previous sub-section
next sub-section

Chapter Four Ariosto's Fable of Power

1. William Shakespeare, As You Like It , 2.1.12.è [BACK]

2. Jean-Franois Lyotard, The Differend: Phrases in Dispute , trans. Georges Van Den Abbeele (1984; Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988), 29. [BACK]

3. Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element of Culture (1950; Boston: Beacon Press, 1962). The terms in quotation marks are typical of the language of ethnomethodologists such as Harold Garfinkel, Studies in Ethnomethodology (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1967). [BACK]

4. See Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince , trans. Peter Bondanella and Mark Musa, World's Classics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984), chapter 6. [BACK]

5. "While seasons of praise or blame for that historical classic [Jacob Burckhardt's Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy ] have come and gone in one of the more elaborate rituals of the tribe of historians, the notion of a transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance refuses to go away. I take it to be one of Burckhardt's central, though seldom fully appreciated, insights that what he called 'Renaissance individualism' emerged with new forms of political, social, and cultural organization, which simultaneously promoted and militated against the free expression of individuality" (Randolph Starn, Contrary Commonwealth: The Theme of Exile in Medieval and Renaissance Italy [Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982], xviii). [BACK]

6. Pio Rajna, Le Fonti dell' "Orlando Furioso " (Florence: Sansoni, 1900), 486-505. Rajna thought such scenes merely revealed the errant knight's prowess. [BACK]

7. Peter Marinelli, Ariosto and Boiardo: The Origins of "Orlando Furioso " (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1987), and Albert Ascoli, Ariosto's Bitter Harmony: Crisis and Evasion in the Italian Renaissance (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987). Mario Santoro's work is typical of criticism that concentrates on the Arthurian elements of Rinaldo's defense of women (canto 5) and the story of the "nappo" (canto 37), although he also analyzes the story of Olympia, which was added to the third edition of the Furioso ( Ariosto e il Rinascimento ) (Naples: Liguori Editore, 1989), 134-166, 171-184, 275-294. Daniel Javitch, Proclaiming a Classic: The Canonization of ''Orlando Furioso " (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), writes about Ariosto's reception in the sixteenth century without mentioning Spenser or his fascination with Ariosto's customs and castles. [BACK]

8. Peter DeSa Wiggins, Figures in Ariosto's Tapestry: Character and Design in the "Orlando Furioso " (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), 202. Wiggins repeats his formulation elsewhere when he calls Spenser's imitation of the Tower of Tristan the "profoundest" of his imitations of Ariosto and suggests the need for a harder look at the scene ("Spenser's Anxiety," MLN 103 [1988]: 75-86, 84). Pamela Benson argues that because Bradamante "makes a carefully reasoned defense of her rights as a military woman," one can say that Ariosto explicitly connected the Rocca di Tristano episode to the tradition of defenses of women ( The Invention of Renaissance Women [University Park, Penn.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1992], 129). By contrast, Valeria Finucci writes that "Bradamante seems to suffer from penis envy since she dresses like a

man, behaves like a man, and claims that she is a man even when everybody is convinced otherwise, as in the Rocca di Tristano episode" ( The Lady Vanishes: Subjectivity and Representation in Castiglione and Ariosto [Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992], 210). See also Deanna Shemeck, "Of Women, Knights, Arms, and Love: The Querelle des Femmes in Ariosto's Poem," Modern Language Notes 104 (1989): 68-97. [BACK]

9. Marianne Shapiro, The Poetics of Ariosto (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1988), 184. [BACK]

10. Wiley Feinstein implies that the Tower of Tristan episode counters his thesis that "Ariosto undermines Bradamante's feminist potential" ("Bradamante in Love: Some Postfeminist Considerations in Ariosto," Forum Italicum 22 [1988]: 48-59, 48). I think he is right, that the episode is more "subtle" and "complex" than his brief comments show (51-52). [BACK]

11. J. G. A. Pocock, The Ancient Constitution and the Feudal Law: English Historical Thought in the Seventeenth Century (1957; New York: Norton, 1967), 19. [BACK]

12. Cited by Edmund G. Gardner, The King of Court Poets (1906; New York: Greenwood, 1968), 21-22, who goes on to quote from Ariosto's sixth satire, "My father drove me with goads and lances, not merely with spurs, to turn over texts and glosses, and kept me to that rubbish for five years" ( Satire 6.154-159). [BACK]

