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Ludovico Ariosto

Ludovico Ariosto

The Italian Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533) was the greatest narrative poet of the Italian Renaissance. His richly human masterpiece, "Orlando furioso," adds a native bent for narration to an exquisitely polished octave stanza.

Ludovico Ariosto was born at Reggio Emilia: when he was 14, the family moved to Ferrara, where his father, Niccolò, was in service at the ducal court of the Este family. Five years later his father consented to Ludovico's abandonment of law studies in favor of literature. Ariosto was first employed at court in 1498; 2 years later his father died, leaving him to provide for nine younger brothers and sisters. In 1503 he entered the service of Cardinal Ippolito d'Este, who sponsored performances of Ariosto's neoclassical comedies, Cassariain 1508 and I suppositi in 1509. His later comedies are the unfinished I studenti (1518-1519), II negromante (1521), and the most successful of them, La Lena, performed under his direction in 1529.

In 1513 Ariosto met the beautiful Alessandra Benucci, whom he married secretly in 1527 to avoid the loss of Church benefices. In 1518 he entered the service of the cardinal's brother, Duke Alfonso d'Este. Except for a 3-year period when he governed the bandit-ridden Garfagnana region for the duke, Ariosto was allowed more time for writing than he had been by Cardinal Ippolito. His Satire (Satires) treat ironically his problems in Ferrara, where the Este brothers failed to recognize his worth, in the Garfagnana, and on missions to the papal court.

Ariosto's Orlando furioso, a continuation of Boiardo's Orlando innamorato, went through three redactions, or versions (1516, 1521, and 1532). It is a romantic, comicepic retelling of the story of Roland (Orlando), the medieval French hero. Among a myriad of episodes about dauntless knights and enchanting women, the three main narrative threads are the Saracens' siege of Paris and their final rout; the insanity of Orlando, who was driven mad by unrequited love for Angelica, Princess of Cathay; and the love of the warrior woman Bradamante for Ruggiero. The progressive loss of reason by Orlando as he drifts from foreboding dream to hallucination to total madness is finely drawn. Ariosto's wise and realistic portrayal of human nature in all its intricacies in so fantastic a world—which includes even a moon journey—is a remarkable feat of poetry. By no means an outright parody, his poem exalts many values of the world of chivalry, such as love and fidelity. It influenced Cervantes, Spenser, and Shakespeare. Ariosto died in 1533 after completing the last version of his great narrative poem.

Further Reading

An excellent, free-ranging verse translation of Ariosto's masterpiece, Orlando furioso, was published in 1591 by the Elizabethan author Sir John Harington (repr. 1963). Later translations include those of Temple Henry Croker in 1755 and William Stewart Rose in 1825. The recent prose translation by Allan Gilbert (2 vols., 1954) includes his informative appreciation of the poem. The work's unique place in Italian Renaissance narrative poetry is ably discussed by Francesco de Sanctis in History of Italian Literature (2 vols., 1870; new ed. 1914; trans. 1931) and by Ernest Hatch Wilkins in A History of Italian Literature (1954). See also Edmund G. Gardner, The King of Court Poets: A Study of the Work, Life and Times of Ludovico Ariosto (1906;repr. 1968), and Benedetto Croce, Ariosto, Shakespeare and Corneille (1920; trans. 1920).

Additional Sources

Ascoli, Albert Russell, Ariosto's bitter harmony: crisis and evasion in the Italian Renaissance, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1987.

Griffin, Robert, Ludovico Ariost, New York, Twayne Publishers 1974.

Marinelli, Peter V., Ariosto and Boiardo: the origins of Orlando furioso, Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1987. □

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Ariosto, Ludovico (1474–1533)

Ariosto, Ludovico (14741533)

Italian poet whose Orlando Furioso, became one of the most famous literary works of the Renaissance. Born in the town of Reggio Emilio, the son of a military commander, Ludovico Ariosto moved to Ferrara while still a boy. He later studied law despite his preference for poetry. He was instructed in Latin and Greek by the scholar Gregorio da Spoleto, but on the death of his father in 1500 he became responsible for his nine siblings. Two years later, he became the commander of the town of Canossa.

As a young man, Ariosto found a needed patron in Cardinal Ippolito d'Este, who showed ignorance and contempt for his works and used him as a common servant. In 1516 Ariosto completed Orlando Furioso, an epic poem in forty-six cantos. He based the poem on Orlando Innamorato, an unfinished work of Matteo Maria Boiardo. It was a tale of romance and chivalry that borrowed themes and characters from the popular chansons de geste, epic romances of the medieval age. The poet takes on the role of a singing troubadour, describing the adventures of Orlando, a knight who fights the Saracens for the emperor Charlemagne and goes mad with love for the beautiful Angelica. In Orlando Furioso Ariosto showed great respect for chivalric poetry but also chided the chansons de geste for their old-fashioned attention to courtly manners. His work inspired several major poets to create imitations and leading painters to illustrate scenes from the poem.

Ariosto left the cardinal's household in 1518 and joined that of Alfonso I, the duke of Ferrara, whom he served as ambassador to Pope Julius II. The duke later appointed him governor of Garfagnana, a remote district in the Apennine Mountains. Ariosto was responsible for managing a lawless region infested with bandits, but had won such a reputation for his poetry that he was immediately released by a band of criminals after being kidnapped.

Known throughout Italy, Ariosto's poem found an even larger audience when it was published in its final form in 1532. Ariosto's other works include satires and stage comedies, including La Cassaria and Il Suppositi, modeled on the works of the ancient Romans Plautus and Terrence. The latter work was borrowed by William Shakespeare for his play The Taming of the Shrew.

See Also: Ferrara; Tasso, Torquato

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Ariosto, Ludovico

Ludovico Ariosto (lōōdōvē´kō äryôs´tō), 1474–1533, Italian epic and lyric poet. As a youth he was a favorite at the court of Ferrara; later he was in the service of Ippolito I, Cardinal d'Este, and from 1517 until his death served Alfonso, duke of Ferrara. He was never properly rewarded by his patrons. While in the service of the cardinal, he began writing his masterpiece, the Orlando Furioso, published in its final form in 1532. This epic treatment of the Roland story, theoretically a sequel to the unfinished poem of Boiardo, greatly influenced Shakespeare, Milton, and Byron. It was intended to glorify the Este family as Vergil had glorified the Julians. Ariosto also wrote lyric verse of unequal merit, but he was among the first to write comedies in the vernacular (based loosely on Roman models), among them I Suppositi [the pretenders] and Il Negromante [the necromancer].

See the famous 16th-century translation of Orlando Furioso by Sir John Harington, ed. by R. McNulty (1972), as well as the verse translations by B. Reynolds (2 vol., 1975) and by D. R. Slavitt (2010); studies by B. Croce (tr. 1920, repr. 1966), R. Griffin (1974), and A. R. Ascoli (1987).

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Ariosto, Ludovico

Ariosto, Ludovico (1474–1533), Italian poet. His Orlando Furioso (final version 1532), about the exploits of Roland (Orlando) and other knights of Charlemagne, was the greatest of the Italian romantic epics; Spenser used its narrative form as a model for his Faerie Queene.
Ariosto of the North in Byron's Childe Harold a name for Sir Walter Scott.

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