Alcina's island: from imitation to innovation in the Orlando furioso.
Alcina's island is Ariosto's "Island of the Blest" (Pindar II. 72), his milk-and-honey land of eternal youth and beauty (2) where Ruggiero will follow in the footsteps of Ulysses, Aeneas, and Hercules. His descent from the classical heroes is signalled first by the ippogrifo, who is clearly modelled on Pegasus, and then by Astolfo, Alcina's ex-lover, who has been transmogrified, like the Aeneid's Polydorus, into a myrtle bush (Aeneid III. 22-43). Astolfo greets Ruggiero with an account of the pernicious seductress Alcina who enslaves knights with her beauty, just as Dido had captured Aeneas in Carthage (Aeneid IV. 160-72), and Circe and Calypso had both seduced Odysseus in the islands of Aeaea and Ogygia. (3) He describes his own experience:
Guardommi Alcina; e subito le piacque l'aspetto mio, come mostro ai sembianti: e penso con astuzia e con ingegno tormi ai compagni; e riusci il disegno. (VI. 38)
Like Carthage, Aeaea and Ogygia, Alcina's island is a place of sensual pleasure and lovemaking, far removed from society and civilian duties: (4)
Io mi godea le delicate membra: pareami aver qui tutto il ben raccolto che fra i mortali in piu parti si smembra, a chi piu et a chi meno e a nessun molto; ne di Francia ne d'altro mi rimembra: stavomi sempre a contemplar quel volto: ogni pensiero, ogni mio bel disegno in lei finia, ne passava oltre il segno. (VI. 47)
Astolfo's experience paves the way for a retelling of the Homeric/ Virgilian story of the amorous adventures of a guileless knight (this time Ruggiero) and a beautiful woman/enchantress in a terrestrial paradise.
There is nothing new in Ariosto's grafting of these classical tales onto his poem of chivalric romance. Boiardo, for example, had done it with Rinaldo and Angelica in the Orlando innamorato, as had Cieco da Ferrara with Rinaldo and Carandina in Mambriano. (5) Indeed, Ariosto scholarship has been anything but blind to the question of intertextuality in the Orlando furioso. Pio Rajna's Le fonti dell'Orlando furioso (1900), for example, is a meticulous catalogue of the multiple literary echoes reverberating through every canto. A more recent study, Albert Ascoli's Bitter Harmony, lists the literary antecedents of Ruggiero on Alcina's island as including Dante, Polydorus, Achilles, Perseus, Ganymede, Hector, Hercules, and Aeneas (150). (6) After tracing Ruggiero's genealogy, Ascoli goes on to examine the character through the critical prism of his literary sources, using the earlier literature to unlock the meaning of the Ariostean episode. He suggests that the Alcina episode, like the original Homeric/Virgilian tale and most of its imitations, is straightforward enough in its concern with the human struggle between duty and pleasure besetting all men at some point, and the pursuit of the latter as dangerously all-consuming unless checked by Reason.
The Alcina episode is not, however, a straightforward reproduction. In one octave, characters, plot, and motifs are imported directly from a dearly recognisable classical subtext. In the next octave, they filter through the lens of a different classical subtext or a later imitation. More confusingly, the subtexts underlying the Alcina episode are rarely present without significant modifications and transformations. The result is a familiar story with recognisable characters, surroundings, themes, and topoi that suddenly departs from the original and becomes either wholly unique to Ariosto or modelled on an equally familiar but altogether different story.
Ariosto, I believe, continually shifts and transforms his intertextual base to intentionally deter readers from considering it a simple reproduction. He wants to discourage them from reverting to original sources for the meanings of his version of the tale. Rather than mimicking earlier texts, the Alcina episode weaves familiar narrative elements into a polysemous fabric, then invests it with new Ariostean meanings. (7) Ruggiero is undoubtedly, as Ascoli says, aligned with the timeless prototypes of classical and subsequent literature. There is, however, more disparity than correspondence between Ariosto's knight and his provenient models. In the Alcina episode Ariosto does echo his predecessors but his own voice ultimately distinguishes itself from theirs. This essay focuses on that innovative voice emerging from the rich polyphony underscoring the Alcina episode. More specifically, it examines Ariosto's treatment of one of his most conspicuous models, Dante's Inferno, with a view to understanding the modes of his engagement with subtexts in the episode as a whole. It reads Ariosto's evocation and subsequent departure from earlier literature as signalling the episode's dialectical, as opposed to reproductive, relationship with its sources. Based on the findings of this investigation, it then reads the episode, not through the critical prism of its subtexts (as Ascoli has done), but with a view to discovering its dialectical response to earlier and contemporary discourse.
One of the most obvious sources for the opening octaves of the Alcina episode is, as mentioned above, Dante's Divina commedia. The Inferno, in particular, is recalled in the characters, motifs, language, and allegorical symbolism of the Alcina episode. Also, striking linguistic parallels between the two texts suggest that the Divina commedia is indeed one of the most prominent of the Alcina episode's subtexts. (8) Dante is evoked for the first time when Astolfo tells Ruggiero about his affair with Alcina. His nostalgia about past happiness with the enchantress is clearly reminiscent of Francesca da Rimini's memorable words to Dante. Astolfo says "Perche l'avuto ben vo rimembrando, / quando io patisco estrema disciplina?" (VI. 49), words that echo Francesca da Rimini's
... Nessun maggior dolore che ricordarsi del tempo felice ne la miseria; ... (Inf. V. 121-23)
Thanks to Alcina who has tired of him, Astolfo is now a myrtle bush. Alcina's ex-lovers, we learn, end up transformed into inanimate objects planted at random around the island. Of course Astolfo's words also echo Boethius' De consolatio philosophiae, Alcina's transmogrified ex-lovers descend from the jilted partners of the Odyssey's Circe and Astolfo-asmyrtle-bush originates in the Aeneid. (9) Nonetheless, all enter Ariosto's text via Dante in that the language used is conspicuously Dantean. Another instance is the Furioso's description of the torn myrtle bush (formerly Astolfo), which is strikingly similar to the Inferno's description of the wounded sapling (Pier delle Vigne). When Dante snaps a twig off the sapling:
Come d'un stizzo verde ch'arso sia dall'un de' capi, che dall'altro geme e cigola per vento che va via, si della scheggia rotta usciva inseme parole e sangue;... (Inf. XIII. 40-44)
and when the ippogrifo tugs at the myrtle bush:
Come ceppo talor, che le medolle rare e vote abbia, e posto al fuoco sia, poi che per gran calor quell'aria molle resta consunta ch'in mezzo l'empia, dentro risuona e con strepito bolle tanto che quel furor truovi la via; cosi murmura e stride e si coruccia quel mirto offeso, e al fine apre le buccia. (Orlando furioso VI. 27)
So Ariosto makes Dante's a privileged influence on the Alcina episode by evoking the language of the Inferno and also by juxtaposing those elements of classical literature that had previously been assembled in Dante. Why, apart from demonstrating his skilful mastery of a multiplicity of sources, does he evoke Dante's voice more strongly than those of, say, Virgil and Homer? (10) Is he trying to "dignify" or morally elevate his chivalric romance by injecting it with echoes of Christian morality? (11) Is Ariosto pointing to the morally edifying, educational aspect of Ruggiero's journey? Albert Ascoli maintains that the classical traditions "reach Ariosto filtered through Dante's appropriation of Virgil's voice for revised didactic purposes" (121). The knight, he suggests, is not only the dynastic hero of the Furioso and a descendant of classical literary heroes. He is also, like Dante's pilgrim in La divina commedia, a representative of Everyman on an epistemological journey of Christian enlightenment.
