Saturday, April 18, 2015

Mad about Orlando

Well, in my reading this week Orlando’s madness was cured. So now that the titular problem of Orlando Furioso has been solved, I don’t know what’s left for those 250 pages I have left to read next year. But they’re sure to be magnificent.

Here are some of the marvels I came across in this year’s portion of the epic poem:

• Any knight staying in Tristan’s castle must leave if another comes and defeats him in a joust. Any lady staying must leave if a more beautiful comes along. Bradamante, maiden warrior, vanquishes the three kings of Scandinavia, so they must leave. But when the hosts discover that she is a beautiful woman and are about to turn out the lady staying in the castle, Bradamante reminds them that she is present by virtue of arms, not beauty, and that the other lady should stay.

• In that same castle are paintings produced by Merlin’s magic that prophecy about future kings (future to Merlin, anyway). What a coincidence that that these paintings foretell the exceeding splendor of Ariosto’s own patron, Alfonso d’Este!

• The English Count Astolfo rides a hippogriff to the highest mountain of Africa. There he meets John the Evangelist, who has not died, and who leads Astolfo and his magical beast to the moon, where they discover everything that has ever been lost on earth: misplaced objects, defeated kingdoms, and even lost wits. Yes, even Orlando’s wits have been preserved in a bottle, and Astolfo picks up the vial and races back to earth with it so Orlando can breathe his sanity back in.

• Bradamante, jealous because she thinks her love, Ruggiero, has fallen for Marfisa, challenges Ruggiero to a duel. The fight moves to a glade where a voice from a tomb announces that Marfisa and Ruggiero are actually brother and sister. Just in time for Luke, Leia, and Han to return in Star Wars VII!

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