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Magic in Boiardo

and Ariosto
Studies in Italian Culture
Literature in History

Aldo Scaglione
General Editor

Advisory Board

Peter Bondanella
Indiana University

Giuseppe Mazzotta
Yale University

Paolo Cherchi
University of Chicago

Vol. 25

New York • Washington, D.C./Baltimore • Boston • Bern
Frankfurt am Main • Berlin • Brussels • Vienna • Oxford
Julia M. Kisacky

Magic in Boiardo
and Ariosto

New York • Washington, D.C./Baltimore • Boston • Bern
Frankfurt am Main • Berlin • Brussels • Vienna • Oxford
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Kisacky, Julia M.
Magic in Boiardo and Ariosto / Julia M. Kisacky.
p. cm. — (Studies in Italian culture—Literature in history; vol. 25)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
1. Boiardo, Matteo Maria, 1440– or 41–1494. Orlando innamorato.
2. Ariosto, Lodovico, 1474–1533. Orlando furioso. 3. Magic in literature.
4. Roland (Legendary character)—Romances—History and criticism.
5. Romances, Italian—History and criticism. I. Title. II. Series.
PQ4614.K57 851’.209—dc21 98-30521
ISBN 0-8204-4252-6
ISSN 1043-5794

Die Deutsche Bibliothek-CIP-Einheitsaufnahme

Kisacky, Julia M.:
Magic in Boiardo and Ariosto / Julia M. Kisacky.
−New York; Washington, D.C./Baltimore; Boston; Bern;
Frankfurt am Main; Berlin; Brussels; Vienna; Oxford: Lang.
(Studies in Italian culture; Vol. 25)
ISBN 0-8204-4252-6

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Introduction 1

Chapter One Boiardo’s Marvelous Artifacts 7

Chapter Two Boiardo’s Monsters and Mages 33

Supernatural Creatures 33
Practitioners of Magic 41

Chapter Three Ariosto’s Marvelous Artifacts 55

Magic Artifacts 55
Prophetic Works of Art 82

Chapter Four Ariosto’s Supernatural Creatures 89

Animals and Monsters 89
Villains 101

Chapter Five Ariosto’s Practitioners of Magic 105

Fays 105
Sorcerers 113
Miracle-Workers 124

Conclusion 137

Notes 141

Bibliography 155

Index 183

This work started out as my dissertation, and I wish to thank my readers

at Rutgers University: Guido Guarino, David Marsh, Adolf Snaidas, and
especially my adviser, Laura Sanguineti White. Many thanks also to Mrs.
Carol Feinberg for her help during my years in graduate school.
I owe a great deal to my colleagues Bruce and Jessica Watson, and
Alden Smith, for their encouragement of my scholarly endeavors. Special
thanks go to D. Thomas Hanks, for his advice about the manuscript.
I gratefully acknowledge the support of Baylor University. In revising
this study I have used material I read at the Biblioteca ariostea in Ferrara
in the summer of 1998 with the help of a grant from the University
Research Council. I also thank Dean Wallace Daniel of the College of
Arts and Sciences for his generous support of the publication of this
I thank the publishers for permission to use the following material:
parts of Chapters One and Two have appeared in different form in “Magic
and Enchanted Armaments: Moral Considerations in Boiardo and Ariosto,”
Forum Italicum 30 (1996); and “Chaos and Order: Magical and Anti-
magical Books in Boiardo and Ariosto,” Romance Languages Annual 8
(1996). Part of my article, “Conversion and Subversion in Boiardo’s Or-
lando innamorato,” Romance Languages Annual 10 (1998) appears in
somewhat different form in Chapter Two.
I thank Charles Ross for permission to use his translation of the Or-
lando innamorato (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989); and
the publisher for permission to use Guido Waldman’s translation of the
Orlando furioso (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983).

The concept of magic has existed since prehistoric times, and throughout
recorded history. People’s ideas about magic have varied from time to
time and from place to place, from Egyptian funeral ceremonies, to Greek
enchantresses, to Roman tales of wicked witches, to the summoning of
demons in medieval chivalric literature, and more. This book is my at-
tempt at a global study of the element of magic in two Italian Renaissance
epic poems, Matteo Maria Boiardo’s Orlando innamorato, and Ludovico
Ariosto’s Orlando furioso. In both of these works, magic is a crucial and
pervasive element.
The long and illustrious history of the topos of magic in literature offers
many possible influences on Boiardo’s and Ariosto’s treatment of it. Clas-
sical epics from Homer on had made use of magic, and throughout the
medieval romance tradition magic became increasingly important.1 As
learned court poets, Boiardo and Ariosto were well-acquainted with Latin
poetry, and had some familiarity with Greek literature. As expected of
good Humanists, both poets borrowed from the Classical tradition, with,
however, each poet adapting his sources to his own needs in his indi-
vidual manner.
Many critics have held a negative view of Boiardo’s relation to his
sources. According to Reichenbach, Boiardo was always “infedelissimo”
to his sources because he always added his own touch.2 For Bruscagli,
Boiardo’s literary references shed some light on his text, but his radical
destructuring of the references gives the impression that his world lacks a
literary memory; centaurs may be present, but without their Classical
history.3 Boiardo’s siren may recall the Classical tradition, but in essence
she is very different from Homer’s singers.4 Looney suggests that Boiardo’s
intended audience was a decisive factor in this de-emphasis of his allu-
sions: “Boiardo . . . was uncomfortable . . . with making his classicism too
apparent in the Innamorato, his one poem most designed for public
2 Introduction
consumption.”5 In contrast, Zampese sees Boiardo as “un letterato colto
e sensibile, capace di valersi in modo originale delle proprie fonti,” and
emphasizes his “consapevole organizzazione di materiali selezionati con
fini significativi.”6

Il mondo del Boiardo si appoggia largamente sulla memoria letteraria; ma il

rapporto del poeta con la tradizione non è improntata . . . a criteri di aderente
fedeltà. . . . il Boiardo attua sui propri materiali quegli interventi che gli dettano le
esigenze di un gusto personale, spesso volto a creare effetti di dismisura e di
comicità; ma è anche vero che la rielaborazione della fonte è assai frequentemente
operata attraverso una consapevole contaminazione con altri e diversi reperti
letterari, capaci di modificare il tono e il significato della struttura principale7

Ariosto’s Classical references are apt to be more true to the originals, yet
still they will be changed in some way to suit his purpose. For example,
Medoro is the counterpart of the Virgilian Euryalus, but it is Dardinello
who dies Euryalus’ death.8
Both the Innamorato and the Furioso are set in the world of medieval
chivalric romance, and Pio Rajna has shown the debt, as far as plot goes,
of the Furioso to preceding exemplars of this genre.9 The topoi of love
and adventure had gradually through the years crept into the lives of
Charlemagne’s knights, until Boiardo achieved an inseparable fusion of
the Carolingian and Arthurian cycles in his poetic world.10 Although his
characters have the names and outward appearances of Charlemagne’s
knights, their main interests are love and adventure, themes characteristic
of the Arthurian cycle. The two worlds have truly been merged, so that
Merlin’s artifacts can be found scattered here and there for wandering
knights to find. An obvious example is the fountain of disamore, origi-
nally intended as a magical remedy for Tristan, which ends up complicat-
ing the life of Ranaldo.
Other influences on the poets’ treatment of magic may have included
the contemporary practice of “low” magic, e.g. fortune-telling and con-
juring with devils, and the “high” magic of Renaissance Hermeticism,
which sought to reveal the cosmos’ veiled meanings. As to the former, it
is unclear whether or not Boiardo believed in magic in real life. At the
time, astrology was highly fashionable, and Boiardo was respectful of the
belief, even equating the presence of astrologers with civilization (OI
2.22.32). His most important astrologer character, the king of Garamanta,
is as knowledgeable as he portrays himself, but Boiardo also refers to a
deceitful astrologer in the intaglio of Alexander the Great in the first canto
of Book 2. Ariosto, on the other hand, makes mocking references to the
credulity of contemporaries who trust in “le magiche sciocchezze.” In OF
Introduction 3
7.73 and 33.5 he explicitly denies the existence of magic in contempo-
rary times. In the Negromante, Ariosto portrays the title character as a
self-seeking fake whose chance of success depends wholly on his ability
to deceive his gullible victims about his supposedly immense magical pow-
ers. Iachelino ultimately fails because of the machinations of the clever
servant Temolo who reveals his plots.
Neither Boiardo nor Ariosto was strongly influenced by the teachings
of Hermeticism. Their mages are certainly not the higher beings that Pico
della Mirandola described in De hominis dignitate; rather, they are as
fallible as the knights and ladies who lack magical abilities. Neither are the
poets bound by Pico’s distinction between good magic, concerned with
divine matters, and evil magic involving demons.11 In both poems the
Christian mages employ demons, including Melissa who makes them serve
God’s cause.
The Ferrarese poets’ situations at the Este court also influenced their
works. The medieval romance genre was especially valued at the Este
court. The Po valley and Veneto areas had been a center of interest in the
romances since the twelfth century, and the fashion had developed of
naming children after characters from the Arthurian and Carolingian ro-
mances,12 a fashion which lasted even up to the days of Meliaduse, the
brother of Leonello and Borso. Duke Borso claimed to derive greater
pleasure from a French romance new to his library than from the acquisi-
tion of a new city.13 With so much audience demand it is not surprising
that after a brief period of Florentine predominance the center of chivalric
poetry shifted to Ferrara.
Due to the unusually strong control exercised by the Este family, Ferrara
did not develop into a comune as most northern Italian cities did. It re-
mained a signoria, and consequently the attitude about chivalry was dif-
ferent from that found elsewhere. The Este rulers consciously used tradi-
tional chivalric teachings as propaganda to promote loyalty among their
Even by Boiardo’s era the system of chivalry could not be seen as
closely related to reality. Yet in Ferrara chivalric ideals could still be re-
vered, unlike the more mocking attitude of the bourgeois Florentines typi-
fied by Pulci. Boiardo truly venerated the knightly ideals, as shown for
example in his sonnet 44 “Ocio amoroso e cura giovenile.” Reichenbach
praises his “capacità di esprimere il mondo cavalleresco ch’era l’anima
della sua anima.”15 This sincere participation on the poet’s part did not,
however, protect his characters from being placed in comical situations
due to their quests for love and adventure. Nor did Boiardo’s recognition
4 Introduction
of true chivalric values at the court in Ferrara16 preclude glimpses of less
lovely aspects of court life gleaned from his own experience.17
Ariosto’s attitude is more complex and contradictory; he values some
of the chivalric ideals, such as fede, but portrays them in a more modern
and more problematized manner, in shades of gray rather than black and
white. With the increasing removal of chivalry from its origins it could
only seem more and more antiquated and detached from reality, contrib-
uting to Ariosto’s ironic attitude toward it. This irony, which to Francesco
De Sanctis indicated a corrosive intent,18 seems less harsh to other critics.19
The Este lords’ personal foibles as patrons directly affected their poets,
who were functionaries of the court as well as artists. The Este promoted
an image of themselves as protectors of the arts, but they expected to
receive practical services from their poets and not just “opera
d’inchiostro.”20 Boiardo’s duties as governor of Modena and Reggio prob-
ably contributed to the drastically reduced speed of composition of Book
3 of the Innamorato.21 Ariosto’s sufferings due to the demands and in-
gratitude of Cardinal Ippolito are well known from his first Satire. Later,
with Alfonso as his patron, his situation was somewhat improved.
Leaving aside the complicated question of genre, both the Innamorato
and the Furioso have the romance tendency to be open-ended, to go on
indefinitely.22 Boiardo pays as much attention to “minor” episodes as he
does to main lines of the plot. Each episode becomes the focus until it is
concluded, and then the characters seek another adventure (and there are
always other adventures, whether magical, martial, or romantic). Besides
reflecting the knightly spirit of adventure and prolonging the diletto of
the audience, these diversions obviously defer the conclusion of the poem.
The Innamorato gives the impression that Boiardo did not know how to
bring his story to a close, and that its ending was more imposed on him
than by him.23 Antonio Franceschetti argues that the poem’s “disorganicità
formale” is intentional, pointing to other masterpieces of the Quattrocento,
such as the Stanze and the Morgante, which share the Innamorato’s lack
of formal organization, yet nevertheless contain their essential message;
later the prevalence of the rule of classical harmony will make this
Ariosto, on the other hand, planned out the Furioso with the determi-
nation of bringing the poem to a definite conclusion, and firmly squelched
the temptation to go on.25 With exceptional control of his huge mass of
material he managed the feat, overcoming the tendency toward deferral
of the ending and bringing together the wildly divergent paths of the
apparently unruly characters. In the Furioso this struggle against an end-
ing is reflected notably by the mage Atlante’s struggle against fate.26
Introduction 5
On the structural level, we shall see that the element of magic serves a
number of different purposes in the two poems. An important use of
magic is to advance or, far more often, delay the advancement of the plot;
here enter Atlante and the enchantresses in their gardens. At times magic
is used as a plot device to set up humorous situations, as when Boiardo
gives the magic lance to Astolfo. Magic is sometimes used as an equiva-
lent to psychological motivation, notably in Ariosto’s Discordia episode.
In the Furioso magic helps to reveal man’s preference for illusion over
reality, particularly in the episodes of Atlante’s castles. Magic serves as a
test of human virtù; Boiardo, in the more optimistic early Renaissance,
shows human ability victorious over magical adversity far more often than
does Ariosto, who is likelier to predicate magic as necessary to counter
magic. Both authors from time to time make magic the occasion for
In both poems magic is associated with the chaotic aspect of life, with
the irrational, as contrasted more or less strongly with order and reason.
However, as we shall see, although both authors praise and privilege
reason, neither utterly condemns the irrational.
Chapter One
Boiardo’s Marvelous Artifacts

One practically cannot discuss at length either Ariosto or Boiardo without

at least mentioning the other. While the two poets’ works are significantly
different, they positively invite comparison, due naturally to Ariosto’s de-
cision to continue the story left unfinished by Boiardo. In this chapter I
shall examine the treatment of magic found in Ariosto’s immediate prede-
cessor, trying to show some of the differences as well as similarities of
these two poems, where settings and characters have the same names,
but are portrayed by two different authors. I shall not limit my treatment
of Boiardo to this chapter; where it seems fruitful I shall consider parallel
episodes in the later chapters.
The first three sections deal with magical and enchanted weapons and
armor, first in general, then in particular (Balisarda, the magic lance). The
fourth section concerns the magic ring, with its two distinct powers of
disenchantment and invisibility. Next I study the magic waters of love and
disamore, together with the pilotless boat that carries Ranaldo off to
adventure. The chapter closes with a discussion of magic books.

i. Armaments

In the chivalric poems of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, magical
artifacts abound, and it is not surprising that some of the more pervasive
magical artifacts are weapons and armor. Considering the necessity of
such accoutrements to the knightly heroes, it is easy to understand why it
became standard for the most important knights, and even some lesser
ones, to have marvelous weapons and armor.
Marvelous armaments fall into two categories, identified and described
by Daniela Delcorno Branca.1 First are magic weapons proper, which
actually possess supernatural powers, such as Astolfo’s golden lance and,
in the Furioso, Ruggiero’s magic shield. Their magical properties provide
8 Boiardo’s Marvelous Artifacts
clearcut and usually overwhelming advantages to their wielders, and their
use is traditionally considered unchivalrous. The more numerous enchanted
(“fatato”) weapons have no special powers. Noting the sometime equiva-
lence of the adjective “fino,” often applied to these weapons, with “fatato,”
Delcorno Branca concludes that this is just a type of superlative which
emphasizes the extraordinary quality of the weapon, rather than denot-
ing any magic properties.2 Thus enchanted armaments differ from their
non-magical equivalents only in their greater prestige. Enchanted arma-
ments include the various “magic” swords and helmets to which knights
have recourse in battle after battle. Enchanted swords are among the
most prized and famous objects in the epic and romance traditions. The
most renowned and favorite legendary knights have enchanted swords:
Orlando, Rinaldo, Oliviero, Ugiero, Charlemagne himself, and of course
King Arthur.
A knight’s weapons are more than just tools of the trade. In Zatti’s
words, “Nella letteratura cavalleresca l’identità del cavaliere si concepisce
come somma di attributi. . . . gli oggetti di cui è detentore sono
prolungamenti del suo io.”3 Thus while enchanted weapons have the added
cachet of magic, a weapon’s trophy value is of primary importance to the
knightly characters.4 The desirability of enchanted weapons to knights
comes not from their magic per se, but from their prestige, i.e. primarily
from the fame of their former and present wielders. Again in Zatti’s words,
“La natura dell’oggetto appare . . . del tutto secondaria rispetto alla
mediazione maturata attraverso il confronto con un antagonista . . . a
sanzionare l’eccellenza dell’obbiettivo è sufficiente il prestigio del suo
detentore . . .”5
Some examples: Ranaldo’s helmet is frequently called the “elmo di
Mambrino,” and it is often reiterated that Orlando won his helmet and
Durindana from Almonte in Aspromonte. Neither Ferraù nor Orlando
truly has need of a helmet, for they are themselves enchanted, “fatati,”
invulnerable except in one place, “e l’uno e l’altro andò, più per ornato /
che per bisogno, alle sue imprese armato” (OF 12.50; “they each went
about their business armed more for show than from necessity”6).7 Thus
Ferraù wants Orlando’s helmet only to be able to say that he took it from
Orlando, the greatest French paladin, while Orlando values it mainly as a
reminder of his own victory over Almonte.
A telling example of the secondary value of the weapon’s enchantment
is the single time in either poem that Durindana is explicitly called magi-
cal.8 To the fay who guards Hector’s armor, Durindana’s enchantment is
only an appositive, wholly beside the point:
Boiardo’s Marvelous Artifacts 9
[the fay] disse:— Cavallier, questa giornata
Tal tesoro hai, che il simil non si vede.
Or se conviene agiongervi la spata,
E ciò mi giurarai su la tua fede:
Che Durindana, lo incantato brando,
Torai per forza de arme al conte Orlando.

E sin che tale impresa non sia vinta,

Giamai non posarà la tua persona,
Nulla altra spada portarai più cinta,
Né adornarai tua testa di corona;
L’aquila bianca a quel scudo dipinta,
Nella alta enchiesta mai non la abandona,
Ché quella arma gentile e quella insegna
Sopra ad ogni altra de trïomfi è degna.—
(OI 3.2.35– 36; emphasis mine)9

[the fay] told him,

“Cavalier, on this day you’ve won
A prize such as no man has known.
It’s up to you to add the sword.
On your faith you must swear to me
That you’ll win magic Durindana
From Count Orlando in a duel.

“Till that adventure’s been achieved,

Never permit yourself to rest,
Gird yourself with no other sword,
And set no crown upon your head.
As you pursue your lofty quest,
Never abandon the white eagle
Shown on this noble shield. This crest,
These arms deserve— as none do— triumphs!”

The emphasis is all on the sword’s illustrious history and on the necessity
of wresting it in glorious combat from its present bearer, Orlando.
The author can personalize these armaments, as Boiardo does for his
Rodamonte, whose dragonskin armor reflects the character’s ferocity. He
has inherited this armor from his ancestor Nimrod, builder of the biblical
Tower of Babel in hubristic defiance of God’s will and one of the giants
who warred against Jove. Nor does Rodamonte care about God’s (or
Macone’s) will; he worships only his own strength:
Se egli è alcun dio nel cel, ch’io nol so certo,
Là stassi ad alto, e di qua giù non cura:
Omo non è che l’abbia visto esperto,
Ma la vil gente crede per paura.
10 Boiardo’s Marvelous Artifacts
Io de mia fede vi ragiono aperto
Che solo il mio bon brando e l’armatura
E la maza ch’io porto, e ’l destrier mio
E l’animo ch’io ho, sono il mio dio.
(OI 2.3.22)

“If there’s a God, which I don’t know,

His care’s above, not here below.
There’s no one who has witnessed him,
But craven men believe from fear.
I’ll tell you my faith openly:
It’s just my armor, my good sword,
My horse, the club I carry, and
The heart I have— I’m my own god.

In that Rodamonte’s armor was inherited from a biblical character it

shows another function of magical weapons: that of linking different nar-
rative traditions. Other examples are Mandricardo’s armor (later Ruggiero’s),
which originally belonged to the Trojan Hector; and Gradasso’s armor,
previously the property of the biblical Samson.
The illustrious heroes of the past would not have valued these arma-
ments so much if they had not been of exceptional quality. In the tradi-
tion, indestructible armor makes it possible for knights to participate again
and again in the (formulaic) fiercest battle ever, which they would not
survive except for their enchanted helmet or armor. Boiardo, more sin-
cerely attached to the chivalric tradition than Ariosto, made much greater
use of such traditional turns of phrase and metaphors.10 Not only is each
new duel a superlative, but each fair maiden is introduced as the most
beautiful. The use of such conventional language and situations is rare in
Ariosto’s poem.
It is only natural for a knight to desire the finest armaments available,
both from a practical point of view as a warrior and, of much greater
concern to the knight of romance, for the sake of his personal reputation.
Thus enchanted armaments not only protect the knight in battle, but also
engender battles against other knights who aspire to win this prestigious
item for themselves. As early as his fifth octave, Boiardo reveals Gradasso’s
desire for Durindana. Late in the poem, Boiardo complicates the theme,
progressing from straightforward duels to a three-way argument among
Mandricardo and Rugiero (over Hector’s insignia) and Mandricardo and
Gradasso (over Durindana). Ariosto takes this motif to an even greater
extreme in the highly amusing Discordia episode in the Saracen camp,
where no fewer than six eminent knights are embroiled in squabbles over
Boiardo’s Marvelous Artifacts 11
arms, women, and horses. Accordingly, it is not only characters who
move around a lot in the poem.
Enchanted weapons pass from hand to hand, either won in combat or
lost through chance. Mandricardo wins Hector’s arms in a series of magi-
cal trials, while Astolfo, who chanced upon the magic lance, loses it in
combat to Agricane and then chances upon it again later. Orlando takes
Balisarda from Falerina, only to be robbed of it by Brunello, who gives it
to Rugiero, who will lose it during his shipwreck in the Furioso until
Orlando returns it to him. And so on.
Ariosto likewise takes this convention to great and comical lengths.
Marfisa disrupts Norandino’s tourney in order to reclaim her enchanted
armor, which she had left behind in the Innamorato.11 Ferraù is pre-
sented in Canto 1 of the Furioso as he seeks the magic helmet he had
borrowed from Argalia in the Innamorato. With the arrival of Angelica
his attention is diverted and she becomes the object of his desire until
chance returns him to the riverbank and the helmet again occupies his
thoughts. The ghost of Argalia bids him take in valorous combat either
Orlando’s or Rinaldo’s helmet, but instead it is through chance that he
eventually acquires Orlando’s helmet.

ii. Balisarda and the Morality of Magic

One result of the implicit distinction between overtly magic weapons and
merely enchanted ones is the possible resolution of the conflict between
the poet’s desire to present his favored characters with prestigious pos-
sessions, and his concern over giving them obviously unfair advantages.
In the earlier chivalric tradition magical weaponry ensured the wielder’s
victory regardless of his merit, and therefore was a sign of félonie.12 The
use of enchanted weapons, however, never posed moral difficulties for
knights, because they are not truly different in kind from normal non-
magical weapons. The essential honor of Orlando, Arthur, etc. is unques-
tioned, regardless of their enchanted swords. In the Innamorato and the
Furioso, no matter how impressive enchanted armaments may be, they
do not give automatic victory, nor do they make their bearers completely
safe. Argalia in the Innamorato, and Mandricardo and Gradasso in the
Furioso are all killed despite their enchanted armor.
Departing from the tradition of condemnation, Boiardo and Ariosto
provide for the possibility of knights’ using magic armaments and yet
retaining their good reputations. Magic is an abundant source of meraviglia
and diletto in the two poems, and its use is not limited to villains. Never-
12 Boiardo’s Marvelous Artifacts
theless, the poets’ treatment of the subject shows that something remains
not perfectly acceptable about the use of magic.
Boiardo does not bring this kind of moral question to the foreground,
accenting instead the marvelous qualities and inhabitants of his fabulous
world. Direct references to moral quandaries regarding knights’ use of
magic are exceedingly rare in the Innamorato, totalling only four. Argalia
is embarrassed not because he wears enchanted armor, but because he is
mortally wounded despite its protection (OI 1.3.63 and 1.28.4). Later,
when Orlando wishes to insult Ranaldo, one of his accusations is that
Ranaldo has secretly benefited from Malagise’s magic aid (OI 1.27.21,
and again in 1.28.4); it may be untrue, but it is an area where Ranaldo’s
honor can be impugned. Despite Boiardo’s reticence in discussing the
morality of magic, upon examination one finds that in the Innamorato
anything with truly magical powers, no matter how delightful and marvel-
ous, leads to chaotic effects.13
Ariosto’s treatment of the morality of magic varies from case to case.
He portrays sorcerers good, evil, and indifferent. There is no hint of
disapproval of Astolfo or Bradamante for using the golden lance or other
magic devices. Yet in two important episodes (those of the shield and the
harquebus, of which I shall speak at length in Chapter Three) he openly
condemns magic weapons, precisely for the traditional reason: they bring
unfair advantages to a knight.
Both poets’ treatment of the sword Balisarda reveals qualms about the
morality of knights’ use of magic. Balisarda, when introduced in the
Innamorato, is clearly magical rather than enchanted. Whereas enchanted
swords cannot pierce enchanted armor, Falerina creates Balisarda with
the special ability to cut through magical substances, including Orlando’s

E con incanti [Falerina] fabrica una spata

Che tagliar possa ogni cosa affatata.
(OI 2.4.6)

There she still hides, to fabricate

A sword, with herb juice, charms, and roots,
Whose edge enchantments can’t withstand.

Orlando finds it indispensable in defeating the magical dangers of Falerina’s

garden and Morgana’s ensorcelled guardian Aridano. Thus the circum-
stances of its creation suggest that it could function as one of the more
important magical artifacts. Yet once Orlando takes it from Falerina’s
garden its unique magical power is de-emphasized. The sword remains
Boiardo’s Marvelous Artifacts 13
valued for its fine qualities, and from time to time the poets refer to its
wondrous origin (much as they do for other enchanted armaments, out of
considerations of the weapon’s prestige). Nevertheless, in neither the
Innamorato nor the Furioso is Balisarda used as a magical tool to disrupt
enchantments as is, for instance, Angelica’s ring.
The duel between Orlando and Rugiero in Book 2 Canto 31 provides
an illustrative example. Enthusiastic readers could be expected to remem-
ber that Rugiero is using Balisarda, and that Falerina had intended this
sword to be the vehicle of Orlando’s death; this would make it inconve-
nient for Boiardo to ignore the matter. And indeed, when the combatants’
swords are compared, the poet specifically recalls Balisarda’s origin:

De le due spade ogniuna era più fina:

Sapeti ben qual era Durindana,
E qual tagliare avesse Balisarda,
Che fatasone e l’arme non riguarda.

Per far perire il conte questo brando

Fu nel giardin de Orgagna fabricato:
Come Brunello il ladro il tolse a Orlando,
E come Rugier l’ebbe, è già contato,
Più non bisogna andarlo ramentando;
Ma seguendo l’assalto incominciato,
Dico che un sì crudele e sì perverso
Non fu veduto mai ne l’universo.
(OI 2.31.28– 29)

Both of them used the finest swords:

Balisard had an edge that spells
And armor could not stop, and you
Know Durindana’s temper well.

To kill the Count this sword had been

Forged in the garden of Orgagna.
Brunello stole it from Orlando,
And then Rugiero took possession—
No need to tell you how again.
To turn back to this new assault,
I say, a duel so cruel and foul
Was not seen in this world till now.

This is a perfect opportunity for Boiardo to give Orlando, the knight

with enchanted invulnerable skin, a dramatic and unprecedented wound
in battle, due to Balisarda’s special magic. Yet the matter-of-fact tone of
these introductory octaves already warns against the expectation of any
14 Boiardo’s Marvelous Artifacts
extraordinary results from the duel. If the poet had intended to exploit the
possibilities of mayhem, he could easily have gone straight from the threat
to Orlando (octave 29, vv. 1– 2) to the narration of the battle. As it is,
however, the stately parenthetical delay of vv. 3– 8 gradually diminishes
the hint of actual peril. Paradoxically, the superlative of vv. 7– 8 serves
not to produce anticipation of a sensational battle, but to recall other
“fiercest” battles where no one was harmed; can the reader truly expect
something different this time? From the very start the two swords are
explicitly given parity (“De le due spade ogniuna era più fina”), and in fact,
by the time their duel is interrupted the two knights have achieved exactly
equivalent results. Fragments of armor fly everywhere; Rugiero shatters
Orlando’s helmet, but, “Come a Dio piacque,” narrowly misses his flesh;
Orlando shatters Rugiero’s shield, narrowly missing his flesh, “Ché il celo
aiuta ogni persona franca.” Thus, Balisarda ends up not substantially dif-
ferent from other knights’ enchanted blades. Falerina’s sword’s unique-
ness has become, in effect, an illusion; it has not quite disappeared from
view, but in practice it has been eliminated.
The same is true in the Furioso. Here and there (36.55 and 46.120) it
is remembered that Balisarda is magical. Yet although the sword was
originally created to pierce Orlando’s enchanted skin and anything else,
magical or not, it proves completely ineffective against the sea monster.
Balisarda, while retaining its high quality and prestige, has been sur-
reptitiously changed by the poets from a magical blade to an enchanted
one in order to make it a more appropriate weapon for Ruggiero. It seems
clear that both poets wished to achieve a delicate balance in regard to the
heroic ancestor of the Este. In order to be able to stand as a peer of the
foremost knights, Ruggiero must wield a noteworthy blade. On the other
hand, the poets do not wish to burden Ruggiero with excessive magical
advantages which would interfere with the demonstration of his personal
virtù. Hence, once out of the perilous magical context of Falerina’s gar-
den, Balisarda is quietly, without any fanfare, deprived of its now disad-
vantageous magic power. Later, Ariosto brings this aspect of Ruggiero’s
characterization closer to the surface in the form of the moral dilemma of
the magic shield.

iii. The Lance

It may be morally troublesome for Rugiero to use magic, but the English
knight Astolfo is a different matter. His character in the Innamorato is
unforgettably linked to the magic golden lance. One of the major magic
Boiardo’s Marvelous Artifacts 15
artifacts of both the Orlando innamorato and the Orlando furioso, the
magic lance finds its literary source in the Tavola ritonda.14 There,
Tristano’s perfect knighthood is exalted by his final refusal and destruc-
tion of the magic weapons.15 In contrast, for Boiardo the use of the magic
lance does not adversely affect a knight’s honor. First Argalia and then
Astolfo employ the lance’s magic with no hint of condemnation from the
In the Innamorato, the lance was originally a weapon aimed at
Charlemagne’s Christians by Galafrone. First of all, Galafrone’s and
Argalia’s willingness to use magic unfairly nevertheless does not bring
them success for long. The plan of the king of Cathay, although starting
smoothly with Astolfo’s defeat, has barely been set in motion when it goes
As early as the end of the first Canto Argalia is so overcome by rage at
Feraguto that he forgets the lance when he leaves the scene of battle.
From one point of view this suggests that Argalia is a valorous knight
with enough confidence in his own abilities that he does not psychologi-
cally depend on his magical accoutrements. His forgetfulness is even more
understandable if Argalia did not know of the lance’s special power.
Galafrone may not have informed his son of its particulars, since nowhere
is there an indication that Argalia is aware of it. When Argalia’s magical
accoutrements are introduced in 1.1.38– 39 the special abilities of Rabicano
and the ring are specified, but the lance is only described by its rich beauty.
It is not even explicitly called magical, as are Argalia’s sword and armor.
Much later Ariosto, an attentive reader of the Innamorato, states that no
one knew it was magical “eccetto quel re solo / che far la fece e la donò
al figliuolo” (OF 45.65; “Apart from King Galafron, who had had the
lance made for his son, nobody knew of its powers or that it was made by
sorcery”).16 Perhaps this is why Argalia is so uncaring as to leave it be-
hind. However, it is a bad sign for Argalia as this sort of loss of self-control
usually leads to defeat in both the Innamorato and the Furioso.
Thus Boiardo prepares the scene for one of his strokes of genius, the
lance’s accidental transferral to Astolfo. The knight’s ignorance of the
lance’s magical property of unhorsing whomever it strikes is a continuing
source of humor in the Innamorato, since everyone familiar with Astolfo
is astonished when he wins. The English knight’s bizarre personality fur-
ther ensures comical scenes.
The strength of Boiardo’s Astolfo lies in his cortesia rather than his
warrior’s skills. In this way, Boiardo overturns the natural order by giving
the magic lance to the weakest of knights. Astolfo himself does not ex-
16 Boiardo’s Marvelous Artifacts
pect to defeat Grandonio in Charlemagne’s tourney, and all the onlookers
share his opinion:
Né già se crede quel franco barone
Aver vittoria contra del pagano,
Ma sol con pura e bona intenzïone
Di far il suo dover per Carlo Mano.
Stava molto atto sopra dello arcione
E somigliava a cavallier soprano;
Ma color tutti che l’han cognosciuto,
Diceano:— Oh Dio! deh mandaci altro aiuto!—
(OI 1.2.66)

That baron bold does not believe

He will defeat the Saracen,
But his pure, good intention is
To do his duty for King Charles.
He waited sprightly in the saddle,
Just like a mighty cavalier,
But everyone who recognized
Astolf yelled, “God, send someone else!”

At first he can hardly believe his victory, but vanity quickly causes him to
assume that it stemmed from his own skill. This first of his victories will
be followed by many more, to the astonishment of all who knew him
After his hot-headed participation in a brawl, he is imprisoned by
Charlemagne and forgotten by all until 1.7.37 when during Gradasso’s
siege of Paris the prisons are opened. It is in this episode that Astolfo
reaches the apex of his glory in the Innamorato. The desperate and
pragmatic captive Charlemagne has already agreed to surrender Baiardo
and Durindana to Gradasso when Astolfo disrupts this plan. Having taken
the leadership of Paris in the absence of the other knights, he imprisons
Carlo’s messenger and challenges Gradasso to duel with him for Baiardo.
The arrival of this news in Gradasso’s camp shows further in what variety
of esteem the duke of England is held; some think of him as “un buffone”
or “un paccio” while Gradasso relates that
Altri m’ha detto poi che sei segnore
Leggiadro, largo, nobile e cortese,
E che sei de ardir pieno e di valore.
(OI 1.7.53)

“Some others told me you’re a lord,

A courtly, gallant gentleman,
Courteous, noble, fair, and free.
Boiardo’s Marvelous Artifacts 17
He is obviously outmatched by the formidable Gradasso— as the narrator
himself admits, Astolfo “[f]orza non ha, ma l’animo non manca” (OI 1.7.55;
“He has no strength, but he has heart”)— and so it is clearly the magic
lance which unhorses the incredulous Gradasso at the first touch. This is
a perfect example of a lesser knight defeating a superior fighter solely
through the use of magic; yet the outcome is entirely humorous rather
than a moral condemnation of Astolfo, since not even he realizes that his
victory was not the result of his own skill. His subsequent joking decep-
tion of Gradasso’s Christian prisoners makes this episode unforgettable.
Desirous of finding his cousins Ranaldo and Orlando, Astolfo takes the
magic lance to the East. His defeat of Brandimarte in Book 1 Canto 9
allows Astolfo to display his cortesia by waiving his victor’s right to ac-
company his opponent’s lady. After unhorsing Sacripante with dispatch,
Astolfo travels with Brandimarte and Fiordelisa to Dragontina’s palace.
He narrowly escapes the amnesiac Orlando with his life. The chief pala-
din is too formidable even for the cocksure Astolfo to face.
In the Innamorato (and the Furioso) even truly magical items are not
invincible. The golden lance wins countless battles for Astolfo but, in-
tended for use in tourneys rather than in war, it does not ensure success
against opponents who depart from the rules of jousting. At the tourney
in Paris, Astolfo is unhorsed by a surprise attack launched by the treach-
erous Anselmo, and later he is wounded by Trufaldino who strikes from
the side. Astolfo’s most serious defeat occurs in Book 1 Canto 10 at the
siege of Albraca. His overconfidence in attacking the enemy army alone
leads to his defeat by three knights who attack together, and the lance
passes into the hands of Agricane. It is not clear whether the asta used by
Agricane in 1.10.49 is the magic lance; the king of the Tartars is a great
warrior, so, in the absence of the narrator’s clarification, how could an
observer distinguish the effects of the lance from his personal skill?
In any case Agricane does not possess it for long before his final duel
with Orlando, and the lance soon returns to its proper owner, Astolfo:
Ora ascoltati che bella ventura
Li mandò avanti Dio del cel quel giorno
Ché proprio nella strata se incontrava
In un che l’arme e sua lancia portava.

Quelle arme che valeano un gran tesoro

Un Tartaro le tiene in sua balìa,
E il suo bel scudo, e quella lancia d’oro
Che primamente fu dello Argalia.
Il duca Astolfo, senza altro dimoro,
Per terra a gran furor quello abattia,
18 Boiardo’s Marvelous Artifacts
Fuor delle spalle sei palmi passato;
Smontò alla terra ed ebbel disarmato.

Esso fu armato ed ha sua lancia presa,

(OI 1.19.30– 32; emphasis mine)

Now hear what great adventure God

In heaven sent to him that day:
Right in his path, he came across
A soldier with his lance and armor.

His armor, worth a fortune, was

In the possession of a Tartar:
His fine shield and that lance of gold
That Argalìa once had owned.
Astolfo, with no more delay,
Angrily knocked the soldier down
And pierced his shoulders six palms through,
Dismounted, and disarmed the man.

He dressed, took up his lance once more

As with his original acquisition of the magic lance, it is by good fortune

that Astolfo now regains it.17 The anonymous Tartar is apparently not
even a knight and his primary interest would seem to be the monetary
value of the weaponry. Thus he is no match for the English duke. Astolfo
may be unskilled compared to his peers but he is still a nobleman and
knight, and thus infinitely superior to a common soldier.
The narrator tells us that after his error in losing the lance to Agicane,
Astolfo learned better, “[g]overnandosi poi con più ragione” (OI 1.10.26;
“he changed his ways— / Some— and was almost well-behaved”). Boiardo
may be ironic here, since Astolfo’s subsequent behavior is foolish. As
Manodante’s prisoner he endangers Brandimarte when he reveals Orlando’s
deception, and on meeting Alcina he goes imprudently forward while his
companions hang back suspiciously; his capture by the enchantress in
2.13.64 takes the magic lance out of play for the rest of the poem. But
the stage is set for Ariosto’s characterization of a wiser Astolfo. When the
magic lance reappears in Canto 8 of the Furioso, it belongs to an Astolfo
who has learned from his experiences.

iv. The Ring

The magic ring is of course one of the most important magical artifacts of
both poems. It has two magical functions: that of rendering the bearer
Boiardo’s Marvelous Artifacts 19
invisible, and that of nullifying spells. This spell-breaking, anti-magical
power is crucial at times to advance the plot, by demolishing magical
prisons that trap knights, while the power of invisibility turns out to be
mainly a protection for women.18
Despite its importance, and characteristic of the majority of incidents
of magic, the ring is presented without what Guido Almansi would call a
“grido di meraviglia.”19 Most of the time in the Innamorato and the Furioso
magical artifacts or events are presented in a matter-of-fact tone:

Il meraviglioso entra spesso in scena nel Furioso nel suo travestimento più curioso
e insolito, cioè come cosa normale, ineccepibile e logica . . . In particolare la
prima comparsa di un personaggio o di un avvenimento mirabilmente incredibile
o soprannaturale viene presentato al lettore in un tono che non è ironico . . . né
stuporosamente meravigliato: bensì in un tono pacato e discorsivo, equanimamente
teso a raccontare un fatto; un tono privo di accentuazione . . . .
. . . Il contenuto è soprannaturale . . . ma la voce non è soprannaturale . . . 20

The two stanzas which present the gifts of Galafrone to Argalia are char-
acteristic of this tactic:

Al giovenetto avea dato un destrieri

Negro quanto un carbon quando egli è spento,
Tanto nel corso veloce e leggieri,
Che già più volte avea passato il vento;
Scudo, corazza ed elmo col cimieri,
E spada fatta per incantamento;
Ma sopra a tutto una lancia dorata,
D’alta ricchezza e pregio fabricata.

Or con queste arme il suo patre il mandò,

Stimando che per quelle il sia invincibile,
Et oltra a questo uno anel li donò
Di una virtù grandissima, incredibile,
Avengaché costui non lo adoprò;
Ma sua virtù facea l’omo invisibile,
Se al manco lato in bocca se portava:
Portato in dito, ogni incanto guastava.
(OI 1.1.38– 39)
He’d given his young son a horse—
One blacker than a snuffed-out coal,
That ran with so much speed and so
Much grace, it beat the wind, also
A crested helmet, shield, cuirass,
And sword, all made by magic spells,
But more important, a gold lance
Of precious workmanship most rich.
20 Boiardo’s Marvelous Artifacts
His father sent him with these arms
Convinced he’d be invincible.
He gave him, too, a powerful ring
Whose virtues were incredible.
Held on the left side of his mouth,
It made a man invisible;
Worn on his finger, it broke spells.
Argalia never used that ring.

