Orlando Furioso, Canto XXXVI
We only have ten cantos left!
Ariosto is in full on tie loose ends together mode. Or sort of. Narrative conclusion is not something he’s worried about. A few characters have simply walked out of the story because he might have been sick of writing them.
Honestly, I feel like they’re the true winners here.
But on to our canto…
Ariosto starts with more of that D’Este hagiography. Except it’s not really fun stuff. It’s a pretty grisly retelling of how his patron’s son was captured by Slavic mercenaries and killed by having his head chopped off. It made me think what it must have been like to live at a time when capital punishment was done on the regular in front of audiences. So many people must have walked around with PTSD simply from stopping by the marketplace. This also helps Ariosto highlight his own chivalric fairy tale and say how knights of old weren’t like the thugs with swords now a days.
Back to the tale…
Serpentino, Grandonio, and Ferrau all gather together and wonder at who the knight might be that defeated them. Ferrau figures out it must be Bradamante, and at this love once more rekindles in Ruggiero’s breast. But why has she come to challenge me? This makes him pause as he ponders what to do, and gives Marfisa the chance to get out there and try her hand against this unbeatable Christian knight.
Bradamante welcomes her and asks her name. Marfisa tells her. Bradamante gets filled with hate. Here’s the very woman who stole Ruggiero’s heart. And BANG! Marfisa is knocked from the saddle, but it’s not enough to stop her. It’s another slam bang duel between named characters. And now a crowd’s starting to gather because these two aren’t dueling any more as waging one-person war upon each other. Which makes all the gathered knights decide it’s time the war resumed, and so trumpets sound.
Ruggiero’s watched all this and realizes he loves both women, if not in the same way, and he would give anything for them to stop fighting – but honor dictates the duel continues. Except once the mass battle begins there are too many people on the field for Marfisa and Bradamante to continue their fight. Ruggiero rides out with the rest of the soldiers, and Bradamante sees him and charges. Words get spoken. Accusations made. But when the time comes to attack, she can’t do it. Ruggiero wants an explanation and Bradamante can’t answer him. She rides off. He pursues. They end up in a grove beside a tomb.
Marfisa sees all this and follows. The three meet in the woods. Bradamante sees Marfisa and makes more accusations. Marfisa won’t stand for it. The duel once more ensues. Ruggiero tries shouting, “Ladies! Ladies!” but there’s nothing for it. The women are going to kill each other. Ruggiero can’t let that happen. He gets between them and pulls them apart. Marfisa can’t believe he would do such a thing and turns on him. “You are discourteous, you are uncouth,” she says. And then she attacks him. This makes Ruggiero angry and he counter attacks. He would have killed Marfisa but his sword strikes a tree.
And that’s when things get crazy.
The ground shakes. A voice cries out. It is the inhabitant of the nameless tomb. They command Ruggiero and Marfisa to cease their fighting. Why? Because the tomb is their mom’s and they’re actually brother and sister!
Back story ensues and it’s cribbed from classical sources, but instead of being about Theseus or Perseus it’s about Ruggiero and Marfisa. And the truth about King Agramante’s involvement in killing their dad is revealed. And there’s a prophecy! Ruggiero will die if he becomes a Christian and that’s why she had the wizard Atalante put him in the Knight Motel (remember that?) Back story finished everyone is happy. Marfisa and Ruggiero cease their fight. Bradamante forgives Ruggiero. The mom ghost disappears her duty done, but the matter of whether Ruggiero should abandon King Agramante or not remains. Honor dictates he can’t despite everything. But he’ll keep his eye out for a loop-hole by which he can abandon the cause without any slight to his honor. Bradamante’s sad. Marfisa tells her not to worry. Ruggiero gets ready to ride back to the army. And then a woman’s voice cries out from deeper inside the wood.
Who can it be?
Maybe we’ll find out in the next canto.
Ten more to go!
CANTO SCORE CARD
KNIGHTS: Ferrufino and Cantelmo (real life sons of the duke, Cantelmo was the one beheaded), Serpentino, Grandonio, Ferrau, Ruggiero, Marfisa, Bradamante, a bunch of people in Ruggiero’s mom’s back story
HORSES: Rabicano (still Bradamante’s)
MONSTERS: Mom Ghost
MAGIC ITEMS: Bradamate’s Golden Lance, Ruggiero’s sword