Amori e dolori in the Orlando Innamorato

by Aldo D. Scaglione
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Title:
Amori e dolori in the Orlando Innamorato
Author:
Aldo D. Scaglione
Year: 
1996
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Italica
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73
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1
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1
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10
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English
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Abstract:

Amori e dolori in the Orlando Innamorato

s Carlo Dionisotti (1970) aptly reminded us, Boiardo's and Ariosto's choice of matter and form involved a momentous decision to overrule the prevailing contemporary trends, which pushed toward classicism (a prejudice toward the forms favored by humanism), elitist lyrical Petrarchism, and realism (setting "history" above fantastic fiction). Presumably, these new trends were strong enough to cause Boiardo's interruption of his work after 1483.
 
Dionisotti offered a historical assessment of what he considered the isolated defense of Boiardo by Vincenzo Oreadini da Perugia, a Latin humanist who was also alone in openly approving Trissino's orthographic reform:
 
Guardando fuori dalla sua specula umanistica, astrologica e perugina, l'Oreadini tanto si era incuriosito aIle proposte insieme classicistiche e scientifiche del Trissino, quanto invece si era sentito offeso dalle controproposte degli avversari, che rispecchiavano la preminenza assegnata dalla nuova moda alIa tradizione toscana e l'esclusione della licenza sperimentale di cui scrittori d'ogni parte d'Italia avevano profittato durante i1Quattrocento. Nella lingua italica del Trissino l'Oreadini riconosceva la lingua cortigiana dell'eta rivolta. E a norma di quella lingua e della corrispondente poetica esaltava l'opera del Boiardo e la difendeva a spada tratta dalle critiche linguistiche dei Toscani. ... :8, a mia notizia, la prima e ultima animosa e ragionata difesa che nel Cinquecento sia stata fatta dell'Orlando innamorato. Ma la difesa stessa mostra chiaramente che, scrivendo ne11525, l'Oreadini ancora non si era accorto che esisteva l'Orlando furioso. Viveva, insomma, in un mondo suo, nel piccolo mondo antico della sua Perugia. (238)
 
Dionisotti went on to point out that Oreadini's better informed contemporary Folengo was, also, clearly conscious of Boiardo's merits, whom he set alongside Ariosto, Pulci, and II Cieco da Ferrara, finally adding himself to this group of "canonical" originals: "Boiardo, l'Ariosto, Pulci e il Cieco / autenticati sono e io con seco" (239).
 
We must, however, avoid too literal conclusions from this rather bleak picture. Girolamo Ruscelli, for one, in the /IAnnotationi e avvertimenti" appended to his edition of the Furioso for Vincenzo Valgrisi
 
ITAUCA Volume 73 Number 1 (1996)
 
(Venetia, 1556) unequivocally declared: "per esser gia il libro del Boiardo in grandissimo conto in tutta Italia, come quello che in effetto e bellissimo, l'Ariosto fu sicurissimo che, avendo il detto libro del Boiardo oscurato affatto ne i begli ingegni, e come annullato il nome d'ogn'altro scrittor di romanzi fino a' suoi tempi," the readers would easily recognize the main lines of Ariosto's own story if he carried on from where Boiardo had left off.l This certainly sounds like a rather spirited, though not extensively argued, defense of Boiardo.
 
To Dionisotti's picture of the circumstantial conditioning of Boiardo's choice I wish to add, first, that his choice was prompted in part by the popularity of the chivalric matter in Boiardo's region, and in light of the specific features of Franco-Venetian poems we must take account of the eulogistic theme (praise of the Este), whose background is to be found in the geographically close works La Guerra d'Attila, l/Eniree d'Espagne, and La Prise de Pampelune (Scaglione 263-64). Second, the background of Boiardo's much discussed "fusion of the two cycles" (the Arthurian and the Carolingian) similarly lies in the Franco-Venetian literature (Scaglione 263-64).
 
In Northern and Central Italy opposing forces interplayed in a composite social reality. Bourgeoisie and aristocracy competed with each other, the former carrying on an illustrious and victorious heritage from the Middle Ages, while the latter was destined to gain the upper hand in the changing circumstances of the Cinquecento. Dionisotti (241) recalls that duels and romances came to be the two new literary ingredients around the middle of the sixteenth century according to Giambattista Pigna's 1554 two treatises dedicated to the Duello and the Romanzi. Pigna was Giambattista Giraldi Cinthio's authoritative disciple and rival. For the success of the chivalric genre, the region of Emilia was a paradoxically privileged area, since outside it and, indeed, outside Italy as a whole, the literary role of chivalry was being threatened. The ongoing process of Ferrarese "refeudalization" allowed Italians to perform the remarkable feat of saving lively medieval traditions in both of the two genres of treatises of conduct or manners and of poems or romances of chivalry, precisely when France and Germany tended to push them into the background (Scaglione 264).
 
