Orlando, the renowned nephew of King Charlemagne and the mightiest paladin among his Twelve Peers. While Paris is under siege by the Saracens, he dreams an evil dream concerning his beloved Angelica, the beautiful princess of Cathay who has caused great dissension among Christian and pagan champions alike. Forsaking his knightly duties, he passes through the enemy lines and goes in search of the damsel. His quest takes him into many lands, and after many strange adventures he is driven mad by the distractions of love and jealousy. Throwing away his armor, he wanders naked and raving among savage beasts, so that all knights are filled with pity when they hear of his sad state. He recovers his sanity after Astolpho, an English knight, finds the wits of his deranged friend in a vial in the region of the moon. His mind restored, Orlando once more engages in valorous deeds and champions the Christian cause. One of his feats is the rescue of Rogero, a gallant Saracen knight now converted to Christianity, who has been cast away on a desert island.
Angelica, the princess of Cathay, who by her great beauty bewitches Orlando, Rinaldo, Ferrau, and Rogero, but in the end marries none of these paladins. Her true love is Medoro, a Saracen knight of lowly birth whom she nurses back to health after he has been wounded in battle. The cause of many misfortunes to others, she herself falls victim to an enchanter’s magic and is carried to the island of Ebuda, where she is about to be offered as a sacrifice to a giant orc when she is saved by Rogero, the Saracen knight who forgets his own loved Bradamant and falls under the spell of Angelica’s charms. To keep her from harm, Rogero gives her a magic ring, but faithless Angelica uses it to make herself invisible and flees from him. After she has saved the life of Medoro, she returns with him to Cathay.
Rinaldo (rih-NAHL-doh), one of King Charlemagne’s Twelve Peers, second only to Orlando in loyalty, bravery, and knightly honor. His chivalric adventures are wonderful and strange but not always related to his quest for Angelica, whom he finally disdains. On several occasions, he is called on to engage in single combat for the honor of the king. Rejoicing when he learns that Rogero has received Christian baptism, he promises the hand of his sister Bradamant to the Saracen hero. Later, he withstands the wishes of his parents and champions the right of Bradamant to marry her beloved.
Rogero (roh-ZHEH-roh), a noble Saracen knight in love with Bradamant, the sister of Rinaldo. He has many marvelous adventures, which include his rescue by Bradamant from the enchanted castle in which Atlantes, a magician, holds him prisoner; his ride on a flying hippogryph; his slaying of the giantess Eriphilia; his rescue of Angelica from the monstrous orc; his forgetting of Bradamant while he woos and loses Angelica; his victory over Mandricardo; his sojourn on a desert island; and his Christian baptism. He is finally restored to his beloved Bradamant. At the feast celebrating the wedding of the happy couple, envoys appear to make Rogero king of Bulgaria. Rogero and Bradamant, according to the poet, were the ancestors of the noble d’Este family of Ferrara.
Bradamant (BRA-dah-mahnt), a maiden knight, the sister of Rinaldo and later the wife of Rogero. In this version of the chivalric story, she is always the romantic heroine, fighting on the side of right, vanquishing evil knights, and rescuing the unfortunate. Her steadfastness in her love for Rogero, the Saracen champion, contrasts sharply with the fickleness of Angelica, while her prowess on the field of battle rivals that of the bravest knights, including her own Rogero, who wins her from his princely rival after defeating her in single combat. The story ends with an account of the happy wedding festivities of Bradamant and Rogero, now turned Christian.
Astolpho (ah-STOHL-foh), the English...
(The entire section is 1712 words.)