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Tasso's enchantress, Tasso's captive woman [*].

This essay offers two discoveries concerning Tasso's poetics. First, it identifies in the Discourses or the Heroic Poem a critique of allegory on both aesthetic and moral grounds, one that explains Jerusalem Delivered's abandonment of the "temptress-turned-hag" motif. Second, it demonstrates that Armida and Erminia are closely linked to the "captive woman" topos used by Jerome and Boccaccio to justify Christian adaptations of pagan literature and rhetoric. It is the hermeneutic dimension of this motif that allows Tasso plausibly to convert these beautiful pagan women (and the poetic pleasures they embody) to the exigencies of Christian epic.

In the sixteenth canto of Torquato Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered, the Christian paladin Rinaldo prepares to abandon the pagan sorceress Armida and her amorous enchantments in order to return to his martial and religious duties. Up to this point in the poem, Tasso has carefully modeled his sorceress on the many enchantresses depicted in classical epic and in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso. In canto 16, however, Tasso breaks with literary tradition in a passage largely ignored by commentators and critics. To her departing lover, Rinaldo Tasso's sorceress cries out:

Let me be granted only that I may follow you: a small request, even between enemies. The predator does not leave his prey behind; the victor goes, the prisoner does not stay. Let the army see me among your other spoils, and add to your other praises this, that you hold your scorner scorned, pointing the finger at me, despised slave.

Despised slave, for whom shall I any more preserve this hair now that it has grown valueless to you? I shall cut it short: I want a slavish appearance to go with my title of slave. [1]

Just prior to this speech, modern editions of the poem have the Christian soldier Ubaldo prepare Rinaldo -- and the reader -- to dismiss Armida's plea as just one more entrapment: "[w]hat man is stronger than you," he asks Rinaldo, "if by seeing and hearing the Sirens you accustom yourself to overmaster them? So reason makes herself the pacific queen of your senses and refines herself." [2] In keeping with this passage, the poem insistently identifies the sorceress Armida as a deceptive Siren and a dangerous Circe. Yet Ubaldo's rhetorical question -- omitted in the Bonna and Osanna editions of the poem (and hence in Fairfax's Elizabethan translation based on the latter) [3] -- should not cause us to dismiss Armida's entreaty as mere falsehood, a passage unworthy of further analysis. In fact, the sorceress's plea holds significant thematic and structural importance when understood in relation to three other moments in Tasso's epic: Rinaldo's successful departure from Armida's enchanted garden (a scene in which Armida, unlike her enchantress predecessors in Italian poetry, is significantly not exposed as a hideous crone); Erminia's cutting of her hair to bind the wounds of Tancredi; and Armida's conversion to Christianity in the poem's final stanzas. [4]

This essay reads these interrelated episodes against two seemingly disparate strands of literary theory: Tasso's defense of the beautiful in his Discourses on the Heroic Poem and the topos of the pagan captive woman used by Christian exegetes to defend classical eloquence and poetic language more generally. As numerous critics have argued, Tasso's pagan women function in part as vehicles through which the poem explores narratological and hermeneutic issues. Employing magic charms and spells, Erminia and Armida in particular embody the pleasures and dangers of poetry and poetic language. Yet Erminia and Armida converge near the end of Jerusalem Delivered as not only enchantresses but also pagan captive women. This aspect of their joint portrayal, hitherto ignored by critics, suggests an additional, innovative element in Tasso's attempt to convert for Christian epic not only his pagan women but also the literary beauty that they embody. [5]

In its initial association of the sorceress Armida with artful deception and deceptive art, Jerusalem Delivered follows in a distinguished line of Italian epics. Poets such as Dante, Trissino, and Ariosto, for example, warn against poetry's dangers by exposing a sorceress's filthy "nether parts," displacing the potentially harmful effects of their own medium onto a fictional female double who can then be banished, at least imaginatively, along with the literary dangers she embodies. Making use of the theological metaphor which figures allegorical interpretation as the undressing of a "female" text, for example, Ariosto's poem uses the motif of the enchantress-turned-hag to teach allegorical right reading. When Ruggiero sees the formerly beautiful now hideous sorceress Alcina "stripped of her artifices and deceits," [6] the narrator tells us that the hero has finally learned to "interpret the pages which for so many years had concealed the truth." [7] Tasso, however, saves beauty for Christian epic. In both li terary theory and poetic practice he rejects a gesture like Ariosto's, one that warns against erotic and hermeneutic error by portraying bruttezza or ugliness.

Refusing to model temperance -- and allegoresis -- by stripping his enchantress of her beauty, Tasso must find another method to demonstrate a reading that is morally and spiritually correct while simultaneously assimilating for Christian ends the rhetorical and generic pleasures and dangers for which Armida stands. It is just such an alternative depiction of right reading that underlies not only Armida's offer to become Rinaldo's captive and cut her hair in canto 16 but also Erminia's act of shearing her lovely locks in canto 19.

Critics have tended to explain away Erminia's haircut on the battlefield as prefiguring the act of a novice, basing this interpretation on a letter in which the poet expresses his desire to "make her not only become a Christian, but a devout nun." [8] Yet evidence internal to the poem suggests a more fruitful reading of the scene in which Erminia binds Tancredi's wounds with her hair and veil. Erminia's haircut takes place three cantos after Armida's offer to cut her own hair and become Rinaldo's "ancella" or bondswoman, and it occurs just one canto prior to the sorceress's declaration, echoing Mary's words at the Annunciation, that she will become Rinaldo's "ancilla" or handmaid. This convergence of Erminia, captive pagan woman, and Armida, conquered pagan temptress, makes perfect sense in light of writings by Jerome and Boccaccio which make reference to the captive woman of Deuteronomy 21. In such texts, as we shall see, the captive woman with her alluring hair stands for nothing less than classical wisdom and eloquence. The cropping of the pagan captive's hair mandated in the Old Testament thus becomes a metaphor for allegoresis, a way to "convert" pagan literature and rhetoric for Christian ends rather than censoring or abandoning it. Read together with his own literary theory and that of Boccaccio and Jerome, Tasso's striking refusal to imitate his literary precursors by depicting his enchantress as a hideous hag appears to be a conscious aesthetic choice, one for which he compensates, if uneasily, by transforming Armida into a willing captive pagan woman who is then literally converted to the Christian cause. Tasso's poetic letters reveal that he had severe reservations about this reconciliation between sorceress and hero; critics, too, have frequently found this episode unpalatable, if for rather different reasons. Interpreted in light of the captive woman motif, however, the overlapping stories of Erminia and Armida near the end of the poem suggest that the latter's conversion to Christianity is less abr upt, less antithetical to Tasso's literary theory, and perhaps even less misogynist than first appears.


The radical nature of Tasso's innovations with respect to his enchantresses must be understood in light of a ubiquitous Renaissance metaphor: the dangers of poetry as a Siren or Circe, one whose beauty is often exposed as an empty lie. The conflation of the Sirens with their song, and hence with poetic song more generally, begins as early as Homer but becomes particularly important for imitators of and commentators on Ariosto. Simon Fornari, for example, uses this metaphor when describing the potentially dangerous effects of Ariosto's epic-romance on readers not already schooled in allegoresis. Addressing his patron Cosimo de Medici, Fornari writes:

Magnanimous prince, seeing how much the Orlando Furioso of Ariosto may these days be held in the hand of anyone, and how many through defect of doctrine are content to remain only at the sweet harmony of the words and at the delightful inventions of the story, almost as if at the rocks of the Sirens ... I have taken this labor perhaps thought hardly necessary by many, but to men poorly learned, if I am not mistaken, very pleasing and valuable: that is, to explain through all the work the places that seem to impede the less learned and judicious reader. [9]

This passage suggests that readers content merely to enjoy poetry's literal or surface level -- its sweet harmonious words and pleasing fictions -- resemble sailors courting shipwreck on the Sirens' rocks. [10] Having carefully distinguished his own patron from such poor readers, Fornari offers to save Ariosto's less-educated audience from such a fate by providing them with his allegorical guide to the poem.

