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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

She, Armida (19)

Armida's autobiography, though a fake one, is extremely interesting because of its highly cultural allusions, especially with reference to Dante. Here, the sad story of her planned marriage quite clearly recalls the fifth Canto of Inferno: Francesca Da [ = from the city of] Rimini, who had been told she would marry the handsome Paolo, but she then discovered that the actual spouse would be Paolo's brother, nicknamed Gian Ciotto, "Jack the Lame."

In fact, Dante doesn't tell the whole story. He simply reports that Francesca and Paolo were sister- and brother-in-law, and lovers, without mentioning her husband's name. And he says that they were killed together, but not by whom. This has recently led the skilled Dante scholar and writer Francesco Fioretti to make a detective story out of it, La profezia perduta di Dante [Dante's Lost Prophecy]. The 'official' version, i.e. that broadcast by the 14th century writer Giovanni Boccaccio, the author of Decameron, is that Gian Ciotto himself killed the two lovers one day while they were having sex. Most illustrators show the two being attacked by him as they are reading a book (misinterpreting Inferno 5: 138); just the painter Beppe Madaudo followed Boccaccio's description in his plates for the Divine Comedy, 1982.

Francesca Da Rimini's morbid and tragic story would inspire Romantic writers and artists, all the way up to the newly-born Italian cinema at the beginning of the 20th century.

A consideration added by Tasso is that Armida's fiancé's physical ugliness expresses his inner baseness: a classical/Renaissance topos, that however is not much in line with Christian anthropology. In fact, as we will again see later on, Tasso was morally split between the Renaissance values (see Ariosto, Nietzsche) and the standard Christian values, looking for un-easy solutions.