All of these items are stated to be unusual, but the matter-of-fact tone
belies their truly marvelous qualities. The ring stands out only for the
crescendo of octave 39 v. 4, where the juxtaposed superlatives are em-
phasized by the pause between them, and the choppy rhythm contributes
to the sense of rising excitement. Yet this crescendo is immediately cur-
tailed by the parenthetical information of v. 5, where the tone of everyday
narration returns. In the end, one has the impression that the ring is just
one more facet of the beauties of Boiardo’s poetic world, and does not
stand out from the rest.
On the level of the plot, however, the ring will stand out. It will prove
crucial to advancing the plot in both poems, with its spell-breaking power
demolishing magical prisons that trap many knights. In the Innamorato
this is the ring’s function in the two extended adventures in which it is
used: namely the destruction of Dragontina’s garden, where Orlando and
other important knights are imprisoned in Book 1 between Cantos 6 and
14, and the extraction of Rugiero from Atalante’s palace at the monte di
Angelica takes the ring to Dragontina’s garden in the hope that the
knights she frees will help her defeat the siege of Albraca, which itself is
an important center of narration. Dragontina’s downfall begins slowly.
She is unaware of the approaching threat because Angelica uses the ring’s
power of invisibility when she enters the garden. First the princess frees
Orlando from the fay’s spell of forgetfulness by putting the ring on his
finger; this takes two stanzas (OI 1.14.43– 44). Then he frees another
prisoner over a stanza and a half. They proceed to liberate the rest until in
an accelerating chain reaction the palace, the bridge, the river, and
Dragontina herself all disappear in the course of two verses:

Sparve il palagio, e mai non fo veduto;

Lei sparve, e il ponte, e il fiume con tempesta
(OI 1.14.47)

Her palace disappears from view,

Her bridge, her stream— she vanished too!
Boiardo’s Marvelous Artifacts 21
The bewildered knights suddenly find themselves in the middle of a for-
est. This effect goes beyond Angelica’s or the knights’ intentions; in the
crescendo of excitement the ring seems to expand its function so that it
dispels the magic surroundings and their creator without needing to touch
Guido Di Pino sees the vanishing of Dragontina’s palace as a clear
prefiguration of that of Atlante’s palace of illusions in the Furioso:

Ma dove la forte schematicità boiardesca sottolinea la rapida e stupefacente totalità

del prodigio, la mente dell’Ariosto svolge la logica del probabile umano, dando ai
gesti del mago . . . la coordinazione e la misura delle naturali operazioni di un
uomo . . . Nel testo dell’Innamorato . . . scolpiscono l’energia e la dimensione
del prodigio . . . Nelle ottave dell’Ariosto l’evento straordinario non lascia, come
nel passo dell’Innamorato, un vincolo di dramma (“con tempesta”); il castello
sparisce senza suono . . . 21

In general Ariosto pays more attention to the “scientific” side of magic

palaces, ensuring that there is a cause, such as magical inscriptions and
knots, for each effect. This scientific attitude is connected with his firm
principles of coherence and verisimilitude.22
After Angelica’s return to Albraca with her new knightly supporters in
Canto 15, the ring is not mentioned until Book 2 Canto 3 when the king
of Garamanta proclaims it will be necessary in order to extract Rugiero
from the protective Atalante’s garden. The need to obtain the ring allows
Boiardo to create another of his most memorable characters, Brunello,
and to narrate Marfisa’s equally memorable 15-cantos-long chase of the
master thief. The episode at the monte di Carena is not as cataclysmic as
the destruction of Dragontina’s garden. Although Atalante’s fortress had
been created by magic, (“Da gli spirti de inferno tutto quanto / Fu in un
sol giorno fatto per incanto”; OI 2.3.27; “Hell’s spirits by enchantment
built / The whole thing in a single day”) the ring does no more than
reveal its location by breaking Atalante’s spell of concealment (OI 2.16.
18– 19).
The sudden revival of interest in the ring in Book 2 has additional
purposes. After the movement of knights to the East in Book 1, Brunello’s
theft of the ring signals the start of the general, though gradual and often
interrupted, return of characters to the West. Agramante’s need for the
ring also serves to underscore the importance of Rugiero, destined an-
cestor of the Este, since Agramante must go to such extravagant lengths
in the quest to obtain the young knight for his army. Not only must a
master thief be located and dispatched abroad, but search parties must be
sent into the mountains, and a tournament fought to lure the new Achilles
22 Boiardo’s Marvelous Artifacts
down from his safe home. From Canto 3 when Rugiero’s necessity to the
war effort is prophesied, the reader must wait until Canto 16 for his
entrance, by which time the young knight has received quite a buildup.
Although the ring passes through many hands in the course of the two
poems it is associated primarily with Angelica, who holds it at the start of
the Innamorato and at her exit from the Furioso. As has been pointed
out, Ariosto’s Angelica is different from Boiardo’s heroine.23 Boiardo’s
Angelica takes an active role in events, while for much of the Furioso
Angelica does nothing but react and flee from danger. When the ring’s
magic nullifies Malagise’s sleep spell, Boiardo’s enterprising princess has
the daring and physical strength to detain him, and the presence of mind
to recognize him for a “nigromante.” Later, she is prepared to use the ring
to pass unseen through the enemy soldiers who have occupied the city of
Albraca, but in this case it turns out to be unnecessary because “a questi
la fatica e la vittoria / li avea col sonno tolto ogni memoria” (OI 1.14.24;
“victory, fatigue, and sleep / Reduced their perspicacity”). She coolly
uses it to escape the tower full of prospective victims of Orgagna and to
enter Dragontina’s garden. She is fully aware that with the ring she is safe
(although she forgets it momentarily under the threat of immediate vio-
lence in the confusion of a battle, OI 1.15.18). Ariosto’s Angelica is a
helpless victim for ten cantos, until she recovers the magic ring from
Ruggiero. Even then, she needs time to readjust to the idea of being safe,
and she subsequently lacks the intrepidity of Boiardo’s character.
Despite these differences between the two versions of Angelica, her
chaotic effect on men and their projects remains. Valeria Finucci’s read-
ing of Angelica in the Furioso as bringing male failure wherever she goes24
is valid in the Innamorato as well. Galafrone plans to use her beauty to
lure Christian knights into captivity. Malagise’s superior knowledge al-
lows him to recognize her, but her beauty weakens his resolution to end
her threat by a speedy assassination. The one time the ring’s anti-magical
power leads to disorderly effects is when it cancels the Christian mage’s
sleep spells, protecting Angelica and allowing her to capture him. To
please her, Ranaldo is kidnapped, leading to a serious defeat for
Charlemagne’s army. At Albraca, and later when they return to Europe,
Ranaldo and Orlando fight over her, neglecting the Saracen threat.
Charlemagne’s proposal not to award her to the less valiant fighter leads
Orlando, the greatest Christian champion, to pray for disaster to befall his
own army (OI 2.29.37).
The ring’s power of invisibility may not directly cause chaotic effects,
but it protects Angelica with her innate propensity to distract knights. She
Boiardo’s Marvelous Artifacts 23
plans to escape invisibly from Albraca to seek more supporters, and actu-
ally does so at the tribute tower. Alhough the ring’s spell-breaking power
releases Dragontina’s captives, Angelica’s charisma continues to lead them
astray from their duty in order to serve her purposes.

v. The Magic Waters and the Boat

Another magical object with which Angelica is associated is the river of

amore and the nearby fountain of disamore. On one level Boiardo intro-
duced these marvelous waters in order to set up the humorous situation
of Angelica’s ardent courtship of the reluctant Ranaldo. In the opening
cantos of the Innamorato the haughty princess of Cathay remains aloof
from all of her admirers, including Ranaldo. In Franceschetti’s view, it is
to avoid the monotony of having all the knights in love that Boiardo
creates the fountain of Merlin, thus by magical intervention excepting
Ranaldo from the general rule of overpowering love.25 Jo Ann Cavallo
sees the magically aloof Ranaldo as the Innamorato’s sole representative
of the anti-eros tradition of the Grail quest literature.26 His coldness to
women is especially ironic because of Ranaldo’s traditional reputation as
a womanizer.
Love is the natural condition of characters in the world of the
Innamorato. The marvelous river of love acts “per la sua natura” and a
human origin of its power is explicitly denied (OI 1.3.38). The magically
inspired loves are treated no differently than “natural” loves.27 This magi-
cal emotion has the same chaotic effects that non-magically-inspired love
has had since the beginning of the poem; i.e. it tends to promote dis-
persal and disorder. The enamored Angelica continues to serve her father’s
plan by taking Ranaldo far from the performance of his duty, and later the
newly-besotted Ranaldo falls immediately into battle against his own noble
cousin. The natural magic of the river can only be countered by the man-
made magic of Merlin’s fountain, situated in convenient proximity to it.
Merlin constructed the anti-magical fountain in order to free the noble
knight Tristan of his self-destructive love. A work of man’s intellect, the
fountain tends to increase orderliness by cancelling out amorous insanity.
After drinking from it, the errant Ranaldo remembers his duty and re-
turns to serve Carlo and protect France. After Angelica has drunk from it
she no longer has reason to maintain her disruptive presence in Europe.
Merlin’s original plan to counter the natural order failed, but the fountain
endures to complicate matters in the Innamorato and to resolve them in
the Furioso.
24 Boiardo’s Marvelous Artifacts
Strangely, Merlin did not follow up on his plan by ensuring Tristan’s
cure at the fountain. Tristan’s arrival was left to chance; it is chance that
brings Ranaldo to Merlin’s fountain in Book 1 Canto 3; and it is Orlando’s
luck (“fortuna o sua ventura,” i.e., chance again) that brings Angelica to it
in 2.20.44. By contrast, the river’s enchantment of Angelica and Ranaldo
is, in each case, divinely ordained by the god Amore as a punishment (OI
1.3.40 and 2.15.55). On the authority of Pasithea herself, the power of
this god is known to be irresistible; “Non si trova contrasto a quel segnore”
(OI 2.15.53; “That lord has never been opposed”). Thus it is surprising
not that Angelica fails to free herself with spells, but that even the legend-
ary Merlin’s magic can nullify the river’s effects. The decree of Amore is
cruelly just; in turn Angelica and Ranaldo suffer the torments of unre-
quited love that they had inflicted on others, and that are so knowingly
described by Boiardo.
Despite its connotations of intellect and rationality, the narrator does
not truly prefer Merlin’s fountain. With the Renaissance taste for para-
doxes he condemns now one, now the other water, revealing a deep
ambivalence about love. The river of love is on the one hand an “unda
maledetta” and on the other a “rivera zoiosa.” Merlin’s fountain is a
“velenoso tosco,” an “acqua strana,” yet the river of love is “una acqua
che è megliore assai: / Meglior di vista e de effetto peggiore” (OI 2.15.26;
“a river of delight: / Good to see, but of bad effect”). Boiardo admits
willingly the life-giving effects of love:

. . . certo chi nel fior de’ soi primi anni

sanza caldo de amore il tempo passa,
se in vista è vivo, vivo è sanza core.
(Amorum libri 1 vv. 12– 14)28

. . . I know that he whose flowering youth

is passed away without the warmth of love
may seem to live, but lives without a heart.

Nor do the pains of love dissuade him from its value:

Chi così vise, al mondo vise assai,

se ben nel fior de gli anni il suo fin colse,
ché più che assai quel campa che ben vive.
Passata zoglia non se lassa mai;
ma chi pòte ben vivere, e non vòlse,
par che anzi tempo la sua vita arive.
(Amorum libri 44 vv. 9– 14)
Boiardo’s Marvelous Artifacts 25
Whoever lived like this lived very well,
even though he met his end while in his prime,
for who lives well lives more than any other.

A past joy is a joy that’s never lost;

but one who could live well and yet refuses,
would seem to steer life’s craft to shore too soon.

In the Innamorato the ennobling effect of love is proclaimed in the fa-

mous proem to Book 2 Canto 4:29

Amor primo trovò le rime e’ versi,

I suoni, i canti et ogni melodia;
E genti istrane e populi dispersi
Congionse Amore in dolce compagnia.
Il diletto e il piacer serian sumersi,
Dove Amor non avesse signoria;
Odio crudele e dispietata guerra,
Se Amor non fusse, avrian tutta la terra.

Lui pone l’avarizia e l’ira in bando,

E il core accresce alle animose imprese,
Né tante prove più mai fece Orlando,
Quante nel tempo che de amor se accese.
(OI 2.4.2– 3)

Love found my earliest rhymes and lines,

All sounds, all songs, all cadences.
Love linked in cordial company
Dwellers in distant boundaries.
Delight and pleasure would be lost
If Love were not the sovereign lord;
Ungentle hate and heartless war,
If Love were not, would rule the world.

Love outlaws avarice and wrath;

Love lets the heart confront bold tasks.
Orlando wrought more wonders in
That season when Love kindled him.

Rational order is not the supreme value for Boiardo; there is room in
his world for joyous passion, though it is best tempered with reason.30
When the Innamorato is interrupted, Ranaldo and Angelica have resumed
their original attitudes toward one another. Ranaldo has rejoined the
majority of knights in a love which will tend to lead him away from his
duty to king and country, and toward glorious adventures and his indi-
26 Boiardo’s Marvelous Artifacts
vidual fulfillment. Merlin’s fountain can even be seen in a negative light
because it had earlier prevented this journey.31 But at the end Ranaldo is
reinserted into the natural (dis)order.
Rational order is more desirable in the world of the Furioso. Rinaldo’s
final visit to Merlin’s fountain is not left to chance; rather he is guided to it
by the psychological-allegorical figure of Disdain, come explicitly to re-
lease Rinaldo from “il giogo indegno” of an “amor sì folle.” Rinaldo is left
free to return to his chivalric duties, as societal values reassert themselves.
The early effects of the magic waters lead to Ranaldo’s voyages in the
magic boat in Book 1 of the Innamorato. The motif of the pilotless boat
evokes romance wanderings in search of adventure.32 In the Arthurian
tradition the boats were sent either by God to take the knight on his
religious quest, or by a sorceress for her own, usually evil, purpose. In
Renaissance romance these boats embody “the operations of Fortune as
Aventure, with chance at the rudder, or in charge of the weather.”33
Boiardo’s boat certainly takes Ranaldo willy-nilly toward adventure, but
its course is guided by a human intelligence. In a passage modeled after
the Aeneid,34 Malagise sends the boat to kidnap Ranaldo after the paladin
refused to help regain his cousin’s magic book by sleeping with Angelica.
The illusions of the vengeful Malagise’s demons lure Ranaldo onto the
boat in such a way as not only to take him from his warrior’s duty, but
also to leave his knightly peers and enemies believing him a coward. With
amazing speed the pilotless boat takes Ranaldo to the lovely Palazzo Zoioso,
to a fate which any other Boiardan knight (and most Ariostan knights)
would gladly embrace, but which Ranaldo flees in horror. His comical
refusal of Angelica’s favors is, of course, due solely to the effect of Merlin’s
fountain. The infuriated Malagise then directs the boat to convey Ranaldo
to the deadly danger of Crudel Rocca. The many delightful adventures he
will face on the way back to Europe are no less important to Boiardo than
the fate of the paladins in France.35

vi. Books

Books in the poems are not the poets’ only vehicles, or even their main
vehicles, for references to literature and art.36 The vast majority of books
that appear in the two poems have to do with magic.37 These marvelous
books are of two types: the books used by sorcerers (e.g. Malagise, Atlante)
in the casting of spells, and the how-to books that guide knights (e.g.
Orlando, Astolfo) in overcoming magical dangers. The former type theo-
retically record spells to be used whenever the sorcerer judges them to be
Boiardo’s Marvelous Artifacts 27
appropriate; in practice these spells tend to be reduced to one, that of
controlling demons. The how-to books contain detailed information on
specific dangers that the knight may encounter, and practical instructions
for achieving victory. The chaotic effects generally associated with magic
adhere strongly to the spell books; they promote the dispersal or entrap-
ment of characters. The how-to books, on the other hand, have an anti-
magical nature and consequently promote the orderly advancement of
the plot.
In the two poems the spell books of the sorcerers are so strongly
associated with demons that Negri is prompted to remark: “dai libri nel
Furioso non usciranno altro che diavolerie” (22). The diabolic connection
is certainly not original with Boiardo, but belongs to medieval tradition.38
Demons from the spell books provide information, transportation, and
Interestingly, Christian sorcerers employ demons at least as often as
pagans. Malagise employs demons on at least four occasions (OI 1.1.36–
43; 1.5.23– 25 and 32– 47; 2.22.45– 59), whereas Angelica commands
demons only with the help of Malagise’s spell book.39 Atalante is con-
nected to demons only once in the Innamorato (2.3.27). Although deal-
ing with devils would logically raise suspicions of the sorcerers’ characters
and motives, their fraternization with the spiritual enemy does not seem
to affect their religious convictions. While Malagise may be of little help to
the Christian camp, he is no renegade; and Merlin’s and Melissa’s use of
demons in the Furioso does not preclude their effective support of God’s
plan. Rather, both Boiardo and Ariosto portray demons as less menacing
than comic.
Spell books are also associated with the failure in some manner of the
sorcerer who uses them. Both poets employ a pattern of magnification
(the sorcerer has amazing powers with his book) then deflation (some
misfortune befalls him without his book), which implies that the sorcerer
is overly reliant on the spell book’s powers.
Although there are many practitioners of magic in the Innamorato,
only Malagise owns a spell book. This fact singles him out; but is he
privileged by the possession of a book, symbol of learning? Clearly, the
fays do not need such books because magic comes naturally to them. As
a corollary, the human Malagise’s use of the book shows that magic does
not come naturally to him, but is an object of study and the application of
intellect. Yet, strangely, none of the other human sorcerers uses spell
books, not even Atalante. While the book would seem to be a powerful
tool, we shall see that it fosters dependence, so that without it Malagise is
28 Boiardo’s Marvelous Artifacts
powerless, and that its use actually portends failure. The more powerful
form of magic in the Innamorato is not Malagise’s traditional bookish
demonic magic, but the fabulous “natural” magic exemplified by the river
of love and the various enchantresses.
At first, the opening canto of the poem is promising for Malagise; he
shows perspicacity superior to all the other men when he is able to resist
Angelica’s charms and recognize that she is not who she claims to be.
With his book he summons demons who provide information; thus
Malagise is the only one to determine the true identity and purpose of the
Cathayan travelers. Again with the help of demons he is transported ef-
fortlessly to the Cathayan camp. Reading less than a page of his book, he
puts to sleep the giant guards, with the intention of killing Angelica.
At this point Malagise’s plans begin to go awry, as he evidences hu-
man frailty. He joins all the other men in succumbing to Angelica’s beauty
and decides to rape her. He takes what seem to him to be elaborate
precautions, reading the entire book to make certain she will continue to
sleep. Relying solely on the book’s power, Malagise forgets or disregards
the demons’ warning about the magic ring, which nullifies all of his spells.
Someone with less implicit confidence in the book’s invincibility would
have taken to heart this warning, and would have taken steps to locate the
ring and to counter its effects. Sorcerers are not known for physical prow-
ess; the surprised Malagise is easily captured. When Angelica takes his
book she takes his power, and effortlessly turns it against him. While
according to the demons Angelica “sapea tutte le incantazïone,” the spells
in the captured book certainly seem to increase her power. She is now
able to command the demons to transport first Malagise and later herself
to Cathay.
Malagise’s failed attempt at the quick and orderly defeat of the anti-
Christian plot results instead in the strengthening of the Cathayan threat.
Angelica becomes even more powerful than before, while the Christians
are left unsuspecting of the danger. Moreover, Malagise’s spell book con-
tributes to the dispersal of various characters, directly with the imprison-
ment of Malagise and Angelica’s return to Cathay, and indirectly with
Orlando’s departure from France in search of her, and the consequent
departures of other knights in search of him.
Much-touted the book’s magic may be, but it proves powerless to over-
come the natural magic of the river of love (“ché amor vince ogni cosa”;
OI 1.5.17; “because Love conquers all!”) that has affected Angelica. There-
fore she proposes to trade the book back to Malagise in exchange for his
promise to bring Ranaldo to her. Yet in Malagise’s hands the spell book
Boiardo’s Marvelous Artifacts 29
has no less harmful effects. Astonished and angered at Ranaldo’s refusal
to see Angelica even briefly, Malagise uses his spell book to send his
unwilling cousin from Europe to the Palazzo Zoioso. He is willing to kid-
nap Ranaldo despite easily foreseeable dire consequences for the Chris-
tians, resulting from the fact that Ranaldo is in command of Charlemagne’s
army in Spain at the time. Ranaldo’s unexplained disappearance leads
directly to the paladin’s dishonor in the eyes of the pagan enemies, to the
alliance of the separate pagan forces of Marsilio and Gradasso, to their
invasion of France, and to the siege of Paris. Moreover, Malagise subse-
quently plots to kill his cousin at Crudel Rocca when Ranaldo persists in
rejecting Angelica.
Much later (OI 2.22.44– 61) comes the episode of Malagise’s well-
intentioned ambush of two pagan knights. This episode follows the same
pattern of magnification and deflation. Malagise’s power would seem to
be overwhelming when as soon as he opens his book the forest is full of
demons: “Più de ducento ne è per ogni foglia.” However, this suggestion
of puissance is quickly belied by the comic description of the demon
Scarapino, which paints a picture not of formidable satanic malevolence,
but of a mischievous imp who enjoys the good life:
Era un demonio questo Scarapino,
Che dello inferno è proprio la tristizia:
Minuto il giottarello e piccolino,
Ma bene è grosso e grande di malizia;
Alla taverna, dove è miglior vino,
O del gioco e bagascie la divizia,
Nel fumo dello arosto fa dimora,
E qua tentando ciascadun lavora.
(OI 2.22.46)

This Scarapino was a demon

From the inferno— and a mean one.
He’s tiny, but he’s gluttonous
And portly, fat with wickedness.
In taverns where the wine is best,
Where whores and gamblers congregate,
He lives, in fumes from roasting meat,
And plies his trade, which is temptation.

Though the pagans number only two, they are the famous knights Feraguto
and Rodamonte, and with their martial virtù they rout the hordes of
demons as easily as they would a human mob. Malagise’s abortive am-
bush of the pagan knights results again in his own capture, and this time
that of his brother as well. They will have to await rescue in the Furioso.
30 Boiardo’s Marvelous Artifacts
Thus in the Innamorato Malagise’s spell book highlights his lack of
power. Two of his three spells fail, leading both times to his capture by
pagan enemies and to his removal from the Christian arena of duty. In
fact, the only time he achieves his goal is when he fails in his duty by
vengefully removing Ranaldo from the Christian center to the exotic lands
of adventure. Each time Malagise’s spell book is mentioned, he fails in
some way; the only time his efforts are beneficial, when he instructs An-
gelica on how to rescue Ranaldo from the monster of Crudel Rocca, the
book is not mentioned at all.
It is possible that this pattern of failure reflects a lack on Malagise’s
part, since Angelica is able to use the book without her efforts backfiring.
There is some lexical support for this idea; while Angelica has the book it
is always called “libro,” but in Malagise’s hands it is referred to only once
as “libro,” once as “quaderno,” and four times as “libretto,” suggesting
that it is less powerful for him.
In contrast to the spell books, the how-to books have anti-magical
functions. Consequently, they promote the orderly advancement of the
plot, specifically by breaking up blocks in the plot. In the Innamorato the
three how-to books are each designed to help Orlando overcome a deadly
peril: the palmer’s book for the Sphinx, Morgana’s book for her trial of
the horn, and the lady messenger’s book for Falerina’s garden. While in
the first episode the paladin succeeds on his own, the other times the
books help him put an end to dangers that threaten many characters,
even to the point where he is credited with saving the world.
The use of how-to books consistently raises the question of reading
ability. How much do the knights learn from what they read? Boiardo’s
Orlando has notable failures as a reader.
When Orlando rescues the son of a palmer, the gift of the father’s
gratitude is a book

Che è de virtù mirabile e soprana,

Perché ogni dubbioso ragionare
Su queste carte si dichiara e spiana.40
(OI 1.5.67)

Its power is miraculous,

Since every question, every doubt,
Is mentioned and explained in here.

The utility of a book, however, is only as great as the perspicacity of its

reader. Orlando thinks to check the book only after he has bloodily de-
feated the Sphinx, remarking comically
Boiardo’s Marvelous Artifacts 31
. . . Io fui ben smemorato!
Senza battaglia potea satisfare.
Ma così piacque a Dio che avesse andare.
(OI 1.5.76)

. . . “Well, I forgot:
I could have answered and not fought.
But God desired it otherwise.”

The palmer presented his gift to a knight so strong that he had never
needed such help, and was accustomed to solving problems with immedi-
ate action. This is the most obvious of the times when Orlando shows his
inability as a reader.41 Here he even attributes his own failing to God’s
will. With the punch line delivered, the palmer’s book fades into oblivion
as Orlando is confronted by his next battle.
However, the lesson of the palmer’s book was not completely in vain,
for when later Orlando receives how-to books he makes some use of
them. In Cantos 24 and 25 of Book 1 he faces Morgana’s trials with the
help of the official rule book, and in Book 2 Cantos 4 and 5 he destroys
Falerina’s garden with the guidance of a book. These books are more
limited in scope, concerning solely the immediate adventure.
The trials of Morgana (in her capacity as the source of all wealth) are
proposed to Orlando by her wandering maid, and Orlando chooses to
undergo them mostly out of a knightly desire to prove his valor, although
the stated reward for victory is a “cosa tanto aventurata” that it will con-
tent him for the rest of his life. Although the maid explains the outline of
the test, after summoning each new trial with the magic horn Orlando
must read the book’s instructions to succeed. Apparently the book itself
forms part of the test; the hero must be quick to assimilate the instruc-
tions before the monster is upon him. Orlando’s glorious victory, how-
ever, has no reward beyond the honor of it, because the “cavallier perfetto,”
the only one who could complete the trials, disdains the hunt of the magic
stag/worldly wealth. Not only did he refuse the chase when he and
Brandimarte encountered the deer in Canto 22, but he persists even now
when he would be assured of catching it.
It is several cantos later that the reader learns the true significance of
the trial of the horn, i.e. that Orlando’s victory broke the spell that Morgana
had intended for the ruination of the world (OI 2.7.42). Thus the maid’s
presentation of the trial had appealed strongly to the knight’s sense of
chivalry and adventure, to draw him into the deadly contest, but the
unchivalric reward, wealth, was the only thing the Fata del Tesoro had to
offer, perhaps as a final attempt to corrupt the victorious knight.
32 Boiardo’s Marvelous Artifacts
The book which Orlando brings into Falerina’s garden contains a map
of the garden and descriptions of its inhabitants. It was given to him by a
nameless lady messenger whom he had met outside the garden the day
before, who told him the necessary conditions to defeat the guardian of
the first gate (chastity and entering at sunrise). Berni identifies the lady as
prudence and the book as reasoned judgement.42 Unfortunately, Orlando
does not make immediate use of these virtues, for by the time he enters
the garden he has forgotten the book. He depends on a fortuitous inscrip-
tion on a fountain to find his way to Falerina’s palace, and he only remem-
bers the book when his prisoner refuses to tell him how to escape the
Thenceforth the book guides him in the defeat of each monster, until
he reaches the giant guardian of the northern gate. According to the
book this giant cannot be defeated, neither by strength, daring, one’s own
wisdom, nor the advice of others. Orlando’s response is a characteristic
“Chi può durare, al fin vince ogni cosa” (OI 2.4.65; ““One who can last
can conquer all!””) and he wins this time by his own cleverness as well as
his strength. While he succeeds in exiting from the garden in defiance of
the book’s dictum, he must refer to it again in order to learn how to
destroy the garden completely. In contrast to the narrator’s protestations
of faith in the trustworthiness and authority of the author Turpin, Boiardo
gives concrete evidence that writers are fallible, too, in this case by under-
estimating human virtù.
Interestingly, Fiordelisa has a copy of this guidebook, enabling her to
describe the garden to Ranaldo in 1.17.39– 45, long before Orlando goes
there. However, Fiordelisa convinces Ranaldo to defer the adventure of
Falerina’s garden until after fulfilling his commitment to free Dragontina’s
prisoners, so this book ends up never being used.
Thus the how-to books provide solutions to problems if the reader
pays proper attention. Boiardo’s Orlando is by no means a sophisticated
or attentive reader, but he can progress.43 His laughable forgetfulness in
the case of the palmer’s book is followed by an impressive display of
quick-witted reading ability combined with combat skill during Morgana’s
trial. In Falerina’s garden he backslides at first, forgetting to use the guide-
book, but goes on to an excellent critical reading. Not only does he follow
the book’s instructions effectively; in the end he revises its inaccurate,
defeatist conclusion. Boiardo may at times poke fun at Orlando, but the
paladin also has his moments of triumph. Orlando’s completion of
Morgana’s trial helps to reestablish his position as a perfect knight, at
least in matters of war.
Chapter Two
Boiardo’s Monsters and Mages

Supernatural Creatures
The world of the Orlando innamorato contains a plethora of widely
varied supernatural creatures, most naturally-occurring, but including some
intentionally enchanted (e.g. Aridano). In this chapter I deal first with
marvelous steeds, whether horses or other, so necessary to knights. The
second section concerns monsters, which range from a normal-seeming
dog, to Boiardo’s versions of mythological creatures, to colorful inven-
tions of his own. Next come the omnipresent Boiardan giants. The last
section treats the mythological villains Medusa and the Naiads of the
Riviera del Riso.

i. Marvelous Steeds

Horses are at least as important to a knight as armaments, as the deriva-

tion of the word cavalier/cavaliere shows. A good horse is vital in battle,
and improves its rider’s reputation. Thus, like magic weaponry, horses
become objects of desire in the Innamorato and the Furioso, and serve
as pretexts for combat. Gradasso invades France in quest of a particular
horse and sword. Two of the disputes among the Saracens in the period
of discord (OI 3.6.39–53), between Rugiero and Sacripante and Rugiero
and Rodamonte, are over the ownership of the horse Frontino (previ-
ously called Frontalatte).
According to Giamatti, for Boiardo horses represent the natural pas-
sions which must be restrained by reason in order to avoid chaos.1 Not
surprisingly, then, horses are not always helpful in battle. Baiardo in par-
ticular tends to frustrate his various riders because he has a mind of his
own. During the siege of Albraca, Orlando is enraged by Baiardo’s refusal
to fight Ranaldo (OI 1.26.26–42).
34 Boiardo’s Monsters and Mages
Marvelous horses are not as common as magic weapons, though
Boiardo provides more numerous enchanted steeds than does Ariosto.
Baiardo is inherited already magically intelligent from the tradition, but
Boiardo invents Rabicano to be the fastest of all. The progeny of an
enchanted fiery mare and the wind itself, Rabicano’s elemental nature is
tamed for Argalia’s benefit by means of a magic book (OI 1.13.4– 5).
Aquilante and Grifone’s horses are enchanted by the brothers’ fay protec-
tors, but lack any special magical characteristics.
For a brief period two pagan kings ride into battle on unusual steeds:
the giant Alfrera rides a giraffe and Urnasso a unicorn. These experi-
ments are not successful; the giraffe is only slightly effective in frightening
Feraguto’s (apparently non-magical) horse (OI 1.4.56) and later its slug-
gishness causes Alfrera’s disgrace (OI 1.7.22), while the unicorn succeeds
in goring a Christian knight (OI 1.7.1) only to make the fatal mistake of
attacking Baiardo (OI 1.7.10– 11).
Fiordespina’s destrier, her gift to Bradiamante, runs away with the lady
knight, giving her a foretaste of Ruggiero’s experience on the hippogriff.2
The destrier is special for its speed and willfulness; its headlong course
can only be halted by telling it, “Sta!” For this reason Giamatti has likened
the destrier to the poem itself,3 because of its romance open-endedness.
The flying horse of the Riviera del Riso makes a brief (only five octaves
long) but memorable appearance and may have influenced Ariosto’s cre-
ation of the hippogriff. While Rugiero had been distracted from his goal
by the seemingly courteous request of a beautiful woman (a weakness on
which Ariosto will later capitalize), Gradasso is diverted by a beautiful
horse, reminiscent of his earlier quest for Baiardo.

ii. Monsters

It is in the category of supernatural creatures that Boiardo’s poetic world

is most different from Ariosto’s. The world of the Innamorato is fabulous
through and through. Marvelous animals, monsters, and villains abound
everywhere that knights go. Orlando rescues a palmer’s son from a giant
that guards the path to the Sphinx; a mere three octaves later he fights
the giant Zambardo, and is then rescued from the giant’s chain by an
anthropophagous giant cyclops. Ranaldo finds a giant and two griffins
guarding Rabicano and the tomb of Albarosa. The monster of Crudel
Rocca waits for victims to be brought to it, while the centaur, the Lestrigioni,
and the blind ogre haunt the wilds in search of theirs. The marvelous
permeates this world even into much humbler manifestations, such as the
Boiardo’s Monsters and Mages 35
gold-eating fishes (OI 1.25.6– 7), the pagan king Stracciaberra of Lucinorco
with his protruding boar’s teeth (OI 1.6.64), and the surprisingly fast
healing of Gradasso (OI 1.7.27); none of the preceding incidents resorts
to explicit magic or is seen as out of the ordinary.
Nor are such prodigies limited to the epoch of Charlemagne. The
narrator’s descriptions of Theseus, Circe, Hector, etc. portray life in clas-
sical times as substantially similar to the poem’s present. Agramante’s
carvings of Alexander the Great are a good example (OI 2.1.21– 30).
Alexander rides his horned steed Bucephalus, fights a giant pagan king,
daringly slays the menacing basilisk, and travels in the sky and under the
sea. The reappearance of Samson’s, Hector’s, and Nimrod’s armor also
suggests that they were adventurers of the same sort as the Carolingian
Boiardo provides numerous examples of supernatural creatures that
form part of a series of trials for the adventurer. Morgana’s test brings
Orlando into conflict with two supernatural bulls and a dragon, and vic-
tory brings him a magic dog and deer. The dangers in Falerina’s garden
are weird magical creatures: another dragon and another bull, a Siren, a
venomous bird, an ass, a Fauna, and a giant or three.4 Mandricardo in his
efforts to win Hector’s armor must also fight grains that turn into beasts,
flowers that turn into birds, and a ten-tailed snake. This category is com-
pletely absent from the Furioso.
Besides being much more numerous, Boiardo’s magical creatures are
also more multiform and multicolored than Ariosto’s. Ariosto is thrifty
with physical descriptions. The hippogriff has a griffin’s (i.e. an eagle’s)
front legs, wings and head, and otherwise resembles a horse; its wings
are of a strange color, not described (OF 4.5). The formless mass of the
sea monster, presumably the same color as the sea, includes some details
only in regard to its head, which has ears, and protuberant eyes and
By contrast, Boiardo delights in colorful descriptions of his weirder
creations. The pelt of Morgana’s iron-horned bulls shimmers from green
to black to yellow to red, while Falerina’s bull has one horn of iron and
one of fire. Morgana’s venomous, fire-breathing dragon has shining green
and gold scales, multicolored wings, and three tongues. Falerina’s ven-
omous bird has the head of a blonde queen, even to the crown; gold and
purple neck feathers; torso and larger feathers of every color; wings with
peacock eyes; and a green and gold and red tail; her large strong talons
are not so decorative, but reveal her dangerous nature. The wings of
Amor and the three Graces are red, white, and gold, and each feather has
36 Boiardo’s Monsters and Mages
not a peacock’s eye but a gracious and beautiful lady’s eye. One of the
strangest creatures in the whole poem is Falerina’s golden-scaled ass with
prehensile ears and sword-like tail.
Many of Boiardo’s marvelous creatures are derived from Classical my-
thology, such as the centaur, the Lestrigioni, the Sphinx, Medusa, the
Siren (in mermaid form), and the Naiads. Boiardo’s attitude toward his
sources ensures, however, that these are not the same creatures as in
Classical literature; they are what Bruscagli has called “radicali
destrutturazioni” of the originals.5 For example, on the physical level the
traditional Greek sphinx with her woman’s face and bust, lion’s body and
bird’s wings is extensively modified by the addition of wolf’s teeth, bear’s
arms, serpentine tail, and peacock-plumed wings. Similarly, Ariosto, al-
though generally more outwardly faithful to Classical sources, shows his
independence by adding a serpent’s tail to the traditional harpy.

iii. Giants

Boiardo’s supernatural creatures include some with the intelligence and

approximate shape of human beings. In the Innamorato one cannot ig-
nore the multitudes of giants. If there is a treasure or a castle that needs
guards, the odds are they will be giants. If an errant knight encounters
brigands, the leader at least is likely to be a giant. Any pagan army will
include a few giant kings. Rodamonte and his father Ulïeno are giants due
to their descent from Nimrod, one of the giants who warred against Jove.
Gradasso is introduced as a giant, though the reader tends to reduce him
eventually to normal stature when the narrator does not insist on his
height; as Franceschetti comments, one cannot tell whether Gradasso is
a giant physically or psychologically.6 Although a giant’s height is logically
his most noticeable characteristic, some royal giants are introduced by
name well before their giant status is mentioned. For example, King
Radamanto of Comano is not identified as a giant until five cantos after
his first appearance in battle. This delay suggests the unremarkable qual-
ity of giants; not only are they fairly common, their presence is taken for
While villainous pagan giants abound, good Christian giants are rare.
The Innamorato contains only two examples: Duke Aigualdo, who is
introduced as he is being cut down by Rugiero, and the converted knight
Uggieri il Danese. Moreover, giant status is not attributed directly to them;
Aigualdo is “grande e sì diverso” and “nacque de gigante” (OI 3.4.19;
“huge and monstrous” and “of giants born”), and Uggieri “par proprio un
Boiardo’s Monsters and Mages 37
gigante” (OI 2.1.51; “he’s like a giant”). Uggieri’s son Dudone, born into
the Christian faith, is only almost a giant (OI 2.10.13). Disproportionate
size, an expression of chaotic dismisura, belongs properly to villains.
Some giants have additional special characteristics to make them stand
out, such as the cyclopean giant killed by Orlando (OI 1.6.24– 35), and
Balisardo with his magic shape-changing ability. Most of Boiardo’s giants
are named, no matter how brief or unimportant their role; we even learn
the names of Angelica’s four giant guards at the start of their final battle
with Feraguto (OI 1.1.75). Giants are so ubiquitous that they even appear
as mere reported victims of a more dangerous monster (OI 3.3.29).

iv. Mythological Villains

Boiardo’s version of Medusa appears in Fiordelisa’s tale of Iroldo, Prasildo,

and Tisbina (Book 1 Canto 12). When Prasildo despairs of his suit for
Tisbina and decides to kill himself, Tisbina and her lover Iroldo compas-
sionately plan to send him on a mission to Medusa’s garden. Offering him
Tisbina’s love if he succeeds in bringing her a golden bough, they expect
him to forget his love for her, either over the course of the journey or
when he faces Medusa. On the advice of an aged palmer, Prasildo shows
Medusa her own reflection. She flees, and he is able to return successfully
to Tisbina and, before long, to marry her.
Altered from the myth, Boiardo’s Medusa threatens not to turn men to
stone but to bring forgetfulness, like Dragontina and the Naiads of the
Riviera del Riso. All these enchantresses of oblivion provide a pleasant
situation for their victims, which however “petrifies” them into stasis.
Medieval writers allegorized the mythical Medusa and her power of petri-
faction as the effect of mad love.7 Cavallo likens Medusa’s threat to Prasildo
to Dragontina’s effect on Orlando, i.e. “a loss of identity and a plunge into
unconsciousness accompanying irrational love. Furthermore, both en-
chantresses represent, albeit in a more extreme form, the knights’ erotic
subjection to the earthly women Tisbina and Angelica.”8 Thus, Boiardo
would seem to condemn Prasildo’s self-destructive love for Tisbina; the
knight has allowed passion, furore (OI 1.12.9), dismisura (OI 1.12.10),
to overcome his reason.
But Prasildo routs Medusa. To conquer Medusa is to conquer one’s
self, one’s own erotic fascination.9 Yet after his return, his love has not
changed substantially. Prasildo is still willing to die for Tisbina, either in
her service (OI 1.12.64) or from grief at her death (OI 1.12.69). Nor is he
so overcome by passion that he wants her against her will. He now dis-
38 Boiardo’s Monsters and Mages
plays the courtesy that his love had multiplied from the beginning (OI
1.12.12). Prasildo’s courteous refusal of Tisbina’s reluctant favors, show-
ing rational restraint, wins her goodwill, and with the departure of his
rival Iroldo he marries the lady. Nor is his love so overpowering as to keep
him at home when friendship for Iroldo calls him to travel.
Perhaps Prasildo’s love was not so mad after all. Or rather, it was a
necessary madness, the bitter that must come with the sweet, because for
Boiardo love is painful but still worthwhile. It is always two-faced, like his
representation of Medusa herself, whose frightful reflection does not re-
semble her lovely face:

Come [Medusa] se vide, fu gran meraviglia,

Ché esser credette quel che già non era;
E la sua faccia candida e vermiglia
Parve di serpe terribile e fera.
(OI 1.12.39)

“What marvel when she saw herself!

Since what she thought was there was not.
It seemed her fair and rosy face
Was filled with frightening, fierce snakes.

The narrator had insisted on Medusa’s beauty: “la sua faccia bella” (OI
1.12.31), “sua beltade” (OI 1.12.35); he refers to her as “donzella” (OI
1.12.31, 34) or “dama” (OI 1.12.34, 35, 38). Yet this snaky horror seems
to be her true reflection nonetheless, as the Gorgon, hitherto so charm-
ing, becomes: “Quella Medusa, falsa incantatrice, / . . . de la sua figura
sbigotita” (OI 1.12.40; “the false / Enchantress— that Medusa . . . In fear
on glimpsing her reflection”).
The Naiads provide another pleasant prison of forgetfulness for Or-
lando and other knights. Orlando is lured to the Riviera del Riso by
Atalante’s illusions in order to keep the paladin from battling Rugiero
during the African invasion of France.10 Orlando finds the stream near
that same forest of Ardena (OI 2.31.43) that contains the magic waters of
love and hate, a forest previously located near Paris, but now moved to
southern France. Seeing in the water a crystal palace with lovely ladies
dancing, Orlando jumps in to join them and “per letizia” immediately
begins to forget “Perché fosse qua gionto e di qual loco” (OI 2.31.47;
“Where he was from and why he’d come”).
Inasmuch as the Naiads hold their captives by means of love, the epi-
sode continues Boiardo’s commentary on this complex emotion. Orlando
is “libero e disciolto, / Preso de amore al dolce incantamento” (OI 3.7.9;
Boiardo’s Monsters and Mages 39
“unchained and free, / Captured by love’s sweet magic charm”). The
front of the Naiad sentry’s sign invites adventurers and lovers to enter
their realm, while the unseen message on the back foretells the knights’
entrapment by their own unrestrained passions (OI 3.7.12– 14). Fiordelisa,
in guiding the rescue party, stresses the importance of reason, of self-
control: “Vince ogni cosa la animositate, / Ma condurla con senno è di
mestiero” (OI 3.7.16; “Courage will conquer everything, / But wisdom
has to be its guide”).
The sign’s double message applies obviously to the knights, but the
Naiads themselves are motivated by love of a sort: “De’ cavallier sovente
se inamorano, / Ché star senza uomo a ogni dama rencresce” (OI 3.7.7;
“And [they] often fall in love with knights. / A woman grieves without a
man”). It is possible the narrator shows them a jot of sympathy here,
lonely for a man like every woman, and they certainly cannot be accused
in traditional fashion of being cruel ice women, tormenting their suitors
by rebuffing all advances (NB the sensual dance of OI 3.7.29). Nonethe-
less, this verse might also suggest the possessive nature of their love.
They do keep the knights as prisoners (however happy and willing), and
seek to acquire more. Upon Orlando’s arrival, “Solo a guardarlo aveano
ogni lor cura” (OI 3.7.9; they “Care only to admire him”); “guardare”
signifies that they admire him, as Ross translates it, but it also bears the
more sinister suggestion that they watch over or guard him.
The next stanza is somewhat ambiguous, but provides more evidence
for their possessiveness:

Però di fuora, in cerco alla rivera,

Per arte avean formato un bosco grande,
Poi for del bosco se agirava un muro.

