Orlando Furioso (Canti 1-12) | Renaissance Literature

Orlando Furioso (Canti 1-12) | Renaissance Literature

Hello everybody! Welcome back to my
channel “The Medieval Reader”. So, it is now mid-march and I haven’t yet made a video
on “Orlando Furioso” by Ariosto, which I and Anna and Elena
(whose channels I will link below) are reading in March. I know that I’m behind
because I’ve only read the first 12 cantos, but I hope to catch up in the
next couple of weeks. So I wanted to talk about my initial impressions of what
I’ve just read and some passages that jumped out to me. So there seems to be
two storylines… or maybe three that are going on at the same time. You have
Angelica and everything that occurs in her life. She’s basically assaulted and
pursued by every man, and it’s really disturbing.
There’s Rinaldo and Orlando, who are both in love with Angelica. Angelica actually
used to be in love with Rinaldo, but the tables have turned –
I believe because of a love potion – and now Angelica
hates Rinaldo. But Rinaldo is completely infatuated with her, and so he is chasing
after her. Orlando, who is essentially in exile,
hears that Angelica’s in trouble. Later on, she is threatened with being
eaten by a sea monster and he comes to help her.
There’s also Ferrau who is a Saracen. I’m goin to use the term Saracen because he’s
supposed to be Muslim, but that term is used throughout the Middle Ages and well
into the Renaissance to talk about people who are foreigners. But it’s also
clear that we are talking about essentially a crusade. Charlemagne offers
Angelica as a prize to whomever of the two – Rinaldo or Orlando – kills the most
Saracens. In light of recent events, I am trying to be very careful about how I
talk about this publicly. Thankfully, this doesn’t appear
to be as much of a prominent theme in “Orlando Furioso” as it is say in the “Song
of Roland”. If you were reading the “Song of Roland”, I would make an entire video
talking about what… what a Saracen is in the mind of Western medieval Christians
and talk to that. But I’m not really going to talk about that very much. I will
link a Twitter feed below with resources about the Crusades if you’re interested.
But back to our story. So we have the story of Angelica, but we also have Bradamant, who is in love with Ruggiero, but Ruggiero was imprisoned by Atlas –
who is this wizard. He’s a wizard who flies on a Hippogriff. And with the help
of this magic ring, Bradamant saves… well, defeats… Atlas, for a time. And Ruggiero escapes on the Hippogriff, but she doesn’t know where he is. And then the
ring is… somehow ends up in the hands of Angelica, who is able to make herself
invisible. And so the ring – that seems to be an invisibility ring (very much like
the ring in the “Lord of the Rings”), but it also is glossed by the poet as reason –
the ring is reason that helps see the truth in every event. The ring is able to
penetrate through all forms of falsity and reveal the truth of the situation.
Where I have just finished, Angelica was assaulted by a monk. And I was very
shocked by that scene I must admit. Because while assault of women does
occur in epics I was really shocked by how graphic this event was. It is a
failed assault, but again it just… it’s… it’s
very graphic. And then she is once again kidnapped, and this time she is tied
to a rock waiting for this sea monster to eat her as a sacrifice. And then
Orlando has a feeling that Angelica’s in trouble. He saves her, but then he is
fighting with Ferrau (the Saracen) over Angelica. And she just disappears; she
just runs away. So she has just completely run away from the scene.
Despite the representation of women – particularly poor Angelica – in the story,
I was surprised by what I thought were some very forward-thinking
comments about women by Rinaldo. In one of the earlier cantos, Guinevere
is awaiting execution because she has been caught in adultery. And this is what
Rinaldo says. Rinaldo decides he’s going to fight in defense of her. Then, the narrator says: And so, Ronaldo actually questions the double standard here and suggests that
in fact it’s the King’s fault for upholding such an unjust law. There were a few
other moments when Ronaldo made comments that were…I would say… feminist. But then,
you have him pursuing Angelica who clearly is not interested in him. Now he
is cursed by this potion …the reason why I know about this potion, by the way… I
don’t think it appears in Orlando Furioso… is because it is the sequel of
another work or written by a different author. Now, I’ve completely forgotten
what the name of the work is so I will link all the information below. But this
is actually the sequel of another epic. But this is the one that is the most
famous. So there are times when certain characters appear and I’m like, “Wait! I
don’t think I’ve encountered this character before. Or the author is
assuming background knowledge that I don’t have.” And then when I google it,
turns out it was in the prequel. So there’s that. I think if you’ve been
confused – as I have – that is the reason why.
And the final storyline is about Olympia, who with the help of the magic ring… so
the magic ring is first in the hands of Bradamant because of this woman who
helps her. Then, it’s in the hands of Olympia. And then (finally) it’s in the
hands of Angelica. So Olympia risks her life to save her
husband, who then decides he’s going to go off with this other woman. And so she
is just really upset. So there’s just a lot of different storylines here.
There is an overall plot, but at times it can get confusing. I have been using the
internet sometimes to figure out what’s going on – whether I’ve missed something.
I am also being very careful not to spoil myself. So anyway, this is where we
are. There are obviously a lot of similarities with the works of
Chrétien de Troyes and the other romances of the 12th century. But there are also some
differences. I think there’s just a lot more philosophy that’s in this text.
Almost every canto begins with…like… a moral lesson about what we’re supposed
to take from the story. It is glossed by the poet: warnings about love, about
fortune and how fortune will benefits you at times and at other times it will
betray you, and do not trust in fortune. So it becomes this moralistic tale at
the same time. So I have to say I’ve been really enjoying it, and I hope to really
catch up in the next couple of weeks. Let me know how you feel about the first
twelve cantos. Unfortunately, I haven’t read further. And I will talk to you
later. Bye now!