Tasso sounds much like Fornari in two passages from the Discourses on the Heroic Poem (1587). Near the beginning of this treatise, he defines good poetry against works that "through excess" stimulate vicious rather than virtuous delight, concluding, "[t]hey merit no praise at all, therefore, who have described amorous embraces in the fashion of Ariosto depicting Ruggiero with Alcina" (11-12). [11] The question is not so much one of proper subject matter, since Tasso himself here and in the earlier Discourses on the Art of Poetry (ca. 1562-65; published 1587) justifies love as one of the subjects proper to epic. Rather, what the poet must avoid is "the fashion" (quella guisa) with which Ariosto depicts the "amorous embraces" of his hero and sorceress. A second passage focuses the issue more clearly; it occurs as part of Tasso's discourse on style, particularly the low style that he deems inappropriate for epic and which he illustrates using several examples from the Furioso:

Once we have identified the virtues [of style] ... the vices are easy to detect, and the heroic poet must avoid them all, whether he coasts poetry's delightful shores or unfolds his sails in the deepest sea of eloquence. Let him steer clear of Scylla and Charybdis, the Syrtes, the Sirens, and all the other monsters of this deep sea that enchant whoever harkens too attentively to the harmony of their amorous words and rhythms, which can lull the mind asleep and soften it with pleasure. (197) [12]

As these passages from the Discourses on the Heroic Poem suggest, one of the main challenges Tasso faces is to define his own heroic poetry against Ariosto's "Siren-songs." Doing so will help defend literature against the charge that it leads readers (and poets) astray with its improper pleasures, including the pleasures of stylistic excess. [13]

Given the literary-historical importance of allegory as a defense against the charge that poets corrupt readers, we might expect Tasso to temper his romance episodes -- particularly those depicting Rinaldo with Armida -- by embracing allegory in the way that Fornari does, as an antidote to Anosto's seductive language and salacious plots. Yet as a number of Tassisti have noted, Tasso comes to allegory only with considerable reluctance. Tasso does eventually write a prose "Allegory of the poem" (ca. 1575-76, published 1581). But critics such as Walter Stephens have effectively argued that the primary function of this text is to stave off counter-Reformation censorship. According to Stephens, who reads Tasso's poetics in sacramental as opposed to allegorical terms, the "Allegory" exists largely in order to distract censors such as Silvio Antoniano from the poem's potentially transgressive engagement in theological debates. [14] In addition, Tasso's letters treat the "Allegory" and its genesis with great equivoc ation. [15] For these reasons, this guide to the poem provides no guarantee of authorial intention, no clear blueprint for "right reading." Tasso's Discourses on the Heroic Poem, moreover, include equally ambivalent remarks about allegory. Citing Plutarch's "How the Young Man Should Study Poetry," for example, Tasso expresses Plutarch's position on allegory in the negative: "he does not refuse poets this defence" (153). [16] Dante's Divine Comedy, Tasso continues, "has enhanced the reputation of allegory"; though positive, this statement nonetheless insinuates that allegory need be rescued from disrepute (153). [17] Tasso may feel that he needs allegory as a Counter-Reformation defense, yet he remains cautious about it.

The most obvious explanation for such wariness lies in the fact that Aristotle, so important an authority for Tasso's theories of unity and verisimilitude, does not discuss the form in his Poetics. Tasso first attempts to make sense of this silence by explaining that "Aristotle makes no mention of allegory, not because he did not know of it, but because the term was not in use at the time" (152). [18] The discussion concludes, however, with a rather different, and for my purposes more interesting, explanation: "But if the defence involves some fault in the first meaning and is combined with a fault in decorum, some ugliness or unseemliness in the things imitated, it is neither good nor commendable. That is why Aristotle did not list it [allegory] among other defences" (153-54). [19] In this passage, Tasso condemns allegory when it is used to defend episodes which involve some fault at the literal level or first meaning ("qualche difetto del primo senso"). Rather than excusing such lapses of decorum, he sugge sts, allegory becomes contaminated by the faults it attempts to justify. In addition, when Tasso writes of some "fault in decorum" and "some ugliness or unseemliness in the things imitated," he indicates that these lapses in decorum may be identical with but also in addition to ("congiunta con") the defect in the first or literal sense. We may infer that not only the letter but the depiction of an allegorical level which should justify that letter, if it too participates in a lapse in decorum, may be blameworthy. The worst of such abuses, moreover, involve not only unseemliness -- a fault Tasso equates with excessive wantonness in other sections from both Discourses -- but also ugliness ("bruttezza").


Such uneasiness toward an allegory that defends and perpetuates what is inappropriate and ugly may help to explain one of the most remarkable differences between Jerusalem Delivered and the Italian epics it imitates. Tasso, like Dante, Ariosto, and Trissino, embodies the dangers of his own poetry in a female temptress. Marilyn Migiel and Lynn Enterline, tracing Armida's associations with romance multiplicity, rhetorical efficacy; and the ambiguities of figurative language, have persuasively pointed out the many ways in which Tasso's enchantress functions as a double for the narrator and for the poet. [20] Indeed, having resolved "to achieve with sweet gestures and a lovely face more than did Circe or Medea with their arts; and with a siren's voice to lull asleep with her harmonies the minds most wide awake," [21] Armida seems in part to represent the poetic dangers Tasso warns against in the Discourses on the Heroic Poem when he compares stylistic excesses to "Sirens... that enchant whoever harkens too attent ively to the harmony of their amorous words and rhythms, which can lull the mind asleep and soften it with pleasure." [22] The songs performed by Armida's Siren in canto 14 not only lull Rinaldo to sleep, however. They also have "lulled his manhood," [23] a point the narrator underlines by informing us that in Armida's enchanted garden Rinaldo's "sword, (nor to speak of other things)" has been "made effeminate at his side by too much luxury." [24] In thrall to the temptress, Rinaldo's condition fulfills the prophecy of Tasso's Satan that the hero "drowned in the lascivious concerns of love, [will] make a sweet look and a laugh his idol." [25] Portraying Rinaldo as simultaneously idolatrous and emasculated, Jerusalem Delivered draws on the traditional association, found in Ariosto and Dante, between verbal idolatry -- an overly literal reading understood as the enjoyment of signs that should be used -- and cupidity, imagined as an effeminating sexual excess. [26]

In these ways, Tasso insists on associating Armida with pleasures and dangers both erotic and literary. But equally insistently he refuses to unmask her beauty. As Enterline and Migiel note, while Ariosto and Trissino attempt to restore the hero's manhood -- and reassert control over the errant nature of their own poetic forms -- by revealing the enchantress to be decrepit and ugly beneath her charmed exterior, Tasso saves Rinaldo from Armida's effeminizing powers without recourse to such a repudiating gesture. [27] It should be added that even the revised Jerusalem Conquered (Gerusalemme Conquistata) -- in which Armida returns as a literal daughter of a Babylonian Siren (5.24-25) and from which Tasso excised many of the marvelous and amorous episodes found in Jerusalem Delivered -- makes no suggestion that the sorceress is ugly without her magic. In this version of the poem, Crusaders do strip from the sorceress her marvelous "zona" (13.70), the girdle or cestus described in Jerusalem Delivered as "beautifu l beyond all ornament." [28] Yet such a partial uncovering is a far cry from the violent, shaming exposures endured by Dante's "dolce Sirena," Ariosto's Alcina, and Trissino's Acratia.

Enterline suggests that this curious decision to avoid banishing the sorceress derives in part from the fact that for Tasso, Oedipal (and pre-Qedipal) dilemmas remain unresolved: Tasso never unmasks his beautiful enchantress because such a gesture would enforce the very recognition of sexual difference and subsequent loss of (maternal) love object that Tasso wishes to avoid. This argument is persuasive from a psychoanalytic standpoint, as an understanding of unconscious psychic and textual mechanisms. In his literary theory, however, Tasso also expresses conscious reservations about an allegory that perpetuates unseemliness or ugliness. In his poem, he resists both the seeming finality of sexual difference and the allegorical gesture that would establish such difference by depicting the bruttezza of the sorceresss body rather than her bellezza.

