Matteo Maria Boiardo Analysis

Other literary forms

(European Poets and Poetry)

Though poetryprimarily Petrarchan sonnets, tercets, eclogues, and ottava rimawas his forte, Matteo Maria Boiardo (boh-YOR-doh) experimented freely with different forms of writing throughout his lively career. He translated such classical prose works as Xenophon’s Ellnika (date unknown; also known as Helenica; History of the Affairs of Greece, 1685) and Lucius Apuleius’s Metamorphoses (second century; The Golden Ass, 1566), though he concentrated more on story than style or accuracy. Late in life, in response to a renewed local interest in the comedies of Terence and Plautus, Boiardo attempted to write for the theater, producing his only known play, Il Timone (pb. c. 1487), which is considered inferior to his other work.


(European Poets and Poetry)

Matteo Maria Boiardo’s major accomplishment, the work for which he is best remembered, is his massivemore than four-thousand-stanza-longyet uncompleted epic, Orlando Innamorato. A complex poem with hundreds of named characters, composed over the last two decades of the author’s life, Orlando innamorato gathers several subject threads. The legends of Charlemagne and King Arthur are intertwined with myths and Renaissance sensibilities to produce an idealized, imaginary world wherein loyalty and betrayal, chivalry and dishonor, and romantic love and human lust are explored. Boiardo’s unfinished masterpiece, a Renaissance fantasy-thriller best seller, would inspire a sequel early in the following century from a more accomplished poet: the Orlando furioso (1516, 1521, 1532; English translation, 1591) of Ludovico Ariosto.

A secondary but perhaps longer-lasting achievement is Boiardo’s invention of what became the modern Tarot. Working off a fifty-six-card deck of playing cards introduced into Italy in the early fifteenth century, the poet added twenty-two trumps (later called the major arcana) and appended brief poetic descriptions to produce the seventy-eight-card deck that would in succeeding centuries be used to divine fortunes.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Cavallo, Jo Ann. Boiardo’s “Orlando innamorato”: An Ethics of Desire. Cranbury, N.J.: Associated University Presses, 1993.

Cavallo, Jo Ann, and Charles Ross, eds. Fortune and Romance: Boiardo in America. Tempe, Ariz.: Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, 1998.

Edwards, E. W. The “Orlando furioso” and Its Predecessor. 1924. Reprint. Cambridge, England: Norwood, 1978.

Kisacky, Julia M. Magic in Boiardo and Ariosto. New York: Peter Lang, 2000.

Looney, Dennis. Compromising the Classics: Romance Epic Narrative in the Italian Renaissance. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1996.

Marinelli, Peter. Ariosto and Boiardo: The Origins of “Orlando furioso.” Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1987.

Ross, Charles. “Justifying Violence: Bioardo’s Castle Cruel.” Philological Quarterly 73, no. 1 (1994).

Tommaso, Andrea di. Structure and Ideology in Boiardo’s “Orlando innamorato.” Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1972.

Tommaso, Andrea di, ed. and trans. Amorum Libri: The Lyric Poems of Matteo Maria Boiardo. Binghamton, N.Y.: Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, 1993.