115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Enchanted Nature and Disruptive Forces in Ludovico Ariosto's Orlando Furioso

This paper is composed of two main sections. First, I analyze nature in its most harmonious state by taking a closer look at Canto VI of the Orlando Furioso (Alcina's Island), which is not just a natural scene but is a locus amoenus: an idyllic and serene setting reminiscent of the pastoral tradition. Next, I will analyze the scene in the Orlando Furioso where Orlando, in the throes of his jealous rage, disrupts and destroys the forest. 


In this paper I hope to demonstrate the breadth of the different ways in which Ariosto treats nature. I will do this by contrasting two crucial scenes in this epic poem. The first of these scenes is the idyllic natural island that is inhabited by Alcina. Here, nature bears the same deceptive traits as the sorceress that inhabits this land. Although this natural setting seems like an earthly paradise or a locus amoenus, in fact there is something about this natural setting that indicates the impending deception that Ruggiero will be the victim of. In this section, I analyze the premonitory role of nature as Astolfo is introduced into the poem as the myrtle bush. This particular moment is the first instance that I will consider when nature is effectively corrupted.

The second half of this essay will, instead, focus on Orlando’s blind rage and how this sentiment is reversed onto the natural world. In a way, the forest is for Orlando like a canvas—a canvas on which he paints his every frustration, thus rendering the word furioso tangible and visibly accessible to the readers.

I also argue that Ariosto’s approach to the natural world is representative of the geo-political situation that characterized Italy in the year 1532. Through the advancement of the crisis in Italy, and through the revolution of artillery, Italy became—in Ariosto’s eyes—the embodiment of corruption. The changes that were taking place in society effectively meant a corruption of the old values that had previously bound men and society together in one cohesive unit. As such, I hope that throughout this essay I will successfully demonstrate how we might draw a parallel between nature and history when reading the Orlando Furioso. In a way, we might consider nature as a tool that Ariosto engages to represent and embody the corruption that he has been witnessing in his very own society. One might even go as far as claiming that nature is the stage, the stage on which Ariosto plays out his frustrations and his worries, all of which are the inevitable result of a society that is progressing faster than anyone can accept or understand.

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