This one has everything.
We get some historic details, some ass-kissing by Ariosto for his patrons. We get a list of names, all knights fighting for or against Charlemagne. We get a damsel being “rescued”. We get massive grand battles. We even get some of that yesterweirdness I love.
After the historic details (the state of the war this far), some ass-kissing (dealing with his patron’s sacking of Ravenna: “We feel too much the anguish and the woe // Of weeping women garbed in widows’ weeds, // The sad young victims of your valiant deeds.”), and a roll call of the Saracen army (Marsilio, Agramante, Brunello, Isolier, Folvirant, &c), we come at last to the Saracen knights who are the primary movers of this canto, Mandricardo and Rodomonte.
Orlando killed Mandricardo’s father at some point earlier. Now Mandricardo wants revenge. Driving home the Iliad homage, Mandricardo wears Hector’s armor after finding it in a tower in Syria and has recently arrived in Europe. He is not happy to sit in a siege, so he decides to hie off and seek adventure/glory/Orlando elsewhere. Very soon he finds survivors of Orlando’s earlier onslaught and they point Mandricardo on to where the battle was fought. Unfortunately, Orlando’s already gone by the time Mandricardo arrives, and so the search continues. Soon he comes upon a band of knights camped by the Tiber.
A parley starts with Mandricardo asking who they are. They say they’re from Granada and have come to escort the King’s daughter to Rodomonte since the two are betrothed. Mandricardo asks if he might maybe possibly get a peek at this princess, but the guard refuses. So Mandricardo kills him and all the other guards. Stabby. Stabby. Stabby (with a spear because Mandricardo doesn’t use a sword for reason’s mentions under Swords below). Killing done he goes to find the princess. Her name’s Doralice. She woke mid combat, tried to flee, but failed. Now she cowers from Mandricardo, but her beauty is so great it weaves a web of love around his heart. And so he abducts her. Content with his prize, he’s less keen on finding Orlando and he starts to pitch woo to Doralice. Eventually the two shelter in a cottage for the night.
“What in the darkness of the night befell / Between the Tartar and the young princess / I cannot, I regret, precisely tell, / So everyone must be content to guess. / I think that they agreed together well / For in the morning they arose no less / But rather more content”
In the morning they return to wandering and soon come upon two knights and a fair maid, but you’ll have to wait to hear about that later, because now it’s time for CHURCH!
King Agramant has heard that Rinaldo and a host of fresh knights are on the way from England to help Charlemagne, so Agramant wants to attack Paris in the morning. Knowing that the Saracens plan to attack, Charlemagne goes to mass. A whole lot of Catholic pomp gets described, communion hosts, confessions, how all the paladins and princes in Paris went to church too. And the prayers are so loud they reach the Big G, God Himself, in heaven. He hears all this and sees the threat to Christendom and decides to join the fray. (This is more inspired by the Iliad than by either Testament). God commands the Archangel Michael to find Silence and Dame Discord, the first to help the English knights sneak across France, the second to sow strife among the Saracens.
This bit delivers the weird.
Michael flies around searching for Silence. At first, he hears that Silence likes to hang out in monasteries, but when Michael arrives at one he discovers that Silence, Peace, Quiet, and Love have all left the monasteries and been replaced by Greed, Wrath, Cruelty, and the rest. In fact who should he find in the monastery but Dame Discord hanging around with a pack of lawyers. Well, Michael figures, that’s half the task done and he tells her what God wants from her. She sets off, but not before telling Michael that Fraud might know where Silence can be found. Michael finds Fraud and she tells him how Silence had taken up with Treachery and Homicide, but still visits the House of Sleep. Off then Michael flies to the House of Sleep where he finds Silence working as something of a security guard in slippers. Silence via gestures asks what Michael wants, and when Michael tell Silence God’s orders (in a whisper natch) Silence sets off right away.
Meanwhile, Agramant’s attack is ready. This guy is over there, this guy is over there, Charlemagne does this and barricades that and for a bit it’s like listening to war gamers go on but eventually Ariosto takes us into the action of siege warfare where Rodomonte (Algerian King, betrothed to Doralice who unbeknown to him Mandricardo is likely diddling at that very moment) hews down Christians right and left. His armor is made of ancient dragon skin, crafted by his ancestor who on the plain of Babel built a tower to challenge God’s majesty. It grants him great strength and invulnerability as if he was a Space Marine.
More hewing and more death ensues. It gets quite grisly. But…
“Discordant concert and harsh harmony / Of shrieks and wailing, fearful to relate, / Of anguished victims in their agony, / Led by so great a leader to their fate, / Were mingled in a strange cacophony / With raucous roarings of primeval hate. / My lord, this canto has now run its course, And I must rest awhile, for I am hoarse.”