Ascoli goes on to identify a "systematic allegory," in line with epistemological narratives such as Dante's, in the episode as a whole:
... the episode follows the canonical pattern of such [allegorical] narratives: (1) a series of moral and spiritual failures and a consequent descent into hellish vice and corruption, mediated by a spurious model of askesis; (2) an intermediate purgative period in which the hero learns to recognize and combat external hardships and enemies; (3) entrance into a paradisical state (here represented by Logistilla's palace and her teachings) where the hero is apparently confirmed in virtuous self-knowledge and spiritual well-being. (Ascoli 144)
On close inspection, however, it is difficult to see how Ruggiero's journey to Alcina's palace could be viewed as a "series of moral and spiritual failures." Alcina's island is far from a "hellish" underworld of "vice and corruption" inhabited by guilty shades. Likewise, as we will see, Logistilla's palace does not bear witness to Ruggiero's entry into a "paradisical state." The narrative gives no space whatsoever to the hero's "virtuous self-knowledge" and "spiritual well-being." Not only has Ariosto complicated his retelling of Homer and Virgil by evoking Dante, he has also modified this later subtext significantly. Contrary to Ascoli's view, the tones of Christian didacticism and the allegorical structure central to the fourteenth-century text are either transformed or entirely absent in the Alcina episode.
For instance, Astolfo, like Francesca da Rimini, Semiramis, Dido, Helen, Achilles, and Paris in Inferno V, is being punished for allowing his Reason to be overcome by Desire ("enno dannati i peccator carnali, / che la ragion sommettono al talento," Inf. V. 38-39). Instead of resembling the divine retribution meted out to the guilty shades of Hell, however, Astolfo's punishment is presented as Alcina's unrighteous villainy. Although aligned with the guilty, Astolfo is actually a hapless victim whose mistake was to love the wrong woman:
Ma, per tornare a quel ch'io ti dicea, e seguir poi com'io divenni pianta, Alcina in gran delizie mi tenea, e del mio amore ardeva tutta quanta; ne minor fiamma nel mio core accese il veder lei si bella e si cortese. (VI. 46)
In Astolfo, Francesca da Rimini is recalled but acquitted of guilt. It is Alcina, not her lover, who is "iniquitous" and "pernicious" for holding trusting knights captive and entertaining them in luxury. All that Astolfo is guilty of is a gullibility that is essentially self-destructive. (12)
Similarly, Alcina's court is nothing like Dante's Hell. Instead, her "lovepavilion" ("Tamorosa stanza," VII. 31) in which the "dallyings of Cupid and the games of love" distract Ruggiero from Bradamante and from the European struggle, recalls Dido's palace at Carthage, Circe's "magic halls" and Calypso's "arching caverns." (13) Unlike the humbled pilgrim who is confronted with human vice, the Furioso's happy knight is enraptured by Alcina's supreme beauty and obliged to bask in every sort of sensual pleasure imaginable:
Non e diletto alcun che di fuor reste; che tutti son ne l'amorosa stanza. E due o tre volte il di mutano veste, fatte or ad una, ora ad un'altra usanza. Spesso in conviti, e sernpre stanno in feste, in giostre, in lotte, in scene, in bagno, in danza. (VII. 31)
Rather than "following the pattern of [traditional allegorical] narratives," then, Ariosto takes pains to set his allegory apart from that which has gone before (Ascoli 144). The evocation of Dante does, as Ascoli suggests, underline the presence of an allegorical element in the Alcina episode. It also confirms from the beginning that Ruggiero's is an epistemological journey. It does not, however, presage elements of Christian didacticism. On the contrary, it is my view that one of the reasons for recalling Dante is to underline the absolute lack of Christian moral reckoning on Alcina's island. Ariosto calls on Dante's system of moral judgement only to replace it with his own system of humanist investigation. Rather than exposing vice, virtue and the struggle of the immortal soul, the Alcina episode seems intent on examining, and not judging, the impulses, needs and desires of the mortal body. Foreseeing Ruggiero's imminent surrender to Alcina, Astolfo tells the knight of the extreme difficulty in avoiding lust, in spite of the dangers:
Or tu che sei per non usata via, signor, venuto all'isola fatale, accio ch'alcuno amante per te sia converso in pietra o in onda, o fatto tale; avrai d'Alcina scettro e signoria, e sarai lieto sopra ogni mortale: ma certo sii di giunger tosto al passo d'entrar o in fiera o in fonte o in legno o in sasso. (VI. 52)
In effect, as Astolfo predicts, Ruggiero will fail to resist Alcina and the narrative will follow him in investigating the pleasure and danger of indulging the compelling seductions of physical desire.
Daniel Javitch views Ariosto's use of Dante as a comment on the process of imitatio itself. He argues that by recalling Virgil and Dante more or less simultaneously in the Alcina episode, Ariosto parodies Dante's claim to have written a definitive and improved (because Christianised) version of his classical sources. In Inferno XIII, he points out, Virgil apologises to Della Vigne for Dante's careless treatment of the sapling that hosts his spirit. The accident would not have happened, Virgil explains, if the pilgrim had paid heed to Polydorus' transmogrification in Aeneid: "S'elli avesse potuto creder prima/ ... / cio c'ha veduto pur con la mia rima / non averebbe in te la man distesa; / ma la cosa incredibile mi fece / indurlo ad ovra ch'a me stesso pesa" (Inf. XIII. 46-51). If Dante had been able to believe the Polydorus tale, he would not have hurt Pier delle Vigne. He could not, however, fully heed Virgil's story because it was a pagan tale. In these lines Dante has Virgil admit the imperfection and incompleteness of his version of the legend. Javitch reads this as a claim by Dante that his own Christian revision constituted a completed and corrected version of its precursor. Moreover, as Martin McLaughlin argues, Dante's poem was intended as definitive and unsurpassable, "a summa, almost inhibiting future writers from following in his path." (14)
Ariosto challenges Dante's alleged claire to have superseded his illustrious precursor by stripping Dante's "definitive" revision of Virgil's topos of its Christian morality once more. (15)He challenges the earlier poet's ambition to outdo Virgil for once and for all by presenting yet another version of the tale. Dante, Ariosto suggests, does not improve on or surpass his precursor. His is, as Javitch puts it, "merely another version in the endless history of poetic revision" (239). In sure, Javitch sees Ariosto's approach as a refusal to value the kinds of imitatio seeking to write an authoritative or definitive version of a story, myth or legend. Our poet, he says, manages "to assert his modern voice through imitatio while refusing to engage in competitive struggle" (215) with his predecessors. He evokes Dante's revision of Virgil to criticise poets who compete with and challenge their sources to assert their independence from the past.
Whether or not one agrees with Javitch's thesis about Ariosto's "counter-competitiveness," it is clear that the poet recognises his predecessor but then deliberately distances himself from him. Furthermore, Ariosto's diffusion of the Inferno's Christian and moral charge can scarcely be seen as anything but a challenge. In fact, by explicitly undermining the didacticism at the cote of the Divina commedia, Ariosto's relationship to Dante goes beyond imitatio and becomes a sophisticated form of parody. Thomas Greene's definition of "superior parody" is an "issue from creative imitation" where the parody "engages its subtext in a dialectic of affectionate malice" (46). In effect, Ariosto's parody of Dante is only mildly derisive. It is sceptical of Dante's status as unsurpassable poet and moral authority, but this scepticism is controlled and presented with an undertone of oblique respect.