Questa cinta era fabricata intorno

Di marmi bianchi, rossi, azurri e gialli,
Et avea in cima un veroncello adorno
Con colonnette di ambre e de cristalli.
(OI 3.7.10– 11)

Spreading around the stream there was

A giant grove, made by their magic,
A garden wall wound round this wood.

The garden wall was formed of marble,

Yellow and red and white and blue,
40 Boiardo’s Monsters and Mages
Surmounted by a balcony
With pillars made of glass and amber.

At the very least, we know from the rescuers’ experience that the Naiads’
wall and wood are by no means intended to keep anyone out, but to keep
them in. I think these verses are even more telling. This “bosco grande”
and the colored marble wall with balcony and columns are a remarkable
sight, yet despite the pluperfect (“avean formato”), Orlando saw no sign
of them when he entered the “boschetto” of the Riviera del Riso (OI
2.31.44). It would seem that the Naiads created the wall, and enlarged
and enchanted the wood in order to “guardare” the count. The initial
“[p]erò” makes no sense as an adversative, but as a variant of “perciò” it
supports my interpretation.
Into this realm ruled by desire come Orlando’s would-be rescuers,
Rugiero, Gradasso, Brandimarte, and Fiordelisa. Rugiero and Gradasso
are quickly ensnared by the laurel nymph and the flying horse, but the
exemplary married couple persevere. Some of the temptations that
Brandimarte faces (“Or bei palagi, or monti de tesoro”) attempt to play
on his weakness for wealth, demonstrated earlier when he had left his
friends to chase the gold-antlered stag (OI 1.22.57– 61). He resists these
various enchantments “Ché Fiordelisa sempre lo consiglia” (OI 3.7.30;
“Since Fiordelisa counsels him”). In this episode Fiordelisa in fact demon-
strates an unprecedented expertise in magic; her only earlier indication of
any knowledge in this area was her possession of a copy (unused) of the
guidebook to Falerina’s garden. Did she learn all about the Riviera del
Riso from the African soothsayer who had informed the lovers of Orlando’s
captivity (OI 3.6.56)? In any case, it is she who provides the remedy to
the Naiads’ enchantments:
. . . essa già composti avea per arte
Quattro cerchielli in forma di corona
Con fiori et erbe acolte in strane parte,
Per liberar de incanti ogni persona
(OI 3.7.33)

Earlier, with her skill, she’d made

Four garlands in the shape of crowns—
Flowers and herbs picked in strange lands
To free them from that magic.

These crowns made by magic, employed by Brandimarte with Fiordelisa’s

sage advice, fulfill their anti-magical function of freeing the captured knights
from the Riviera del Riso. Then, naturally, they set off on their next ad-
Boiardo’s Monsters and Mages 41
venture; Gradasso and Rugiero follow the mysterious dwarf, and
Brandimarte, Fiordelisa, and Orlando head for the siege of Paris.

Practitioners of Magic
The spell-casters of the Innamorato display a wide range of power, from
the weak but villainous kidnapper of Fiordelisa to Morgana, who unites
the individual powers of a fay with allegorical powers over all wealth (as
the Fata del Tesoro) and over chance (as Fortuna). The attitudes of prac-
titioners of magic toward Christian knights also vary from hostility (e.g.
Falerina, Balisardo), to benevolence (the white and black fays who protect
Grifone and Aquilante), to neutrality (Febosilla, and the fay with Hector’s
armor). The first section deals with fays, ladies who belong to a super-
natural, non-human race. The second section concerns sorcerers and
sorceresses, human beings who practice magic.

i. Fays

Boiardo is credited with the important step of introducing fays into the
Italian epic.11 “The marvelous of Boiardo and Ariosto gave new life to the
giants and fairies of the original Celtic lore.”12 Yet of the three most im-
portant fays in the Innamorato, Dragontina, Falerina, and Morgana, only
one is explicitly a fay in the poem. It is on Ariosto’s authority that Dragontina
and Falerina are known as fays.13 However, this is not a large step for
Ariosto to take, for, as enchantresses, they fit easily into the category.14
They are important precursors of Ariosto’s Alcina, as by capturing knights
with their enchantments they block the advancement of the plot. Murrin
sees these three enchantresses as presiding over false Elysia with different
emphases on the same themes: in Dragontina’s garden the psychological
condition of the victim; in Falerina’s the deranged psychology of the vic-
timizer and her political state; in Morgana’s “the kingdom of metals and
of Death itself.”15 In their gardens their victims are held in various states
of unproductive stasis: Dragontina uses forgetfulness; Morgana, simple
captivity; and Falerina, the final solution of death. Each of these episodes
is open to allegorical interpretation.
A drink from Dragontina’s river of forgetfulness causes her victims to
lose the knowledge of their identities,16 and replaces it with obedience to
herself. Ross points out how fitting this punishment is for Orlando; “When
. . . the sight of Angelica causes Orlando to forget his duties as a Christian
knight, he soon finds himself in Dragontina’s garden, having literally drunk
a cup of forgetfulness and blindly serving his mistress.”17 Cavallo sees the
42 Boiardo’s Monsters and Mages
pictures of Circe, which so fascinate Orlando, as an unheeded warning to
him against Angelica, equated with the Aeaean witch.18
Dragontina’s drink itself is not seen as unpleasant, revealing the seduc-
tiveness of the thought of escape from the pains and onerous duties of
life, and an acknowledgement of the peril of succumbing to it.19 Orlando
forgets his own circumstances, and Angelica and “lo infinito amore / Che
tanto ha travagliata la sua vita” (OI 1.6.46; “The boundless love that
changed his life”), and his emperor; in short, his conflict between love
and duty vanishes. When Brandimarte is captured, the narrator even goes
so far as to praise the drink:

Dolce bevanda e felice liquore,

Che puote alcun della sua mente trare!
Or sciolto è Brandimarte dello amore
Che in tanta doglia lo facea penare.
Non ha speranza più, non ha timore
Di perder lodo, o vergogna acquistare;
Sol Dragontina ha nel pensier presente,
E de altra cosa non cura nïente.
(OI 1.10.6)
A sweet, a blissful liquor that
Which eases men from memory!
Thus Brandimart forgets the love
That made him suffer so much pain.
His hopes are gone; he has no fear
Of losing praise or gaining shame.
His single thought is Dragontina.
Nothing else occupies his mind.

Yet it is not primarily Brandimarte, who is lucky in love, to feel such

benefits; verses 3 and 4 are far more applicable to Orlando. In this state
of ignorant bliss, Dragontina’s captives pass the time peacefully in seem-
ingly orderly courtly pursuits, such as singing and noble conversation
(much as the prisoners in Atlante’s steel palace will do), but the underlying
wrongness is revealed when Dragontina is defied. Under the fay’s spell
Orlando can, against the proper order of things, be turned against his
own blood relations, as in his murderous attack on his cousin Astolfo.
Grifone and Aquilante dwell together in the garden without recognizing
each other; even the bond of twin brothers has been broken. When
Dragontina’s spell is negated by Angelica’s magic ring, there follows the
joyous reunion of kinsmen who had been unknowingly imprisoned to-
gether, as the bonds of family are reestablished:
Boiardo’s Monsters and Mages 43
Prima fôr presi i figli de Olivieri,
L’uno Aquilante, e l’altro fo Grifone;
Il conte avante non li cognoscia:
Non dimandati se allegrezza avia.

Grande allegrezza ferno i duo germani,

Poi che se fo l’un l’altro cognosciuto.
(OI 1.14.46– 47)

First to be freed were Olivieri’s

Sons, Aquilante and Grifone,
Whom the Count had not previously
Distinguished. Don’t ask if he’s happy.

The brothers, too, are overjoyed

After they recognize each other.

It seems likely that Ariosto had this episode in mind when he imprisoned
Bradamante and Ruggiero together in the palace of illusions, and cer-
tainly Circe is the main model for Alcina.
Unlike Dragontina, Falerina20 is talked about long before she comes
onstage in the poem. She is first described in Book 1, Canto 17, sixteen
cantos before she appears in Book 2. Boiardo may have had her in mind
as early as Book 1, Canto 8 when Marchino’s widow narrates the king of
Orgagna’s part in Marchino’s downfall. Falerina’s deleterious effects on
the outside world are felt from Canto 14 of Book 1, when Angelica meets
Fiordelisa in the tribute tower, where victims are captured to, as the reader
learns later, feed Falerina’s dragon. She has ruined not only outlanders
but also her own kingdom with her predations. Falerina’s own actions
lead to her downfall, in that her transgressions have isolated her from any
supporters and made her many enemies, such as the lady messenger who
helps Orlando.21 Likewise, her garden contains the seeds of its own de-
struction. Orlando uses the Siren’s blood against the bull, the Fauna’s net
against the giants, and Balisarda against all of the monsters, turning
Falerina’s creations against each other. Although he fights magic with
magic here, his most significant achievements (exiting the garden and
destroying it) are due to his using his head; even such potent tools as the
guidebook and Balisarda would not have brought him victory if he had
not used them wisely.
It is at this point, with her cause lost, that Falerina seems to experience
a change of heart. Weeping for the destruction of her garden, she begs
Orlando to have pity on her wretched plight, admits that her crimes de-
44 Boiardo’s Monsters and Mages
serve death, and thereafter speaks quite humbly and helpfully to Orlando.
She makes three statements that contradict the plot elsewhere in the
poem. Reichenbach explains these contradictions as due to Boiardo’s
forgetfulness of details.22
However, I believe that Falerina’s change of heart is false, and hence
that the plot contradictions are self-serving lies on her part. It is notable
that Falerina’s change of heart is not a religious conversion. Unlike
Agricane, Brandimarte, and Fiordelisa, Falerina is not baptized and never
commits herself to Christianity and its precepts.23 Thus her conversion is
not necessarily sincere.
Furthermore, Falerina has strong motives for lying, namely self-preser-
vation and revenge. There is no doubt that she is vindictive in the ex-
treme. The reason she gives for her willingness to murder more people
than there are leaves on a tree is her quest for revenge on Origille and
Arïante for their unspecified offense.24 When magical foresight tells her
that Orlando will without a doubt destroy her garden, she makes a magic
sword to kill him. Falerina knows with certainty that she cannot prevent
his victory; thus her purpose must be revenge. When Orlando captures
the enchantress, she determinedly remains silent, refusing, despite his
threats of death and torment, and subsequently his entreaties, to help him
escape from the garden. Though she trembles in fear, she still takes de-
light in his frustration (OI 2.4.31). Yet once the garden that has cost
seven months of her labor and the lives of hordes of victims is undone,
she breaks down.
My hypothesis that this change of heart is insincere would resolve the
three plot contradictions at this point in the text (OI 2.5.16– 23). On
Falerina’s part, they are self-serving lies. On the narrator’s part, they are
deliberate signals. The narrator made these inconsistencies noticeable to
the reader precisely in order to draw attention to Falerina’s untruthful-
ness, and consequently to cast doubt on her change of heart.
During the passage in question, Falerina’s speech is somewhat inco-
herent, as if she were frantically extemporizing. The enchantress’s first
contradictory statement is that neither of her two targets ever fell into her
clutches. However, it is still fresh in the reader’s mind that Orlando res-
cued Origille from guards escorting her to the dragon just before he ar-
rived at the garden. In my opinion, this lament of Falerina’s rings true. It
is quite possible that she did not learn the identities of her myriad victims.
If she did care to discover their names, it may have been her practice to
wait until they arrived at the garden where she could see them. Neverthe-
less, the reader, having noticed this inconsistency, begins to pay closer
Boiardo’s Monsters and Mages 45
Falerina’s second questionable claim is that when Angelica escaped
from the tribute tower, the princess also freed the other ladies imprisoned
there. Yet, the reader remembers that Angelica escaped alone (OI 1.14.37–
38). This misstatement is the least purposeful of the three on the literal
level. Is Falerina so distressed that she still thinks she can inspire Orlando’s
pity for her tribulations? Even in her agitation she quickly realizes that this
lie will not serve her purpose. Although this lie is an error on Falerina’s
part, it is another deliberate move by Boiardo. This contradiction is not
intended for Orlando, since neither Falerina nor the reader can know
whether Orlando ever heard the true account from Angelica. Rather,
Boiardo intended such an obvious untruth to further alert the reader’s
suspicions of Falerina. The enchantress’s first two contradictory state-
ments are not useful to her purpose; she quickly abandons those lines of
thought, but they have already served the narrator’s purpose of encourag-
ing a more attentive reading.
Finally,25 her claim that she magically created the tribute tower to cap-
ture victims for her dragon seems to contradict the account given when
Angelica was captured, where the narrator informed us that the deceitful
old man captured women as tribute to the king of Orgagna (OI 1.14.29).
This is not necessarily a contradiction, if one posits a long-standing col-
laboration between Falerina and the absent king of Orgagna. Such a col-
laboration is never confirmed or denied by the narrator. In any case, this
is the crucial point of her speech. Now she can claim that if Orlando kills
her, all the current prisoners in the tower will die with her, due to her
magical connection to the tower.
Although Orlando had threatened Falerina, the narrator now reassures
us that the paladin would never actually kill a woman. Rather, Orlando is
relieved at learning a reason to relax this stance. He is deceived,26 and
agrees to escort her to free the prisoners. Thus begins the second stage
of Falerina’s vengeful plan. Whether or not Falerina created the tower,
she must know a safe route to it. After all, her not-very-formidable guards
have been transporting prisoners from it for a long time. Yet she and
Orlando soon arrive at Morgana’s lake, where lurks Aridano, whom Falerina
clearly considers a match for Orlando. If she cannot kill Orlando with her
magic sword, she will take the risk of leading him to battle Aridano, who
is magically six times more powerful than any opponent.
But how does one convince a knight of romance to go into deadly
danger? By telling him where that danger lies, of course. The seemingly
reformed Falerina applies reverse psychology by urging Orlando to flee
with her at once, and extolling Aridano’s strength. She explains that the
lake is Morgana’s attempt at revenge on the knight who won the trials of
46 Boiardo’s Monsters and Mages
the horn in Book 1. Whether or not she knows Orlando is that knight,
she thus appeals to the paladin’s vanity and sense of responsibility. Also,
her apparent fear for her own safety draws a protective response from the
knight. The count naturally reacts by declaring his intention to fight Aridano
(OI 2.7.48). She continues to plead with him to flee, declaring that even
Orlando and all of Charlemagne’s court could not prevail here. She must
know Orlando’s identity from her magical foresight, but she feigns igno-
rance in order to use his vanity against him. She must be as surprised as
the reader when “Il franco conte a quel dolce parlare / A poco a poco si
venìa piegando, / E destinava dietro ritornare” (OI 2.7.50; “Her words
were gentle, and the Count / Was yielding to them bit by bit, / Almost
deciding to turn back”).
The fight takes place after all, because Orlando catches sight of his
kinsman Ranaldo’s armor hung up as a trophy. Falerina waits until Or-
lando and Aridano have both been submerged in the lake, previously an
indication of Aridano’s victory, before she flees. She makes as certain as
possible of his death, before abandoning him to his fate. It would doubt-
less gall her if she learned that, ironically, Orlando is able to kill Aridano
using her magic sword.
With Falerina’s successful masquerade and escape, Boiardo subverts
the apparent triumph of justice. The enchantress remains free to oppose
knights in subsequent adventures. Her return must however await a differ-
ent poet. Ariosto does not take Falerina’s change of heart any more seri-
ously than I do. In the Cinque canti (1.24– 25) Falerina appears in the
fays’ council, where Ariosto portrays her as thirsting for revenge against
Orlando. She joins the other fays in voicing her grievances and petition-
ing Demogorgone for vengeance.
Like Falerina, Morgana is malevolent and vengeful. As the Fata del
Tesoro she represents the corrupting force of wealth, capable even of
separating Brandimarte, a paragon of devoted friendship, from Orlando,
as the former pursues the gold-antlered stag. When Orlando foils her
attempt to destroy the world by means of the trials of the magic horn, her
desire for revenge establishes two loci of blocks to the plot, where many
characters are imprisoned: Morgana’s lake itself and the Isole Lontane.
She no more limits the victims of her vengefulness than Falerina did. The
guardian of Morgana’s lake, Aridano, is a baseborn villainous giant on
whom she bestows magical strength so that “ricercando il mondo tutto
quanto, / Non serà cavallier di tanto ardire, / Qual non convenga a quel
ponte perire” (OI 2.7.44; “if all the world were searched, / No cavalier—
however bold— / Could overcome her fatal bridge”).
Boiardo’s Monsters and Mages 47
In this highly allegorical episode,27 Orlando must continue to use his
wits if he is to have any chance of success. Arguably his bypassing of the
disappearing bridge shows brawn rather than brains, but he thinks his
way to obtaining the shining gem to light his path, without which he
would surely have died wandering in the darkness. Later, showing a pru-
dent distrust of Morgana/Ventura (learned from painful experience), he
keeps hold of her while he uses her key to free her prisoners, averting the
potential disaster. Yet his procedure is not flawless; when he is trying to
leave Morgana’s underground realm, he allows fortune to lead him on the
downward path, and he ignores two warnings to seize Morgana’s forelock
while he can.
In the central moment of the episode Boiardo presents the most trans-
parent allegory in the poem when a penitent Orlando pursues the fleeing
Morgana/Ventura, whose forelock he had failed to grasp when he had the
chance. Although Morgana’s song states that a missed opportunity never
returns, Orlando’s humanistic virtù eventually allows him to capture the
fay. The primacy of virtue over adversity is reiterated in the passage:

Ogni cosa virtute vince al fine:

Chi segue vince, pur che abbia virtute
(OI 2.8.55)

. . . ogni cosa vince l’omo forte

(OI 2.8.63)

“Strength conquers all things in the end.

He who persists, if he’s strong, wins.

. . . strong men conquer everything

As Cavallo states, here a crucial aspect of virtù is persistence.28 Orlando

tried twice unsuccessfully before he was able to bypass the bridge and
take possession of the shining gem, and he must suffer with “pacïenza”
an arduous chase, terrible weather, and the outrages of Penitence before
he can catch Ventura.
Orlando mistakenly accedes to Morgana’s appeal to courtly love by
leaving her reluctant favorite Zilïante in her clutches.29 This error results
in the imprisonment of many knights by Manodante, and eventually in
Orlando’s consequent need to return to Morgana’s lake to free the hand-
some prince. He arrives to the bizarre sight of a lady, whom he does not
recognize as Morgana, grieving over a dead dragon. Enchantresses’ spells
seldom go awry without outside interference, but that is what happened
48 Boiardo’s Monsters and Mages
here when Morgana tried to transform Zilïante into a dragon to guard her
lake. This is highly fortunate for Orlando, since the fay’s distraction by her
revived lover allows the paladin to capture her instantly. He has learned
(temporarily at least) not to hesitate to seize an opportunity, and shows
great prudence in demanding Morgana’s promise of safety.
Other fays in the Innamorato provide relatively brief distractions. Alcina
kidnaps Astolfo, preventing his return to France, and the white and black
fays distract Grifone and Aquilante with the same purpose. Silvanella,
having died from hopeless love, leaves behind a vengeful enchantment to
snare passersby into a similar fate. In a possible prefiguration of Merlin
and Melissa’s roles in the Furioso, Febosilla’s encomiastic balcony sug-
gests that, unlike the Innamorato’s other fays, who are concerned almost
exclusively with their own interests, she may be a partisan of the Chris-
tian teleology that leads to the glory of the Este family. Once freed from
snake form by Brandimarte, she enchants his armor in gratitude. The fay
with Hector’s armor gives the newly-introduced Mandricardo a chance to
prove his valor, though he succeeds largely thanks to luck; his victory
frees her numerous prisoners.

ii. Sorcerers

Malagise is the sole Christian sorcerer in Boiardo’s poem, but we have

already seen that he is by no means a privileged character.30 While he is
formally on the side of right, his reliance on his spell book gets him into
trouble and his demonic magic proves ineffective against either pagan
magic or pagan valor, and actually deleterious to the Christian war effort.
Furthermore, while the knights’ use of magic weapons does not carry the
traditional slur of félonie, Malagise is used twice to cast doubts on Ranaldo’s
integrity (OI 1.27.21 when the enraged Orlando accuses Ranaldo of tak-
ing credit for a victory won by Malagise’s magic; and OI 1.28.4 when the
still enraged Orlando suggests that Ranaldo is too cowardly to fight him
without Malagise’s help).
Malagise’s nemesis Angelica starts out as a sorceress herself, as the
demons inform Malagise that she “sapea tutte le incantazïone” (OI 1.1.37;
“was . . . Adept at every magic spell”). Despite this buildup, we soon have
reason to doubt her magical abilities, which before long are reduced to
possession of the magic ring. Her mission from her father Galafrone is to
act as bait for Christian knights, and then to bring the captives to him by
means of magic (OI 1.1.40). How she planned to do so is not clear, for
despite the demons’ exaltation of her power, she performs magical trans-
portations only with the aid of Malagise’s captured book (OI 1.1.51– 53
Boiardo’s Monsters and Mages 49
when she imprisons Malagise; OI 1.2.12– 14 when she returns to Cathay)
or of Malagise himself (OI 1.9.10– 22 when she rescues Ranaldo). It is not
her personal powers that save her from Malagise, but the ring’s spell-
breaking power. Her knowledge of all incantations, her tenure of the magic
ring, and the power of Malagise’s book all fail her when she wishes to
remedy her enchanted love. In order to rescue Ranaldo from Crudel Rocca,
she needs Malagise’s help and must follow his plan. She depends on the
ring of invisibility when she sneaks out of Albraca and the tribute tower,
and it is the ring’s magic that defeats Dragontina and releases her prison-
ers. For all her intrepid behavior, her terror in the midst of battle causes
her to forget the ring’s protection. By the end of Book 1 the princess of
Cathay has lost any semblance of magical abilities. Even before Brunello
steals her ring, Angelica’s only personal magic is her “Suave guardatura et
affatata” (OI 1.27.60; “Her silky glances fascinate”). This natural femi-
nine “enchantment” suffices to sow disorder among the male characters,
as it had since her first stupendous appearance at Charlemagne’s feast of
Malagise is not the only sorcerer in the Innamorato who attempts to
rape a beautiful lady, and suffers for it. Another such case occurs in the
aftermath of Fiordelisa’s joyous, sensual reunion with Brandimarte at
Albraca, when she is kidnapped by an anonymous Muslim palmer. The
first characteristic of this “vecchio maledetto” is his wickedness, but he is
also an expert on herbs and the virtues of stones, and “[p]er arte move un
monte de legiero / E ferma un fiume” (OI 1.20.2; “That palmer’s art
could stop a stream / Or move a mountain— easily”). This magnification
of the sorcerer’s power is as usual the prelude to his comic weakness.
When Brandimarte and Fiordelisa’s lovemaking interrupts his prayers, he
is so fascinated that he drops his book (the Koran?). Overcome by lust, he
determines to kidnap Fiordelisa using a soporific root, but he is afraid
even to approach the sleeping knight. Now the narrator emphasizes the
palmer’s age:
Poi che fu al prato quel vecchio canuto,
E vide Brandimarte nella faccia,
Ch’era un cavallier grande e ben membruto,
Tirossi adietro quel vecchio tre braccia,
E già se pente de esser giù venuto,
Né per gran tema sa quel che si faccia;

Né si attentava de spirare il fiato,

Perché non aggia il cavallier sentito.
50 Boiardo’s Monsters and Mages
Subitamente se la [Fiordelisa] prese in braccio.
Salisce al bosco, e guarda ad ora ad ora
Se il cavallier se leva a darli impaccio;
Con la radice non l’avea tocco esso,
Né pur li basta il cor de girli apresso.
(OI 1.20.5– 7)

After the old man reached the field

And saw the face of Brandimart,
A sturdy baron, stout of limb,
He fell back three arms’ length from him.
Now he regrets his coming down—
Afraid, unsure what can be done.

He did not dare exhale for fear

That sleeping Brandimart would hear

He picked her up at once, and with her

Climbed through the forest, checking whether
The cavalier rose in pursuit.
He had not touched him with the root:
He was too timid to approach.

The palmer fears pursuit so much that he carries the lady away for more
than an hour until they reach a cave. Ironically, the open woods, where
Fiordelisa had called in vain for help, was safer for the palmer than his
perceived sanctuary, which harbors the fierce lion that kills and eats him.
Much more formidable than the palmer is Balisardo, who is unique in
that he is the only giant who is a sorcerer. He forms part of Morgana’s
attempt at vengeance on Orlando, in that he captures knights for King
Manodante who seeks to exchange Orlando for Zilïante. In fact, he is
introduced immediately after Orlando frees Morgana’s prisoners, and in-
terrupts equally the dutiful voyage of Ranaldo, Dudone, Iroldo, and Prasildo
to France to support Charlemagne, and Orlando’s amorous quest for
When Balisardo volunteered for the job, he claimed he would capture
Orlando with magic, but in reality he uses a variety of methods, of which
magic is not the most effective. He retains enough of the habits of giants
to seek physical battle first, and is formidable enough to capture Iroldo
and Prasildo this way. If he cannot defeat a knight by physical means, he
then resorts to magical transformations, metamorphosing into ever more
frightful shapes. This magical ability, central to the interest of the charac-
Boiardo’s Monsters and Mages 51
ter, is marvelous enough to occasion the narrator’s protestation of inabil-
ity to describe something so wondrous— yet in none of the narrated battles
is this tactic successful. Dudone, Ranaldo, Orlando, and Brandimarte are
not inconvenienced by their opponent’s shape-shifting, and virtù over-
comes magic once again when they reduce him to flight.
Unfortunately, Balisardo still has something up his sleeve; he leads
each of his opponents into a snare set up on Manodante’s ship, and
ingegno defeats even knightly valor. The narrator dwells on the humilia-
tion of the knights as they are imprisoned by the extremely contemptible
crewmen, “tal gente . . . morta di fame, nuda e pedocchiosa” (OI 2.11.35;
“such men as these— / . . . naked, full of lice, / Half-starved”). It is only
through Brandimarte’s virtue of friendship that Balisardo is defeated, the
prisoners are freed, and Manodante’s kingdom is converted to Christianity.
The last major sorcerer of the Innamorato is Rugiero’s protector,
Atalante, whose paternal love for Rugiero makes him a sympathetic and
very human character. His foreknowledge of Rugiero’s prowess led him to
give Rugiero rigorous physical training from early childhood, including a
special diet and hunting exercises of increasing difficulty, in order to pre-
pare him for his adventures. Atalante also predicted and praised the won-
drous virtue of Rugiero’s descendants among the Este. Nevertheless, when
the time comes for Rugiero to set out on his destined path, Atalante’s
paternal affection has grown so strong that he can no longer bear the
thought of the cost of it all: Rugiero’s early death and Africa’s loss of his
glorious descendants. Thus begins the sorcerer’s struggle against destiny
that will play such an important role in the Furioso.
In Boiardo’s poem this struggle, consisting mostly of emotional at-
tempts at persuasion, is not nearly so epic as it will become for Ariosto.
First the sorcerer hides Rugiero from Agramante’s searchers, necessitat-
ing Brunello’s quest for the magic ring. When the garden on the monte di
Carena is revealed, Atalante pleads tearfully with Rugiero not to leave
him. When neither this nor warnings to Rugiero about his fated death can
deter the young knight from participating in Agramante’s tourney, Atalante
tries to accept fate:

Biastemava le stelle tutte quante,

Dicendo:— Il celo e la fortuna vôle
Che la fè di Macone e Trivigante
Perda costui, che è tra’ baroni un sole,
Che a tradimento fia occiso con pene;
Or sia così, dapoi che esser conviene.—
(OI 2.16.53; emphasis mine)
52 Boiardo’s Monsters and Mages
He curses every single star.
He says, “The heavens, fortune wish
Macone’s faith and Trivigant’s
To lose the sun of barons. He
Will be betrayed and die in grief.
Well, let it happen. It must be.”

However the rage accompanying this resolution already indicates that

Atalante will not be able to hold to it. Indeed the sight of Rugiero’s wound
(from the treacherous Bardulasto) shocks the sorcerer like a knife to the
heart and he resumes his struggle against destiny. He tries to dissuade
the unarmed Rugiero from rescuing Brunello, and finally he tries to dis-
suade Agramante himself from leading Rugiero to France. In his speech
to the king, Atalante makes a religio-political appeal rather than a per-
sonal one, emphasizing the glory of Rugiero’s descendants who will be
lost to Africa. While Rugiero’s death is the primary tragedy for Boiardo’s
Atalante, he is also concerned by the loss of his progeny. This religious
aspect is discounted by Ariosto’s Atlante, who focuses on the personal
loss. The sorcerer’s appeal is ineffective because considerations of the
good of his subjects are alien to Agramante, and are no counterweight to
prospects of personal glory. Atalante still does not give up, but accompa-
nies Rugiero to France to watch over him, at one point breaking up a
perilous duel with Orlando by sending the paladin off chasing illusions.
These illusions (by chance or by design?) lead Orlando to the vicinity of
the Riviera del Riso and another forgetful imprisonment, this time with
the Naiads.
We have seen that in the fabulous world of the Innamorato the princi-
pal function of magic is to provide delightful adventures, adventures which
are at least as important as the main plot thread of duty and religion.
Magic is not seen as negative in the poem— but neither is it completely
positive, since it always distracts the characters from their duties. Magical
marvels contribute to the joy of life, and provide opportunities for knights
to display their prowess. They also bring chaos, imprisonment, death,
and destruction; allowing them free rein would lead to the destruction of
civilisation. For Boccassini, Circe’s metamorphosis into a white doe (OI
1.6.52) reveals “the underlying feebleness of the all-powerful magician,
now turned into the most vulnerable and fearful of animals.”31 Magical
menaces are destined to be defeated by valiant knights, but in Boiardo’s
poetic world new opponents will always replace the old and cause more
damage before they are defeated in turn. Only those marvelous artifacts
with anti-magical powers (i.e. the ring’s spell-breaking power and Merlin’s
Boiardo’s Monsters and Mages 53
fountain of disamore) aid in defeating magical dangers, have orderly, pro-
civilisation, pro-rationality effects, and support the progress of the epic
(sub)plot of the poem.
Chapter Three
Ariosto’s Marvelous Artifacts

Magic Artifacts
Having introduced marvelous armaments in Chapter One, I begin here
with Ariosto’s treatment of the magic lance, and proceed to his develop-
ment of the theme of the morality of magic, which he explores in relation
to the magic shield and the harquebus. The third section deals with the
magic ring, and the fourth with the magic waters of love and disamore.
The next two sections concern artifacts not inherited from Boiardo: the
goblet which reveals adultery, and the magic horn that induces panic. The
first part of the chapter concludes with a discussion of the magic books of
the Furioso.

i. The Lance

The magic lance, in the Innamorato a source of humor, becomes in the

Furioso a sign of providential protection.1 This shift accompanies the
modification of the character of Astolfo. The frivolous Boiardan minor
character achieves wisdom and central importance to the plot of the
Furioso. The lance is, however, only one of the signs of heavenly favor
given to Astolfo; these include Logistilla’s gifts, his sea voyage with the
personifications of two cardinal virtues, and later the entire passage of
his trip to the moon. Moreover he proves worthy of these gifts by making
good use of them. Unlike Ruggiero, who loses control of the hippogriff
soon after Logistilla’s lessons, and who completely abandons the shield,
Astolfo employs his magical equipment appropriately and supplements it
with the use of his wits (e.g., against Orrilo). The wisdom gained through
his experiences with Alcina makes him a receptive student to Logistilla,
and helps him keep his head through the rest of the poem.
56 Ariosto’s Marvelous Artifacts
Still, Astolfo does not retain this particular sign of providential favor
for very long. The magic lance first appears in the Furioso in Canto 8
when Melissa finds it in Alcina’s palace and returns it to the English knight
along with his long-awaited liberty. He uses it in only one fight, when
Marfisa disrupts the tourney in Damascus (Canto 18). Lances are de-
signed particularly for the chivalric kind of battle; thus while he had used
Logistilla’s other gifts against Caligorante and Orrilo, here in this highly
chivalric context the lance is most appropriate. The entire episode has the
atmosphere of chivalry. When Astolfo and Sansonetto had encountered
Marfisa, she intended a knightly challenge, but when she recognized him
she instead greeted her old comrade-in-arms affectionately. Together the
three decided to seek glory in the tourney. Thus Astolfo unhorses Grifone
and Aquilante (among others) for the suitably chivalric reason of defend-
ing his knightly travelling companion. With his new aura of Ariostan dig-
nity and respectability replacing his Boiardan ineptness, it is no longer sur-
prising when Astolfo wins a fight, so the lance’s magic remains unsuspected.
After destroying Atlante’s palace of illusions and “Volendosene andar
per l’aria a volo” (OF 23.15; “Aiming to fly through the air”) on the
hippogriff, considerations of weight lead him to give the lance to his cousin
Bradamante for safekeeping. Her unexpected arrival exactly answers
Astolfo’s need, in an explicitly providential manner (“parvegli che Dio gli
la mandasse”; OF 23.11; “Her arrival truly seemed to him a godsend”).
God and the poet know that in Astolfo’s forthcoming adventures on the
moon he will have no need of the lance, while Bradamante’s jealousy will
before long spur her into a series of duels in which the foremother of the
Este will need the protection of Providence. The chivalric context of these
duels will make the lance’s use appropriate.
Bradamante, the destined ancestress of the Este, is another central
character of the Furioso. In the debate about Bradamante’s skill in battle,
I take the position that, while she may not be among the very best fight-
ers, she is at least a competent warrior.2 She easily unhorses Sacripante
in Canto 1. She is reputed to be a better fighter than her twin brother
Ricciardetto, and as good as any of the paladins (OF 36.13– 14). Late in
the poem, her expressed desire to marry only someone who can defeat
her at swordplay is taken as a clear indication of her preference for Ruggiero;
the assumption is that she would be able to defeat Leone (and Leone
shares this opinion of their respective fighting skills). It is no surprise to
anyone who knows of her when she wins a battle. Thus the magic of the
lance, camouflaged by her own martial skill, is not truly noticeable to the
reader until her battle against Marfisa, and remains unsuspected by the
Ariosto’s Marvelous Artifacts 57
The flurry of jousts in her period of jealous “madness” begins at the
rocca di Tristano when she humbles the three knights who accompany
Ullania, then Rodomonte at his tower, and three pagan kings at
Agramante’s camp at Arles. This series of duels against notable Saracens
climaxes with the unexpected opportunity to humiliate her suspected ri-
val Marfisa. The previous duels did not unduly strain the reader’s credu-
lity; the three northern kings, and Serpentino, Grandonio, and Ferraù
gave her no more difficulty than Sacripante in Canto 1, whom she de-
feated easily without the help of magic. Such an easy triumph against the
ferocious Rodomonte was somewhat surprising but not completely in-
credible, given that their joust consisted of only one pass. Yet Marfisa is
one of the ablest and most renowned of fighters, capable of holding her
own in prolonged duels against the greatest of knights. Moreover, as the
reader is soon to learn, she is the long-lost twin sister of Ruggiero and
shares his illustrious ancestry— all the more reason for her to be excep-
tionally formidable. The insulting ease with which Bradamante knocks
her down again and again is not believable within the world of the poem
except for the intervention of the magic lance, as the narrator feels the
need to explain:
Ben che possente Bradamante fosse,
non però sì a Marfisa era di sopra,
che l’avesse ogni colpo riversata;
ma tal virtù ne l’asta era incantata. (OF 36.23)

Bradamant was no weakling, true, but she was not so superior to Marfisa that she
could have knocked her down at each stroke— this was the virtue residing in the
magic lance.

Bradamante’s ferocity against her supposed rival Marfisa contrasts

strongly with her customary courtesy. As recently as the end of the previ-
ous canto Bradamante had displayed exceptional courtesy to the Saracen
kings, followed by the poet’s praise of courtesy as a sign of the cor gentil
in the proem to Canto 36. Yet jealousy drives her to such lengths that at
one point during the battle against Marfisa the furious Bradamante re-
peats Argalia’s error, losing her presence of mind (“non ha mente di
nuovo a ferire / con l’asta”; OF 36.47; “she never thought to strike her
again with the lance”) and abandoning the golden lance in order to come
to closer grips with Marfisa. Without her providential magical advantage
the duel quickly degenerates into an undignified fistfight between appar-
ent equals.
After Atlante’s revelations from his tomb, Bradamante returns to more
characteristic behavior and she and Marfisa become staunch friends.
58 Ariosto’s Marvelous Artifacts
Bradamante uses the lance in two battles in the remainder of the poem,
first against the misrule of Marganorre (Canto 36), and then against the
Saracens (Canto 39). In both of these episodes Bradamante and Marfisa
fight together, displaying their contrasting styles. Ruggiero and Marfisa
are free to slaughter the servants of Marganorre, as is usual on such
occasions. The lance’s magic, however, having been intended to win jousts
rather than to be used in war, ensures that Bradamante’s blows will be
bloodless. The disparity is even clearer in Canto 39:

Marfisa cacciò l’asta per lo petto

al primo che scontrò, due braccia dietro:
poi trasse il brando, e in men che non l’ho detto,
spezzò quattro elmi, che sembrar di vetro.
Bradamante non fe’ minore effetto;
ma l’asta d’or tenne diverso metro:
tutti quei che toccò, per terra mise;
duo tanti fur, né però alcuno uccise. (OF 39.12)3

Marfisa drove her lance through the chest of her first opponent, and it emerged a
yard through his back. Then she drew her sword and shattered four helmets like
glass in less time than I have told it. Bradamant proved no less effective, though
her golden lance worked on another principle: all whom it touched it floored—
twice as many, they were— but it slew none of them.

Prodigious feats of strength and ferocity, such as Marfisa’s here, are

characteristic of and admired in the great knights of epic poetry. The
masses of common soldiers exist to be scorned for their cowardice and to
be slaughtered in droves as proof of the aristocratic knights’ prowess.4 To
give only one other example, Orlando kills seven of Cimosco’s soldiers
with one blow of his lance. In contrast, Bradamante tends to show mercy
toward her enemies. She spares first Brunello, despite Melissa’s having
urged her to kill him, and then Atlante, although he had kept Ruggiero
prisoner. Of course, she too is capable of killing her enemy, as Pinabello’s
fate demonstrates. In this case, however, even though the cowardly and
treacherous Pinabello might well be considered deserving of death— it is
God’s justice that leads him to her (OF 22.71)— Bradamante is punished
for her blind rage by a long, tormented separation from her beloved, in a
state of madness analogous to, though less severe than, Orlando’s. While
the Boiardan precedent necessitated that Bradamante be a warrior, Ariosto
wished to emphasize the more orthodox feminine virtues of gentleness
and mercy in the ancestress of the Este. Thus the magic lance, besides
being God’s protection of her in her period of weakness, allows her to
excel in battle without killing.
Ariosto’s Marvelous Artifacts 59
The golden lance is last mentioned in Canto 45 when Ariosto reiter-
ates that no one knew the lance was magical:

Anzi Astolfo e la donna, che portata

l’aveano poi, credean che non l’incanto,
ma la propria possanza fosse stata,
che dato loro in giostra avesse il vanto;
e che con ogni altra asta ch’incontrata
fosse da lor, farebbono altretanto. (OF 45.66)

Indeed Astolfo and Bradamant, to whom it succeeded, both believed that if tri-
umph always attended their jousting it was not due to any magic but simply to
their own prowess: they would achieve the same results, they reckoned, with any
other lance they chanced to use.

The characters believe their accomplishments are due to their own prow-
ess but, as St. John has already made clear to Astolfo, all the time it was
God’s will (or magic, or Fortune, or Providence, or the poet’s design).
This is another instance of “ecco il giudicio uman come spesso erra!”
According to the theories of chivalry, God makes the righteous knight
strongest. The Ariostan God achieves the same result by means of a
magic weapon. He even preserves the secret of its power so that the
knights need have no moral reservations, despite the fact that the lance is
designed for use in chivalric contexts where knights must be most careful
to follow the rules. The characters’ total ignorance of the lance’s magic
power makes its use acceptable. It is perfectly legitimate for a knight to
employ a lance in a chivalric context, and the chivalric strictures are not
harmed when no one at all realizes they have been violated.

ii. The Shield, the Harquebus, and the Morality of Magic

As we have seen, Boiardo keeps the question of the permissibility of the

use of magic in the background. In contrast, in two important episodes
Ariosto dwells precisely on this dilemma.
The magic shield first appears in the hands of Atlante, who uses it to
capture Ruggiero and numerous others for imprisonment in the steel pal-
ace. When its owner uncovers it, the shield’s irresistible power puts to
sleep anyone who sees its blinding light. After his defeat at the steel castle,
Atlante leaves the shield on the hippogriff’s gear, so in Canto 4 Ruggiero
obtains the shield by accident when he “catches” the hippogriff. Still con-
trolled by Atlante, the hippogriff carries Ruggiero off to Alcina’s island.
There he finds Astolfo, whom Alcina transformed into a myrtle when she
60 Ariosto’s Marvelous Artifacts
tired of him. Astolfo warns Ruggiero about Alcina’s treachery, and directs
the young knight toward the good fay Logistilla. After this warning,
Ruggiero believes he intends to avoid Alcina, but Momigliano has detailed
the subtle process by which Ruggiero is seduced from the moment of his
arrival on the island.5 The sensual beauties of the island slip under his
guard and sap his will to resist; consequently his efforts to avoid Alcina
are only half-hearted.
Ruggiero’s first opportunity to use the shield occurs when a crowd of
monsters attack him as he attempts to follow the path toward Logistilla.
He refrains from employing the shield’s magic out of concerns for his

Se di scoprire avesse avuto aviso

lo scudo che già fu del negromante
(io dico quel ch’abbarbagliava il viso,
quel ch’all’arcione avea lasciato Atlante),
subito avria quel brutto stuol conquiso
e fattosel cader cieco davante;
e forse ben, che disprezzò quel modo,
perché virtude usar volse, e non frodo. (OF 6.67)

Had he thought of bringing out the shield of Atlas— the shield of the blinding light,
which the magician had left suspended from the saddle— he would have overcome
the ugly mob in a trice, and made them all fall down in a dazzle. It could be that
he would not stoop to using it, preferring to rely on valour rather than on guile.

