Boiardo and Ariosto in Contemporary Sicilian Puppet Theater and the Tuscan-Emilian Epic Maggio

Cavallo, Jo Ann

Characters from medieval and Renaissance chivalric texts have been given tangible form through the centuries not only in operatic, melo-dramatic, theatrical and, more recently, cinematic adaptations, but also in popular performance traditions such as Sicilian puppet theater (opera dei pupi) and the folk operas (maggi epici) of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines. This essay traces the reimagining of a sampling of non-Christian characters and non-European places from Matteo Maria Boiardo’s Orlando Innamorato and Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso by a number of contemporary puppet theater and maggio companies. My contention is that an examination of select scenes available online, in conjunction with a close reading of the original episodes, may help students think more deeply about perennial issues addressed in the two poems—related to gender roles, the foreign and religious Other, violence, and political power—that continue to be relevant today.


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July 16, 2018