Orlando Furioso, Canto XVIII
This canto’s a long one full of death and mayhem. Or more death and mayhem. There’s been plenty to go around. What makes this canto different is that we are hopping from one violent adventure to another. Rodomonte kills a bunch of people. Grifone kills a bunch of people. Astolfo kills a bunch of people. Zerbino kills a bunch of people. Darindildo (not his real name) kills a bunch of people. Etc. Some new people show up who seem a bit more like actual characters than names on a list.
To start we get some more monarchist boot-licking from Ariosto. A lot of “Magnanimous Signor…” and all that. His point being only bad monarchs jump to conclusions without making thorough investigations, which is exactly what King Norandino did and now he’s pissed off Grifone and the heads of his people are getting lopped off and their brains bashed in. It’s gory with heads being cloven down to the teeth, limbs hewed hither thither, and people being chopped in twain. Grifone’s killed everyone who’s come at him and now holds a defensive position on a bridge. The king approaches to see who this knight is, but enough of that let’s leave Damascus and go back to Paris where Charlemagne’s cornered Rodomonte.
Charlemagne’s whole crew attacks Rodomonte but he shrugs it all off since he’s in his dragon armor. More heads get severed (goodbye Hugh of Dordogne), Rodomonte wades through corpses, reaches a wall, and leaps over it into the Seine. He swims ashore and thinks of redoubling his attack, but who does he see? A dwarf, come to him bearing a message (and carrying Discord with him.) This dwarf tells him that Doralice has been “abducted” by Mandricardo. Rodomonte’s anger shifts away from the Christian army and he demands the dwarf take him to Doralice. And away they go.
Meanwhile, back inside Paris, Charlemagne’s rallied the troops and it’s time to counterattack. More names! Falsiron, Serpentino, Balugante! More limb loppery!
The biggest part of this bit besides all the killing is Darindildo, I mean Dardinello. He’s a new guy, one of the Saracens, and a courageous knight. He kills Lurcanio. Remember him? He was the guy back in England who accused that damsel of cheating and driving poor prince Ariodante insane (way back in cantos V and VI) until Rinaldo showed up and set things straight. Well, Darindello kills him, and then Rinaldo makes to kill Darindello. (The two having to cleave through the massed soldiers to fight each other.)
This all gets important later, but for now it’s back to Damascus!
Grifone’s killed a bunch of people but now he’s trapped on the bridge. Norandino eventually parlays with him and it’s a lot of chivalrous nonsense about honorable foes and all that. But he admits his mistake in thinking Grifone a base coward, and really he had to kill every one he killed, because it’s the only way to repay the insults he suffered. Such is the reasoning of kings. He offers Grifone half his kingdom and the two put aside their differences. Norandino invites Grifone back to the palace where they set about feasting. (Orrigille and Martano having high-tailed it as soon as Grifone returned.)
But enough about them… let’s go to Jerusalem and see what’s happening there!
Aquilante’s discovered Grifone’s disappearance and very quickly realizes the cause of it. He sets off in pursuit and comes upon Martano wearing Grifone’s armor. At first Aquilante thinks it’s his brother and goes to embrace him, but soon realizes that this isn’t his brother, it’s that boy-toy miscreant Martano. Martano and Orrigille make to flee, but get caught and brought back to Damascus for punishment. There’s a warm reunion between Aquilante and Grifone then they and Norandino talk of what to do with Martano and Orrigille. Aquilante and Norandino favor torture before execution. Grifone pleads for mercy. The others relent. Martano gets publicly flogged and Orrigille locked away in prison. That done, Norandino suggests they throw another tournament with some awesome weapons (a sword and a mace) he found as a prize.
Word of the tournament reaches Jerusalem, so Sansonetto and Astolfo depart for Damascus. On the road they meet Marfisa. She’s a lady knight and Saracen, but she’s pals with them and joins their party because she’s heading to Damascus too. We learn a bit about her prowess: strong enough to make Orlando sweat, and that she was robbed of her weapons by the dwarf Brunello offscreen sometime ago. So of course when they reach Damascus, it’s her weapons Norandino’s offering as a prize… and since everyone in this book responds to every inconvenience with violence Marfisa, Astolfo, and Sansonetto attack and we’re back to the loppery. That goes on for a while. The trio wins the weapons and makes their escape. Grifone and Aquilante hear about this and pursue, thinking these knights are bad news. But then when they reach them, they see it’s their old buddies and there’s a reunion. They get the trio to ride back with them to Damascus, which they do, and Norandino forgives them and claims it was all a misunderstanding. He’s also scared shitless of Marfisa. Tempers cooled, the tournament begins, and every one’s happy. Afterward, they set off back for France and the war, but of course a raging storm throws them off course.
But wait there’s more…
Back on the battlefield outside Paris, Rinaldo and Dardinello are advancing towards each other. They boast. They jeer. Then Rinaldo takes his sword Fusberta and splits Dardinello’s head in twain. And the Saracens flee at the sight of this. Night starts to fall and the battle ends, each army digs in, the Saracens much worse off then the Christians. And so, having a quiet moment in his narrative Ariosto does what Ariosto does best: introduce more mothertruckin’ characters.
Enter Medoro and Cloridano.
These two guys were Dardinello’s best friends in that Cary Grant/Randolph Scott kind of way. Cloridano’s a tall huntsman, and Medoro’s a beautiful youth. These two are having a bad time of it because they loved Dardinello and now he’s dead. Medoro is especially upset and he can’t stand thinking about Darindello’s corpse being left out on the battlefield for the scavengers. They sneak away and enter the Christian camp, Cloridano says they should take the opportunity to kill as many knights as they can. And they do. A dozen death scenes later, they reach the battlefield and Medoro prays to the moon to lead them to Darindello’s body. It does and they lift up the body, seeking to return home. But lo, what’s that? It’s Zerbino come back from killing Saracens. He sees the two and approaches. Cloriando is for abandoning the body and fleeing, but Medoro refuses. They make for a nearby tangled wood of labyrinthine twists… and what happens there will be revealed in another canto.
CANTO SCORE CARD
Knights: Oodles! Christian and Saracen! Charlemagne, Rodomonte, Charlemagne’s Bros (Namo, Olivier, Ugier, Avolio, Alvin, Otto, Berlinger), Norandino King of Syria, Martano Boy-Toy Miscreant of Antioch, plenty who were named in those lists from earlier cantos who get name checked again before they get deaded, Dardinello is the most important of these, Astolfo, Aquilante, Sansonetto, Marfisa the Lady Knight, Medoro and Cloriando
Mages: Alfeo, a shitty soothsayer killed in his sleep by Cloridano
Damsels: Orrigille that Jezebel, others like Doralice mentioned in passing
Horses: none named
Magic Items: none we haven’t seen already