One rationale for this innovation may come from Neoplatonism. The Discourses on the Heroic Poem employ several borrowings from Neoplatonic literary theory; one of the most important occurs in the treatise's defense of poetic beauty. [29] Discussing the Discourses on the Heroic Poem, Annabel Patterson argues that Tasso justifies the romance elements of his own poem in part by claiming, after Girolamo Fracastoro, that the epic poet above all seeks to imitate the Idea of the Beautiful. [30] She suggests that such Neoplatonic influences account for the Discourses on the Heroic Poem's elevation of beautiful marvels over their more ugly counterparts. Indeed, in that treatise Tasso writes,

while marvel is aroused by both kinds of poetry, that which imitates ugly things and that which imitates beautiful ones, it is not equally proper to both: our wonder at ugly things soon disappears as they along with their novelty lose our esteem, while our wonder at the beautiful is more lasting and entails greater esteem. And since the heroic poem is the most beautiful of all kinds, this delight is its very own. (172) [31]

As we have seen, this treatise elsewhere deems inappropriate for epic the kind of allegory that is tainted with the unseemliness or ugliness it defends or perpetuates. In the passage directly above, poetry that imitates ugly things is not repudiated for lack of decorum so much as it is denied rhetorical power. More efficacious, Tasso suggests, is an epic poetry that imitates the beautiful marvelous. Precisely because the beautiful marvelous is so powerful for Tasso, therefore, we should not be surprised that he fails to banish it by exposing as false the lovely appearance of its chief representative in the poem: Armida herself. [32]

In practice, however, the beautiful marvelous is not without its difficulties. By canto 4 of Jerusalem Delivered it already seems tainted:

[Armida's] lovely bosom displays its naked snows by which the flame of Love is awakened and fed; a portion appears of her breasts unripe and unready, a portion the envious vesture hides from others: envious, but if to the eyes it closes the path, it does not wholly check the amorous mind, which -- being not well content with outward beauty -- works itself still within to the hidden secrets.

Even as the sunbeam passes through water or through solid crystal, and does not divide it or separate, within the gathered mantle the mind dares so to penetrate to the forbidden region: there it expatiates, there it contemplates the truth of so many marvels each by each; then to Desire it narrates and describes them and makes thereby his flames more vivid in him. (Emphasis mine) [33]

Encouraging each knight to contemplate "the truth of so many marvels" (il vero / di tante meraviglie), the sorceress plays the part of the allegorical text as it was imagined by Neoplatonists, enticing men to seek beautiful truths hidden beneath the mantle of fiction. Ironically, however, Armida encourages such attentions not so that she can lead Christians to truth but in order to seduce them away from it; beneath her veil is nor a higher truth, not spirit, but more matter, body, letter. [34] Remarkably, in this passage even the "dead" letter is still presented as lovely. Nonetheless the beautiful marvelous has been perverted, turned from its proper purpose. It has become a screen, a mechanism for the cultivation of unseemly voyeuristic pleasures rather than their seemly opposite.

Given this dramatization of the beautiful marvelous as a potential snare, Tasso's decision not to address this situation by unveiling his sorceress's beauty seems all the more extraordinary. According to Tasso's own literary theory, however, any depiction of Armida's "occulti secreti" as anything but beautiful would constitute a similar violation of epic decorum, inasmuch as it would involve the imitation of bruttezza. For not only personal psychosexual reasons but also equally complex aesthetic ones, then, Tasso persists in abjuring the motif of the enchantress-turned-hag. Right reading may under no condition require the exorcism of beauty. [35]


Unwilling to unveil his sorceress and reject as false her loveliness, Tasso must devise some new way to temper the erotic and poetic dangers she embodies. The story of Armida's conversion to Christianity constitutes such an innovation, substituting assimilation for the usual repudiation that would have been Armida's lot had she been exposed as an ugly crone. Armida's conversion has been received with considerable skepticism by critics, who have raised objections aesthetic, ideological, or both. [36] Nonetheless, the sorceress's transformation is less abrupt, and less clearly misogynist, than first appears. Tasso implicitly prepares us for Armida's rebirth as a second Mary by beginning his poem with the story of a missing statue of the Virgin: Armida's conversion, echoing Mary's words at the Annunciation, in effect restores what had been lost, thus bringing structural (epic) closure and unity to an otherwise open-ended (romance) narrative. Yet the poem readies us for Armida's metamorphosis in a more sustained way as well. From the moment of Rinaldo's attempted departure from the temptress's garden in canto 16, the poem portrays Armida as not only a traditional enchantress but also a captive woman like that of Deuteronomy, a figure taken up by writers such as Jerome and Boccaccio in their defenses of pagan poetry. [37] By first transforming his sorceress into a pagan captive and then modifying the treatment this lovely captive should receive at the hands of her conquerors, Tasso finds a way to avoid sacrificing Armida's beauty and her poetic powers to the exigencies of Christian epic.

Tasso's strategy can best be understood in comparison with previous treatments of the beautiful captive. The original passage, Deuteronomy 21:10-13, reads:

If thou go out to fight against thy enemies, and the Lord thy God deliver them into thy hand, and thou lead them away captives, And seest in the number of the captives a beautiful woman, and lovest her and wilt have her to wife, Thou shalt bring her into thy house: and she shall shave her hair, and pare her nails, And shall put off the raiment, wherein she was taken: and shall remain in thy house, and mourn for her father and mother one month: and after that thou shalt go unto her, and shalt sleep with her, and she shall be thy wife. [38]

Jerome, in three passages from his letters, turns this beautiful pagan captive into a figure for literature in general and classical literature more particularly.

Although his letter to Pope Damasus (No. 21) uses the captive woman as a negative exemplum in an attack on the songs of classical poets and the pomp of classical rhetoric, Jerome's letters to Pammachius and Magnus state that the beautiful captive and the secular writings for which she stands may be made useful if a number of precautions are taken against seduction by their stylistic elegance. In Letter 66 "To Pammachius," for example, Jerome writes,

If you love a captive woman, that is, worldly wisdom, and if no beauty but hers attracts you, make her bald and cut off her alluring hair, that is to say, the graces of style, and pair away her dead nails. Wash her of the nitre of which the prophet speaks, and then take your ease with her... Then shall the captive bring to you many children; from a Moabitess she shall become an Israelitish woman. (138) [39]

Combining the captive woman with the harlot who is stripped of her beauty in the works of the Old Testament prophets, and likening both to pagan poetry and rhetoric, Jerome saves classical texts for Christianity by stripping them of "the graces of style," the allurements of the dead letter which are to be shorn and pared away along with the woman's beautiful but dead flesh, her hair and nails. In Letter 70 "To Magnus an Orator of Rome," Jerome answers Magnus's query about the propriety of quoting profane writers by claiming that Paul himself appropriates pagan writings because he had read in Deuteronomy that the captive woman, having been shorn and shamed, might be made a suitable wife. Comparing himself to Paul, Jerome continues:

Is it surprising that I too, admiring the fairness of her form and the grace of her eloquence, desire to make that secular wisdom which is my captive and my handmaid, a matron of the true Israel? Or that shaving off and cutting away all in her that is dead whether this be idolatry pleasure, error, or lust, I take her to myself clean and pure and beget by her servants for the Lord of the Sabaoth? My efforts promote the advantage of Christ's family, my so-called defilement with an alien increases the number of my fellow servants. (149)

Drawn to the pagan text for its stylistic elegance, Jerome paradoxically would save its truths for Christian ends by stripping it of that very elegance. Once again, the pagan captive's hair and nails symbolize all that is dead, including the dead letter which must be done away with. Yet unlike episodes in which allegoresis is depicted through the motif of the enchantress-turned-hag, here the female body itself is not fully repudiated. As Carolyn

Dinshaw points out, when the captive woman is converted from pagan seductress to fecund wife, her body -- symbol of classical wisdom and truth -- is retained, made useful as an instrument with which to increase the Christian fold. Unlike the typical Italian epic sorceress, whose beauty inheres solely in the deceptive covering of which she is stripped, the pagan captive is shorn only of ornament, of that which enhances her beauty but which never fully constitutes it. For when her hair and nails grow back, the captive woman will again be beautiful, and in a Christian context. As opposed to the banishment of the enchantress-turned-hag, this treatment of the pagan captive is no exorcism but a ritual of reclaiming.

