I guess we’re nearing the end of the book. Less than twenty cantos to go. Ariosto’s started to tie up the loose ends and the deaths are starting to show up fast!
We start with Orlando raging around wreaking havoc with a dead horse around his shoulders and the intestines of his victims staining his lips. He’s killing everyone he comes across, one-punching his fists through their skulls, screaming, and all around carrying on in a bad way.
He lays waste to here. He lays waste to there. The devastation done to Malaga is worse than that he did everywhere else. At Algeciras (AKA Gibraltar) he spies a boat full of revelers at sea. He decides he wants to be there and rides his horse straight out to sea. The horse dies. Orlando nearly drowns, but washes up in Ceuta (which is in North Africa but still governed by Spain to this day). There he sees an army and marches towards them.
But enough of that… Ariosto flits over to Angelica and appears to write her out of the story. She’s fine he says, but it would take a hand better than his own to tell the rest of her tale. GRRM should take note. That’s how you do it.
At last Ariosto returns to Mandricard and Doralice. They’re not happy. Mandricard keeps brooding. His pride’s been hurt by Ruggiero and Gradasso. Doralice implores him to get over it. But he won’t. And neither will Ruggiero nor Gradasso. They demand Mandricard turn over Hector’s shield (to Ruggierro) and the sword Durindana (to Gradasso). Neither will concede to the other and at last King Agramante tells them to cast lots to determine who will fight Mandricard. Ruggiero wins. Gradasso sulks. And Mandricard broods. Doralice almost convinces him to give up the fight, but at the very moment he’s about to relent Ruggiero shows up and challenges him.
The whole Saracen army comes to watch. Some see only disaster from this fight between Moor and Tartar. Others are there simply for the thrill of watching the two klonk heads.
And what a klonking it is!
Helmets gleam, trumpets shrills, lances shatter and fly so high in the air their bits get singed by the sun. Melee ensues with the two trying to jab their swords through their opponent’s helmet visor. Mandricard wounds Ruggiero. Ruggiero wounds Mandricard. Mandricard casts aside his shield for a two-handed strike… and Ruggiero, gravely wounded, slips his sword Balisarda through the cuirass and unimpeded the blade reaches Mandricardo’s heart. Ruggiero then collapses from his wounds and for a moment Mandricard stands. Some cheer. Some wail. Then Mandricard falls.
A doctor rushes to treat Ruggiero. Gradasso seethes (that glory now being heaped on Ruggiero should be his!) And Ariosto insinuates that Doralice quit mourning Mandricard the moment Ruggiero won the day. Ariosto leaves Ruggiero under all their care and hies off to where Bradamante pines.
In case you need a refresher, Bradamante is the Christian Lady Knight who is in love with Ruggiero but got separated from him when Ruggiero went back to Paris. She’s been in her family castle pining away for him in vain. Ippalca returns and tells the tale of all that happened to her. Then Ricciardetto arrives and continues the story. When he mentions Marifisa (Muslim Lady Knight) Bradamante gets sadder because obviously Ruggiero has shacked up with her. She’s so sad that when Rinaldo arrives recruiting for his warband to take to Paris, Bradamante stays home and lets the others go on and without her.
And what happens on the way to Paris, the next canto will say.
CANTO SCORE CARD
KNIGHTS: Mandricard, Agramante, Marsilio, Ruggiero, Gradasso, Sobrino, Marsilio, Bradamante, Ricciardetto, Vivian, Rinaldo
DAMSELS: Doralice, the most beautiful maiden in Europe now that Angelica has left for Asia and Isabella is dead, Ippalca
MAGES: Falerina who crafted Ruggiero’s sword Balisarda, Malagigi
SWORDS: Durindana, Balisarda
HORSES: Brigliadoro, Orlando’s horse, then Mandricard’s, currently Ruggiero’s
MAGIC ITEMS: Hector’s Armor
MONSTERS: Orlando, the guy’s too Furioso for his own good!
ANOTHER GUY: Turpin, Ariosto keeps talking about this guy as if he’s an expert on everything that happened to Orlando. He’s a mythical Bishop credited with fighting alongside Orlando and writing the account of all this back in the 8th century, six hundred years before Ariosto.
Buckle up sweeties because someone’s about to die!
That’s right. One of the nine hundred named characters in this story is about to exit this story. Now there’s only nine hundred minus one named characters left in this story. Can you guess who it is?
When last we saw Rodomonte he was accosting the poor monk riding alongside Isabella (and Zerbino’s coffin). Rodomonte quickly has enough of the old man, grabs him by the beard, spins around three time ,and hurls him like a discus into the sea.
Monk dispatched, Rodomonte looks to assault Isabella and much is made of the Ugly Saracen trying to sully the virginal womanhood of Isabella. But Isabella has a crafty side, and she tells Rodomonte that if he doesn’t rape her, she’ll tell him all about this magic potion she knows how to make that will make the body impervious to blades. Rodomonte thinks whatever, I can wait, let’s make this potion. Herb-gathering commences, followed by potion crafting. Rodomonte gets drunk while Isabella cooks the brew. When she’s done she says, let me put some around my neck so you can try to chop off my head and see how good it works. Rodomonte says sure. Isabella anoints herself. Rodomonte swings.