The same respectful but polemical attitude can be identified, as we shall see, in the relationship between Ariosto and the other staple contributors to the eclectic texture of the Alcina episode. But before examining this, further consideration of Ariosto's treatment of Dante needs to be addressed. At the same rime that Ariosto challenges Dante by transforming him in his text, he also challenges his readers. The poet defies readers' expectations by recalling the Inferno and then deflating its moral impetus: Emulation of the earlier poet is anticipated but dissimulation of his Christian message is what happens. This refusal to simply duplicate his models is meant to have the extra-diegetic function of involving the reader in the education of Ruggiero. Just as the knight's first lesson on Alcina's island is that nothing is as it seems, readers also learn of the deceptive nature of appearances. Ruggiero was tricked by what appeared to be a myrtle bush but was, in fact, a man. At the same time, the reader is fooled by what seems to be an imitation of Dante but is, instead, an innovation of Ariosto's. The poet sets up an implicit relationship between Ruggiero's initial mode of seeing (and believing appearances) and the readers' manner of reading (also accepting appearances). In doing so he forces us to look beyond the surface just as Ruggiero must learn to do.
The last octaves before Ruggiero meets Alcina provide another occasion for our direct participation in Ruggiero's education. Once again Dante is evoked when Ruggiero's hindered efforts to by-pass Alcina's territory and to proceed to Logistilla's realm recall the pilgrim Dante's thwarted attempt to ascend the "dilettoso monte" (Inf. I. 77) to the heavens. The "iniqua frotta" of doven-hoofed or two-formed monsters that impede Ruggiero's progress (VI. 60-62) echo the lnferno's range of devils and Harpies (Inf. XIII). The dog-headed human, intent on blocking Ruggiero's course toward Logistilla (VI. 64) is like Hell's three-headed hound Cerberus (Inf. XIII; Aeneid VI. 417). Wolf-back, demonic Erifilla (VI. 12-VII. 7) resembles Dante's she-wolf, symbol of avarice (Inf. I). The Dantean parallels might suggest that Ruggiero is forced onto the dangerous path to Alcina's island of vice before Logistilla can redeem him in the same way that Dante's pilgrim was bound to descend into Hell before gaining Heaven. However, Ruggiero's course along the arduous path of virtue is obstructed hot only by the "iniqua frotta" but also by two beautiful women on erminewhite unicorns. In fact, Ruggiero, unlike Dante, might have been able to avoid the monsters, to defeat Erifilla and perhaps to reach Logistilla if the ladies had not intervened:
L'una e l'altra n'ando dove nel prato Ruggiero e oppresso da lo stuol villano. Tutta la turba si levo da lato; e quelle al cavallier porser la mano, che tinto in viso di color rosato, le donne ringrazio de l'atto umano: e fu contento, compiacendo loro, di ritornarsi a quella porta d'oro. (VI. 70)
Unlike Dante, Ruggiero is not forced but lured from the path to virtue. While he might have been able to overcome coercion, he cannot resist seduction. The beauty and apparent virtue of the women destroy his resolve. Even the narrator seems fooled by the seemingly straightforward allegory of the women:
... l'una e l'altra era bella, e di si adorno abito, e modo tanto pellegrino, che a l'uom, guardando e contemplando intorno, bisognerebbe aver occhio divino per far di lor giudizio: e tal saria Belta, s'avesse corpo, e Leggiadria. (VI. 69)
Ruggiero and the narrator Dante, do not presume to have the "occhio divino" to judge the women. The way Ruggiero responds to their beauty suggests yet again that his journey is more about investigating the impulses of the mortal body than judging the immortal soul. If we simply read these octaves as a retelling of Dante's descent into Hell we have missed the lesson which is simultaneously being imparted to Ruggiero: On Alcina's island preconceptions are unreliable, appearances are misleading (16) and traditional interpretative keys are useless.
So when he reveals that the text itself can be deceptive, Ariosto forces the reader to participate in Ruggiero's education about the schism between appearance and reality. Further, he declares the innovation of his version of the familiar Homeric/Virgilian tale and signals to readers that they will need new codes of interpretation to understand it. As we shall see, Ariosto's intention is not to teach old lessons in a revised form by simply retelling the familiar story of the conflict between appetite and reason, between lust and intellect. On the contrary, his text undermines the morality and didacticism of previous and contemporary literature. Ariosto's aim is not to preach about Reason versus Lust but to engage readers in a semi-serious philosophical dialectic about Love in general. It is my view that the Alcina episode questions inherited wisdom regarding Love and its various forms. In doing so, it responds directly to contemporary Neoplatonist treatises on the subject.
Association between Ariosto and Neoplatonism has always been contested in scholarship. C. P. Brand, for example, says that "Neo-Platonism leaves very little mark on the Furioso" (59) and the most extreme view might be Benedetto Croce's when he claims that Ariosto was outside every Renaissance philosophy, be it Neoplatonist or any other. (17) Going against that grain are, most notably, Gennaro Savarese and Peter V. Marinelli. (18) In Ariosto and Boiardo, the origins of the Orlando furioso, Marinelli argues that the influence of Neoplatonism on the Orlando furioso has been extensive, even determining the structure of the poem. He recognises Neoplatonist triads in the trilogy of Orlando, Ruggiero and Astolfo and goes to great lengths to illustrate how Ariosto's Neoplatonism is "woven into the very tissues of his poetry and functioning as the source of its form, evinces a lifelong fascination with its central ideas" (11). For the sake of my current argument I would like to agree with anyone who aligns Ariosto with his Neoplatonist contemporaries. However, I think Marinelli's thesis exaggerates the presence of Neoplatonism in the Orlando furioso. In fact, like Croce and C. P. Brand, I can see very few signs of it in the poem as a whole. Nonetheless, I see good reason for viewing this particular episode as Ariosto's explicit response to the contemporary debate on Love. Moreover, it is not difficult to make a case for reading Alcina's island as a self-contained Neoplatonist philosophical fiction. (19)
After thirty octaves or so of amorous dallying on Alcina's island, the fairy Melissa arrives from Europe to reprimand Ruggiero for his wasteful infatuation with Alcina. Just as Mercury rebuked Aeneas in Carthage, Melissa chastises him for abandoning his arms in favour of effeminate jewellery (Aeneid IV. 260-79). She reminds him of his former military valour and of his prestigious destiny as forefather of the Este dynasty. To truly convince him of his error, she hands him the Ring of Reason which has the power (among other things) to dispel all artifice and enchantment. Thanks to the ring, Alcina's sorcery loses its effect. The spell she cast over Ruggiero is broken and he begins to see the ancient and jaded fairy for what she really is:
In odio gli la pose, ancor che tanto l'amasse dianzi: e non vi paia strano, quando il suo amor per forza era d'incanto, ch'essendovi l'annel, rimase vano. Fece l'annel palese ancor, che quanto di belta Alcina avea, tutto era estrano: estrano avea, e non suo, dal pie alla treccia; il bel ne sparve, e le resto la feccia. (VII. 70)
In exposing Alcina as a haggard old witch, Melissa is, of course, showing Ruggiero the uglier aspect of the sensual world he has been inhabiting. When she encourages him to leave Alcina and to find her wise and logical half-sister Logistilla, she is urging him to favour intellectual and rational pursuits over sensual activity. While this excerpt relies heavily on the motifs and language of Virgil's Aeneid, the antithesis of the half-sisters, in my opinion, also responds to the Neoplatonist distinction between "rational" and "vulgar" love. (20) A glance at Ficino and Pico will help set the scene of Ariosto's fiction: In Sopra lo Amore, Marsilio Ficino's commentary on Plato's Symposium, love is divided into two forms: "amor celeste" and the inferior "amor vulgare": "Pausania appresso di Platone afferma lo Amore esser compagno di Venere: e tanti essere gli Amori quante sono le Veneri: e racconta due Veneri da duoi Amori accompagnate. Uuna Venere, Celeste, l'altra Vulgare" (II. 7). "Amor vulgare" is a terrestrial or natural love where beauty stimulates the senses and the imagination and impels man to procreate. "Amor celeste," on the other hand, is without physical shape and form and exists in the intellect. It is a form of love that prepares the individual for the love of and ultimate union with God. The opposition of Alcina's island of sensual pleasure and Logistilla's realm of intellectual enlightenment, one could argue, is an allegorical representation of this Neoplatonist schema.
