Hopeless Love : Boiardo, Ariosto, and Narratives of Queer Female Desire [1 ed.] 9781442697447, 9780802096845

Hopeless Love uncovers the diffusion of queer female desire in Italian literature and promotes a better understanding of

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Hopeless Love : Boiardo, Ariosto, and Narratives of Queer Female Desire [1 ed.]
 9781442697447, 9780802096845

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HOPELESS LOVE Boiardo, Ariosto, and Narratives of Queer Female Desire

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Hopeless Love Boiardo, Ariosto, and Narratives of Queer Female Desire

U N I V E R S I T Y O F TO R O N T O P R E S S Toronto Buffalo London

© University of Toronto Press Incorporated 2009 Toronto Buffalo London Printed in Canada ISBN 978-0-8020-9684-5

Printed on acid-free paper Toronto Italian Studies

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication DeCoste, Mary-Michelle Hopeless love: Boiardo, Ariosto, and narratives of queer female desire/ Mary-Michelle DeCoste. (Toronto Italian studies) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-8020-9684-5 1. Boiardo, Matteo Maria, 1440 or 41–1494 – Criticism and interpretation. 2. Ariosto, Lodovico, 1474–1533 – Criticism and interpretation. 3. Lesbianism in literature. 4. Italian literature – History and criticism. I. Title. II. Series: Toronto Italian studies PQ6046.S49D43 2009



This book has been published with the help of a grant from the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, through the Aid to Scholarly Publications Program, using funds provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. University of Toronto Press acknowledges the financial assistance to its publishing program of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council.

University of Toronto Press acknowledges the financial support for its publishing activities of the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program (BPIDP).

for David

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Acknowledgments Introduction



1 Warrior Woman / Lovely Lady 2 To Disguise and Deceive 3 Stopping without Ending 4 Concluding the Tale


37 53


5 Queer Female Desire in Cinquecento Comedy Epilogue Notes


Bibliography Index





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The debts I incurred in writing this book go wide and deep and are too numerous ever to repay. In its earliest manifestation Hopeless Love was a dissertation I wrote at Cornell University. I am very grateful for the intellectual training and the early support given to me by Marilyn Migiel, Bill Kennedy, and John Najemy. I would like to thank Marilyn in particular, who has served me as a mentor and as a model of engaged and ethically motivated teaching and research. Fellow graduate students Natasha Chang and Sarah Benson, who read the graduate seminar paper that became the germ of this book, were early sounding-boards for my ideas. My colleagues at the University of Guelph have provided me with a stimulating and supportive professional home where I have been able to conclude the project begun more years ago than I care to remember. Laura Giannetti and Guido Ruggiero hosted the Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque Interdisciplinary Symposium in Miami at a crucial moment in the writing of this book. The energy and the lively conversations I enjoyed at the conference helped me to finish it. My students at Cornell University, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and the University of Guelph have pushed me to be clear about what I am saying. I hope I have not failed them too much here. I gratefully acknowledge permission to reproduce parts of this book that appear elsewhere. Part of chapter 4 originally appeared as ‘Knots of Desire: Female Homoeroticism in Orlando Furioso XXV’ in Queer Italia, ed. Gary Cestaro (New York: Palgrave, 2004) 55–69. Another part of chapter 4 will appear as ‘Performing Masculinity in the Land of the Man-Killing Women,’ Early Modern Masculinities, ed. Gerry Milligan and Jane Tylus (Toronto: Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, forthcoming).

x Acknowledgments

Ron Schoeffel at the University of Toronto Press has guided me expertly through the publishing process. The anonymous readers engaged by the University of Toronto Press made excellent suggestions and saved me from many errors, as has copy editor Joan Bulger. All remaining errors are my own. My final words of thanks go to my parents, Robert and Mary DeCoste, for their support, even when I don’t know what I’m doing. January 2009

HOPELESS LOVE Boiardo, Ariosto, and Narratives of Queer Female Desire

We cannot, of course, be denied an end; it is one of the great charms of books that they have to end. Frank Kermode, The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction, page 23