CANTO SCORE CARD
Knights: A skazillion named Saracen knights, a skazillion earlier named English Knights, a skazillion Christian knights named as they die, Rodomonte, Mandricardo, Rinaldo
Damsels: Doralice, princess of Granada, betrothed to Rodomonte, abducted by Mandricardo
Mages: None except those Monsters below
Monsters: God (the Big G), Angels, personifications of various things like Silence, Fraud, and Dame Discord who are described as sitting squarely between Ovid’s cosmology and Neil Gaiman’s Endless.
Horses: None are named, but there’s one I’m keeping my eye on because it might be important.
Swords: Durindana lore (this is Orlando’s sword now but once belonged to Mandricardo’s dad, and way long ago belonged to Hector.)
Magic Items: Hector’s Armor (worn by Mandricardo), Rodomonte’s dragon-scale power armor
Back to them knights doing knightly stuff and messing the sweet honey iced tea up! Last canto was a bit of a bust. This Canto? It’s aight.
To start that rascally old sorcerer Atlante has devised a new trick to stop all them knightly battle boys: the Knight Motel. Think of it like a roach motel except it’s a castle and it casts an illusion (usually a damsel in distress) on passing knights to trap them within. Sadly Atlante didn’t coat the floors in glue, but instead provided food for all the knights his castle captured. And being the old rascally mage he is Atlante don’t give a dang that he’s capturing Infidel and Christian knights willy. Makes no diff to him. A knight’s a knight’s a knight after all.
So Orlando thinks he spies Angelica but it’s only an illusion cast by the knight motel. We also learn Ruggiero saw a similar illusion back in Canto ??? when he saw Bradamante carried away by a giant. That too was the Knight motel at work.
Meanwhile Angelica’s decided she’s had enough of Western Europe and wants to go back home to Asia. But to do this she wants to have a knight who will protect her. She’d prefer Orlando, but figure Sacripante is better since he’d be easier to manipulate. But where is Sacripante? He’s stuck in the knight motel. So Angelica slips in there using the magic ring.
Now the magic ring makes her immune to sorcery, so when she gets in there she sees all these dopes roaming around unable to see each other because of the ~magic~. She finds Sacripante and via the ring dispels the illusions. Unfortunately, Orlando and Ferrau are within range of the spell and also affected. They realize where they are and see Angelica right there in front of them. Oh dang! Poor Angelica, she’s in a pickle now. And what does Angelica do when she is in a pickle? Why, she flees! So that’s what she does. And the knights pursue.
But fortunately the knights are knights and therefore prone to fighting over stupid stuff, which they promptly start doing. This time the three start arguing about a helmet. Ferrau doesn’t have one and has vowed not to wear one until he gets Orlando’s. This leads to a duel between Orlando and Ferrau.
A thing about both Orlando and Ferrau they both got the Achilles treatment and are invulnerable except in certain spots. Orlando can only be injured on the soles of his feet and Ferrau in his belly button. This makes the duel between them a big, loud, pointless affair. Sacripante watches for a bit, then figures he can catch Angelica while the others are distracted.
Of course, Angelica has been watching the whole thing and she grabs Orlando’s helmet which has been hanging from a tree this whole time. The two knights realize the object of their dispute has disappeared and quit with their fighting. Setting off again they ride into the wood choosing different paths. By now Angleica is tired and she’s stopped by a well and set the helmet down. Ferrau reaches the spot and claims the helmet but not Angelica (because she disappeared again). She figures she will try to make her back east using the ring’s magic.
Meanwhile, Orlando roams the forest and gets lost. Days pass. Ariosto takes us back to the siege on Paris and some Saracen knights. Orlando comes upon them and there’s a huge melee in which Orlando’s sword, Durindana, blithely sings. He kills a couple of Saracen knights, then travels on to where he spies a cave with a light within.
And guess what he finds in there?
Why, it’s another damsel in distress!
What’s her deal? I don’t know because…
Please hear the rest, my lord, another day,
It is now time to put the book away.
Until next time!
CANTO SCORE CARD
Knights: Too many! Orlando (you know him), Ruggiero (you know him), Gradasso (no clue who this is), Brandimarte (some guy from an earlier canto), Ferrau (a Saracen “giant”), and Sacripante the Circassian (a Circassian). They are all stuck in the knight motel, Manilard King of Norizia, a Saracen knight and Alzirdo, another Saracen knight, fight Orlando at the end and get whupped.
