The penultimate canto… let’s do it!
To start we get some expounding on the nature of fortune and how “Good follows Evil, Evil follows Good, shame ends in glory, glory ends in shame.” Ruggiero has just wrought havoc upon the Greeks. Now he wants to sleep. He arrives at an inn but is recognized. The Greek king has him abducted, and the king’s sister urges him to treat Ruggiero harshly since he killed her son in the battle. In the end Ruggiero gets locked away in some deep dungeon full of snakes, where he’s chained around hands and feet and forced to eat moldy bread.
Back in France, word spreads about Bradamante’s oath to only marry a man who can defeat her in battle. This has made her parents furious. Much moping ensues.
Back in Greece, Prince Leon hears how the knight that defeated the price’s army is being held captive in a dungeon. Leon “loves” this knight because his kink is apparently masochistic self-destruction by proxy. He goes down to the dungeon with his assassin henchmen. They trick the gaoler to open the prisoner’s cell, then the henchman kills the gaoler.
They go into the cell where Ruggiero is on the brink of death. Leon professes his love/admiration for Ruggiero and together all leave the dungeon, Ruggiero pledging himself to assist Leon in any way he would wish. It’s about now that Bradamante’s challenge to any suitor reaches Leon, and he starts hatching a plan.
We can all see where this is going here.
Leon will accept the challenge, then he’ll have Ruggiero fight wearing his armor, then when Ruggiero defeats Bradamante, he’ll say it was himself and marry her.
When Ruggiero hears the plan he gets all torn and twisted. But chivalry is chivalry and his word is his bond and all that. He accepts and they head off for Paris. There’s a good bit here where Ruggiero hammers the edge off his blade so as not to harm Bradamante, while Bradamante sharpens her sword thinking she’s going to have a chance to kill Prince Leon.
The duel begins.
Bradamante’s doing her best, but Ruggiero is like a rock. This goes on all day. Finally the sun goes down, and since Bradamante couldn’t defeat the challenger it’s declared that she lost and was bested. Ruggiero however doesn’t stick around. Once he can he rides straight away returning to Leon. Leon’s delighted. He showers Ruggiero with hugs and kisses. Once that’s done Ruggiero rides off to mope in the nearest dark forest.
Meanwhile Bradamante’s pretty upset. She doesn’t want to marry Leone and is thinking of poisoning him. Fortunately, she has a pal in Marfisa who goes to King Charles and says Bradamante can’t marry Leone because she already married Ruggiero in a ceremony she witnessed. This sends the court into a tizzy. Prince Leone is disappointed but takes things in stride. It’s Aymon, Bradamante’s dad who is a complete ass over this news. How can a Christian marry a Muslim? Etc. Etc. Assholery.
King Charles can’t decide what’s what, so Marfisa steps in again and says how about we have Ruggiero fight Leone and decide it that way. Leon says that’s fine. He thinks he can have his secret knight fight Ruggiero. (Yeah, he doesn’t know the knight’s name only that he is a great warrior.) But when he gets back to his tents, there’s no Ruggiero there and no one can tell him where he’s gone.
One canto left!
CANTO SCORE CARD
Knights: Ruggiero, Ungiardo, Bradamante, Leon the Greek Prince, Marfisa, King Charlemagne
Awful Parents: Constantine the Greek King, Theodora his sister, Aymon, Beatrice
Magic Items: Hector’s Armor
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
In this installment we are once again reminded that things have names.
Knights have names.
Horses have names.
Swords have names.
Also much cross-cutting ensues.
On land Dudone knows he’s beat. Ruggiero hasn’t been giving his all. They decide to cease fighting. Dudone asks what Ruggiero wants as a prize and he says some of your prisoners. (There are seven Saracen kings here and they all have names I can’t bother remembering.) Dudone hands these people over and they along with Ruggiero set sail. As soon as they do the weather turns and before long they’re all stuck in a great storm. The captain and crew make to abandon ship. Ruggiero does the same. He leaves his armor, weapons, and horse behind and leaps overboard. Everyone else apparently dies, but he manages to swim to an island. There he meets a hermit and the hermit teaches Ruggiero his cathechism and baptizes him.