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About halfway through Ludovico Ariosto’s romance epic, Orlando furioso (1532), Princess Fiordispina comes upon the sleeping maiden warrior Bradamante, mistakes her for a man, and immediately falls in love with her. Upon hearing the truth of Bradamante’s sex Fiordispina continues to try to seduce the unwilling warrior, but she despairs of ever satisfying her desire, declaring it to be unprecedented and impossible. When Bradamante’s identical twin brother, Ricciardetto, hears of Fiordispina’s desire for his sister, he sees his chance to take her place and sleep with the princess. Wearing his sister’s armour and claiming to be Bradamante miraculously changed into a man, Ricciardetto seduces Fiordispina, and the two enjoy a blissful interlude. When the lovers are discovered by the king, Ricciardetto is ordered to be burned at the stake, and the princess is thrown into prison. Ricciardetto is rescued (by Bradamante’s fiancé, Ruggiero) and goes on to other adventures, but Fiordispina is never heard from again. This is Ariosto’s answer to the erotic impasse that marks the end of Matteo Maria Boiardo’s Orlando innamorato (1494), in which the two women are left alone, face to face, and the poet declares himself unable to continue. Rather than opening the Orlando furioso with a solution to the tale that concludes the earlier masterpiece, Ariosto reserves it for the middle of his text and splits it into two chapters that sandwich the poem’s central episode of Orlando’s madness. Accorded this position of special weight, the story is also treated to lavish attention, and the elements of Boiardo’s scenario, abandoned in medias res, become an elaborate story of desire, metamorphosis, seduction, punishment, and rescue, narrated by Ricciardetto in order to entertain Ruggiero during a tedious journey. Peter Marinelli has described Ariosto’s relationship with Boiardo as ‘Oedipal,’ the Orlando furioso establishing ‘an almost obsessive but highly


Hopeless Love

independent relationship with its parent.’1 One of the goals of Hopeless Love is to show, through close readings of the Bradamante-Fiordispina episode in Boiardo’s and Ariosto’s poems, that this story is a privileged site of Ariosto’s rivalry with Boiardo, a moment in which Ariosto creates opportunity from Boiardo’s protestations of despair. The famous last octave of Boiardo’s poem describes Italy invaded by the Gauls, Fiordispina burning with a ‘vano amore’ (‘hopeless love’) (III, 9, xxvi, 5), and the poet deferring the conclusion of his work.2 Invoking the motif of sex between women as an amor impossibilis,3 Boiardo uses Fiordispina’s suspended desire to reflect the suspension of the narrative. In Ariosto’s poem, however, Fiordispina’s ‘van disio’ (‘hopeless desire’) (25, xxxviii, 7)4 represents an only temporary crisis in narrative. Through an elaborate tale of metamorphosis Ricciardetto manages to seduce the princess himself, establishing a telos for a ‘desiderio … senza fine’ (‘desire without end’) (25, xxxiv, 8) and installing himself as the protagonist and narrator of the story. Through Ricciardetto Ariosto thus shows himself as mastering a narrative at the very moment in which Boiardo seemed to fail. While Ariosto surely means to show himself as dominating Boiardo’s poem through his conclusion of its apparently unfinished final episode, my reading of Boiardo’s Bradamante-Fiordispina story shows this tale to be less an abandoned narrative than one employing a narrative strategy that makes use of its audience’s knowledge of the conventions of the romance tradition. Employing the elements of what I will show to be the common scenario of queer female desire, Boiardo gestures towards a solution to Fiordispina’s longing for Bradamante without actually including it as part of his text. Another goal of this book, then, is to establish the ways in which Boiardo’s apparently suspended narrative can be seen instead as complete. The Orlando innamorato is certainly not the first text to associate queer female desire with impossibility, an identification the Orlando furioso further develops and makes explicit. Indeed, a woman’s desire for another woman is featured in hagiography, cantari,5 chivalric romances, and plays, often, but not always, as an amor impossibilis. The broader project of this book is to contextualize Boiardo’s and Ariosto’s use of queer female desire as a motif within the larger literary landscape of medieval and Renaissance Italy and to identify its antecedents and the texts it influences. William Freedman’s definition of ‘motif’ in ‘The Literary Motif’ suggests the value in its identification in a work or works of literature: A motif, then, is a recurrent theme, character, or verbal pattern … It is generally symbolic – that is, it can be seen to carry a meaning beyond the literal