local_offerevent_note October 12, 2019

account_box Matthew Anderson


7 thoughts on “Orlando Furioso (Canti 1-12) | Renaissance Literature”

  • I promise that the bookcase is not leaning 🙂 Also, I want to share another passage with you that I forgot to mention in the video: "Great was the goodness of the knights of old! Here they [Rinaldo and Ferrau] were, rivals, of different faiths, and they still ached all over from the cruel and vicious blows they had dealt each other; still, off they went together in mutual trust, through the dark woods and crooked paths."

  • I enjoyed listening to your thoughts on Orlando Furioso. I read Orlando Innamorato and Orlando Furioso (tran. by Barbara Reynolds) earlier this year, and enjoyed them very much. I’m thinking of reading different King Arthur stories, from the Medieval period to modern, sometime this year. I love Medieval literature, even though their social views on race and religion and gender are very different from ours and problematic/unacceptable.

  • I believe the prequel is Orlando Innamorato by Matteo Maria Boiardo (Orlando in Love), which wasn't finished. I also was surprised by these pretty liberal views. This Angelica so far has been pretty much a victim. I read some summary of Orlando Innamorato, Angelica was used by her brother as a bait he wanted to fight and to best (with the help of magic) and then imprison all of the knights they came across. I wonder if she was a willing participant or whether she didn't really have a choice. I wish we read Orlando Innamorato first there are things that confuse me like the fact that Orlando is practically invincible and doesn't really need armor. How did that happen?:) What kind of magical enhancement was that?:)

    I'm not that much ahead of you. Canto 16 probably.

  • I've never read this however Orlando Furioso is frequently mentioned in Don Quixote (in both the footnotes and the text), as probably the biggest influence on the protagonist. Cervantes parodies many of the Chivalric romances in his masterpiece, critiquing the Crusade movement, while subtly complementing the nobility of purpose of the classic "Knight Errant". Interesting review. Just wow!

  • Thanks for tagging my channel! I'm afraid I'm lagging a bit behind you in my reading. I am really interested in the poem's treatment of women's rights–I find it more similar to the proto-feminist thoughts of Christine de Pisan than I expected. I'm also curious to find out how common were the stories of female knights like Bradamante in medieval literature. That was something I didn't expect to find at all in this epic! Great video, as always.

  • Thank you for this! I'm researching a play based on an episode from Orlando Furioso but I don't have time to read the whole epic, this series will be helpful for understanding the overarching plot and the themes.
    I came to this corner of literature via The Faerie Queene and I'm really amused by how much Spenser borrowed from Ariosto, and what he changed.

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