There’s also something about having seven years yet to live but it’s okay because you’ll found this awesome family and they’ll grow so powerful that they can hire this guy named Ariosto to write your whole life story.
Meanwhile the ship that Ruggiero abandoned survives the storm and reaches Africa where it washes up near Orlando and the Gang. Inside are Ruggiero’s weapons and stuff. This being Balisarda (sword) and Frontino (horse). They’re pleased with this and Orlando doles out the gear. There’s an aside here about Fiordiligi who wails so much at the leaving of Brandimarte that Astolfo and Sansonetto have to drag her back to her chambers where she promptly takes to bed, but not before weaving Brandimarte a black surcoat decorated with jewels. Then it’s off to the island where King Agramant waits.
They get there too late to fight, so it’s nighty-knight. During the night Brandimarte goes over and visits the Saracens because he and King Agramante were once great friends. We get a bit of Brandimarte back story here. He was a Saracen up until he fell in love with / met Orlando. And now he wants Agramante to quit being Muslim and get baptized, but Agramante is like get the flip outta my face knave. And honestly, I don’t blame him. Brandimarte totally comes off as a missionary tool during this bit. In general Brandimarte is mostly a tool.
Morning comes and it’s time for the melee.
On the Christian side are Oliver, Orlando, and Brandimarte. On the Saracen side are Agramante, Gradasso, and Sobrino. Gradasso has Durindana (sword) and Baiard (horse) and Orlando has Balisarda (sword) and Unnamed (horse).
The fight is exciting stuff. Big steel cage tag team champs Wrestlemania vibes. Orlando’s horse gets knocked out. Agramante goes after Oliver. Brandimarte knocks Sobrino clear out of the saddle. Brandimarte goes to help Orlando. Gradasso fights Brandimarte. Sobrino gets up. Orlando knocks down Sobrino and climbs on a horse. He makes to assist Brandimarte. Gradasso turns to fight him. Sobrino gets back on his feet and backstabs Oliver’s horse. Horse and rider Tumbe. Brandimarte goes to help his friend. Agramante rushes in. Swords flash. Graddaso knocks down Orlando. He turns and Brandimarte’s about to kill his king. He rushes in. And orlando wakes up in time to see his beloved Brandimarte struck down.
“And from his charger Brandimarte fell,
And with blood which from his head drained
In widening crimson streaks
the sand was veined.”
Orlando charges Gradasso, and that’s where Ariosto ends the canto.
Pure cliffhanger material.
You might get some more of these this week and next. There are five cantos left and I would like to be done with this project by December 31st.
CANTO SCORE CARD
Knights: Dudone, Ruggiero, Seven Saracen Kings, Orlando, Brandimarte, Oliver, Astolfo, Sansonetto, Agramante, Gradasso, Sobrino,
Damsels: Fiordiligi the Tragic
Horses: Frontino (formerly Ruggiero’s, now Brandimarte’s), Baiard (Gradasso’s horse that belonged to someone else before), Brigliador (Agramante’s horse),
Swords: Balisarda (formerly Ruggiero’s, now Orlando’s), Durindana (formerly Orlando’s now Gradasso’s)
Mages: Falerina the witch who forged Balisarda, a Hermit
I humbly beg your apologies. Last post I said that Orlando was the captain of the fleet, but I was wrong. It’s actually Dudone the Dane who is the captain. Mea culpa. I will find myself a suitable rock with which to pound my chest.
We start with a big sea battle that goes badly for the Saracens. Dudone employs Greek fire and soon Agramante’s fleet is ablaze. Agramante escapes, but the illustration paints a grim picture.
Back in Africa, we find Orlando, Astolfo, and the gang getting ready to attack Biserta. There are prayers. In the city the whole Muslim population turns out to pray for protection. This is all a call back to when Rodomonte attacked Paris back in canto whatever (it was Canto XVI).