one immediately apparent; it represents on the verbal level something characteristic of the structure of the work, the events, the characters, the emotional effects or the moral or cognitive content. It is presented both as an object of description and, more often, as part of the narrator’s imagery and descriptive vocabulary. And it indispensably requires a certain minimal frequency of recurrence and improbability of appearance in order both to make itself at least subconsciously felt and to indicate its purposiveness. Finally, the motif achieves its power by an appropriate regulation of that frequency and improbability, by its appearance in significant contexts, by the degree to which the individual instances work together toward a common end or ends and, when it is symbolic, by its appropriateness to the symbolic purpose or purposes it serves.6

As I will show in Hopeless Love, the portrayal of queer female desire in Italian Renaissance literature includes all the elements of this definition of ‘motif,’ and identifying queer female desire as such contributes to our understanding of both the texts under examination and the representation of queer desire in literature more generally. The project of reading queer desire in medieval and Renaissance texts has been underway for a number of decades, and particularly since 1994 has been gaining momentum.7 Work on Italian texts, however, continues to lag behind that on other national literatures, a deficit that belies the diffusion of queer desire in Italian literature. As Gary Cestaro writes, ‘The great projects of gender criticism, feminism, and queer theory have arisen out of a largely French and Anglo-American critical heritage and have thus focused their energies on texts in those traditions. Yet even in this work, Italy is always there as a constant point of reference, a comfortable intellectual background, an easy suggestion of origins and source material. But Italian texts are rarely the focus of the critical effort.’8 Hopeless Love is an effort to understand how authors writing in the Italian vernacular during the medieval and Renaissance periods deploy the motif of queer female desire, with particular attention to the chivalric romance and other works most immediately influencing and influenced by that genre. Because Boiardo and Ariosto and their association of queer female desire with narrative failure and narrative opportunity are at the centre of this study, the tension between narrative telos and the resistance to telos that defines the queer becomes a crucial issue. Indeed, the opposition between queerness and narrative teleology has been the focus of many writers working in the field of queer theory.9 These writers are often substantially engaged with Freud’s seminal Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality. In


Hopeless Love

the first of these essays Freud sets out to rewrite his culture’s narrative of sexual development: ‘[The sexual instinct] is generally understood to be absent in childhood, to set in at the time of puberty in connection with the process of coming to maturity and to be revealed in the manifestations of an irresistible attraction exercised by one sex upon the other.’10 Freud complicates this narrative first by insisting that sexual development is already underway in children and then by describing the trajectory of this development as rarely direct. As he puts it in his summary, ‘Every step on this long path of development can become a point of fixation.’11 The ever-present possibility of deviation from the course is what gives narrative interest to Freud’s story of sexual development, and is indeed what constitutes it as narrative, as opposed to the motiveless developments in what is ‘generally understood.’ The telos of Freud’s narrative, however, would seem to remain the same as that of the narrative he wishes to replace: ‘The final outcome of sexual development lies in what is known as the normal sexual life of the adult, in which the pursuit of pleasure comes under the sway of the reproductive functions and in which the component instincts, under the primacy of a single erotogenic zone, form a firm organization directed towards a sexual aim attached to some extraneous sexual object.’12 One of the deviations on the path to ‘the normal sexual life of the adult,’ indeed the first deviation Freud explores in his Three Essays, is a homosexual object choice. Freud describes the many ways in which this object choice might manifest itself: it might be exclusive, contingent, innate, acquired, etc., and it is, Freud says, much more common than might be supposed. Indeed, Freud remarks, ‘Often enough the first impulses after puberty go astray.’13 In all cases, however, homosexual object choice represents a deviation from the course of normal sexual development and is, like other aberrations, ‘an instance of developmental inhibition and infantilism.’14 In other words, for Freud the desire for a sexual partner of the same sex represents a possible, and indeed common, derailment of the narrative of normal sexual development. In The Freudian Body Leo Bersani draws out Freud’s ambivalence towards the teleological narrative he has constructed. Freud’s teleology, according to Bersani, is complicated, and at times contradicted, by a formulation of sexuality as a disorganizing impulse, as an excess of sensation that ‘shatters’ the individual. Sexuality, then, can be read as the opposite of narrative, which is a form of organization. Bersani argues that this contradiction in Freud between sexuality as teleological narrative and sexuality as disorganizing non-narrative has been neglected by theorists: ‘The possibility of exploiting the shattering effects of sexuality