On closer inspection, however, it becomes hard to match Ruggiero's feelings for Alcina with a desire to procreate. On the contrary, by forgetting Bradamante he turns his back on his responsibilities as the progenitor of the Este dynasty. Rather than "amor vulgare," Ruggiero's feelings for Alcina are what Ficino would call "amore bestiale," which is a disease, rather than a form of Love. (21) There is no room for "amore bestiale," or lust, in Ficino's Venus duplex. Any desire whose only object is pleasure is not worthy of the goddess's patronage.
In Pico's Commento sopra una canzone d'amore, "amore bestiale" is not dismissed so absolutely. For him it is an inferior form of "amore vulgare." Book II, chapter 22 of the Commento summarises the difference between "Amore celeste" and "Amore vulgare": As in Ficino's model, "Amore celeste" is a desire for "bellezza intellettuale," a love of ideas, wisdom and philosophy. The object of "amore celeste" has no physical shape or form and its effects are felt in the formless, shapeless part of the human mind, the "mente angelica," which is the only part of human physiognomy that can be directly influenced by God. Pico's "amore vulgare," like Ficino's, is less perfect than "amore celeste" because its object does exist in physical space and is, therefore, mutable, unstable and imperfect. It triggers action, as opposed to contemplation. Unlike Ficino's however, Pico's "amore vulgare" is split into two kinds; "amore humano e rationale" and "amore bestiale." The former is called "umano" because it appeals to those faculties which differentiate men from beasts; reason and willpower, and because it resides in that part of the body which is unique to humans, the "anima rationale" or soul. "Amore humano" moves us to imitate or replicate our loved object, to turn idea into form, to create and to procreate. "Amore bestiale," on the other hand, triggers a purely physical response and is anchored in the material body. It is sexual desire, nothing more than a strong impulse for physical union with the beloved. The aim of "amore bestiale" is, simply, physical pleasure (II. 14). Pico's model, therefore, comprises "amore celeste, humano e bestiale" (II. 14). And it is a tripartite Pico-esque scheme that inspires, in my opinion, the cosmography of Alcina's island. (22) The homology relating the baser love form to the "corpo materiale" and to the pursuit of sensual pleasure is personified in the figure of Alcina. With her concern for Bradamante and Ruggiero's dynastic duty and by appealing to his Reason and willpower, Melissa embodies human love. Finally, Logistilla stimulates Ruggiero's mind, urging him to reflect and to learn wisdom. In doing so she represents intellectual love.
In Alcina's palace, as I have said, the pursuit of sensual pleasure is the main activity. Ruggiero's mental faculties are overridden by an abundance of sensual stimulation. Descriptions of the enchantress' beauty, the sumptuous feasting, music and dancing give way to an account of the whispers, perfumed sheets and sweetness of their first night together. With Alcina, thoughts of all else are forgotten:
Avea in ogni sua parte un laccio teso, o parli o rida o canti o passo muova: ne maraviglia e se Ruggier ne preso, poi che tanto benigna se la truova. (VII. 16)
In contrast, the activities pursued in Logistilla's realm are described as purely intellectual:
... Il suo amore ha dagli altri differenza: speme o timor negli altri il cor ti lima; in questo il desiderio piu non chiede, e contento riman come la vede. Ella t'insegnera studi piu grati, che suoni, danze, odori, bagni e cibi; ma come i pensier tuoi meglio formati poggin piu ad alto che per l'aria i nibi, e come de la gloria de' beati nel mortal corpo parte si delibi. (X. 46-47)
In Logistilla's palace, the marvellous jewels embedded in the walls have the power to make the human body transparent, as it were, and to expose the soul for contemplation. The palace walls act as a mirror not of the viewer's physical image but of his or her virtue and vice. Visitors to Logistilla are supposed to gain self-knowledge as opposed to physical satisfaction:
Quel che piu fa che lor si inchina e cede ogn'altra gemma, e che, mirando in esse, l'uom sin in mezzo all'anima si vede; vede suoi vizi e sue virtudi espresse, si che a lusinghe poi di se non crede, ne a chi dar biasmo a torto gli volesse: fassi, mirando allo specchio lucente se stesso, conoscendosi, prudente. (X. 59)
In the same way that "amore humano" is placed between celestial love and animal love in Pico's trinity of love forms, Ruggiero meets Melissa in between Alcina and Logistilla. As we have seen, the fairy reminds Ruggiero of Bradamante and of his future as forefather of the Este family. By doing so, she is explicitly encouraging him to forget "amor volgare" and to remember "amore humano" and his place in society. She sends him away from Alcina, who now looks putrid, barren and corrupt like "amor vulgare" personified. She encourages him to use his reason and his willpower to progress beyond the seductress' sensual paradise. Indeed, in the barren middle ground between the two sisters, Ruggiero does need all his willpower, the principal motor of "amor humano," to avoid Alcina's temptations. At a certain point in his journey, he encounters three ladies reclining on Egyptian rugs in the shade of an old tower. Although blinded by the light of the sun and scorched by its heat, he refuses their offer of wines and refreshment:
E di lor una s'accosto al cavallo per la staffa tener, che ne scendesse; l'altra con una coppa di cristallo di vin spumante, piu sete gli messe: ma Ruggiero a quel suon non entro in ballo; perche d'ogni tardar che fatto avesse, tempo di giunger dato avria ad Alcina, che venia dietro et era ormai vicina. (X. 39)
Ignoring their invitations and later their insults, Ruggiero proceeds with his heart set ("il cor voluntaroso," X. 38) on Logistilla's island.
