Authors: Ludovico Ariosto

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Italian poet

Author Works


Orlando furioso, 1516, 1521, 1532 (English translation, 1591)

Satire, wr. 1517-1525, pb. 1534 (Ariosto’s Satyres, 1608)

Cinque canti, 1545


La cassaria, pr., pb. 1508, revised pb. 1530 (The Coffer, 1975)

I suppositi, pr. 1509 (The Pretenders, 1566)

I studenti, wr. 1519 (completed by Gabriele Ariosto as La scolastica, pb. 1547, and completed by Virginio Ariosto as L’imperfetta, pr. c. 1556; The Students, 1975)

Il negromante, wr. 1520, revised pr., pb. 1529 (The Necromancer, 1975)

La Lena, pr. 1528 (Lena, 1975)

The Comedies of Ariosto, pb. 1975 (includes the above)


Ludovico Ariosto (ahr-ee-AW-stoh), born in Reggio, Italy, in 1474, was destined to become one of the greatest of Italian poets. His father intended to have him follow the legal profession, and not until Ariosto had finished five years of legal training did his father relent enough to permit the young man to study his first love, classical literature, under the famous Gregorio da Spoleto. His father’s death, however, placed responsibility for the Ariosto family on the shoulders of young Ludovico, and he was to abandon his studies for several years. Beginning about 1495, young Ariosto achieved some fame in his own land as a writer of comedies. About 1512 two of his plays were seen on the stage by Ippolito, Cardinal d’Este, who became the young writer’s patron and appointed him his emissary to Pope Julius II.{$I[AN]9810000671}{$I[A]Ariosto, Ludovico}{$I[geo]ITALY;Ariosto, Ludovico}{$I[tim]1474;Ariosto, Ludovico}

Ludovico Ariosto

(Library of Congress)

Ariosto’s connection with the powerful cardinal lasted until 1517; it ended when Ariosto refused to accompany the cardinal to Hungary and gave as excuses his own ill health, his mother’s advanced age, and his literary work and study. At that time the cardinal’s brother, Alfonso, duke of Ferrara, became Ariosto’s patron and benefactor. In the duke’s employment, Ariosto was appointed governor of Garfagnana, a remote district high in the Apennines, a post the poet retained for three years. Upon being relieved of this difficult and even dangerous post, Ariosto settled in Ferrara, where he spent his time writing comedies, directing his own plays on the stage of a theater he designed and built, and working on his great narrative poem, Orlando furioso, which was completed to his satisfaction in 1532, only a year before his death.

Orlando furioso, Ariosto’s great masterpiece, was begun in 1503. Forty of the forty-six cantos were first published in 1516. The poem, written in ottava rima, has often been considered the greatest literary achievement of the Italian Renaissance, and it is usually regarded as the greatest of the poetic romances. The poem is based on a romance of chivalry written by Matteo Maria Boiardo, Orlando innamorato, left unfinished at the poet’s death. The central episode of Ariosto’s poem, the jealous frenzy of Orlando, follows the subject matter and uses the characters found in Boiardo’s poem. The setting of Orlando furioso is Paris besieged by the Saracens, and the poem ends, as all good Christian literature of the time did, with the success of the Christians in repulsing the pagans. Of interest in connection with Ariosto’s patronage by Cardinal d’Este and the duke of Ferrara is the fact that Ariosto, in his poem, emphasizes two characters–Ruggiero and Bradamante–who were said to be the ancestors of his patrons.

Within a half century of his death, Ariosto’s poem was translated into a dozen languages. Its popularity and influence are indicated also by the fact that its translation into Spanish was mentioned by Miguel de Cervantes in Don Quixote (1605) and that it was one of the influences on Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene (1590-1595).

By comparison with Orlando furioso, Ariosto’s other writings are insignificant. His five comedies, one of which he left unfinished, are obviously modeled after the work of the Roman playwrights Plautus and Terence. The poetry in Latin is not as good as that written by other Italian authors of the time. Ariosto’s Satyres, based on the poetry of Horace, are important because they indicate Ariosto’s independence of religion. They also indicate a reluctance for marital ties, although Ariosto did marry late in life the widow of Tito Strozzi, an Italian poet of the time. Gabriele Ariosto, Ludovico’s brother, characterized the famous poet as pious, kind, sympathetic, and free of ambition. Ariosto characterized himself by the epigram placed over the door of his house, a statement that the owner knew the house was small but was satisfied because he had bought it with his own money. He died in Ferrara on July 6, 1533.