in order to maintain the tensions of an eroticized, de-narrativized, and mobile consciousness has been neglected, or refused, in favor of a view of pleasure as nothing more than the reduction of all tension and the evacuation of all excitement.’15 Bersani argues that by attending to the tension in Freud’s texts between sexuality as both narrative and nonnarrative, we can find in Freud a useful model for reading artistic production, one that ‘manifests an attempt to speak what might be called the return to the unspeakable.’16 Bersani reads in Freud’s inability (or unwillingness) to decide between a teleologically motivated and a denarrativized account of sexuality ‘the coercion of a “central” text by a frequently unmappable and fierce marginal force.’17 Hopeless Love attends to the narrative work queer female desire does, or does not do, in relation to the ‘central’ narratives of medieval and Renaissance texts, a desire often defined as unspeakable, or unnarratable, while simultaneously constituting part of the narrative. The tension between central and marginal, between telos and deviations, is a primary characteristic of queer female desire in these texts. In No Future Lee Edelman focuses on Freud’s formulation of queer desire as a deviation, insisting on the possibilities inherent in its negative valence. He writes that queerness stands in opposition to teleology, and that queers should accede to the negativity accorded them by an often hostile society: ‘queerness exposes sexuality’s inevitable coloration by the drive: its insistence on repetition, its stubborn denial of teleology, its resistance to determinations of meaning (except insofar as it means this refusal to admit such determinations of meaning), and, above all, its rejection of spiritualization through marriage to reproductive futurism.’18 As a negative, de-narrativizing force queer desire actively refuses to do certain kinds of narrative work. In other words, Edelman’s formulation of the negativity of queerness allows us to read it as an oppositional force in narrative rather than as the absence of force. Judith Roof, like Edelman and Bersani, asks us to direct our attention to the resistance of queerness to teleology, a resistance that creates an alternative narrative, which she calls ‘perverse.’ In Come As You Are Roof writes: ‘Insofar as perversity belongs to narrative as the instance of its potential dissolution, the perverse narrative … would be a narrative about narrative dissolution, a narrative that continually short-circuits, that both frustrates and winks at the looming demagogue of reproduction.’19 Roof is less optimistic than Bersani and Edelman about the role queerness might play in narrative. She writes: ‘The reciprocal relation between narrative and sexuality produces stories where homosexualities