Pico's homology associating the forms of love (celeste, humano, and bestiale) with the main body parts (the mind, the soul, and the body) and three types of activity (contemplation, creation, and sex) appears, then, to be reproduced on Alcina's island. The three fate (Logistilla, Melissa, and Alcina) appeal to the three different aspects of Ruggiero and incite him to engage in the different forms of action. But the Neoplatonist homology also extends to the macrocosm. In Dialoghi d'amore Leone Ebreo's Filone describes the body as a microcosmos or "piccol mondo" (85). The body, from the neck down, is the microcosmic correlative of the terrestrial world and the celestial bodies. (23) The superior part of the body, the head, is aligned with the "mondo spirituale" (93) and it houses both the soul and the mind (93). The relation between the soul and the body is likened to the relation between Nature ("l'anima del mondo") and the material universe. Nature is the force that governs the movement of the planets. It causes the Sun to shine and the Earth to be fruitful. In the same way, the soul governs the movement of the body, causing the heart and lungs to fuel the body and the body to nourish and generate itself (93). Finally, the mind is aligned with the "intelletto del universo." It's influence on the body is intangible as it inclines naturally away from the material world and aims toward "divinita" and union with God (93). Because vulgar love happens in the material body, therefore, its macrocosmic realm is Earth. Celestial love is aligned with an ethereal plane beyond the reach of mortal perception, that is to say, Heaven. In between the two is the domain of human love, a place of heat, light, energy and movement.
This anthropomorphic relationship between love and the universe is also present on Alcina's island. The contrast between the tangible worldly nature of Alcina's domain and the ethereal heavenly qualifies of Logistilla's kingdom undoubtedly recalls the diametrical opposition of the Neoplatonic terrestrial and celestial domains. The Earthly part of the island is resplendent with natural marvels, prolific greenery, and abundant fauna:
Culte pianure e delicate colli, chiare acque, ombrose ripe e prati molli. Vaghi boschetti di soavi allori, di palme e d'amenissime mortelle, cedri et aranci ch'avean frutti e fiori contesti in varie forme e tutte belle, ... (VI. 20-22)
Antithetically, Logistilla's kingdom is characterised by an airy, ethereal sense of light, space and weightlessness. The heavens are recalled in the description:
Sopra gli altissimi archi, che puntelli parean che del ciel fossino a vederli eran giardin si spaziosi e belli, che saria al piano anco fatica averli.... (X. 61)
And Heaven is evoked in the description of her brilliant castle:
Ne la piu forte ancor ne la piu bella mai vide occhio mortal prima ne dopo. Son di piu prezzo le mura di quena, che se diamante fossino o piropo. Di tai gemme qua giu non si favella: et a chi vuol notizia averne, e d'uopo che vada quivi; che non credo altrove, se non forse su in ciel, se ne ritruove. (X. 58)
The narrative emphasis on the materiality of Alcina's island and the heavenly nature of Logistilla's suggests that the Neoplatonic association between "amore vulgare" and Earth and between "amore celeste" and Heaven does indeed find resonance here. Moreover, the middle ground onto which Melissa sends Ruggiero is like Ebreo's "anima del mondo" in that it is neither wholly world-like nor Heaven-like. It does not have the abundant fertility of Earth or the weightlessness and brilliance of Paradise. It is, instead, an in-between place, a deserted "spiaggia, / tra 'l mare e'l monte." It is, like Ebreo's "anima del mondo," characterised more by its heat and light than by its topographical features. In fact, the fiery sun is evoked more strongly than the and beach giving this in-between place, somewhat like the "anima del mondo" a presence that is more about tactility and energy than visual images:
Percuote il sole ardente il vicin colle; e del calor che si riflette a dietro, in modo l'aria e l'arena ne bolle, che saria troppo a far liquido il vetro. (VIII. 20)
And the same reference to heat and blinding light is repeated when the story is picked up in Canto X:
Percuote il sol nel colle e fa ritorno: di sotto bolle il sabbion trito e bianco. Mancava all'arme ch'avea indosso poco ad esser, come gia, tutte di fuoco. (X. 35)
In sum, the tripartite structure of the island, the trilogy of the fate and the enactment of the three love forms suggests that the Alcina episode is indeed Ariosto's contribution to Neoplatonist discussions on Love. Moreover, its cosmography, topography, and reference to human anatomy seem to be directly influenced by Neoplatonist models. From a biographical point of view, it is not unreasonable to align Ariosto with Neoplatonism. After all, as Peter Marinelli reminds us, Ariosto was closely associated with such Neoplatonists as lecturers Sebastiano dell'Aquila, Gregorio da Spoleto, and Celio Calcagnini, writers Pietro Bembo, Mario Equicola, and Baldessar Castiglione and artists like Raphael and Titian. (24) "All of them were second generation Neoplatonists in Italy," he says, "they were direct heirs ... of Ficino and Pico" (110). Furthermore, two of the most famous of Ficino and Pico's heirs, Mario Equicola and Pietro Bembo were close friends of Ariosto and exchanged their work with him, as their letters show. There is every reason to believe that he read and was influenced by both Equicola's Libro de natura d'amore (written 1495 and published 1505) and Pietro Bembo's Gli Asolani (also 1505) before completing the first edition of the Orlando furioso.
A direct line of descent from Ficino and Pico to Ariosto does, then, seem highly likely. Nonetheless, Ariosto was not a wholly unquestioning "heir of Ficino and Pico." Earlier on in the Alcina episode Ariosto had asserted his own voice while evoking Virgil and Dante. Similarly, in this instance he adopts the language and motifs of Neoplatonism but allows his individual voice to emerge. Once again, Ariosto's relationship to his subtext is respectful but polemical and dialectical rather than imitative.
Ficino, Pico, and Leone Ebreo all adopt Plato's scala amoris where the types of Love are ordered hierarchically with divine or transcendental love as the superior form. For Ficino, sexual desire does not deserve to be called love while Pico and Ebreo's version of "amore bestiale" tends toward depravity and needs constantly to be tempered by human love. Pietro Bembo complies with this notion of hierarchy in Gli Asolani. The first two books are a disputation between attendees of a wedding feast about whether love is a good or a bad thing. In the third and final book a holy hermit resolves the debate by describing the scala amoris rising from vulgar and sentient to rational and divine love to the protagonist Lavinello (III. 12-22). The "santo uomo" instructs him in the merits of refining worldly love into divine love, telling him that divine love elevates the human spirit to communion with the forces of nature, the celestial spheres, the cosmos and ultimately God (III. 21-22). By the end of his epistemological quest, Lavinello has reached spiritual and intellectual enlightenment. Ostensibly, Ruggiero also reaches a pinnade of Wisdom and Truth on Logistilla's island. The magical jewels of the castle walls miraculously expose his soul and allow him to observe with clarity his own vice and virtue. On Logistilla's island he learns to eventually control his wayward ippogrifo and to make his way home:
Disse la fata: "Io ci porro il pensiero, e fra dui di te li daro espediti." Discorre poi tra se, come Ruggiero e dopo lui, come quel duca aiti: conchiude infin che 'l volator destriero ritorni il primo agli aquitani liti; ma prima vuol che se gli faccia un morso, con che lo volga, e gli raffreni il corso. (X. 66)
Logistilla has taught Ruggiero to control his destination and, therefore, his destiny. On a symbolic level she has also taught him how to mitigate his previously unrestrained lust, as the Furioso often uses the unbridled steed to represent lust and the reins to stand for human reason. (25) Unlike Lavinello, and indeed the pilgrim Dante, whose journeys end at the pinnacle of their spiritual ascension, however, Ruggiero does not terminate his journey on a summit of wisdom. Instead Ariosto's knight "relapses" into lustiness once more in the very next scene. Immediately after leaving Logistilla, he promptly falls for the naked beauty of Angelica. When he comes across her chained to a rock and about to be devoured by the monstrous sea orc, Ruggiero's temporarily restrained lust is once again unbridled:
Quivi il bramoso cavallier ritenne l'audace corso, e nel pratel discese; e fe' raccorre al suo destrier le penne, ma non a tal che piu le avea distese. Del destrier sceso, a pena si ritenne di salir altri; ma tennel l'arnese: l'arnese il tenne, che bisogno trarre, e contra il suo disir messe le sbarre. (X. 114)
So this pilgrim does not reach a permanent state of rational enlightenment. In spite of Logistilla's instruction, Ariosto's allegorical pilgrim is incapable of fixing himself in a state of intellectual illumination. Furthermore, Ruggiero is not criticised for "falling in lust" again. As for his earlier surrender to Alcina, the knight is once again judged blameless by the narrator. It is only natural that he be tempted again by desire:
Quaig raggion fia che'l buon Ruggier raffrene, si che non voglia ora pigliar diletto d'Angelica gentil che nuda tiene nel solitario e commodo boschetto? (XI. 2)
Unlike Bembo's, then, the Furioso's Neoplatonic fiction does not describe a "diagramma ascensiva." Ariosto is not concerned with prescribing the ascension of a unidirectional scale toward the Heavens and Enlightenment. Rather he is interested in describing the oscillatory pull of the seemingly bipolar and mutually exclusive impulses of sensuality and reason.
