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The World Beyond Europe in the Romance Epics of Boiardo and Ariosto

The World Beyond Europe in the Romance Epics of Boiardo and Ariosto

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 392
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  • Book Info
    The World Beyond Europe in the Romance Epics of Boiardo and Ariosto
    Book Description:

    "This articulate, engaging, and well-documented study represents an important work of scholarship in its cross-cultural considerations of Italian Renaissance epic poetry."Prize Committtee Citation, MLA Scaglione Priize for a Manuscript in Italian Literary Studies

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6666-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-18)

    Just over twenty years separate the publication of the definitive version of theOrlando innamorato(1495) and the first edition of theOrlando furioso(1516), arguably the two most important romance epics of the Italian Renaissance.¹ Nevertheless, as this study maintains, the poems are worlds apart when it comes to their depiction of the world at large. Writing for a fifteenth-century court society hooked on medieval chivalric narrative but also attuned to the latest current world events, Boiardo charts a complex course in which characters from East Asia, northern Africa, the Middle East, and Europe interact in myriad ways, from...

  5. Part One: Asia

    • Chapter One Angelica of Cathay
      (pp. 21-35)

      Counting on his readers’ familiarity with the ever-popular Carolingian tradition, Boiardo opens his romance epic by depicting encounters across religious and national lines, thwarting expectations and overturning literary convention even as he prepares the stage for more radical changes to come. As the narrative begins, Charlemagne has proclaimed an international tournament to take place in Paris at Pentecost, the anniversary of the day in which the apostles miraculously spoke in languages they had not learned and were understood by the various foreign visitors gathered in Jerusalem (Acts 2: 6–12). As though to underscore the holiday’s implied potential of universal...

    • Chapter Two Gradasso of Sericana
      (pp. 36-44)

      Gradasso of Sericana is the second character from eastern Asia whose unexpected appearance in France sets in motion much of what happens in the course of Book One. His introduction as a great king who reigns in the Orient, beyond India (OI1.1.4), conveys the sense that he originates from a realm even more distant than Angelica’s Cathay.¹ Gradasso emerges on the scene virtually unstoppable in his aggression and destructiveness as he treks towards western Europe, yet he subsequently demonstrates an unconditional adherence to a universal code of chivalry. As in the case of Angelica, then, his appearance in Paris...

    • Chapter Three Agricane of Tartary
      (pp. 45-61)

      When Astolfo repudiates Charlemagne’s court in canto 7, Boiardo also turns his attention away from France and towards the East, setting the stage for a series of transglobal encounters outside Europe. The first major Asian figure that we come across is King Agricane of Tartaria, who combines within himself the poem’s opening reflections on love and power exemplified by Angelica and Gradasso, respectively. Like the king of Sericana, he is a potentate who covets a prize he cannot attain; like those gathered in Paris for the joust, he too has fallen under the spell of the princess of Cathay:


    • Chapter Four Mandricardo, Son of Agricane
      (pp. 62-69)

      Boiardo relates the exploits of Agricane’s son, Mandricardo, in a way that echoes the progression of the Mongol dynasty in history. Like the military campaigns of Genghis Khan, Agricane’s battles take place entirely in the East and consist primarily of Asians fighting other Asians without posing a threat to western Europe. Mandricardo, on the other hand, will head west and eventually take part in the siege of Paris. Indeed, at the opening of Book Three Boiardo announces to the reader that Mandricardo will emerge as a major threat on a global scale: “pose quasi l’universo al fondo” (“[he] almost ruined...

    • Chapter Five Marphisa, Eastern Queen
      (pp. 70-82)

      Unlike Boiardo’s other invented protagonists from beyond Christian Europe, Marphisa is not identified with any specific country or region. When she arrives in Albracà to defend Galafrone against Agricane, Boiardo characterizes her as the greatest warrior throughout the East: “non ha cavalier tutto il Levante / Che la contrasti sopra dela sella” (“not a knight in all the East / could match her in the saddle”) (OI1.16.28). This absence of specific geographical markers corresponds to Marphisa’s cosmopolitan character: she consistently interacts with others based on a universal code of chivalry that transcends all national and religious barriers.

      Marphisa has...

