The chivalric epic "Orlando Furioso" by Ludovico Ariosto is considered to be one of the most famous works of Italian and European literature. It consists out of 46 cantos and it was written in Italian using octave and hendecasyllable.
It was firstly published in 1516 and it had 40 cantos. The author worked and changed the epic poem and after the second publication in 1521, he published the last one that was expanded and perfected in 1532.
There isn’t a single plot to follow up with and there is a variety of characters. As the three main plots of the epic poem, we can extract Orlando’s love for Angelica, the war between Charlemagne and the Saracens and the love between Ruggiero and Bradamante.
The plot is actually a sequel to the epic "Orlando Innamorato" written by Boiardo. Ariosto took over many characters and their characteristics.
If we take the themes of the epics in consideration Ariosto’s epic is older than Boiardo’s because the chivalric epics were popular in the medieval France and from there they came to Italy. Also, the caroling cycle was very famous in Italy and many Italian epic poems were inspired by the French epics.
"Orlando Furioso" had many publications and translations. His parts are often elaborated in the works of other Italian and some Spanish writers.
The plot begins in the 8th century during the war between Charlemagne and the Saracens. The Saracens were led by Agramante, the king of Africa and Spain. They were getting their revenge for the death of Agramante’s father. The Saracens managed to push the Christian army all the way to Paris and so the Parisian siege begins. It was the background for every other event in the epic.
The storytelling goes from a war theme to a love theme and we can spot a lot of different characters. Orlando and Rinaldo are followers of Charlemagne, Angelica is the woman Orlando loves, Rinaldo’s sister is Bradamante and she is a warrior, Saracen Medoro, the knight Ruggiero, the English knight Astolfo are just some of the characters.
The love story begins with Angelica’s escape from Charlemagne’s captivity. Orlando and Rinaldo fought for her love.
Angelica was brought to the Christian’s hideout by Orlando and as soon as she got there everything started going downhill because of Rinaldo, Orlando’s cousin, was also in love with her. Charlemagne decided to give her hand to the best knight that will kill more pagans.
The relationships between Rinaldo, Orlando, and Angelica are very complicated. Angelica hates Rinaldo, even though she used to be in love with him. She drank some water from a magic well of love and she fell in love with Rinaldo but he drank the water from the well of hatred and he couldn’t stand her. Afterward, they changed the wells so did their feelings. Now Rinaldo was crazy about Angelica just like Orlando. Both of them start fighting for her love just as soon as she runs away.
On his search for Angelica Rinaldo goes through a lot and in the end he drinks water from a magic source and his love goes away.
Angelica used the battles to escape and come back home. On her way she encountered Rinaldo and the two of them stumbled upon a Saracen knight. While he and Rinaldo engage in a fight she ran away.
As she ran away she found herself in front of another man that was in love with her and his name was Sacripante. She asked him to help her but Rinaldo catches up to her and engages in another battle. She runs away again.
Rinaldo was sent to Bretagne by Charlemagne to get help because Saracens were approaching them.
In the meantime, Rinaldo's sister Bradamante, who was in love with Ruggiero, tries to find her love. After asking around she found out that he was held captive in the Pyrenees. With the help of some magician and a magic ring, she manages to save him.
Ruggiero then got on the flying Hippogriff and went to the land of Alcine where he finds Orlando, Rinaldo, and the enchanted Astolfo. Alcina also enchanted Ruggiero to fall in love with her.
Orlando thinks about Angelica and decides to sneak out and look for her. He dressed as a pagan knight to be able to pass by the Parisian guard and in the middle of the night, he went looking for her.
In the meantime, Angelica, which was hiding, was found by Ruggiero. She was almost sacrificed but Ruggiero managed to save her after which she runs away again.
The Christian somehow managed to show their power in the battles against the Saracens.
While Angelica was running away she met Medoro, a shepherd who was wounded and she decided to take care of him. After some times she fell in love with him, they got married and carved their names into a tree. Orlando was looking for her and when he saw the two names carved in the tree he knew that he had lost her forever. Orlando was furious; he ripped his clothes off and went on wondering the world.
Ruggiero and Astolfo finally freed themselves from the enchantments.
Orlando was saved by Astolfo who was headed for the moon on the Hippogriff. There he had found Orland’s brain in a bottle and he brought it back to Orlando. The furious Orlando took a breath from the bottle, passed out and woke up bright again. Orlando and Astolfo joined forces, went to Africa and defeated Agramante.
In the meantime, Ruggiero joined the Saracens and went to a battle against Rinaldo. Saracens attacked the Christians and Ruggiero ran away to a deserted island where he became a Christian. He was saved by Orlando.
After Ruggiero became a Christian, Bradamante finally had a chance to be with him. He also killed the main enemy of the Christians. The two of them got married and started a family blood line d’Este which Ariosto wanted to make famous.
During all of that, the siege of Paris was still going on. Agramante planted a fire but a miraculous rain saved the city. Then a plot twist occurs. Rinaldo comes as the head of a Christian army that defeats the attackers.
There are many realistic and magical moments which are so elaborated that they could be perceived as little novels. The stories are about brave knights who did great deeds, warriors who were in love, magician, castles, and journeys.
Genre: epic poem
Time: 8th century
Place: Europe, Asia, Africa
Characters: Orlando, Rinaldo, Angelica, Ruggiero, Bradamante, Medoro, Astolfo
Orlando - one of the Christian warriors. He fought the Saracens and he was troubled because of his love for Angelica. After spending a lot of time searching for her he realized that she was in love with someone else. He became furious and decided to spend the rest of his life wandering the world. His wisdom was restored by Astolfo, an English knight.
Ludovico Ariosto Biography
Ludovico Ariosto was an Italian renaissance poet. He was born in 1474 in Reggio Emilia in Italy and soon his all family moved to Ferrara because of his father’s work. Since he lived with the nobility he fell in love with art and literature.
He studied law to please his father but he couldn’t finish it due to his involvement with literature and an easy going life he had in his father’s house.
After his father passed away he took care of his family by becoming an official of the d’Este family.
In the time span between 1503 and 1517 he worked as the secretary of Ippolito d’Este but he abandoned that place. He still stayed with d’Este family but this time, he worked for count Alfonso d’Este with whom he had spent his childhood.
Soon he became a governor and he has proven himself to be reliable, resourceful and calm.
He was offered other higher positions but he didn’t feel well health wise so he decided to decline the offers and work on his masterpiece “Orlando Furioso”.
Except for "Orlando Furioso" he had written comedies "Cassaria", "I suppositi" and "Il negromante" and a book of poems.
He died of tuberculosis in 1533.