Ludovico Ariosto

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Ludovico Ariosto
Vincenzo Catena 016 detail.jpg
Ariosto, detail of votive painting Madonna with saints Joseph, John, Catherine, Louis of Toulouse and Lodovico Ariosto by Vincenzo Catena, 1512, Berlin
Born8 September 1474
Reggio Emilia, Duchy of Modena and Reggio
Died6 July 1533 (aged 58)
Ferrara, Duchy of Ferrara
Period Renaissance
Genre Epic poetry
Subject Chivalry
Notable worksSatire, Commedie
Orlando Furioso

Ludovico Ariosto ( /ˌæriˈɒst/ , also US: /ˌɑːr-,-ˈs-,ˌɑːriˈɔːst/ , [1] [2] [3] [4] Italian:  [ludoˈviːko aˈrjɔsto, - ariˈɔsto]; 8 September 1474 – 6 July 1533) was an Italian poet. He is best known as the author of the romance epic Orlando Furioso (1516). The poem, a continuation of Matteo Maria Boiardo's Orlando Innamorato , describes the adventures of Charlemagne, Orlando, and the Franks as they battle against the Saracens with diversions into many sideplots. Ariosto composed the poem in the ottava rima rhyme scheme and introduced narrative commentary throughout the work.


Ariosto also coined the term "humanism" (in Italian, umanesimo) [5] for choosing to focus upon the strengths and potential of humanity, rather than only upon its role as subordinate to God. This led to Renaissance humanism.

Birth and early life

Access to the villa where Ariosto was born Mauriziano ingresso reggio emilia.jpg
Access to the villa where Ariosto was born

Ariosto was born in Reggio nell’Emilia, where his father Niccolò Ariosto was commander of the citadel. He was the oldest of 10 children and was seen as the successor to the patriarchal position of his family. From his earliest years, Ludovico was very interested in poetry, but he was obliged by his father to study law.

After five years of law, Ariosto was allowed to read classics under Gregorio da Spoleto. Ariosto's studies of Greek and Latin literature were cut short by Spoleto's move to France to tutor Francesco Sforza. Shortly after this, Ariosto's father died.

Education and patronage

Memorial statue and park, Ferrara. Ludovico Ariosto statue - Ferrara, Italy.JPG
Memorial statue and park, Ferrara.

After the death of his father, Ludovico Ariosto was compelled to forgo his literary occupations and take care of his family, whose affairs were in disarray. Despite his family obligations, Ariosto managed to write some comedies in prose as well as lyrical pieces. Some of these attracted the notice of Cardinal Ippolito d'Este, who took the young poet under his patronage and appointed him one of the gentlemen of his household. Este compensated Ariosto poorly for his efforts; the only reward he gave the poet for Orlando Furioso, dedicated to him, was the question, "Where did you find so many stories, Master Ludovico?" Ariosto later said that the cardinal was ungrateful, that he deplored the time which he spent under his yoke, and that if he received some small pension, it was not to reward him for his poetry – which the prelate despised – but for acting as a messenger.[ citation needed ]

Ludovico Ariosto and Leonardo da Vinci shared a patron in Cardinal Ippolito d'Este's older sister the Marchioness Isabella d’Este, the "First Lady of the Renaissance." Isabella d’Este appears in Ludovico's masterpiece, Orlando Furioso . She also appears in Leonardo's, "Sketch for a Portrait of Isabella d’Este," at the Louvre.

Portrait of Isabella d'Este Leonardo da Vinci 1499-1500 Da Vinci Isabella d'Este.jpg
Portrait of Isabella d'Este Leonardo da Vinci 1499–1500

A statue no less jocund, no less bright,
Succeeds, and on the writing is impressed;
Lo! Hercules’ daughter, Isabella hight,
In whom Ferrara deems city blest,
Much more because she first shall see the light
Within its circuit, than for all the rest
Which kind and favouring Fortune in the flow
Of rolling years, shall on that town bestow.