Hopeless Love

can only occupy certain positions or play certain roles metonymically linked to negative values within a reproductive aegis.’20 Despite her pessimism she calls on readers to see ‘the patterns in narrative that have never counted because they did not lead to closure or production.’21 Hopeless Love answers this imperative in medieval and Renaissance Italian literature, identifying its perverse narratives while also looking for the ways in which these narratives might perpetually resist, rather than capitulate to, the demands of the ‘reproductive aegis.’ In the texts I examine in Hopeless Love queer female desire is predictably represented as a threat to the heterosexual telos, a threat that allows for the reinstatement of a straight narrative through the intervention of a male and masculinist narrative voice. And yet the compulsive repetition of queer female desire in these stories and the often bizarre allowances that must be made for the satisfaction of this desire (because, as we will see, queer female desire is often granted some sort of satisfaction by the workings of the narrative) point to the provisional nature of the heterosexual conclusion. If we attend to this repetition, if we attend to these allowances, if we attend to the narratives that do not lead to closure, we might read these deviations as having a narrative weight perhaps not immediately recognizable in the reading of one story alone. This repetition signals not the impossibility of narrative, but rather its continuation and its multiplication. Such readings also ask us to pay attention to the work that queer female desire is allowed not to be made to do: it is allowed not to contribute to the forward motion of the narrative; it is allowed not to participate in the conclusion of the story. Many of the texts I examine here feature an ambivalence similar to that of Freud’s Three Essays: their narratives always provide a heterosexual telos, but at the same time deviance (the queer female desire that is the focus of this study) is never altogether accounted for in the narratives’ conclusions. For this reason ‘queer’ aptly describes the desire of Fiordispina and the other heroines of these texts.22 Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick defines ‘queer’ as ‘a continuing moment, movement, motive – recurrent, eddying, troublant.’23 It is this recurrence of queer female desire in medieval and Renaissance Italian literature I want to stress, and the ways in which it is used as a de-narrativizing force in the same moment in which it is used in the creation of male narratives. By ‘male narrative’ I mean narrative written from a male perspective, with a readily identifiable telos, that engages in a larger discourse with other men, whether in competition or in sociability. Queer female desire is figured in these texts as an amor impossibilis, a narrative that is presented as



lacking a telos as it is not consummated with penetration and does not lead to reproduction. The question of penetration is crucial to any discussion of the history of sex between women in the medieval and Renaissance periods. None of the literary texts I examine in Hopeless Love even hints at penetration, no matter how passionate the women’s embraces may be. As Boiardo’s Bradamante puts it, ‘[G]ratugia a gratugia poco acquista’ (‘Grate against grate results in little’) (III, 9, xi, 8, my translation). The historical record is quite different, and I discuss it below. A male narrative is generally a straight narrative, but not always. In Francesco Berni’s version of the Orlando innamorato sex between men is figured as having a telos, albeit a reprehensible one.24 I argue that both Ariosto and Boiardo are engaged in narrating the unnarratability of queer female desire, of rendering it intelligible and meaningful as a ‘strategy of representation’25 through their attendance both to narrative teleology and to the de-narrativizing force of queer female desire. Queer female desire first appears in the chivalric romance in Boiardo’s Orlando innamorato: to his Bradamante, a maiden warrior whose character type is developed in medieval Italian literature from antecedents in classical texts, Boiardo joins the motif of queer female desire used in medieval hagiography and cantari. In chapter 1 I focus on Bradamante’s most immediate maiden warrior predecessors in order to identify the narrative conventions reconciling her martial ambitions with her femininity while accommodating her duties to father, brother, and husband, and to evaluate the success of these conventions in maximizing the narrative potential of the maiden warrior character. I examine three different ways through which the medieval maiden warriors’ subversive energies are integrated into the texts in which they appear: domestication (Boccaccio’s Teseida), an open ending (Andrea da Barberino’s L’Aspramonte), and free circulation (Pulci’s Morgante). These are the strategies against which Boiardo’s and Ariosto’s handling of Bradamante are evaluated in chapters 3 and 4. The heroines of both the Teseida and L’Aspramonte are married during the course of the narrative, and chapter 1 also assesses their attraction. What characteristics make these warrior women sexually desirable? Are these the same characteristics that will attract Fiordispina to Bradamante in Boiardo’s and Ariosto’s poems? Like the early maiden warrior (whose armour is protection rather than disguise), the figure of the cross-dressed woman also informs the maiden warrior of Italian chivalric romance. This figure is especially prominent in medieval hagiography and cantari, and chapter 2 establishes the previously underestimated influence of these traditions on the conclusion of

