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Friday, November 15, 2013

She, Armida (7)

Torquato Tasso harbored ambivalent feelings for Armida, a symbol of evil and temptation, but also of beauty and of woman's independence and power, that was a newly rediscovered value in Renaissance (see in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, very different from the role of women in Dante). Armida is, moreover, a character who concentrates in herself a very rich cultural texture: not only must she be able to compete against Ariosto's famous witch Alcina, but her words, as we will see, are full of quotes from the Divine Comedy.

One term will suffice to show this ambivalence. (a) In Gerusalemme Liberata, in the first verse of this octave Armida was simply called "la donzella," the young Lady; (b) in the manuscript of Gerusalemme Conquistata, here reported, Tasso even adds "alta donzella," a high, noble one; (c) but in the final printed version of GC, she will become the "empia - ungodly - donzella."

Also interesting is the reference to the natural phenomenon of comets, that quite often appears in Renaissance literature, and specifically in Tasso, as an ill omen.