13. On the sack of Rome as a cultural watershed, see Alberto Asor Rosa, "Il Sacco di Roma del 1527 e l'immaginario," Rivista di studi italiani 6 (1986): 18-34. [BACK]

14. Line 76. See The Satires of Ludovico Ariosto: A Renaissance Autobiography , trans. Peter DeSa Wiggins (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1976), 35. [BACK]

15. Lines 175- 183. See The Satires of Ludovico Ariosto , 67-69. [BACK]

16. "Perché ha sempre intorno un sì grosso cerchio de genre che mal si pò penetrate, sì perché si conven combattere a x usci prima che se arrivi dove sia: la qual cosa a me è tanto odiosa, che non so quando lo vedessi; né anco tento de vederlo, ne lui né omo che sia in quel palazo: pur per vostro amor forzarò la natura mia" (Ariosto's letter of 7 April 1513, in Ludovico Ariosto, Satire e lettere , ed. Cesare Segre [Turin: Einaudi, 1976], 96; my translation). [BACK]

17. Lines 4- 5. See The Satires of Ludovico Ariosto , 99. For Ariosto's aural sensitivity, see James V. Mirollo, "On the Significant Acoustics of Ariosto's Noisy Poem," MLN 103 (1988): 87-112. [BACK]

18. Letter of 25 June 1523, in Satire e lettere , 139. [BACK]

19. Michele Catalano, Vita di Ludovico Ariosto , 2 vols. (Geneva: Olschki,

1930), 1:542. We have the list in Ariosto's hand of his dozen "balestrieri" and their salaries (2:242). [BACK]

20. In the second of two custom-of-the-castle scenes Ariosto added to the final edition of the Furioso , to which I can only refer briefly here, Marganorre responds to the manipulation of customs that two women use to kill his sons by decreeing that any woman discovered in the valley near his castle and town "is to be beaten across the shoulders with a willow-rod and then ejected; but first her dress is to be shortened to expose that which Nature and modesty conceals. And if any woman happens there escorted by an armed knight, she is to be slain" ( OF 37.83). Although Ariosto signals his debt to earlier romances when he refers to this decree as an "evil custom" ("ria costuma," OF 37.99), he usually refers to it as a "cruel law" ("la legge ria di Marganorre,'' OF 37.103; "la legge sua credule e rea," OF 37.104). Marganorre implements it like a statute and posts it in the town square. But Marganorre's evil ways do not survive the attention paid to them by Marfisa.

The prestige of legislative law over oral custom depends on the reputation of the king or law-making assembly that promulgates it. After Marfisa eliminates the foul custom of Marganorre's castle by force, Marfisa literally inscribes a new law. Her belief in the primacy of the legislative act associates her with the practices of civil law. She decrees that husbands must "make over to their wives the administration of the territory and all else" and that "what elsewhere appertains to the husband was here to fall to the wife" ( OF 37.115). To ensure the administration of women, she has her rules written on a column in the town. The con-flation of customs with the strict regulations of a tyrant is not uncommon in earlier romances, but the written form of the custom or law is an Italian Renaissance touch with no precedent in Arthurian romance:

The brave warrior-damsels noticed a column standing beside a church; on it the impious tyrant had inscribed his cruel, insane law. Now they attached the shield, breastplate and helmet of Marganor to it after the manner of a trophy, and had their own law there inscribed. ( OF 37.119)

Marfisa's inscription is all the more significant because Spenser eliminates it when he creates his own version of the Marganorre story in The Faerie Queene . English common law, based on custom, had defined itself since the time of Fortescue in opposition to civil law and its sources in Roman codes (see Sir John Fortescue, De Laudibus Legum Anglie , 43 [chapter xx]). This opposition extends to Spenser's reversal of Ariosto's story. When Britomart, who represents chastity

and married love, defeats the Amazon Radigund, she does not impose but repeals the rule of women. Her action is paradoxical. How can she, as a woman, establish a law that says women cannot rule? Why would she want to? The answer is that she is not establishing a law, but restoring one.

Britomart's gesture is typical of English jurisprudence based on custom, where judges act not to make law but to uncover law that already exists. Britomart operates not by codes and decrees but by the "laws of chivalry." She establishes her reliance on chivalry at the moment when Radigund makes conditions for their combat.