Battle ensues. It’s grisly as we have come to accept from previous instances. Brandimart climbs a ladder but it breaks before his men can follow him, so he gets stranded in the city. Honestly, Brandimart seems a shit knight. Ariosto keeps saying he is one of the best, an equal almost to Orlando, but whenever we read about him he’s getting kicked in the nuts by events. The Patroclus vibes are strong with him.
Despite being stuck in the city Brandimart hacks and hews his way through the inhabitants. Again shades of Rodomonte here inside the walls of Paris, but, unlike the savage Rodomonte, Brandimart doesn’t slay his own troops and rush off before his comrades can reach him. When they do reach him, the battle’s won and it’s off to killing, looting, raping, and pillaging which Ariosto mentions.
So well done, fellows. True paladins of the faith.
From there it’s back to Agramante on a boat – or is it back to Dudone (Dude-One?) on a boat – or is it back to Ruggiero who has set off to find Agramante and ask him if he really and truly broke his oath about the duel fought back a few cantos ago? Anyway, it’s one of those things. Agramante encounters Gradasso on an island and they propose sending a messenger to Orlando saying let’s you and your crew fight me and my crew. Orlando accepts but lacks the weapons to do so with honor (Gradasso has his sword right now). Despite this he equips himself as well as he can and sets out with Oliver and Brandimarte. Meanwhile Ruggiero encounters the burnt ships of Agramante’s fleet and sets off along the coast only to encounter Dudone. Dudone attacks him. He fights with an iron club. But the club has no name. That’s all left unresolved when the canto ends.
Next time I don’t know what will happen, but I assume someone will get punched. Or we’ll be thrown to some other place and hear the names of another thousand characters. Until then!
CANTO SCORE CARD
Knights: King Agramante, Dude-one the Dane, Orlando, Astolfo, Sansonetto, King Branzardo (ruler of Biserta), Prester John, Oliver, Brandimarte, King Bucifar (ruler of Algaziers), Sobrino (Agramante’s councillor), Ruggiero
Horses: Brigliadoro (Orlando’s horse with King Agramante), Baiardo (someone’s horse Astolfo’s? Rinaldo’s? currently with Gradasso)
Swords: Durindana (Orlando’s sword with Gradasso), Balisard (Ruggiero’s sword)
This is it.
This is the canto we’ve all been waiting for.
This is the canto where Orlando gets his wits back.
The canto where Orlando is FURIOSO NO MORE!
But first Ruggiero and Rinaldo continue with their slap fight, and while Rinaldo is all “I’m gonna kill him”, Ruggiero is all “I can’t because he’s my fiancé’s brother!”
Needless to say the Muslim army is like, Ruggiero, bruv, what are you doing? Even King Agramant is like, “This sucks.”
And that’s when Melissa the Sorceress steps in and casts Alter Self and makes herself look like Rodomonte. She goes over to King Agramant and is like, “King Bruv, dafuq you doing? Why not let me fight?” And Agramant is like “Dude, where have you been!?!” And Melissa-Rodomonte is like “Places.” And Kind Agramamnt is like “Good enough” and he calls an end to the duel.
And, if you remember the duel’s agreement, Ruggiero said he’d switch sides if King Agramant stopped the fight. Well, looks like that happened. (sneaky, sneaky Melissa!)
Needless to say the duel ends and all hell breaks loose. The armies set on each other’s throats. Bradamante and Marfisa wade deep into the fray and start killing people left and right. Like hounds allowed after their quarry after being held back so long. (Ariosto, you calling the Lady Knights bitches?)