Ruggiero’s concerns for the rules of chivalry are not shared by his
opponents.6 Whereas the narrator states explicitly that Ruggiero could
have defeated the monsters easily and quickly, instead he allows them to
stop his progress toward virtue and Logistilla. Then, because they are
lovely ladies, he allows the two servants of Alcina to persuade him to turn
back toward Alcina’s realm. Thus his refusal to use the magic shield has
left him vulnerable to the unchivalric forces of evil. Alcina’s island itself
has put him in the proper frame of mind to be seduced. The monsters
outnumbered him and, being obviously ugly and evil, allowed him a clearcut
enemy to fight valiantly. But he is left open to the deception of the two
beautiful ladies who gain his trust with their apparent helpfulness; he is
affected by their beauty and cannot believe it could hide evil intentions.
Finally, Alcina uses spells to deceive him as to her age and beauty. His
knightly honor has been turned against him.7
When he is fleeing from Alcina’s realm Ruggiero chooses to take along
the shield. Already, following Melissa’s advice, he has begun using decep-
tion himself to keep Alcina unsuspecting of his changed perceptions:
Ariosto’s Marvelous Artifacts 61
Ma come l’avisò Melissa, stette
senza mutare il solito sembiante,
fin che l’arme sue, più dì neglette,
si fu vestito dal capo alle piante;
e per non farle ad Alcina suspette,
finse provar s’in esse era aiutante,
finse provar se gli era fatto grosso,
dopo alcun dì che non l’ha avute indosso.
(OF 7.75; emphasis mine)

But, as Melissa advised him, he betrayed no change in his face until he had
resumed his armour, from head to foot, which for so many days he had neglected.
And, so as to avert Alcina’s suspicions, he pretended to try it on just to see how
easily he could manage it— he pretended to see if he could still squeeze into it
after so many days since he last wore it.

The poet’s repetition of the phrase “finse provar,” placed in a noticeable

position and preceded by pauses, ensures that the reader cannot miss the
point. Ruggiero has learned from Melissa the permissibility of using fraud
against evil, which was vindicated in the proem to Canto 4.
Ruggiero escapes from the palace, but is delayed by Alcina’s huntsman
and his three animals. It is surprising that a cavallier soprano could be
delayed by a mere villano; usually the knights make short work of such
antagonists. Yet at this point Ruggiero considers an unarmed servant and
a dog too ignoble a target for his sword. Where before he had thought it
dishonorable to use magic at all, even against the crowd of monsters, now
it seems a preferable alternative. Since danger and dishonor will result if
he waits too long, he decides that it is “meglio e più breve” to use the
shield. Afterward he is pleased that he has used it to avoid two dishonor-
able alternatives: “Lieto Ruggier li lascia in preda al sonno” (OF 8.11;
“Ruggiero was glad to leave them all a prey to sleep”). He has progressed
to the point where he is willing to use magic or frode against dishonor-
able enemies.8
The shield is used once more during Ruggiero’s escape, when he reaches
the strait where Logistilla’s pilot had been waiting for him. The two set
sail for the good fay’s realm, when they see Alcina and her navy ap-
proaching in a last attempt to recapture Ruggiero. The pilot, who is “saggio
e di lunga esperienza dotto” (OF 10.44; “a wise and experienced man”),
first urges Ruggiero to employ the shield against Alcina’s fleet to avoid
death or shameful captivity, and then uncovers it himself. The pilot’s
initiative leads to the decisive ruin of Alcina’s reign with the destruction of
her fleet. Ariosto does not say why Ruggiero hesitated to use the shield; it
seems that he still requires help to follow the path to virtue.
62 Ariosto’s Marvelous Artifacts
During the episode of Alcina and Logistilla, which is concerned with
Ruggiero’s education, his teachers do not disdain the use of “dishonor-
able” methods.9 Melissa and the pilot encourage him to use magic and
frode. Logistilla also has a positive view of magic; she teaches Ruggiero
to control the hippogriff and later gives the magic horn and book to
Astolfo. Seemingly dishonorable methods are not to be refused in the
struggle against evil; what matters is how one uses these tools.
The narrator himself supports this attitude. When Ruggiero refuses to
use the shield against Alcina’s monsters, the narrator with characteristic
irony judges it “forse ben, che disprezzò quel modo” (OF 6.67; emphasis
mine; “it is well perhaps that he refused / The aid of fraud”10). In truth,
Ruggiero’s disdain of this powerful weapon is imprudent and leads him
into a degrading imprisonment. The poet is much more positive when
Ruggiero decides to use the shield against the sea monster: “Prese nuovo
consiglio, e fu il migliore, / di vincer con altre arme il mostro crudo” (OF
10.107; emphasis mine; “He hit on a new and better plan: to overcome
the cruel monster with other weapons”).
Despite his teachers’ encouragement it seems that Ruggiero is still
reluctant to use magic. In his battle against the sea monster, Ruggiero
employs the shield only after he finds that all his efforts with his conven-
tional weapons are unavailing against the thick hide of the leviathan. He
is literally swamped until he decides to uncover the shield; the effortless
and immediate victory it provides him contrasts sharply with his earlier
strenuous but ineffective exertions. It is doubtful that without the shield
he would have been able to rescue Angelica. After Logistilla’s lessons he
is prepared to use the shield, but still only as a last resort.
The next and final time Ruggiero uses the shield is in Canto 22. Ruggiero
and Bradamante are delayed in their quest to rescue her twin brother by
four knights serving Bradamante’s enemy Pinabello. The treacherous
Maganzese had captured Sansonetto, Guidon Selvaggio, Grifone, and
Aquilante, and extorted their oaths to collect a shameful toll from all
passersby. Once again chivalry is used against the chivalrous, for the
knights are bound by their oaths to conduct themselves reprehensibly,
even to attack three against one if the first one of them loses the joust.
During the battle, Grifone and Aquilante accidentally rip the shield’s cover
and all the onlookers are overcome by its light.
Ruggiero had not intended to use the shield’s magic; he was using it in
the joust as a conventional shield. The narrator told us so during the
encounter with Sansonetto (OF 22.67– 68), and he reminds us of it just
before the accidental uncovering. It is here that the poet emphasizes that
Ruggiero uses the shield only as a last resort:
Ariosto’s Marvelous Artifacts 63
Ruggier viene,
coperto da lo scudo . . .
a cui Ruggier per l’ultimo soccorso
nei più gravi perigli avea ricorso.

Ben che sol tre fiate bisognolli,

e certo in gran perigli, usarne il lume:
le prime due, quando dai regni molli
si trasse a più lodevole costume;
la terza, quando i denti mal satolli
lasciò de l’orca alle marine spume,

Fuor che queste tre volte, tutto ’l resto

lo tenea sotto un velo in modo ascoso,
ch’a discoprirlo esser potea ben presto,
che del suo aiuto fosse bisognoso. (OF 22.81– 83)

Ruggiero . . . was protected by the shield . . . . Ruggiero fell back on it as a last

resort in moments of extreme peril. / In fact there had been only three occasions
when the peril was that dire: the first two were when he was escaping from the
soft dominion of Alcina to return to a more praiseworthy life. The third occasion
was when he left the orc in the foaming seas . . . . Apart from these three times
he had always kept the shield hidden under a veil in such a way that he could
quickly lay it bare if he needed to.

These “mere” three uses of the shield are deceptive, since they are a
majority of Ruggiero’s battles to this point. He has refrained from using
the shield twice: against Alcina’s monsters, when it was such a mistake;
and against the illusionary giant who lured him into the palace of illu-
sions, catching him by surprise and immediately fleeing so that the shield
might not have been efficacious anyway. Craig believes that by now the
shield has become a “hidden psychological crutch,” since despite his pro-
fessed reluctance to use it he keeps it within easy reach.11 Yet one of
those three times it was not Ruggiero who uncovered the shield, but
Logistilla’s pilot, and the other two times he tried traditional methods
before resorting to magic.
He was not dissatisfied with the results the previous times, but this
final accidental use of the shield seems shameful to him. How is this time
different? The answer is that this joust has the trappings of chivalry. Alcina’s
huntsman belonged to a lower class and Ruggiero wanted to avoid the
indignity of fighting him. Ruggiero tried honorable weapons against the
sea monster, a foe which greatly overpowered him— but when these proved
ineffective there was no reason not to use magic in order to rescue An-
64 Ariosto’s Marvelous Artifacts
gelica. The four knights, however, are Ruggiero’s peers. They uphold an
“usanza fella” but they do it with the appearance of chivalry, and the code
demands Ruggiero meet them fairly.
Ruggiero ought to apply his antipodean teachers’ moral lessons, once
he returns to the active life of a knight. However, it is no accident that the
first sight which greets Ruggiero upon his return to Europe is the review
of troops outside London, reminding him that he is back in the land of
chivalry and reviving his sense of punctilio. Outside Pinabello’s castle,
Ruggiero adheres scrupulously to the code although he faces four valiant
and highly-skilled knights who reluctantly humiliate innocent passersby,
and are even forced unchivalrously to attack three against one. Ruggiero’s
“inglorious” victory allows him to leave without hurting any innocents,
and in time to save Ricciardetto. Yet Ruggiero’s main concern after his
accidental victory is that his reputation, upon which chivalry placed such
emphasis, will suffer (OF 22.90).
Ruggiero’s subsequent abandonment of the shield has been interpreted
variously. Santoro believes this decision is natural in a knight endowed
with virtù as opposed to the fortuna upon which Astolfo depends.12
Wiggins, who considers magical paraphernalia to be the knight’s just ad-
vantage over evil, sees this abandonment as a suicidal action brought on
by Ruggiero’s preoccupation with his knightly appearance as opposed to
essence at this period in his career.13 Baillet attributes Ruggiero’s feeling
of shame to his knowledge that it is time to take his destiny in hand
without outside help.14 Lazzaro sees magic and illusion as no longer nec-
essary to Ruggiero once he has accepted his destiny after being liberated
from the palace of illusions.15 Craig points out that Ruggiero’s seemingly
final solution to the problem may not be definitive after all:

In a symbolic act of expiation and renunciation he throws the shield into a deep
well, his shame sinking with it . . . Through the ritualistic act and prayer-like
language the hidden shame is linked to the hidden shield, now forever covered.
Or is it? Equally characteristic of Ariosto we find the finality of the image, so
insisted upon, dissolving before our eyes as rumors of the shield’s existence en-
gender a lengthy quest to uncover it, as if it were the Grail or the Sepulcher, rather
than a profane object. Its resurfacing remains a perpetual, threatening possibil-
ity, adding a certain nightmare quality familiar to anyone who hopes to bury a
secret shame.16

While it is certainly imprudent within the world of the poem for Ruggiero
to cast away the shield, such a grand gesture of chivalric punctilio was
doubtless pleasing to Ariosto’s intended audience. I believe that from this
point on, Ariosto felt that, for purposes of encomium, it was time to
Ariosto’s Marvelous Artifacts 65
showcase the virtù and irreproachable honor of the forefather of the
Este. Similarly, Bacchelli sees the reason for Ruggiero to be such a stickler
as due to political considerations involving the public image of the Este:

La politica di Ercole vecchio si era attirata la taccia di fedifraga e infida e sleale,

sicchè la vetusta leggenda dell’infamante discendenza dai traditori della stirpe
maganzese, era potuta diventare argomento di satira politica e popolare contro di
lui. . . . che il risentimento dei suoi figli, e specialmente d’Ippolito, per il disdoro
patito dalla Casa per la prudenza di Ercole, fosse vivace, si può desumere, oltre
che dalla storia, dal Furioso, in quanto il capostipite degli Estensi, Ruggiero, vi è
raffigurato, industriosamente, ostinatamente, come un eroe del punto d’onore e
dello scrupolo in fatto di lealtà e fedeltà.17

As the progenitor of the poet’s patrons, Ruggiero must be concerned

with the chivalric code of honor and he must give evidence of his own
virtù rather than succeeding purely by the lucky chance of possessing a
powerful magic weapon. Though Ruggiero has been taught that it is right
to use deceit against evil, he does not perceive the four knights as unchiv-
alrous and believes he has defeated them unfairly and dishonorably. While
he can see that it is appropriate to use the shield against monsters, it
provides too great an advantage against his knightly peers. Ruggiero re-
mains possessed of the unfair advantage of his winged steed, about which
he has no moral qualms. But the poet too watches over Ruggiero’s honor,
and the hippogriff’s escape shortly afterward leaves Ruggiero innocent of
this other unfair advantage as well.
Ruggiero’s other magic weapons belong to the category of enchanted
weapons. Balisarda and later Hector’s armor allow him to display his
prowess, for they have no overt magical ability. Ruggiero’s use of these
armaments does not adversely affect his honor. Nor does the fact that he
uses them in the final battle against Rodomonte guarantee him victory.
As Hauvette points out, enchanted armor does not save Gradasso or
Mandricardo.18 Ruggiero wins in the end because he keeps his head, while
Rodomonte succumbs to rage.
The real-world relevance of moral qualms like those experienced by
Ruggiero with regard to the magic shield is brought home to the reader in
the equally well-known parallel episode of Orlando’s and the narrator’s
condemnation of the harquebus. Following Pool, I count the harquebus
as a magical weapon because the Carolingian characters can only see it as
the product of black magic, rather than technology:

E introducendolo [l’archibugio] con efficacissimo anacronismo nel mondo

cavalleresco l’Ariosto traspone l’arma dal piano della scienza e della tecnica a
66 Ariosto’s Marvelous Artifacts
quello della magia e cosí ne coglie la natura diabolica d’ordigno che colpisce a
tradimento e uccide senza pietà: non come lo scudo d’Atlante, che solo abbaglia,
o la lancia fatata, che solo disarciona; né c’è anello incantato che ne vanifichi
l’effetto micidiale.19

Specifically, Orlando attributes its origin to a hellish plot by Beelzebub

(OF 9.91). Continuing the intermingling of time periods, reality and fic-
tion, and magic and science, the narrator himself claims that its reappear-
ance in the Renaissance is due to the spells of a necromancer inspired
once again by the devil (OF 11.22– 23).
Orlando’s prodigious strength, skill, and courage during the fight with
Cimosco and his soldiers contrast strikingly with their ineptness, coward-
ice, and treachery, prompting Calvino to see this as an encounter be-
tween the glorious past and the gloomy present.20 Without guns such
villani cannot stand against a true knight. Whether through Cimosco’s
hurry or bloodlust or fear or by divine will, he misses his shot and is lost.
Orlando scorns to make use of the harquebus himself, for he “sempre
atto stimò d’animo molle / gir con vantaggio in qualsivoglia impresa” (OF
9.89; “had always regarded it as cowardly to undertake any enterprise
from a position of advantage”). In contrast to Ruggiero, Orlando shows
no hesitation at all in the disposal of the gun, and he throws it not into a
mere well but into the depths of the sea, where no questing knights could
find it.
Cannon in the sixteenth century had shown themselves to Ariosto as
destructive of societal values, allowing the despised foot soldiers to take
their toll of the aristocratic horsemen, as it killed Olimpia’s brothers and
father. Yet the narrator’s condemnation is not solely class-related, but is
given in moral terms in the famous octave:

Come trovasti, o scelerata e brutta

invenzion, mai loco in uman core?
Per te la militar gloria è distrutta,
per te il mestier de l’arme è senza onore;
per te è il valore e la virtù ridutta,
che spesso par del buono il rio migliore:
non più la gagliardia, non più l’ardire
per te può in campo al paragon venire.
(OF 11.26)21

Wicked, ugly invention, how did you find a place in human hearts? You have
destroyed military glory, and dishonoured the profession of arms; valour and
martial skill are now discredited, so that often the miscreant will appear a better
man than the valiant. Because of you no longer may boldness and courage go
into the field to match their strength.
Ariosto’s Marvelous Artifacts 67
Here the anaphora makes the condemnation more effective; the repeated
monosyllables slow the pace of the verses, imposing a solemn rhythm.
Through painful experience Ariosto had a realistic view of the horrors of
contemporary warfare which he could compare to the idealistic vision of
the chivalric tradition. Orlando’s condemnation of the harquebus is the
poet’s condemnation of the bloody contemporary war which did not even
have “la consolante illusione di far rivivere le antiche virtù cavalleresche.”22
Yet the moral condemnation of guns appears only in the third edition
of the Furioso; the earlier versions of the poem contained positive refer-
ences to guns, which Ariosto chose to retain in the final edition.23 Through-
out the poem the narrator praises the military accomplishments of his
patrons, which were based on artillery. Twice (OF 25.14 and 27.24) he
admiringly compares the strength of heroic knights, namely Ruggiero and
Marfisa, to the power of firearms. This may be out of patriotism and
loyalty to the Este, in that he believed that if such powerful weapons must
exist, then they ought to belong to the elite and specifically to his own
lords.24 No matter why he makes this exception, as Chesney says, it
shows the complexity of real-world morality.25
The distinction between enchanted weapons and magic ones helps to
illuminate Ruggiero’s and Orlando’s behavior. Enchanted armaments,
because they have no overt magical function of their own, depend on the
knightly skill of their wielder, and thus are not deleterious to knightly
honor. Magical weapons, by nullifying the effect of personal valor, are
almost unavoidably subversive of chivalry. The golden lance is the only
truly magic weapon that can pass in a chivalric setting, because its power
is unknown; Astolfo’s and Bradamante’s use of it in ignorance cannot be
condemned. Moreover, its magic is camouflaged by the knights’ own skill.
The two weapons recognized as magic in the Furioso, the shield and the
harquebus, are decisively rejected by honorable knights as inherently in-
imical to chivalric values. This treatment supports an analogy with the
traditional view of magic weapons as employed solely by the weak, cow-
ardly, and villainous to gain an undeserved advantage. This is, in fact,
Delcorno Branca’s conclusion: Ariosto firmly maintains the traditional
condemnation of magic weapons.26
However, the question of the morality of the use of magic in the Furioso
has further complexities. Sometimes there is no hint of doubt about magic’s
acceptability. The narrator openly approves the shield’s use on Alcina’s
isle and against the sea monster, for example. Moreover, Astolfo’s con-
stant use of magical tools allows him to accomplish a great deal, including
a trip to the heavens. Although the magic horn in particular ought to
generate moral difficulties, since it functions as a weapon, Astolfo’s use of
68 Ariosto’s Marvelous Artifacts
it is taken for granted. Unreproached by herself or the narrator, Bradamante
is able to seek Ruggiero safely in the midst of the Saracen army due to the
ring’s magic power of invisibility (OF 7.35). Merlin, Melissa, and Logistilla,
characters with claims to wisdom and authority, foster the use of magic.
The use of magic is acceptable in the Furioso solely outside of the
chivalric context. Only when used against other knights, instead of against
monsters or unruly mobs, is there a problem. Once Ruggiero returns both
physically and psychologically to the world of chivalry, he eschews the
use of magic. Astolfo and Bradamante, whose concerns in life extend
beyond the chivalric, are more flexible in their attitude toward magic.
Astolfo’s particular predilection toward magic has several contributing
factors. Besides the fact that many of his adventures are against unchivalric
opponents in unchivalric places, the English knight is not an ancestor of
the Este; thus he is allowed to be more pragmatic than punctilious. Fur-
ther, Astolfo was traditionally an eccentric, even before Boiardo’s por-
trayal of him.27
The cases in the Furioso of the approved use of magic demonstrate
that, while magic has no legitimate place in the chivalric world of jousts
against knightly opponents, in the wider unchivalric world magic may be
the only means of defeating evil or amoral opponents who have their own
unfair advantages. Ariosto may find chivalry attractive in some ways, but
he portrays clearly its fragility, its impracticality, its limits against those
who do not share its code of honor.28 To survive in the real world, and for
good to triumph in the real world, people may sometimes need to employ
less than strictly honorable methods, whether in the form of a magic
weapon or the deceit that Melissa tries to teach. From an overview, what
matters is the use to which magic is put.

iii. The Ring

The magic ring, so important in the Innamorato, continues to enjoy

prominence in Ariosto’s poem. In the Furioso the ring’s power of invis-
ibility remains linked to women, especially Angelica; in both poems it
allows her to travel safely despite the dangers a woman alone could ex-
pect to face. While il Bibbiena in his prologue29 to the Calandria might
revel in the prospect of invisibly spying on people, neither Boiardo nor
Ariosto has a male character become invisible. More prominently, Ariosto
continues Boiardo’s practice of employing the ring’s crucial spell-break-
ing power to remove blocks to the advancement of the plot by releasing
the prisoners of magic in the episodes of Atlante’s steel palace, the de-
struction of Alcina’s garden, and Angelica’s visit to the palace of illusions.
Ariosto’s Marvelous Artifacts 69
With some parallels to Boiardo’s introduction of Rugiero, in OF 3.69–
74 the ring is again said to be indispensable to the removal of Ruggiero
from his guardian Atlante’s pleasant prison, this time a steel palace in
Europe. Once again a sorcerer, this time Melissa, tells the quester, this
time Bradamante, the location and powers of the ring. Its anti-magical
protection against spells is the only hope of any would-be rescuer. Follow-
ing Melissa’s advice, Bradamante uses deceit to wrest it from Brunello
and, since she is then unaffected by Atlante’s spells, to lure him close
enough to capture him.
Bradamante’s elation at her success is quickly ended when Ruggiero is
carried off by the hippogriff to Atlante’s next pleasant prison, Alcina’s
island. Once again the ring will be necessary to rescue him, so Bradamante
willingly gives it to Melissa. Once again using magic to counter magic,
Melissa gives the ring to Ruggiero, breaking the spell of his love for Alcina
and allowing him to see through the fay’s illusion of youth and beauty.
Melissa goes about this through a rather roundabout process, in which
her speech and the ring’s effects alternate to bring Ruggiero step by step
to despise Alcina. Melissa having taken the form of Atlante to deliver a
paternal lecture about neglect of duties, Ruggiero is already ashamed of
himself (“si stava vergognoso”; OF 7.65; “Ruggiero stood shamefaced
and silent”) before she gives him the ring. It then makes him return to
himself, freeing him of his magically-induced love, and deepens his hu-
miliation. Next Melissa reminds him of Bradamante’s love and how much
he owes her, bringing Ruggiero to hate Alcina. Finally he comes to feel
contempt and aversion for the fay when he sees her true form with the
ring; like a rotten fruit “l’odia, sprezza, n’ha schivo, e getta via” (OF 7.71;
“he throws this one away in loathing and revulsion”).
Now that Ruggiero has realized what harm befell him for taking Alcina
at face value, he is willing to follow Melissa’s advice and deceive Alcina in
order to flee. Having made plans for his own escape, Ruggiero remem-
bers his fellow prisoner Astolfo and returns the ring to Melissa so that she
may free the English knight with it. She takes this opportunity to free the
other transformed ex-lovers as well.
The next person to use the ring is Angelica. Ariosto’s Angelica has
been deprived of the ring’s protection for some time. Being who she is in
the Furioso, i.e. the object of almost everyone’s desire, Angelica is often
in danger of rape. Her adventures in the poem are a series of narrow
escapes, such that they have been called an “épopée burlesque sur les
dépucelages manqués.”30 Even in the Innamorato the ring’s first action
was to protect her from Malagise’s rape attempt by nullifying his sleep
70 Ariosto’s Marvelous Artifacts
In the Furioso Angelica spends the first ten cantos fleeing dangers,
hoping to return home. In Canto 11, when Ruggiero is preparing to rav-
ish her, she recognizes the ring that he had given her. Through her mind
rush her adventures from the Innamorato:

Questo è l’annel ch’ella portò già in Francia

la prima volta che fe’ quel camino
col fratel suo . . .
Con questo fe’ gl’incanti uscire in ciancia
di Malagigi al petron di Merlino;
con questo Orlando ed altri una matina
tolse di servitù di Dragontina;

con questo uscì invisibil de la torre

dove l’avea richiusa un vecchio rio.
Brunel sin nel giron lel venne a torre;
ch’Agramante d’averlo ebbe disio. (OF 11.4– 5)

This was the ring she took with her to France the first time she made the journey
with her brother. . . . With this ring she neutralized the spells Maugis cast on her
at Merlin’s tomb. With it she helped Orlando and others to escape one morning
from Dragontina; / with this ring she made herself invisible and escaped from the
dungeon where a wicked old man had imprisoned her. . . . Brunello found his
way into her castle and stole the ring from her, for Agramant wanted it.

Re-empowered by the ring, these memories of her more intrepid days

inspire her to take a more active role.
In the famous proem to Canto 8, Ariosto likens the magic ring to
reason. Although in the Renaissance there are no true magicians (“l’arti
. . . al nostro tempo ignote”; OF 7.73; “arts unknown in our day”), there
are still ”enchanters“ who hide behind false appearances; and their vic-
tims must use reason instead of a magic ring to see the truth (OF 8.1– 2).
Ariosto’s use of allegory is discontinuous,31 however, and the ring does
not continue to represent reason. In the proem to Canto 11 the meta-
phor shifts to the bit of reason, which reins in the wild horse of passion.
The textual bit is that of the hippogriff, so recently given to Ruggiero by
Logistilla. Failing, for whatever reason,32 to apply his antipodean teach-
ers’ lessons, Ruggiero loses his self-control, the hippogriff, the magic
ring, and his dignity all at once. At this point the ring comes to represent
Ariosto’s Marvelous Artifacts 71
Brunel . . . lel venne a torre;
Da indi in qua sempre Fortuna a sdegno
ebbe costei, fin che le tolse il regno. (OF 11.5)

Brunello . . . stole the ring from her . . . . Ever since that moment Fortune had
frowned upon her until she lost her kingdom.

At this turning point in her adventures Angelica grasps Fortune firmly

by the forelock, escaping from Ruggiero. She is able to do so because the
ring’s spell-breaking power had protected her from the soporific magic of
Ruggiero’s shield in his battle against the sea monster. Most often, how-
ever, it is the power of invisibility that she relies on.
Although indifferent to all the men she knows, she allows them to
desire her until in Canto 12 she realizes that the ring permits her to
dispense with their desire and help, allowing her to be herself.33 Thus she
enters the palace of illusions in order to find a knight to accompany and
protect her on her voyage home but, fleeing the three who rush at her,
changes her mind. She has realized (or remembered from her Boiardan
incarnation) that she can easily and reliably vanish from the threat of
danger. This realization leads to Angelica’s first laugh in the Furioso (12.36)
as she watches her confused pursuers, now unable to harm her. Her relief
even leads her to play a trick on them, to take an independent, frivolous
action contrary to her previous, solely survival-oriented behavior.
Thus Angelica also uses the ring to break up a block in the plot, but
only to a limited extent. She frees only three knights from the palace of
illusions (and even that was more than she intended). The task of destroy-
ing the palace and freeing all the people within is left for Astolfo.
The only other character to become invisible is Bradamante. She
searches for Ruggiero throughout the enemy camp
. . . senza impedimento
mercé all’annel che fuor d’ogni uman uso
la fa sparir quando l’è in bocca chiuso. (OF 7.35)

This was not difficult . . . thanks to the ring which, against all human experience,
made her vanish when she put it in her mouth.

A skilled warrior, Bradamante employs the power of invisibility less for

her own safety than because combat would impede her urgent search for
her beloved.
72 Ariosto’s Marvelous Artifacts
To Ariosto’s Angelica, however, practically the whole world is as dan-
gerous as an enemy camp, hence her particular need for the ring. Made
careless in the happiness of her love for Medoro, she casts aside her
customary policy of invisibility, leaving clues wherever she goes. Once
again, traveling brings the traditional dangers in the encounter with the
mad Orlando (Canto 29). Shocked from her idyllic sense of security by his
onrush, and with Medoro unable to defend her, she must frantically re-
claim the protection of invisibility.
We have seen that in both the Innamorato and the Furioso the ring’s
spell-breaking power is used by both men and women characters, but
usually for the benefit of men. The magical prisons of the two poems
primarily trap male knights; the ring is needed three times to propel
Ruggiero, in particular, toward his proud destiny as ancestor of the Este.
One time in each poem the ring’s spell-breaking power protects Angelica
from rape. But most often this anti-magical power promotes the orderly
forward flow of the narrative toward the eventual victory of the Christian
knights, the golden age of Renaissance Ferrara, and Ariosto’s reaffirma-
tion of Renaissance society’s values.34
In contrast, the power of invisibility is important essentially to women;
the men who briefly possess the ring have no need to hide. Not even the
unwarlike thief Brunello becomes invisible to escape the vengeful and
formidable Marfisa in the Innamorato (though Melissa fears that he might
do so to escape Bradamante; OF 3.74). Nor does Brunello ever consider
using invisibility in his thefts, although this is the first impulse of il Bibbiena,
according to the prologue to the Calandria.35 Bibbiena’s second impulse,
to use invisibility to facilitate his voyeuristic observation of Florentine
women, is a length to which epic knights need not go. As primarily sub-
jects of desire, the poems’ male characters have nothing to fear from the
gaze of others. Bradamante’s socially approved desire to marry Ruggiero
necessitates her visibility to his gaze. Though she finds invisibility useful
at one point, she is by no means reluctant to part with the ring. Angelica’s
desire to remain untouched by all her admirers demands her disappear-
ance from their view. For the sake of her own independence, she clings
with determination to the magic ring.

iv. The Magic Waters

Considering Ariosto’s emphasis on rational order, it is natural that in the

world of the Furioso the magic waters are of less importance than in the
Innamorato, and that Merlin’s rationality-promoting fountain is preferred.
Ariosto’s Marvelous Artifacts 73
Through most of the Furioso the magic waters are mentioned little, no
more than to recall their effects on Angelica and Rinaldo. After the first
canto, the plot is not greatly affected by the continuing legacy of the
waters; Angelica’s rejection of Rinaldo is stronger than but similar to her
rejection of all the other knights, while Rinaldo’s love for the princess
does not prevent his pursuing other quests throughout most of the poem.
It is not until late in the poem (Canto 42) that Merlin’s fountain is encoun-
tered, and the river of love does not appear at all; its role is performed by
the personified Amor (e.g. OF 19.19 and 19.28). Omitting any mention
of the artificial origin of the fountain of disamore, Ariosto makes no
lexical distinction between the two waters (“due fontane” OF 1.78; “due
fonti” OF 42.35; “in quel . . . rivo; . . . ne l’altro” OF 42.37). Hate is just
as natural as love in the world of the Furioso.
In bringing his many plot threads to a harmonious conclusion, Ariosto
must cure the lord of Montalbano of his desire to wander in search of
Angelica.36 Motivated by his old love of Angelica, Rinaldo once again
leaves Carlo on a pretext, intending to go all the way to Cathay. Yet even
before the start of his voyage he becomes divided between love, fierce
regret for lost opportunities, and “gelosa rabbia” at Medoro. While Or-
lando had gone mad because Angelica loved someone (anyone) else,
Rinaldo is greatly disturbed also by the social condition of Medoro:

Ha sempre in mente, e mai non se ne parte,

come esser puote ch’un povero fante
abbia del cor di lei spinto da parte
merito e amor d’ogni altro primo amante.
Con tal pensier che ’l cor gli straccia e parte,
Rinaldo se ne va verso Levante (OF 42.45)

What he could never escape was the thought of how a poor simple soldier could
have displaced in her breast the entire merits, the full ardour of all her previous
suitors. His heart torn by thoughts such as these, Rinaldo journeyed Eastwards

Here the repetition of the rhyme “parte” reflects the obsessive circling of
Rinaldo’s thoughts. Characteristically, the landscape comes to reflect the
character’s state of mind,37 in this case isolated, dark, and threatening:

Poi che fu dentro a molte miglia andato

il paladin pel bosco aventuroso,
da ville e da castella allontanato,
ove aspro era più il luogo e periglioso,
tutto in un tratto vide il ciel turbato,
sparito il sol tra nuvoli nascoso,
74 Ariosto’s Marvelous Artifacts
ed uscir fuor d’una caverna oscura
un strano mostro in feminil figura. (OF 42.46)

The venturesome paladin had penetrated several miles into the woods, far from
all human habitation, where the going was roughest and most dangerous, when
all at once he saw the sky lower, the sun disappear, and out from a dark cave
there issued a strange monster in the shape of a woman.

This monster is of course the personification of Jealousy, who emerges

from the dark cavern of Rinaldo’s own mind to externalize his conflict.
She torments the terrified knight until he is rescued by the personification
of Disdain, with his symbols of the broken yoke of passion, the red flames
of anger, and the yellow shield of defense against passion.38 In a brief
passage of ascent reminiscent of Dante, but accenting the psychological
rather than the spiritual, the mysterious knight

consiglia il paladin che se ne vada

per quella via che s’alza verso il monte.
Quel s’appiglia al consiglio ed alla strada;
e senza dietro mai volger la fronte,
non cessa, che di vista se gli tolle,
ben che molto aspro era a salir quel colle.
(OF 42.57)39

advised the paladin to be off, taking the road which climbed uphill. Rinaldo did as
bidden and without a backward glance rode hard till he was lost to sight, though
the hill was a steep one to climb.

Thus Rinaldo’s final visit to Merlin’s fountain is not left to chance as in

Boiardo’s poem. Rather he is guided to it by Disdain, who has come
explicitly to release the paladin from “il giogo indegno” of an “amor sì
folle.” Or in other terms, Rinaldo’s disdain for Angelica’s chosen husband
has turned into disdain for the princess herself and ended his passion for
her. In this episode it is particularly clear that the supernatural forces in
the Furioso admit of a perfectly natural explanation.40 Now that his dis-
persive love is over, Rinaldo is left free to return to his chivalric duties. He
has been reinserted into the chivalric order.

v. The Goblet

Immediately after his adventure with the “gelide acque,” the lord of
Montalbano encounters another lesser magical artifact. In Cantos 42 and
43 of the Furioso he undergoes the temptation of the magic goblet. This
Ariosto’s Marvelous Artifacts 75
episode forms part of Ariosto’s commentary on jealousy and fidelity in
this section of the poem. In the Boccaccian stories of the Mantuan knight
and the judge, Ariosto condemns excessive jealousy and harsh judgments
of human weakness.
Rajna found precedents for Ariosto’s goblet in the earlier chivalric lit-
erature, particularly in a cup sent, but never delivered, by Morgan le Fay
to King Arthur with the intention of proving Guinevere an adulteress, a
cup which would have wet the faithless wife rather than the hapless hus-
band.41 Because Ariosto’s goblet spills over the husband instead, it does
not punish the wife for adultery, but makes a mockery of the presumption
of the husband.
Rinaldo is induced to accompany the Mantuan knight by curiosity; “di
vedere e d’udire ebbe / sempre aventure un desiderio innato” (OF 42.72;
“he had an innate urge to witness or hear of any new adventure”). Upon
entering the palace of art he views the statues of Renaissance poets and
the ladies they celebrate. These numerous virtuous ladies would seem to
provide a corrective contrast to the forthcoming passage about the
untrustworthiness of women, but they are not very effective. Rinaldo
pays them little attention, being anxious to learn about the surprise that
awaits him.
Santoro has shown in detail how at first the Mantuan knight seems to
speak from the position of an objective moralist, when in actuality his
speech reflects the dark and suspicious attitude of the betrayed.42 The
revelation of the ten-year duration of his private testings of his guests
proves him to be “in fondo un altro campione della generale ‘pazzia’, un
maniaco malinconico, bisognoso di trovare nella sciagura altrui conforto
come in una droga.”43
Rinaldo resists his first impulse to drink, thinks, and decides to pass up
this opportunity, calling it folly to search for something he wouldn’t want
to find. I agree with Wiggins that Rinaldo’s refusal to drink was made easy
for him by his lack of passion for Clarice,44 and that his “ignorance is
bliss” argument is not the worthiest of reasons.45 But I must also agree
with the general critical approval of his prudence. E.g., for Zatti, Rinaldo’s
untraditional refusal of the test shows an advantageous recognition of the
dangers of the quest for knowledge:

La verità di cui tutti vanno in cerca . . . non la si possiede, o, una volta posseduta
si rivela il contrario di ciò che si credeva; e qualche volta sarebbe meglio non
cercarla affatto, con la saggia prudenza di chi, come Rinaldo, vuol salvare le
proprie illusioni per un necessario esercizio di sopravvivenza.46
76 Ariosto’s Marvelous Artifacts
Perhaps Rinaldo’s decision is also influenced by acknowledgement of his
own lack of fidelity; beyond his pursuit of Angelica in the Furioso, in the
tradition he was “facile ad innamorarsi, . . . seduttore incorreggibile di
belle fanciulle.”47 A truly faithful lover, such as Brandimarte, might refuse
to drink because it shows more trust not to spy on one’s wife. On this
point the Mantuan knight failed: “Ciascun marito, a mio giudizio, deve /
sempre spiar se la sua donna l’ama” (OF 42.100; “Every husband, in my
view, should always watch to see if his wife loves him”). Such insatiable
distrust is not only a recipe for marital discord; it is the avarice, “ingorda
/ fame d’avere,” which Ariosto condemns in the proem to Canto 43, here
an avarice for control of another person.
In the tale of the goblet’s origin, we learn that it was given in the first
place to the young Mantuan knight in order to persuade him to commit
adultery, the very failing which it reveals. From the start Melissa intended
to break up his peaceful marriage: “modo trovò da por mia pace in rissa”
(OF 43.24; “she found a means to disturb my peace”). The goblet obvi-
ously generates disharmony between people, in confirming the suspicions
of jealous husbands and in bringing distrust to those who had never be-
fore doubted. Rather than punishing adultery, as it might appear at first,
it punishes the presumption of suspicious husbands who demand abso-
lute certainty of absolute virtue from human, imperfect people. Thus the
Mantuan knight suffers through the years afterwards, while his former
wife lives happily ever after.
While at first Rinaldo inculpates only women—“ ogni donna è molle”—
later he admits that men are capable of performing even more serious
crimes for payment (OF 43.48). The judge’s tale shows that men share
the human frailty of desire for wealth. The happy ending of the judge’s
tale may be simplistic, but it points toward the solution; peace and con-
cord between the sexes are possible when each party recognizes that no
human being is perfect and forgives the other’s errors.48
Obsessed by women’s weakness, the Mantuan knight has blinded him-
self to the fact that not all people are faithless. Disguised as his wife’s
suitor, he persuaded her to commit adultery for the sake of jewels pro-
vided by Melissa. But he himself had refused Melissa’s sexual advances,
though she offered him great gifts (OF 43.22). Would the lovestruck Me-
lissa have offered him less than the rubies, diamonds, and emeralds that
overcame his wife’s scruples? Different people have different failings; his
wife’s was for wealth, and his own was for an impossible absolute. In
other parts of the Furioso, Ariosto provides more examples of characters
who remain true to their vows, such as Bradamante, Brandimarte, and
Ariosto’s Marvelous Artifacts 77
Ariosto’s position is one of moderation: faithfulness is desirable, but
obsessive jealousy is foolhardy, wrong, and destructive of happiness and
harmony. Despite his personal experience with jealousy, he looked on
the human weaknesses we all share with resignation and indulgence.49
Rinaldo’s decision to forgo testing his wife’s fidelity shows, if not on the
character’s part then at least on the poet’s, a “coscienza della relatività e
della fallibilità della natura, del limite posto dall’esperienza ai principi e ai
valori assoluti e astratti.”50

vi. The Horn

In the Furioso Astolfo, rather than being associated primarily with the
magic lance as in the Innamorato, has to do with a variety of magic
artifacts. Besides the lance, the magic book, and the hippogriff, he is the
sole user of the magic horn that panics all who hear it. As we have seen,
unlike Ruggiero, Astolfo has no moral reservations about using magic.
From the time he departs from Logistilla’s realm until his encounter with
St. John he uses magic in all of his battles. (Thereafter he employs God-
given miraculous advantages.) While Ariosto’s Astolfo is not a humor-
ously inept fighter like Boiardo’s, he is still not notable for his swordplay.
His successes and effectiveness in the Furioso are due instead to his use
of magic and to his own intelligence— or, as St. John informs him, to the
will of God.
He uses the horn extensively. With it he chases away nameless robbers
and wild beasts in his early solitary travels. When warned about Caligorante,
he already hopes “più nel suon che ne la spada” (OF 15.48; “placing
greater reliance on his horn than on his sword”). His confidence in the
horn leads him to argue for a landing on Alessandreta, against the ship’s
more prudent passengers. It is the only weapon he truly feels he needs
when he is lightening the load for the hippogriff. Caligorante, the people
of Alessandreta, the inhabitants of the palace of illusions, and the harpies
all are effortlessly defeated by its magic. The only time it fails him is when
he finds it to be of no use against the smoke in the Inferno. The only
times he refrains from using it are against Orrilo (killed according to the
advice of Logistilla’s book) and during the brawl at Norandino’s tourna-
ment (where he uses the magic lance instead).
With all his magical accoutrements he seldom has great need for ratio-
cination, but he is capable of thinking even under pressure, as when he
defeats Orrilo. He plans ahead, although not elaborately, how to defeat
Caligorante and Orrilo. He recognizes the magic of the palace of illu-
sions, which no other prisoner there was able to do, even Bradamante
78 Ariosto’s Marvelous Artifacts
who had been warned of the truth. Sometimes all Astolfo needs to figure
out is how best to use his magical weapon, as when he has the Senapo’s
people protect their ears before chasing away the harpies with the horn.
In this he has learned from the experience on Alessandreta when he
inadvertently frightened away his companions as well as his enemies.
Astolfo takes to an extreme the knightly characteristic of seeking out
adventure and battle, because his numerous magical tools add to his tra-
ditional self-confidence. Thus, despite the bystanders’ warnings, he heads
straight down the dangerous paths to Caligorante and Orrilo, and is the
strongest proponent of a landing on Alessandreta. In a knight not re-
nowned for martial skill his actions might seem rash. Yet if he becomes
dependent on his magical equipment, it is not important, because the homo
fortunatus51 will always have some recourse available in an emergency.
His willingness to use magic is probably one reason why the poet
makes him travel abroad and fight mostly against unknightly opponents.
It would not be seemly (or as good a story) for Agramante’s invaders to be
effortlessly routed by magic, with no great feats of swordplay and valor.
While the magical contributions to the eventual Christian victory may be
vital, they nevertheless must leave the foreground to the knights.
Even Astolfo feels the influence of the rules of chivalry to some extent.
During the brawl in Damascus he uses the (unbeknown to him) magic
lance, appropriate to the context of the tourney, rather than the horn. In
Alessandreta he fights beside his companions with a sword against over-
whelming numbers, but only until he realizes that conventional weapons
will achieve nothing but defeat: “Io vo’ veder, poi che non giova spada,
/ s’io so col corno assicurar la strada” (OF 20.87; emphasis mine; “As
our swords are getting us nowhere, let us see if I can’t clear our path
with my horn”). When Astolfo inadvertently uses the horn against his
knightly companions, in a fashion similar to Ruggiero’s accidental victory
against the four knights, it is not Astolfo who is ashamed of the dishonor.
Instead, Marfisa and the others are embarrassed at not having resisted
the irresistible. In contrast to the extreme reaction of Ruggiero, who for-
ever abandons the shield, Astolfo sees it as merely a pardonable mistake.
He learns a practical consideration from the experience, and does better
The horn would seem to have a very chaotic power, particularly con-
sidering the lengthy description of the pandemonium it causes on
Alessandreta. Yet in Astolfo’s hands it serves as a powerful tool to ad-
vance the plot. The horn leaves the forces of disorder in disarray, while
the heroes are freed to pursue the poet’s plan. The horn propels the five
knights from Alessandreta, and the multitude of prisoners from the pal-
Ariosto’s Marvelous Artifacts 79
ace of illusions, onward to their destinies. And how delightful it is that,
rather than straightforwardly rescuing trapped characters, it humorously
drives them in panic out of their blocked situations. Such strong measures
may be needed in a world where people prefer entrapping illusion to

vii. Books

Ariosto continues the division of magic books into two types: the spell
books used by sorcerers, and how-to books, represented in the Furioso
by Logistilla’s gift to Astolfo. Ariosto provides four exemplars of spell
books (those owned by the wicked hermit, Melissa, Malagigi, and Atlante).
The lecherous hermit uses his spell book to separate Rinaldo and
Sacripante from Angelica (Canto 2), specifically by sending a disguised
demon to give them false information. Since the hermit is only a minor
sorcerer, it is probable that he uses the book again later when he maddens
Angelica’s horse. The results of his spells are not purely chaotic, but
mixed. In preserving Angelica’s freedom, he contributes to the continuing
dispersal of her questing suitors and of those characters who set out in
search of them. Furthermore, he strengthens the rivalry and enmity be-
tween Rinaldo and Orlando. Nevertheless, the much more direct and
immediate result of the hermit’s deception is Rinaldo’s return to
Charlemagne and his ultimately successful quest for reinforcements. Surely
this happy outcome was unplanned by the hermit. In the Furioso the
chaotic can also act to the detriment of the pagans, whether by random
chance or (as St. John would claim) by God’s will.
All of the hermit’s spells succeed, from the deception of the knights to
the kidnapping of Angelica. However, his most memorable scene is that
of his physical impotence with Angelica. The sense of menace when An-
gelica lies helpless before the vecchio rapace is dissipated by the series
of double entendres, and the hermit’s lasting impression is unquestion-
ably comical.
Ariosto pursues Boiardo’s characterization of the fallible Malagigi. The
most famous example follows the familiar pattern of magnification and
deflation. Malagigi, newly liberated from the Saracens, is explicitly bereft
of his book:

Malagigi, che sa d’ogni malia

quel che ne sappia alcun mago eccellente,
ancor che ’l libro suo seco non sia,
con che fermare il sole era possente,
pur la scongiurazione onde solia
80 Ariosto’s Marvelous Artifacts
commandare ai demoni aveva a mente:
tosto in corpo al ronzino un ne costringe
di Doralice, ed in furor lo spinge. (OF 26.128)

Maugis equalled the best sorcerers in his knowledge of spells, and although he
did not have his book with which he had power to stop the sun, he did recollect
his formula for commanding demons. Quickly he constrained one to enter Doralice’s
palfrey and goad him into a frenzy.