But ere they reared hand, the Amazone
Began the streght condition to propound,
With which she used still to tye her fone;
To serve her so, as she the rest had bound.
Which when the other heard, she sternly frownd
For high disdaine of such indignity,
And would no lenger treat, but bad them sound.
For her no other terms should ever tie
Then what  prescribed were by  lawes of chevalrie .
        ( FQ 5.7.28; my emphasis)

The "laws of chivalry," which Britomart claims as her authority, are the good concepts of custom. These rituals of chivalry seem no different from the customs that dictate Yvain should fight two demi-goblins at once, the custom of Pesme Aventure. Yet there is a difference of degree. As Brian Stock has pointed out, one of the implications of literacy is that oral discourse often functions as if written texts were present ( The Implications of Literacy: Written Language and Models of Interpretation in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983]). Chrétien's references to customs sometimes sound as if they assumed the existence of exact codes, and in Perceval they are, in fact, said to be written. For Chrétien customs are not diminished by writing, but they are for Spenser. When Britomart defeats Radigund, she overturns her law, and she does so by oral instruction, not by inscribing a pillar:

        there [Britomart] as Princess rained,
And changing all that forme of common weale,
The liberty of women did repeale,
Which they had long usurpt; and them restoring
To mens subiection, did true Iustice deal:

That all they as a Goddesse her adoring,
Her wisedome did admire, and hearkned to her loring
        ( FQ 5.7.42)

By insisting on the "law of chivalry," Britomart sets up an opposition between negotiated law and customary law that Spenser himself maintains by eliminating Ariosto's inscriptions. Spenser says that the "law of chivalry" is prescribed ( FQ 5.7.8, quoted above). That is, it precedes written law. This notion of precedence is the key to the strange concept of the "ancient constitution" that J. G. A. Pocock has shown played such a strong role in shaping English common law in the years when Spenser was writing: custom was both always old and always new. [BACK]

21. Bigi finds that a new tension between ideals and sordid reality informs the historical series of French invasions portrayed on the walls of the Tower of Tristan ( OF 33.1-59), illustrations that Bradamante views in the second part of this addition to the 1532 version of the Furioso . See the introduction to his edition of Ludovico Ariosto, Orlando Furioso , 2 vols. (Milan: Rusconi, 1982), 36. [BACK]

22. Catalano, Vita Di Ludovico Ariosto , 1:618. [BACK]

23. Ibid., 1:611-612. Ariosto's private marriage was probably more typical than has been thought. Before the Council of Trent, free consent of the parties determined wedlock; see James A. Brundage, Law, Sex, and Christian Society in Medieval Europe (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 552.

Catalano also suggests that Alessandra's secret marriage allowed her to retain custody of her children and maintain the patrimony left her by her husband Tito Strozzi, to which she was probably entitled as long as she remained a widow (Tito Strozzi died intestate) (Catalano, Vita Di Ludovico Ariosto , 1:614). It is not to be overlooked that remarriage allowed Alessandra to escape the constraints of widowhood: in a letter she complains of having "consumato dieci anni del fiore della mia etade, come ho fato, 'in viduità'" (1:616). Alessandra's behavior may be regarded as self-centered: she kept her children in shabby conditions in Florence, complained about the little wealth her husband left her (although she had her own houses and farms in Florence), and sent her insolvent debtors to prison (1:619). But Catalano also calls Alessandra a "donna sventurato": married young to a man twice her age, she was a widow with small children during her prime of life. It may have been that the world did not condone her illegitimate relation with the poet, or that she was allowed to reveal her subsequent marriage (1:623). She died in 1552 (1:622). [BACK]

24. Northrop Frye divides the virtues into private and public ("Structure of Imagery," in Fables of Identity [New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1963], 75-77), an idea that Nohrnberg develops: "Spenser's second installment goes on to treat the virtues of friendship, justice, and courtesy, which, unlike the first three, involve social loyalties rather than fidelity to a private ideal" ( The Analogy of "The Faerie Queene " [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976], 60). Holiness and temperance, the subjects of Spenser's first two legends, are individual virtues: The former begins in the wandering wood of error and the deceptive house of Archimago where Red Crosse dreams. The legend of Temperance is served by the House of Medina, which suits the lesson of the temperate mean that Aristotle teaches in the Ethics , and by the Castle of Alma, or the soul.

