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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Is it her or not? (1)

Gardone Riviera

In stanzas 41-43 of canto 17 of Gerusalemme Conquistata a 'mysterious' female character suddenly appears among the Muslim armies ready to march towards Jerusalem and defend it. To the readers of Gerusalemme Liberata (see 17: 33 ff), a very well known personage: the witch Armida, determined to avenge herself on the Christian knight Rinaldo who has 'dared' reject her love after having been kidnapped by her. Just, in the shift from the Liberata (year 1581) to the Conquistata (1593) many things have changed.

A brief summary is all the more needed as the Armida's Love Story section has been skipped in our posts because it belongs to the pages missing in the manuscript. The knight's name has meanwhile become Riccardo/Richard, that however is a minor detail. But especially, in Gerusalemme Conquistata Armida is immobilized 'forever' with a symbolic chain by the two Christian volunteers who go and rescue Richard, so. . .  who is this warrior queen popping up? A certain Queen of Daphne, we are told.

The definitive exclusion of Armida from Richard's life clearly corresponds to an ideological choice of the senescent Tasso, who, by this, means to show that Vice is defeated by Virtue. Wow, great. It is also true, however, that moralizing writers -- see Dante to C. S. Lewis -- are usually freer in their literary activity than their own theories should allow them. In this case, as we will see in the next posts, the justification of the warrior queen's partaking in the battle is quite forced. And the suspicion remains that she is Armida, in one -- not even the last -- of her amazing disguises.