Tasso may well have read Jerome and the many medieval commentators who drew on him in their use of the pagan captive woman as a trope for hermeneutic activity. [40] He most certainly read Boccaccio, whose Genealogy of the Pagan Gods refers explicitly to Jerome's beautiful captive in conjunction with two additional gendered tropes for reading: the figure by which allegory is represented as a veiled woman and the metaphor by which Ulysses before the Sirens becomes an exemplary interpreter. In the final two books of his mythography, Boccaccio defines poetry as allegory, verse that "veils truth in a fair and fitting garment of fiction." If certain readers fail to discover that hidden truth from lack of effort, Boccaccio writes, "let them not blame the poets but their own sloth." [41] Boccaccio argues, moreover, that those who judge it to be lewd should in fact be ashamed of themselves, not of poetry:

What might one expect of them in case a girl by licentious glance and gesture, and soft utterance, held out an unholy promise to them, if they are allured by unuttered verses perused in silence? Well may the wretches blush and revise their mad counsel, considering how Ulysses, noble soul, spurned the sound, not of songs read in the closet, but the dulcet music of the Sirens, whom he passed by for fear of harm at their hands. [42]

Those lascivious and foolish readers who censor poetry because they themselves experience base pleasures when reading it should instead take note of Ulysses, whose story shows that it is possible to pass by even the Sirens without succumbing to their enticements. Any reader who finds himself bewitched by poetry as by a lascivious Siren-song, the Genealogy implies, can only be a failed Ulysses responsible for his own enchantment. Boccaccio not only vindicates poets by using the Ulysses-Siren story to emphasize the reader's accountability, however; he also employs Jerome's captive woman to answer those who "keep shouting the dictum of Jerome to Pope Damasus, that the songs of poets are the food of devils." To such poet-haters Boccaccio counters,

If they had read carefully the epistles and other works of Jerome, or even this particular one they call to witness, they would find the real meaning of the dictum explained by Jerome himself, and their objection removed. I have in mind particularly the figure of the captive woman described as naked, shaven, and with closely pared nails; the Israelitish bride with hair close-cropped. If they would not appear more fastidious in their piety than these holy doctors they will find that this "food of devils" is not only snatched from the fire into which they have ordered it to be cast, but kept with care. ... [43]

As in Jerome's letters, in Boccaccio the trimming of the captive's beauty like the unveiling of the sorceress elsewhere, acts as a metaphor for allegorical interpretation. Once the classical text has been subjected to the rigors of allegoresis, made naked with her overly seductive surface beauties cut away, she can be re-covered once again, "kept with care, and dressed and tasted by no less a person than Fulgentius," [44] the Virgilian commentator who, among others, represented classical poetry as veiled truth.

Boccaccio's use of this hermeneutic metaphor still subordinates pagan temptress -- and pagan poetry -- to Christian warrior (and writer). Boccaccio would render her naked, pare her nails, and crop her hair, doing away with seductive excess. But Boccaccio's captive woman is not scoured with nitre or made shamefully bald as she is in Deuteronomy and in certain writings by Jerome. The kind of exegesis her treatment represents, moreover, does not require the interpreter to discard the woman and the pagan writing for which she stands. Rather, both can be "salvaged" in the form of a fertile wife, one who proves useful in begetting servants for Christ -- useful, too, as a metaphor with which to defend poetry.


We are now in a position to appreciate how Armida's appearance as not only an enchantress but also a captive woman moves Tasso one step closer toward saving her, and her beauty, for Christian epic. As we have seen, Armida imagines herself as such a pagan captive just after Rinaldo has been wakened from his stupor in her garden:

Go your way; pass over the sea, fight, struggle, destroy our faith; I even urge you to it. Why do I say our faith? ah no more mine! I am faithful only to you, my idol cruel.

Let me be granted only that I may follow you: a small request, even between enemies. The predator does not leave his prey behind; the victor goes, the prisoner does not stay. Let the army see me among your other spoils, and add to your other praises this, that you hold your scorner scorned, pointing the finger at me, despised slave. (Emphasis mine) [45]

Two elements in this passage allude to important aspects of the captive woman motif. First, if Armida were another famous literary temptress, Dido herself, the word "faith" in this passage might be interpreted as meaning merely fidelity or troth. [46] Rinaldo's conduct in abandoning Armida alone and unconscious might well merit such an accusation: he has indeed violated his earlier chivalric vow to act as her knight and protector. Yet Armida's meaning is more obviously religious: it is her pagan faith which the warrior Rinaldo will "pass over the sea" to "fight, struggle, destroy." Second, Armida refers to herself as Rinaldo's prisoner and slave but also lists herself among his would-be "spoils" of war. Like the biblical image of the pagan captive woman, the "spoils of the Egyptians" -- those riches purveyed by the Israelites at the time of their departure from Egypt -- appear frequently in the Christian exegetical tradition as a metaphor for the wisdom potentially salvageable from classical fable. As de Luba c notes, the captive woman and the spoils of Egypt are often associated in medieval exegetical writings (295). In keeping with this tradition, Armida's language in the above passage utilizes both images: she explicitly refers to herself as Rinaldo's slave and captive but also imagines herself chief among the spoils from his war with Asia. Tellingly, moreover, it is after the defeat of an Egyptian army that Armida will be captured and reconciled with Rinaldo at the end of the poem. Given the hermeneutic valences central to these motifs of the captive woman and the Egyptian spoils, Armida's speech may be seen to signal an intermediary stage between her identity as pagan sorceress and her transformation to Christian "ancilla" at the poem's end: that of a would-be pagan captive or "ancella," one who represents in part those elements of poetry seemingly opposed to Christian epic but which may be saved and assimilated through conversion.

Underlining such allusions to the captive woman motif by combining them with references to the spoils of the Egyptians, Tasso further emphasizes the metapoetic and hermeneutic dimensions of Armida's story by having his pagan temptress offer to strip herself of her own beauty, as it were, by cutting off her hair: "Despised slave, for whom shall I any more preserve this hair now that it has grown valueless to you? I shall cut it short: I want a slavish appearance to go with my title of slave" (emphasis mine). [47] Taking up this position of submissive, captive woman and evoking the cutting of her own hair, Armida in effect becomes the first enchantress who offers to unveil herself Throughout the poem, the temptress's hair and veil have been associated metonymically: the damsels whom Ubaldo and Carlo meet on their way to rescue Rinaldo from Armida's charms suggest as much, for their hair, like the water from which they rise, forms "a lovely veil" (un bel velo; 15.59-61), while the "toils of beauty" with which A rmida enchants Rinaldo include a similarly enticing arrangement of both hair and veil (16.23). Tasso's Pauline subtext for these passages is I Corinthians 11:15, in which a woman's long hair is her glory because it is given to her as a veil ("velamine"), a sign of her submission. (Armida and her damsels, of course, pervert Paul's dictum, using their hair to gain power over the knights through seduction.) [48]

The poem further emphasizes the metonymic association of Armida's hair and veil by juxtaposing this sorceress with the poem's other willing captive woman, Erminia, whose hair and veil become not just metaphorically but literally interchangeable in what is one of the poem's most famous iconic moments (see figs. 1 and 2). Upon first introduction to Erminia we learn that she has recently been a captive of Tancredi's Christian forces and that although she has been released, she suffers another kind of slavery: the bondage of unrequited love (6.56-58). Seeing Tancredi wounded on the battlefield, Erminia muses to herself,

Ah truly it would be... a kindly office and truly you would have joy of it and pleasure, if your compassionate healing hand were to approach his [Tancredi's] valorous breast: for then your lord, made well by you, would revive the color lost from his countenance....

