by Ludovico Ariosto
Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533)
This electronic edition was edited, proofed, and prepared by
Douglas B. Killings (DeTroyes@AOL.COM), July, 1995. Additional
corrections made September, 1995.
NOTE: Please let the preparer know of any textual errors that you
find; this edition has been proofed once, but I am finding
additional errors all the time.
This work is a continuation of the "Orlando Innamorato" of Matteo
Maria Boiardo, which was left unfinished upon the author's death
in 1494. It begins more or less at the point where Boiardo left
This is a brief synopsis of Boiardo's work, omitting most of the
numerous digressions and incidental episodes associated with
To the court of King Charlemagne comes Angelica (daughter to the
king of Cathay, or India) and her brother Argalia. Angelica is
the most beautiful woman any of the Peers have ever seen, and all
want her. However, in order to take her as wife they must first
defeat Argalia in combat. The two most stricken by her are
Orlando and Ranaldo ("Rinaldo" in Rose).
When Argalia falls to the heathen knight Ferrau, Angelica flees
-- with Orlando and Ranaldo in hot pursuit. Along the way, both
Angelica and Ranaldo drink magic waters -- Angelica is filled
with a burning love for Ranaldo, but Ranaldo is now indifferent.
Eventually, Orlando and Ranaldo arrive at Angelica's castle.
Others also gather at Angelica's castle, including Agricane, King
of Tartary; Sacripant, King of Circassia; Agramante, King of
Africa and Marfisa ("Marphisa" in Rose), an Asian warrior-Queen.
Except for Orlando and Ranaldo, all are heathen.
Meanwhile, France is threatened by heathen invaders. Led by King
Gradasso of Sericana (whose principal reason for going to war is
to obtain Orlando's sword, Durindana) and King Rodomonte of
Sarzia, a Holy War between Pagans and Christians ensues.
Ranaldo leaves Angelica's castle, and Angelica and a very
love-sick (but very chaste and proper) Orlando, set out for
France in search of him. Again the same waters as before are
drunk from, but this time in reverse -- Ranaldo now burns for
Angelica, but Angelica is now indifferent. Ranaldo and Orlando
now begin to fight over her, but King Charlemagne (fearing the
consequences if his two best knights kill each other in combat)
intervenes and promises Angelica to whichever of the two fights
the best against the heathen; he leaves her in the care of Duke
Namus. Orlando and Ranaldo arrive in Paris just in time to
repulse an attack by Agramante.
Namus' camp is overrun by the heathen. Angelica escapes, with
Ranaldo in pursuit. Also in pursuit is Ferrau, who (because he
had defeated Argalia) considers Angelica his. It is at this
point that the poem breaks off.
While the Orlando-Ranaldo-Angelica triangle is going on, the
stories of other knights and their loves are mixed in. Most
important of these is that of the female knight Bradamante
(sister of Ranaldo), who falls in love with a very noble heathen
knight named Ruggiero ("Rogero" in Rose). Ruggiero, who is said
to be a descendent of Alexander the Great and Hector, also falls
in love with Bradamante, but because they are fighting on
opposite sides it is felt that their love is hopeless.
Nevertheless, it is prophecised that they shall wed and found the
famous Este line, who shall rise to become one of the major
families of Medieval and Renaissance Italy (it is worth noting
that the Estes where the patrons of both Boiardo and Ariosto).
Opposed to this prophecy is Atlantes, an African wizard who seeks
to derail fate and keep Ruggiero from becoming a Christian. By
the end of the poem, Ruggiero is imprisoned in Atlantes' castle.
However, Bradamante (who has decided to follow her heart) is in
pursuit of her love, and is not too far away. It is the
Bradamante-Ruggiero story that eventually takes center stage in