Mages: Atlante (Alcina gets mentioned in passing)
Damsels: Angelica and an as yet unnamed sad damsel in a cave
Horses: Brigliador (Orlando’s wicked sweet horse)
Knights: 5+ (Ruggiero, Orlando, Bradamante, Oberto King of Ireland, Bireno the bastard who did Olimpia dirty, and probably a bunch of unnamed Irish knights)
Damsels: 2 (Angelica and Olimpia)
Monsters: 3 (the hippogriff (it gets tired of Ruggiero and flies off to deus ex machina elsewhere), the Orc (RIP), and a giant (defeats Bradamante)
Swords: 1 (Orlando’s Durindana)
Horses: unknown and unnamed
Wizards: ? (a couple mentioned in passing)
In this canto nothing much happens that we haven’t already seen.
A knight (Ruggiero) seeks to assault Angelica. Angelica flees by magical means (she still has the magic ring from last canto). Ruggiero sets off in search of her. Both stumble into their own unrelated adventures. One being Ruggiero witnessing his beloved Bradamante get defeated by a giant.
Then it’s back to some other knight and that one goes to a place we’ve already seen (the Isle of Tears where the Ebudans feed women to the Orc) and the earlier scene plays out again only this time it’s different.
Now it’s Olimpia about to get fed to the Orc and it’s Orlando who shows up to save her. The Orc gets killed (Orlando drags it out of the sea with an anchor) and the Ebudians are massacred by the Irish. Then the king of Ireland, Oberto, glimpses Olimpia and instantly falls in love with her. (She’s naked.) Orlando asks her how she got there, since last he saw she was about to get happily married. She then relates her tale of woe and betrayal by Bireno, and the Irish king is like “Well, stay with me and I’ll give you your kingdom back.” She does and that all gets taken care of in a couple of stanzas.
Meanwhile, Orlando goes off to do his own thing and Ariosto says Orlando did so much cool stuff but Ariosto can’t talk about it all because then this book would be even longer than it already is.
Along in there Ariosto uses the word “lover” to mean perspective rapist, and we get a few stanzas concerning the evils of guns and a few more talking about how sexy and white the naked Olimpia is.
A yawn all around.
I hope it will pick up some in the next canto.
Knights in this Canto: 100s (Ruggiero, Astolfo, Bireno, Rinaldo, a few 100 English knights with names like Harold, Herman, or Godfrey, but including Zirbeno and Lurcanio from Cantos 5 and 6)
Damsels in this Canto: 12? (Alcina, 3 unnamed sorceresses, Olimpia, Logistilla, four sorceresses loyal to Logistilla, Melissa, Angelica)
Monsters in this Canto: The Hippogriff that is not at all a private jet plane, the Orc that is not at all meant in the Tolkien sense, but in the Orca sense.
… and a Boat Guy!
Welcome to Canto X. The hottest nightclub this side of Dante’s Inferno. Jousting happens every hour!
Last canto Ariosto left Bireno and Olimpia ready to be wed. This canto we learn Bireno is awful and his whole plan was to seduce Olimpia and abandon her. Which he does, but not before Ariosto warns his readers (listeners?) to be on guard against such men.
“Dear ladies, be less credulous at first;
Be not so readily disposed to please,
For love less likely is to play her false
Who learns at the expense of someone else.”
Thinking they’re heading for her new home, Olimpia boards a ship with Bireno, but when the ship gets blown off course and sets down on an empty island Bireno leaves Olimpia and sneaks away with the ship in the night. Olimpia wakes alone and promptly freaks out as would be normal for anyone in her situation. Ariosto leaves her tearing her hair out on the beach, before returning to Ruggiero. By the way, I should also mention that Ariosto mentions that Olimpia is fourteen years old here. Yikes.
Last we saw Ruggiero he was fleeing the sorceress Alcina’s realm and making for her sister Logistilla’s. He was stuck in some horrid wasteland, plodding along. When we return to him that is where he still is: in the wasteland plodding along. But not all is terrible in the wastelands. Look ahead Ruggiero, there are three ladies there drinking wine. Oh no. Those ladies are in league with Alcina and mean to entrap you.
Run, Ruggiero, run! There ahead is a Boat Guy, get on his boat and he will take you to Logistilla’s realm.
But Alcina doesn’t give up so easily. Alerted to Ruggiero’s location she brings her fleet to bear upon the boat guy’s boat and a chase begins. Boat Guy reaches Logistilla’s realm and then commences a naval battle. Alcina’s fleet is defeated and she flees, wailing and lamenting the loss of Ruggiero. He is glad to meet Logistilla and her four loyal sorceresses. There’s a brief reunion with Astolfo and Melissa, some mention of the wonders in Logistilla’s realm and how sorceresses can never dies, then Logistilla starts training Ruggiero in the ways of controlling the hippogriff. Once that’s done, Ruggiero and Astolfo decide to head back home by different paths. Ariosto says he’ll come back to Astolfo’s journey in some later canto, but for now he plans to stay with Ruggiero.