Ariosto’s Malagigi is not completely powerless without his book, unlike

Boiardo’s Malagise. His hurried spell removes the immediate danger to
his friends by distracting Doralice’s suitors. While his power with his book
is magnified out of proportion to his accomplishments in the Innamorato
(“con che fermare il sole era possente”), it appears at first that he has
done well without it. This appearance is brief, as the reader learns only a
few octaves later: “Parve, e non fu però buono il consiglio / di Malagigi”(OF
27.2; “Maugis’ plan seemed a good one, but it was not”). The demon
works slyly against him, leading Rodomonte and Mandricardo, followed
soon after by Ruggiero and Marfisa, back to aid in the siege of Paris.
Near the end of the poem, Malagigi has his book again, or a replace-
ment, with which he summons demons to discover the whereabouts of
Angelica for the sake of the enamored Rinaldo. Although Malagigi at-
tempts to dissuade his cousin from following her, in this way he contrib-
utes once again to Rinaldo’s departure from the realm of his epic duty.
Atlante uses a spell book in the episode of the steel palace. Instead of
summoning demons with the book, he casts illusions to make himself
appear to be a fierce and robust knight, and his weapons never strike
where they appear to be. Thus he is able to imprison many knights,
including the valorous Ruggiero and Gradasso. Because she is protected
by the magic ring, Bradamante is able to defeat Atlante.
It is almost as if it is the very association of spell books with failure that
leads Ariosto to give one to Atlante, who had none in Boiardo’s poem. As
soon as Atlante sets aside “il libro che facea tutta la guerra,” Bradamante
captures him and forces him to free the prisoners in the steel palace. The
loss of the book changes Atlante from a uomo feroce into un debol
vecchio, helpless against her youthful vigor. Yet he is not completely help-
less, for without his book he manages to escape almost immediately and
to continue to block the plot for quite a while. Atlante’s book is not men-
tioned again, but he does not miss it at all. In fact, his later spells are far
more seductive and difficult to escape. He becomes more effective with-
out his book.
When Melissa uses her spell book, the narrator seems at first unsure of
the provenance of the spirits she has summoned (“non so se da l’inferno
Ariosto’s Marvelous Artifacts 81
o da qual sede”; OF 3.20; “whether summoned forth from hell or from
some other place I know not”), but ends up calling them demons. Melissa
employs them as actors in her illusionary pageant of Bradamante’s Estensi
descendants. Having previously summoned and prepared the demons in
their roles, Melissa starts the pageant by opening her book, presumably
to keep better control of the demons, and she dismisses them by closing
her book.
Melissa is exceptional; her spells do not fail, nor do they promote
chaos. A powerful force for order, Melissa bends all of her efforts toward
the convergence of certain characters, namely Bradamante and Ruggiero.
Melissa has chosen a difficult task and suffers a number of setbacks before
she achieves her goal; nevertheless, she is so capable and has such firm
control of herself and her powers that her spells never backfire. Her suc-
cess depends, however, more on her personality than on her spell book.
For one thing, she is able to control the demons before she opens her
book at the start of the pageant. Also, as in Atlante’s case, no further
mention is made of Melissa’s book in all her later appearances, and her
effectiveness is by no means reduced. Her later spells are more impres-
sive and more important to the plot.
Logistilla’s anti-magical book is one of her gifts to Astolfo in Canto 15.
Ariosto, thoughtful of his adventurer, humorously acknowledges and evades
the difficulties inherent in reading a book that contains counterspells to all
dangerous magic by including an index in it for easy reference. Baillet
finds that Ariosto’s general attempt to rationalize his material is supported
by humor:

C’est particulièrement vrai pour le livre anti-magie d’Astolphe, dans lequel chaque
manifestation du surnaturel se trouve soigneusement classée, et donc soumise, en
quelque sorte, aux lois d’une organisation rationnelle du monde.52

Logistilla explicitly intends this book to help Astolfo avoid inescapable

magical prisons:

e per schivar che non sia più ridutto

per arte maga, onde non possa uscire,
un bello ed util libro gli avea dato (OF 15.13)

to prevent his falling victim to magic spells a second time, she gave him a fine,
useful book

Not surprisingly, Astolfo finds in it the secrets to defeating Orrilo and

destroying Atlante’s palace of illusions, both of which are important blocks
to the advancement of the plot.
82 Ariosto’s Marvelous Artifacts
Magic books in the Furioso modify somewhat the pattern established
in the Innamorato. Three of the spell books, belonging to the Christian
sorcerers, retain the traditional connection with demons (which, like
Boiardo, Ariosto does not take seriously53). Three of them (excepting
Melissa’s) promote chaotic effects. And three of them (again excepting
Melissa’s) highlight the sorcerer’s failure. All four of these sorcerers em-
ploy demons at other points in the poem either without their books or
without mention of their books; it would seem that, for Ariosto’s charac-
ters, the books are helpful tools but not indispensable. With Melissa, Ariosto
allows for the possibility that an individual with exceptional self-discipline
might actually master the unruly powers of magic. As in the Innamorato,
Logistilla’s how-to book, in its anti-magical quality, promotes the orderly
advancement of the plot.

Prophetic Works of Art

One of the traditional topoi of the genre was the ”prophetic“ work of art
which, while not itself magical, was connected to magic through the sup-
posed prophetic knowledge of the artist. The medieval romance authors
used such prophecies to bring a “soffio di attualità” to their works.54 That
is, by discussing famous people of the poets’ era, these works of art serve
to link the “history” of the poems with the “present” of the Renaissance.
Thus the prophetic work of art is particularly well suited to the purpose of
encomium, and both Boiardo and Ariosto take advantage of this possibil-
ity. Yet the two poets have quite different results, illuminating their differ-
ent attitudes toward encomium. Boiardo makes only limited use of the
technique, while Ariosto employs it fairly extensively, praising the Este but
not neglecting famous foreigners. Unlike Boiardo’s depictions of Damocles,
Circe, Alexander the Great, etc., where he uses works of art to portray
the legendary past, in the Furioso ecphrastic passages are always
Of Boiardo’s two prophetic works of art, the first is Febosilla’s loggia.
The characters who observe this loggia are Brandimarte and Fiordelisa,
after the knight has defeated the magical guardians to gain entrance. The
two lovers admire the beauty of the loggia “vaga per oro e per color
adorno.” The four walls show military and religious scenes of the glory of
the Este family, making plain their multitude of virtues. While the identi-
ties of the Este lords would be perfectly clear to the Renaissance audi-
ence, Brandimarte and Fiordelisa are given no explication of the pictures
beyond two inscriptions: the name of one Este lord and the unknown
artist’s lamentation of inability to do justice to the figure of Alfonso d’Este.
Ariosto’s Marvelous Artifacts 83
Moreover, as Brandimarte is gazing at the paintings, Doristella arrives

Come fo gionta, disse:— Che fai tu,

Perdendo il tempo a tal cosa guardare,
E non attende a quel che monta più? (OI 2.25.57)

“What are you doing here?” she asked,

“Wasting time staring at that thing?
Don’t you know what you have to do?

Zampese notes a Boiardan technique in encomiastic passages: “a siglare

questi scomodi impegni cortigiani egli applichi un garbato correttivo
ironico.”55 Regarding Febosilla’s balcony:

La smaccata adulazione credo sia uno scherzo che il comes Boiardo può permettersi
nei confronti del suo principe; tanto che subito lo corregge con un’apparentemente
involontaria gaffe, nobilitata dal modello virgiliano56

Ariosto is not on such easy terms with his Este lords; such open denigra-
tion of an encomiastic work of art would be inconceivable in the Furioso.
Boiardo’s other prophetic work of art is the Cumaean Sybil’s pavilion,
mentioned as a wedding gift to Brandimarte and Fiordelisa in OI 2.27.39
and described in OI 2.27.50– 60. Through her foreknowledge, the Sybil
was able to portray the twelve Alfonsos of the House of Aragon, linked by
marriage to the Este. By chance the pavilion ends up in the hands of
Dolistone, Fiordelisa’s father. Once again these pictures are not under-
stood by the characters in the poem. This time Brandimarte does not
even linger over them, but rushes off to his next battle.
The Furioso contains four prophetic works of art: Merlin’s fountain
with the sculpted scene about avarice, the paintings at the rocca di Tristano,
the statues in the palace of art, and Cassandra’s canopy. These are not of
course the only encomiastic passages in the poem; Melissa’s illusions in
Merlin’s tomb form only one of the significant encomia not connected to
a concrete work of art. Contemporary matters constitute a significant
portion of the poem.57 The amount of praise has prompted criticisms and
defences from various readers.58 The poet’s sincerity in these passages
has also been challenged and defended.59
The avarice fountain was created by Merlin, but not directly; in terms
reflecting the Renaissance attitude toward art, we learn that he had the
fountain sculpted by the “lavor divino” of “buoni artefici.” His motivations
are unknown, both for its construction and its situation in nature, in a
84 Ariosto’s Marvelous Artifacts
meadow shaded by a mountain, just the spot for a pleasant picnic for
Ruggiero, Marfisa, Ricciardetto, Aldigier, Malagigi, and Viviano. How might
medieval knights comprehend this prophetic, allegorical scene? “In Ariosto,
ecphrastic description is closely linked to the need for interpretation,”60
and fortuitously there is an expert on hand. When Malagigi is prevailed
upon to explain the scenes to the group, he uses predominantly indicative
tenses; and when the narrator takes up the description he continues to
use the indicative, implying that the ecphrasis is trustworthy. The knights
can easily become involved in the art, both at the surface level of slaying
a monster and at the allegorical level of prizing liberality, a chivalric virtue.
Merlin also created the paintings at the rocca di Tristano, in order to
fulfill the commission of the French king, but here he commanded the
paintings done by demons. Unlike the locus amoenus of the avarice foun-
tain, these paintings are housed in a castle, where the custom commemo-
rates and perpetuates the discourtesy for which a jealous prince was
punished. Depicting French battles in Italy, they are explained by the lord
of the castle to Bradamante and Ullania, along with the other inhabitants
of the castle. His discourse also seems highly trustworthy; he employs
mostly indicative tenses, including plentiful repetitions of “vedete,” which
reinforce his narrative with the evidence of the characters’ senses. Even
in the octaves about the generations-long oral tradition which preserved
the understanding of the paintings, where doubt could creep in, all the
indicative verbs give the impression of reliability. Oddly, the viewers, al-
though for the most part French, do not react to all the scenes of defeat
with displeasure; particularly Bradamante is so fascinated by the paint-
ings that she delays her dinner, stays up late, and, most surprising of all,
is distracted from her jealousy of Ruggiero. This could be because art’s
purpose is to delight, so that an unhappy story told in a beautiful way
does not disturb everyday life.61 It is also possible that Bradamante sym-
pathizes with the Italians on account of her Estensi descendants.
The statues in the palace of the Mantuan knight were presumably cre-
ated by the demons who built the palace itself at the bidding of the sor-
cerer who sought to keep his daughter chaste. In a fine display of injus-
tice, the sorcerer blamed the child’s mother for accepting the money that
he had offered, and put a great deal of effort into preventing his daughter
from doing the same thing. The examples of virtuous women were in-
tended to inspire (or shame) the girl to proper behavior, yet they were
ineffective. Moreover, ironically, for ten years they become the scene of
the trials of the magic goblet, all of which accuse women of infidelity.
As Farrell has said so well, “The artistic creations are impressive aes-
thetically, none more so than the palace of art, but it is assigned negative
Ariosto’s Marvelous Artifacts 85
connotations of coldness, rigidity and sterility due to an excess of arti-
fice.”62 This time the description of the art is pervaded with indications of
doubtfulness. The artist was diligent and learned and the workmanship is
subtle, as opposed to the divine work of the avarice fountain. The use of
the subjunctive suggests that appearances may be deceiving:
Fermava il piè ciascuno di questi segni
sopra due belle imagini più basse,
che con la bocca aperta facean segni
che ’l canto e l’armonia lor dilettasse;
e quell’atto in che son, par che disegni
che l’opra e studio lor tutto lodasse
le belle donne che sugli omeri hanno,
se fosser quei di cu’ in sembianza stanno.
(OF 42.81)

The feet of each one of these statues rested on a pair of beautiful carved figures
depicted open-mouthed, as though happily indulging in melodious song. Their
appearance, as they sang, seemed to convey a total dedication to their task of
praising the fair ladies poised upon their shoulders— they resembled their models
to the life.

Do the poets enjoy praising their ladies? Do these statues accurately rep-
resent the people whom they portray? The ”lunghe ed amplissime scritture“
of the next octave could imply prolixity as well as enthusiasm. Too, Ariosto
acknowledges that the poets do not labor thinking exclusively of the lady,
but at least partly for their own fame: “mostravano ancor poco lontano /
i propri loro [names] in note non oscure.” There is also the fact that only
poets, who on St. John’s authority are suspect, hold up the elaborate
structure of the fountain; and the fact that the narrator only quotes the
inscriptions, detaching himself from what they say.63
Of the four works of art, these statues elicit the least enthusiasm in the
spectator. The knights desire to know the people in the scenes of the
avarice fountain, and urge Malagigi to explain it. At first sight of the paint-
ings in the rocca di Tristano Bradamante is captivated. But the Mantuan
palace seems to leave Rinaldo cold:
Entrò Rinaldo, e voltò gli occhi in giro,
e vide loco il qual si vede raro (OF 42.73)

Mirò Rinaldo a lume di doppieri

le donne ad una ad una e i cavallieri. (OF 42.82)

Rinaldo went in and looked about him. The place he saw was an unusual sight

Rinaldo examined the knights and ladies one by one by candlelight.

86 Ariosto’s Marvelous Artifacts
Rinaldo expresses no opinion of the art. The end of the ecphrasis finds
him already chatting with his host; clearly he had lost interest even before
the descriptive passage ended.
Most venerable of all the works of art is Ruggiero and Bradamante’s
wedding pavilion, woven almost two thousand years previously by
Cassandra of Troy. The fact that she made it with her own hands as an
affectionate gift for her brother to commemorate his greatest descendant,
and that the newlyweds are related to them, give this creation the greatest
personal appeal. Yet among all the wedding guests who view it, only
Melissa and through her Bradamante fully understand its import. Hector’s
descendant himself has only a little more knowledge of its relevance than
the crowd, from youthful memories of Atlante’s words. The pavilion is
viewed in the context of a joyous wedding party, a splendid expression of
chivalric ideals as the world returns to a state of harmony after the resolu-
tion of the upsets of the war and Orlando’s madness. The praise of Ippolito
d’Este links this golden moment of Charlemagne’s Paris with the Golden
Age of Renaissance Ferrara.64
While the canopy’s extravagant praise of Ippolito d’Este is subtly un-
dermined,65 this does not detract from the positive assessment of the
pavilion itself. Fichter has called it a symbol of empire, in which love is an
element for Ariosto.66 Ascoli sees Cassandra as a poet figure who “em-
bodies the poet’s mute and resigned protest of his readers’ inability to
hear and believe him.”67 Farrell sees the pavilion as of far greater signifi-
cance than the other works of art. In linking the historical past with the
literary past and with the present, it is the ultimate reconciliation of his-
tory and fiction in the Furioso.68 Moreover:

. . . it does more than this. It represents what is to my mind Ariosto’s ideal art
form: lasting, yet not rigid like the marble structures, prophetic, yet human, ca-
pable of depicting many scenes at once, imitating action and speech, colorful,
bright and gay. To adorn the happy conclusion of his poem, Ariosto has chosen
the opus which most nearly reflects the qualities of his own epic: its variety, color,
movement and, in the end, its essential gaiety. And, of course, the embroidered
canopy is closest in artistic form to the woven tapestry the poet has explicitly
chosen as an image of his work.69

We have seen that Boiardo’s encomia are much less elaborate than
Ariosto’s, much briefer, and in the narrator’s view less significant. Their
appearance late in the poem is indicative of an increasing classical influ-
ence on Boiardo, according to Reichenbach.70 Larivaille explains Boiardo’s
unexpected shift in emphasis from entertainment to encomium as a re-
sponse to the “esigenze celebrative e propagandistiche della dinastia
Ariosto’s Marvelous Artifacts 87
estense.”71 Structurally, the two works of art are bunched closely together,
just before and just after the wedding of Brandimarte and Fiordelisa. It is
notable that the works of art are associated with these two lovers, who
are favored characters of the poet but who are not ancestors of the Este.
They derive no benefit (beyond a brief aesthetic enjoyment) from their
soon-interrupted viewings of the unexplained works of art; they do not
even recognize that they depict the future. Within the world of the poem
these works of art are among the unexplained phenomena which provide
a short-term bella avventura without any apparent deeper purpose.
Ariosto’s encomia cover a wider range of subjects than the Este family
(who are certainly not deprived of praise). His method is more systematic.
He provides pretexts for the creation of two of the works of art; Merlin
made the paintings at the rocca di Tristano at the request of a former king
of France, and Cassandra’s pavilion was a gift to please her brother. All
four of the works of art are viewed by (supposed) blood relatives of the
Este: Ruggiero and Bradamante, and his sister and her kin. They are
admired at length and at leisure. The curiosity of (at least some of) the
observers is satisfied by an expert. Only Rinaldo does not learn the par-
ticulars about the poets and their ladies, as he is at the time more anxious
to learn about the magic goblet. Presumably, Ariosto’s intended audience
would have shown more interest and pleasure in the encomiastic pas-
sages than does the lord of Montalbano.
Chapter Four
Ariosto’s Supernatural Creatures

Animals and Monsters

The supernatural creatures of the Furioso are less pervasive than those of
the Innamorato, but no less important. In the first part of this chapter I
discuss Ariosto’s supernatural horses, then the sea monster that menaces
Ebuda, and lastly the allegorical monsters that Ruggiero encounters on
Alcina’s island.

i. Horses

In the Furioso there are only two supernatural horses, Baiardo and
Rabicano, both inherited from Boiardo, and in addition that “natural”
marvelous steed, the hippogriff. Magical qualities do not automatically
give a horse superiority. More than once Ariosto claims that the two best
horses are Baiardo and Brigliadoro, Orlando’s non-magical steed (e.g. OF
9.60 and 23.26). Along with Ruggiero’s non-magical Frontino, these four
would win all of the horse shows in Charlemagne’s era.
Beyond an excellent warhorse’s required characteristics of strength,
agility, speed, and endurance, Baiardo’s special quality is his human-level
intelligence. Chiampi finds Baiardo to be the only character in Canto 1
explicitly endowed with intelligence, memory, and the moral virtue of
fidelity.1 On the other hand, Petersen points out that “proprio perché in
possesso di ‘intelletto umano’ è indotto in errore.”2 In the first two cantos
Baiardo is the cause of several humorous scenes as he outmaneuvers
humans. The reader’s first view of Rinaldo in the poem finds him in the
strange position of a horseman running on foot. His situation begins to
seem ridiculous when we learn that he is chasing his horse, and even
more so when he addresses Baiardo in the language of a pastoral lover:
“Ferma, Baiardo mio, deh, ferma il piede! / che l’esser senza te troppo mi
90 Ariosto’s Supernatural Creatures
nuoce” (OF 1.32; “‘Stop, Bayard, oh stop! I cannot endure to be without
you.’”). In fact, Baiardo is helpfully leading Rinaldo to his beloved An-
gelica. When Baiardo reaches Angelica, what ensues is practically a love
scene between the horse and the princess, who ironically feels more be-
nevolence toward him than toward all of her suitors:

Indi [Baiardo] va mansueto alla donzella,

con umile sembiante e gesto umano,
come intorno al padrone il can saltella,
che sia duo giorni o tre stato lontano.
Baiardo ancora avea memoria d’ella,
ch’in Albracca il servia già di sua mano
nel tempo che da lei tanto era amato
Rinaldo, allor crudele, allor ingrato.

Con la sinistra man prende la briglia,

con l’altra tocca e palpa il collo e ’l petto:
quel destrier, ch’avea ingegno a maraviglia,
a lei, come un agnel, si fa suggetto. (OF 1.75– 76)

Then he meekly approached the damsel; he was almost human in his gesture of
humility, like a dog dancing around his master who has just returned after a few
days’ absence. Bayard still remembered her, for she had tended him in Albracca
in the days when she was so enamoured of Rinaldo, who was so cruel to her then,
so unresponding to her love. / She took his reins in her left hand, and with the
other hand she caressed his neck and chest. The horse, who was of remarkable
intelligence, submitted to her as meekly as a lamb.

Once Rinaldo arrives, Ariosto gives us one of his excellent humorous

scenes of frustration as Sacripante finds that an unwilling horse is worse
than none:

A piedi è l’un, l’altro a cavallo: or quale

credete ch’abbia il Saracin vantaggio?
Né ve n’ha però alcun; che così vale
forse ancor men ch’uno inesperto paggio;
che ’l destrier per istinto naturale
non volea fare al suo signore oltraggio:
né con man né con spron potea il Circasso
farlo a voluntà sua muover mai passo.

Quando crede cacciarlo, egli s’arresta;

e se tener lo vuole, o corre o trotta:
poi sotto il petto si caccia la testa,
giuoca di schiene, e mena calci in frotta.
(OF 2.6– 7)
Ariosto’s Supernatural Creatures 91
The one was on foot, the other mounted; what an advantage for the Saracen, you
will say. But no, he had none: mounted, he fared no better than some novice
page, for the horse instinctively avoided doing any hurt to his master. With wrist
and spur the Saracen might strive, but the steed would move not a step to his
bidding. / When he wanted to urge him forward, the horse stood fast; if he would
rein him in, he broke away at a trot or a canter; then he dropped his head and
bucked violently, lashing out with his hind legs.

At the very beginning of the poem Baiardo, as an uncontrolled horse, has

made fools of knightly lovers.
Baiardo’s next extended adventure is in Cantos 31 and 33. Gradasso
and Rinaldo have met to renew the duel which was prevented in the
Innamorato. In the Furioso Rinaldo’s duels tend to be interrupted in full
swing, and this one is no exception. As in his duels against Ferraù and
Sacripante, the combatants cease fighting when the object of their desire
disappears. Baiardo is chased away into the woods by a monster, a giant
beaked bat. Unusually for Ariosto, with his guiding principles of coher-
ence and verisimilitude even for fantastic events,3 this monster never ap-
peared before or after this one scene. Its presence remains substantially
unexplained, as the narrator casts doubts on its nature:

Forse era vero augel, ma non so dove

o quando un altro ne sia stato tale.
Non ho veduto mai, né letto altrove,
fuor ch’in Turpin, d’un sì fatto animale:
questo rispetto a credere mi muove,
che l’augel fosse un diavolo infernale
che Malagigi in quella forma trasse,
acciò che la battaglia disturbasse.

Rinaldo il credette anco, e gran parole

e sconce poi con Malagigi n’ebbe.
Egli già confessar non glielo vuole;
e perché tor di colpa si vorrebbe,
giura pel lume che dà lume al sole,
che di questo imputato esser non debbe.
(OF 33.85– 86)

It may have been a real bird, but I don’t know where or when there ever was
another like it; I have never seen such a beast, nor ever read of one— except in the
pages of Turpin. This leads me to believe that the bird was an infernal spirit
raised in that shape by Maugis in order to interrupt the battle. / Rinaldo believed
as much, and later gave Maugis a piece of his mind. His cousin, however, would
not confess to it but, to clear himself, swore by the Light which lights the sun that
this was not to be imputed to him.
92 Ariosto’s Supernatural Creatures
This moment of uncertainty from the usually omniscient narrator and the
reference to the supposed source, Turpin, point up the absolutely ficti-
tious nature of the monster, and the complete control of the poet over his
literary world.
If the responsibility for this monster’s intervention truly were Malagigi’s,
it would be an example of miscalculation, since Baiardo ends up in
Gradasso’s hands. Ironically, Rinaldo, the paragon of prudence in the
poem, now suffers a disadvantage owing to a fine example of prudent
reasoning on Gradasso’s part; he will betray the pact he made with Rinaldo
to bring the horse back to the site of their duel. Since Gradasso has
already obtained Durindana, the acquisition of Baiardo fulfills his desires
and he begins his homeward journey. Baiardo has been so affrighted by
the monster that he does not resist Gradasso, and thus is his steed during
the battle at Lipadusa. There we learn that his loyalty is personal rather
than religious, as he gives the king of Sericana an initial advantage against
the Christian knights (OF 41.69).
The other supernatural horse is Boiardo’s creation, Rabicano. Magi-
cally conceived of fire and air, Rabicano needs no pasturage, for he sur-
vives on air alone. In the Furioso he carries Ruggiero briefly, then Astolfo
and Bradamante. He does not have a large part in the poem, with his
distinction as the fastest steed of all being taken over by the hippogriff.
The hippogriff is so rich an invention that it has given rise to a variety
of interpretations: to Marinelli it represents the flesh;4 to Giamatti one’s
intellective part.5 Farrell, Wise, Hauvette, and Welles,6 while using differ-
ent terminology, all agree that it symbolizes the type of creative imagina-
tion used by the poet. This interpretation seems likeliest over the course
of the poem, considering the hippogriff’s literary links to Pegasus, a sym-
bol of poetic inspiration, and the rider’s overview of the world similar to
that of the poet. Yet Ariosto’s allegories shift meanings; just as the magic
ring does not always represent reason, when Ruggiero loses the hippogriff
it seems to stand for libidinous passion. In any case the vital point is the
rider’s (in)ability to control the winged steed.
The hippogriff, in Ariosto’s characteristic fashion, is introduced not as
the marvelous creature that it is, but in a tone that suggests it is unexcep-
tional and normal.7 Pinabello relates: “e ritrovai presso a Rodonna armato
/ un che frenava un gran destriero alato” (OF 2.37; “and near Rodonna I
came upon an armed man reining in a great winged steed”). Pinabello’s
use of the verb “ritrovai” makes it sound as if this were a casual encoun-
ter.8 Next Pinabello characterizes Atlante as a thief, rather than as a sor-
cerer or as the knight with the remarkable steed, for instance. Struck
Ariosto’s Supernatural Creatures 93
principally by the loss of his lady, Pinabello pays more attention to the
hippogriff’s rider than to the flying horse itself. In the following similes, it
is Atlante, not the hippogriff, who is compared to a falcon and a kite:

come falcon che per ferir discende,

cala e poggia in uno atimo, e tra via
getta le mani, e lei smarrita prende.

Così il rapace nibio furar suole

il misero pulcin presso alla chioccia,
che di sua inavvertenza poi si duole,
e invan gli grida, e invan dietro gli croccia.
Io non posso seguir un uom che vole . . .
(OF 2.38– 39; emphasis mine)

like a falcon dropping on his prey he was down and away in an instant, reaching
out and grasping her as he went. . . . Thus the rapacious kite will carry off a
luckless chick from its mother’s side, and she too late laments her inattention,
and in vain runs crying and clucking after it. I could not pursue a man on the
wing . . .

Atlante is portrayed here as a man who flies; Pinabello has barely noticed
the hippogriff, although one would expect a multi-colored winged steed
to be eye-catching. In his account of the battle with Gradasso and Ruggiero,
Pinabello continues to attribute the power of flight to the rider rather than
to the steed: “ad alto il negromante batte l’ale” (OF 2.49; “to such a
height did the magician wing his way”). This insistence on the actions of
the rider make plain his mastery of the hippogriff; it is just an extension of
his will. Soon the reader will be able to contrast Ruggiero’s complete
inability to control the winged steed.
The “grido di meraviglia” at such an exceptional sight is postponed
until the hippogriff’s second appearance:

Ecco all’orecchie un gran rumor lor viene.

Disse la donna:— O gloriosa Madre,
o Re del ciel, che cosa sarà questa?—
E dove era il rumor si trovò presta.

E vede l’oste e tutta la famiglia,

e chi a finestre e chi fuor ne la via,
tener levati al ciel gli occhi e le ciglia,
come l’ecclisse o la cometa sia.9
Vede la donna un’alta maraviglia,
che di leggier creduta non saria:
94 Ariosto’s Supernatural Creatures
vede passar un gran destriero alato,
che porta in aria un cavalliero armato.

Grandi eran l’ale e di color diverso,

e vi sedea nel mezzo un cavalliero,
di ferro armato luminoso e terso;
e vêr ponente avea dritto il sentiero. (OF 4.3– 5)

Suddenly a great din reached their ears. ‘Glorious Mother!’ cried the damsel,
‘God in Heaven, what can this be?’ And where the noise was, there, in a mo-
ment, was she. / Here she found the innkeeper with all his family and many
others at their windows and yet more out in the street, all looking up at the sky as
though there were a comet or eclipse. She witnessed a prodigious sight, one
which would not be readily believed: a great winged horse was passing through
the sky, with an armed man mounted upon him. / Broad were his wings and of
unusual hue; and between them sat a horseman clad in bright polished armour.
He was holding his course straight to the Westward . . .

“Il tono emotivo subentra quando il fatto ‘meraviglioso’ avviene per la

seconda volta, perché il fatto sovrannaturale è già naturalizzato e
normalizzato dalla frequenza e dall’uso.”10
Since the amazement of Bradamante and the other onlookers is
undistracted by any recent kidnapping, they are able to give more of a
description of the fliers. They see what one would expect to see from
afar: not only that the steed has wings, but that the wings are large and
colorful; and that the knight’s armor shines in the sun. The full descrip-
tion of the hippogriff must wait until Bradamante gets close to it during
the battle:
Non è finto il destrier, ma naturale,
ch’una giumenta generò d’un grifo:
simile al padre avea la piuma e l’ale,
li piedi anteriori, il capo e il grifo;
in tutte l’altre membra parea quale
era la madre, e chiamasi ippogrifo (OF 4.18)

The horse was no figment— he was real, begotten by a gryphon out of a mare. He
had his father’s wings and feathers, his forefeet, his head and beak; in all else he
took after his mother. He was known as a hippogryph

Various critics have remarked on how the narrator’s insistence here on

the naturalness of the hippogriff actually emphasizes its completely ficti-
tious nature.11 Just like the knights and ladies, the loves and battles and
adventures, it is an artistic creation of the poet. Yet within the world of
the poem it is more lasting than Atlante’s illusions to which it is here being
Ariosto’s Supernatural Creatures 95
After the steel palace vanishes, the hippogriff carries off Ruggiero,
which recalls a Boiardan precedent. In the same way, the flying horse had
carried off Rugiero’s companion Gradasso in the Riviera del Riso episode
(OI 3.7.24– 28). Gradasso, not realizing the trap, was so charmed by the
horse’s beauty and its rich harness that he jumped on. After a frightening
ride, he was dumped into the river and, enchanted, joined the Naiads’
party. Brandimarte, following Fiordelisa’s instructions, rescued the pris-
oners there by placing on their heads circular crowns of flowers and herbs
that Fiordelisa “già composti avea per arte / . . . / Per liberar de incanti
ogni persona” (OI 3.7.33; “Earlier, with her skill, she’d made / . . . / To
free them from that magic”). And

Così la fatason fu manifesta

Subitamente a tutti quattro loro;
E le dame lasciarno e ogni diletto,
Uscendo fuor del fiume a lor dispetto. (OI 3.7.35)

And the spell was made manifest

Instantly to all four of them.
They left those damsels, those delights,
And that stream which they now despised.

There are numerous parallels here with the situation in the Furioso,
though Ariosto elaborates the adventure at much greater length. Ruggiero
too falls into Atlante’s trap by mounting the hippogriff, which is still under
the sorcerer’s control. Ariosto adds the telling details of the general chase
of the hippogriff by all the released knights, and the hippogriff’s tantaliz-
ing of them by fleeing only so far. Although Ruggiero hides it well, he too
finds the ride frightening (OF 6.17). Soon he falls under Alcina’s spell and
joins the fay’s revels. He is rescued by a sorceress who places the magic
ring on his finger, immediately annulling the spell. He too leaves against
the will of his partner in the revels, Alcina.
Control of the hippogriff is the vital consideration. This point is brought
up in the relation of the hippogriff’s capture:

[Atlante] Quivi per forza lo tirò d’incanto;

e poi che l’ebbe, ad altro non attese,
e con studio e fatica operò tanto,
ch’a sella e briglia il cavalcò in un mese:
così ch’in terra e in aria e in ogni canto
lo facea volteggiar senza contese.
(OF 4.19; emphasis mine)
96 Ariosto’s Supernatural Creatures
Thence he [Atlante] abducted him by virtue of spells and, once possessed of him,
devoted all his attention, all his skill and care to such effect that within a
month he could ride him like a saddle-horse: he could make him wheel and turn
obediently wherever he was, be it on the ground or in the air.

Even though Atlante has easily summoned the hippogriff by magic, he

must still go through the arduous process of mastering it. Ruggiero made
the mistake of thinking that capturing the hippogriff meant that he could
control it; the reader learns that instead of obeying the one who holds its
reins, it obeys the one who learns to ride it. When Ruggiero is preparing
to escape from Alcina, Melissa takes care to advise him to ride Rabicano
instead of the hippogriff because it is “troppo sfrenato.”

E gli diede intenzion che ’l dì seguente

gli lo trarrebbe fuor di quello stato,
là dove ad agio poi sarebbe istrutto
come frenarlo e farlo gir per tutto. (OF 7.78)

And she gave him to hope that the next day she would take out the hippogryph
and help Ruggiero to learn little by little how to control him and make him go

Already Melissa tells him that the first lesson must be to restrain the
hippogriff, and only then to direct its flight. The school of course is
Logistilla’s palace, where, in contrast to Ruggiero’s wearisome progress,
Melissa and Astolfo fly directly and easily. Melissa has no difficulty control-
ling the hippogriff, and Astolfo is privileged to take the fast and easy route
with her.
Logistilla attempts to teach Ruggiero how to control the hippogriff.
The first thing to do is to make a new bit for him: Logistilla “vuol che se
gli faccia un morso” (OF 10.66; “orders the construction of a bit”12). The
self-disciplined Melissa was able to use the physical bit made by Atlante,
but Ruggiero needs a new one, i.e. since mastery of the hippogriff is self-
mastery, he needs to learn the necessary discipline. Yet the verb here is
both passive and subjunctive, leaving the questions: Who makes the bit?
Ruggiero, Logistilla, or someone else? Implying that Ruggiero did not
make his own bit, the poet is already laying the foundations for Ruggiero’s
later failure. (It is not until much later that the reader learns for certain
who made the bit: “Logistilla fe’ il lavoro / del freno”; OF 22.24; “Logistilla
had subsequently elaborated a bridle for this beast”). Does the bit actually
get made to specifications? Very soon, by the end of the same canto, we
learn that Ruggiero’s control over himself is only superficial. The speed
Ariosto’s Supernatural Creatures 97
with which Ruggiero learns to control the hippogriff is also suspect; it
took Atlante himself close to a month to master the steed. In confirmation
of Ruggiero’s loss of self-control with Angelica, the reader sees that his
control over the hippogriff is no greater, as it immediately slips its bit and
flies away. Ruggiero has been a poor student.
The hippogriff returns to Atlante, the one who had truly mastered it,
and is found by Astolfo after the destruction of the palace of illusions.
Astolfo “ben vide e notò” during Ruggiero’s lessons, so well in fact that he
is able to make a bit for the flying steed. This is actually a creative act,
since he knows that not just any bit will do:

e gli fece, levando da più morsi

una cosa ed un’altra, un che lo resse;
che dei destrier ch’in fuga erano corsi,
quivi attaccate eran le briglie spesse. (OF 22.28)

he contrived, out of a number of bridles, one that would control him: the sturdy
bridles of the horses which had fled were hung up there.