Orlando Furioso, Canto XLII.

The cardinal went to Hungary in 1518, and wished Ariosto to accompany him. The poet excused himself, pleading ill health, his love of study, and the need to care for his elderly mother. His excuses were not well-received, and he was denied even an interview. Ariosto and d'Este got into a heated argument, and Ariosto was promptly dismissed from service. [6] [7]

New patronage and diplomatic career

Titian, A Man with a Quilted Sleeve, long believed to be Ludovico Ariosto Titian - Portrait of a man with a quilted sleeve.jpg
Titian, A Man with a Quilted Sleeve , long believed to be Ludovico Ariosto
Ariosto's play I suppositi [it] was first published in verse form in 1551. I Suppositi (1551).JPG
Ariosto's play I suppositi  [ it ] was first published in verse form in 1551.

The cardinal's brother, Alfonso, duke of Ferrara, now took Ariosto under his patronage. By then, Ariosto had already distinguished himself as a diplomat, chiefly on the occasion of two visits to Rome as ambassador to Pope Julius II. The fatigue of one of these journeys brought on an illness from which he never recovered, and on his second mission he was nearly killed by order of the Pope, who happened at the time to be in conflict with Alfonso.[ citation needed ]

On account of the war, his salary of 84 crowns a year was suspended, and it was withdrawn altogether after the peace. Because of this, Ariosto asked the duke either to provide for him, or to allow him to seek employment elsewhere. He was appointed to the province of Garfagnana, then without a governor, situated on the Apennines, an appointment he held for three years. The province was distracted by factions and bandits, the governor had not the requisite means to enforce his authority and the duke did little to support his minister. Ariosto's government satisfied both the sovereign and the people given over to his care, however; indeed, there is a story about a time when he was walking alone and fell into the company of a group of bandits, the chief of which, on discovering that his captive was the author of Orlando Furioso, apologized for not having immediately shown him the respect due his rank.

In 1508 Ariosto's play Cassaria appeared, and the next year I suppositi was first acted in Ferrara and ten years later in the Vatican. A prose edition was published in Rome in 1524, and the first verse edition was published at Venice in 1551. The play was translated by George Gascoigne and acted at Gray's Inn in London in 1566 and published in 1573, which was later used by Shakespeare as a source for The Taming of the Shrew .

In 1516, the first version of the Orlando Furioso in 40 cantos, was published at Ferrara.

The third and final version of the Orlando Furioso, in 46 cantos, appeared on 8 September 1532.

Poetic style

Statue of the poet in Reggio Emilia Ariosto.jpg
Statue of the poet in Reggio Emilia

Throughout Ariosto's writing are narratorial comments dubbed by Dr. Daniel Javitch as "Cantus Interruptus". Javitch's term refers to Ariosto's narrative technique to break off one plot line in the middle of a canto, only to pick it up again in another, often much later, canto. Javitch argues that while many critics have assumed Ariosto does this so as to build narrative tension and keep the reader turning pages, the poet in reality defuses narrative tension because so much time separates the interruption and the resumption. By the time the reader gets to the continuation of the story, he or she has often forgotten or ceased to care about the plot and is usually wrapped up in another plot. Ariosto does this, Javitch argues, to undermine "man's foolish but persistent desire for continuity and completion". Ariosto uses it throughout his works. [8]

For example, in Canto II, stanza 30, of Orlando Furioso , the narrator says:

But I, who still pursue a varying tale,
Must leave awhile the Paladin, who wages
A weary warfare with the wind and flood;
To follow a fair virgin of his blood.

Some have attributed this piece of metafiction as one component of the "Sorriso ariostesco" or Ariosto's smile, the wry sense of humor that Ariosto adds to the text.