BibliographyAscoli, Albert R. Ariosto’s Bitter Harmony: Crisis and Evasion in the Italian Renaissance. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1987. Ascoli’s close reading of Orlando furioso uncovers Ariosto’s “poetics of concord and discord,” the evasion of historical crises, and the relationship of this “text of crisis” to others of the genre.Brand, C. P. Ludovico Ariosto: A Preface to the Orlando Furioso. Edinburgh, Scotland: Edinburgh University Press, 1974. An excellent overview of Ariosto’s life and works. Contains full chapters on life, lyrics, satires, and dramas while concentrating on a thematic study of the Orlando furioso. Emphasizes the opposition of love and war. Contains brief bibliographies for each chapter and two indexes.Carroll, Clare. The “Orlando Furioso”: A Stoic Comedy. Tempe, Ariz.: MRTS, 1997. Analyzes the poem’s stoic view of harmony through a dialectic of contradictory meanings (wisdom through madness, juxtaposition of excess and restraint) and the balance of the poem’s structure. The poem is envisioned as “a miniature animated cosmos,” an organism ordered yet changing, accomplished through the imagery of circle, wheel, ring, and tondo.Croce, Benedetto. Ariosto, Shakespeare, and Corneille. Translated by Douglas Ainslie. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1920. Reprint. New York: Russell & Russell, 1966. An extremely influential early modern essay on Orlando furioso. Rebutting the traditional criticism, Croce argues that the work achieves unity through the artist’s control of point of view and style, a unity which ultimately reflects the rhythm and harmony of God’s creation.Finucci, Valeria, ed. Renaissance Transactions: Ariosto and Tasso. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1999. Collection of six articles on Orlando furioso by Ronald Martinez (Rinaldo’s journey as epic and romance), Daniel Javitch (Ariosto’s use of arms and love), Katherine Hoffmann (his juxtaposition of honor and avarice in the criticism of courtly society), Finucci (the problematic masculinity of Jocondo and Astolfo), Eric Nicholson (early theatrical adaptations), and Constance Jordan (the woman warrior Bradamante).Gardner, Edmund G. The King of Court Poets: Ariosto. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1906. Reprint. New York: Haskell House, 1968. Gardner’s full-length biography contains a wealth of material and is easy to read. He includes a social, cultural, and political background of Ariosto’s life and work. Contains a dated bibliography, a useful index, and three foldout genealogies of the houses of Ariosto, Este, and Pio.Griffin, Robert. Ludovico Ariosto. Boston: Twayne, 1974. Good introductory work on Ariosto, beginning with a chapter on his life and ending with a survey of criticism. Also contains chapters on lyrics, satires, dramas, and a thematic analysis of Orlando furioso. Argues that the unity of the poem rests on man’s inability to accept the will of fortune in a world beyond his limited comprehension. Contains chronology, notes, selected bibliography with brief annotations, and two indexes.Javitch, Daniel. Proclaiming a Classic: The Canonization of “Orlando furioso.” Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1991. Studies sixteenth century reception of the poem and how readers determined its literary value.MacPhail, Eric. “Ariosto and the Prophetic Moment.” MLN 116, no. 1 (January, 2001): 30-53. This essay, which looks at the historical context of Ariosto’s epic poem, helps readers understand the times in which he wrote.Murtaugh, Kristen Olson. Ariosto and the Classical Simile. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1980. Examines the use of similes in Ariosto’s works.Rodini, Robert J., and Salvatore Di Maria. Ludovico Ariosto: An Annotated Bibliography of Criticism, 1956-1980. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1984. Contains 930 entries from journals, monographs, essays in books, North American dissertations, and books. Although meant primarily for scholars, the entry synopses are excellent and can easily be skimmed. Arranged by author but also contains detailed subject index and an index by works treated.Wiggins, Peter De Sa. Figures in Ariosto’s Tapestry: Character and Design in the “Orlando Furioso.” Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986. Agreeing with Galileo’s early comments on the psychological consistency of Ariosto’s characters and his exact knowledge of human nature, Wiggins suggests that their complex inner lives are universal human types. This invisible interior world, at odds with an exterior world of folly and depravity, is a major theme of the work. Excellent index and notes for each chapter.Wiggins, Peter De Sa. The Satires of Ludovico Ariosto: A Renaissance Autobiography. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1976. A bilingual text, using the Italian original edited by Cesare Segre with Wiggins’ clear prose translations on the facing page. Each satire is placed in biographical and historical context with its own separate preface and notes. Argues that the narrator of the satires is an idealized poet courtier in typical situations rather than a factual mirror of Ariosto himself. Suggests that the satires share similarities with Orlando furioso: the theme of illusion and reality, the ironic humor, and the use of a dramatic persona as narrator.
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