10 Hopeless Love

Boiardo’s poem. I single out for particular consideration the stories of Saint Theodora and Saint Eugenia from Jacobus de Voragine’s Legenda aurea, and two late fourteenth-century cantari, La bella Camilla by Piero da Siena and Reina d’Oriente by Antonio Pucci. Heroines of both the hagiographic and cantare traditions attract the desire of other women, and I identify the medieval origins of the motif of queer female desire in these important sources for Boiardo and Ariosto. The stories of Saint Theodora and Saint Eugenia demonstrate the successful integration of masculine and feminine traits, both spiritual and physical, in a female character, while suggesting the erotic attraction this integration has for other women. Drawing on the hagiographic tradition, the cantari are closer to the chivalric romance and foster the expectation that queer female desire will be resolved in the heroines’ change from female to male. I argue that this expectation, which Boiardo could assume in his audience, is critical to the success of the Orlando innamorato’s conclusion. In chapter 3 I establish that Boiardo, adapting the conventions of other genres, creates in the character of Bradamante the first maiden warrior in Italian epic to inspire the desire of another woman. Attention to Boiardo’s addition of the motif of queer female desire to his maiden warrior character suggests a reading of the poem’s puzzling conclusion. Drawing on the work of Roof in particular, I argue that Boiardo employs a strategy of ‘perverse narrative’ to accomplish apparently contradictory and irreconcilable goals: both a conclusion of the narrative and the deferral of its conclusion. In La bella Camilla and Reina d’Oriente, among other narratives, queer desire becomes acceptable through the heroines’ change from female to male. By measuring the narrative of Bradamante and Fiordispina against earlier extratextual narratives of queer female desire with wide circulation, as well as narratives of straight desire within the poem, Boiardo suggests a resolution of Fiordispina’s longing that the reader already ‘knows.’ By deploying the motif of sex between women as an amor impossibilis Boiardo also represents a crisis in narrative. The queer female pair is made to stand for meaning forever deferred, for the suspension of desire, for war and illness, and ultimately for male poetic impotence. Boiardo’s conclusion not only threatens but actually enacts the truncation of the story, and the resolution promised by the narrative structure of the poem and the poem’s precedents does not come to fruition. The suspense occasioned by the desire of Fiordispina for Bradamante, then, serves Boiardo’s purposes perfectly: he can both stop writing in medias res (as illness seemed to dictate) and simultaneously suggest a resolution

Introduction 11

outside the limits of his poem. Although representing narrative crisis Boiardo retains narrative control. Boiardo’s tale of suspended queer female desire gave subsequent authors a special challenge as well as a special opportunity: to resolve Fiordispina’s love for Bradamante while exploiting its figurative possibilities. The first part of chapter 4 evaluates the handling of the BradamanteFiordispina story in Niccolò degli Agostini’s Orlando innamorato (1506) and Francesco Berni’s Orlando innamorato (1541). Degli Agostini, anxious to recuperate Bradamante for her fiancé as quickly as possible, introduces Ruggiero into the story as its solution, dismissing Fiordispina and definitively straightening Boiardo’s queer narrative. Berni’s main concern is to Tuscanize (rather than to continue) Boiardo’s poem, and he remains fairly faithful to the structure of the first Orlando innamorato. The author of the last canto, however, highlights the ways in which sex between men and sex between women were seen as similar and the ways in which they were seen as different. Interestingly, this poet deviates significantly from Boiardo’s text by making the women’s desire unambiguously reciprocal, providing in this way at least a partial solution to Boiardo’s impasse. Both poets try to dominate Boiardo’s text (although to a lesser extent than Ariosto does), one in providing the conclusion that Boiardo does not, and the other in ‘improving’ its language by linking it to Florence’s ‘superior’ literary culture and in altering a significant element of its last octaves. The second part of chapter 4 focuses on Ariosto’s Orlando furioso. Setting aside the question that has driven much of the critical work on the Bradamante-Fiordispina episode, I do not ask whether Fiordispina’s desire is homosexual and therefore subversive or heterosexual and therefore normative; rather I propose that Fiordispina’s desire is radical because it seeks to render sexual difference irrelevant. In Ariosto’s tale Bradamante’s twin brother, Ricciardetto, assumes his sister’s identity and seduces Fiordispina with an elaborate story of his transformation from female to male. Unlike in the Orlando innamorato, queer female desire in the Orlando furioso is tied to the production, rather than to the impossibility, of narrative, and narrative is gendered male. Through narrative Ricciardetto aligns the satisfaction of Fiordispina’s desire with Bradamante’s possession of a penis. He thus makes allowances for Fiordispina’s very specific desire for Bradamante while diminishing the subversive potential of that love by changing it into a desire for Bradamante the man. Ricciardetto recognizes what makes Fiordispina so dangerous: that she desires Bradamante across gender

