Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
The Romance Epics of Boiardo, Ariosto, and Tasso

The Romance Epics of Boiardo, Ariosto, and Tasso: From Public Duty to Private Pleasure

  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Romance Epics of Boiardo, Ariosto, and Tasso
    Book Description:

    InThe Romance Epics of Boiardo, Ariosto, and Tasso, Jo Ann Cavallo attempts a new interpretation of the history of the renaissance romance epic in northern Italy, focusing on the period's three major chivalric poets. Cavallo challenges previous critical assumptions about the trajectory of the romance genre, especially regarding questions of creative imitation, allegory, ideology, and political engagement.

    In tracing the development of the romance epic against the historical context of the Ferrarese court and the Italian peninsula, Cavallo moves from a politically engaged Boiardo, whose poem promotes the tenets of humanism, to an individualistic Tasso, who opposed the repressive aspects of the counter-reformation culture he is often thought to represent. Ariosto is read from the vantage of his predecessor Boiardo, and Cavallo describes his cynicism and later mellowing attitude toward the real-world relevance of his and Boiardo's fiction.The Romance Epics of Boiardo, Ariosto, and Tassois the first critical study to bring together the three poets in a coherent vision that maps changes while uncovering continuities.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8224-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. General Introduction
    (pp. 3-8)

    This book aims to understand the romance epics of Boiardo, Ariosto, and Tasso within their literary contexts, with a particular focus on questions of creative imitation, genre, allegory, ideology, and politics. As I trace certain key episodes and recurring patterns within these poems, I am thinking in terms of engagement, not indebtedness. Consequently, I am not interested in poetic rivalry or the anxiety of influence, but rather in how each successive poet creatively reworks significant aspects of his predecessorsʹ poems to give meaning to his own romance epic.¹ I am concerned, moreover, with how these poets use genre – not...

  6. Part I: An Ethics of Action

    • Chapter One Introduction
      (pp. 11-14)

      Tutored by the humanist educator Guarino da Verona, Leonello dʹEste cultivated the image of himself as an enlightened ruler who used moral philosophy as the guiding principle of his statecraft. When his brother Borso succeeded him, he likewise fashioned himself as ʹthe ideal statesman, a personification of the ʺBuon Governoʺʹ (Gundersheimer,Ferrara, 124).¹ Borsoʹs desire to embody Good Government is conveyed in pictorial form in the Sala dei Mesi of Palazzo Schifanoia. In a fresco depicting the triumph of Minerva, the goddess of justice and wisdom is armed with a sword and a book, and she is facing the jurists...

    • Chapter Two Boiardo, Orlando Innamorato, Book One (1482–3): Romance
      (pp. 15-33)

      In the opening stanzas of theOrlando Innamorato, Boiardo announces that he intends to address both the private and public dimensions of life. Immediately after his reference to Orlandoʹs erotic desire, he directs attention to unbridled acquisitiveness in general. While anyone can fall victim to love, Boiardo singles out those in power as particularly afflicted by an insatiable desire to possess whatever they lack:

      E sì come egli avviene aʹ gran signori,

      Che pur quel voglion che non ponno avere,

      E quanto son difficultà maggiori

      La desïata cosa ad ottenere,

      Pongono il regno spesso in grandi errori,

      Né posson quel...

    • Chapter Three Orlando Innamorato, Book Two (1482–3): History
      (pp. 34-44)

      Guarino da Verona was a prolific translator of history, which he considered the best way to teach the art of government. While tutor to Leonello dʹEste and as founding director of the humaniststudiuoloin Ferrara, Guarino continually expounded the ethical and political lessons to be gained through study of the past.¹ Typical is the advice Guarino gave Leonello in the letter accompanying his translation of theLives of Lysander and Sulla: ʹThe cruelties as well as the honorable traits of their characters I hold to you as a mirror, that you may imitate the good, when you see it,...

    • Chapter Four Orlando Innamorato, Book Three (1495): Epic
      (pp. 45-66)

      In the introduction to his edition of theInnamorato, Giuseppe Anceschi writes that the Estense family was ʹaudaciously reaching for the conquest and organization of new territoriesʹ (1: x). Such aspirations are as possible as they are difficult to verify, since if the Este had wished to expand, they would not have announced their plans to their neighbours. Ercoleʹs marriage to the daughter of the king of Naples did not gain him any new title or territory, but it did secure him a powerful alliance with a principal Italian state (Olivi 28). When Venice declared war on Ferrara in 1482,...