The order of Spenser's next four legends (chastity, friendship, justice, courtesy) reflects the Aristotelian and humanist belief that matrimony, a partnership based on diversity, is the foundation of the social order and justice. The legend of chastity starts with a version of the custom of the castle. Malecasta is said to have ordained a "law" requiring passing knights to battle for her, and she is "accustomed"—Spenser's only use of the word—to Persian luxury ( FQ 3-1.41). The motif then appears successively in the opening cantos of the following books: the Castle of Couples in the legend of friendship in Book IV, Munera's Castle in the legend of justice in Book V, and Crudor's Castle and Sir Turpine's Castle of the Ford in the legend of courtesy in Book VI. [BACK]

25. Ariosto did not settle on this reprise to round out the action of the two poems, but added Ruggiero's involvement with King Leo of Hungary as a preliminary to his final duel with Rodomonte. Henri Hauvette long ago caught an echo of Boiardo's poem in this aborted plot, sensing that the "trophée" was a departure point for new rivalries ( L'Arioste et la poésie chevaleresque à Ferrare au dé-but du XVIe siécle [Paris: Champion, 1927], 280). Angelica's similar challenge—part of a plot by her father to disrupt Charlemagne's court—begins Boiardo's Orlando Innamorato and disperses the Christians, keeping Orlando from the defense of Paris. Knowing Ariosto planned yet further revisions, Hauvette found the Ullania addition out of keeping with the economy of the poem, and compared it to the Cinque Canti . The theme of those strange stanzas is also discord. A council of malignant fays haunts a forest near Prague, and Charlemagne must exorcize this image of hate, chaos, violence, and deceit. Ariosto rejected this dark expansion, and the Cinque Canti were not printed until after he died. Similarly, he seems to have rejected an open allegory of discord, leaving Ullania's mission attenuated in the poem as we have it. [BACK]

26. Ruggiero saves Brunello from the gallows in Boiardo's Orlando Innamorato 2.21.36ff. [BACK]

27. Pio Rajna, Le Fonti del' "Orlando Furioso, " 492; for the shepherd, see the epigraph of this book. [BACK]

28. Barbara Reynolds, Orlando Furioso (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974). [BACK]

29. The United States Supreme Court has held, in an infamous decision, that a state has the power to treat any appearance by a defendant as a submission to the state's jurisdiction over his person, York v. Texas , 137 U.S. 15, 11 S.Ct. 9 (1890). No state currently exercises its power to lay this cruel trap. Similar issues of institutional jurisdiction, especially the boundaries of canon law and civil law, must have worried the legal minds of Ferrara. [BACK]

30. See Henry V 1.2.37. In poking fun at Clodione, Ariosto undermines the notion that customs have founders at all. Pocock observes that Machiavelli could write with what seems singular naiveté of the man "chi ordinó" so complex a creation of history as the monarchy of France: "Custom came to be a salutary corrective to the thought of this king; all its emphasis was on gradual process, imperceptible change, the origin and slow growth of institutions in usage, tacit consent, prescription and adaptation" ( The Ancient Constitution , 19). Custom, when written and codified, loses its essential character. To restore authority to custom, common lawyers began to posit remote and mythical legislators (36). [BACK]

31. With him when he arrives at Clodione's castle is a woman whom he recently rescued from a giant. Waldman's translation says Tristan was still pulling along the giant. The Italian probably means that the giant had been pulling the woman along when Tristan rescued her ("che traea presa a forza un fier gigante," OF 32.84). [BACK]

32. Gyron le Courtoys c. 1501 , ed. C. E. Pickford (London: Scolar Press, 1977). [BACK]

33. Gyron le Courtoys , cclviii v . The technique whereby a main character leaves his main quest to settle some local political affairs occurs when Ranaldo finds Iroldo weeping in a grove, wondering how to rescue Prasildo from Falerina's Garden ( OI 1.16.60-1.17.22). At this point Rubicone appears (see above, chapter 3, note 38). Boiardo's example suggests that the custom of the castle is usually the tip of the iceberg for themes that circulate, often submerged, through interlaced romances. Guyon's version of this motif occurs when he meets Mammon, whose house has its own foul customs ( FQ 2.7.3). Gyron should be added to the list of sources for Guyon's name. [BACK]

34. Gyron le Courtoys , cclix v . [BACK]

35. "Cy est le perilleux passage dung chevalier seul encontre les vingt. Et bien saiche vrayement que chascun chevalier errant que avanture apportera par destuy chemin que iamais ceste coustume ne fauldra devant que passez y feront par force darmes quatre chevaliers" ( Gyron le Courtoys , cclx r ). [BACK]