Many scholars view Ruggiero's attempted rape of Angelica as demonstrative of the imperfection of Ruggiero's education. For A. Bartlett Giamatti, for example, it underlines the weakness and shortcomings of the knight ("Headlong Horses, Headless Horsemen" 299). But there is more at stake here, in my opinion, than a lesson badly learnt. To me, implicit in the narrator's defence of Ruggiero's latest indiscretion with Angelica is an eager, although playful, profession of the inevitability and, more to the point, the faultlessness of lust. Ruggiero may now detest his ex-lover Alcina, but he is by no means irrevocably reformed or purged of lustful instincts. When faced with naked Angelica's beauty, he forgets Bradamante yet again. But even if she had never left his mind, the narrator would nevertheless excuse his advances on Angelica.
Di Bradamante piu non gli soviene, che tanto aver solea fissa nel petto: e se gli ne sovien pur come prima, pazzo e se questa ancor non prezza e stima; ... (XI. 2-3)
Young men, it is implied, have always and will always indulge in sensual and material pursuits. Scholars who view Ruggiero's advances on Angelica as a sign of Ruggiero's moral weakness endorse the view that physical desire is bad. On Alcina's island, however, desire is playfully portrayed as natural and relatively faultless, in spite of Christian, Dantean or even Neoplatonic attempts to vilify it. By justifying Ruggiero's reaction to naked Angelica, that is to say, by justifying his desire (as opposed to his attempted tape) the narrator invites not condemnation or disapproval of him, but recognition and tolerance of his actions. Instead of expecting us to criticise him according to an ethical code of conduct, he light-heartedly suggests that we simply identify in him the struggle between sensuality and reason for control of human behaviour without moral judgement.
This dialectical response to Neoplatonist fictions, then, is a tongue-in-cheek investigation of human, or more precisely, male desire. It is not a parable of moral judgement. Ariosto's philosophical fiction shifts the narrative purpose from indoctrination to investigation. At the same time, Ariosto also shifts the narrative focus of the episode from Venus of transcendental love (traditionally the main object of Neoplatonist creative energy) to Venus of sensual love. In fact, Alcina is described with far more poetic energy than Logistilla. Five detailed octaves describe Alcina's beauty and its effects on Ruggiero while there is no description at all of Logistilla. One hundred and twenty-six octaves describe Alcina's palace while a mere eight octaves describe Logistilla's. As Brand puts it:
The central appeal of the episode is certainly the "locus amoenus" itself, the sensuous garden of literary tradition which poet and reader enter without any sense of sin, where the emphasis is on the delights of the senses, not their viciousness. (67)
Even if Alcina is eventually exposed as an ancient and malevolent seductress, her island continues to be a heavenly blend of Elysium and the bower of Venus as described by Claudian in "Epithalamium de Nuptiis Honorii Augusti." Giamatti's commentary on Claudian's evolution of the classical paradise might aptly be applied to Alcina's island:
He sums up all the natural motifs--birds, flowers, springs, Zephyr, perfume, eternal springtime, grass, shade, trees--of the Golden Age spots and conventional ancient landscapes and gives the pastoral associations of love a new setting and direction. Claudian's spot is sanctified not by the presence of virtuous souls, but by the presence of Venus. The sports of the ancient islands and the Elysiums are now replaced by the dallyings of Cupid and the games of love. (52)
In sharp contrast, Logistilla's palace is the unmemorable, non-poetic place where the human senses are neglected and the reader is left with only "the bare allegory" (Momigliano 41-42). In effect, after a very short period of soul contemplation, Ruggiero, Astolfo and the narrator himself appear anxious to return to the West, the ongoing narrative and the next amorous adventure.
Sensual love, then, triumphs over transcendental love on Alcina's island in terms of narrative space and poetic energy. Even the name of the island, which ignores its second, less interesting owner, bears witness to the shift. Ariosto is proposing that the way of Sensuality will almost always hold more appeal for young men than the way of Reason. Moreover, he also suggests that in at least one significant way, the former is superior to the latter. It is the contemplation of things "base" and terrestrial that has produced the greatest poetry and music in the Alcina episode. The object of "amore bestiale" cannot, then, be entirely bad. Inversely, Ariosto's attempt to personify the higher form of love has turned out to be a relatively and poetic exercise. It cannot, then, be entirely superior. On the contrary, the fact that Venus of sensual love inspires more enthusiastic and evocative poetry than the duller Venus of transcendental love attests to the superiority of the former as a creative source. Paradoxically, Ariosto suggests, the object of carnal desire, ultimately vilified in the Virgilian and Homeric epics, by Christian literature and (albeit to a far lesser extent) by Neoplatonism, fuels the poetic imagination; that is to say, inspires the intellectual activity so highly esteemed in classical, Christian and Neoplatonist literature.
Toward the end of the episode, two octaves, which Eduardo Saccone has considered "tra le piu grandi e pur meno notate del poema" (198), describe Alcina after Ruggiero abandons her for Logistilla's realm. The "evil" fairy is wholly distraught. She commands her fleet to pursue him but she is defeated by Logistilla. As she flees in her own ship she longs for death but is denied it:
Fuggesi Alcina, e sua misera gente arsa e presa riman, rotta e sommersa. D'aver Ruggier perduto ella si sente via piu doler che d'altra cosa aversa; notte e di per lui geme amaramente, e lacrime per lui dagli occhi versa; e per dar fine a tanto aspro martire, spesso si duol di non poter morire. Morir non puote alcuna fata mai, fin che 'l sol gira, o il ciel non muta stilo. Se cio non fosse, era il dolore assai per muover Cloto ad inasparle il filo; o, qual Didon, finia col ferro i guai; o la regina splendida del Nilo avria imitata con mortifer sonno: ma le fate morir sempre non ponno. (X. 55-56)
That fairies cannot die is a concept inherited by Ariosto from Boiardo's Orlando innamorato (II. 26), as pointed out by Remo Ceserani (331). In the Orlando furioso, however, the narrator lingers on Alcina's dilemma long enough to challenge once again her portrayal as a straightforward negative allegorical figure. She suddenly becomes a human-like figure demanding compassion and far more attention than she usually gets from scholars. The "assurda rivolta," as Saccone calls it, from villain to victim poses a point of interrogation; once again in the Alcina episode we must look beyond the surface for meaning (198).
