Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Orlando Furioso

Go To

Le donne, i cavallier, l'arme, gli amori,
le cortesie, l'audaci imprese io canto,
che furo al tempo che passaro i Mori
d'Africa il mare, e in Francia nocquer tanto,
seguendo l'ire e i giovenil furori
d'Agramante lor re, che si diè vanto
di vendicar la morte di Troiano
sopra re Carlo imperator romano.

Of loves and ladies, knights and arms, I sing
Of courtesies, and many a daring feat,
And from those ancient days my story bring
When Moors from Afric passed in hostile fleet,
And ravaged France, with Agramant their king
Flushed with his youthful rage and furious heat
Who on king Charles', the Roman emperor's head
Had vowed due vengeance for Troyano dead.

Orlando Furioso (opening stanza, trans. by William Stewart Rose)

A massive chivalric epic poem in 46 cantos by Ludovico Ariosto, first published in 1516 and revised and expanded a couple times, with its final form appearing in 1532. Orlando Furioso ("Mad Orlando" or "The Fury of Orlando") continues and completes the story begun in the unfinished but equally epic poem, Orlando Innamorato ("Orlando In Love") by Matteo Maria Boiardo, Conte di Scandiano (1441-1494). Charlemagne (Carlo) is at war with the Saracens, and his paladin Orlando (Roland), the world's greatest knight (and hero of the French Chanson de Roland), goes mad from Unrequited Love for the pagan princess Angelica of Cathay. Has a Beta Couple, which also consists of a pagan and a Christian: Ruggiero (Roger) of Risa and Bradamante, the mythical ancestors of Boiardo's and Ariosto's employers, the Este family, ducal house of Ferrara.


The poem is not so much a Chivalric Romance as a Deconstruction of same, casting an ironic eye on all the tropes and conventions of the genre, with Orlando's devotional love turning to madness being only the most obvious treatment. But Ariosto is more interested in entertaining than anything else, and succeeds at his task at great length. It was enormously influential in the centuries after it was written, influencing Tasso, Spencer, and Milton to name the most famous. Gustave Doré illustrated the poem in a memorable style.


Tropes found in Orlando Furioso:

  • 24-Hour Armor: Marfisa
  • Abhorrent Admirer: Rinaldo to Angelica, thanks to a magic river
  • Abusive Parents: What to do if your daughter indirectly and passively-aggressively expresses disagreement with your choice of husband for her? Kidnap her, obviously! (It should be noted that in some of the other texts featuring the characters, one of the parents involved, Aymon, tries to kill his sons and his wife. Bradamante got off lightly)
  • Action Girl: Bradamante and Marfisa.
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: Rodomont has a case of this, leading to him becoming The Teetotaler
  • All Amazons Want Hercules: In the Lady Land visited by Astolpho and Marfisa, the only way a man can avoid slavery is to prove his worthiness by defeating ten champions in a day and then bed ten women that night. According to Guido's extensive explanation, this was set up precisely because of this trope, when the queen's daughter desired a particularly worthy fighter who was, in fact, descended from Hercules.
    • Marfisa, being Marfisa, wanted to partake too and had no problem with task #1. Unfortunately the author keeps us in the dark about task #2...
  • Anti-Magic: This is what Angelica's Ring does when worn on a finger (it doubles as a Ring of Gyges if you put it on your tongue).
  • Author Filibuster: Ariosto did not like cannons, recently introduced to European warfare.
  • Ax-Crazy: Rodamont
  • Badass in Distress: Happens to a lot of the characters at some point, but special mention goes to the number of times Ruggiero needs his girlfriend to save him.
  • Battle Couple: Bradamante and Ruggiero.
  • Berserk Button: Interrupting a single combat in which Marfisa is involved is not a good idea. In the prequel she attacks her boss (and his army) for attacking the guy she was already fighting. In this one, she tries to kill her best friend for trying to intervene in her fight with Bradamante.
  • Best Her to Bed Her: Bradamante demands a husband who can hold his own against her in battle from dawn to dusk.
    • Though she's doing it more so she gets some choice over who she marries than any other reason. If she'd knowingly fought Ruggiero, she would almost certainly have let him win.
  • Break the Cutie: Early on, Angelica gets a Rage Against the Heavens about how the prequel was this for her. Immediately afterwards, she gets a Near-Rape Experience, is kidnapped by pirates, gets Chained to a Rock, has another Near-Rape Experience with her rescuer...
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Flirted with: Marfisa is quite attracted to Ruggiero (and his fighting ability) until it's revealed he's her brother.
  • Celibate Hero: Orlando used to be one before Boiardo got his hands on him in the prequel.
  • Character Development: Compared to how she was in the prequel, Marfisa is a lot less Ax-Crazy here
  • Cliffhanger: Frequently happens when Ariosto jumps between threads of his Kudzu Plot.
  • Cool Horse: Several. Ariosts personal coolness scale is Bayard (can understand human) > Brigliador > Frontin.
  • Converting for Love: Ruggiero and his sister Marfisa.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas
  • Chained to a Rock: Happens twice in Orlando Furioso. First, Angelica of Cathay is captured by the pirates of Ebuda, only to be stripped naked and exposed on a rock to a sea monster. After she's rescued, the pirates replace her with Olympia of Holland. Neither woman can conceal their modesty when their rescuer approaches.
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best: Ruggiero and Marfisa have some of these.
  • Deconstructor Fleet
  • Defiled Forever: Discussed and deconstructed with both Angelica and Guinevere.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: The description of Angelica finally falling in love is filled with imagery of melting.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Pretty much everybody who fell in love with Angelica, including the titular Orlando. After being romantically pursued by the world's greatest knights, the princess ends up falling in love with and marrying Medoro, a wounded mere foot-soldier.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: Ruthlessly attacked with Angelica, especially her using the devoted Sacripante (picked because he was the knight she could most easily control) entirely for her own ends.
  • Easy Evangelism: Lots of Muslim and Pagan warriors, kings and cities convert to Christianity after getting defeated by one of the protagonists. It's not even forced either: they impute the enemy's victory to their superior religion and willingly abandon theirs.
  • Epiphanic Prison: Atlante creates one of these to protect Ruggiero by trapping him and every knight capable of killing him in a labyrinth where they endlessly chase after phantom visions of Angelica. They escape when the real Angelica accidentally dispels it with her Anti-Magic ring. The results are not pretty.
  • Everyone Can See It: Agramant's entire army AND their prisoners are convinced Ruggiero and Marfisa are a couple...turns out they're each other's long-lost twin.
  • Gilded Cage
  • Half-Identical Twins: Bradamante and Ricardetto. The latter takes advantage of this to woo a princess who fell in love with his sister.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade
  • Ice Queen: Angelica, but it's not her fault (she drank from a magic spring).