It was not the popular appeal of chivalric matter within the lower classes, as witnessed by the thriving Northern and Tuscan cantari, that saved or revitalized the genre-since this production was criticized and scorned by most authors between 1480-1520-but its appeal to the courtly literary milieu. The coarse cantari handed over a genre to the sophisticated courtly poets who transformed it radically. It is also clear that the popularity of the chivalric genre in that sophisticated milieu prompted Boiardo to draw directly on original French sources, as demonstrated by the decisive narrative device of interlacing tentrelacement), He derived this device directly from the French, since it had not been practiced by other Italian chivalric raconteurs, and this was his most brilliant artistic bequest to Ariosto. I have also pointed out elsewhere (Scaglione 265) that, despite a humanistic revulsion from such excesses of unbridled imagination, the Italian versions of chivalric matter resurrected and gave new popularity to the Celtic marvelous, which had been downplayed in the higher levels of French romances (signally by Chretien de Troyes), The chivalric code also revived the courtly ideal of self-control over the raw militia of the warrior/knight. Good indexes of this renewed ideal are Boiardo's exemplary treatment of the figure of Brandimarte as well as Boiardo's episode of the duel between Orlando and Agricane (Orlando Innamorato I 18; Scaglione 266). Boiardo gave a central role to the coupling of militia and sapientia, the aggressiveness of the knight-warrior and the civilizing role of ethical wisdom, specifically in the particular form of
 
cortesia.
 
Turning our attention to matters of ethical content, we see that Rugiero/Ruggiero is really the central hero of both the Innamorato and the Furioso. As early as 1535, Ludovico Dolce "apologized" for Ariosto's not having named his poem after Ruggiero as the precedent of the Aeneidwould have demanded, since the title was imposed on him by his predecessor, who had not planned on Rugiero as a central character before publishing his Book Two. 2 Now Rugiero is, like Perceval, the protagonist of a Bildungsroman, an exemplary story of moral education and formation of character (Scaglione 267f.). Furthermore, Boiardo carries on the best tradition of medieval chivalry by elaborating a sophisticated critical stance toward the ethos of chivalry, in a play of irony expressing a dynamic view that is similar to that of Chretien (Scaglione 268).
 
In the treatment of the love theme, Ariosto closely derives from and depends on Boiardo. Their attitude toward love is thoroughly in tune with the new spirit of the Renaissance-immanentistic and naturalistic, even though idealism and realism go together in a lively mix. Love is no longer courtly in the petrarchist and platonic sense. It is now consistently sensual, and inherently unsatisfiable in the extreme characters like Orlando, while it leads to marriage in the balanced ones, like Rugiero, Bradamante, Brandimarte, Fiordelisa, and even, at least potentially, Zerbino and Isabella. In the Innamorato's conclusive stage, marriage and chivalry are in harmony at last (Brandimarte and Fiordelisa, Rugiero and Bradamante), and spiritual and physical desire can also coexist peacefully, replacing the adulterous and unrequited loves transmitted by the courtly tradition. Bradamante falls in love with Rugiero out of respect for his cortesia, valor, and generosity, after having listened to his detailed exposition of his intriguing genealogy. This takes place rather late in the poem, at III, 5:42, where she takes off her helmet and Rugiero falls immediately in love with the warrior who has just revealed herself to him as a beautiful woman. But the reader has known for quite sometime that the couple will eventually be happily married, even though the encomiastic motif of Rugiero and Bradamante as founders of the Este dynasty was first introduced to the reader only in the title of Book II. On the purely chivalric level, in Orlando Innamorato III 1 the sensuous maidens of the Fountain of the Fairy (Fonte della Fata) liberally grant their embraces to the newly introduced character of Mandricardo as an anticipated reward for valor and knightly virtue.
 
