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Orlando furioso

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A poem by Ariosto, published 1532. It continues the story of Orlando's love for Angelica begun by Boiardo in Orlando Innamorato. The main theme of the poem is this: Saracens and Christians, in the days of Charlemagne, are at war for the possession of Europe. The Saracens under Agramant, king of Africa, are besieging Charlemagne in Paris with the help of Marsilio, the Moorish king of Spain, and two mighty warriors, Rodomont and Mandricardo. Christendom is imperilled. Orlando, chief of the Paladins, a perfect knight, is lured by Angelica's beauty to forget his duty and pursue her. Angelica meets with various adventures, finally coming upon the wounded Moorish youth Medoro, whom she tends, falls in love with, and marries. Orlando, learning of their story, is seized with a furious and grotesque madness, runs naked through the country, destroying everything in his path, and at last returns to Charlemagne's camp, where he is finally cured of his madness and his love and in a great conclusive battle kills Agramant. Although the madness of Orlando gives the poem its name, a not less important theme in it is the love of Rogero for Bradamante, a maiden warrior, sister of Rinaldo, and the many adventures and vicissitudes that interrupt the course of true love. Other notable episodes in the work are the voyage of Astolfo on the hippogriff to the moon, whence he brings back the lost wits of Orlando; and the self‐immolation of Isabella, the widow of the Scottish prince Zerbino, to escape the attentions of the pagan king, Rodomont. Orlando's horse is Brigliandoro; his sword Durindana. Spenser, in The Faerie Queene, owes much to it for his characters and form of narration. The first complete English version ‘in English Heroical Verse’ is that of Sir J. Harington (1591; ed. R. McNulty, 1972).

Subjects: Literature

Reference entries

Ludovico Ariosto (1474—1533) Italian poet