12 Hopeless Love

boundaries. I argue that this episode is central to Ariosto’s exploration of the relationship between desire, truth, and narrative by reading it against the episodes of Orlando’s madness and Marfisa’s encounter with the homicidal women. While Ricciardetto’s story of his supposed transformation recalls similar stories from the hagiographic and cantare traditions, Ariosto’s BradamanteFiordispina episode is also clearly informed by La calandra (1513), Bibbiena’s adaptation of Plautus’ Menaechmi and the play that marks the beginning of Italian urban comedy. Chapter 5 explores queer female desire in cinquecento comedy in order to establish the implications of the Bradamante-Fiordispina episode in these plays. Comedies written in the decades following the Orlando furioso (including the Accademici Intronati’s Gli ingannati [1532] and Alessandro Piccolomini’s L’Alessandro [1545]) use La calandra as a model, but as mediated through the Orlando furioso. Reading these plays against the Orlando furioso allows queer female desire to emerge as a motif under elaboration in cultural production more broadly, while also allowing the identification of generic particularities. Despite its tremendous critical success overall, some readers of the Orlando furioso found aspects of the poem objectionable. The epilogue of Hopeless Love examines the critical reception of the BradamanteFiordispina episode within the context of the assessment of epic in the 1580s. Fiordispina’s desire is almost completely absent from the debate about the Orlando furioso, which centres instead on Ricciardetto and his actions. It is Ricciardetto, and not Fiordispina, who is accused of indecent behaviour. This seems to suggest an acceptance of queer female desire as a common, and therefore unremarkable, motif. In showing that queer female desire was widely accepted and employed as a literary motif I in no way intend to suggest that women’s same-sex relations were culturally acceptable. The historical record makes clear that sex between women was condemned by both religious and legal authorities (often, in any case, the same thing), and that women were punished, sometimes with death, for sexual contact with other women. I summarize here what the theological and legal records of the period say about sex between women, highlighting the conceptual underpinnings of these discourses. My goal is to emphasize how thoroughly the literary conception of sex between women as an amor impossibilis does not reflect the prevailing cultural view. It is, on the contrary, a literary conceit elaborated for the narratological ends I detail in the chapters that follow. Further, medical records show that medieval and Renaissance Italians did not believe sex between women to be an impossibility. Medical texts do, however, describe

Introduction 13

hermaphroditism and female-to-male sex change, both phenomena featured in some of the texts I examine in the following chapters. Theological discourse presents sex between men and sex between women as conceptually similar. The text to which all subsequent theological writings on sex between men and sex between women will refer, either directly or indirectly, is Paul’s Letter to the Romans (c. 55 CE): Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error. (Rom. 1:24–7)26

Same-sex contact is presented as a punishment for turning away from God and is a symptom of the world turned upside down: lies instead of truth, creature rather than Creator, unnatural instead of natural. Both men and women can be guilty of this sin of ‘unnatural relations.’ Thomas Aquinas (1225–74), perhaps the most important commentator on Paul, writes that ‘unnatural vice’ (‘vitium contra naturam’) is ‘in conflict with the natural pattern of sexuality for the benefit of the species.’ For Thomas the purpose of sexual intercourse is to create children, and sexual behaviour that cannot result in pregnancy is therefore unnatural. Unnatural vice includes a number of different sins, among them sex between men and sex between women: It may happen variously. First, outside intercourse when an orgasm is procured for the sake of venereal pleasure; this belongs to the sin of self-abuse, which some call unchaste softness (mollitiem). Second, by intercourse with a thing of another species, and this is called bestiality (bestialitas). Third, with a person of the same sex, male with male and female with female, to which the Apostle refers, and this is called sodomy (sodomiticum). Fourth, if the natural style of intercourse is not observed, as regards the proper organ or according to other rather beastly and monstrous techniques.27