Meanwhile a bunch of shit is happening in Africa. Astolfo and his Nubian army are capturing cities left and right. In one of them they find Dudone the Dane. Who’s he? Some guy, but he’s a Sailor Guy. Once he’s free he gets with Astolfo and the two of them start strategizing their return invasion of Europe. Dudone’s like “We need a navy” and Astolfo is like “Watch this!” And he takes some leaves and with the blessing of Saint John throws them on the sea and POOF the leaves grow and transform into ships. And this navy captures the ship Rodomonte sent over with his captives and in those they find this guy, that guy, and the other guy (Brandimarte). Fiordiligi shows up and she and Brandimarte have a reunion. And soon all the Christian knights are gathered and mustered and ready to bring the war back home when out of the wilderness comes this howling mad man.
That’s right! It’s our boy Orlando doing the Furioso! He’s threatening everyone and Brandimarte and all his former friends try and subdue him and it takes like five of them to hold him down and when they have him subdued Astolfo gets the vial of Orlando’s wits (the one he got on the moon) and pours it down Orlando’s throat. At which point, Orlando forgets all about Angelica and comes to his senses.
Now they can go back to Europe and kick Agramant’s ass.
Meanwhile, Agramant’s had the worse of it and decided to flee for Africa. He’s piled his remaining troops on board his boats and set off.
But what’s this on the horizon?
A fleet of boats! And with Orlando at the helm!
Agramante, bruv, you fucked!
CANTO SCORE CARD
Knights: Rinaldo, Ruggiero, Marfisa, Bradamante, King Agramante, Astolfo, Orlando, Salvaggio, Sansonetto, Brandimarte, Dudone the Dane… and a bunch of other people. I have to admit that whenever Ariosto says so-and-so or so-and-so was there I feel like it’s like whenever Simon the Devious shows up with his crew in What We Do In the Shadows. Sometimes it’s just NAME and I’m left wondering if it’s a person, kingdom, or horse.
Damsels: Fiordiligi who is also called Fiordilisa
Magic Items: Leaf boats, Orlando’s bottle of wits
The plot tidying continues!
Bradamante and Marfisa enter the camp of King Charles and everyone’s delighted to see Bradamante and they gawk at Marfisa. More than a few of the Christian knights fought her on the battlefield. Marfisa kneels to the King. She tells her backstory and asks to be baptized as a Christian. King Charles agrees and it’s set for the next day.
Then it’s back to the moon where Astolfo says good bye to Saint John and sets off back to Earth. He heals King Senapo/Prester John with a magic herb and in return Senapo musters his army of Nubians. Then Astolfo goes to a hill where he captures the wind in a bag. This in hand, he returns to the army where he prays and Saint John transforms an avalanche into camels for the army to mount. Off they ride to wage war on King Agramante’s North African holdings.
Word reaches King Agramante and he’s now torn. Does he continue to press the fight against King Charles and the Christians or does he return to Africa and defend his kingdom. King Marsilio says they should stay. King Sorbino says they should go. In the end it’s decided that they’ll approach King Charles and suggest the Christians pick a champion to fight their Muslim champion and end the war that way.
King Charles agrees to the suggestion. The Christians pick Rinaldo as their champion. The Muslims pick Ruggiero. Bradamante weeps at this. Rinaldo is her brother. Ruggiero is her betrothed. But Melissa the Sorceress shows up (remember her? Of course, you don’t!) and tells her not to worry. She has a plan.
The day comes. Solemn vows get made before priest and imam. Both kings agree to abide by the duel’s outcome. Both knights say they will serve the other king if their own bids them to cease fighting. It is agreed that the knights will fight on foot with axe and dagger.
Then the combat begins, but it is slow since neither knight really wants to harm the other… and that’s where things stop.
“The rest in the next canto you will hear,
If next time you desire to join me there.”
CANTO SCORE CARD
KNIGHT: Bradamante, Marfisa, Ruggiero, Astolfo, King Senapo, King Charles, King Agramante, King Marsilio, King Sorbino, Rinaldo, all the second stringers… (Guidon, Sansonetto, Viviano, Ricciardo, Riciardetto, Grifone, the sons of Oliver, etc.)
MAGES: Melissa, Saint John, Malagigi
MONSTERS: hippogriff the stone camels, man
MAGIC ITEMS: A bag of wind, camels made from stones, magic herb, the usual magic armor
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
This canto is all about the fights.