Ruggiero’s got it in his head to fly back to Europe by following the sun and thereby flying around the world. We get a brief travelogue as he goes, but it’s all names of kingdoms, rivers and mountain ranges. He eventually reaches England, by way of the Baltic because he doesn’t want to return to the war too soon and wouldn’t it be nice to see Germany. He lands outside a castle where an army is forming. There he sees Rinaldo and the whole host of English guys who get names and have their livery described. I skimmed those lines. Ruggiero then takes off again, this time looping around England and Ireland. On a dismal island out at sea he espies Angelica chained naked to a cliff with the dreaded Orc on its way to devour her.
Her lily-white nudity is described.
Ruggiero decides to save her from the Orc, and there’s a battle between knight and beast with the beast being too strong. Ruggiero decides to use his magic shield and daze the orc. He does so, freeing Angelica while the beast thrashes and taking her away in his private jet hippogriff. They set down in a deserted corner of France, and Ruggiero begins pulling off his armor. Of course he now wants to do the dirty with Angelica. But Ariosto stops there.
What will happen next I can’t even guess.
Knights introduced in this canto: 3 (Bireno the Prince of Zealand, Arbante the Prince of Friesland, Cimosco the King of Friesland)
Damsels introduced in this canto: 2 (an as yet unnamed Irish Princess and Olimpia the Princess of Holland).
Horses introduced in the canto: 1 (Brigliador the Horse)
Last canto Ariosto promised more Orlando and this canto he delivered. It’s all Orlando all the time except for those times when he meets someone who gives forth some quest-related exposition.
To start, we last left Orlando abandoning his king to seek Angelica. This then is his madness: to put gals before pals. He starts by entering the Saracen army and searching among the troops for word of Angelica. This was interesting because all Orlando had to do to disguise himself was change his clothes. This makes me think that to Ariosto the visible difference between Europeans and African/Asians was more costuming than skin color. The bigger, unseen factor was a person’s religion, and knights on both sides were converts from the other side so you couldn’t assume anything from simple physical appearance. Interesting.
Now, back to the action…
Orlando has no luck and starts getting desperate, roaming this way and that. Eventually he spies a ship out at sea with a damsel on it and parleys with her. She’s not Angelica, but she needs a hero to help her. Orlando being a hero agrees to hear her story, and she tells him she’s from the King of Ireland and how that land is plagued by the terrible Ebudans who kidnap women to feed to their terrible sea beast, the Orc. Orlando figures maybe Angelica has been captured by the Ebudans and agrees to help the damsel. They set off for Ireland but a storm blows them off course and they end up in the Netherlands. There another damsel appears. Her name’s Olimpia and it’s her troubles that give this canto its action.
Her story is familiar. She’s a princess and fell in love with a guy. His name’s Prince Bireno and he went away to fight in Spain. That left room for another guy, King Cimosco, to demand Olimpia marry his son, the Prince Arbante. She refused. War broke out. Cimosco killed the princess’s brothers and father (all unnamed) with a terrible magical weapon he had (a big gun) and demanded the princess agree to the marriage. She still refused, because Bireno was on his way to rescue her, but then Cimosco captured Bireno. Olimpia finally agreed, but on the night when Arbante came to consummate the marriage, Olimpia slit his throat and fled. (RIP Prince Arbante). Now Cimosco wants revenge and says he will free Bireno if Olimpia gives herself up for execution. He gives her a year and a day to think on it, which is of course running out when Orlando appears.
Not one to let a damsel down Orlando agrees to assist her and sets off on a new horse, Brigliador, to fight. King Cimosco goes full Snidely Whiplash and lays ambushes and traps. But Orlando is Orlando and he impales villains 5, 6, 7 on the end of his lance. Cimosco flees back to the castle to get his gun. Orlando pursues. The guy shoots… and misses (RIP Brigliador the Horse). Orlando hies up and lops off Cimosco’s head. (RIP King Cimosco) Olimpia and Bireno are reunited. Orlando takes Cimosco’s gun and rejoins the first damsel. Once at sea he tosses the gun overboard, damning it back to the deep hell from which it was forged.
And so Orlando sails on, but Ariosto takes us back to the Netherlands to spend time with Olimpia and Bireno.
“For new disturbances arising there
Will interrupt my story for a bit.