Isabella’s head bounces three times. She says “Zerbino” and dies. Ariosto extols her virtues and heaps her soul with praise. Rodomonte is overcome with emotions and has a great mausoleum built where Isabella and Zerbino can be entombed together. He also has a tower built beside a narrow bridge that crosses a ravine. He sets himself up there to challenge everyone that goes past. And so he does, and after a bit some wild-haired maniac approaches.
It’s our boy Orlando, still doing the ole’ Furioso!
Rodomonte tries to stop Orlando from crossing the bridge and Orlando doesn’t care. He punches out Rodomonte’s horse and takes to rassling with him. The two grunt and groan then both fall off the bridge. Orlando being unarmored exits the river first and continues on. (Up above unseen by both Fiordelisa sneaks across the bridge. Remember her? She’s still looking for her husband Brandimarte. Remember him?.
Orlando rages on across the country and smashes people animals things. I think he even resorts to some cannibalism. At last he crawls into a hole to suffer, where he does. Until up rides his ex, Angelica, (well, they never dated and the whole relationship was in Orlando’s head) with her new boyfriend, Medoro. He leaps forth and off Angelica flees with Orlando in hot pursuit. Angelica’s afraid of what he’ll do if he catches her, so she puts on her ring of invisibility and hides while Orlando runs on, grabs her horse, and wears it around his shoulders like a lion’s skin. He then continues on screaming.
Until next time, keep on screaming!
CANTO SCORE CARD
Knights: Rodomonte, Orlando
Damsels: Isabella, Fiordelisa, Angelica
Commoners: a monk, Medoro, unlucky youths torn apart by Orlando
It’s now time for a sexy story, but before Ariosto tells the sexy story he advises his women readers to skip ahead a few pages as the whole thing is slanderous garbage not meant for their ears.
You can do as you wish.
To refresh, Rodomonte had his heart broken by Doralice and abandoned his king and cause. He wandered a bit and then he reached an inn where the landlord learned the cause of his problem and said let me tell you a story.
“What could please me more
At present than to hear an anecdote
Which will confirm the view I held before”
This story is about guys named Astolfo, Fausto, and Giocondo. Astolfo is a king. Fausto is his friend and Giocondo is Fausto’s brothers.
One day Astolfo is admiring himself in the mirror, saying how he has to be the handsomest guy in the world, and his beloved friend Fausto says “Well, you’re really handsome but you’re not as handsome as my brother Giocondo.” Astolfo then says, “Oh yeah, go fetch him.”
So off Fausto rides to his brother’s castle, where his brother refuses to go back with him.
Giocondo’s married and loves his wife and wants to spend all the time with her. Fausto begs and eventually Giocondo agrees and his wife sheds many tears. His wife says here take this jeweled crucifix and keep it with you always. Giocondo takes it but then after spending his last night with his wife he forgets the crucifix at home. He goes back to get it and of course when he does he finds his wife asleep in a heap with her spent young lover. Giocondo slinks away too ashamed to wake them, but now he’s all sad and sickly and not the good looking guy he was. Fausto notices and sends word to the king saying, “Listen I know I said my brother is the most handsome guy but something’s happened to him and he looks all sad and ugly now, please don’t think I’m crazy.” Astolfo takes this in stride and when Fausto and Giocondo arrive, the king has Giocondo put up in luxury and seen by doctors. But Giocondo refuses to explain what happened to him and mopes around the castle.
While on one of these mopes he hears some strange sounds and upon investigating he finds a crack in the wall from which he can spy on the queen doing the sexy with her deformed lover. The sight cheers him up immediately, because by his reckoning at least his wife cheated on him with a handsome guy and not some misshapen dwarf.
Astolfo notices the change over Giocondo and demands an explanation. Giocondo hems and haws but finally says okay I’ll show you, but no matter what you see you can’t punish anyone involved. The king agrees and off they go to spy on the queen. Astolfo nearly goes mad. The two promptly damn the female gender, but then relent and say well, what’s the point of staying virtuous then? So off they go on one of those Eurosex tours that requires disguises and what not. They say they’re looking for a virtuous woman, but really they’re humping everything that offers itself. At last they tire of this and hatch upon the idea that a wife can only be satisfied by two husbands so they purchase a teenage bride in Spain and share her between themselves.
They think this is great and all their problems solved. But the girl, Fiammetta, had a lover, Greco, of her own before these guys and when chance reunites them, this lover wants to sleep with Fiammetta himself. She’s like that’s impossible, and the guy’s like no it’s not, just wait until tonight. Night comes. Astolfo and Giocondo are in bed with the girl between them. In slinks Greco silent as a gecko, under the covers from the foot of the bed between Fiametta’s legs and commences with the sexy.
Then as dawn approaches he slinks back out.
