Orlando Furioso, Canto XXXII
This book has broken my brain. At last! You would think it would have happened sooner. But it’s happened.
Earlier this week, I dreamed I was reading Orlando Furioso and Gradasso was doing something. It had a rhyme-scheme and everything. Exciting!
Let’s get to it.
Ariosto doesn’t pick up where he ended last canto with Rinaldo and Gradasso facing off. Instead, he goes back to Bradamante, pining away for Ruggiero back in her castle at Montelbano. Ariosto then turns to King Agramante regrouping his forces in Spain where he’s sent out messengers to once more to marshal his champions to him. Rodomonte ignores him but Marifisa arrives with Brunello the thief. She turns him over to the king who promptly has the thief hanged.
“The hangman left him in a lonely place
As food for vultures, as a meal for crows.”
Back to Bradamante.
There’s lots of gnashing and wailing and overwroughtness. Especially after she hears more about how Marfisa is spending all day tending to the wounded Ruggiero. This really sends her spiraling and she decides to die. And what better way to die than by riding into battle, killing her rival, and having her ex-lover stab her to death or die trying. Talk about big emotions. Resolved now to enter the fray, Bradamante grabs the horse and lance left to her by Astolfo (remember him?) and sets forth.
Soon enough she comes upon a trio of knights escorting a lady along with a host of vassals. Bradamante asks who they are and learns the group comes from north of the Arctic circle and are the kings of the Lost Isles, while the woman is a messenger sent by the queen of the Lost Isle, which also might actually be Iceland. They’ve come to give Charlemagne a magic shield to help him in the war. There’s also a whole thing about the queen not marrying anyone unless they best all others in battle. The usual Red Sonja chivalric nonsense. Bradamante lets them pass on unchallenged and continues on her way, not caring what path her horse chooses. At last it gets dark and she needs to find a place to stay. Some shepherds point her to a castle, but warn her about the rules of the place.
This castle’s owned by Sir Tristan. He has hospitality rules and the back story to justify them. Knights must fight anyone who challenges their right to stay there. Ladies must have no one else there more beautiful than themselves.
Neither thing stops Bradamante and she rides up on the place. The guards say she’ll have to fight the other guests for the right to stay there. She says fine, and out ride the three kings from the Arctic circle. She beats them all because Astolfo’s lance is magical, then goes inside to claim their place. At the feast the lady from the lost isle arrives and the host says, well, Bradamante’s actually prettier than you, so get ready to be thrown out in the rain. Bradamante though says she fought as a knight and not as a lady, therefore the lady has no challenger to take her place. This reasoning is deemed sound and everyone enjoys their dinner.
Afterward, all the guests get up to admire the wall decorations, and that’s where the canto ends.
CANTO SCORE CARD
KNIGHTS: Bradamante, King Agramante, a Gascon knight who tells stories, Marfisa, Sir Tristan, Sir Clodion (part of Tristan’s back story), the Arctic Kings
DAMSELS: The Lady of the Lost Isle (Bjork?)
HORSES: Rabicano (Astolfo’s horse, now Bradamante’s)
MAGIC ITEMS: Bradamante’s lance
DECEASED: Brunello the Thief