  6. Part Two: Out of Africa

    • Chapter Six Agramante of Biserta (Tunisia)
      (pp. 85-94)

      The opening of Book Two shifts the poem’s geographical focus from eastern Asia to northern Africa, where Agramante of Biserta has convened a council to announce his planned invasion of France. Like Gradasso and Agricane, Agramante also suffers from an insatiable – and ultimately futile – desire to gain something he does not possess. However, while the king of Sericana coveted a Frankish sword and horse and the khan of Tartary craved a Cathayan princess, Agramante seeks nothing less than the entire realm of Charlemagne. He is thus the first ruler with openly territorial ambitions and represents a much graver...

    • Chapter Seven Rugiero (Atlas Mountains, Northern Africa)
      (pp. 95-111)

      At the conclusion of Book One, Boiardo announces the appearance of Rugiero, “d’ogni virtù il più perfeto / Di qualunque altro ch’al mondo si vanta” (“blessed with all virtues, who surpassed / all other men the world has known”) (OI1.29.56). Such a depiction effectively places him above every other character in the poem, including Charlemagne’s famous paladins. The following pages examine his elaborate genealogy, his symbolic associations both with historical personages of the distant past and with the current ruling family of Ferrara, and his future intercultural marriage to Bradamante, as well as the mixed family tree of his...

    • Chapter Eight Rodamonte of Sarza (Algeria)
      (pp. 112-122)

      Rodamante of Sarza, introduced in the context of Agramante’s invasion of France, provides a point of comparison with his fellow African king. While not motivated by religious difference, Agramante is nevertheless depicted as a respectful follower of Mohammed. By contrast, Rodamonte demonstrates a derisive stance towards all religion, including Islam: “Ch’una vil foglia il suo Macon non stima, / E meno ancor se acosta ad altra fede” (“[he] believed / Mohammed was not worth a leaf. / And he thought less of other faiths”) (OI2.5.66–7). Whereas Agramante asks the help of his fellow Africans in the planned military...

    • Chapter Nine Saracen Spain
      (pp. 123-136)

      Boiardo portrays Spanish Saracens alternately as friends and enemies, gallant heroes of romance adventure and fierce epic warriors. Whereas in the opening canto of his poem they break out of the antagonistic role that epitomized their presence in Carolingian epic, in the latter cantos of Book Two they suddenly threaten Christendom as allies of the North African invaders. The poem’s variable treatment of Spanish Saracens, as I argue below, may be linked to contemporary events during the period of the poem’s composition.

      From the poem’s opening canto the Spanish Saracens, no less than the Frankish Christians, are quick to divest...

  7. Part Three: The Middle East

    • Chapter Ten Boiardo’s Noradino in Cyprus
      (pp. 139-153)

      Whereas some of theInnamorato’s East Asian and North African rulers harbour ambitions that threaten the existence of Latin Christendom, the poem offers an entirely different paradigm when the action moves to the eastern Mediterranean and what has come to be known as the Middle East. In particular, Boiardo’s depiction of Syria and Cyprus creates the impression of a sophisticated Saracen courtly society completely uninvolved with the affairs of western Europe. This chapter examines an international jousting tournament that takes place in the Cypriot capital of Nicosia, focusing in particular on Orlando’s interactions with Saracen Syrians and Christian Byzantines (OI...

    • Chapter Eleven Egypt: From Damietta to Cairo
      (pp. 154-164)

      The previous chapter looked at how Orlando’s foray into the Middle East to participate in a joust as a Saracen knight under the king of Syria’s banner contrasted with episodes of conquest and forced conversion found in popular Carolingian epics of the period. We now follow two Christian knights who participated in that tournament, the brothers Grifone and Aquilante, as they subsequently arrive in Egypt where they encounter an Arthurian-type adventure.¹ In order to keep them out of France until an unpropitious astrological conjunction has passed, their fairy guardians have devised an enchantment in the form of a seemingly invincible...

    • Chapter Twelve Jerusalem
      (pp. 165-171)

      Although the historical Charlemagne had never been to the Middle East, many literary works available in fifteenth-century Ferrara link him to Jerusalem: in some he is said to have visited as a pilgrim while in others he plays the part of a conqueror.¹ In theAmorosa visione, for example, Boccaccio suggests that the emperor has successfully undertaken a crusade by depicting him “di verde alloro e de’ triunfi ornato / ch’egli acquistò sopra le terre sante” (“decorated with green laurel and with the triumphs / which he won in the Holy Land”) (11.62–3). In theDittamondo, Fazio degli Uberti...