It should help to see more clearly the textual connection between the Orlando Innamorato and the medieval chivalric romances if we keep in mind at least some of the key terms of the traditional courtly/ chivalric ethics. The first twelve cantos of the Orlando Innamorata have no fewer than fifteen cases of smisura or dismisura, occurring three to four times per canto in cantos 6-12, and usually meaning "extraordinary," as in the very first octave, "i gesti smisurati ... che fece ... Orlando per amore," but sometimes implying a negative value judgment. Smisurato can also accompany such positive nouns as valore, grandezza, even cortesia, but mostly it is, as it should be, negative. Orlando, who is somewhere called outright pazzo or insano (e.g. /IAhi paccio Orlando!" Orlando Innamorato I 30:1), is said to be inflamed by ira smisurata, an irrationally excessive wrath, in his duel with Ranaldo, who instead is guided in the same duel by righteous anger (Orlando Innamorato I 26:14 and 60; Cavallo 82). Ranaldo behaves as a truly virtuous knight as long as he is free from self-centered erotic involvement; he even strenuously resists any possible temptation when Fiordespina and other damsels are tempted by his handsome mien. But, in turn, he will fall under the spell of unrequited love after drinking from the Fountain of Love on his return toward Paris.
 
Boiardo's ideal knights are Brandimarte and Rugiero, who both, together with their worthy counterparts of the opposite sex, namely Fiordelisa and Bradamante, achieve the perfect union in a marriage that is motivated by true love, that is, a love inspired by and inspiring charitas, knightly courtesy, benevolence toward others, and constant striving toward the common good rather than mere personal satisfaction.
 
Like Rugiero, but in a more contrasted and prolonged trial, a true agony for him, Orlando undergoes a process of moral knightly education which presumably should lead to his eventual reform and liberation from unrighteous eros. In the repetitive trial by Morgana, he almost wins, but he makes the mistake of yielding to her treacherous request that she be allowed to hold on to the last of her prisoners, Ziliante. This will make necessary the repetition of the test, and Orlando will finally win only by going back to her, taking Ziliante away from her in order to return him to his father Manodante and thus freeing the hostage Brandimarte (Orlando Innamorato II 13). Even then Orlando is not yet ready for the virtuous path, since he refuses to join the other knights to return to the war for Charlemagne. He therefore remains a prisoner of his insane love for Angelica (II 13:51).
 
[o Ann Cavallo has proposed to read Boiardo's Book Three as though it marked an important reorientation of the story and of Orlando's behavior. At the end of Book Two (31:43-48) Orlando had arrived unexpectedly at the "Fonte del Riso" (Laughing Stream) and had been compelled by its marvelous sight to dive into it, finding at the bottom of the stream a delightful abode of nymphs. In Canto 7 of Book Three, however, Orlando manages to come out of that hard test only thanks to Brandimarte's help. Rugiero and Gradasso had equally fallen prey to that amorous enchantement, but Brandimarte is enabled to resist the temptation by Fiordelisa's weaving four magic garlands which will likewise help the prisoners to escape from the underwater palace.
 
At the "selva de Ardena" Orlando had discovered that Ranaldo had fallen in love with Angelica, and consequently challenged him (Orlando Innamorato II 20:49-60). In Orlando Innamorato II 21:1-22, Angelica runs away only to be caught by Charlemagne, who entrusts her to Duke Naimo as the just reward for the paladin who will best fight in the coming battle with Agramante. Ariosto did not really continue Boiardo by tying his story to where Boiardo had left it, for he ignored the long section on the defeat of the Christians by the hand of the Saracens leading from the battle of Montealbano (Orlando Innamorato II 30) to the battle of Paris. In the imminence of the battle of Paris, Orlando was ready to enter the field, after waiting on the sidelines in the hope that Charles be defeated, so that he could prove how indispensable he truly was (like Achilles at Troy, we could add): "La pregava Iddio devotamente / Che le sante bandiere a zigli d'oro / Siano abattute e Carlo e la sua gente ..." (Orlando Innamorato II 30 61). But at the beginning of the Furioso, Orlando is not yet ready to go back to his vaunted wisdom, as Cavallo thinks he was where Boiardo left him, but rather to carry on in his insane behavior all the way to true madness, or furia. In his painstaking reconstruction of the intricacies of Ariosto's rather independent way of "continuing" Boiardo, Giuseppe Sangirardi (1993) has found little to say about Orlando, but it is clear that Ariosto's Orlando is affected by a form of love that is downright insania, and Angelica is lila gran belta ch'al gran signor d'Anglante / macchio la chiara fama e l'alto ingegno" (Orlando Furioso 8, 63), even though in both authors the love passion is, in typical ambiguity, also responsible for "le mirabil prove / che fece il franco Orlando per amore" (Orlando Innamorato I 1:1).
 
