The Saracens (Muslims) have invaded France, led by Agramant and Rodomont, the king of Algiers, and many other kings and warriors from all over the Muslim world. French king Charlemagne and the Christian forces have retreated to Paris. Meanwhile, Angelica, a princess from Cathay, has arrived in France and has turned Charlemagne’s peers into rivals for her favor.
Angelica then flees on horseback into a forest, hoping to reach a seaport and take a ship back to Cathay. She meets Rinaldo, a suitor she hates, and flees from him. He pursues her, and they come upon Ferro, a Saracen knight. While the knights fight over her, she escapes from both. The knights follow on Ferro’s horse, but part at a fork in the road. Rinaldo comes upon his horse, Braid, but it runs away from him.
Sacripant, king of Circassia, another Saracen, stops by a forest stream and sits lamenting his unrequited love for Angelica. Angelica, who has been sleeping nearby, approaches him and, wanting his protection, pretends to be in love with him. Sacripant, however, is quickly unhorsed by a knight in white armor, the female knight Bradamant, Rinaldo’s sister. While Angelica is consoling her champion, Rinaldo arrives, and while he and Sacripant fight, Angelica flees again. She meets a hermit who is actually an evil magician. He spirits Angelica off to a remote seacoast, where he intends to rape her. He then sends a sprite to tell the combatants that Angelica has gone off to Paris with Orlando. Rinaldo finds his horse, who had actually been leading him to Angelica, and sets off in pursuit.
Meanwhile, Bradamant learns that her love, the Saracen knight Rogero, has been captured by the evil magician Atlantes by means of a hippogriff and a shield that stuns its victims with its sunlike rays. She goes in search of him accompanied by Pinabel, a treacherous knight. Pinabel pushes her into a chasm, but she is saved by an overhanging branch. Recovering, she discovers herself in Merlin’s cave. Melissa, a seer, gives her a prophecy of her many glorious descendants and tells her where she can obtain a magic ring with which she can free Rogero from his enchantment.
Leaving there and finding the castle of Atlantes, Bradamant defeats the wizard, taking the hippogriff and shield and freeing all Atlantes’s prisoners, including Rogero. Rogero mounts the hippogriff, and it unexpectedly carries him off.
Rogero arrives at the island of the enchantress Alcina and remains there under her spell, forgetting Bradamant and living in sensual idleness. Melissa borrows Bradamant’s magic ring, disguises herself as Atlantes, and comes to Alcina’s island. She shames Rogero into action, and by use of the ring breaks the enchantment and frees Alcina’s prisoners, including the peer Astolpho, who had been transformed into a laurel bush.
Meanwhile, the aged hermit/magician is about to...
(The entire section is 1181 words.)