Of all these happenings I’ll give you news
If my next canto you will now peruse.”
This Canto is a whirlwind of plate spinning. Ariosto has a lot of character to keep in rotation, and sometimes, True Believers, I can even hear Stan Lee coming through the prose.
This Canto gives us more of the same except maybe more so.
Ariosto is tying up some story lines while laying the groundwork for others. And as always, he introduces a half-dozen new characters into the plot. So buckle on your swords and let’s go!
I could’ve sworn the last canto ended with Melissa about to tell her story, but I was wrong. Instead, we stay with Ruggiero. And Astolfo comes back. Remember him? He’s the guy who was turned into a bush and warned Ruggiero of Alcina? He comes back and gets some hints that he might be an important guy to pay attention to. Then we get Rinaldo. Then, Angelica. Remember her from Canto I? Then we get some Orlando who we haven’t seen in a long time. He’s sad and starting to go furioso. Then we get some new guy and his girlfriend!
I am starting to come to the conclusion that this book is not a single story but a series of nested prologues and the real story will never start!
To start, let’s return to Ruggiero fleeing Alcina’s realm for Logistilla’s. He is making speed when some elf spies him and wonders what’s all the rush for. Finding Ruggiero less than willing to talk the elf pursues him. Falcons get used as weapons. Magic makes people speedy. Ruggiero is not happy and unveils the magic shield he has and knocks the elf, his falcon, and his dog out.
Who was this elf? We don’t know yet.
Meanwhile Alcina learns of Ruggiero’s flight and promptly slips into a rage and rends her clothes. But she doesn’t know where he went so she divides her forces and sends some over land and the others over sea to find him.
Seeing Alcina’s city is now defenseless, Melissa saunters in and starts freeing prisoners and casting dispel magic (a 3rd level abjuration spell according to 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons) all around the place. This means all those knights formerly turned into animals and trees are now human again. Hurray! More characters for Ariosto to introduce! One of these guys, Astolfo, is currently next in line for the throne of England and he has a magic lance that it’s important Melissa find for him. That done she hies off to Logistilla’s realm, and we switch back to Ruggiero long enough for Aruisto to say how hard the miserable landscapes Ruggiero has to cross are. But enough of that guy, let’s go to Britain and check on Rinaldo.
Now that everything is all right in the land, Rinaldo brings up Charlemagne’s scheme to recruit English and Scottish knights to the war against the infidel. The King is all for it and plans get made. All the knights are to set out for the continent on such and such a day. And that’s enough of Rinaldo. Let’s check on Angelica.
Angelica’s been on the run since Canto 1. Last we saw her she’d found help from a hermit. And while at first that hermit seemed all right, it now turns out not to be the case. Angelica’s beauty has inflamed his heart and he’s conjured up a devil and put it in a horse’s body to keep her from staying in any one place. At last the horse reaches the sea and dives in, carrying Angelica far out to sea to an empty island. She laments her fate and how everywhere she goes men slander and seek to abuse her. The hermit reappears dressed as a monk and she ceases her complaints and beseeches the good man to assist her. Instead, he starts feeling her up. When she protests he pulls out some “magic juice” and knocks her out. He then goes full-on molester and would penetrate her if he could, but the “years have undermined his aptitude”.
Then the pirates appear.
The pirates come from Ebuda an island far beyond Ireland and the Hebrides where the God Proteus keeps the orc and all the other monsters of the deep. This is because long ago Proteus raped the island king’s daughter only to have the king kill her and the unborn child. This sent Proteus in a rage and he unleashed the seas and all its creatures on the Edudians. It was bad for them, so they went to an oracle and the oracle said you need to sacrifice a maiden to the sea beast every day. Before long the Ebudians ran out of their own maidens so they started raiding and taking captives. Imagine how glad they must have felt finding Angelica and the horny hermit there on the desert island. They gather them right up and set off for home where the sea beasts wait.
Time to look at Orlando, who’s back with Charlemagne in Paris. Orlando’s in a glum place due to desire for Angelica. He’s sad and despondent, sifting over his past and lamenting fate. He tosses and turns. He dreams, and in his dreams Angelica is calling to him for help. He wakes and decides to abandon Paris, setting off without a word to anyone except some other guy. This guy is Brandimarte and to be honest at first I thought he was a horse, but no he is a knight and Orlando’s friend. In the morning when Charlemagne wakes up and asks where Orlando is, Brandimarte tells the king and the old man rages. Brandimarte promptly sets off to find Orlando, a task he expects will be easy, but of course it isn’t. He’s gone for so long that Ariosto gives him a girlfriend, Fiordiligi, and has her set out after him, promising MORE STORIES ABOUT THEIR ADVENTURES. I can’t wait!