    • Chapter Thirteen Ariosto’s Norandino in Damascus
      (pp. 172-178)

      Whereas in theInnamoratothe action moved from Syria to Cyprus to Egypt, Ariosto takes Astolfo to Egypt and Jerusalem before introducing Syria into his poem. By this time, moreover, the narrative has come full circle. Whereas Boiardo’s Noradino had initially departed from Damascus in order to win Lucina’s hand at Tibiano’s Cypriot joust, Ariosto’s character returns there to hold a tournament of his own in celebration of her delivery from the ogre and safe return (OF 15.23–5 A; 17.23–5 C).¹ Although Ariosto does not refer specifically to the outcome of the events in Nicosia but simply mentions...

  8. Part Four: Back to Africa

    • Chapter Fourteen From Ethiopia to the Moon
      (pp. 181-196)

      Following his departure from Damascus, Astolfo acts on two successive occasions to liberate his fellow knights from traps with the aid of Logistilla’s gifts. First, he frees himself and his friends from a horde of killer women using the horn whose terrifying sound sends everyone fleeing. Then, travelling alone after the ensuing dispersal, he rescues those imprisoned within Atlante’s magic palace thanks to the combined use of the horn and the book that explains how to break the enchantment. As a consequence of this action, he finds himself in possession of the mythical hippogriff, lost earlier by Ruggiero and left...

    • Chapter Fifteen The Destruction of Biserta
      (pp. 197-208)

      Boiardo’s Agramante exemplified an overreaching ruler destined to lose his kingdom in a reckless attempt to acquire something he did not possess. He not only looked to Alexander the Great as his explicit model but also echoed the aspirations of Xerxes and Hannibal. Boiardo had foretold that his invasion of France would fail, leading to the destruction of Biserta as well. Although Ariosto brings this prophecy to fruition, he transforms the ideological context along the way. While Boiardo had distanced his poem from the Christian-Saracen hostilities animating Carolingian epic, Ariosto brings back the ideology of religious conflict with a vengeance....

  9. Part Five: From Cosmopolitanism to Isolationism

    • Chapter Sixteen Boiardo’s Brandimarte across the Continents
      (pp. 211-234)

      After leaving Charlemagne’s court in righteous anger and reaching Asia, Astolfo comes upon a Saracen whose perfection is not equalled in all the earth and whose excellence has already been recognized throughout Pagandom (OI1.9.49–50).¹ Although his name literally means “Sword of Mars,” Brandimarte has gained his reputation not in war but in tournaments and jousts (“torniamenti e giostra”), and the character traits that most distinguish him are his courteous, humane nature and the noble love (“gentil amore”) that inflames his heart (OI1.9.50).² Born in theIsole Lontane(Far Away Islands), Brandimarte was kidnapped as a boy and...

    • Chapter Seventeen Ariosto’s Rinaldo along the Po River
      (pp. 235-254)

      If, as I have argued in the previous chapter, Ariosto works against Boiardo’s portrayal of Brandimarte, he does not do so through any lack of understanding of this character’s importance in his predecessor’s poem. Indeed, in this final chapter I aim to show that Ariosto carries out a systematic rewriting of Brandimarte’s keyInnamoratoadventures, to an entirely different end. In a complex series of intertwining stories, Ariosto depicts Rinaldo undergoing two tests and listening to two novellas while he is in a moment of transition that involves traversing vast geographical spaces. Despite the abundance of shared features between the...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 255-262)

    The lives of our two poets overlap both temporally and spatially. Boiardo was thirty-three when Ariosto was born in Reggio Emilia in 1474, and Ariosto had just turned twenty when Boiardo died in that same city two decades later. At the age of ten Boiardo moved with his mother from Ferrara back to his birthplace in Scandiano, a few miles from Reggio; Ariosto made a reverse journey with his family, arriving in Ferrara in time for his tenth birthday.¹ The poets themselves not only alternated between the same cities during their lifetimes, but both served the Estense family in various...

  11. Names and Origins of Fictional Characters
    (pp. 263-266)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 267-318)
  13. Works Cited
    (pp. 319-344)
  14. Index
    (pp. 345-377)