In explaining this humor, Thomas Greene, in Descent from Heaven, says:

The two persistent qualities of Ariosto's language are first, serenity – the evenness and self-contented assurance with which it urbanely flows, and second, brilliance – the Mediterranean glitter and sheen which neither dazzle nor obscure but confer on every object its precise outline and glinting surface. Only occasionally can Ariosto's language truly be said to be witty, but its lightness and agility create a surface which conveys a witty effect. Too much wit could destroy even the finest poem, but Ariosto's graceful brio is at least as difficult and for narrative purposes more satisfying.

Thomas Greene, The Descent from Heaven, a Study in Epic Continuity

Lodovico Ariosto is featured in the novelization of Assassin's Creed: Revelations (the novel describes Ezio's journey to Masyaf, his marriage to Sofia Sartor, the birth of his children and his retirement in more detail) as an Assassin. When Ezio retires after the events of the game, in 1513, he gives his position of Mentor to Lodovico.

Related Research Articles

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Ruggiero (character) leading character in the Italian romantic epics Orlando innamorato by Matteo Maria Boiardo and Orlando furioso by Ludovico Ariosto

Ruggiero is a leading character in the Italian romantic epics Orlando innamorato by Matteo Maria Boiardo and Orlando furioso by Ludovico Ariosto. Ruggiero had originally appeared in the twelfth-century French epic, Aspremont, reworked by Andrea da Barberino as the chivalric romance Aspramonte. In Boiardo and Ariosto's works, he is supposed to be the ancestor of Boiardo and Ariosto's patrons, the Este family of Ferrara, and he plays a major role in the two poems.

Brunello is a character in the Italian romantic epics Orlando innamorato by Matteo Maria Boiardo and Orlando furioso by Ludovico Ariosto. Brunello is a dwarf and a cunning thief who works for the Saracen army of King Agramante. He first appears in the second book of Orlando innamorato where Agramante intends to invade Europe and defeat the Emperor Charlemagne. He has been told he has no chance of success unless he has the young warrior Ruggiero on his side, but Ruggiero has been hidden in a secret garden by the wizard Atlante and the only way to reach him is by using the magic ring belonging to Princess Angelica. Brunello undertakes to steal it and sets off for the fortress of Albracca where not only does he manage to snatch the ring but also robs King Sacripante of his horse and the female warrior Marfisa of her sword. Marfisa sets off in pursuit but Brunello evades her and gives the ring to Agramante, who rewards him with a kingdom. The Saracens find Ruggiero at Mount Carena where they see him behind a wall of glass. However, the wall is too steep and slippery to climb, so Brunello suggests they trick Ruggiero out. He gets them to play war games in the plain beneath the mountain. Ruggiero, with his inherent love of combat, cannot resist and in spite of Atlante's pleas he leaves the garden and begs Brunello for his horse and armour. Brunello only agrees if he will join their expedition against France, to which Ruggiero happily consents.


Marfisa is a character in the Italian romantic epics Orlando innamorato by Matteo Maria Boiardo and Orlando Furioso by Ludovico Ariosto. She is the sister of Ruggiero but was separated from him in early childhood. She becomes queen of India and fights as a warrior for the Saracens, taking part in the siege of the fortress Albracca until her sword is stolen by Brunello. She falls in love with Ruggiero, unaware who he is until Atlantes reveals their background. Learning that her parents were Christian, she converts to the faith and joins the Emperor Charlemagne's army against the Saracens.

Sacripante is a character in the Italian romantic epics Orlando innamorato by Matteo Maria Boiardo and Orlando furioso by Ludovico Ariosto. Sacripante is the King of Circassia and one of the leading Saracen knights. He is passionately in love with Angelica and fights to defend her when she is besieged in the fortress of Albracca. His horse Frontino is stolen from underneath him by the cunning thief Brunello. In Orlando furioso he offers to become the wandering Angelica's protector but she evades him.

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Agolant or Agolante is a fictional character in Medieval and Renaissance romantic epics dealing with the Matter of France, including Orlando innamorato by Matteo Maria Boiardo and Orlando furioso by Ludovico Ariosto. He is a Saracen king from Africa.