Having learned Logistilla’s lessons well, he stays in control of the hippogriff

for the rest of the poem.
The hippogriff is connected symbolically to the poet’s wide-ranging
vision from above and to his creative imagination. The ones who truly
master the hippogriff are creative; Atlante raises two palaces and a tomb,
and Astolfo turns stones and branches into horses and ships. Atlante,
however, limits his vision to what affects Ruggiero. Astolfo is the one who
travels the farthest and highest, and sees the most on the hippogriff, most
nearly sharing the omniscient poet’s panoramic view.
Ruggiero had ambitions regarding the opportunities for vision. On
leaving Logistilla’s palace, he had decided to circle the world as the sun
does. This was a very bold plan, the accomplishment of which would
have made Ruggiero similar to the divine.13 However, the voyage is subtly
undercut from the beginning. Supposedly, Ruggiero wishes wholeheart-
edly to return to Europe and Bradamante— but this desire is overcome by
the pleasure of traveling the world (OF 10.72). In fact, despite the
hippogriff’s great speed (OF 6.18), he spends “giorni e mesi in questa
via” (OF 10.73; “Days and months went by”). It is clear that he is not truly
in a hurry to see his betrothed, and that this voyage is one of his many
deferrals of his destined marriage. Is it nevertheless a spiritual voyage of
discovery? The poet makes certain to point out that “ogni sera all’albergo
se ne gìa, / schivando a suo poter d’alloggiar male” (OF 10.73; “every
98 Ariosto’s Supernatural Creatures
evening he put up at some hostelry, avoiding poor accommodation as
best he could”). It seems that Ruggiero’s attitude is more that of a tourist
than of an explorer.14 Indeed, having come so far and seen so much,
when there remains only a brief distance to complete the solar circle,
Ruggiero abandons his so-much-desired voyage in order to take Angelica
to the nearest trysting place (OF 10.113).
The nature of the hippogriff’s bit gives insight into Ariosto’s concep-
tion of artistic creativity. Logistilla thinks of it as one “con che [Ruggiero]
lo volga e gli raffreni il corso” (OF 10.66; “wherewith Ruggiero could turn
him in flight and rein him in”). Astolfo makes one “che lo resse” (OF
22.28). Thus it is easy to set the hippogriff in motion; the difficulty lies in
directing its course, slowing or stopping it at will. In the same way the
poet must manage his creative impulses, directing characters and events
in their interactions. Ariosto must have felt the onrush of his poem, the
urge to make it go on indefinitely; and with firm self-control he brought
the adventures to an end, the poem to a close, and released the hippogriff
to fly free.15
Horses in general and the hippogriff in particular are chaotic forces
when unleashed. Baiardo makes fools of knights, the hippogriff takes
Ruggiero far from his destiny, Doralice’s horse leads Rodomonte and
Mandricardo to the support of Agramante. Yet when properly bridled and
controlled, they are absolutely necessary to the chivalric order. A cavalier
is defined by his possession of a horse.

ii. The Sea Monster

One of the marine flock of Proteus, the sea monster carries out the god’s
prolonged revenge on the people of Ebuda. As Giamatti has written, in
the Furioso Proteus is a lawbreaker whose actions lead to a collapse of
law and society on Ebuda such that the Ebudans themselves degenerate
from civilization to barbarism.16 The sea monster comes to represent the
criminal lust that led Proteus to rape the daughter of the king of Ebuda.
The execution of the god’s blameless victim results in the perpetual reen-
actment of this crime as the sea monster consumes beautiful women
through the years. Embracing their punishment by instituting an unjust
law of their own, the islanders cooperate in the breakdown of their own
society and threaten other societies as they resort to piracy to find sacri-
fices for the sea monster. These offenses against civilization eventually
lead to their own destruction by the victims of their piracy.
The sea monster is practically a force of nature, with all the power of
the ocean, which for Ariosto is so often unpredictable and dangerous.
Ariosto’s Supernatural Creatures 99
The monster’s first appearance strongly contrasts with the statuesque,
artistic and immobile beauty of Angelica chained to the rock. Four times
it is called measureless (OF 10.94, 100, 109; 11.44), a key word to the
Renaissance admirers of proportion and balance. It is also wild (OF 10.102)
and formless:

Altro non so che s’assimigli a questa,

ch’una gran massa che s’aggiri e torca;
né forma ha d’animal, se non la testa (OF 10.101)

a beast I can only describe as a great coiling, twisting mass, quite unlike an
animal in shape, except for its head

It is so huge and powerful that it can set the elements in confusion, mak-
ing the sky like the ocean (OF 10.106). Against Orlando the sea monster
appears as an extension of the ocean:

Ma muggiar [Orlando] sente in questo la marina,

gonfiansi l’onde; ed ecco il mostro appare,
che sotto il petto ha quasi ascoso il mare.
(OF 11.34)

Now it was that he heard the sea groan, . . . the waves swelled up and forth
emerged the monster, breasting half the sea.

The poet chooses a verb (“muggiar”) applicable to an animal or to the sea

itself; the monster is as yet indistinguishable from its element. In the mo-
ment the monster appears, it has already hidden the sea beneath it— the
result is that the swelling waves seem to metamorphose directly into the
huge monster.
The magic shield allows Ruggiero to rescue the princess, rendering the
monster insensible. Yet even when it is helpless, he is unable to slay it
because he is unable to control his own lust for Angelica. His weakness
for feminine beauty leads him to the madness of repeating Proteus’s crime.
Obsessed with Angelica, Orlando has no sexual interest in Olimpia, and
so is able to win a decisive victory. He plans his strategy in advance, and
remains self-possessed (“in sé raccolto” OF 11.35) while he carries it out.
Against the menacing and chaotic power of the sea monster, Orlando
employs opposing symbols of stability and order, useful for mastering the
waves: a dinghy, a hawser, and an anchor.17 The death of the sea monster
is accompanied by the destruction of the barbaric society that had fos-
tered it and a final happy marriage, supportive of societal values, for the
wayward Olimpia.
100 Ariosto’s Supernatural Creatures
iii. Allegorical Monsters

Soon after Ruggiero’s arrival on Alcina’s island, he encounters a crowd of

monsters that block his path toward Logistilla. They represent vices which
he must overcome to reach the realm of virtue. The monsters are: mon-
key-headed (flatterers); cat-headed (deceivers); goat-footed fauns (libidi-
nous); centaurs (violent); impudent youths; old fools; nude, strangely-dressed
riders of galloping horses (sinners from excess) or oxen (sinners from
lack) or centaurs (ministers of violence) or ostriches (cowards) or eagles or
cranes (prideful); those with a horn (braggarts) or a cup (gluttons); fe-
males; males; hermaphrodites (sinners against nature); those who carry
criminals’ tools (swindlers and thieves); their captain (Sloth);18 and a cyno-
cephalus (slanderer).19 It seems unlikely that Ariosto means to suggest
that Ruggiero possesses these vices, even though he is unable to defeat
them. The young knight is simply unable to prevail against their over-
whelming numbers.
The two ladies who arrive mounted on unicorns (a symbol of purity)20
are identified, but only tentatively, by the narrator: “tal saria / Beltà, s’avesse
corpo, e Leggiadria” (OF 6.69; “They could have passed for Beauty (had
she a body) and Grace”). Although the monsters’ symbolism seems straight-
forward, here the process of allegorization becomes doubtful. With the
use of the conditional, the poet suggests that these are not truly Beauty
and Gracefulness— an identification that would be problematic, consider-
ing the Neoplatonic link between beauty and good— while these ladies
have more sinister intentions. Lulling his suspicions, they request that he
fight the giantess Erifilla (Avarice), the mother and leader of the mon-
strous vices, who rides a huge wolf (Greed). Ruggiero recognizes her as
Avarice when he proclaims:

la cagion ch’io vesto piastra e maglia,

non è per guadagnar terra né argento,
ma sol per farne beneficio altrui (OF 6.80)

if I wear plastron and coat of mail, it is not to win myself land or silver, but simply
to serve and prosper others

Despite his correct interpretation of Erifilla’s nature, he lets the two la-
dies’ beauty deceive him. They prevent him from killing Erifilla, and lead
him off to Alcina. The final solution to Avarice must await the valorous
nobles of the Cinquecento, as we learn in the episode of the fountain of
Avarice (OF 26.30– 53).
Ariosto’s Supernatural Creatures 101
The harpies perform their traditional task of starving a king, but now
at the command of God: Classical monsters in a Christian setting. Their
punishment of il Senapo serves to introduce Astolfo’s religious adven-
tures, in preparation for his divine mission to cure Orlando. The mood
cannot remain solemn for too long; Astolfo is able to drive away these
divine agents in a comical manner, with the magic horn. They lead him to
Hell, and, after his brief visit, he blocks up the entrance with a hedge of
sticks so that the harpies will be unable to exit— at least until God sends
them again in the form of the foreign invaders of Renaissance Italy, forse
to punish Italian sins (OF 34.1– 3).

In contrast to Boiardo’s fabulous world, the Furioso contains a paucity of
supernatural villains waiting to pounce on unsuspecting characters and
provide adventures for valiant knights. In contrast to Boiardo’s omnipres-
ent giants, the Furioso’s minor giants are reduced to one allegorical, one
pagan, and one historical: Erifilla/Avarice (OF 6.78); Marbalusto the king
of Oran, who is not even a full giant (“quasi era gigante,” OF 14.17;
“esser gigante accenna,” OF 14.108); and an anonymous giant defeated
by Tristan (OF 32.84). The three villains with extended episodes—
Caligorante, Orrilo, and the blind ogre— were all inherited from Boiardo.
Yet Ariosto makes them his own, treating them in a fashion different from
With Caligorante Ariosto had the freest hand, for this villain appeared
in the Innamorato only as a nameless giant captured by an unknown
knight (OI 3.3.21). Ariosto creates Caligorante to oppose Astolfo not
long after the knight’s disembarkation in the Middle East. The fortunate
paladin receives a detailed warning about Caligorante from a traveling
hermit. In a bloody prefiguring of Rodomonte’s more chivalric trophies
(OF 29.34), the cannibalistic giant decorates his house with human skins
to commemorate his more valorous victims. Yet he does not meet them
in battle, but customarily hides a net in the sand and “con tai gridi i
peregrin minaccia, / che spaventati dentro ve li caccia” (OF 15.44; “He
threatens travellers with such yells that he drives them terrified onto the
net”). Forewarned as to Caligorante’s habitual strategy, Astolfo can pre-
pare to counter it. In an ironic reversal, it is the giant who is so terrified by
the sound of the magic horn that he runs into his own net.
While Caligorante belongs to the world of fables, Ariosto does not let
the occasion pass to make a Classical reference. The net, the narrator
relates, has a long and illustrious history since its fabrication by Vulcan. In
102 Ariosto’s Supernatural Creatures
a passage showing scant veneration of the Olympians, we learn that it
was designed for the humiliation of gods, stolen by Mercury and long
treasured in an Egyptian temple, until it was stolen again and reduced to
Caligorante’s bloody purposes. Both here and when Proteus and the other
marine deities fled from Orlando, Ariosto shows his mastery over the
Greek gods; “the gods [are] his slaves— rhetorical figures which he has
pulled from his bag of literary tricks.”21 Astolfo leaves the net in better
hands but in no more reverent a fashion; he gives it to Sansonetto, along
with Caligorante, in exchange for a sword belt and spurs that may have
belonged to St. George.
Astolfo is all set to kill Caligorante when he reflects on the inglorious-
ness of the deed. Realizing that Caligorante, “ch’era tornato uman più
che donzella” (OF 15.60; “the giant had become gentler than a maiden”),
could be useful, he decides not to waste his great strength and instead
makes him a servant. Not that he incautiously trusts the giant’s apparent
reversal; he maintains the prudent precaution of having him guarded at
night (OF 15.77). This reasoning is characteristic of Astolfo’s pragmatic
approach to his magical equipment; in contrast to Ruggiero’s scruples,
the English knight uses whatever tool will serve his purpose. Free, the
giant was an enemy of civilization and promoter of disorder, but with his
dangerous ferocity muted by the fear of death, his great strength ends up
serving law and order.
Orilo was introduced in the Innamorato22 specifically to block the ad-
vancement of the plot. That is, the white and black fays hoped to prevent
or at least delay the fated deaths of their protégés, Grifone and Aquilante,
much as Atlante desired for Ruggiero. Fighting the unkillable Orilo, the
two knights reached an impasse that held them safely in limbo from the
third canto of the third book of the Innamorato all the way to Canto 15
of the Furioso— in other words, for one day.
Ariosto adds to the presentation of Orrilo the suggestion that, rather
than simply sending the knights against an opportune opponent, the fays
may actually control the villain:

. . . alla rocca Orril fece ritorno,

poi ch’alla bianca e alla sorella bruna
piacque di differir l’aspra battaglia (OF 15.74)

Orrilo retired to his lair— for the white fairy and her sister in black were pleased to
defer the grim battle
Ariosto’s Supernatural Creatures 103
The fays provide pleasant hospitality to the three knights, who agree that
Astolfo may undertake the battle alone the following day. Thanks to
Logistilla’s book, Astolfo knows Orrilo’s secret weakness: severing a cer-
tain one of his hairs will kill him. Acting as an agent of Providence,
Astolfo is able promptly to remove the obstacle to the plot provided by
Orrilo. The disgruntled fays are unable to prevent Grifone and Aquilante
from deciding to return immediately to France, the site of their fated and
imminent deaths (OF 15.91). Yet the brothers themselves now take up
the deferral of their destiny, as in the very next octave the three knights
decide to take a roundabout route, where their course will be diverted by
Orrigille for a time.
The blind ogre of the Furioso is significantly changed from that of the
Innamorato. In his study of this monster, Baldan notes that Ariosto makes
significant changes in the ogre’s physical appearance— including an en-
larged nose, the elimination of the throat-crop, and the replacement of
horizontal bulk with greater height— as one sign of his ideological differ-
ences from the earlier author.23 Furthermore, in his retelling of Lucina’s
adventure, Ariosto, primarily concerned with bringing the ogre closer to
the Classical Polyphemus, makes such changes to the plot that it can
hardly be called the same episode. In the Innamorato Lucina alone is
captured, and the ogre lives alone and eats only human flesh. In Ariosto’s
version of the tale an entire shipful of people are captured with Lucina,
the more cultured ogre is married and keeps women captives, and he
herds sheep for when there are no people around to eat.24 The previously
absent Norandino emerges to take the spotlight as a Ulyssean hero. Per-
meated with Classical references, the relation of the tale of Norandino’s
adventures takes place amid the festive atmosphere of Damascus, which
strongly contrasts with the concurrent battle of Paris. The happy reunion
of the devoted lovers, Norandino and Lucina, also contrasts with the ill-
fated love of Grifone for the treacherous Orrigille.
All three of these villains are in varying degrees harmful to and con-
temptuous of human society, as witnessed by the common thread of
cannibalism. Caligorante is the farthest-removed, both literally and figura-
tively, from society. He lives in uninhabited lands in a “solitaria casa [. . .]
/ d’umanitade e di commercio priva” (OF 15.49; “the lone house, a place
devoid of humanity or normal human commerce”), flaunting his grisly
decorations, and interested in people only as prey. While he ends up
serving society, it is in the lowly position of a beast of burden.
Chapter Five
Ariosto’s Practitioners of Magic

The fays of the Furioso are not numerous, but two of them are vitally
important. Following the Boiardan example of Morgana/Ventura, Ariosto
allegorizes Alcina and Logistilla to further the education of Ruggiero. My
third section deals with the fays who have minor roles in the poem: the
black and white fays, and Manto.

i. Alcina

Although the Alcina-Logistilla episode contains the most extensive pas-

sage of traditional allegory in the Furioso, it is discontinuous and un-
stable. Ariosto presents the characters of the sequence “as clear and dis-
tinct conventional symbols, and then he proceeds to blur the outlines so
that allegorical meaning emerges obliquely and problematically.”1 In her
most obvious allegorical significance Alcina represents lust and, like her
literary predecessors Circe,2 Omphale, and Dido, the triumph of passion
over reason; like them she entices the hero from his glorious active life to
inglorious and hedonistic self-indulgence. Yet in the presence of Alcina
herself, the allegory fades into the background and the fay’s seduction of
Ruggiero seems wholly natural while her use of spells is temporarily for-
gotten. The poet himself briefly indulges in the pleasure of the moment
with his description of the fay’s well-proportioned beauty. In the end
Alcina’s paradise turns out to be false, but this does not cancel out the
idyllic memory of it.
Various critics have shown how the process of Ruggiero’s seduction
begins well before his meeting with Alcina, from the moment he arrives
on the island.3 When Ruggiero arrives no place could seem pleasanter or
safer than Alcina’s realm, a great relief from his fearsome, three-thou-
106 Ariosto’s Practitioners of Magic
sand-mile non-stop ride on the hippogriff. On this beautiful island the
most timid of wild animals are unafraid:

Tra le purpuree rose e i bianchi gigli,

che tiepida aura freschi ognora serba,
sicuri si vedean lepri e conigli,
e cervi con la fronte alta e superba,
senza temer ch’alcun gli uccida o pigli,
pascano o stiansi rominando l’erba;
saltano i daini e i capri isnelli e destri,
che sono in copia in quei luoghi campestri.
(OF 6.22)

Hares and rabbits were to be espied hopping among the deep-red roses and
white lilies which a temperate breeze kept ever fresh; and deer, holding high their
splendid heads, roamed about, stooping to crop the grass, quite unafraid that any
might slay or capture them. Fawns and nimble goats skipped deftly— many was
their number in these rustic parts.

Later we learn that this peacefulness is deceptive, because in fact the

animals are hunted as one of the courtly pastimes of Alcina’s subjects.
However the tranquil atmosphere has its effect, for Ruggiero comes to
share their sense of security, and their vulnerability, as he removes his
His peaceful mood is interrupted by a myrtle tree’s unexpected speech.
Ruggiero is, naturally, astonished to learn that the English knight Astolfo
has been transformed into a tree. As an allegorical episode, Ruggiero’s
adventures on the island ought to teach him something, and Astolfo is the
first of his three teachers. Astolfo’s lesson is, according to Giamatti, an
ironic sense of life, that is, the self-regarding vision necessary to survive.4
In other words, Ruggiero should be on guard against people who would
use fraud or deception against him. Astolfo warns Ruggiero about Alcina’s
customs, including her practice of deception. The English knight relates
the specifics of his own capture by Alcina; how she lured him away from
his friends onto the whale “con allegra faccia / con modi graziosi e riverenti”
(OF 6.39; “With a cheerful smile she came to meet us, and showed easy
courtesy”), how in the period of their love she seemed “sì bella e sì cortese”
(OF 6.46), and the ignominious end of his ascendancy with his concur-
rent discovery of the truth. From this narration Ruggiero should learn
that the evil and ugly may seem to be good and beautiful, and therefore
one must look for the truth beneath the surface. Yet, as Astolfo expects,
this detailed warning ends up unavailing and disregarded. Furthermore,
Ruggiero is even more vulnerable to Alcina after this admonition.5
Ariosto’s Practitioners of Magic 107
Why is Ruggiero so apt to delay his destined marriage to Bradamante,
which is so desirable from the points of view of love, duty, and glory? I
believe the answer is that he knows enough about his destiny to be willing
to put it off. From the Innamorato and the Furioso it is clear that Ruggiero
knows the outlines of his fate; that he will die of treachery as a Christian
(OI 2.16.35 and 41; 2.21.53– 55; OF 36.64). Boiardo’s Rugiero willingly
accepts this tragic destiny as inevitable, choosing glory over a long life
(OI.16.36– 37). Ariosto’s Ruggiero also places honor before the lesser
consideration of his life— at least, he believes so. In actuality, his hidden
sense of self-preservation motivates him to delay his conversion and death
as long as he can rationalize his actions as honorable. Thus, even when
Atlante ceases to try to protect him, Ruggiero himself continues to delay
until the threat of drowning gives him impetus to convert. If Ruggiero can
convince himself that honor demands he break his own solemn vow to
abandon the treacherous Agramante (OF 40.64– 68), then how much
easier it is to let himself be deceived and fall into the sensual attractions of
Alcina, so lovingly described by Astolfo.
Leaving Astolfo, Ruggiero sets out in his half-hearted attempt to reach
Logistilla’s domain, ostensibly “disposto e fermo usar ogni opra, / che
non gli avesse imperio Alcina sopra” (OF 6.57; “he was firmly disposed to
do whatever was necessary to avoid falling into Alcina’s power”). Yet
when he is hard pressed by Alcina’s monstrous border guards, he still
refuses to use the magic shield for fear of dishonor. He is at the point of
preferring to die rather than be captured by “sì vil gente” when he is
taken, unaware and without a struggle, by the two beautiful women. The
ugly border guards, symbols of vices, were what he could expect as ser-
vants of evil, but the beautiful women with their unicorns symbolic of
purity deceive him. He trusts them to be as good as they are beautiful,
even though they take him directly to Alcina’s city, where he had refused
to go at the border guards’ bidding. As McLucas puts it, “Ruggiero fails to
reflect that his gentle helpers have rescued him from their own army, and
are thus no better than the vile band; rather, he responds in knightly
fashion to their appeal . . .”6 Here Ruggiero shows the same willingness
to be deceived by outward appearances as he did when he (and the fallible
narrator) took the walls of the city to be gold, despite Astolfo’s warning to
look beneath the surface. Ruggiero’s subsequent battle against Erifilla is
merely another deception, leading him to believe he has accomplished a
chivalric service for Alcina which can win her gratitude and benevolence.
When Ruggiero finally meets Alcina, the use of allegory fades into the
background and the fay appears as a character rather than as a personifi-
108 Ariosto’s Practitioners of Magic
cation of a vice. Nor is her use of spells stressed. It is only after Ruggiero
has marveled at her physical beauty for six octaves of description that
magic is mentioned:

La bella donna che cotanto amava,

novellamente gli è dal cor partita;
che per incanto Alcina gli lo lava
d’ogni antica amorosa sua ferita;
e di sé sola e del suo amor lo grava,
e in quello essa riman sola sculpita;
sì che scusar il buon Ruggier si deve,
se si mostrò quivi incostante e lieve. (OF 7.18)

Intensely though he loved fair Bradamant, she was here and now wrested from his
heart, for by magic Alcina erased all trace of the pangs with which up till now his
soul was smitten. She alone became the unique burden of his love, she alone was
now engraved upon his heart. Good Ruggiero must be forgiven, then, for this
show of inconstancy.

Even here, Ariosto’s lexical choice of “incanto” simultaneously de-empha-

sizes magic while making it explicit. Enchantment can be used to describe
an effect dependent not on magical ability but on personal charm, as in
the exordium of Canto 8. Ruggiero’s allurement is accomplished in terms
of a straightforward sensual seduction. Or, as Momigliano put it, “il fascino
è— insomma— più umano che sovrannaturale.”7 It is only when the helpful
sorceress Melissa seeks to disillusion Ruggiero that Alcina’s spells come
to the foreground. Even so Melissa is able to begin the process of eroding
Alcina’s influence with merely a stern lecture.
Just before Melissa comes to the island, the reader learns that Alcina’s
love has been magically induced by Atlante (OF 7.44). Consequently, the
danger of which Astolfo warned, Alcina’s fickleness, evaporates; the fay
will never tire of Ruggiero and will never transform him into something
less than human. It now seems that Ruggiero’s idyllic existence could last
his whole life long. Yet the description of Ruggiero as Melissa finds him
shows that there is a cost to this paradise, and that Alcina has already
transformed him into less than he was. Or in other words, he has taken
the opportunity provided by Alcina to turn himself into a beast.8 Lust is
seen as its own punishment, depriving the hero of the initiative necessary
to attain eternal glory.9
Seen with the magic ring, Alcina is suddenly metamorphosed into an
ugliness as exceptional as was her illusionary beauty, an ugliness more
befitting her allegorical significance as vice. Yet even when her evil has
Ariosto’s Practitioners of Magic 109
been recognized she continues to be seen as a person more than a moral
figure. Ariosto makes certain to mention her pain and desperation at the
departure of her beloved Ruggiero. Her magically-induced love drives her
even to the extent of leaving her stronghold unguarded to pursue him.
Befitting a real woman scorned, her motivations for pursuing Ruggiero
are love and vengeance for her wounded pride (OF 10.48– 49). The nar-
rator even sympathizes with her for three octaves in her defeat and de-
spairing wish for death (OF 10.54– 56), until his abrupt change of tone to
callous disregard.
There are indications from the beginning that Alcina’s paradise is false.
Even leaving out Astolfo’s explicit warning, the narrator presents Alcina’s
realm in such a way as to leave doubts about its reality. There is the
famous case of the golden walls of her city:

Lontan si vide una muraglia lunga

che gira intorno, e gran paese serra;
e par che la sua altezza al ciel s’aggiunga,
e d’oro sia da l’alta cima a terra.
Alcun dal mio parer qui si dilunga,
e dice ch’ell’è alchìmia: e forse ch’erra;
ed anco forse meglio di me intende:
a me par oro, poi che sì risplende. (OF 6.59)

Off in the distance stood a wall which curved away, embracing a vast stretch of
land; it was so high, its top seemed to merge with the heavens, and it looked as if
it were solid gold from summit to foot. (There are some who part company with
me here and maintain that it is an effect of alchemy; they may know better than
I, but, again, they may be quite mistaken. To me it looks like gold, the way it

In this episode concerned with the difference between essence and ap-
pearance, this octave is filled with indications of doubtfulness: three forms
of parere, two verbs in the subjunctive, and the mention of other possi-
bilities. This is not the voice of the omniscient narrator, but the fallible
narrator’s echo of Ruggiero’s conclusion. The view of the palace from up
close elicits the following remark: “O vero o falso ch’all’occhio risponda,
/ non è cosa più bella o più gioconda” (OF 6.71; “Whether they pre-
sented a true or false image to the eye, there was nothing like them for
grace and felicity”). Once again the accent is on the surface appearance
and leaves strong doubts about the reality of the objects (and, in fact,
Alcina’s works vanish like illusions when Melissa destroys the fay’s im-
ages, seals, knots, rhombs and spirals).
110 Ariosto’s Practitioners of Magic
Ruggiero willingly participates in his deception out of the same desire
for illusion manifested by the prisoners of Atlante’s steel castle who re-
gretted their freedom from it. He allows himself to be led to Alcina despite
being warned, and when he meets Alcina he joins in creating his own
illusion of a virtuous Alcina maligned by the envious Astolfo. But eventu-
ally Melissa points out to him that in this paradise of guiltless pleasure
there can be no accomplishments, no progress. In Donato’s words, “Alcina
represents desire’s fixation upon a singular object and its incapacity to
detach itself from it; essentially it is a moment of stasis.”10 Or in Giamatti’s
words, “a life based on illusion . . . is . . . a futile and empty existence.””1
Yet even Melissa’s reprimand and the revelation of Alcina’s true form
cannot cancel out the dreamlike pleasure of the time spent with her, when
she fulfilled all of her lover’s desires. Astolfo himself, who has gained such
great wisdom from his hard experience with Alcina, thinks of the period
of his favor as a good time (“perché l’avuto ben vo rimembrando”; OF
6.49; “Why must I recollect the good that was”). Rejected and reviled,
defeated, powerless, despairing— nevertheless Alcina cannot die. Ariosto
knows that desires are an ineradicable part of being human.12

ii. Logistilla

After a struggle and with help, Ruggiero eventually reaches the realm of
Alcina’s half sister, Logistilla, the rightful ruler of the island. The good fay
of reason and virtue acts in the Furioso for a much briefer and less memo-
rable time than her illegitimate, usurping half sister. Much less developed
as a character than Alcina, Logistilla’s allegorical import takes precedence
over her characterization. She is described only morally, not physically;
the reader’s image of her is more abstract than concrete.
The reader first learns of her as the rightful ruler of the whole island,
whose kingdom has been usurped by her evil half sisters Alcina and
Morgana. This division of the island enacts the internal division of the
individual, with the passions running wild and practically driving out the
reasoning faculty.13 The evil sisters have already captured more than one
hundred of her castles and she remains beset, much as the narrator occa-
sionally gives the impression of his own embattled sanity.
The virtuous Logistilla’s realm of reason is superior to Alcina’s do-
main. Alcina’s works based on magical trickery can be dispelled easily and
without leaving a trace, but Logistilla’s garden is the result of hard work,
which is more durable. Alcina, who blinds people to the truth, has walls
that seem to be gold, while Logistilla’s gemmed walls are more valuable
Ariosto’s Practitioners of Magic 111
than if they were diamonds, because they provide the clear vision of self-
knowledge. Alcina’s eternal springtime was illusionary (“par ch’ognor rida
il grazioso aprile”; OF 6.74; “soft April, presenting a serene and merry
face, seemed constantly to smile”), while Logistilla’s is real (OF 10.63).
Yet there are indications that Logistilla’s answer is not the definitive
solution to human problems either. Alcina’s garden is full of people, las-
civious women and courtiers, but though the beauty of Logistilla’s gar-
dens is praised, no one is portrayed enjoying it. The pleasures of the
good fay’s gardens seem to be solitary ones. Logistilla can truly stop the
seasons in a lasting way, but it is still not natural:

ma quivi era perpetua la verdura,

perpetua la beltà de’ fiori eterni:
non che benignità de la Natura
sì temperatamente li governi;
ma Logistilla con suo studio e cura,
senza bisogno de’ moti superni
(quel che agli altri impossibile parea),
sua primavera ognor ferma tenea. (OF 10.63)

Here, though, every thing remained verdant green; the flowers bloomed in per-
petual radiance, not through any beneficent working of Nature, but through the
studious care of Logistilla: with no need to depend upon the climate (impossible
though this would seem to anyone else), she maintained perennial spring in her

Not only the restriction of the natural change of seasons but the fact that
they are hanging gardens removes them from the sphere of the natural. A
perpetual springtime is not possible in real life, and such trees and flowers
as she cultivates do not grow elsewhere than in her gardens. Here reason
controls nature and the result is beautiful, but not so beautiful that the
knights wish to remain.
Logistilla’s lessons are not religious, but secular; it is the cardinal vir-
tues who live in her realm, not the theological ones. Her lessons are self-
knowledge, revealed by the gems in the walls, and self-restraint, exempli-
fied by bridling the hippogriff. Yet the study and care, the constant hard
work that she must devote to her gardens contrasts with her expeditious
teaching of Ruggiero, who apparently masters the hippogriff/himself very
quickly and easily, only to fail as soon as he returns to Europe. The love of
Logistilla/virtue is supposed to result in the contentment of every desire
at the mere sight of her, but very soon, within a few days, all the knights
wish to leave. They were glad to stay with Alcina until she tired of them,
112 Ariosto’s Practitioners of Magic
but they find Logistilla’s realm less desirable than their old homes. It
seems likely that, as Welles suggests, the mirrored walls make them un-
comfortable by constantly reminding them of their shortcomings.14 In
Ariosto’s view, people are not ready for a life of reason and self-control,
not to work toward it and not even to accept it when it is offered to them.
Such absolute control and lack of spontaneity is not appropriate to hu-
mans, who need quests and challenges and passions to make life worth-
while; Alcina cannot die. The knights find it far easier to depart from the
self-restrained rule of reason than from unrestrained self-indulgence.
Logistilla’s most lasting effect through the course of the poem is the
result of her influence on Astolfo. The English knight is her best student,
retaining a contemplative detachment15 that serves him well, freeing him
until the Cinque canti from the passions that distract everyone else. It is
due to her teachings that he is able eventually to ride the hippogriff to the
terrestrial paradise. Moreover, his use of her magical gifts brings her back
to mind periodically. Through Astolfo, Logistilla contributes to the even-
tual triumph of the forces of good.
Alcina is a proponent of disorder, favoring passion over reason, dis-
tracting knights from their duties, and hindering progress toward the poet’s
desired outcome. Logistilla is definitely a creature of order and as such
supports the advancement of the plot both by returning the knights to the
real world and through her magical gifts to Astolfo. Nevertheless it is clear
that for Ariosto reason and order are not perfectly synonymous with good.
It is possible to have too much of a good thing. While reason ought to be
in control, the passions also have their place and make life worthwhile.

iii. Minor Fays

Like Atlante, the white and black fays have knowledge of the future and
compassion for certain knights, specifically Grifone and Aquilante. Since
the two knights’ birth, the white fay has protected Grifone and the black
fay has protected Aquilante. In order to prevent their protégés’ return to
France, where they are fated to die, the fays initiate the battle against
Orrilo, “con speme di tenerli tanto a bada, / che la trista influenza se ne
vada” (OF 15.89; “in the hope of delaying them here long enough to
avoid the pernicious effects”). However, they are less powerful and per-
sistent than Atlante. When the agent of destiny, Astolfo, kills Orrilo, they
are unable to do anything but regret the failure of their plan.
The last fay of the Furioso appears in the judge’s tale in Canto 43. In
Manto Ariosto links the Classical world with the world of romance. Tak-
ing advantage of the association of fays with serpents,16 Ariosto turns the
Ariosto’s Practitioners of Magic 113
Theban seeress and supposed founder of Mantova into a fay by recalling
her descent from the dragon’s teeth sown by Cadmus. It is because of his
own descent from the dragon’s teeth that Adonio protects the fay in
serpentine form from the villano. Seven years later his courteous deed is
rewarded, as out of considerations of both kinship and gratitude Manto
aids Adonio’s amorous pursuit of Argia. The adultery that Manto pro-
motes would seem to be an element of social disorder, but the fay there-
after saves Argia’s life and helps her reattain marital harmony:

Manto’s reciprocity seems part of a larger system than courtly duty and reward:
although she aids and abets adultery, she does so not out of injured vanity and
spite, like Melissa, but out of a tenacious sense of gratitude. Her assistance finally
works in favor of the marriage-bond, while modifying its strictly patriarchal struc-

The end result is a stable marriage: “Così a pace e concordia ritornaro, /

e sempre poi fu l’uno all’altro caro” (OF 43.143; “So they reverted to
peace and harmony and cherished each other ever after”).

Sorcerers, like the other characters, vary in their abilities and intentions.
They range from charlatans like Alfeo to major magicians like Atlante,
from a lascivious hermit to those dedicated to furthering God’s will (Mer-
lin and Melissa). Although Renaissance Hermetic thought would attribute
a higher level of existence to the magus, along with his mastery of nature,
the human sorcerers of the Furioso are by no means essentially superior
to other human beings. Indeed most of the sorcerers employ demons, the
type of magic condemned by Ficino and Pico; however this does not
depend on which side they support, and has little relevance to their moral
state. Malagigi and Melissa are on the right side, God and the poet’s side,
notwithstanding their use of “black” magic. Sorcerers remain all too hu-
man and fallible, and in general are not more successful in their plans
than knights and ladies.
My first section concerns Atlante and his struggle to protect Ruggiero.
Then I discuss Merlin and Melissa, the two promoters of the fateful union
of Ruggiero and Bradamante, followed by the minor sorcerers.

i. Atlante

As we learned in the Innamorato, Atlante raised Ruggiero, loves him,

and wants for him both his glorious destiny and, unfortunately incompat-
ible, a long life. Ariosto gives full play to Atlante’s conflicting desires,
114 Ariosto’s Practitioners of Magic
maintaining him as a sympathetic and very human character, substan-
tially true to Boiardo’s precedent. At various places the poet reiterates
much of the Boiardan background of Atlante’s drama. The sorcerer had
always wanted Ruggiero to have the glory that his magical foreknowledge
predicted. He provided the child Ruggiero with rigorous physical training
to prepare him for his future glorious martial deeds. During her imper-
sonation of Atlante, Melissa recalls some details of this training from the

Di medolle già d’orsi e di leoni

ti porsi io dunque li primi alimenti;
t’ho per caverne ed orridi burroni
fanciullo avezzo a strangolar serpenti,
pantere e tigri disarmar d’ungioni
ed a vivi cingial trar spesso i denti (OF 7.57)

Early I fed you on the marrow of bears and lions; I accustomed you as a child to
strangle snakes in grottoes and wild ravines, to disarm the clawing panthers and
tigers and draw the tusks off live boars

Deepening the characterization of the sorcerer, Ariosto adds a personal

admiration for feats of arms (OF 4.22), absent from Boiardo’s Atalante.
Since the time of Ruggiero’s childhood Atlante also foresaw the won-
drousness of Ruggiero’s descendants among the Este. Besides the dis-
guised Melissa’s impassioned speech in Canto 7, we know this from
Ruggiero’s memories of his tutor:

. . . gli torna a mente

che fra i nipoti suoi gli solea Atlante
commendar questo Ippolito sovente. (OF 46.99)

he still recalled how frequently Atlas had commended this Hippolytus among his

Nevertheless, when Ruggiero is grown and the time has come for him to
achieve his destiny, Atlante’s paternal affection causes him to oppose the
goals for which he had prepared Ruggiero. The sticking point is solely
Ruggiero’s early death. Ariosto focuses Atlante’s attention on this per-
sonal aspect of the tragedy, leaving aside Africa’s loss of the knight’s
progeny, which had been of additional concern to Boiardo’s Atalante.
Atlante’s struggles to avert Ruggiero’s fate are understandable, but
misguided. He is so blinded by superchio amore that he comes to value
the merely physical good above the spiritual. He sacrifices considerations
Ariosto’s Practitioners of Magic 115
of honor and virtue in a futile attempt to protect Ruggiero from inevitable
death, ignoring the fact that a life without risk or spiritual values is incom-
plete. Yet his own early teachings stressing honor and accomplishment
win in the end.
Incidents of absolute good or evil are few in Ariosto’s poem. Atlante’s
magical traps are blind alleys or dead ends that delay the rightful progres-
sion of the plot; nevertheless, they are not completely negative. Many of
the characters trapped in them prefer them to the outside world. In the
steel palace Atlante takes care to provide his captives with every pleasure
except freedom. When the castle vanishes, the poet suggests that only
the women prisoners regret their newfound liberty:

Le donne e i cavallier si trovar fuora

de le superbe stanze alla campagna:
e furon di lor molte a chi ne dolse;
che tal franchezza un gran piacer lor tolse.
(OF 4.39; emphasis mine)

The knights and ladies; some of these (I mean

The ladies) from superb apartments to
The countryside transferred, in no small measure
Were disappointed by such loss of pleasure.18

The Alcina episode, however, shows that men share this human weak-
ness of a desire for a paradise of escape from duty. Even Astolfo, who has
learned better and despises the fay, remembers his time with Alcina as
being good.
The palace of illusions is an even more powerful and subtle trap. It is
no longer a pleasant experience, but one “con passione e con fatica molta,
/ ma temperata pur d’alta speranza” (OF 12.16; “in desperation but with
hope renewed”). Unlike the steel palace, inescapable to anyone lacking
the power of flight, and Alcina’s realm, where the fay and her guards
restrained her subjects, the prisoners can walk out the door of the palace
of illusions any time they choose. It is the hope of acquiring the object of
their desire that keeps them running around in their futile chase.
Seeking to protect Ruggiero from the personal chaos of death, Atlante
first creates in the steel palace a trap that seems like a bastion of order
and culture in the midst of a hostile universe:

Sei giorni me n’andai matina e sera

per balze e per pendici orride e strane,
dove non via, dove sentier non era,
116 Ariosto’s Practitioners of Magic
dove né segno di vestigie umane;
poi giunse in una valle inculta e fiera,
di ripe cinta e spaventose tane,
che nel mezzo s’un sasso avea un castello
forte e ben posto, a maraviglia bello. (OF 2.41)

‘For six days I travelled, morning and evening, amid weird jagged crags and out-
crops, with never a beaten path nor any sign of human traces. Then I came to a
stark, grim valley hemmed in with cliffs and horrid caves and in the middle, on a
rock, there rose a mighty castle, well seated and of remarkable beauty.

Outside the steel palace are many dangers and frightful sights which the
castle’s strength and inaccessible location keep at bay. Inside, the inhabit-
ants spend their time on civilized and courtly pursuits, such as music,
games, fine food, and clothing. This haven of culture, however, turns out
to be quite fragile, vanishing into nothingness with the victory of the
harsh outside world. The prisoners are released, gladly or unwillingly,
back into the chaos of real life.
Atlante’s second snare, Alcina’s realm, once again has the trappings of
chivalric order, but chaotic elements have crept in. Alcina rules queenlike
over her obedient subjects, amid general prosperity, with everyone pursu-
ing courtly activities like dancing, games, merrymaking, singing, hawk-
ing, hunting, and courtship. It is the excess of this last, counter to the
tenets of courtly love, which has caused a breakdown in morality and
manners, causing the lascive donzelle to seem less beautiful than they
could be. The destruction of this realm is more difficult, since Melissa
must break many spells while Alcina is distracted by Ruggiero’s flight, but
no less complete.
With his most powerful trap, the palace of illusions, Atlante creates a
reflection of the chaos of life. The entrapped knights endlessly follow the
circular motion of the quests that they had followed outside.19 Their eter-
nally frustrated search is inescapable because they are propelled by the
hope of attaining their dearest desire. As in life, they cannot forsake the
quest because they cannot forsake the desire which is so much a part of
life. Despite Melissa’s warning, Bradamante cannot deny her emotions in
order to kill the illusionary Ruggiero or even to realize that she is caught
in an enchantment. Yet even this citadel cannot endure forever against
the pressure of reality and the poet’s will. Appropriately enough, Astolfo,
Fortune’s favorite, arrives at the castle as the result of a fortuna at sea.
Only Astolfo, who has most nearly escaped from passions, can see clearly
enough to recognize the trap and resolve this dilemma. Making use of
that other basic human emotion, fear, Astolfo clears the palace and at his
leisure reduces it to smoke and fog.
Ariosto’s Practitioners of Magic 117
This third defeat leads to Atlante’s death in despair from heartbreak.
Although he gives up his struggle and surrenders to the inevitability of
fate, he neither regrets his past actions nor stops caring for Ruggiero. The
sorcerer’s ghost attributes his final surrender to Ruggiero’s desire to attain
his glorious destiny (“né ostare al fin potendo alla tua voglia”; OF 36.64;
“unable in the end to oppose your will”). He finally accepts Ruggiero’s
decision and abandons his own futile quest, realizing that his own desire
is unattainable. Speaking from his tomb, his words are as truthful and as
helpful as those of Merlin. Finally Atlante comes to serve the will of Provi-
dence, setting the stage for Marfisa’s conversion and ending Bradamante’s
jealous madness so that she will reconcile with Ruggiero.

ii. Merlin and Melissa

The Arthurian sorcerer Merlin appears only briefly in the Furioso, but his
presence is felt again and again due to his influence on Melissa and to his
remaining works of art. All that remains of Merlin in Charlemagne’s day is
a living spirit and a living voice, speaking from his tomb. He is a poet
figure; Ariosto may well have expected and desired to achieve this sort of
immortality, wherein his voice still puts forth his message long after his
body has died.
Merlin has an element of the chaotic in his background (in the form of
his demon father), but he subordinates his powers to the will of God,
seeking to promote the divine order. His prophetic knowledge prepares
him and Melissa when the voler divino sends Bradamante to his cave for
the revelation of God’s plan and help in fulfilling it. Merlin gives Bradamante
information about the future and encouragement to help Ruggiero, but
leaves the practical advice to Melissa.
Neither alive nor dead, Merlin is unable to act during the poem, but in
the past he was an important creator. Furthermore, his creations are not
the easily-dispelled constructions of most sorcerers, but are durable works
of art that last through centuries. His fountain of disamore is still there to
cure Rinaldo’s madness in Canto 42. The fountain of avarice and the
paintings at the Rocca di Tristano, through Merlin’s prophetic ability,
serve to link the poem’s story with history.
Merlin’s most powerful influence on the actions of the poem is through
his agent Melissa. Being alive, she is still capable of acting and also of
making mistakes. Melissa has been characterized as a passionless figure
interested only in duty.20 It is true that she is not passionate about a lover,
a horse, a magical item, or any of the usual objects of desire. However,
the encouragement of Ruggiero and Bradamante’s marriage is not a duty
118 Ariosto’s Practitioners of Magic
imposed on her, but a project she freely undertakes. Since she is not
obligated in any way to help the lovers, she must feel strongly about the
matter in order to devote so much time and effort to it. In fact,

. . . avea sommo desire

che Bradamante con Ruggier di stretto
nodo s’avesse in matrimonio a unire (OF 46.20)

Melissa . . . was most anxious to see Bradamant and Ruggiero united in the bonds
of matrimony.

