Ludovico Ariosto: Orlando Furioso (1532)

Cavallo, Jo Ann

One of the best known works in Italian literature, the Orlando Furioso, is a continuation of the romance epic Orlando Innamorato, which was left unfinished at the ninth canto of Book Three when Boiardo died in 1494. Like Boiardo, Ariosto weaves together Carolingian and Arthurian themes into an intricately interlaced plot, creatively imitating a vast range of works—from classical epic poetry and history to medieval lyric and novella traditions. As he continues to mix imaginary sites and the geographical reality of a rapidly expanding globe, Ariosto not only meticulously completes the various threads of Boiardo’s poem, but also adds original episodes following his own creative genius and Weltanschauung. The poem’s opening verses announce the major plot lines to be continued: the war between King Agramante of Biserta and Charlemagne (epic), Orlando’s infatuation with Angelica of Cathay (romance), and the foundation of the Estense family through the hero Ruggiero (dynastic). It is above all in the development of Orlando’s love story that Ariosto announces his unique contribution to the narration of the allegory.

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March 24, 2015