Orlando Furioso, Canto XLIII
This is a long canto mostly about cuckoldry. There’s been a good bit of that so far, but in this canto they dial the cuck to 11. (My apologies to everyone.)
If Orlando Furioso was the most popular novel for everyone in Europe for centuries and the basis of countless paintings, operas, and ideas, then much of Western CultureTM is based on the very cishet male question of “What’s my girl up to when I’m not around?”
“A husband who desires to know
All that his wife has ever done or said
Will from contentment fall to pain and grief
And never henceforth will he find relief”
When last we left Rinaldo was being tested with the cup of cuckoldry.
If he could drink from the cup without it spilling, then he could be certain his wife (Clarice) was faithful to him. But if the cup spilled… well, we all have internet connections don’t we? Rinaldo’s shook and doesn’t know what to do. Does he drink and test the truth, or does he not drink and believe what he wants is the truth? In the end he opts not to drink. His host commends him as that is the wisest choice. The one he wishes he had made.
And so begins a tale.
The knight fell in love with a wizard’s daughter. She never knew a man until she met him. But he had known many women. Still, he received the wizard’s approval and married the daughter. Five years went by in conjugal bliss. Eventually the wizard died, and after that a sorceress in the neighborhood fell in love with him. Her name was Melissa. I assume this is the same Melissa who’s helped Bradamante a few times so far. She seemed fine then, but in this story she’s the villain.
The knight rejects Melissa. So she changes her tactics and starts planting doubts about his wife’s fidelity in his head. She thinks it would be wise for the knight to test the wife by leaving town for a bit. Before he goes Melissa brings out the cup and explains how it operates. Our guy can drink from it fine before he leaves town. The test will be how it works when he comes back. Or so I thought, but instead he leaves, has Melissa change his appearance to that of neighboring cavalier, and then the two return in disguise flashing gold and jewels. In this disguise he badgers his wife and tells her he will give her all this wealth if he could sleep with her just once. She, at last, says yes at which point our guy throws off his disguise. The wife is shamed and the two are furious at each other. When the morning arrives, the wife abandons the castle and goes straight to the neighboring cavalier’s house where she now lives quite happily.
Rinaldo’s not so sympathetic to the knight and his response is an eloquent mix of “Sucks to be you” and “It’s your own damn fault, because even steel and stone can be made to break.” In the morning the sad knight gets his boatmen to row Rinaldo down river to speed him on his journey.
Cue Ariosto going tour guide for a bit. Sermise they passed. Then Figarola and Stellata, etc. There’s also a long bit about Malagigi predicting how one city will be raised to greatness, which is likely a place where Ariosto owned property. Eventually he starts thinking about the cup and whether he was right to not drink from it. The steersman noticed his brooding and asks what’s bothering him. Rinaldo presents his case and asks if he reasoned right. The steersman says he did, because it’s like this other story about a guy who sought to punish his wife for a crime he himself committed.
And so begins another tale.
This one is about a judge named Anselmo, his wife Argla, and a guy named Adonio. Argla loved Anselmo too much and too well, and that made Anselmo suspicious. Meanwhile Adonio was a young cavalier in love with Argla. He spends all his money trying to impress her, fails, goes broke, and has to leave town disguised as a beggar. On his way he manages to rescue a snake from some peasants then continues on his journey, wandering for seven years. After that time he comes back still in love with Argla and more a beggar now then when he left. It’s around now that Anselmo gets called out of town. Before he goes he begs and pleads with Argla to stay faithful to him. He has no reason to expect she will cheat on him, except his one insecurity and a prediction a fortune teller made. Still, the king bids him go, so go he must.
It’s around now that Adonio comes back to town, and as he does he stops by the place where he rescued the snake. Well, of course that snake was a sorceress in disguise and her name’s Manto. She’s going to repay Adonio for his help by getting Argla to fall in love with him. First, she coaches Adonio in all the right ways to behave, then she transforms herself into the cutest little dog. And not just any cute af dog, but a cute af dog that can dance and sheds gold coins and jewels when she’s pet. Thus armed, they go to town and before long Argla’s heard about the dog and asks to buy it. Adonio names his price and Argla accepts and…
“Adonio long enjoyed the fruit he plucked.”
By and by Anselmo returns and his fortune teller tells him how his wife definitely cheated. The news pierces his heart. He comes back and starts in on questioning, but doesn’t get anywhere until Argla falls out with her nurse and the nurse reveals the whole thing. Anselmo goes mad and hires an assassin to kill Argla, but before the assassin can do it Argla vanishes (due to Manto’s magic spell).
Assassination botched, Anselmo really starts fretting. Argla’s going to shack up with someone and he’ll be a laughing stock, or worse this someone will be a panderer and start pimping her out. OH NO! What to do? He sends messengers out searching for her and eventually goes to where the assassin said she disappeared. When he arrives he’s surprised to find a palace there with a hideous “Ethiop” outside. Anselmo asks who owns the place. The Ethiop says he does and would Anselmo like a tour. The place inside is full of gold and jewels and the Ethiop would part with it all if Anselmo would let him sleep with his wife. It takes a few attempts, but of course Anselmo agrees to pimp out his wife (just like he feared someone else would do.) Argla jumps out and is like “You hypocrite!” The Ethiop and palace vanish. The two make-up and decide to never talk about these events again. I don’t remember what happened to Adonio, but I suspect he got to keep plucking.
Tale done, Rinaldo and the steersman have a laugh. Then it’s back to Ariosto tour guide. Romagna, Filo, Ravenna, until at last Rinaldo reaches the island just as Orlando kills Gradasso and Agramante. They get Oliver out from under his horse, gather the bodies, and go back to Biserta.
Astolfo and Sansonetto break the news of Brandimarte’s death to Fiordiligi. She reacts as you expects she would by going completely ape-shit. Wailing. Gnashing teeth. Pulling out her own hair. They lock her up in her room.
There’s then a lot about Brandimarte’s funeral. Everyone cries. Orlando. Fiordiligi. Some guy named Bardino I first thought was a horse.
After the funeral Fiordiligi moves into the tomb and all the knights leave her there. They go to seek a doctor for Oliver. A sailor tells them about an island with a holy hermit on there and says that if anyone can heal Oliver it would be that guy, so that’s where they go. Of course this is the place where Ruggiero is and the hermit the same one who baptized him. There’s a reunion. The hermit heals Oliver. Sobrino, who’s just been hanging out with these guys who all recently tried to kill him, sees the miracle and converts to Catholicism right then and there. They then go to greet Ruggiero and learn what news he brings.
CANTO SCORE CARD
Knights: Rinaldo, Sad Cuckold Cup knight, Adonio, Anselmo, Orlando, Oliver, Astolfo, Sansonetto, Sobrino, Ruggiero
Damsels: Clarice? Unnamed woman in 1st story, Argla, Fiordiligi
Mages: Melissa, Malagigi, Manto, Holy Hermit
Magic Items: The Cuckold’s Cup