When morning comes Astolfo and Giocondo each think the other was doing the deed, and are complimentary in their appraisal, but both deny sleeping with Fiammetta. Puzzled, they ask her and she breaks down in tears and explains everything. Astolfo and Giocondo nearly die from laughing, give the girl a dowry, and set Greco up to marry her. They then go back home where they live happily ever after with their wives.
Once done one of the bar patrons stands up and comes to the defense of women kind. Rodomonte doesn’t give a damn and rides off. He wants to get back to Africa but on the way he comes upon a lovely abandoned church and thinks, Gee that would make a nice home.
And that’s what he does, park himself in this church where he can watch the road. And what does he eventually see coming down the road? A beautiful maiden and an old monk riding along escorting a coffin. That’s right, it’s Isabella from Canto XXIV escorting the dead body of her beloved Zerbino before going off to join a convent.
Rodomonte rides down and asks where they’re going and why. When he hears Isabella’s plan he says that’s dumb and she should enjoy life. The monk takes umbrage and does the diatribe. Rodomonte takes umbrage to the monk’s umbrage and falls upon the old man. At which point Ariosto stops lest his words cause umbrage by exceeding what is acceptable.
But that’s a ship that’s long gone.
CANTO SCORE CARD
Knights: Rodomonte, King Astolfo, Fausto, Giocondo, a dead Zerbino
Commoners: Fiametta and Greco
Welcome back. I was away for a bit.
You know how people put up a notice about taking a break and then never come back?
Well, I figured if I didn’t say anything that would increase my chances of coming back here and finishing this damn project. And lo, here I am.
So let’s get back to it. But be warned. I’m going to be blunt here. This is one of those bad cantos. This is one of those cantos where some dude gets annoyed at some other dude because the first dude says the second dude has his rightful sword shield gauntlet armor horse whatever and this happens over and over with multiple dudes arguing over multiple things that it’s nigh impossible it all straight. Nothing but dickheads wagging their dicks around because they think the other guy’s dick should be their dick. Not to even mention I don’t remember who is who anymore. Do you?
Didn’t think so.
So let’s get at it.
Ariosto starts with some gender essentialist advice. To wit, women give better instinctive advice if given spontaneously, while men give better advice when they take the time to ponder the subject. This is used to say that Malagigi should have thought for a second or two before using magic to send Mandricardo and Rodomonte back to Paris where they would resume killing Christians. If he had thought a second or two he would have just sent them off to the bottom of the sea. But, what can you expect when you employ demons, ammirite?
Meanwhile all the other Saracen knights are headed for Paris (at the behest of Satan no less) where Charlemagne’s now in deep water since Orlando and Rinaldo have abandoned him. Scenes of devastation ensue. Soldiers drowned in lakes of blood, headless torsos, split skulls, limbs lopped, the whole cruel slaughter bit. King Charles flees and counts himself lucky to have survived the day, because it was a bad one. So bad, the angels noticed. In particular Michael who now feels like he failed in his mission to recruit Dame Discord when the Big G told him to. So he flies around until he finds Discord and drags her back to the pagan camp and tells her to do more than she already did.
So she does, and we enter the dick wagging dickheads section of this canto I mentioned above.
The Saracen knights all appeal to King Agramnte asking him to decide on the order of duels between them over their various disputes. Marfisa wants to fight Mandricard. Rodomonte wants to fight Ruggierro. Mandricard wants to fight Ruggiero. In the end Agramante decides to have them draw lots for the fight. So, that’s settled. The duels start in the morning. Except they don’t. Mandricardo has Graddasso’s family’s sword and wants to fight Mandricard before the first fight.
It goes on with this for a good bit with people claiming swords armor horses as theirs by right and must be settled for before the duels can be settled. It becomes a whole fracas with other knights taking sides or trying to keep the combatants apart. King Agramante then tries to settle things again and we get a lot of discourse about what should belong to who and why. In the midst of this Marfisa sees Brunello the Thief who stole all her gear. Marfisa takes him and says she’ll hang him if no one comes to challenge her and take him away. And off she goes. Now Brunello’s loved/hated by Agramante and would go after Marfisa to rescue him, but one of his advisers says it’s beneath his dignity to do so and there are enough quarrels already before him.
At last, Agramante tells Doralice she needs to decide between Mandricard (her abductor) and Rodomonte (her betrothed). So she does, picking Mandricard. Rodomonte takes this poorly and prepares to attack. King Agramante however sides against him, and so Rodomonte tells every one to drop dead and rides away. Ruggierro and Gradasso then set off after Rodomonte (something about a horse). Events prevent them from catching him and Rodomonte rides on bad-mouthing all women as he goes until he reaches an inn where the proprietor hears his complaints and says let me tell you a story.
And so, I expect here comes some casual misogyny for us in the next canto.
Until then, keep your sword sharp.
CANTO SCORE CARD
Knights: Richardetto, Rodomont, Mandricard, Gradasso, Sacripant, Marfisa, Ruggiero, King Agramant, King Charles, some other knights whose names I don’t want to type.
Horses: Frontalatte, some knight’s horse they fight over
Monsters: Satan, Michael the Angel, Dame Discord
Magic Items: All that junk these people are fighting over