It has about half the surviving cast in it and there all getting in each other’s faces. But first we get a bit about Bradamante feeling sad and jealous. Oh no! Ruggiero saw another woman! Oh no! He is obviously now in love with her. Ariosto foreshadows it’s only going to get worse. But that doesn’t stop him from leaving her and following after Rinaldo.
Rinaldo and the Gang are off to Paris to help King Charles kill Saracens. Ricciardetto’s there, Viviano, Alardo, Malagigi, the whole gang. They promptly find their progress blocked by a knight with a damsel riding behind him. Challenges ensue. Damsels dismount. The Gang decides who will be first to joust and so on. Of course this knight’s awesome and unseats everyone until Rinaldo gives it a try.
Slash. Bang. Boom. Etc.
Neither can beat the other. Rinaldo invites the knight to camp with them. The knight says sure and when he takes off his helmet everyone’s happy to see that it is Sansonetto. (Remember him? He was the champion boy-toy back in the city of women.) He and Rinaldo exchange the kiss of peace and Sansonetto joins the gang. There’s a whole thing here about how Sansonetto and Rinaldo are related.
All continue on to Paris where they come upon Grifon the White, Aquilant the Black (Sansonetto’s pals), and Fiordiligi.
Fiodiligi’s still looking for her husband Brandimarte and she’s quick to tell the other knights how furioso Orlando was the last time she saw him (back on the bridge fighting with Rodomonte). Rinaldo corroborates. Fiodiligi then says how the Saracens took all Orlando’s stuff and now his horse is here, his armor there, and the sword with this other guy. Rinaldo weeps, but then resolves to reach Paris by any means.
So there’s a night raid on the Saracen camp. Mayhem ensues. People die. Limbs are hewn. King Charles rallies and rides forth to assist. With him comes Brandimarte (Fiordiligi’s husband). Fiordiligi rushes forward. There are hugs and kisses, and Ariosto does two things: highlights the May/December nature of their relationship, and starts insinuating that he has a new pair of tragic lovers to torment.
Fiordiligi tells her tale again, and Brandimarte, being a great pal of Orlando’s, decides to rescue him. He and Fiordiligi ride forth to the bridge where Rodomonte fought Orlando. Rodomonte is still there. He has that whole tower nearby where he lives beside the mausoleum that houses Isabella and Zerbino. Brandimarte issues a challenge and another duel ensues.
Smash. Bang. Boom. Etc.
The two fall off the bridge, but Rodomonte recovers while Brandimarte can’t. Fiordiligi wails and begs Rodomonte to save her husband, and so he does, stripping him of arms and armor and taking him back to his tower as a prisoner. Fiordiligi flees to seek help.
Back to Paris…
Maim. Slash. Stab. Etc.
Rinaldo’s slaughtering people. The Saracen camp’s in disarray. King Agramante flees along with the unconscious Ruggioro, but Gradasso doesn’t flee. He’s eager to fight Rinaldo and straps on his arms and armor.
The two were supposed to fight once before but Malagigi used Phantasmal Force to trick the two out of fighting. Both agree that won’t happen this time. They’re actually quite cordial and polite to each other in their chivalric way. They meet at the appointed place, embrace, and take their places.
Where Ariosto leaves their fate for another canto to reveal.
CANTO SCORE CARD
Knights: Bradamante, Rinaldo and the Gang, Sansonetto and the Gang (anyone else think Sansonetto sounds like an upscale brand of ice cream cone?), Brandimarte, Rodomonte, King Agramante and the Gang, Gradasso
Damsels: As yet unnamed damsel who rode with Sansonetto, Fiordiligli
Horses: Baiardo (Rinaldo’s Horse), Batoldo (Brandimarte’s horse – RIP)
Swords: Durindana, which is currently in Gradasso’s hands
Mages: Malagigi who gets blamed for every sneaky dishonest thing the Christian knights do.
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