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Literature / Florante at Laura

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Featuring Laura with an Adaptation Dye-Job
Florante at Laura (lit. "Florante and Laura") is a Filipino epic written by Francisco Balagtas, a.k.a. Francisco Baltazar, during his time in prison. Completed in 1838, the work is dedicated to "Selya", his beloved at the time, and is an allegory for the state of the Philippines under Spanish colonialism, as well as the state Balagtas was in while incarcerated. Set during The Crusades, the work itself is about the life of Florante, duke of the Kingdom of Albania, Aladin, prince of Persia (no, not that one), Adolfo, the evil Big Bad greedy for power, and Laura, Florante's beloved.

Of note is the fact that despite being a Filipino work, other than the language (obviously), and the main characters' religions, nothing else is Filipino about the poem. It's generally agreed upon that Balagtas wrote about a completely foreign setting and characters as a means to bypass the Censorship Bureau of the colonial regime, which would've likely comprised both government officials and Catholic friars. At the time, The Church (so closely wedded to State in the Spanish Empire) controlled most local media, owning as they did most of the colony's printing presses. The strongest piece of evidence for this, perhaps, is the fact that Balagtas tacked on a couple of lines at the end of the epic suggesting that the Muslims Aladin and Flerida converted to Christianity. He doesn't dwell, though, on whether they stayed Christian or attempted to spread that gospel upon returning to their native (and obviously majority-Muslim) lands. Then again, writing about completely foreign settings doesn't make Balagtas much different from, say, William Shakespeare, who was famously obsessed with Italy to the point of setting many of his plays there despite having never gone (according to what we know, at least).note 

Florante at Laura is written in a peculiar literary form known as Awit (lit. "Song") - each stanza has four lines with 12 syllables each. This form is notorious for having oddly specific guidelines, notably "each line must be/contain a figure of speech" and have a "slight pause (known as a caesura) on every 6th syllable".

Adapted several times for other media, including into a few Comic Book Adaptations à la Illustrated Classics (see page image) and a musical, Balinese-style shadow play in the mid-2000s. It is standard reading today in the Philippine equivalent of the Grade 8 curriculum.

Tropes Appearing in Florante at Laura:

  • Allegory: For the abuses of Spanish-Catholic colonial rule, both secular and religious dimensions.
  • Beginner's Luck: Florante bests Osmalic, a known and fearsome general. It's Florante's first real fight.
  • Bedsheet Ladder: How Flerida got out of the castle.
  • Beneath the Mask: In his younger days, Adolfo pretended to be sweet, elegant, and smart, never picking a fight. This was not the case.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Just after Aladin rescues Florante who tells him the events of the story, they walked around the forest and bumped into Flerida and Laura. Either that's coincidence or the forest is very small.
  • Creator Breakdown: "Gubat na Mapanglaw" = Balagtas' state in the prison.
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best: Florante's mom and dad, Floresca and Briseo. Floresca was loving, if overprotective, and Briseo was kind, caring, and a paragon of virtue.
  • Deus Angst Machina: Florante. He nearly gets killed in a School Play. Just before he returns home, his mom dies. He suddenly becomes general of Albania's army and must separate from Laura to fight. He receives a letter from Albania to return home where he is ambushed by Adolfo and thrown into jail. While there, he finds out that Briseo and Linceo have been killed, finds out that Adolfo is now in charge of the kingdom and has Laura, after which he is banished and chained to a tree in Mordor forest. Wow.
  • Evil Always Triumphs In The Middle: Adolfo takes over Albania, has Briseo and Linceo killed, kidnaps Laura and has Florante banished and tied to a tree.
  • Genre Deconstruction: Of the then-prevalent, Catholic-Filipino epic genre note , classifiable mainly into two forms: the awit and the corrido, and the related moro-moro form, all of which featured Divine Intervention and Christian morality triumphing over the foreign—usually Muslim—Other. Florante at Laura subverts this by having Florante saved by man instead of God, and making its principal villain as much of a Christian as the protagonists, whilst the major supporting cast—notably Aladin and Flerida—are explicitly heroic Muslims, so much so that Balagtas likely only managed to keep them in the poem by suggesting in a couple of throwaway lines that they converted to Christianity, but he never dwells on whether they stayed Christian after the epic ends.
  • Good Samaritan: Aladin, a Muslim prince, helps Florante, a Christian, despite the fierce rivalry between Christians and Muslims back then. He slays the tiger that was about to eat Florante, and stays up all night to tend to Florante and defend both of them from the animals lurking in the forest.
  • Greed: Adolfo's avarice for power and money is his motivation.
  • The High Middle Ages: The presumed setting of the epic; more specifically, sometime during The Crusades.
  • Hollywood Costuming: Almost none of the known visual depictions of the epic poem gets the costuming right. For a tale set during The Crusades, sometime in The High Middle Ages, Florante and his Albanian and Athenian buddies wear nothing resembling high medieval southeast-European costume, whether civilian or military: in most comics, film and school-textbook depictions, Florante's wearing some sort pleated and armoured getup resembling a generic Imperial Roman soldier (possibly based on the costumes of Jesus' Roman captors in Lenten passion plays), or else sports pleated puffy sleeves that were last seen on 16th-century Spanish conquistadores (like the ones who colonised the Philippines in the first place). The costume of women like Laura are sometimes even less defined, just being generic full-length ballgowns or gauzy dresses in some renditions. Probably justifiable since the epic prioritised sending an allegorical message over any need to conform to strict historical accuracy, which would've felt unnecessary to audiences largely unfamiliar with its actual setting to begin with.
  • Ho Yay: During a particular part in the story where Aladdin takes care of an exhausted Florante and guards him while he sleeps.
  • Mordor: "Gubat na Mapanglaw" ("Melancholic Forest").
  • Manipulative Bastard: Adolfo. He convinced Albania that King Linceo was going to starve them, staged a coup with the support of the enraged citizens, had the court massacred, and declared himself king.
  • Melting-Pot Nomenclature: Hispanic names (of both Catholic and Greek origin) on the one side, Islamic names (of both Arabic and Persian) on the other.
  • Name and Name: The usual, Official Couple variant.
  • Near-Villain Victory: Adolfo's got the throne, he's got Florante and all the good in Albania banished and he's got Laura. Then he gets killed by an arrow to the head from Flerida who just happened to be passing by when she witnessed Adolfo trying to rape Laura.
  • Nice Guy: Aladdin, who arguably is the nicest character. He saves Florante despite them being enemies, and doesn't fight his father even though he steals his beloved.
  • No OSHA Compliance: One imagines the director or crew behind the School Play would've prevented Adolfo from using real weapons against Florante.
  • Posthumous Character: Briseo, Floresca.
  • Purple Prose: In Tagalog this is certainly the case; it was florid and literary even for the time it was written in, in the mid-1800s, and more so given it's expected of an epic poem.
  • Reality Subtext: Balagtas was jailed in the first place by a rich and powerful rival for the affections of his Real Life Love Interest, which likely worked its way into the epic in the form of Adolfo's seizing Laura away from Florante (along with everything else, like the latter's royal birthright).
  • Revenge: Adolfo's main motivator in the latter part of the book.
  • Ruritania: Some of this is set in medieval, rural southeastern Europe, including the Gubat na Mapanglaw (Melancholy Forest) where Florante's tied up.
  • School Play / Show Within a Show: Back in Athens, they performed Oedipus Rex.
  • Shown Their Work: Balagtas was a pretty educated guy. You can see that in all the references to Greek mythology he throws in.
  • Spell My Name with an S: There's a bit of a debate over whether Florante ought to be spelled Plorante because he gets likened to flowers (Spanish flor) but then also to sorrow (archaic Spanish plorar, now llorar though) in quick succession. Or maybe it's just a pun.
  • Stepford Smiler: Adolfo, Type 3.
  • Sword and Sandal: The epic itself has shades of this since it's set in The High Middle Ages, but the School Play that Florante, Adolfo and company act in—Oedipus Rex—counts even more so for being set in ancient Greece.
  • Take That!: Basically a huge one against the Spanish government and the corrupt Church.
  • The Usurper: Adolfo to the Albanian throne.
  • Work Info Title: The full title, in archaic Tagalog, is "Pinagdaanang Buhay nina Florante at Laura sa Kahariang Albanya: Kinuha sa madlang "cuadro histórico" o pinturang nagsasabi sa mga nangyayari nang unang panahon sa Imperyo ng Gresya, at tinula ng isang matuwain sa bersong Tagalog." note 
  • Überwald: The Gubat na Mapanglaw (Melancholy Forest) where Florante's tied up. It's dark, forbidding, and even has bloodthirsty lions and tigers in it.
  • Yandere: Aladin shows signs. He gets two verses where he first contemplates The Power of Love and how it can tear apart even the closest True Companions... then says that since that is so, he doesn't need goodness or kindness and will crush those who come between him and Flerida.