36. "Gyron qui le chevalier voit venir le commence a regarder" ( Gyron le Courtoys , cclxiii v ). There is a pun. They "regarde" each other because they have such "regarde" for each other (cclxvii v ). [BACK]

37. "Gyron voit que la nuyt vient si approchent" ( Gyron le Courtoys , cclxv v ). [BACK]

38. "Me diez en quel guise ceste perilleux advanture de ce chastel fust establie premierement" ( Gyron le Courtoys , cclxviii r ). [BACK]

39. Rajna, Le Fonti del' "Orlando Furioso ," 498. [BACK]

40. Gyron le Courtoys , cclxviii v -cclxxiv v [BACK]

41. The Convivio of Dante Alighieri , trans. Philip H. Wicksteed (London: Dent, 1903), I: viii. [BACK]

42. Ibid., I: x. [BACK]

43. Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life (1984; Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), xvii. [BACK]

44. André Chastel, The Sack of Rome , 1527, trans. Beth Archer (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983), 26. The account that follows is indebted to Chastel's work. [BACK]

45. Isabella lost a cargo of precious tapestries to pirates (Chastel, The Sack of Rome , 1527, 245). [BACK]

46. Ibid., 37. [BACK]

47. Francesco Guicciardini, The History of Italy , trans. Sidney Alexander (1969; New York: Collier, 1972), 49 (my emphasis). "[Charles] entrò in Asti il dì nono di settembre dell'anno mille quattocento novantaquattro, conducendo seco in Italia i semi di innumerabili calamità, di orribilissimi accidenti, e variazione di quasi tutte le cose: perché dalla passata sua non solo ebbono principio mutazioni di stati, sovversioni di regni, desolazioni di paesi, eccidi ci città, crudelissime uccisioni, ma eziandio nuovi abiti, nuovi costumi, nuovi e sanguinosi modi di guerreggiare, infermità insino a quel dì non conosciute; si disordinorono di maniera gli instrumenti della quiete e concordia italiana che, non si essendo mai poi potuta riordinare, hanno avuto facoltà altre nazioni straniere e eserciti barbari di conculcarla miserabilmente e devastarla" ( Opere , ed. Vittorio de Caprariis [Naples: Ricciardi, 1961], 435). [BACK]

48. See Gardner, The King of Court Poets , 206. [BACK]

49. Michael Murrin finds a conflict between those who find an Ariosto of concord (Marinelli, Wiggins) and those for whom his skepticism is paramount (Quint, Ascoli): "While these critics wish to recover Ariosto for history, none of them is doing a New Historical analysis of the court, the role of the poet in that court, or fables of power" ( Italica 66 [1989]: 466-469, 467). [BACK]

50. Ascoli, Ariosto's Bitter Harmony , 31 n.55, 32. [BACK]

51. Walter Binni, Due studi critici: Ariosto e Foscolo (Rome: Bulzoni, 1978), 11. [BACK]

52. Cf. Nohrnberg, The Analogy of "The Faerie Queene, " 18. [BACK]

53. Wiggins, The Satires of Ludovico Ariosto , xx. [BACK]

54. For Atlante as Ariosto's persona, see David Quint, "The Figure of Atlante: Ariosto and Boiardo's Poem," MLN 94 (1979): 77-91. For Astolfo, see A. Bartlett Giamatti, The Earthly Paradise and the Renaissance Epic (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966), 140. See also Ascoli, Ariosto's Bitter Harmony , 37. [BACK]

55. John Addington Symonds, The Renaissance in Italy: Italian Literature , 2 vols. (New York: Scribner's, 1904), 1:441-442. [BACK]

56. Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality: An Introduction , trans. Robert Hurley, 3 vols. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1978), 1:92. [BACK]

57. "Dispersion and (Re) Integration: Ariosto's I Suppositi and Archetypal Modes of Early Sixteenth-Century Italian Comedy," JMRS 16 (1986): 197-212. [BACK]

58. C. S. Lewis, The Allegory of Love (1936; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972), 306. [BACK]

59. At the nameless castle, where the social order is uncertain, Britomart avoids a strategic confrontation, in contrast to the brutal justice of Talus ( FQ 5.2.25), or to her own earlier adventure at Malecasta's castle, where the issues of right and wrong, chastity and the lack of it, are clear-cut ( FQ 3.1). [BACK]

60. Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1899), xix. [BACK]

previous sub-section
next sub-section