But enough of these jerks. It’s Orlando the book’s named after, so let’s spend more time with him. And we will… in the next canto!
Until then True Believers,
This canto starts with a bang but ends with a whimper. It also introduces a new character! Well, sort of. It actually names a character we met before. But all that in time. For now, let’s look at Ruggiero setting off for his duel with Erifilla. It’s good stuff. Erifilla makes a grand entrance being both Princess Mononoke and Prince Gaynor the Damned.
“For a mount a horse she does not choose,
But sits astride a wolf, alert and keen,
Upon the richest saddle ever seen.”
They charge each other and blam! Ruggiero proves the stronger. He’s all ready to lop off Erifilla’s head when the damsels stop him saying that the shame of defeat is enough. So, exits Erifilla… for now. I fully expect she will be back to tell her tale in some future canto. But that will happen when it happens. For now Ruggiero is victorious and the damsels lead him to the palace where he is promptly bewitched by Alcina.
“Her person is as shapely and as fine
As painters at their most inspired can show.”
An aside. Ariosto does go big in with whiteness equals beautiful and good while blackness equals grotesque or comical. Alcina’s fairness gets highlighted a lot. Ruggiero is totally bewitched and forgets all about his quest and his betrothed, Bradamante. Instead he and Alcina get into making love and whiling the days away in pleasure.
Meanwhile Bradamante searches for Ruggiero, deciding at last to go back to that enchantress that helped her back in Canto III. We now learn the enchantress’s name is Melissa, and she hatches a cunning plan to free Ruggiero from Alcina’s spell. She asks that Bradamante give her the magic ring, then Melissa transforms herself to look like the evil wizard Atlante before flying over the ocean to Alcina’s realm.
There she finds Ruggiero and gives him a stern lecture about how spending his days having sexy times and wearing silk pajamas are unbecoming of a man. Not only that, but Alcina’s not what she seems and here take this ring so you can see through her enchantments. Ruggiero dons the ring. The next time he sees Alcina he discovers she is not young and fair at all, but withered and old. A crone! Not letting on that he knows her secret, Ruggiero makes for the stables, steals a horse, and sets out immediately for Logistilla’s realm.
And the next Canto will tell us how he found his way!
You have to love Gustave Dore. His illustrations for Orlando Furioso are great. Anyways, The Iliad/Odyssey vibes come fast in this Canto.
We start with moralizing about Polinesso and how justice finds evil ones and punishes them. Before long we return to the mysterious knight who arrived to defend Ginerva. It turns out he is Ariodante, Ginerva’s lover long-believed dead. But wait how could this be? Did that traveler lie who said he saw Ariodante fling himself off a cliff?
No. Not quite.
Ariodante did throw himself into the sea, but regretted the act as soon as it was done. Then surviving his fall he returned to land where he found shelter with a hermit. Soon he heard word about the accusations against Ginerva and the trial by combat to determine her innocence. When no one went to her aid, and still in love (only now thinking I’ll show her I’m better than Polinesso!) he acquired for himself a squire, arms, and armor and set off to fight Lurcanio (despite him being his… brother? I’m not sure if this is literal or not). The rest is no secret.
Hearing all this everyone agrees it is a great turn of events. Dalinda gets pardoned for her role in the plot (and sent off to Denmark) while Ariodante and Ginerva get married. Rinaldo sets off again, but Ariosto says now let’s go back to Ruggiero.
When last we saw Ruggiero he was on board the flying hippogriff setting off for parts unknown. His flight makes him tremble like a leaf despite bearing stalwart and brave, and across the ocean he flies until he lands on a mysterious isle. Hitching the hippogriff to a tree, he’s surprised when the tree starts crying.
And so enters another guy.
This knight’s name is Astolfo and he’s related to Orlando and Rinaldo. He’s also next in line as King of England. During some adventure he got trapped in a cave, then freed by Orlando. Once freed he was heading back to Europe when a cruel sorceress named Alcina kidnapped him by sending him out to swim to an island that turned out to be a whale that carried him to this magic isle far across the ocean.
Now, Alcina is the sister of Morgana la Faye and both of them are bad news.
To my abode I’ll take you and beguile
You with my fish menagerie
I don’t know about you, but I’d nope out at “fish menagerie”.
Morgana and Alcina are evil, but they have a sister named Logistilla who is good, and they being the Mean Girls they are hate Logistilla. But all this is a long digression and at last Astolfo gets back to how he got changed into a tree.