Melissa has fallen in love not with an individual but with the glory of the
Estensi. When she learned about them from Merlin’s predictions, she
changed her own plans in order to meet Bradamante, and she persists in
her new project when she realizes how much help the two will need. She
has been prudent enough (or fortunate enough) to desire an event de-
creed by God and the poet, and so she emerges as the most successful
sorcerer of the poem.
Melissa is very goal-directed. She gives her constant attention to the
lovers’ affairs:

. . . quella maga che sempre vicino

tenuto a Bradamante avea il pensiero (OF 7.38)

. . . d’ambi il bene e il male avea sì a petto,

che d’ora in ora ne volea sentire.
Per questo spirti avea sempre per via,
che, quando andava l’un, l’altro venìa. (OF 46.20)

the enchantress who had ever followed Bradamant in her thoughts

She was so concerned with the fortunes of both that she wanted hourly news of
them; therefore she always kept in touch with them by means of spirit-messen-
gers: as one spirit returned another was dispatched.

Melissa is not only willing to use deceit or fraude, but is firmly con-
vinced of its necessity in some cases. In this, she acts in accordance with
the pronouncements of Ariosto, given in the magnificent exordium of
Canto 4:

Quantunque il simular sia le più volte

ripreso, e dia di mala mente indici,
si truova pur in molte cose e molte
aver fatti evidenti benefici,
Ariosto’s Practitioners of Magic 119
e danni e biasmi e morti aver già tolte;
che non conversiam sempre con gli amici
in questa assai più oscura che serena
vita mortal, tutta d’invidia piena. (OF 4.1)

DECEIT is normally held in low esteem, pointing as it does to an evil disposition;

there are, nonetheless, countless instances when it has reaped obvious benefits
and deflected all manner of harm and ill report and mortal perils. For our conver-
sation is not always with friends in this earthly life, dogged as it is by envy, and
compounded of shadow far more than of light.

Deceit is an important survival skill in the world of the Furioso and Mel-
issa tries to teach it to Bradamante and Ruggiero.
Melissa is ruthless in the pursuit of her goal. In her own period of
amorous madness she was willing to break up the Mantuan knight’s happy
marriage for her own selfish desires, and twice she urges Bradamante to
kill. It seems clear that this is not such a desirable characteristic, however,
since the noble Bradamante refuses to learn this lesson. She spares
Brunello’s and Atlante’s lives at the steel palace out of considerations of
honor and mercy, and is understandably unable to strike the image of her
beloved Ruggiero.
Since Melissa is so focused on her goal, she tends to emphasize the
eventual good and discount the cost of achieving it. She advises
Bradamante regarding the Estensi conspirators: “Statti col dolce in bocca,
e non ti doglia / ch’amareggiare al fin non te la voglia” (OF 3.62; “leave
with a sweet taste in your mouth, and do not complain if I refuse to turn
it to bitterness”). This quotation applies also to her most important omis-
sion: she passes over the fact that Ruggiero will die young after fulfilling
his destiny.21 While her reticence may seem (and be) an indication of cold
calculation, it is less a matter of deliberate deception and more that she
concentrates on the sweet instead of the bitter. Moreover, in the end her
omission does not matter; the lovers are not left unaware of the situation.
Ruggiero knew and accepted his fate in the Innamorato, while Bradamante
learns of it from Atlante at the steel palace. Since both of them continue
on their chosen course, both must believe that the goal is worth the price.
In an extension of her willingness to use dubious means toward her
ends, Melissa employs demons, showing that it is possible to harness evil
in the service of good (as Astolfo also does with Caligorante). Whether
she directs demons in a pageant, or rides them as steeds, or sends them
to fetch a family heirloom, Melissa remains in complete control (unlike
Malagigi) so that they cannot counteract her wishes. She brings these
creatures of chaos and evil into line with the divine order.
120 Ariosto’s Practitioners of Magic
Despite Melissa’s self control and calculating nature, she is not immune
to the gentler emotions. While she probably looks back on her love for the
Mantuan knight as an error, she feels affection for Bradamante (“non
senza alquanto lagrimare, / si dipartì l’una da l’altra donna”; OF 3.75;
“the two women took leave of each other, not without tears”). She truly
desires what she considers to be best for Ruggiero: a virtuous, honorable,
and glorious mortal life, and the immortality provided by fame and de-
Melissa is human and fallible. During her period of amorous madness
she let her passions lead her from the path of reason and righteousness,
but learned better thereafter. She is not necessarily the most powerful of
sorcerers. For instance, she needs the ring in order to break Alcina’s
spells. Nor does she confront Alcina or Atlante in a straightforward test of
power; rather, she undermines their enchantments at their weak points.
Her foresight is not perfect. She promises to bring Ruggiero back from
Alcina’s island to Bradamante in only a few days, when in the end Ruggiero
takes months to return to Europe. And she is mistaken when she warns
that Bradamante will remain forever without Ruggiero if she fails to slay
the illusion of him. She does not allow for the fact that God has more
agents than just herself.
Yet she accomplishes a great deal. It is due to her advice that Bradamante
is able to destroy the steel palace. It is her actions alone that break Alcina’s
power, that interrupt the potentially disastrous duel between Ruggiero
and Rinaldo, and that save Ruggiero from suicidal despair. After many
setbacks, Melissa is the only sorcerer to achieve her goal, because she
chose a goal desired by both God and Ariosto.

iii. Minor Sorcerers

Malagigi may be on the side of the angels, but he is certainly one of the
more fallible characters in the Furioso, as he was in the Innamorato. The
first reference to him in the poem (OF 11.4) recalls his defeat by Angelica
at the start of the Innamorato. At his first appearance he and his brother
Viviano are in need of rescue from their pagan captors. At this point
readers of the Innamorato will remember that the two got into this fix
because Malagise had believed his horde of demons could prevail against
the knightly virtù of Rodamonte and Feraguto.
In the Furioso, Malagigi’s attempts to help the Christian forces are still
plagued by failure and uncertainty. The best known example is that of
Doralice’s horse in Canto 26. Under pressure Malagigi succeeds in pro-
Ariosto’s Practitioners of Magic 121
tecting his cousin Ricciardetto from Rodomonte by sending a demon to
drive off Doralice’s horse. Unfortunately, the sorcerer’s lack of forethought
allows the treacherous demon to turn the situation to the disadvantage of
the Christians, leading to a defeat in battle for Charlemagne. Later, when
Rinaldo leads reinforcements, including Malagigi, to Charlemagne, the
indefinite “alcun” and the prevalence of the subjunctive show that Malagigi’s
helpful participation is doubtful:

Istima alcun che Malagigi parte

ne la vittoria avesse de la notte;
non che di sangue le campagne sparte
fosser per lui, né per lui teste rotte:
ma che gl’infernali angeli per arte
facesse uscir da le tartaree grotte,
e con tante bandiere e tante lance,
ch’insieme più non ne porrian due France;

e che facesse udir tanti metalli,

tanti tamburi e tanti varii suoni,
tanti anitriri in voce di cavalli,
tanti gridi e tumulti di pedoni,
che risonare e piani e monti e valli
dovean de le longique regioni:
ed ai Mori con questo un timor diede,
che li fece voltare in fuga il piede.
(OF 31.86– 87)

It has been suggested that Maugis had a share in that night’s victory, not that he
sprinkled the land with blood or smashed any skulls, but that by magic spells he
coaxed the infernal angels from the caverns of hell, with so many lances and
banners that two Frances could not have assembled so many; / and that he
provoked such an uproar of trumpets and drums and assorted noises, such whin-
nying of horses, such cries and clamour of footsoldiers that the plains, moun-
tains, and valleys must have re-echoed for miles around. With this he gave the
Moors such a fright that he routed them.

Certainly one need not look as far as a supernatural explanation for the
frightening vision of banners, lances, and enemy soldiers, and the con-
fused uproar; one would expect these factors in a surprise night attack.
Moreover the pagans’ flight had already been explained in much more
definite terms:

Non fu sì ardito tra il popul pagano,

a cui non s’arricciassero le chiome,
quando sentì Rinaldo e Montalbano
122 Ariosto’s Practitioners of Magic
sonar per l’aria, il formidato nome.
Fugge col campo d’Africa l’ispano,
né perde tempo a caricar le some;
ch’aspettar quella furia più non vuole,
ch’aver provata anco si piagne e duole. (OF 31.54)

Not one in the pagan host was so brave that his hair did not stand on end when
he heard the grim watchwords ‘Rinaldo’ and ‘Montauban’ ring out. Africans and
Spaniards turned tail without stopping to load their baggage: still smarting from
having earlier sampled his fury, they were in no hurry to renew the experience.

Sometimes Malagigi’s activities are purely a matter of speculation. When

Rinaldo’s duel with Gradasso is interrupted by a flying monster, the only
explanation the paladin can think of is to blame Malagigi— who firmly
denies his involvement. Yet earlier Malagigi had felt the desire to interfere:

E più degli altri il frate di Viviano

stava di questa pugna in dubbio e in tema,
ed anco volentier vi porria mano
per farla rimaner d’effetto scema:
ma non vorria che quel da Montalbano
seco venisse a inimicizia estrema;
ch’anco avea di quell’altra seco sdegno,
che gli turbò, quando il levò sul legno.
(OF 31.108)

Who was more anxious and dubious than any of them about this combat was
Maugis; gladly would he have interfered to make it miscarry, but he did not want
to antagonize Rinaldo any further— he had still not forgiven him for breaking up
the earlier fight by spiriting him onto the boat.

The reader’s suspicions remain unanswered. Rinaldo also attributes his

rescue from Jealousy by Disdain to Malagigi’s intervention. Once again
Malagigi’s responsibility is possible, since the sorcerer had tried to dis-
suade Rinaldo from his love for Angelica; Malagigi’s spells might summon
or simulate the effects of Disdain, and lead Rinaldo to the fountain of
disamore. But Malagigi’s participation is unconfirmed, and, moreover,
unlikely; Malagigi has never before demonstrated this sort of psychologi-
cal subtlety.
Ariosto is not satisfied to make all of Malagigi’s magical efforts prob-
lematic; he even allows the sorcerer to display his lack of knightly prow-
ess. Not surprisingly, these are occasions of some humor at his expense.
Mandricardo defeats Malagigi with humiliating ease when the sorcerer
imprudently seeks to joust with him:
Ariosto’s Practitioners of Magic 123
Vien Malagigi, e ponsi in aventura
di vendicare il suo fratello avaccio;
ma poi d’andargli appresso ebbe tal fretta,
che gli fe’ compagnia più che vendetta. (OF 26.74)

Up came Maugis, now, to wreak prompt vengeance for his brother, but he was so
hasty in his closing that he afforded Vivian company sooner than revenge.

Nor does Malagigi learn from this experience, for later he is eager to joust
with Guidon Selvaggio, and is saved from another defeat only by Rinaldo’s
impatience. Boiardo had been slightly kinder to Malagise, not giving him
foolish pretensions of knightly skill at arms, and his humiliating capture by
Angelica at least did not occur in public.
Malagigi’s only privileged moments are encomiastic. Unlike Boiardo,
Ariosto endows Malagigi with magical foreknowledge in order to explain
Merlin’s fountain of avarice in Canto 26, and to glorify Ferrara when
Rinaldo passes through the site in Canto 43. Yet even in these two pas-
sages Malagigi’s privilege is not absolute. Malagigi did not create the foun-
tain, only share his expert knowledge. The Ferrara passage is very brief,
and Malagigi is present only in memory. His magical knowledge can also
have a dispersive effect, as when his information leads Rinaldo away from
France in search of Angelica.
Malagigi’s heart is in the right place, but his ineffectiveness makes him
as often harmful as helpful to his own side. His lack of care allows the
demon to lead Doralice’s horse to the benefit of the pagans, and he di-
rects Rinaldo toward Cathay when the paladin is still needed in Europe. If
Malagigi sent the winged monster in Canto 33, then it is another mistake
and he is responsible for Gradasso’s acquisition of Baiardo and thus this
pagan’s initial advantage at Lipadusa. Malagigi does not contribute to the
orderly advance of the plot.
Another minor sorcerer is the hermit, or rather the cauto negromante,
who encounters Angelica in the second canto. He gives an initial impres-
sion of trustworthiness. The poet emphasizes this appearance, first when
Angelica meets him, and later, with more comic effect, when the pirates
discover them:

[Angelica] scontrò un eremita . . .

devoto e venerabile d’aspetto.
e parea, più ch’alcun fosse mai stato,
di coscienza scrupulosa e schiva. (OF 2.12– 13)
124 Ariosto’s Practitioners of Magic
e di quante mai fur belle e leggiadre
[the pirates]
trovaro il fiore in braccio al santo padre.
(OF 8.61; emphases mine)

[Angelica] came upon a hermit . . . he looked devout and venerable. . . . he

looked a man of the tenderest, most delicate conscience.

So they [the pirates] came upon this, the flower of feminine beauty and grace,
lying clasped in the venerable father’s arms.

As so often in the Furioso appearances are deceiving. Fortunately for

Angelica, there are some things that not even magic can accomplish.
Although the hermit’s magic allows him to kidnap her and put her to
sleep, he remains impotent to rape her.
When the hermit summoned a demon to mislead Rinaldo and
Sacripante, it was clear that he was not one of the righteous. The sorcer-
ers Melissa and Malagigi can freely employ demons for the sake of Chris-
tianity, but interaction with infernal spirits is inappropriate for a religious
Christian hermit. To a certain extent, this hermit contributes to the cha-
otic dispersal of characters at the beginning of the poem. His demon
sends Rinaldo and Sacripante on a wild goose chase, and he takes An-
gelica to where she will be kidnapped by the pirates of Ebuda. This dis-
persive effect is somewhat mitigated, by chance, because the demon di-
rects Rinaldo back to Paris, where Charlemagne will assign him the
important mission of fetching reinforcements from England.
Other minor sorcerers show the danger of “magical” knowledge. The
so-called necromancer who rediscovered guns has caused tremendous
suffering and tragedy and is assigned a place in hell by the poet. Either
through error or because he is a fraud to start with, Alfeo’s astrology fails
him, predicting a peaceful death for him rather than the one Cloridano
gives him. The astrologer consulted by Anselmo in the judge’s tale has
accurate information, but contributes nothing beyond a preliminary and
unnecessary confirmation of Anselmo’s suspicions; Anselmo would not
have acted any differently without the astrologer’s knowledge.

Miracles are different in concept from magic in that they are the result of
the direct intervention of God in human affairs. Religious miracles are
characteristic of the Carolingian epic cycle as opposed to the magic of
sorcerers and supernatural creatures typical of the Arthurian cycle. Yet in
the world of the Furioso miracles are not always privileged over enchant-
Ariosto’s Practitioners of Magic 125
ment. Indeed “[m]iracles are treated in the same spirit as magic.”22 The
workers of miracles, favored by the grace of God, remain human and
imperfect— even the archangel Michael; and, in this case, even the miracles
are less a cause for wonderment and faith than doubt and skepticism.
From a discussion of Michael and the personifications, I proceed to
study the saintly hermit who converts Ruggiero, and the chapter con-
cludes with St. John’s teachings to Astolfo on the moon.

i. Michael et al.

The Michael episode begins when God Himself, in response to the prayers
of Carlo and the Parisians, is portrayed giving the orders for the first set
of miracles to the archangel. The Bontà ineffabile is treated with digni-
fied language, but along with the angels is anthropomorphized23 into a
courtly image. This heavenly sovereign and His courtiers lack any mysti-
cal transcendence.
As soon as the focus shifts from God to Michael, Ariosto’s restraint
from humor begins to relax. The angel has not even left God’s side when
he is disrespectfully termed “il benedetto augel” (OF 14.77). During his
descent to earth the reader learns that omniscient God could have better
prepared the confused angel by telling him Silence’s location. Michael’s
naiveté is revealed when he seeks Silence in the cloister. The verses “Ma
da la opinion sua ritrovosse / tosto ingannato” (OF 14.80; “he had only
to land in the cloister to be cured of his delusion”) recall that constant of
the world of the Furioso: “ecco il giudicio uman come spesso erra!” By
this test the angel is as human as any of the knights in the forest. The
passage may have started out as the miraculous intervention of God, but
at this point the already ironic treatment of Michael gives way to full-
fledged anti-clerical satire.
Michael’s further appearances continue to show him in an ironic and
unfavorable light, as he overconfidently relaxes his vigilance until the Chris-
tians are defeated in battle in Canto 27 against God’s stated intentions.
The comparison of Michael with a forgetful servant who rushes to repair
the damages before the master should notice, and his undignified beating
of Discord, show even more blatantly the fallibility of the supposedly su-
pernatural angel. Michael’s ineffectiveness casts doubts back on God,
who chose him for this mission.24
The personifications with whom Michael deals, Discord, Fraud, and
Silence, remain abstractions and have been criticized as frozen,25 although
Ariosto attempts to render them more concrete by giving details of their
126 Ariosto’s Practitioners of Magic
physical appearance.26 This lifelessness results partly from the constant
contrast of the abstract personifications with the verisimilar emotions and
motivations of the human characters. As De Sanctis notes, despite the
apparatus of supernatural forces, everything in the Furioso admits of a
natural explanation.27 Discord’s first project in Canto 18 shows the super-
fluity of the personifications; the quarrel between Rodomonte and
Mandricardo had already been prepared, and would have developed quite
naturally without the intervention of the personifications. As the quarrels
multiply in the same natural fashion at the fountain of avarice, the reader
has plenty of time to forget about Discord’s supposed participation; the
poet’s after-the-fact reminder of her influence does nothing but highlight
her artificiality. Likewise, the return of Discord in Canto 27 coincides
with the aftermath of the pagan victory, which the disputants had previ-
ously agreed would signal the end of their truces.
Thus in this episode the supernatural powers of both angels and per-
sonifications are shown to be anything but miraculous. It is all Michael
can do to accomplish what seemed to be a simple task, and the God who
sent him does not have Ariosto’s omnipotence in the world of the poem.
The influence of Michael and of the personifications is so undetectable as
to remain discounted by the reader, and is never noticed by the characters:

Michel mosse le squadre coraggiose,

e fe’ lor breve un gran tratto di via;
sì che in un dì a Parigi le condusse,
né alcun s’avide che miracol fusse.
(OF 14.96; emphasis mine)

Here Michael moved the brave squadrons and so curtailed their route that a single
day’s journey brought them to Paris, without any of them realizing the miracle
which had been wrought.

The one time that God appears in the poem, His orders lead to unin-
tended results, and remain completely unnoticed by the humans involved.

ii. The Santissimo Eremita

God obtains more impressive results elsewhere in the poem without su-
pernatural intermediaries, as in the case of Ruggiero’s long-awaited con-
version. However, even this action— utterly necessary to the plot, foretold
and desired since Ruggiero’s introduction in the Innamorato, and the
source of so much future glory to Ferrara— is not without a few pinpricks
of imperfection.
Ariosto’s Practitioners of Magic 127
The hero is in the process of sailing to rejoin Agramante in Africa with
the seven Saracen kings whom he has rescued, when their ship is caught
in a ferocious storm. The poet attributes to this storm the moral vices of
perfidy and treachery: “Ne l’oscurar del giorno fece il vento / chiara la sua
perfidia e ’l tradimento” (OF 41.8; “It was at dusk that the wind revealed
its perfidy”). The description of the storm is full of negative judgements:
“orribil procella,” “furor,” “fortuna fella,” “rabbia,” “crudele e spaventoso
assalto,” “il fiero vento” (twice), “il crudo vento e la tempesta ria.” The
poet elaborates at length on the terror and desperation of the unfortu-
nate sailors as their efforts are overwhelmed by the fury of the elements.
Prayers do not help them:

Allor s’udì con dolorosi pianti

chiamar soccorso dal celeste regno:
ma quelle voci andaro poco inanti,
che venne il mar pien d’ira e di disdegno
(OF 41.20)

Anguished cries to heaven for help could now be heard, but the voices did not
endure for long: the seething waters surged in spitefully

It is when Ruggiero is attempting to swim to shore that the self-impor-

tant idea comes to him, as to many a drowning man, that this storm is
aimed at him specifically for his sins; namely, that it is God’s vengeance
for his failure to convert as he had promised Bradamante and Rinaldo.
And it turns out that this thought is not unreasonably conceited for
Ruggiero, the man of destiny. His frantic vow to become a Christian if he
should survive is immediately and miraculously followed by renewed vigor:
“Miracol fu, che sentì al fin del voto / crescersi forza e agevolarsi il nuoto”
(OF 41.49; “By a miracle, as he made his vow he felt an increase of
strength and swam more buoyantly”). The hermit who greets him on the
island confirms the knight’s conjecture that God brought him there for
that very purpose. Therefore the storm, which had seemed perfidious
from the sailors’ point of view, was a necessary, if harsh, means to fur-
ther God’s providential plan.
This hermit is indeed the holy man he appears to be, not a deceptive
necromancer. For forty years of “vita solitaria e santa” he has served God
with prayers, an abstemious diet, and (as the reader learns later) by per-
forming miracles. He is an appropriate character to teach Ruggiero about
the Christian faith and to baptize him.
Atlante and the other sorcerers in the poem must study the stars to
learn about the future, while the hermit, like Merlin, receives his fore-
128 Ariosto’s Practitioners of Magic
knowledge unasked in a vision from God. This miraculous vision, how-
ever, does not differ in kind or content from magical foreknowledge. Like
Melissa, the hermit does not tell everything he knows, only “quel che
narrar conviensi.” Presumably he leaves out information similar to what
Melissa omitted: the details of Ruggiero’s death and vengeance.
However holy the hermit may be, he does not escape untouched by
Ariosto’s humor. Like Merlin and Melissa, the hermit is eager to follow
God’s will, in this case to instruct Ruggiero in Christianity. He is so eager
that he greets Ruggiero, who has just climbed out of the stormy sea and
might be expected to be distracted and fatigued, with a torrent of words
without apparent pause. (Or is it the effect of solitude that makes him so
loquacious?) He is already giving lessons as the two walk back to his cell.
Once Ruggiero has rested a bit the lessons continue at a more leisurely
pace— which is still fast enough that the knight learns all the great myster-
ies of the Christian religion in his brief stay. This speed is not to be
trusted; Ruggiero learned Logistilla’s lessons with similar dispatch, but
not very thoroughly. Nevertheless, while Ruggiero may not truly be an
expert on his new religion, he undoubtedly has what knowledge is neces-
sary to him.
The continuation of the hermit’s episode in Canto 43 allows him to
make further contributions to the cause. The survivors of Lipadusa decide
to seek out the hermit when they learn of his reputation from their ship’s

Disse ch’era di là poco lontano

in un solingo scoglio uno eremita,
a cui ricorso mai non s’era invano,
o fosse per consiglio o per aita;
e facea alcuno effetto soprumano,
dar lume a ciechi, e tornar morti a vita,
fermare il vento ad un segno di croce,
e far tranquillo il mar quando è più atroce
(OF 43.187)

not far from there, he said, there lived a hermit on an isolated rock. No one ever
had recourse to him in voin, [sic] be it for advice or assistance. He could achieve
miracles: he could give sight to the blind, raise the dead to life, stop the wind with
a sign of the cross, calm the sea at its angriest.

While this octave treats of the hermit’s amazing deeds, the tone could not
be more even and placid. Thus the poet transforms these magnificent
miracles into ordinary if uncommon occurrences. It is the second inci-
dence of the marvelous, following the pattern noted by Almansi,28 that is
Ariosto’s Practitioners of Magic 129
accompanied by a “grido di meraviglia,” although this is less impressive
than the previously mentioned feats:

Né d’unguento trovandosi provisto,

né d’altra umana medicina istrutto,
andò alla chiesa, ed orò al Salvatore;
ed indi uscì con gran baldanza fuore:

e in nome de le eterne tre Persone,

Padre e Figliuolo e Spirto Santo, diede
ad Olivier la sua benedizione.
Oh virtù che dà Cristo a chi gli crede!
Cacciò dal cavalliero ogni passione,
e ritornolli a sanitade il piede,
più fermo e più espedito che mai fosse
(OF 43.191– 92)

He possessed no ointments or other medicines in common use, but he went into

his oratory and prayed to Our Saviour. Thence he emerged in buoyant confi-
dence / to give Oliver his blessing in the name of the three Eternal Persons,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Oh, the power Christ gives to those who believe in
Him! He cured the knight of all pain and so restored his foot that it was even
sounder than before.

The enjambement contributes to the suspense and prepares the exclama-

tion of marvel. Even so, the use of exclamation, which the reader has long
since recognized as suspect in the Furioso, leaves doubts. Of course these
doubts are not in the minds of the characters, for Sobrino is so impressed
by this miraculous healing that he too decides to convert and thereby
receives a healing himself. Ruggiero’s faith and devotion also grow, due to
his witnessing these miracles (apparently the few days since his own mi-
raculous survival have sufficed for its impression to fade).
The hermit takes the opportunity to give to his visitors an ascetic ser-
mon on the proper relative merits of this life and the next:

Fra quei guerrieri il vecchiarel devoto

sta dolcemente, e li conforta ed ora
a voler, schivi di pantano e loto,
mondi passar per questa morta gora
c’ha nome vita, che sì piace a’ sciocchi;
ed alla via del ciel sempre aver gli occhi.
(OF 43.195)

The devout old hermit was a gentle presence among those warriors; he prayed
and encouraged them to avoid contamination but to aim to pass unspotted through
130 Ariosto’s Practitioners of Magic
this mortal vale known as life, in which fools so delight, but to keep their eyes
steadfastly on the paths to heaven.

Yet in the very next octave the hermit gives up his virtuous forty-year diet
of fruit and water to share the knights’ savory meal of meat and good
wine; it is more difficult to resist and despise the snares of this world
when they are right in front of you.

iii. Astolfo’s Voyage and St. John

Astolfo has traveled on the hippogriff from the site of Atlante’s palace of
illusions through France, Spain, and northern Africa with no other goal
than sightseeing, when his religious voyage begins in Prester John’s realm
of Ethiopia. Since the knight’s improbable arrival on a winged horse ful-
fills a prophecy of salvation, the blind emperor could be excused for tak-
ing him for a supernatural personage, were it not for his impious sugges-
tions. Astolfo’s humility in response to Prester John’s extravagant and
sacrilegious offers shows that though he has mastered Logistilla’s secular
teaching, he knows its limits. Even at this early point, before St. John
confirms it, he is willing to believe that God has guided him.
Comparing Astolfo’s restraint here with his vanity and braggadocio in
the earlier tradition helps to point out why Astolfo is chosen to take the
voyage to the moon and to cure Orlando. The English knight has learned
from his past mistakes and from Logistilla, and throughout the poem he
proves resistant to all forms of insanity, keeping his head and firmly bri-
dling his passions (so firmly that it is not always evident that he has any).
His mental balance and flexibility have led to his successes against evil
and to his removal of a series of obstacles to God’s plan. Although his
lucido intervallo will end in the Cinque canti with his fall back to the
common level of humanity, in the Furioso he travels highest of all the
Astolfo’s voyages give insights into Ariosto’s views on fame, Ippolito
d’Este, and literature. Fame was in general highly valued in the Renais-
sance inasmuch as it provided a sort of immortality. Unfortunately, last-
ing fame is not easy to achieve. Fame is the very first item on the list of the
contents of the lunar valley, where already time is the culprit: “Molta fama
è là su, che, come tarlo, / il tempo al lungo andar qua giù divora” (OF
34.74; “there is many a reputation up there which, little by little, time has
consumed down here like a moth”). The situation is elaborated a little
later with the allegory of Time and the Fates. Time casts famous names
into the river of oblivion, from which crows, vultures, etc. (flatterers,
Ariosto’s Practitioners of Magic 131
poetasters), can rescue them only briefly. The secure placement of one’s
name in the temple of immortality is possible but dependent on the ef-
forts of swans (great poets), who are few. Thus the only way to enduring
fame is through literature.
Astolfo’s observation of the three Fates provides an opportunity for
encomium, which Ariosto duly takes when Astolfo views the life’s thread
of Cardinal Ippolito d’Este. Yet this praise is rather cold. Farrell notes its
brevity and many terms of artifice, concluding that St. John is forced to
praise Ippolito when he would rather not.29 Quint finds the passage’s
literary model (Seneca’s praise of Nero) to be an indication by Ariosto
that it contains similarly wildly untrue flattery.30
Furthermore, the praise of Ippolito is embedded in a context that, to
say it mildly, casts doubt on its validity. It follows not long after a disillu-
sioned vision of courtly obsequiousness in the valley of lost things:
Ami d’oro e d’argento appresso vede
in una massa, ch’erano quei doni
che si fan con speranza di mercede
ai re, agli avari principi, ai patroni.
Vede in ghirlande ascosi lacci; e chiede,
ed ode che son tutte adulazioni.
Di cicale scoppiate imagine hanno
versi ch’in laude dei signor si fanno. (OF 34.77)

Next he saw a heap of gold and silver hooks: gifts made in hope of reward to
kings, to greedy princes, to patrons. He asked about garlands he saw which
concealed a noose: all flattery, he was told, verses written in praise of patrons
wore the guise of exploded crickets.

All three parts of this octave are relevant to the Orlando furioso (with the
possible exception of verse 5’s hidden snares of sinister ulterior motives;
Ariosto does not hide his all-but-abandoned hopes of tangible reward,
which seem more reasonable than sinister). At the beginning of the poem
Ariosto dedicated it as a gift to his patron Ippolito (OF 1.3), and many of
the encomiastic passages could easily be characterized as adulatory. That
the poet was not properly rewarded for his efforts to immortalize the
cardinal is made clear in the first Satire:

Non vuol che laude sua da me composta

per opra degna di mercé si pona;
di mercé degno è l’ir correndo in posta. (97– 99)
S’io l’ho con laude ne’ miei versi messo,
dice ch’io l’ho fatto a piacere e in ocio;
più grato fòra essergli stato appresso. (106– 08)
132 Ariosto’s Practitioners of Magic
He does not consider his praises, composed by me, as work worthy of any thanks,
but to be a galloping postman is worth a reward.

If I have praised him in my verses, he says I have done so to please myself and at
my leisure; better if I had been at hand to wait upon him.31

Shortly after the praise of Ippolito comes St. John’s cheerful admission
that poets will lie about their patrons for gain. The denunciation of foolish
lords who undervalue poetry in OF 35.23– 24 corresponds much too
closely to the true situation to be ignored.32 When St. John begins to
name names, he includes Aeneas, one of Ruggiero’s literary models, and
Hector, Ruggiero’s ancestor (and hence, theoretically, Ippolito’s) as being
far less than their poets have claimed.33 The subsequent reference to
Seneca’s ungrateful patron Nero (OF 35.26), besides supporting Quint’s
interpretation, suggests a parallel with Ippolito’s situation in posterity;
they will be remembered as undeserving of the extravagant praise of their
poets, since neither one “gli scrittor sapea tenersi amici.” And perhaps
the shade of Ippolito would agree with Lidia that even infamy is better
than obscurity.
St. John’s speech about literature is one of the most problematic pas-
sages in the poem, giving rise to debates as to how seriously one should
take it. The saint’s inculpation of writers, including himself, casts doubt
on the trustworthiness and authority of all texts, putting even the Bible
on the level of fiction. As various critics have written, this does not neces-
sarily mean that Scripture is false or that Ariosto believed it to be false.
Santoro exempts St. John from doubt, seeing him as a model of abso-
lutely true poetry projected toward the eternal, in opposition to that po-
etry by and for humans.34 Or, God could have put the truth in the Bible
whether or not his human agents were trustworthy, or the human au-
thors could have written it in good faith no matter what Ariosto’s charac-
ter said. Ariosto implicated his own poem in the charge of lying, so the
reader cannot trust him as an absolute authority either. Ariosto (and St.
John too; see the “saggio riso” in OF 35.30) knew that readers would not
simply follow the saint’s advice to believe the opposite of everything ever
written; all texts cannot possibly be lies,35 and the exact opposite of the
truth at that. If even the personification of Fraud can tell the truth (OF
14.88– 90), then there is still hope for literature. Ariosto’s goal was more
likely to encourage the reader to “sift and consider.”36
Religion continues to be non-transcendent even in the otherworldly
realms, sanctioning the equivalence of the divine miraculous with the
mundane magical. Astolfo, despite his elevated status and proper rever-
Ariosto’s Practitioners of Magic 133
ence for the divine, is not primarily concerned with religious matters; he
is content to concentrate on worldly virtue and knightly deeds. His visit to
hell is motivated not by any desire for spiritual enlightenment, but by the
same keen interest in exploration that has brought the knight to Africa in
the first place. The language is the same when he discovers the hippogriff
and later when he decides to see hell and the earthly paradise:

. . . per cercar la terra e il mar, secondo

ch’avea desir, quel ch’a cercar gli resta,
e girar tutto in pochi giorni il mondo,
troppo venìa questo ippogrifo a sesta. (OF 22.26)

Astolfo si pensò d’entrarvi dentro,

e veder quei c’hanno perduto il giorno,
e penetrar la terra fin al centro
e le bolge infernal cercare intorno. (OF 34.5)

Poi monta il volatore, e in aria s’alza

per giunger di quel monte in su la cima,
che non lontan con la superna balza
dal cerchio de la luna esser si stima.
Tanto è il desir che di veder lo ’ncalza,
ch’al cielo aspira, e la terra non stima. (OF 34.48)

No piece of fortune could have made Astolfo happier than this, for the hippogryph
was the very thing for him if he wanted to explore land and sea as he did— those
he had yet to visit— and girdle the earth in a few days.

He decided to go in and look at those who had lost the light of day, and penetrate
to the heart of the place and inspect the ravines of hell.
Then he mounted his flying horse and rose into the air to reach the summit of the
mountain, for it was generally believed that the orb of the moon stood not far
from its highest peak. His urge to explore directed his aspirations heavenwards,
spurning the earth.

The knight lowers Satan and the other infernal beings to the level of evil
magicians and monsters, such as he is accustomed to putting to flight
with one blast of the magic horn (OF 34.5). The garden of the earthly
paradise appeals to the five senses, so much so that Astolfo can excuse
Adam and Eve for tasting the forbidden fruit. Yet it has less moral signifi-
cance than Logistilla’s garden, cultivated with hard work and containing
the gems of self-knowledge.
The moon itself, as Quint has shown, is not the repository of higher
meaning, as it ought to be.37 In order to teach, the significance of the
lunar allegories should be clear to the viewer. However, the allegories of
134 Ariosto’s Practitioners of Magic
the lunar junkpile, based on Alberti’s Somnium,38 would be incompre-
hensible, not only to Astolfo but also to the reader, without the saint’s

But Ariosto’s fiction, as it seems to collapse hierarchical distinction between a

physically identical earth and moon, assigns anteriority to neither the earthly nor
the lunar signs. The two sets of signs are interchangeable— one is the diversa
faccia of the other— and mutually interdependent as well; neither can be read
without the other. The play of reference, where earthly sign A points to lunar sign
B, which merely points back to A, is a closed circle which never opens onto
significance beyond itself. Moreover, the interplay of the two sign systems is de-
monstrably the product of Ariosto’s text; the text, in the person of the Evangelist,
must spell out their relationship.39

The references to Alberti’s Somnium may already have been uninter-

pretable to the contemporary readers of the Furioso, since Alberti’s
Intercoenales were already hard to find at the end of the Quattrocento.40
The second set of lunar allegories is clearer, but ends up questioning the
validity of Scripture rather than encouraging faith.
Once returned to earth, St. John’s instructions are of a completely
practical nature, and Astolfo carries them out not with the sense of a
spiritual mission, but in the same pragmatic atmosphere in which he would
have obeyed Carlo’s commands— or in the same way that Bradamante
follows the sorceress Melissa’s instructions to destroy Atlante’s steel pal-
ace. St. John gives Astolfo the means to work miracles. Yet the miracu-
lous transformation of stones into horses and leaves into ships is no more
marvelous than the construction of a palace from wax and knots. Elijah’s
chariot receives far less attention than the hippogriff. According to St.
John, the hippogriff and the magical horn came to Astolfo from God,
putting them on the same level as the miraculous. The results of some
miracles are lasting, like those of some spells: Prester John’s sight,
Orlando’s sanity, and Oliviero’s health are restored, and Merlin’s encomi-
astic works of art endure through the centuries. But the more dramatic
miracles, the horses and ships, vanish as completely as the magic palaces
when their usefulness is ended. Magical and miraculous captives are both
freed: the hippogriff from its bridle and the south wind from its wineskin.
Miracles lack only the chaotic aspect of magic. The workers of miracles
may be as fallible as sorcerers, but the miracle itself cannot backfire like a
spell. Unlike magic, miracles cannot be countered by outside forces, but
will vanish only when the time is right. Miracles must function in accor-
dance with the decrees of the ultimate authority, which in the Furioso is
not the character God but Ariosto. The Providence which directs the
Ariosto’s Practitioners of Magic 135
multitude of events and characters through so many vicissitudes to the
happy (if impermanent) conclusion ”is a transparent disguise for the poet
who arbitrates its meaning.“41 In his role of Providence, Ariosto, like Astolfo,
makes use of miracles, but does not disdain magical tools when they are

The topos of magic permeates both the Innamorato and the Furioso.
Inherited from the Classical, Arthurian, and popular traditions, magic takes
many forms and serves various purposes in the poems. Boiardo’s fabu-
lous poetic world is completely inconceivable without magic, without en-
chantresses, monsters, and giants to test the heroes at every turn. This
world is rich not only in the “ordinary” magic, such as giants and weap-
ons, but also in magical phenomena which provoke meraviglia, such as
the vividly-described monsters which briefly seize the poet’s attention.
Even in Ariosto’s more rational, Classicizing world, magic is an important
structural component and necessary to the poem’s unity. Magic is one of
the vital threads in the tapestry of the Furioso, as indispensable as women
or horses or knights. Without the shield or the horn the complex plot
would be unraveled as surely as if Angelica were removed.
Magic in the two poems acts as a vehicle for the Renaissance dialectic
between fortuna and virtù. Magic is not all-powerful in the two poems; it
is subject to the vagaries of fortune, and can be overcome by human
efforts, whether intellectual or physical, or by opposing magic. A magical
trial may be won strictly by virtù (e.g. Morgana’s trials of the horn and
Orlando’s killing of the sea monster) or strictly by opposing magic without
need for valor (e.g. Dragontina’s defeat by Angelica’s ring and Ruggiero’s
victory over the sea monster). Boiardo, in the more optimistic early Re-
naissance, tends to emphasize human abilities; the simple fact that he
presents magical trials intended to test a knight’s prowess points to his
faith that human persistence and skill can overcome seemingly overwhelm-
ing adversities. In the Furioso this theme emerges in Orlando’s victories
against the harquebus and the sea monster, and in the need for control in
relation to the hippogriff and other steeds. Yet in both poems it often
requires a combination of factors to achieve victory. The magical Balisarda
is as necessary to Orlando’s destruction of Falerina’s garden as is the
138 Conclusion
anti-magical book, which the knight only possessed due to the lucky chance
of meeting the lady messenger; yet he must wield the sword with skill and
temper the book’s defeatism with his wits before he can complete his
victory. Bradamante needs a certain amount of physical strength to cap-
ture Atlante, but she could never have gotten close enough without the
ring’s anti-magical protection, her own acting ability, and Melissa’s magi-
cally-gained knowledge and advice. In general Ariosto’s characters have
less chance to win through sheer force of character and arms than
Boiardo’s, and more need of supplemental aid, magical or otherwise.
The contrast of magic with virtù derives from magic’s association with
the chaotic, with chance, and with the irrational. As such it is often the
cause of delays in the advancement of the plot toward a conclusion.
In the Innamorato magic artifacts, barring enchanted armaments which
lack overt magical powers, have dispersive and obstructive effects— unless
they have an anti-magical function (such as Merlin’s fountain of disamore,
the ring’s spell-breaking power, the how-to books). Ariosto’s magic arti-
facts tend to follow this precedent, with, however, important exceptions.
The effects of the lance, the shield, and the horn are beneficial to
Providence’s plan. These examples show that it is possible to harness the
chaotic to the service of order. Controlled by Atlante, the shield contrib-
utes to the imprisonment of knights at the steel palace, but used by
Ruggiero, even reluctantly, it furthers the advancement of the plot. If
Ruggiero had determined to keep control and employ it wisely, who knows
what he could have accomplished? Yet the detachment from ordinary life
that Astolfo finds necessary to control magic would have been inappropri-
ate for the founder of the Este dynasty. The lance partakes less of the
chaotic than other magic artifacts, since it conveys a Providential protec-
tion to two privileged characters who in the main use it wisely. The horn,
a gift of Logistilla/Reason, is borne only by the wise Astolfo and used for
God’s purposes. St. John later suggests that Astolfo received it by Divine
will; thus there are good reasons why its effects are helpful. It is a power-
ful image of chaos under control.
Supernatural creatures have the same tendency to obstruct the plot. In
both poems horses carry the theme of the need for control, in order to
curb their natural tendency to run away with their riders. Magical mon-
sters and villains both hinder the knight’s progress and give him a chance
to prove his valor.
It is in this category that the differences between Boiardo and Ariosto
show up most clearly. Even considering nothing else, Boiardo’s super-
natural creatures are vastly more numerous. From magic steeds to marvel-
Conclusion 139
ous bulls, from giants to Orilo, the world of the Innamorato constantly
produces new marvels that briefly take over the character’s, the narrator’s,
and the reader’s attention. While some of them appear in allegorical epi-
sodes, the majority of them have mainly the purpose of the meraviglia
and diletto of the single episode. By contrast, Ariosto’s supernatural crea-
tures are few and most of them were inherited from Boiardo. This does
not preclude his invention of the poetically powerful hippogriff and sea
monster, each of which serves multiple purposes. Ariosto’s magic has a
more intellectual flavor; his world has plenty of practitioners of magic and
objects magically constructed, but lacks the lively magic of Boiardo’s world,
which naturally produces magic in abundance.
In the Innamorato all the practitioners of magic hinder the plot, even
the Christian sorcerer Malagise. By imprisonment or by death or by dis-
placement, the sorcerers delay and distract knights. Ariosto, on the other
hand, presents some sorcerers as powerful forces for order, as well as
those who perform the traditional delaying tactics. Magic, the chaotic,
can be used for good purposes, just as Melissa teaches that deception can
be. However, like the knight with his horse, the sorcerer must practice
control— the control that Logistilla tries to teach Ruggiero, the control
necessary to master oneself and magic. Otherwise the slippery force of
magic will treacherously turn against the sorcerer, as it does for Malagigi.
In Ariosto’s world control may be extremely difficult and rare, but it is
possible, at least for a “lucido intervallo.”
This contrast of order and chaos is not a clear black and white, good
and evil, positive vs. negative opposition for either author. In Boiardo’s
poem the disruptive effect of magic is not seen as strongly negative, since
his march toward an eventual conclusion is much less committed than
Ariosto’s. Duty has less urgency in Boiardo’s world; the adventures that
temporarily distract the characters from their goals are just as important
as the adventures necessary to achieve those goals. Magic is a source of
meraviglia, diletto, and avventura, which help make life worthwhile.
Misura is superior to dismisura, but, as Boiardo’s treatment of the magic
waters shows, rational order is not paramount. The dispersive motifs of
love, adventure, and magic are necessary parts of a life lived fully, as
necessary as duty and reason.
In the Furioso the association of magic with chance and chaos is con-
trasted much more strongly with a positive concept of order, reason,
harmony, Providence. For Ariosto delays are more significant since every-
thing is being orchestrated toward a definite and harmonious conclusion.
Delaying the advancement of the plot is tantamount to wandering from
140 Conclusion
God’s and the poet’s well-defined plan. Still, Ariosto’s ideal is not so
simplistic, static, and oppressive as the complete subjugation of the irra-
tional, but rather a harmony with variety.1 He knows that Alcina cannot
die, that people have a need for quests and risks and the irrational. God
himself decrees that the hippogriff should be freed, because Ariosto knows
that one cannot dictate to one’s fantasy or inspiration, only rein it in.
Privileged moments can be achieved, but only briefly. Despite the tri-
umph of civilization and harmony at the end of the poem, it is clearly only
a “lucido intervallo.” Conflict will return as soon as the Cinque canti.
Ruggiero will be treacherously killed only for the cycle to repeat, when
Bradamante and Marfisa restore a temporary harmony by avenging him,
until eventually the golden age of Cinquecento Ferrara will arrive, only to
be plagued by contemporary “barbari.”