Brandimarte is a fictional character of the Matter of France. He appears in Matteo Maria Boiardo's Orlando Innamorato and Ludovico Ariosto's Orlando Furioso. He is a Saracen knight who was baptized by Orlando and became his loving friend. He took part in the Siege of Biserta. Orlando, Oliver, and Brandimarte were the three companions who took part in the final combat on Lampedusa, where he was killed by Gradasso.

Zerbino is a fictional character of the Matter of France. He appears in Orlando Furioso, the 16th-century Italian romantic epic by Ludovico Ariosto. He is the son of the King of Scotland, Duke of Ross, and brother of Ginevra. He takes part in a joust in Galicia, where Isabella, daughter of the King of Galicia, falls in love with him. In combat with the pagans outside Paris, he pursues Cloridano and Medoro. One of his Scottish knights stabs Medoro. Zerbino leaves Medoro for dead, but Medoro is later nursed back to health by Angelica. Zerbino is betrayed by Gabrina, and is about to be executed when he is rescued by Orlando and Isabella. After Orlando goes mad, Zerbino goes in search of him. Zerbino finds Orlando's arms and armour, which he has discarded in his madness. Mandricardo does battle with Zerbino and wins the sword Durendal from him.

Albracca is a major city of Cathay in the Italian romantic epics Orlando innamorato by Matteo Maria Boiardo and Orlando furioso by Ludovico Ariosto. In the story it is the walled city and fortress where Angelica and the knights she has befriended make their stand when attacked by Agrican, emperor of Tartary.

Angelica and Medoro two characters from the 16th-century Italian epic by Ludovico Ariosto

Angelica and Medoro was a popular subject for Romantic painters, composers and writers from the 16th until the 19th century. Angelica and Medoro are two characters from the 16th-century Italian epic Orlando Furioso by Ludovico Ariosto. Angelica was an Asian princess at the court of Charlemagne who fell in love with the Saracen knight Medoro, and eloped with him to China. While in the original work, Orlando was the main character, many adaptations focused purely or mainly on the love between Angelica and Medoro, with the favourite scenes in paintings being Angelica nursing Medoro, and Angelica carving their names into a tree, a scene which was the theme of at least 25 paintings between 1577 and 1825.

The Paradise of Fools is a literary and historical topic and theme found in many Christian works. A traditional train of thought held that it is the place where fools or idiots were sent after death: intellectually incompetent to be held responsible for their deeds, they cannot be punished for them in hell, atone for them in purgatory, or be rewarded for them in heaven. It is usually to be read allegorically, though what precisely is allegorized differs from author to author, and often its location is in the lunar sphere.


  1. "Ariosto". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2014. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
  2. "Ariosto". Collins English Dictionary . HarperCollins . Retrieved 31 May 2019.
  3. "Ariosto, Ludovico" (US) and "Ariosto, Ludovico". Oxford Dictionaries . Oxford University Press . Retrieved 31 May 2019.
  4. "Ariosto". Merriam-Webster Dictionary . Retrieved 31 May 2019.
  5. Etymology Online: Humanist
    1580s, "student of the classical humanities," from Middle French humaniste (16c.), formed on model of Italian umanista "student of human affairs or human nature," coined by Italian poet Lodovicio Ariosto (1474–1533), from Latin humanus "human" (see human; also see humanism). Philosophical sense is from 1903.
  6. Bondanella, Peter; et al. (2001). Cassell Dictionary Italian Literature. Bloomsbury Academic. ISBN   0304704644.
  7. Peter Bondanella; Julia Conway Bondanella (18 March 1999). Cassell Dictionary Italian Literature. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 20–. ISBN   978-1-4411-5075-2.
  8. Daniel Javitch, Cantus interruptus in the 'Orlando Furioso', Modern language notes, 95 (1980)