Then you too would have your part in his praises, and in the noble and famous deeds he achieved, when he would have made you happy with his lawful embraces and blessed nuptials. [49]

In her knowledge of healing "carmi," Jane Tylus has suggested, Erminia acts a double for Tasso, who in the third stanza of Jerusalem Delivered imagines his poem as a life-giving medicine (105-06). She also acts as a double for Armida: both pagan women wield powerful magic spells; both fall in love with Christian knights; and both place the heads of those knights in their laps (Armida at 16.17-18, Erminia at 19.114). [50] Combining the roles of beneficent Circean sorceress and would-be captive in a manner that looks back to Armida's passionate plea in canto 16 and forward to her controversial conversion in canto 20, Erminia longs to use her knowledge of charms both "powerful and magical" (potenti e maghe; 19.113) in order to initiate her own transformation from pagan slave to beloved Christian wife. Erminia gets her chance when she finds Tancredi near death on the battlefield and tends skillfully to his wounds: "She dried them with her hair and bound them again with her hair that she had been wishing to cut; i nasmuch as her veil, scanty and thin, could not suffice for so many wounds." [51]

Readings of this episode by literary critics, art historians, and painters typically fall into one of two camps. Erminia's discovery and healing of Tancredi is most frequently glossed in a narrow Christian context. In Guercino's depiction of this encounter, for example, Erminia's stance leaning over the prostrate Tancredi recalls that of Mary Magdalene lamenting the dead Christ (see fig. 3). To art historians, the placement of Tancredi's spread arms in Poussin's two versions of his "Erminia e Tancredi" similarly recalls the iconography of Christ's corpse. [52] Such interpretations of this wounded hero as a Christ figure are certainly consonant with the tendency among literary critics to willfully (mis)interpret Erminia's haircut as prefiguring the act of a novice. Such readings typically consider this episode together with a letter in which the poet expresses a tentative desire to have Erminia "not only become a Christian, but a devout nun." [53] Yet as Carla Molinari notes, Tasso's tentative proposal to inc orporate ten stanzas depicting this transformation remains unrealized in Jerusalem Delivered and even Jerusalem Conquered. [54] Another set of readings focuses less on Erminia's dutiful submission to patriarchal Christian authority, instead emphasizing her transgressive passion and agency. Arguing against the notion that Erminia's subversiveness has been entirely contained, for example, Migiel identifies her as an anti-Delilah or anti-temptress who rather than cutting Samson's hair to make him weak cuts her own in order to make her beloved Tancredi strong." [55] Likewise Poussin, praised by art historians for his preeminently insightful attentiveness to Tasso's text, emphasizes Erminia's power. [56] His two paintings of Erminia (figs. 1 and 2) notably convey movement and action, capturing her in the moment of raising her sword to the hair that she will slash away. [57]

Yet we need not choose between an Erminia who passively submits and one who actively rebels once we identify her chief model as neither the novice nor Delilah but another biblical woman: Deuteronomy's pagan captive. In this context, Erminia's willingness to cut her hair recalls for the reader her desire, expressed in canto 6, to be transformed from war booty to wife, as a captive woman would be. Given the metapoetic import of the captive woman and the ways in which Jerome and Boccaccio variously depict her treatment at her captor's hands, moreover, three other striking aspects of these stanzas become visible. First, Tasso describes Erminia's haircut without the slightest suggestion that it reveals a secret ugliness. Second, Tasso links Erminia's shorn locks with her veil, which she removes in hopes of saving Tancredi; in this way, the haircut functions as a displaced unveiling, one in which female (and poetic) beauty is in no way presented as mere illusion. Third, while her veil proves inadequate, Erminia's hair pointedly does not. Erminia cuts her beautiful hair precisely because it is useful for her healing arts. There is no shame in this shearing, and nothing is discarded.

As we have seen, Armida expresses an analogous willingness to cut off her hair, also associated with her veil, when she begs to take up the role of Rinaldo's captive. Like Erminia, Armida is at first denied this opportunity, for in canto 16 Rinaldo abandons her rather than bring her with him to the Christian camp as she has requested. We are reminded of this earlier episode just prior to Armida's conversion: when Rinaldo saves her from attempted suicide during the final battle, Armida expresses the belief that she will be "taken by force" only to be subjected to "scorns" and "punishments," "pointed out in chains" as part of Rinaldo's "triumph." [58] The knight, however, soon declares his devotion to Armida in what many critics have taken as an offer of marriage. Over several cantos and through the juxtaposition of Armida's and Erminia's stories, Tasso has suggested that Armida will fulfill the role of pagan captive. In this way he prepares us for the reconciliation of hero and sorceress, for it is by first b eing made captive that the pagan woman will become a converted, Christian wife.

The exact nature of Rinaldo's promise to Armida remains notoriously unclear. Though we are given more information about Rinaldo's intentions with respect to Armida than the poem provides about Tancredi's with respect to Erminia, Tasso leaves Rinaldo's emotions and motives as ambiguous as possible. We have been told that Rinaldo's tears upon hearing Armida's entreaty signify a specifically pure, chaste pity: "Love does not enter to kindle the old flame anew in his breast, which reason hardened: pity at least, in place of that, finds entrance there -- pity, companion of Love, though chaste and moves him in such fashion that he can scarcely hold his tears in check" (emphasis mine). [59] This passage suggests that from Rinaldo's perspective, at least, there is nothing erotic in his tears in this episode and his embrace of Armida in canto 20. [60] Yet the many artists who have depicted Rinaldo's abandonment of Armida -- Poussin among them -- were no doubt insightful in their depictions of his reluctant leave-taki ng. Insofar as he states his renewed willingness to fulfill his role as Armida's champion, Rinaldo revives the chivalric vow he made to Armida in 16.54, a vow pointedly juxtaposed (and likely at odds) with that of Goffredo to liberate the holy city. [61] The fulfillment of Rinaldo's chivalric oath should be marriage. As Jo Ann Cavallo has pointed out, Armida's words -- "Behold your handmaid; dispose of her at your discretion ... and your command shall be her law" [62] -- not only recall Mary's declaration of submission at the Annunciation ("Ecco l'ancilla Domine") but also find a more secular precedent in the proclamation of Elpidia, who in the Italia liberata offers herself in marriage to a man of Captain Belisardo's choosing with the phrase "behold your handmaid" (ecco la vostra ancella). [63] Still, marital union between Rinaldo and Armida is never explicitly mentioned, much less enacted, within Tasso's poem. As with the relationship between Erminia and Tancredi, in the case of Rinaldo and Armida we are le ft with ambiguity and hence romance, which by its very nature resists completion and closure.

What is strikingly clear, however, is that Armida's narrative, like that of Erminia, involves a displaced or substitute unveiling, one in which beauty is not repudiated as false or dangerous. When Armida is converted, this transformation is effected not by the lifting of a sorceress's physical veil, as in the motif of the enchantress-turned-hag, but by the dissolution of a mental one. It is only after Rinaldo has called on the rays of Heaven to "dissolve the veil of paganism" from Armida's "mind" that she will echo Mary's words. [64] The surprising fact is not that Armida comes to resemble Mary but that in doing so it is her internal veil, not an external one, which is dissolved. Attempting to make sense of Armida's submission to Christianity and to Rinaldo in this passage, Stephens argues that in saving Armida through marriage Tasso "attempts to turn Christian misogyny, of which Paul was essentially the founder, into a kind of feminism." [65] Stephens here refers specifically to Paul's teachings on marriage, but his comment may also be applied to Tasso's final reversal of the Pauline model for reading that underlies encounters between heroes and enchantresses in Italian epic-romance more generally. Before Tasso, Trissino had linked the rending of an enchantress's physical veil with the dissolution of a mental one: in book 5 of Italy Liberated from the Goths, the lifting of the enchantress Acratia's skirts to reveal her filthy, stinking "secreti parti" releases the knight Corsamonte from his enchantment, and "the veil / Which stood within his ears and covered his eyes became unloosed." [66] The uncovering of Trissino's Acratia thus dramatizes in particularly vivid terms the Pauline model in which to read literally, carnally, is to see with a veil covering one's heart, while to read figuratively, spiritually, is to see with the veil lifted. When Tasso effects Rinaldo's departure from Armida's garden without subjecting the sorceress to an unveiling, he establishes his distance from Trissino and from the gendered mo dels for reading that Trissino's poem employs.

He also goes one step further than Ariosto. As Albert Ascoli has argued, the Furioso imitates traditional unmaskings and unveilings of sorceresses but in an ironic vein. Ruggiero's education depends on the revelation of Alcina as a hag, a moment in which the knight, "reading" Alcina's "pages," learns a lesson both sexual and hermeneutic. This episode culminates not in intellectual and moral triumph, however, but in Ruggiero's attempted rape of Angelica in what Ascoli calls "a reversion to unreined desire and passionate self-deception." [67] Failing as a didactic instrument at the literal level of the fiction, this unveiling of the enchantress dramatizes the inadequacies of allegory in a way that subtly anticipates Tasso's problems with the mode. Whereas the Furioso still evokes a temptress's hideousness in graphic terms, however, Tasso cannot reconcile even the skeptical use of such mechanisms with his aesthetic theory. By transforming Armida into a pagan captive whose beauty is neither stripped nor scrubbed away, Tasso goes beyond Ariosto in a significant way. Retaining her loveliness, Jerusalem Delivered further distances itself from the kind of allegory that warns against cupidinous "misreading" by representing a captive or sorceress as ugly.

It is by finally dissolving Armida's "velo" in the final lines of his poem, however, that Tasso makes his most radical contribution to the topos of the enchantress unmasked. More than any of Tasso's other "marvels," Armida's conversion has been criticized for lacking verisimilitude. For feminist critics such as Migiel and Yavneh, Armida's transformation is clearly objectionable: the sorceress has been portrayed so sympathetically that her debased submission to Rinaldo, even if it does result in marriage, strikes an untenably jarring note. According to Giamatti, Armida's demure acceptance of Christianity, given her identity as an evil temptress, is simply unbelievable but on purely aesthetic rather than ideological grounds: "the shift ... is too great, and we are finally unconvinced of Armida's redemption." [68] I have tried to suggest, on the contrary, that Tasso has carefully prepared us for Armida's conversion by first chronicling her metamorphosis from seductive enchantress to would-be pagan captive. [69] The sustained ambiguities inherent in Rinaldo and Armida's reconciliation suggest that Tasso is still unsure whether he can save his temptress, whether the poetic power and pleasure for which she stands can ever be morally integrated into his poem. Indeed, in three letters to Scipione Goazaga in 1575-6, Tasso worries about whether to cut altogether this union of Armida and Rinaldo -- what we might see as the reconciliation of romance and epic. [70] In Jerusalem Conquered, Armida's conversion will have to go tout court. On the other hand, within Jerusalem Delivered itself Tasso radically transforms his sorceress. In becoming the Christian subject for whom the veil is lifted, Armida no longer functions primarily as an object, a text to be read. Instead, she has become a Pauline "reader" in her own right, one whose beauty remains without blemish.


(*.) Research for this essay was supported by grants from the Whiting Foundation and Oklahoma State University College of Arts and Sciences. For their helpful suggestions and encouragement I wish to thank the anonymous readers for Renaissance Quarterly, Lynn Enterline, and especially David Quint.

(1.) 16.48-49: "Solo ch'io segua te mi si conceda: / picciola fra nemici anco richiesta. / Non Lucia indietro il predator la preda; / va il trionfante, il prigionier non resta. / Me fra l'altre tue spoglie il campo veda / ed a l'altre tue lodi aggiunga questa, / che la tua schernitrice abbia schernito / mostrando me sprezzata ancella a dito. // Sprezzata ancella, a chi fo piu conserva / di questa chioma, or ch'a te fatta e vile? I Raccorcierolla: al titolo di serva / vuo' portamento accompagnar servile." Unless otherwise indicated, all English translations of Gerusalemme liberata are from Nash's 1987 edition, and all Italian quotations of the poem are from Garini's 1961 edition. Hereafter, citations by canto and stanza number for both will appear with the Italian in the notes.

(2.) 16.41: "Qual piu forte di te, se le sirene / vedendo ed ascoltando a vincer t'usi? / cosf ragion pacifica reina / de' sensi fassi, e se medesma affina."

(3.) Migiel, 1993, 140-41, asserts a different set of interpretive stakes in the editorial decision of whether to include Ubaldo's rhetorical question.

(4.) See also Benedetti, who briefly compares Erminia's submissive cutting of her own hair with Armida's offer to do the same but with a different emphasis than my own, noting, "I capelli hanno un'importanza particolare nel canone estetico rinascimentale, ed il privarsene simbolizza ii sacrificio non solo della bellezza, ma anche di quel tanto di potere che grazie ad essa le donne possono sperare di esercitare" (52).

(5.) Critics who discuss the metapoetic import of Tasso's female characters include Cavallo; Enterline; Migiel, 1987a, 1987b, and 1993; Murtaugh; Tylus, 105-06; and Zatti, 1983 and 1999. Suggesting that the Aminta treats with suspicion the desire to look beneath a woman's veil, Tylus discusses the play and Tasso's poetics more generally in a way that complements my reading of Jerusalem Delivered.

(6.) 7.64: "levatone le fraudi e gli arrifici."

(7.) 7.74: "interpretar le carte, / che gia molti anni avean celato il vero." The English translation is from Ascoli, 1987, 164. Harington's Elizabethan translation -- "Now saw he that he could not see before / How with deceipts Alcina had bene drest" (7.59, emphasis mine) -- provides evidence that early modern English readers would have seen in Alcina's exposure a dramatization of the metaphor which represents allegorical interpretation as the undressing of a woman.

(8.) See appendix, letter 44 (24 April 1576).

(9.) l:3 (A.ii.): "Veggendo io Magnanimo Prencipe, quanto l'Orlando Furioso di M. Lodouico Ariosto sia hoggi di tenuto in mano da qualunque persona, & come molti per diffetto di dottrina, solamente all'harmonia dolce delle parole, & alle vaghe inuentioni dell'historia intenti, quasi a scogli delle Sirene contenti si rimangono & appagati ... ho presa questa fatica da molti forse poco bisogneuole riputata, ma a gli huomini mediocremente dotti, se io non m'inganno, aggradeuole e cara, cio e d'esplicar per tutta l'opra que luoghi, che impedir parea che doue sono il lettor men dotto & giudicioso." This English translation is my own.

(10.) Rabelais expresses a similar notion in what is likely a more ironic vein: "Et, pose le cas qu'au sens literal vous trouvez matieres assez joyeuses et bien correspondentes au nom, toutesfois pas demourer la ne fault, comme au chant de Sirenes, ains a plus hault sens interpreter ce que par adventure cuidiez dict en gayete de cueur" (4).

(11.) "Laonde non meritano lode alcuna coloro che banno descritti gli abbracciamenti amorosi in quella guisa che l'Ariosto descrisse quel di Ruggiero con Alcina" (500). English translations of the Discorsi are from the 1973 edition by Cavalchini and Samuel and will herafter be cited in the text. The Italian, from the 1959 edition by Mazzali, will be cited in the notes.

(12.) "Ma essendosi conosciute le virtu, si conoscono i vizi di leggieri, i quali tutti dee fuggire il poera eroico, ora costeggiando gli amenissimi lidi de la poesia, ora spiegando le vele ne l'altissimo mare de 1'eloquenza; ma schifi Scilla e Cariddi, e le Sirti. e le Sirene, oltre tutti gli altri mostri di questo mare, perch'elle incantano chi ascolta troppo attentamente l'armonia de l'amorose parole e de' numeri che possono addormentar gli animi ed intenerirli co 'I piacere" (718-19).

(13.) On the vociferous debates about Ariosto's poem in Cinquecento Italy, see Weinberg. For the poetic and psychological complexities of Tasso's relationship to Ariosto, see Durling, 1965 and 1974, esp. 119-25; Ferguson; and Zatti, 1996, 1-27.

(14.) Stephens, 1991. Stephens argues that Tasso did not even compose the "Allegory" himself, instead relying on the ghost writing of Flaminio Nobili.

(15.) On the much-debated question of Tasso's attitude toward allegory expressed especially in his letters about the Allegoria see Enterline, esp. 39-145; Kennedy; and especially Murrin, who charts Tasso's vacillations on allegory but nonetheless concludes that Tasso's "Allegoria" does provide an accurate guide to the poem.

(16.) "e non e ricusata questa difesa de' poeti" (672-3).

(17.) "Dante ... accrebbe riputazione a l'allegorie" (673).

(18.) "Aristotele non fa menzione de l'allegoria, non perch'egli non la conoscesse, ma perche questo nome allora non era in uso" (671).

(19.) "ma se la difesa e con qualche difetto del primo senso, e congiunta can difetto nel decoro, e con qualche bruttezza a sconvenevolezza ne le case imitate, non buona ne lodevole difesa" (674).

(20.) Enterline; Migiel, 1987a. See also del Giudice, and Yavneh, esp. 149.

(21.) 4.86: "dispon di... I [e] far con gli atti dolci e co 'l bel viso / piu che con l'arti lor Circe o Medea, I e in voce di sirena a i suoi concenti / addormentar be piu svegliate menti."

(22.) See n. 12 above.

(23.) 16.33: "ha sf sopita / la tua virtute."

(24.) 16.30: "I ferro, il ferro aver, non ch'altro, mira / dal troppo lusso effeminato a canto."

(25.) 4.17: "in cure d'amor lascive immerso / idol si faccia un dolce sguardo e un riso."

(26.) For a reading of the persistent Petrarchan allusions that further emphasize Armida's status as both literary and religious idol, see Yavneh.

(27.) Enterline, esp. 101-08; Migiel, 1987a, 158-60. For a discussion of Ariosto and Trissino's influence on Tasso in this episode, see also Giamatti.

(28.) 16.24: "bel sovra ogni fregio."

(29.) On Tasso's theories of the beautiful, see also Michel.

(30.) Rather than leading readers astray, this poet can only imitate the most idealized subjects and in the most idealized, pleasing style, Fracastoro's argument runs, so that in Patterson's words, "poetry becomes, almost in spite of itself, a source of moral persuasion" (123).

(31.) "... benche la meraviglia nasca da l'una e da l'altra poesia, cioe da quella ch'imita le case brutte e da quella che rassomiglia le belle, nondimeno non cosi propria de l'una come de l'altra: perche tosto suol mancare la meraviglia de le cose brutte, le quali con la novita perdono ancora l'estimazione; ma la meraviglia de le cose belle e piu durevole e di maggiore estima. E bellissimo oltre tutti gli altri poemi e l'eroico: laonde questo diletto e suo proprio" (693).

(32.) Tasso's defense of the beautiful marvelous, Patterson suggests, also provides a retrospective justification for romance material that allowed Tasso to retain a number of passages in his Jerusalem Conquered, including the sensuous descriptions of Armida's gardens (131).

(33.) 4.31-32: "Mostra il bel petto le sue nevi ignude, / onde il foco d'Amor si nutre e desta. / Parte appar de le mamme acerbe e crude, / parte altrui ne ricopre invida vesta: / invida, ma s'a gli occhi il varco chiude, / l'amoroso pensier gia non arresta, / che non ben pago di bellezza esterna / ne gli occulti secreti anco s'interna. // Come per acqua or per cristallo intero/ tra passa il raggio, e no '1 divide o parte, / per entro il chiuso manto osa il pensiero / si penetrar ne la vietata parte. / Ivi si spazia, ivi contempla il vero / di tante meraviglie a parte a parte; / poscia al desio le narra e le descrive, / e ne fa le sue fiamme in lui piu vive."

(34.) Zatti, 1999, also reads this passage in light of Tasso's self-reflexive "mannerist" poetics, noting that Armida's oscillation between covering and uncovering elicits and frustrates desire in ways that recall not only the dynamics of courtly sprezzatura but also Tasso's own literary strategies of concealment and dissimulation (122). Consonant with the claims of my argument as a whole is Zatti's overall thesis in this essay regarding Tasso's continued reliance on poetic beauty, seduction, and concealment, represented in part as the veil or cloak of disguise and darkness.

(35.) Tasso does not approach Neoplatonism without reticence, nor does he articulate his defense of poetic Beauty without considerable reservations. For the argument that Tasso became more, not less, disillusioned with Neoplatonism as time went on, see Greene. For the implications of this disillusionment for Tasso's attitude toward allegory. cf. Enterline, 341 n. 42. See also Stephens, 1991, on Tasso's uneasy melding of Aristotelian and Platonic approaches.

(36.) See in particular Giamatti, esp. 208-10; Migiel; Robinson, 285; Stephens, 1989; and Yavneh.

(37.) Dinshaw, 22-25, discusses Jerome's use of the beautiful captive as an alternate model for reading to the Pauline one that would discard entirely the text's female body, its dead letter. She in turn relies on de Lubac's discussion of the captive woman (291-92). I extend Dinshaw's and de Lubac's insights by tracing the continued use of this figure in Boccaccio and by suggesting the pagan captive's usefulness to Tasso. Vacca analyzes extensively Boccaccio's use of Jerome's captive woman. Teskey, 43 n. 23, briefly lists Jerome's captive woman among several early Christian tropes used to discuss the interpretation of classical culture.

(38.) Si egressus fueris ad pugnam contra inimicos tuos, et tradiderit eos Dominum Deus tuus in manu tua, caprivosque duxeris, et videris in numero captivorum mulierem pulchram, et adamaveris eam, voluerisque habere uxorem, introduces eam in domum tuam: quae radet caesariem, et circumcidet ungues, et deponet vestem, in qua capta est; sedensque in domo tua, flebit pattern et matrem suam uno mense: et postea intrabis ad eam, dormiesque cum illa, et erit uxor tua" (as quoted in Dinshaw, 22-23).

(39.) Al1 quotations of Jerome are from Saint Jerome, trans. W H. Fremantle, and will be cited in the text.

(40.) On the captive woman in writings by Jerome, Origen, and medieval exegetes, see de Lubac.

(41.) Osgood, 62.

(42.) Ibid., 77.

(43.) Ibid., 85. The Latin reads: "Dicunt igitur clamitantes Ieronimi verbum ad Damasum papum: 'Demonum cibus sunt carmina poetarum .... Si igitur epistulas, si volumina Ieronimi, si hanc eandem quam producunt in testem, seu cuius autoritate damnatos poetas volunt, studiose legissent, invenissent profecto verbum hoc a Ieronimo declaratum, et cius sensum apppositum, atque obiectionem, quam faciunt, esse solutam, et potissime ex figure mulieris captive, raso capite, deposita veste, resectis unguibus et pilis ablatis, Israelite matrimonia copulande. Et si religiosiores arque delicatiores sanctis doctoribus esse non velint, comperient hunc demonum cibum, non solum non reiectum flammis, ut iubent, inmissum, sed cum diligentia servatum, tractatum, atque gustatum a Fulgentio doctore atque pontifice catholico" (Boccaccio, 1026).

(44.) Osgood, 85.

(45.) 16.47 and 48: "Vattene, passa il mar, pugna, travaglia, / struggi la fede nostra: anch'io r'affretto. / Che dico nostra? ah non piu mia! fedele / sono a te solo, idolo mio crudele. // Solo ch'io segua te mi si conceda: / picciola fra nemici anco richiesta. / Non lascia indietro il predator la preda; / va il trionfante, il prigionier non resta. / Me fra l'altre tue spoglie il campo veda / ed a l'altre tue lodi aggiunga questa, / che la tua schernitrice abbia schernito / mostrando me sprezzata ancella a dito."

(46.) On the parallels between Armida and Dido in Tasso and the tendency among Renaissance painters to depict the abandoned Armida in Virgilian terms using the iconography of Ariadne's abandonment, see Lee, 1961 and 1967, esp. 55.

(47.) 16.49: "Sprezzata ancella, a chi fo piu conserva / di questa chioma, or ch'a te fatta e vile? / Raccorcierolla: al titolo di serva / vuo' portamento accompagnar servile."

(48.) Yavneh notes the importance of this Pauline subtext for an earlier passage in which Armida's hair is said to hide her "white-haired judgment and a virile heart" (4.24); she also suggests that Armida's "chiome lunghe" link her with Petrarch's Laura, another idol (136).

(49.) 6.76-77: "Deh! ben fora... ufficio umano, / e hen n'avresti tu gioia e diletto, / se la pietosa tua medica mano / avincinassi al valoroso petto; / che per te fatto ii tuo signor poi sano / colorirebbe il suo smarrito aspetto /....// Parte ancor poi ne le sue lodi avresti, / e ne l'opre ch'ei fesse alte e famose, / ond'egli te d'abbracciamenti onesti / faria lieta, e di nozze aventurose.

(50.) On this last parallel between Armida and Erminia, see Migiel, 1993, 72. Migiel also notes that Vafrino's initial distrust of Erminia in 19.84 recalls Armida's fraud earlier in the poem (66).

(51.) 19.112-13: "l'asciugo con le chiome e rilegolle / pur con le chiome ch troncar si volle, / pero che 'l velo suo bastar non pote / breve e sottile a le si spesse piaghe."

(52.) Trezzani, 268; Valli, 290.

(53.) See appendix, letter 44 (24 April 1576).

(54.) Tasso, 1995, 425 n. 15.

(55.) Migiel, 1993,72. Nash glosses the passage by implying an allusion: "The woman's cutting of her hair as part of the funeral obsequies for a dead lover is a familiar motif in classical and Renaissance elegies. . ." This context, unlike that of the captive woman motif, has no obvious organic connection to the rest of the poem.

(56.) Art historians who stress Poussin's intelligent attentiveness to Tasso's poem include Argan, esp. 221; Blunt, esp. 148-50; and Waterhouse. Published by Bellori, Poussin's notes on painting include several passages copied from both of Tasso's Discourses (Blunt, 149). This suggests that Poussin may well have been familiar with Tasso's statements on the Idea of the Beautiful. Certainly Poussin's notes on the importance of beauty in art concur with Tasso's views on this subject; moreover, Poussin's paintings treat issues of artistic and erotic beauty in gendered terms (see Cropper and Dempsey, 279) and in as complex a manner as does Tasso himself.

(57.) Simpson, 103, comments on the violence and scope of Erminia's gesture in both paintings. Regarding Poussin's painting of Erminia (fig. 2), Blunt notes the "brilliant effect of movement and countermovement in the placing and drawing of the horses" (150). Movement is also central to Guercino's "Erminia and the wounded Tancred"; see Waterhouse, 160-61.

(58.) 20.131-132: "a quali scorni, / a quali pene riservata Armida? // Certo scorno al tuo onor, se non s'addira / incatenata al tuo trionfo inanti / femina or presa a forza e pria tradita." In this scene Armida also resembles Cleopatra.

(59.) 16.52: "Non entra Amor a rinovar nel seno, / che ragion congelo la fiamma antica; / v'entra pietate in quella vece almeno, / pur compagna d'Amor, benche pudica / e lui commove in guisa tal ch'a freno / puo ritener le lagrime a fatica."

(60.) Cf. Cavallo, 96.

(61.) On Goffredo's vow, see Ascoli, 1994. Cavallo notes that Goffredo finds release from his vow to God at the same time that Rinaldo declares a new vow to Armida (107).

(62.) 20.136: "Ecco l'ancilla tua; d'essa a tuo senno / dispon ... e le fia legge il cenno."

(63.) Cavallo, 97. Cavallo argues that Armida's transformation is not chiefly religious but is instead plausible as a conversion for love, one in keeping with chivalric romance traditions. My argument about Armida's identity as pagan sorceress and then would-be pagan captive, however, suggests that religious and romantic motivations need not be mutually exclusive.

(64.) 20.135: "ed oh piacesse al Cielo / ch'a la tua mente alcun de' raggi suoi / del paganesmo dissolvesse il velo."

(65.) Stephens, 1989, 185.

(66.) Trissino, 47: "[s]i disciolse il velo / Che gli era stato intorno a gli occhi a volto." The English translation, which I have slightly modified, is from Nohrnberg, 244. Of this passage Nohrnberg aptly writes, "The lifting the veil and the lifting of the skirts are in some sense the same action" (244).

(67.) Ascoli, 1987, 199. For an analysis of Ariosto's use of the temptress-turned-hag motif in conjunction with his tale of Ginevra and Ariodante, see Cough, 1999.

(68.) Giamatti, 210.

(69.) Quint, 114-16 argues, along slightly different lines, that the reconciliation of Rinaldo and Armida has been prepared for by earlier moments in the poem.

(70.) Se appendix, letters 20 (20 July, 1575), 21(29 July, 1575), and 40 (14 April, 1576)


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[Author's note: David Quint has kindly provided me with English translations of the Poetic Letters cited here. The Italian quotations are from the 1995 edition of the Lettere Poetiche, edited by Carla Molinari.]

LETTER 20 (20 JULY 1575)

I am still in doubt whether I will want to leave the reconciliation of Armida with Rinaldo in the last canto; and I believe that I will wish to end this matter with the flight of Armida [from the battle before Jerusalem]; but I will write at greater length about this to Your Most Illustrious Lordship.

Sto ancora in dubbio se vorro lasciar nell'ultimo canto la riconciliazione d'Armida con Rinaldo; e credo che vorro finire questa materia nella fuga d'Armida: ma sovra cio scriverb piu a lungo a Vostra Signoria illustrissima. (169-70)

LETTER 21 (29 JULY 1575)

The discussion that Your Lordship requests I could not send to him at this time without great inconvenience: it will suffice me only, therefore, that one consider whether that accompanying of the action of Armida with the principal action, almost to the end of the poem, will give displeasure and make it seem that I have taken Armida for my principal subject and that I take heed of her, not only insofar as she sidetracks the Christians and holds back Rinaldo, but also primarily and for her own sake. If no offense is caused on this account, I seem, for the aspects of the episode, almost certain and resolved, as I have written in the other letters of mine; but if it does give displeasure, one should remove that reconciliation between her and Rinaldo, which is in the last canto, and complete the episode with her flight.

L'argomento che Vostra Signoria dimanda non potrei ora mandarlo senza molto mio discommodo: mi bastera solo, dunque, che si consideri se quello accompagnare l'attione d'Armida con l'attione principale, quasi sino al fine, potra dare altrui noia e far parere ch'io abbia presa Armida per soggetto principale e ch'io riguardi in lei, non solo in quanto distorna i cristiana e ritiene Rinaldo, ma anco prima e per se. Se questo non offende, del rimanente parmi quasi essere o sicuro o risoluto, come I'ho scritto per l'altre mie: ma se questo noiasse, si potrebbe rimovere quella riconciliazione fra lei e Rinaldo, ch'e nell'ultimo canto, e fornire nella sua fuga. (174-5)

LETTER 40 (14 APRIL 1576)

I have moderated the lasciviousness of the last stanzas of the twentieth canto, all of which was seen by the Inquisitor and tolerated and almost praised.

Ho moderata assai la lascivia dell'ultime stanze del vigesimo, tutto che dall'Inquisitore fosse vista e tolerata e quasi lodata. (393)

LETTER 44 (24 APRIL 1576)

Messer Flaminio notes one thing that was done most artfully by me: that there is almost no love story in my poem with a happy ending (and it is certainly the case), and that this suffices to make them tolerate those parts of the poem. It seems that only the love of Erminia, in a certain way, has a happy ending. I wish also to give this love a good ending, and make her not only become a Christian, but a devout nun. I know that I will not be able to speak any more about her than what I have already done without some prejudice to the poem's art; but nonetheless I don't worry about varying somewhat the terms and pleasing a bit less the connoisseurs of this art, in order to displease a bit less those scrupulous in religion. I wish therefore to add ten stanzas into the penultimate canto in which the conversion would be contained.

Nota una cosa messer Flaminio, la quale a bell'arte fu fatta da me: che non v'e quasi amore nel mio poema di felice fine (e certo cosi), e che questo basta loro perche essi tolerino queste parti. Solo l'amor d'Erminia par che, in un certo modo, abbia felice fine. Io vorrei anco a questo dar un fine buono, e farla, non sol far cristiana, ma religiosa monaca. So ch'io non potro parlar piu oltre di lei, di quel ch'avea fatto, senza alcun pregiudicio dell'arte; ma pur non mi curo di variar alquanto i termini e piacer un poco meno a gli intendenti dell'arte, per dispiacer un poco manco a' scrupolosi. Io vorrei dunque aggiunger nel penultimo canto diece stanze, nelle quali si contenesse questa conversione. (424-25)
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