Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Whatcha gonna do now, Tancred? (1)

A performance in Rome, 2012


The posts on Gerusalemme Conquistata in this blog are based on Tasso's handwritten text, where however one third of the pages, more or less, have gone lost. Among the episodes that have been passed over, there is the most famous one (together with Rinaldo/Riccardo in Armida's garden): The nocturnal duel between Tancred and Clorinda.

He, the Christian champion, is secretly in love with her, the Muslim heroine -- so secretly, in fact, that not even she knows about it. Clorinda takes part in a foray into the Christian camp. Tancred does not, and cannot, recognize her; he challenges her, and after a fierce duel just outside the walls of Jerusalem, wounds her mortally. This is not the sole surprise. Not much time before, Clorinda had discovered that she was the daughter of the Christian King of Ethiopia; but immediately after her birth, she had been entrusted to a Muslim servant because, since her skin was perfectly white, her mother feared she might be accused of adultery. So, at the point of death, when Tancred unties her helmet, Clorinda asks him to baptize her.

He obeys. She will even appear to him in a dream to thank him, but Tancred is tormented by guilt. And now, he is about to face his worst nightmare.