  7. Part II: Creative Imitation

    • Chapter Five Introduction
      (pp. 69-73)

      According to theOrlando Furiosoʹssixteenth-century editor, Girolamo Ruscelli, when Ariosto decided to compose a chivalric poem, the only viable model was theOrlando Innamorato. Neil Harris, having documented frequent reprintings of Boiardoʹs poem in addition to five continuations by three different authors (excluding Ariosto), with only one definitely appearing after the first edition of theFurioso, notes the continued appeal of Boiardoʹs poem throughout the Cinquecento: ʹWhoever takes into consideration the frequency of printings of theInnamoratobefore the appearance of theFuriosoin 1516, and then – including therifacimenti– up until the end of the century, will...

    • Chapter Six Cieco da Ferrara, Il Mambriano (1509)
      (pp. 74-81)

      TheInnamoratois populated with dangerous, seductive females, from the alluring Angelica to enchantresses like Dragontina and Alcina. Yet Boiardo blurs the conventional distinction between woman andmagaby having Angelica make use of both feminine and magical arts and by linking her through allusion to both human and supernatural figures from classical through medieval literature. When Angelica falls in love with Ranaldo, Boiardo likens her to a deer wounded in a hunt (OI1.5.14), a metaphor that Virgil had employed to describe Didoʹs love for Aeneas (Razzoli 31). But when she tries to win him over by magic, she...

    • Chapter Seven Ariosto, Orlando Furioso (1516): Didactic Allegory
      (pp. 82-98)

      From the sixteenth century until a couple of decades ago, the moral allegory in the extended episode of Ruggiero and Astolfo at Alcinaʹs island was taken for granted, yet this episode has recently become the focus of debate, especially among American Ariosto critics, some of whom have pointed out its anti-allegorical strategies and even considered it a parody of allegory.¹ Recognizing that valid points can be found on both sides of the debate, Ascoli has argued that Ariosto deliberately presented both an allegoryanda demonstration of the inadequacies of allegorical literature when confronting real-life experiences (Ariostoʹs Bitter Harmony, especially...

    • Chapter Eight Ariosto, Orlando Furioso (1516): Novellas of Civic Virtue
      (pp. 99-125)

      Traditionally assumed to be apolitical and escapist, Ariosto is increasingly seen as an author who brought the political issues of his day to bear in his narrative.¹ As I aim to show below, we can glean added insight into this aspect of Ariostoʹs art if we examine how he proceeds through a dialogue with his predecessor, using the narrative strategies of theInnamomtoeven as he moves away from Boiardoʹs humanist ideology. Ariosto challenges the seeming optimism of Boiardo in his creative imitation of a trilogy of episodes that Boiardo uses to illustrate his civic philosophy.

      Boiardo introduces novellas into...

    • Chapter Nine Ariosto, Cinque canti (Composed c. 1519–21)
      (pp. 126-133)

      As ʹdarkʹ as the 1516Furiososeems in relation to theInnamorato, theCinque cantimake Ariostoʹs first edition appear sunny by comparison. When Orlando disguises himself, it is not for love, but to prevent being delivered over to Charlemagne, who wants to imprison him. Bradamante believes that she is embracing Ruggiero, when suddenly the face before her reveals itself as Ganoʹs (CC 3.73). Orlando and Rinaldo fight a battle, no longer for love or justice, but because they have been tricked by Ganoʹs falsehoods (CC 5.55).

      This chapter looks at how some of the themes discussed in the previous...

    • Chapter Ten Ariosto, Orlando Furioso (1532)
      (pp. 134-152)

      Ariosto published a new edition of theFuriosowith four additional episodes in 1532, but unlike theCinque canti, which would have formed a sequel to the poem, the new material is inserted within the frame of the existing narrative. Until recently it was commonly assumed that these added narratives lacked any tie to theInnamorato.¹ Andrea Di Tommaso, however, going against the critical current, stated that the ʹ1532 edition reveals [Ariostoʹs] greater awareness of the more deeply submerged thematic currents in theInnamorato.ʹ² Di Tommasoʹs assertion was given further support by Sangirardi, who listed fifty borrowings from theInnamorato...