  • If I Can't Have You...: When Bradamante thinks Ruggiero has left her, her plan swings between this and something along the lines of "I'll make him kill me and then he'll be sorry!" In the end, she can't bring herself to hurt him.
  • Jousting Lance: Bradamante has a magic one which de-horses anybody.
  • Kudzu Plot
  • Knight in Shining Armor
  • Knight Templar Parent: Atlante may be one of the few characters who isn't a knight, or actually a parent for that matter, but he still fits this trope by going to insane lengths to keep Ruggiero locked up for his own good, and even coming back from the dead to protect his charges.
  • Lady Land: Alessandretta, visited by Astolpho and Marfisa.
  • Lady of War: Bradamante and Marfisa.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters
  • Love Across Battle Lines: Ruggiero and Bradamante.
  • Love Makes You Crazy: The source of the titular fury.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Most of Ruggiero's and Bradamante's plot is caused by Ruggiero's guardian Atlante constantly trying to trap his former protegé in a different Gilded Cage to protect him from the dangerous life of a knight.
  • The Low Middle Ages
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: Bradamante and Ruggiero fall in love despite her being a Christian and him a Muslim, and they only marry after he converts to her religion. Even then their union is obstructed by Bradamante's parents.
  • Made a Slave: Marfisa's backstory.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Bradamante tries to do this to Marfisa, although the love triangle is mainly in her head... probably.
  • My Beloved Smother: Beatrice is this to Bradamante.
  • One of the Boys: Marfisa, in marked contrast to Bradamante, who is much more frequently described in feminine terms.
  • Named Weapons: The sword Durindana is only the most famous.
  • No Social Skills: Marfisa.
  • Pair the Spares: Leo may not get the girl but it's implied that Melissa is interested...
  • Raised by Wolves: After the Death by Childbirth of their mother Galaciella, who was exiled in a boat and crashed on an island, Marfisa is suckled by a lioness (her twin brother Ruggiero was saved by the wizard Atalante).
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Obviously. Marfisa, Rodomont, Sacripant, Gradass... (extend ad lib).
  • Samus Is a Girl: Bradamante does this to Fiordispina.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: The story begins (or continues) with Angelica running away after Charlemagne promises her as the prize to the knight who kills the most enemy soldiers.
  • Sea Monster
  • Shipper on Deck: Rinaldo's horse Baiardo for his master and Angelica.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: With a side order of Cursed with Awesome in the prequel: Angelica, a pagan, comes to Charlemagne's court specifically to cause havoc with her beauty, and succeeds quite entertainingly — and all too well. By the time Ariosto takes up the story, she's lost her brother and been kidnapped for her beauty more times than you really want to think about — all she wants to do is get home and be done with it all.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Mostly due to the popularity everywhere in Europe. Mar(f/ph)i(s/z)(a/e) - pick any, same for Roland/Orlando, Renaud/Rinaldo etc. etc.
  • Super Toughness: Orlando and Ferrau have invulnerable skin as hard as diamond, except in one location. Orlando in particular seems to wear armor only as a uniform, to make it clear to others that yes, he is a knight. Rodomont also counts - he wears a dragon hide.
  • Take That!: To cannons, complete with an Author Filibuster on the matter.
  • Take a Third Option: Angelica picks neither Orlando nor Scarpescant (to name only her two most prominent knightly suitors), but Medoro, an obscure foot-soldier.
  • The Casanova: Several characters consider Rinaldo to be this.
  • The Determinator: Many characters going out looking for their beloved become this; Bradamante, Rinaldo and Fiordiligi in particular.
  • Tomboy: Marfisa.
  • Unrequited Love: Orlando.
  • Unrequited Love Switcheroo: Angelica was in love with Rinaldo, who did not reciprocate. Then they both drank from magic springs that made Angelica hate him and Rinaldo fall madly in love with her. Oh, the beauty of irony!
  • Ur-Example: Of the hippogriff.
  • Violently Protective Girlfriend: Bradamante
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Fiordespina. After her illicit romance with Richardet is discovered, he gets rescued from execution... and no-one mentions what happens to her. Even worse if you take The Song of Roland as canon, where her father Marsilius says he doesn't have any living children...
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Ruggiero finds Angelica Chained to a Rock, is reminded of his girlfriend, rescues her... and tries to rape her.
  • White Magician Girl: Melissa acts like this throughout the story, although a story Rinaldo hears indicates a darker side.
  • Woman in White: Bradamante, though it's pure white armor.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Orlando gets dumped rather messily, having alienated everyone else he's close to for his girlfriend, and goes on a tearing-people-apart rampage.
  • World's Most Beautiful Woman: Angelica.
  • World's Strongest Man: Orlando.
  • Your Cheating Heart: There's a particularly jarring case of Values Dissonance when Rinaldo takes a break from chasing Angelica to go home and hug his wife and children. Orlando is also married (or at least engaged).


Example of: