodomonte inflicts countless
 Christian counterattack, helped by British and Scottish
armies led by Rinaldo: Agramante is defeated
 Saracens are defeated in a sea battle, paladins devastate
Africa, destroy Biserta, the capital of their kingdom
Triple duel ends war on Lipadusa Island
Orlando defeats Agramante
Brandimarte defeats Gradasso
Oliviero defeats Sobrino
Main themes: 1. Orlando loses his mind
Action starts in Paris. Angelica, princess of Cathay, desired
by Orlando and Rinaldo, escapes from Charlemagne’s
Orlando, the main paladin, perfect and invulnerable hero,
forgets his duties, abandons the battle to follow Angelica
First of many pursuits in poem – and first of Angelica’s
Constantly threatened by love offers not only from Orlando and
Rinaldo, but also from Sacripante, Ferraù and Ruggiero
Perilous adventures (kidnapped by a necromancer, falls prey to
pirates from the island of Ebuda, is exposed to a killer whale)
Meets a wounded Saracen soldier, Medoro. She takes care of
him, falls in love with him and takes him to Cathay
Ruggiero saves Angelica
The Deliverance: Ruggiero and Angelica
Orlando’s adventures
Pursues Angelica
Performs many heroic deeds
 Kills
the tyrant Cimosco who fought using an arquebus
 Saves Bireno and then Olympia
 Kills the killer whale in Ebuda
 Fights Ferraù and Mandricardo
 Kills Alzirdo and Manilardo
 Saves Zerbino from imminent death
Orlando becomes furious
 Arrives
where Angelica and Medoro’s love first
 Is caught by a sudden folly
 Runs around the world naked, destroying everything he
 His cousin Astolfo goes to the moon to retrieve his mind
 Is cured of his madness and love
 Resumes his place in battle and kills the enemy king,
Agramante, in the final triple duel
Final scene of the poem
Set in Paris
Epic atmosphere modelled on final scene of Virgil’s
Last duel Rodomonte, supreme champion of the
Saracens, is killed by Ruggiero, Saracen converted
to Christianity for the love of Bradamante, Christian
warrior and sister of Rinaldo
Main themes 2: Love between
Bradamante and Ruggiero
Bradamante and Ruggiero’s descendants will found
the Este family
Happy ending but only after a series of
 Magician,
Atlante, Ruggiero’s mentor, uses spells and
charms to prevent Ruggiero from becoming a Christian
 Keeps him captive in enchanted castle
 Hands him over to the beautiful Alcina
 Bradamante’s parents want to marry her off to the
Emperor of Constantinople, Leone
Main themes intertwine
Themes develop and progressively accentuate the
most serious and profound motivations for life:
 Orlando
conquers his mind again
 Ruggiero frees himself from Atlante’s charms, Alcina’s
temptations and in particular his internal desire for love
and adventure, in order to take hold of his destiny
Themes are interlaced with many other stories in a
complex but controlled plot
 Stories
follow one another according a studied variety
of registers
Love stories
Obsessive love of Orlando for Angelica
Angelica’s sudden love for Medoro
The faithful love – sometimes courtly in manner, sometimes
more bourgeois – of Bradamante for Ruggiero
The heroic and chaste love of Isabella, who sacrifices
herself for Zerbino
The conjugal love of Fiordiligi and Brandimarte
The constancy of Olympia
The instinct of Rodomonte that becomes ferocity
The volubility of Doralice
The friendship love of Cloridano and Medoro
Many different episodes
Fairy tale: Norandino and Lucina
Grotesque: the homicidal women, the thief Brunello,
the adventures of Gabrina, the story of
Rinaldo and the Magician of Assalone
Rinaldo abandons Armida
Grotesque episodes are often linked to Marfisa, the warrior
woman, sister of Ruggiero, a sour and bizarre character
 Allegorical episodes:
 Discordia
(Conflict) goes into the field of Agramante to
incite conflict among the people
 Rinaldo is assaulted by Jealousy and saved by Sdegno
Reference to contemporary history
16th century countryside
Echoes of battles
Diplomatic missions
Heroic actions
Delicate courtly conversations
Author’s comments and asides
 Pauses
that slow down and increase the already slow
and ample time of the narration
Orlando loses his mind
One protagonist, Orlando, connected with the stories of other
Orlando meets characters he knows, but they do not recognise him
Orlando come across Angelica on her way to Cathay with Medoro
Scene when Orlando becomes mad, chosen with expert irony
A locus amoenus and pastoral, usually is the Arcadic backdrop to a
happy love or melancholy love
Same place where love between Angelica and Medoro first bloomed
Place where the green and intertwined vegetation made them link in
For Orlando becomes a place of torture
Background to his folly
Orlando’s folly
Abandons the haunts of civilisation
Becomes a savage in the forest, a beast in his attire
and behaviour
Phases of his folly:
1: Discovers that Angelica belongs to Medoro
Goes into denial, tries to find alternative explanations to
deceive himself
2: When can no longer deny the truth
Obsessive contemplation of the places and testimonies of
Angelica’s love
 Passivity, immobility, silence
Orlando’s Folly
Orlando’s folly
3: Extreme attempt to deceive himself
Takes lodgings in the same house where Angelica and Medoro’s
love was consummated
Sleeps in torment in the same bed where Angelica slept with her
4: His repressed fury explodes and he vents his pain
5: Is inconsolable, becomes wild, transforms himself into a
primitive and brutal being who screams and destroys all
that lies before him
Meets – supreme irony – Angelica
Does not recognise her, and tries to destroy her
Angelica disappears thanks to magic
Destroys a mare (symbolically Angelica)

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