On the allegorical level, Alcina's immortality represents the irrepressibility of desire and attests to the invincibly seductive power of a beautiful desired object. The fact that the Furioso's personification of "amor bestiale" cannot die implies that "amor bestiale" will never be wholly extirpated from the human make-up, and nor is there any sense in trying. Earlier on Ruggiero had been unable to overcome the "iniqua frotta" standing between him and Logistilla's kingdom (VI. 60q58). If the fantastic throng of monstrous creatures is an allegory for evil and sloth, the knight's incapacity to vanquish them suggests that it is impossible to wholly suppress those vices. In the same canto Ruggiero confronts Erifilla, the Furioso's symbol of avarice (VI. 77). This time he is equal to the challenge and defeats his opponent but he does not kill her. As before, the representative of human corruption is as invincible as the form of corruption itself. (26) Here in the final octaves of the Alcina episode, the seductress's fairy-like immortality and her woman-like despair combine to suggest both the irresistible pull and the profoundly human nature of desire. As Ruggiero returns to Europe, Alcina is left behind as an enduring symbol of those impulses and tendencies that man cannot and, more to the point, will not wholly reject.
To drive home the notion of the longevity of Venere vulgare, the narrator evokes the youngest of the three rates. Clotho, he says, had spun out the life-thread of Dido, "la regina del Nilo," with her distaff. She cannot, however, do the same for the immortal Alcina. The implication is that although one incarnation of Lust has expired in Dido, the classical prototype lives on in the Furioso's fairy. Moreover, her immortality declares that she will live on beyond the narrative currently inscribing her. The archetypal seductress, the poem suggests, will continue to occupy a prominent position in the landscape of the literary imagination for generations of poets to come.
In addition, Clotho's inability to end Alcina's life-thread does not only testify to the longevity of archetypal narrative types. It is also a direct challenge to those poets who would presume to have configured a definitive expression of them. More than once, Ariosto's narrator uses the figure of the weaver as a metaphor for the poet who needs numerous narrative threads to spin the tapestry of his poem: "Di molte fila esser bisogno parme / a condur la gran tela ch' io lavoro" (13.81). (27) By evoking the weaver Clotho in reference to Dido he reminds us that, in fact, it is not the mythological goddess but the poet/weaver Virgil who spins the tale of the Queen of Carthage's suicide. Later on Dante had attempted to terminate that narrative thread definitively by fixing Dido beyond redemption in Hell. Here in the final octaves of the episode, however, Ariosto picks up the fibre of Dido's story once again and interlaces it into the pattern of Alcina's. His careful entrelacement of the Virgilian, Dantean, and Ariostean narrative threads is an affront to Dante's attempt to definitively outdo his predecessor and to discourage future revisions of the story. It suggests that the relationship of imitative literature to its subtext should be dialectical rather than competitive and heuristic rather than antagonistic. (28) Imitatio should be concerned with the evolution rather than the culmination and conclusion of poetic narrative. In this way Ariosto pays homage to the process of poetic imitation and to the intertextual evolution of archetypes that extend from classical models to contemporary texts to, Alcina's immortality suggests, the literature of the future.
A second of the Furioso's main metaphors for creative writing, the ship, also features in the last two octaves of the episode. In Canto forty-six, Ariosto uses the figure of a ship's arrival in port to represent the imminent conclusion of the poem. Here, the ship that bears away the despairing seductress may also be seen as a metaphor for poetry, and for mimetic poetry in particular. The fugitive ship stands for the poetic vehicle of imitatio that will continue to transport the archetypal female across inter-textual landscapes. In addition, the parting image of the Alcina episode also embodies the episode's other concern, as proposed in this essay. While the ship is a symbol of the unending and interminable practise of poetic imitation, its immortal cargo embodies the indomitable and eternal appeal of Venere vulgare. Sexual desire, like Alcina herself, will "fin che'l sol gira, o il ciel non muta stilo" (X. 56).
ITA MAC CARTHY
University of Durham
(1) In "Da Tolomeo alla Garfagnana: la geografia dell' Ariosto," Luciano Serra discusses the precise location of Alcina's island: "L'Ariosto pone all'estremo Oriente l'isola di Alcina ... che il Fomari ... fa coincidere col Cipango di Marco Polo e il Vernero con argomenti ben fondati ribadisce dichiarandola lo Zipagu delle carte del tempo del poeta e non il Giappone come e conosciuto e rappresentato oggi.... Se pero si volesse abbandonare l'ipotesi del Cipango, e ci si volesse riferire al Mappamondo Catalano ... si potrebbe collocare l'isola di Alcina in una delle due grandi rappresentate spoglie di nomi e vastissime all'estremo limite orientale del mondo" (172). To reach the island the ippogrifo carries Ruggiero beyond the Pillars of Hercules (the Straits of Gibraltar) South toward the Canary Islands and then West along the Tropic of Cancer which at that rime was located further North than today. In this way, the ippogrifo follows the route of Columbus arriving, as Columbus thought he had, on the Eastern Coast of the Far East. Alcina's island then follows the literary genealogy of Elysium and Pindar's "Island of the Blest" (II. 72) and the geography of the New World.
(2) For a fuller discussion of the Earthly Paradise in Renaissance literature see Giamatti.
(3) "There was a rime when divine Calypso kept me within her arched caverns and would have had me to be her husband, and another rime when subtle Aeaean Circe confined me in her palace and would have had me for her husband also" (The Odyssey IX. 30-35).
(4) Aeaea is named as Circe's island-home in X, 148 ("Then we came to the island of Aeaea; here Circe dwelt ..."). Ogygia is mentioned in I, 100-03 ("O son of Crono, father of us and sovereign ruler, if indeed the blessed gods now wish that shrewd Odysseus should come to his own land again, then let us instruct the radiant Hermes, the Messenger, to go to the island of Ogygia and without delay to tell the nymph of braided tresses our firm decree that staunch Odysseus is to depart and journey home").
(5) As Jane Everson observes, by the mid-fifteenth century multiple origins had become a common feature of the hero of Italian Romance Epic. Before Ariosto, Pulci, Boiardo, and Cieco had all synthesized characters from the Classical, Roman, and Arthurian traditions, producing heroes who incorporated elements of Aeneas, Ulysses, Hercules, Scipio, and others. (See chapter 7.) For other examinations of some Renaissance rewritings of the Virgilian/Homeric story, see Cavallo, "Tasso's Armida and the Victory of Romance." Also, Judith Yarnall provides a careful analysis of the fate of Homer's seductress from the classics to modernity (see Transformations of Circe).
(6) In Ariosto's Bitter Harmony: Crisis and Evasion in the Italian Renaissance, Ascoli focuses mainly on Hercules and Ulysses as Ruggiero's models (47-70 and 143-48 respectively). Writers like Boccaccio, Boiardo, Cieco da Ferrara, Poliziano, and Bembo are also of vital importance in Ruggiero's construction (see Pio Rajna's exhaustive study Le fonti dell 'Orlando furioso).