True enough, at the end of what Boiardo managed to compose of his Book Three, Orlando was at long last ready to go back to his king and take up the battle for the defense of Paris and Christianity (precisely at end of Orlando Innamorato III 7 and beginning of Orlando Innamorato III 8). But even though there is no more explicit mention of Angelica at that point, at Orlando Innamorato III 1:3 we hear that Orlando has not at all overcome his infatuation for Angelica, since he is still about to fight valorously for love: "Vi contaro ... / e le prodezze fatte per amore / dal conte Orlando e sua strema possanza." Nevertheless, at Orlando Innamorato II 1:19 Orlando was said to be destined to destroy Biserta, the capital of Agramante's kingdom, who had proposed to attack and destroy Paris. Indeed, Boiardo's continuator Nicolo degli Agostini carried on with Orlando acting as a virtuous knight and no longer innamorato, although he did not appear again until the end of Nicolo's Book One. It is, however, not at all clear in what precise predicament Boiardo left Orlando, and most critics have assumed that his Orlando remained under Angelica's spell to the very end. Cavallo champions the "allegorical" reading of the Orlando lnnamorato by Boiardo's contemporaries and those of the following generation. But in this important respect it seems clear that Ariosto, above all, was either an exception or proof that this allegorical reading along the lines suggested by Cavallo was not taking place.
 
One could contend that Ariosto picked up Orlando in the full force of his pathological infatuation with Angelica because he chose to carry forth the theme of the innamorato hero and take him all the way to the status of a furioso, thus making him an exemplary case of amor hereos. This was a theme that medieval Arabic and Christian medicine and literature had inherited from antiquity and that both physicians and literary theorists had commented on, as for example in the late thirteenth-century texts Lilium medicinale by Bernard of Gordon (for whom this pathological affection is a passio capitis analogous to melancholy) and De amore qui heroicus nominaturby Arnaldo di Villanova, and even by a poet of the stature of Guido Cavalcanti (in the canzone "Donna me prega/).3 In this sense, we can well speak of an allegorical reading of these Ferrarese romances, in the broad sense, that is, in which we today speak of the symbolic language of literature and art. Undoubtedly Boiardo's and Ariosto's love stories and other aspects of their poems contain an allegorical level, too, as, in one way or another, all literature does. In his already mentioned "Apologia" appended to the 1535 edition of Ariosto's poem, Ludovico Dolce praised Ariosto for doing precisely that, to wit, carrying the story of the innamorato hero through his furioso state as an allegorical example of the consequences of this kind of erotic excess.
 
Cavallo (17) invokes the "double Venus tradition" to explain the contradiction between praising love as the major positive mover, without which all would be hate and war, and the disastrous effects of the love passion in the narrative (Orlando Innamorato II 4:2-3). It seems to me that this tradition is not really relevant to the description of Boiardo's predicament: Boiardo's is a thoroughly secular, I would even say "pagan," view of love as a neutral force that can go either way. True enough, the "double tradition" was both pagan and Christian, but in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance it could only have either a Christian connotation of agape vs. eros or a Platonic oneboth of these being outside Boiardo's context. The passage from Boethius cited by Cavallo (17-19) is germane to the reading of Boiardo, but it is not a definition of the double Venus. Similarly, since Cavallo makes allegory a central point in her reading of Boiardo, she takes issue with some recent critics who have asserted Ariosto's antiallegorism, starting, for example, with the fact that Rugiero's attempt to rape Angelica after rescuing her from the Orca (Orlando Furioso 10) shows no indulgence in yielding to the established medieval reading of Ovidian myths as disguises for the liberation of the soul from original sin and similar transcendental thrusts.s But these critics who dwelled on Ariosto's anti-allegorism have not been dealing with the kind of allegory Cavallo is interested in rescuing. They refer to the sort of theological, patently forced reading of pagan mythology and narrative as a veil that concealed the highest Christian theological truths. All in all, Cavallo's reading of moral and didactic senses can well be found acceptable on principle even if we agree that Boiardo and Ariosto firmly overcame the more traditional form of allegorism. But the relevant question lies elsewhere: namely, was Boiardo trying to convey a moral message about the wisdom of overcoming sensuality for the sake of a mental balance guaranteeing allegiance to civic ideals and freedom from blind passion? Ariosto's way of reading his illustrious predecessor, at least as evidenced by the way he picked up and carried forward the character of Orlando, would seem to indicate that he was not reading Boiardo "allegorically."
 
In a process of subtle transformation that invests all the characters, Angelica, too, passing from Boiardo's to Ariosto's hands loses in a signal instance the angularity that characterized her, as is apparent in the episode of the rescue of Ranaldo from Rocca Crudele (I 9). She behaved there like a hot hussy employing coarse language, as she invited Ranaldo to join her in a flying sexual experience, "mounting" her in the air while getting away from the monster who was about to devour him:
 
Te potrai far de un alto disio saccio
 
se mai ti venne voglia di volare.
 