He lands on the island and promptly starts a love affair with Alcina, and all is great until she gets bored with him. Like Circe before her, Alcina likes to change men to beasts/plants when she gets bored with them. Hence Astolfo becomes a myrtle tree. All this and the fact that Astolfo is Bradamante’s cousin makes Ruggiero sad he can’t free Astolfo. But so it goes, and instead Ruggiero asks for directions to wherever Logistilla has her home. Astolfo gives them and Ruggiero sets out.
He sees a fabulous city, but figures he should avoid it since that’s where Alcina lives. So he takes a mountain road where he is promptly attacked by a horde of twisted monsters, gamboling, goatheads, bodies upside down, ogres, and such like, real Realms of Chaos-Hieronymous Bosch-John Blanche type stuff. Ruggiero fights as well as he can, but before long the horde gets the upper hand. All seems lost for Ruggiero, when out from the city comes a pair of beautiful ladies riding unicorns. They “rescue” Ruggiero and take him into the city which is full of “alluring damsels.”
With beckoning gestures and with smiling eyes,
They ushered in the knight to Paradise.
Now the two ladies tell Ruggiero that there’s a monster in the swamp nearby birthing all those horrible monsters that attacked him, and this monster’s name is Erfilla and would Ruggiero be so kind as to kill it. Well, of course, he would! So for the swamp he sets out, but as for the battle? That Ariosto will tell us in the next Canto.
See you there.
In Canto V we meet the greatest young knight in all of Italy and his name is Ariodante. And, boom, like that Ariosto drops an author self-insert character! Truly this is a work of fan fiction. I might start doing this myself.
Which sounds the most modest: Justemingway, Justespeare, F. Scott Justgerald? But I get ahead of myself.
Last canto we ended with Rinaldo rescuing a damsel from some ruffians while on his way to rescue a different damsel. In this Canto, the rescued damsel tells her story and how it relates to that other damsel that needs rescuing. That damsel’s name is Ginerva. This damsel’s name is Dalinda. And this is her story. But first Ariosto gives us a bit of digression on how weird it is that animals have sex without any problems, but for humans it’s a battlefield between the participants. Ariosto even takes the radical stance of saying it’s a bad thing to kill your lover. All this should clue us readers in for what’s to come.
Dalinda is Ginevra’s maid, and the two had a very close relationship, so much so that Ginerva gave Dalinda access to her old clothes and chambers. Dalinda was very pleased, and turned the spare rooms into her personal rendezvous spot to meet with her lover Polinesso , the Duke of Albany. There no “no amorous game was left untried”, but, of course, Polinesso’s love was not true. He’s using Dalinda to get access to Ginevra. She is the real person he wants to wed. But Ginevra loves another man: Ariodante, the GREATEST KNIGHT ITALY EVER HAD. Machinations ensue. Polinesso convinces Dalinda to go along with him, telling her he’s only feigning love for Ginevra in order to gain social position. He has Dalinda dress up as Ginevra one night in their love nest, but not before telling Ariodante how his love is untrue to him. Ariodante expects some shady dealings and brings a bodyguard with him (Lurcanio, greatest knight in Scotland and yadda yadda yadda). Polinesso then dons a disguise and climbs up the tower where he and Dalinda do the pornhub. Ariodante sees all and flips out. Dalinda realizes what Polinesso’s up to, and Lurcanio thinks someone’s trying to kill Ariodante. He goes to save Ariodante and spies the whole thing. At first, he tries to tell Ariodante that all woman are evil and should die. But Ariodante chooses instead to disappear. Ginevra has no idea what’s happened, only that this guy she loves now flees from her. A bit later word comes back that Ariodante threw himself off a cliff and is now dead. (I doubt it.) When Lurcanio hears this he denounces Ginerva to the king. It would usually be her brother (Prince Zerbino) who would defend her honor, but he’s momentarily absent from the kingdom.
But what about Dalinda and the ruffians?
Well, Polinesso true to douchebro-form realizes one person can keep a secret better than two and hires a couple of thugs to abduct Dalinda and kill her out in the wilderness somewhere. He doesn’t want anyone to ask her any questions. What he didn’t count on was Rinaldo showing up.
Rinaldo rescues Dalinda and gets the whole story from her. He decides he’ll fight as Ginevra’s champion and sets off to where she’s imprisoned. But when he gets there he finds another knight has already become her champion. This knight doesn’t give a name and keeps their visor down. It’s this knight Lurcanio’s fighting when Rinaldo arrives. Rinaldo promptly goes to the king and tells him to stop the fight, because the whole thing’s a mistake. Rinaldo then tells everyone about Polinesso’s plot and challenges him to a duel. They fight and Polinesso gets run threw. He confesses before dying. Ginevra’s name gets cleared. Everyone then turns to the unknown knight.