(7) In this sense his approach to imitatio belongs to what Martin McLaughlin calls "the eclectic camp" whose view was that poets should take the best from the better classical poets and then develop their own style and content. This position is expounded most famously by the younger Pico in the pivotal epistolary debate with Bembo. Bembo's opposing "Ciceronian" view was that eclectic imitation prevented "the development of a uniform style" and that it was better to model oneself on the two greatest poets Virgil and Cicero. See Martin McLaughlin's succinct discussion of the debate in Literary Imitation in the Italian Renaissance (249-74).
(8) For linguistic parallels between Dante and Ariosto, see Blasucci, "La commedia come fonte linguistica e stilistica del Furioso." Daniel Javitch discusses the importance of Boccaccio's Filocolo as a subtext for Ruggiero's meeting with transmogrified Astolfo in "The Imitation of Imitations in Orlando furioso" (236-39).
(9) De consolatio philosophiae II. IV. 2; Odyssey X. 202-60; and Aeneid III. 22-43. The reincarnation of the Aeneid's Polydorus also appears, for example, in Boccaccio's Filocolo IV and V. For a meticulous identification of the many layers of subtext in the Orlando furioso, see Rajna.
(10) Some other studies of Dante in the Orlando furioso include Segre, "Un repertorio linguistico e stilistico dell' Ariosto"; Blasucci; and Hauvette, "Reminiscences dantesque dans le Roland Furieux." See also Bologna's bibliography in La macchina del Furioso (237).
(11) "What distinguishes Ariosto's treatment of a rather typical scenario in chivalric romance," says Javitch, "is that it is enriched ('dignified' those might say who rate epic higher than romance) by the Virgilian supplement worked into it" ("The Grafting of Virgilian Epic in Orlando furioso" 62). Here Javitch is commenting on Virgilian content in the Alcina episode. His comments might be extended to Ariosto's use of Dante.
(12) Only in this sense is Franco Pool correct in saying that Astolfo is more closely related to Polydorus, than to Pier delle Vigne: "il tono della scena e piu vicino all'episodio elegiaco di Polidoro nell'Eneide, modello a Dante, che a quello profondamente tragico di Pier delle Vigne. Nella 'mesta e flebil voce' che esce dal mirto con accento di sofferenza implorante si ritrova, spogliato delle ragioni religiose e morali, solo il momento piu umano dell'oltretomba dantesco, lo struggimento delle anime dannate per il 'dolce mondo' perduto con la 'vita serena'" (Pool 38).
(13) The translation of Orlando furioso is Waldman's (63). The "dallyings of Cupid and the games of Love" is an expression from Giamatti (52). Dido's palace at Carthage, Circe's "magic halls," and Calypso's "arching caverns" are in Aeneid I. 698-756; Odyssey X. 386-415, 494-519, and 610; and Odyssey I. 16-18 respectively.
(14) McLaughlin cites Curtius's proposal that Dante probably derived what he calls "his notion of the technique of 'outdoing'" from classical and medieval eulogy (19).
(15) Ariosto also undermines Dante's claims to have rewritten Virgil in a definitive form, says Javitch, by extending the genealogy of his text to Boccaccio's version of the Polydorus tale in his Filocolo ("specifically the protagonist's encounters with Fileno transformed into a fountain IV,2 and Idalagos metamorphosed into a pine, v. 6-12," 237). The existence of a later version of the story proves that Dante's is just one in an ongoing succession of poetic rewitings.
(16) For Giamatti, the split between surface and substance is the subject of the Furioso (The Earthly Paradise 138).
(17) Benedetto Croce, Ariosto, Shakespeare and Corneille.
(18) Gennaro Savarese's argument against scholarly neglect of Ariosto's Neoplatonism is in "Ariosto al bivio tra Marsilio Ficino e 'adescatrici galliche.'"
(19) In the collected acts of a colloquium on the subject, Ann Moss defines a "philosophical fiction" as a type of narrative that goes beyond its entertainment value by having a solid core of truth. Only the surface of this "truth-telling fiction" is fictitious (17).
(20) Javitch and Cavallo both analyse the Virgilian aspect of Melissa's chastisement of Ruggiero in their respective essays in Renaissance Transactions.
(21) Sopra lo Amore VII. 3 entitled "De lo amore bestiale, e come e spezie di pazzia."
(22) For a brief but concise outline of the evolution of Neoplatonist Love that takes place between Ficino and Pico, see, for example, Panofsky 144n51.
(23) The body is divided into two by the diaphragm. The lower part relates to Earth in that both are places of "nutrizione" and "generazione" (91). The upper thorax, containing the heart and lungs, corresponds to the "mondo celeste" made up of the Sun, Moon, and other celestial bodies (92). Like the heart and the lungs, the celestial world produces light and heat to fuel its inferior terrestrial counterpart.
(24) Sebastiano dell'Aquila and Gregorio da Spoleto both lectured Ariosto at the University of Ferrara. Ariosto was the stage director for at least two of his friend Celio Calcagnini's translations of Plautus in Ferrara. His high esteem of Pietro Bembo is documented in our poet's sixth satire while, according to Virginio Ariosto, there once existed an encomiastic satire to Baldessar Castiglione. Mario Equicola, Isabella d'Este's trusted secretary received letters from Atiosto in 1519 and 1520 which testify to their friendship and Carmen III. i is dedicated to Raphael who painted scenes for Ariosto's I Suppositi as well as portraying him in the Vatican Stanze. As well as the woodcut adorning the cover of the first Orlando furioso, Titian also painted at least one other portrait of Ariosto, which now hangs in the National Gallery, London. Calcagnini, Castiglione, Bembo, Raphael, and Titian are all mentioned in the Orlando furioso. For Ariosto's life, see Gardner; Catalano; Caretti.
(25) See especially XI. 1: "Quantunque debil freno a mezzo il corso / animoso destrier spesso raccolga, / raro e pero che di ragione il morso / libidinosa furia a dietro Volga, ..." As the descendant of Pegasus, the ippogrifo is also interpreted as the Neoplatonic symbol of the flight of poetic imagination (see, amongst others, Rajna 115-20). Giamatti united the dual aspects of the ippogrifo (flying horse / poetic imagination and unbridled horse / unrestrained reason) in the image of Logistilla's reining of it in "Headlong Horses, Headless Horsemen" (270).
(26) Enrico Musacchio makes a similar point: "Non gli vien permesso di ucciderla ed eliminarla definitivamente, perche questro mostro potra di nuovo essere utile al futuro per provare se altri nuovi amanti siano degni di entrare nel regno dell'amore" (65).
(27) See also II. 30: "Ma perche varie fila e varie tele / uopo mi son, che tutte ordire intendo, / lascio Rinaldo e l'agitata prua, / e torno a dir di Bradamante sua."
(28) "Heuristic" and "Dialectical" imitation are two of four types of imitatio identified by Thomas Greene. Heuristic imitations "come to us advertising their derivation from the subtexts they carry with them, but having done that, they proceed to distance themselves from the subtexts and force us to recognise the poetic distance traversed" (40). In dialectical imitation, the text "makes a kind of implicit criticism of its subtexts, its authenticating models, but it also leaves itself open to criticism from the irreverent Lucianic spirit that it had begun by invoking" (45). The other two forms of imitation are, says Greene, reproductive or "sacramental" (38) and eclectic or exploitative (39).
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|Author:||Mac Carthy, Ita|
|Article Type:||Critical Essay|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2004|
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