Vien, monta sopra a me, baron gagliardo,
 
forse non son peggior del tuo Baiardo. (Orlando Innamorato I 9:17)
 
Despite, nay, thanks to her name, Angelica in particular is the true ironic parody of the donna angelicata as the beloved of Orlando, who mistakenly worships her as such. In this case, I should say, courtly love is present in the Innamorato in reverse, as a nefarious infatuation.
 
Fiordelisa's Tisbina story (Orlando Innamorato I 12) takes us to the higher levels of courtly love, but Cavallo (ch, 7) opines that this story, and particularly the episode in the Garden of Medusa, has the purpose of demystifying courtly love. Certainly, Boiardo's use of love is not exactly courtly, yet in this case the text clearly states that love has made Prasildo a better man and knight:
 
Versi compone e canta in melodia;
 
giostra sovente et entra in tomiamenti
 
con gran destrieri e ricchi paramenti. (I 12:11)
 
I believe it is in order to conclude that, perhaps for the first time, Boiardo presents love as an optional negative force in a secular way. In antiquity it could be negative as an excess against reason, possibly in a Platonic context; and in the Middle Ages Christian asceticism could also view it as sinful passion or aimless sex outside matrimony. But now, in Boiardo, it can cause folly, and at least in Ariosto, downright madness, with a new sense of madness beyond the ancient notion of mania.
 
In conclusion, to take up once again the discourse opened by Dionisotti (1970), Boiardo's and Ariosto's fateful choice of the romance as a genre meant a partial abandonment of the then popular humanistic genres and forms in favor of a genre that was largely moribund in the rest of Europe but remained popular in Ferrara as part of the refeudalization of that state. But the humanistic heritage remained so vital in those two authors that they could not afford to discard it: indeed, it remained fully operative in them, and they combined it with the medieval matter in such an intimate way that the separation is often difficult and risky. More important, the classical faith in the republican political values, together with the perceived role of education in bringing about refinement, civilization, and happiness, contrasted with the medieval/feudal cult of the aristocratic heroic values which combined violence and refinement in the courtly environment of chivalry. But these two discrete ideological patterns, the humanistic and the feudal, could be uniquely combined in a novel and intriguing hybrid, the Ferrarese romance. This literary yet socially relevant model of leadership was powerfully revived by the Italian/Emilian example and transmitted to posterity throughout Europe: the great chivalric novels Aramena and Octavia (respectively of 1673 and 1707) by Duke Anton Ulrich of Braunschweig-Liineburg (1633-1714) proposed one more time, and in grand style, chivalry as a model of behavior in view of a global mission for the nobility of court. With notable transformations, this remained, at bottom, the ethics proposed once again for the colonial high administrators of the British Empire in the Age of Queen Victoria. It was a defeat for Jean-Jacques Rousseau's thesis that had denied value to culture and "civilization" for the creation of valid moral and social ideals, proclaiming that happiness can only issue from the triumph of nature's innate virtuesf
 
ALDO D. SCAGLIONE
 
New York University
 
NOTES
 
lC. a 2 v. of 1558 edition, cited by Sangirardi 9-10. 2L. Dolce, "Apologia," appended to the 1535 edition of the Furioso (Venetia: Bindoni-Pasini). 3Cf. Marina Beer, Romanzi di cavalleria: 11 Furioso e il romanzo italiano del primo Cinquecento (Roma: Bulzoni, 1987) 83-88 and 94-103, with reference to Massimo Ciavolella, La 'malattia d' amore' dall' antichita al medioevo (Roma: Bulzoni, 1976), which does not reach beyond Boccaccio. 4See Cavallo 182 n26, where she refers to: Daniel Javitch, "Rescuing Ovid from the Allegorizers: The Liberation of Angelica, Furioso X," in Aldo Scaglione, ed., Ariosto 1974 in America (Ravenna: A. Longo, 1975) 85-98; Robert Hanning, "Ariosto, Ovid, and the Painters: Mythological Paragone in Orlando Furioso X and XI," ibid., 99-116; Albert Russell Ascoli, Ariosto's Bitter Harmony: Crisis and Evasion in the Italian Renaissance (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1987), e.g., 202: "the world of literary, didactic allegory proves unable to bridge the gap between itself and experience after all." Cavallo ibid. also cites Peter DeSa Wiggins 1986. 51 have been unable to consult a study that had promised an in-depth analysis of the question of love in the Innamorato: Fabio Cossutta, Gli ideali epici dell' Umanesimo e l'Orlando Innamorato (Roma: Bulzoni, 1995).
 
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