“How the flip do you fit in this?” they ask.
And the knight says, “I’ll tell you in the next canto.”
I made the comment on twitter that I am glad I skipped the introduction because I fear it would’ve tried to make me think this was a book to be taken seriously. A Dante’s The Divine Comedy, instead of what it actually is: a 16th century run of Avengers comics. The whole thing reads like Ariosto took all the legends and epics he knew and mashed them into one continuity Crisis on Infinite Earths style. And I’m here for it.
Plus it’s really good bedtime reading.
Last canto we ended with Bradamante meeting Brunello. Surprisingly in this Canto we stay with them. The crashing that ended Canto III turns out to be the necromancer flying by on his winged horse.
“Sometimes high up among the stars he flies
At other times close to the ground he’ll skim,
And any lovely woman whom he spies
He snatches up and carries off with him.”
Bradamante and Brunello agree to join forces and travel together to the necromancer’s castle. Both have their own reasons to want Ruggiero freed. Surprising me again, nothing happens to them on the road and after about three dozen lines of hill and dale climbing descriptions, the pair come to in sight of the necromancer’s castle. Promptly, Bradamante attacks and defeats Brunello, stealing the magic ring he carries. However, contrary to the enchantress’s advice Bradamante doesn’t kill Brunello but leaves him tied to a tree. She then goes on to the necromancer’s castle and blows her horn in challenge.
“Not long the man of sorcery delayed
When he had heard the challenge of the horn.
On his winged horse, towards the warrior Maid,
Whom he believes to be a man, he’s borne.
A word here about our necromancer: it’s hard not to read him in science-fictional terms as someone from an advanced tech civilization living on a primitive world. He has a winged “horse” that makes a loud booming roar when it flies, access to magic items (a shield that shoots a stunning light and a book he uses to conjure weapons), and he lives in a towering castle made of steel. I’ve read Gene Wolfe. I’ve played Numenera. I recognize this guy.
“His shield in a vermilion cloth was draped.
In his right hand he held an open book,
Whence marvelous phenomena he shaped:
A lance which hurtled through the air and took
His adversary by surprise, who gaped
At nothingness, with an astonished look;
Or with a dagger or a club he smote
From far away, by a control remote.”
By a control remote. . .
You can’t fool me Ariosto! This ain’t no wizard. This is a traveler from the far future fighting with a stun ray and nanite swarm. There’s also something, something about his horse.
Bradamante and the necromancer fight, and the necromancer enjoys himself, drawing the duel out to get his cruel kicks. Bradamante however feigns being worse off than she is, and when she swoons before the stun ray she does so while completely unscathed. But the necromancer doesn’t know this and goes to claim his prize when Bradamante leaps upon him and strikes the magic book from his hand. She quickly subdues him and claims his gear as her own, then gets ready to chop off his head only to realize he’s a withered old man. He’s like kill me already, and she’s like no. You need to tell me why you’re kidnapping knights. And he’s like I kidnapped the knights to keep Ruggiero company. And Bradamante’s like why are you keeping Ruggiero captive? And the guy is like because if Ruggiero becomes a Christian he’ll die. He also says his name’s Atlante. Bradamante commands him to open his prisons and PLONK, out come a host of knights and their horses.
There’s Gradasso, Sacripante, Prasildo, and Iroldo, all people I assume had their own comic books in the 16th century. At last, there’s Ruggiero. And there’s much gladness when he sees Bradamante – but Atlante escapes and takes his steel castle with him. The winged horse however stays behind and all the knights try to catch it. It flies in little hops, first here, then there, all the while it’s being controlled by an invisible Atlante. At last the horse lands in front of Ruggiero, and he climbs astride it. At which point, Atlante launches the horse straight into the sky. Atlante hasn’t given up on his mission yet.
And then Ariosto does a scene change…
When last we left Rinaldo he was on a boat making for England and the waves were high and all looked lost, but it actually wasn’t that bad. They land and Ariosto’s Britain is a chivalric hellscape of Arthuriana where the never ending clash of arms echoes through the forests. All of which sounds great to Rinaldo who sets off at once to seek adventure. Staying one night at a monastery he learns how the local king has condemned his daughter to death because she slept with her boyfriend, and Rinaldo is like you’re king’s an ass. He then gives some sex positivity discourse on how it’s no big deal that a damsel gave her lover solace in her bed. Long story short, Rinaldo sets out to rescue the princess. And promptly assists another damsel in distress being attacked by ruffians.
How did she end up here? Well, that’s what Canto V will attempt to make clear.
Until next time! May your sword stay sharp!