  8. Part III: The Triumph of Romance

    • Chapter Eleven Introduction
      (pp. 155-157)

      Partly because of the greater circulation of AristotleʹsPoeticsfollowing Alessandro deʹ Pazziʹs revised Latin transcription (1536) and partly because of the tastes and personalities of the periodʹs literati, poets who aspired to recognition in the second half of the sixteenth century were expected to take sides in the raging literary debate over the romance epic. On one side stood the poems of Boiardo and Ariosto, with their interlacing stories replete with the marvellous; on the other stood the rules of Aristotle, which required a single plot tending towards verisimilitude. Giangiorgio Trissino, opting to follow the latter, composed a single-plot...

    • Chapter Twelve Trissino, Lʹltalia liberata daʹ Goti (1547–8)
      (pp. 158-169)

      Given an increasingly perceived distance between romance and epic components, and with Ariostoʹs structural distance from Aristotleʹs norms conceived of as a defect, Giangiorgio Trissino (1478–1550) set out to write a work more faithful to theIliadthan any of his Renaissance counterparts had managed to be. Abandoning theottava rima, he wrote twenty-seven books of blank verse about the successful efforts of the Byzantines, under the emperor Justinian and supreme commander Belisarius, to drive the Northern barbarian invaders out of Italy in the sixth century.¹ Although Trissino insisted on the classical pedigree of his poem, the subject of...

    • Chapter Thirteen Bernardo Tasso, LʹAmadigi (1560)
      (pp. 170-177)

      Bernardo Tasso, born in Bergamo in 1493, was a poet and court functionary who served various patrons who were not always on the same side of the French-Spanish struggle. His biographer Edward Williamson notes that in his poems of encomium and occasion, Bernardo ʹpraises Francis I, Henry II, and Marguerite of Valois on the one side, or Charles V and Philip II on the other, with equal fervency, according to the allegiance of his patron and the chance of advantage to himselfʹ (36).¹ Realistically, however, the court poet or functionary did not have the luxury of expressing his actual political...

    • Chapter Fourteen Torquato Tasso, Il Rinaldo (1562)
      (pp. 178-185)

      During the time that Bernardo Tasso was completing and publishing theAmadigi, his son was at work on his own romance epic,Il Rinaldo. Even at this early stage in his writing, Torquato Tasso proclaimed his independence in the debate over genre by stating his intention to follow both Aristotleʹs precepts and Ariostoʹs example as he pleased.¹

      Tassoʹs romance epic includes an episode in which the hero temporarily succumbs to the beauty of a seductive female (canto 9 and canto 10.1–35).² Although Rinaldo is destined to marry Clarice (whom he meets in canto 1), he is drawn off course...

    • Chapter Fifteen Torquato Tasso, La Gerusalemme Liberata (1581)
      (pp. 186-228)

      While the opening verses ofIl Rinaldoannounce a poem about ʹi felici affanni e i primi ardori / che giovanetto ancor soffrì Rinaldoʹ (ʹthe happy toils and the first ardours that Rinaldo suffered while still youngʹ;Rin.1.1), theGerusalemme Liberatais introduced as a poem about ʹlʹarme pietose e ʹl capitano / che ʹl gran sepolcro liberò di Cristoʹ (ʹthe reverent armies and the captain who liberated Christʹs great sepulchreʹ;GL1.1). There is seemingly not much in common between a knightʹs youthful passion and the First Crusadersʹ conquest of Jerusalem. One thing that the two poems share,...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 229-234)

    In the course of this study I have questioned some common assumptions about the trajectory of the Italian romance epic. Traditional readings have outlined a recourse to increasing allegorization from Boiardoʹs merely entertaining stories to isolated, and perhaps tongue-in-cheek, allegorical episodes in Ariosto, to an overarching allegorical structure and moral purpose in Tassoʹs poem. Yet the poetsʹ use of moral allegory, as I have argued, takes a very different turn. Writing for the humanistic edification of his prince and fellow aristocrats, Boiardo inserted a series of moral lessons, in fictional and ekphrastic form, that illustrate the dangerous effects of the...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 235-264)
  11. Works Cited
    (pp. 265-282)
  12. Index
    (pp. 283-294)