1 Delcorno Branca, Il Romanzo 39; and Pettinelli, L’immaginario 53.
2 L’Orlando 85–86.
3 Stagioni 52.
4 De Rachewiltz 196–97.
5 Compromising 18.
6 48 and 52.
7 Zampese 268.
8 Saccone, “Cloridano” 83.
9 Le fonti dell’Orlando furioso.
10 Rajna, Le fonti 24.
11 Welles 19.
12 Delcorno Branca, Il romanzo 2.
13 Bacchelli 36–37.
14 Davis 102. Also Robinson 118.
15 L’Orlando 271.
16 Scaglione, Knights 265.
17 For example, OI 2.21.37–38.
18 Storia 2: 30. Bellamy agrees (“Alcina’s” 63).
19 Gardner, The King 271; Tomalin, The Fortunes 94. Scaglione points out that
ironic treatment was already a characteristic of preceding chivalric literature; Knights
269. For Zatti, Ariosto’s irony “è uno strumento conoscitivo” (Il Furioso 11).
142 Notes
20 Piromalli, La cultura 80.
21 Griffiths 28.
22 Parker identifies endlessness as an important characteristic of the romance in
Inescapable Romance. Quint agrees: “[A] romance narrative . . . is open-ended
and potentially endless” (“The Boat” 179).
23 Giamatti, Earthly 52– 62. Also di Tommaso, “Boiardo/Ariosto” 84.
24 “Struttura” 282.
25 That he felt such a temptation is shown by the existence of the Cinque canti.
26 Quint, “Figure.”

Chapter One
1 L’ Orlando furioso, ch. 3.
2 L’ Orlando furioso 84. Henri Hauvette sees magic armaments as representing the
character’s superlative strength and endurance (223).
3 Il Furioso 69.
4 Delcorno Branca, L’Orlando furioso 58.
5 Il Furioso 79.
6 Quotations of the Furioso are taken from the Garzanti edition. I use Guido
Waldman’s translation, except where otherwise noted.
7 Curiously, this significant advantage is not seen as unfair.
8 While for the purposes of my analysis I hold to this distinction in terms between
“magic” and “enchanted,” the poets themselves did not. Although they were
aware of the essential difference of the two types of magic weapons, they used
fatato, incantato, and magico as synonyms.
9 My quotations of the Innamorato are taken from the bilingual edition translated
by Ross, which uses the Italian text edited by Aldo Scaglione.
10 According to Antonio Franceschetti, Boiardo adhered for the most part to the
traditional tone because he intended to conform to the tradition, not to reject or
parody it; L’Orlando innamorato 34. Pettinelli believes he used traditional stylistic
and lexical forms because he was most concerned with the smooth flow of the
narration; Immaginario 128.
11 This abandonment causes an interesting concatenation of events in the
Innamorato. When Marfisa again felt the need of armor she took Brandimarte’s,
whereupon he took the armor of the dead Agricane, which was then enchanted
for him by the grateful fay Febosilla.
Notes 143
12 Delcorno Branca, L’Orlando furioso 89.
13 Except those objects which have anti-magical effects, as I will discuss below.
14 Reichenbach, L’Orlando innamorato 18.
15 Delcorno Branca, “Il cavaliere” 356.
16 Admittedly, Ariosto may not always be a trustworthy interpreter of Boiardo. In
“Denying Closure” Cavallo argues that Ariosto begins his plot before the events
in the Innamorato’s Book 3. Franceschetti studies some of Ariosto’s modifica-
tions of Boiardo’s tale in “Il Boiardo”, concluding at one point that Ariosto “non
si fa scrupolo di rovesciare totalmente i valori celebrati nel mondo dell’Innamorato”
17 Following Mario Santoro’s thesis, this is one of the instances where Ariosto rec-
ognizes the homo fortunatus, the man successful solely through the favor of
fortune, in his treatment of the character of Astolfo (Letture 179).
18 In fact, in both poems the treatment of the ring follows the same gender differen-
tial; the spell-breaking power may be used by either gender, but usually for the
benefit of men, while the power of invisibility is used exclusively by women for
their own convenience and safety. See my Chapter 2.
19 179.
20 Almansi 178. Although his article is about Ariosto, he extends his thesis to in-
clude Boiardo on page 192.
21 132– 3.
22 Baldan, “Un orco folklorico” 343. Roger Baillet also speaks of Ariosto’s efforts to
rationalize the material (306– 7).
23 For example, Valeria Finucci, The Lady Vanishes 110; and Mario Santoro,
“L’Angelica del Furioso” 4– 7.
24 112.
25 L’Orlando 61.
26 Boiardo’s 74– 78.
27 Franceschetti, L’Orlando 144; and Saccone, Il ‘soggetto’ 101. Reichenbach,
however, disagrees, seeing the characters as not deeply affected by the magically
inspired emotions, which lack the psychological content of their natural feelings
(L’Orlando 107– 8). For Ponte this magical love or hate is not prepared psycho-
logically (“troppo subitaneo è il mutamento”), and the episode of the waters is an
aesthetic failure; “Le fontane” 390.
28 Translations of the Amorum libri are taken from the bilingual edition translated
by di Tommaso.
144 Notes
29 Cavallo sees this exaltation of love as ironic and as negated by the adventure it
introduces, where Orlando’s success in destroying Falerina’s garden is due to his
resisting seduction attempts (Boiardo’s 17).
30 Other critics have a more pessimistic understanding of Boiardo’s view of love. For
example, Giamatti sees Boiardo’s final attitude as a recognition of the futility of
trying to check human passions, which must in any case exist in order to animate
life (Exile 62). Cavallo’s reading emphasizes the destructive effects of allowing
passion to overcome reason (Boiardo’s 121– 22).
31 Welles 106.
32 “[T]he boat of romance, in its purest form, has no other destination than the
adventure at hand. . . . the boat’s travels describe a romance narrative that is
open-ended and potentially endless.” Quint, “The Boat” 179.
33 Nohrnberg 45.
34 Quint reads Boiardo’s episode as a reference to Cleopatra’s flight from Actium
(Epic 30– 36). Looney argues that Boiardo’s imitation of Vergil is “an occasion for
his own meditation on the generic implications of different narrative structures”
(Compromising 79– 90).
35 In fact, Cavallo sees them as important opportunities for Boiardo to demonstrate
through Ranaldo the superior morality of the Grail knight’s caritas, compared to
the various forms of eros which he encounters (Boiardo’s Ch. 5– 8).
36 Literature and art are of course important topics in the poems. Cavallo sees one
of the major points of the Innamorato as a discussion of “the tenets and possibili-
ties of the humanist idea of character formation through didactic literature”
(Boiardo’s 3). Likewise, Ascoli recognizes that “interpretive reading itself is a, if
not the, theme of the Renaissance and of the Furioso” (44). For studies of liter-
ary/artistic allusions in the Furioso, see Ascoli (especially Ch. 3), Giamatti
“Sfrenatura”, Donato, and Marcus.
37 Indeed, ignoring references to Turpin, Donato remarks that “in every instance
where a book is mentioned in the Orlando Furioso, it is either in a theological
context or in the domain of negative theology of which necromancy partakes.
. . . Not once . . . is the book as book associated with literature in general or
[Ariosto’s] own enterprise in particular” (57– 58).
38 Comparetti details how this medieval concept of the magician’s spell book led,
once Vergil’s reputation as a magician was established, to several legends that
would have the Latin poet learning the black arts from a book (316– 18 and 352–
39 Angelica employs demons explicitly in OI 1.1.51– 53 when she captures Malagise’s
spell book. It is implied that she uses them for speedy and surreptitious depar-
tures in 1.4.12 and 1.5.13. Boiardo does not clarify whether she or Malagise
summons the demon on which she rides to Ranaldo’s rescue in 1.9.10– 22; I
believe it is Malagise, since at this point he has regained his spell book, and it is
his plan that she follows.
Notes 145
40 Rinaldi identifies this book with the Gospel (539).
41 Throughout her book, Boiardo’s, Cavallo points out examples of Orlando’s fail-
ure to read and learn from the warnings provided to him. She sees Ranaldo as an
ideal reader, especially in her Ch. 7.
42 Cavallo, Boiardo’s 91. Franceschetti, however, argues against any transcendant
symbolism for the lady messenger, who is an element of the poem’s “dimensione
fiabesca e favolosa, magica ed incantata” (“L’allegoria” 181).
43 While I differ with Cavallo about some details, I agree with and am indebted to
her description of Orlando’s pattern of irregular progress in Boiardo’s Ch. 9– 13,
especially pp. 108– 13.

Chapter Two

1 Exile 52– 62.

2 Interestingly, in light of Giamatti’s thesis, just before the horse ran away with her,
Bradiamante had, in an extremely courteous manner, given control of herself to
Fiordespina (“il corpo insieme e l’anima vi dono”; OI 3.9.12; “My body and my
soul are yours”).

3 Exile 62. For Boiardo’s attitude toward closure, see also di Tommaso, “Boiardo/

4 For the allegorical meanings of Falerina’s garden and its inhabitants, see Michael
Murrin, Allegorical Ch. 3; and Cavallo, Boiardo’s Ch. 10.

5 Stagioni 52.

6 L’Orlando 212.

7 Mazzotta 163– 64 and 284– 85.

8 Boiardo’s 65.

9 Haddad, “Ovid’s Medusa” 216– 17.

10 I find unlikely Cavallo’s assertion that Atalante created the stream (Boiardo’s
123). There is no need for such a hypothesis, when similar magical marvels per-
vade the world of the Innamorato. It seems more probable that Atalante merely
lured Orlando to a pre-existing danger. Presumably the Naiads lived in the stream
since the days of ancient Greece.

11 DeSanctis, La poesia cavalleresca 72; and Hutchinson iii.

12 Scaglione, Knights 265.

13 Cinque canti 1.24– 25.

14 Murrin points to Falerina’s connection with snakes as support for her being a fay
(Allegorical 64).
146 Notes
15 Allegorical 57.
16 Boccassini interprets this magical alienation as analogous to that caused by love
(38– 46).
17 “Angelica” 21.
18 Boiardo’s 42– 9.
19 See Davis 96 regarding forgetfulness in the Riviera del Riso episode.
20 For allegorical interpretations of Falerina, see Murrin, Allegorical Ch. 3 and
Cavallo, Boiardo’s Ch. 10. Sherberg sees her as a figure of fortune, since Or-
lando grabs her by the hair in OI 2.4.28 (“Promotion” 233).
21 Murrin, Allegorical 83– 84.
22 Matteo 147– 48.
23 Cavallo sees the enchantress’s change of heart as sincere, in keeping with the
episode’s Christian symbolism (95); and she sees the converted Falerina as a
counterpoint to the deceitful Origille (97).
24 Cavallo believes it was a love triangle, with Arïante betraying Falerina for Origille
25 This lie, which I treat as her last, is presented in two parts. The first part, her
claim to have created the tribute tower (OI 2.5.18), occurs before her other two
untruths, while the second part elaborating on the tower’s significance comes
afterward. Thus this crucial lie frames the other two. She has a plan for her
argument, but in her agitation goes off on tangents.
26 Is Orlando truly deceived by Falerina? Two points in the text suggest that he may
have seen through the enchantress’s duplicity. Both of these points occur when
Falerina is warning Orlando about the formidable Aridano. First, in OI 2.7.48
Orlando smiles in reaction to Falerina’s statement that there is no hope for the
two of them once Aridano spots them. This smile may be one of smug self-
confidence, or it could be a knowing smile caused by Falerina’s overacting. Two
octaves later Orlando acquiesces to Falerina’s urging that they leave before en-
countering Aridano, an act uncharacteristic of one of Boiardo’s adventurous knights.
Is Orlando playing cat and mouse with Falerina? Such a supposition is wildly at
odds with the commonly held critical view of Boiardo’s Orlando as far from intro-
spective and easily fooled by women. Nevertheless it would tie in with Cavallo’s
argument that Orlando learned to follow Reason in Falerina’s garden and applies
this new understanding in Morgana’s realm (Boiardo’s Ch. 10– 11).
27 See Ross, “Angelica” and Cavallo, Boiardo’s Ch. 11 for allegorical interpreta-
tions of the episode.
28 Boiardo’s 103.
29 Cavallo, Boiardo’s 108– 12.
Notes 147
30 Previously Malagigi had been a more privileged character. Pasotti traces the
character’s decline from his high point in the medieval cantari through his humili-
ations in the ’500.
31 43.

Chapter Three
1 Marinelli, Ariosto and Boiardo 39.
2 For doubts about Bradamante’s war skills, see Tomalin, “Bradamante”; Feinstein,
“Bradamante” 51; and Finucci, The Lady Vanishes 236. For the opposite opin-
ion, see Robinson 170.
3 Note how, stylistically, this octave reflects its content. The four lines about Marfisa
have a choppy rhythm, due to the three caesuras and the strong final accents of
the three verbs (cacciò, scontrò, spezzò). Harsh consonant sounds prevail. The
lines about Bradamante flow much more smoothly and sound much gentler.
4 See, for example, Pampaloni, “La guerra” especially pp. 633– 35.
5 Momigliano 26. See also Giamatti, The Earthly Paradise 151– 155; and Lazzaro-
Ferri 48– 49.
6 See for example Brand, Ludovico Ariosto 100– 101; Wiggins, Figures 151– 53;
and Giamatti, The Earthly Paradise 151.
7 For chivalric strictures being used against knights, see Francesco Masciandaro.
For this particular case, see Giamatti, The Earthly Paradise 151.
8 Here I am indebted to Wiggins, especially Figures Ch. 4.
9 See Ascoli’s Ch. 3 for a thorough discussion of the Alcina and Logistilla episode
as educational, and for a suggestion of why Ruggiero fails to apply his new
10 Reynolds’s translation.
11 Craig 25.
12 Santoro, Letture 188.
13 Wiggins, Figures 152.
14 Baillet 517.
15 Lazzaro 116.
16 26.
17 Bacchelli 588.
18 224.
148 Notes
19 Pool 53.
20 39.
21 Delcorno Branca finds that these bitter observations about the present do not
cancel out but rather accentuate the symbolic value of Orlando’s magnanimous
gesture (“Cavaliere” 381– 2).
22 Delcorno Branca, Orlando 103.
23 Henderson 125.
24 Baillet 376.
25 Chesney 42.
26 Orlando 94– 103.
27 Pettinelli, L’immaginario 45– 46.
28 Zatti puts this in terms of an unresolved conflict of the ideal and the real. Ariosto
celebrates chivalric values— in their defeat; and he recognizes the usefulness of
pragmatism— but treats it ironically (104– 5).
29 17– 21.
30 Baillet 480.
31 Javitch, “Rescuing” 92.
32 Ascoli believes the lessons were inadequate (201– 2). Marinelli attributes it to
Ruggiero’s lack of Christian religious instruction in Ariosto 144. Peter DeSa Wiggins
believes that Ariosto has encouraged the readers’ illusion that wisdom can control
desire and now bursts the bubble: “A young man’s wisdom is no match for a
pretty girl in the nude”; Satires xxviii.
33 Finucci, The Lady Vanishes 120.
34 Finucci, The Lady Vanishes 16.
35 17.
36 A desire which, it has been pointed out, for Ariosto’s Rinaldo is not overwhelm-
ing; Wiggins, Figures 36.
37 Betti, “Annotazioni” 343.
38 Turchi 1142.
39 In comical contrast to Dante, at the end of the episode Rinaldo remains uncertain
whether the figure of Disdain was a demon sent by Malagigi to help him, or an
angel sent by God. For more about this episode’s relation to Dante, see Johnson-
Haddad, “The Writer” 16– 21.
40 De Sanctis, Poesia 104. Marsh, too, sees Sdegno as an external sign of Rinaldo’s
own spiritual healing (“Ruggiero” 148).
Notes 149
41 Fonti 573– 75. This is not Ariosto’s only source, however; Martinez points out
Biblical references in the passage (99).
42 “La prova” 13.
43 Santoro, “Prova” 11.
44 Figures 36.
45 Figures 35. Martinez too finds that “Rinaldo’s refusal of the cup looks more and
more like a failure to acknowledge the extent of human fallibility: not so much
that of Clarice, as his own” (109).
46 Il Furioso 55– 58.
47 Pettinelli, L’Immaginario 30.
48 A conclusion shared by Martinez: in the judge’s tale Ariosto “demolishes expecta-
tions of perfectibility and offers a model for the restoration of the spousal bond
based on acknowledged mutual fallibility” (88).
49 Croce 34.
50 Santoro, Letture 132.
51 Santoro, Letture Ch. 4. While I agree that Astolfo is favored by fortune in the
Furioso (as well as in the Innamorato) I find that he is not completely lacking in
virtù; he does use his wits and make plans, as well as rely on luck.
52 311.
53 Baillet 311.
54 Delcorno Branca, Il romanzo 11.
55 237.
56 Zampese 238.
57 About one twelfth of it, according to Baillet 31. See his pp. 29– 34 for a math-
ematical breakdown of the poem by subjects.
58 Gardner called the “adulation . . . a blot upon the beauty of the poem and upon
the character of the author” in The King 287. Lee resents “his admirable rhetori-
cal flourishes about his patrons . . . they ring false, dreadfully false and studied”
(2: 104). Brand admits that they leave the modern reader cold, but argues in
Ludovico 114 that their classical allusions pleased the Cinquecento audience.
Robinson distinguishes between encomia of the Este in general, which are well
integrated into the narrative, and encomia of individuals, which are sycophantic,
bathetic, and fatuous (132– 33).
59 Farrell in her Ch. 4 finds that he subtly sabotages the overt praise textually and
with irony. Croce believed they were serious celebrations with a vein of joking
(38). Mario Marti sees them as not hypocritical, though not always successful (1:
344). According to Fichter, the idealized portrait of the Este was not necessarily
150 Notes
subverted by irony (88). Brand asserts that the encomia are not ironic, because
Ariosto was a loyal subject and could not risk offending even if he wanted to
(Ludovico 151). Padoan finds insincere the praise of Carlo V and Spain in par-
ticular (28).
60 Johnson-Haddad, “Writer” 58.
61 Welles 122. She referred this interpretation to the avarice fountain, but since the
monster is slain it seems to me that the knights would not find it an unhappy story
in any case.
62 123.
63 Farrell 116.
64 Griffin 74.
65 Through ironic language (Farrell 121) and through overstatement (Fichter 105).
66 Fichter 105.
67 391.
68 122.
69 124.
70 L’Orlando 100.
71 12.

Chapter Four
1 “Angelica’s Flight” 5.
2 202.

3 Baldan 343.

4 Ariosto 163.

5 Exile 63.

6 Farrell 73; Wise 44; Hauvette 237; and Welles 136.

7 Almansi 178.

8 Almansi 179.

9 Note how the polysyndeton contributes to the sense of excitement.

10 Almansi 179.
11 For example, Chesney 90. When insisting on the hippogriff’s reality, Ariosto uses
the style of the discredited medieval minstrels (Zatti, Il Furioso 189).
Notes 151
12 Reynolds’s translation.
13 For the significance of the solar circle, see Ascoli 85– 98.
14 Although my interpretation is different from hers, for my analysis of the poet’s
sabotage of Ruggiero’s journey I am indebted to Wise 47.
15 For the difficulty of concluding a romance, see Parker, Inescapable Romance
34– 36; and Quint, “Figure” 87.
16 Giamatti, Exile 142– 44.
17 Balducci 318.
18 The preceding interpretations are those of Lanfranco Caretti, in his “Commento
dell’Orlando furioso” in Ariosto, Opere minori 874.
19 Turchi 134.
20 Turchi 135.
21 Chesney 69.
22 Egan reads Boiardo’s Orilo as a humorous refutation of Pico della Mirandola’s
unrealistic philosophy.
23 Baldan 343– 47.
24 Baldan (348– 50) shows that even the introduction of the ogre’s wife is not a pure
victory of the popular tradition over the Classical.

Chapter Five
1 Kennedy 67.
2 Yarnall points out that this traditional reading of Circe as passion/lust overcom-
ing the hero’s reason depends on a serious misreading of Homer’s tale, starting
with the Odyssey’s earliest allegorizers (Ch. 3– 5).
3 See Momigliano 26– 31; Lazzaro 62– 65; Lazzaro-Ferri 48– 49; and Pool 37.
4 Giamatti, Earthly 147.
5 Lazzaro-Ferri 49– 50; and Momigliano 27.
6 McLucas 44.
7 Momigliano 38.
8 Farrell 36. Giamatti agrees that: “Its danger lay not in what it did to you, but in
what it allowed you to do to yourself” (Earthly 164).
9 Molinaro 265.
10 Donato 47.
152 Notes
11 Giamatti, Earthly 155.
12 Quint, “Epic” 19.
13 See Marinelli, Ariosto 145; and Quint, “Epic” 18 for interpretations of the three
14 Welles 170.
15 The term is from Wiggins, Figures 150.
16 Hutchinson 27.
17 Martinez 110.
18 Reynolds’s translation.
19 Donato 47. Quint in “Figure” sees it as a representation not of the Furioso but of
the Innamorato.
20 De Sanctis, Poesia 123.
21 Melissa does at one point predict to Bradamante that Ruggiero will be murdered,
though not at what age, and will later be avenged by his son (OF 3.24).
22 Reynolds 2: 19.
23 Pool 80.
24 Greene 121; and Haddad, “Writer” 113– 14.
25 Momigliano 306.
26 Baillet 320.
27 De Sanctis, Poesia 104.
28 Almansi 179.
29 Farrell 88– 89.
30 Quint, “Astolfo’s” 404– 06.
31 Quotations from the Satire are taken from the bilingual edition translated by
32 It seems relevant also that the sin for which Ariosto puts the damned in hell is
ingratitude, although the emphasis is placed on ingratitude in love. Ingratitude is
also pointed out by the motto of the poem, “Pro bono malum”, and the accompa-
nying picture of the ungrateful peasant.
33 Quint, “Astolfo’s” 403.
34 L’anello, 131.
35 Unless, as Wiggins proposes, Ariosto intends to say that no one can represent
reality completely accurately (Figures 157). Carroll criticizes St. John’s overly
Notes 153
literal interpretation, and vindicates the verifiability of historical truth, as op-
posed to fictional tales, through judicious comparison of texts (190– 94).
36 Durling 149. Although I agree with him on this point, I am not so sure that
Ariosto did not doubt the Bible. The text does not make clear Ariosto’s true beliefs
on this point.
37 Quint, “Astolfo’s” 398.
38 Martelli 163– 70.
39 Quint, “Astolfo’s” 400.
40 Martelli 169.
41 Quint, “Astolfo’s” 407. See also Durling 130; Marinelli, Ariosto 198; and Marinelli,
“Redemptive” 505– 26.

1 Carroll discusses this unity in multiplicity as a Stoic conception of the cosmos,
especially in her Chapters One and Two.

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A Ardena, forest of, 38

adventure, function of magic, 52 Argalia
Agramante, king, 21, 127 magic golden lance, 15, 19
Agricane, king of Tartars, 17 magic helmet, 11, 19
Alberti’s Somnium, 134 magic ring, 20
Albraca, siege of, 17, 20, 33 Aridano (giant), 33, 45, 46
Alcina (fay), 41, 48, 55, 69, 95, 96, Ariosto, Ludovico
105–110 Bible, view of, 132, 153n.36
island of, 60, 67, 100, 105–106, creative control and hippogriff, 98
116 encomium, use of, 82, 86, 87
Alessandreta, use of magic horn on, ecphrastic description, 84
77, 78 at Este court, 1, 3, 4
allegorical monsters, 100–101 fame, view of, 130–131
allegory, magic as, 5 guns, condemnation/praise of,
Almansi, Guido, 19, 128 66, 67
Amore, god of love, 24 jealousy, condemnation of, 75
amore, river of, 23, 24, 28 magical creatures, use of, 34–35,
Angelica 139
and Baiardo, 90 magical weapons, use of, 59, 67
character of, 22–23 and moderation, 77
and Circe, 42 Olympians, use of, 102
Falerina’s tower, escape from, 45 plot advancement, 130–140
and magic ring, 13, 20, 21–23, rational order, 26, 70, 112
42, 49, 69, 70, 72 reactive Angelica, 22
and Malagise, 22, 28, 48, 49 armaments, 7–11
Ranaldo, enamored of, 23, 24, 28 Arthurian tradition, 2, 3, 26, 124,
and Rinaldo, 73 137
anti-magic artillery, and Estes, 67
books, 27, 30 Ascoli, Albert Russell, 86
Logistilla’s how-to-book, 81, 82 Astolfo (duke of England), 97, 101,
magic ring, 12, 19–23, 42, 49, 102, 103, 106, 110
52–53, 72, 138 Alcina’s garden, 106
appearance, in Alcina’s paradise, 109 Logistilla’s student, 112, 130
184 Index
magic horn, 77– 78 Brandimarte (knight), 17, 31, 40, 42,
magic lance, 7, 11, 12, 14– 18, 49, 82, 83, 87
55– 56, 67, 68 bridle, for hippogriff, 96, 98
voyages of, 130– 135 Brigliadoro, Orlando’s non-magical
astrology, 2 horse, 89
Atalante (sorcerer, Orlando Brunello, 21
innamorato), 38, 51, 114 Bruscagli, Riccardo, 1, 36
and demons, 27 Bucephalus, Alexander’s horse, 35
fortress, 21
Atlante (sorcerer, Orlando furioso), C
52, 56, 113– 117 Calandria (il Bibbiena), 68, 72
and hippogriff, 95, 96 Caligorante, 101, 102, 119
and magic shield, 59 Calvino, Italo, 66
spell book, 80 cannon, 66, 67
avarice fountain, Merlin’s, 83, 123 caritas, Ranaldo, 144n.35
Carolingian tradition, 2, 3, 35, 124,
B 137
Bacchelli, Riccardo, 65 Cassandra, weaver of wedding
Baiardo, Rinaldo’s magical horse, 16, canopy, 86
33, 34, 89, 90, 123 “cavallier perfetto,” Orlando as, 31,
Baillet, Roger, 64, 81 32
Baldan, Paolo, 103 Cavallo, Jo Ann, 37, 47
Balisarda (magic sword), 11, 12– 13, chaotic force
14, 44, 65 and chance, 138
Balisardo (giant/sorcerer), 50 horses as, 98
Beelzebub, and invention of cannon, Charlemagne, 2, 22, 121
66 Chiampi, James, 89
blind ogre, 103 chivalry
Boccassini, Daniela, 52 and control, 98, 137
Boiardo, Matteo Maria ideals/values, court of Ferrara, 3,
Angelica, enterprising, 22 4
and duty, 139 lance, use of, 56, 59, 67
encomium, use of, 82, 86– 87 use of against the chivalrous, 62
at Este court, 1, 3, 4 Circe
fays, introduction of into Italian and Alcina, 105
epic, 41 and Angelica, 42
magical creatures, use of, 34– 35, transformation, 52
138– 139 classical harmony, rule of, 4
passion tempered by reason, 25 Classical tradition, 1, 36, 112– 113,
Bradamante (lady knight and ances- 137
tress), 62, 69 condemnation, tradition of, 11
foremother of Estes, 56, 84, 87 cortesia, 15
magic lance, jousts with, 57, 58, Craig, Cynthia, C., 63
67 creativity, hippogriff’s bit, 98
magic ring, use of, 68, 71, 77 Crudel Rocca, 26, 29, 30, 34, 49
and Melissa, 117– 120 Cumaean Sybil’s pavilion, 83
Index 185
D garden of, 13, 22, 30, 32, 35, 40,
Dante, 74 41, 145n.4, 43
deceit, use of against evil, 61, 118– golden-scaled ass, 36
119 false Elysia, 41
De hominis dignitate, 3 fame, Aristo’s view of, 130– 131
d’Este, Ippolito, Cardinal, 4, 86, 130, Farrell, Mary MacLennan, 84– 85, 92,
131 131
Delcorno Branca, Daniela, 7, 8, 67 Fata del Tesoro, 31, 41, 46
demons, 27, 28, 124 fatati, hero, 8
De Sanctis, Francesco, 4 fatato, weapons, 8, 142n.8
diletto, 11 fays, 41– 48, 105– 113
Di Pino, Guido, 21 and spell books, 27
disamore, fountain of, 2, 23, 24, 53, Febosilla (fay), 48
73, 117, 122, 138 loggia of, 82
Discord, personification, 125, 126 fede, chivalric ideal, 4
Disdain, personification, 26, 74, 122 félonie, 11
dismisura, villainous property, 37 Feraguto, 29
disorganicità formale, 4 Ferrara, 126
distraction, function of magic, 52 as a signoria, 3
distrust, and marital discord, 76 linked with Charlemagne’s Paris,
Doralice, horse of, 120– 121 86
Dovizi, Bernardo (il Bibbiena), 68 Fichter, Andrew, 86
dragon, Falerina’s, 43 Finucci, Valeria, 22
Dragontina (fay), 37, 41, 42 Fiordelisa (lady), 32, 40, 49, 82, 83,
garden/palace of, 20, 21 87
Duke Aigualdo, Christian giant, 36 flying horse. See hippogriff
Durindana, Orlando’s sword, 8– 9, foreknowledge, 127– 128
10, 16, 92 forgetfulness
in Dragontina’s garden, 37, 41
E of Naiads’ captives, 38– 39
Ebuda, Proteus’ revenge against, 98 fortuna, 137
enchanted (“fatato”) weapons, 8 fortune, magic ring as, 70– 71
encomium, 82, 83, 149n.58, 123, Franceschetti, Antonio, 4, 142n.10,
131 36
Erifilla (Avarice), 100, 101, 107 fraud (deceit), use of against evil, 61,
Estes. See also d’Este, Ippolito, 118– 119
Cardinal Fraud, personification, 125
court of, 3, 4 Frontino, Ruggiero’s horse, 33, 89
encomiums to, 82, 149– 150n.59,
131 G
praise by Atlante, 114 Galafrone (Saracen king), 22
father of Angelica, 48
F gifts to son Argalia, 15, 19– 20
Falerina (fay) Garamanta, king of, 21
change of heart, 44, 46 garland crowns, anti-magic of, 40
creator of Balisarda, 12 Giamatti, A. Barlett, 33, 34, 92, 98, 106
186 Index
giants, 36– 37, 101 invisibility, and gender, 19, 143n.18,
giraffe, 34 68, 72
God, appearance in poem, 125, 126 irony, chivalric literature, 4, 141n.19
Gradasso (Saracen), 16, 17, 29, 40, Isole Lontane, 46
armor, 10 J
and Baiardo, 92 Jealousy, personification, 74, 122
as giant, 36 judge’s tale, and perfectibility, 76,
healing of, 35 149n.48
and hippogriff, 95
Grandonio (Saracen), duel with L
Astolfo, 16 lady messenger’s book for Falerina’s
Grifone and Aquilante (twin knights), garden, 30, 32, 40
42, 43, 48, 102, 112 lance, magic golden, 17– 18, 55– 59,
guns, condemnation of, 66, 67 67, 138
landscape, and character’s state of
H mind, 73
Haauvette, Henri, 65, 92 Larivaille, Paul, 86
harpies, 101 last resort, Ruggiero’s use of magic
harquebus (cannon), 12, 65 shield, 62
Hector, armor, 10, 11, 35, 65 Lazzaro, Nancy Lee, 64
hell, Astolfo’s visit to, 133 Lestrigioni, the, 34, 36
helmet, Orlando’s, 8, 11 Lipadusa, 128
hermetic thought, and sorcerers, 113 literature, St. John’s speech about,
Hermeticism, 2, 3 132
hermit Logistilla (good fay of reason), 55,
holy man, 127– 130 60, 62, 96, 97, 103, 110–
minor sorcerer, 123– 124 112
spells of, 79 garden of, 112– 111
“high” magic, 2 love, possessive nature of, 39
hippogriff (flying horse), 34, 35, 55, “low” magic, 2
56, 59, 65, 69, 70, 111 Lucina, and blind ogre, 103
Astolfo’s ride, 130 lust, own punishment, 108
description of, 94
Ruggiero’s ride, 92– 98 M
Homer, magic in, 1 magic
homo fortunatus, Astolfo as, 78, and miracles, 134– 135
149n. 51, 116 structural purposes, 5
horses, enchanted, 33– 34, 89– 98 use of against dishonorable
how-to-books, guides for knights, 26, enemies, 61
27, 30, 79, 138 magic books, 26– 32, 79– 82
magic goblet, 74– 77
I magic horn, 67, 77– 79, 101
impossible absolute, 76 magic ring, 13, 19– 23, 42, 49, 52–
“infedelissimo,” Boiardo’s sources, 1 53, 68, 108
infidelity, and magic goblet, 75, 76, 84 magic swords, 8
Index 187
magic waters, 23– 26, 72– 74 N
Malagigi (sorcerer Orlando furioso), Naiads, 38, 39, 40, 95
79– 80, 84, 85, 92 narrator
ineptness of, 120– 124 support of magic use, 62
Malagise (sorcerer Orlando sympathy for Alcina, 109
innamorato), 21, 26 Negromante, 3
and Angelica, 22, 28, 48, 49, 69 Nimrod, 9, 35, 36
spell book of, 27, 28, 29, 30 Norandino, and blind ogre, 103
Mandricardo’s armor, 10, 11
Manto, 112– 113 O
Mantuan knight, 75, 76, 120 Orgagna, Falerina’s garden, 13, 22
Marbalusto, king of Oran, 101 Orlando
Marfisa, (Ruggiero’s twin), 21, 56, 58 Astolfo, attack on, 17, 42
joust with Bradamante, 57 in Dragontina’s garden, 20, 41
Marganorre, misrule of, 58 in Falerina’s garden, 43
Marinelli, Peter V., 92 and guns, 66
McLucas, John C., 107 and Morgana’s trials, 31, 32
Medoro, Angelica’s love for, 72 as reader, 31, 145n.41, 32
Medusa, 37, 38 in the Riviera del Riso, 38
Melissa (sorceress), 56, 60, 62, 68, and sea monster, 99
69, 76, 78, 96, 108, 110 Orlando/Rinaldo rivalry, 79
anti-spell book, 80, 81 Orlando/Rugiero duel, 13– 14
influence of Merlin on, 117 Orlando furioso
and marriage of Ruggiero and magic waters in, 72
Bradamante, 118– 120 openendedness of, 4, 142n.22
meraviglia, 11 supernatural creatures in, 35
Merlin, 2, 52, 84, 117– 120 Orlando innamorato
fountain of, 23, 24, 73, 83, 117, magic waters in, 72
138 openendedness of, 4, 142n.22
Michael, archangel, 125 supernatural creatures in, 34– 35
miracles and magic, 134– 135 Orrilo, 77, 81, 101, 102, 112
miracle-workers, 124– 125
mirrored walls, of Logistilla’s garden, P–Q
112 palace of illusions, 116
Momigliano, Attilio, 108 Angelica’s use of magic ring in, 71
monsters, 34– 36, 100– 101 Astolfo’s use of magic horn in, 77,
moon, Astolfo’s voyage to, 130 78– 79
morality, of magic, 11– 14 Palazzo Zoioso, 26, 29
Morgan le Fay, 75, 76 palmer’s book for the Sphinx, 30, 31
Morgana (fay), 41, 46, 47, 48, 110 Paris
test, 31, 35 siege of, 29
trials, 30, 31, 32 tourney, 16, 17
Morgana/Ventura, 47, 105 passion, triumph over reason, 105,
Murrin, Michael, 41 151n.2
myrtle tree, Astolfo’s transformation, Pegasus, hippogriff’s links to, 92
106 petrification, mad love and, 37
188 Index
Pico della Mirandola, Giovanni, 3 Ruggiero (knight and ancestor,
pilotless boat, 26 Orlando furioso), 7, 43,
Pinabello, 92, 93 55, 69
plot advancement, and magic, 5 and Alcina, 105– 110
Polyphemus, 103 armor of, 10
Pool, Franco, 65 Atlante, raised by, 113
Prasildo, and Medusa, 37 Bradamante’s preference for, 56
Prester John, 130, 134 and Bradamante’s wedding
“prophetic” work of art, 82 pavilion, 86
Proteus, 98 conversion to Christianity, 126–
psychological motivation, magic as, 5 130
punctilio, 64 destiny, knowledge of, 107, 119
Quint, David, 131, 132, 133– 134 Este ancestor, 65, 72, 87
and hippogriff, 95, 97
R magic ring, use of, 69, 95
Rabicano, magical horse, 34, 89, 92, and magic shield, 59, 60– 65, 99,
96 107
radicali destrutturazioni, 36 and monsters of Alcina’s island, 100
Rajna, Pio, 2, 75 Rugiero (knight and ancestor,
Ranaldo (Orlando innamorato) 2, 7, Orlando innamorato), 10,
12, 22, 26, 32, 46 14, 20, 33, 34, 36, 40, 41,
anti-eros tradition Grail quests, 69
23, 144n.35 Atalante’s paternal love for, 51,
enamored of Angelica, 24 52, 114
and Malagise, 48 Balisarda, using, 11, 13
rape, Angelica’s narrow escapes Este ancestor, 21– 22
from, 69
reason S
in Logistilla’s garden, 110– 111 santissimo eremita, 127– 130
and magic, 5 Santoro, Mario, 64, 75
Reichenbach, Giulio, 1, 44, 86 Scarapino, demon, 29
Ricciardetto, Bradamante’s twin, 56, sea monster
64 description of, 99
Rinaldo (Orlando furioso), Lord of Ruggiero’s battle against, 62
Montalbano, 8, 11, 26, 41, self-discipline, and control of
87, 122 hippogriff, 96– 97
and Baiardo, 89– 90 Seneca, praise of Nero, 131, 132
and Merlin’s fountain, 73, 74 shape-shifting, 51
Rinaldo/Gradasso, duel, 91 shield, magic, 12, 59, 67, 107
Riviera del Riso, 37, 38, 52, 95. See Silence, personification, 125
also Naiads Silvanella (fay), 48
flying horse of, 34, 40. See also sorcerers, 48– 53, 113– 124
hippogriff and spell books, 27
rocca di Tristano, paintings, 83, 84 spell books, 26, 27, 30, 79
Rodamonte, king of Sarza, 29, 36 spell-breaking, 72. See also anti-
armor of, 9– 10 magic
Index 189
Sphinx, physical description of, 36 V
St. John, 79, 85, 131, 132, 134, villains, 101– 103
138 virtù, 14, 65, 137
stasis, in fay’s gardens, 41. See also magic as test of, 5
petrification overcoming shape-shifting, 51
statues, palace of Mantuan knight, as persistence, 47
84, 85– 86 vision, hippogriff, 97
steel palace, Atlante’s, 68, 69, 80, Viviano, Malagigi’s brother, 120
95, 110, 115– 116 Vulcan’s net, 101– 102
storm, in Ruggiero’s conversion, 127
T warhorse, characteristics of, 89
trial of the horn, 31 wealth, Morgana as, 31, 41, 46
tribute tower, Falerina’s 45 Welles, Elisabeth Bassett, 111
Tristan, 2, 23, 24 Wiggins, Peter De Sa, 75
Turpin, 91, 92
U Zambardo (giant), 34
Uggieri il danese, Christian giant, Zampese, Cristina, 2, 83
36– 37 Zatti, Sergio, 8, 141n.19, 75
unicorns, 34, 100,107 Zilïante, 47, 48, 50

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