The archbishop of Florence, Antonino (1363–1451), uses language borrowed often verbatim from Thomas in his Summa Theologica. In the

14 Hopeless Love

chapter titled ‘De vitio contra naturam’ (‘On the Vice against Nature’) Antonino writes that among the four ways to sin against nature, the third is ‘if it be done through lying with the incorrect sex (non debitum sexum), that is to say males with males, females with females, which is called sodomy.’28 Later in the Summa Antonino writes that sex between women or between men is unique to humans: ‘First therefore that vice exceeds the bestial condition, because no beast is found to do this. For a male animal will not commingle with a male, nor a female with a female; not horse with horse nor mare with mare.’29 Antonino’s language here bears a strong resemblance to that of Ovid’s tale of Iphis and Ianthe, in which Iphis, a girl, finds herself in love with another girl. She says: ‘Cows do not love cows, nor mares, mares; but the ram desires the sheep, and his own doe follows the stag.’30 These are among the lines that Ariosto will include, almost verbatim, in Fiordispina’s lament in the Orlando furioso. The difference is that Antonino uses animals as an example to show a difference between animals and humans (same-sex relations occur among humans only), while Fiordispina uses the animals as an example to show a similarity (sex between females of any species does not exist because it is impossible). Although the word sodomy was used to name both sex between men and sex between women in theological discourse, in other kinds of discourse during the Renaissance the term was most often used to describe sex between men, or anal sex between a man and a woman.31 This divergence in usage reflects different priorities. The theological discourse surrounding sodomy is concerned with the actions of men and women as they demonstrate the disposition of the actors towards God, in whose eyes they are equals. Popular usage of the term highlights instead the relation of the actors to their culture, which had different expectations regarding the sexual behaviour of men and of women. This inconsistent use of sodomy reflects a similarly inconsistent understanding of what might constitute sex between women, especially with respect to sex between men. The failure of sodomia to include sex between women at this time in all but theological discourse reflects the distinction between penetrating and penetrated partner. Ruth Mazo Karras writes that ‘the medieval understanding [was] that sex was something that one person did to another, by penetrating him or her. Unless the activity that took place between two women involved a dildo, it did not count as sex.’32 Penetrating was the role of the man in sexual intercourse, and being penetrated the role of the woman. For this reason penetrated men and penetrating women were considered to be acting in ways inappropriate to their sexes.

Introduction 15

The Apocalypse of Peter (first half of the second century CE) describes the infernal torture of men ‘who defiled their bodies, behaving like women’ and women ‘who lay with one another as a man with a woman.’33 Penitential manuals generally mandate a greater penance for women whose sexual contact with other women involves the use of a penetrating instrument. Such women were seen to transgress the boundaries of nature not just in their actions but in their bodies. In the mid-ninth century Hincmar of Reims writes that these women ‘transform the use of the member in question into an unnatural one, in that they are reported to use certain instruments of diabolical operation to excite desire. Thus they sin nonetheless by committing fornication against their own bodies.’34 In the eleventh century Burchard of Worms was especially harsh towards women who use ‘material instruments … in the way of the virile member’ to satisfy each other.35 Although she does not refer specifically to the use of material instruments, Hildegard of Bingen makes it clear that women who have sex with other women are assuming a right that belongs to men. In her Scivias of 1141–51, in which she assumes the voice of Jesus, Hildegard excoriates women who have sex with other women: And a woman who takes up devilish ways and plays a male role [virili officio] in coupling with another woman is most vile in My sight, and so is she who subjects herself to such a one in this evil deed. For they should have been ashamed of their passion, and instead they impudently usurped a right [jus] that was not theirs. And, having put themselves into alien ways, they are to Me transformed and contemptible.36

Hildegard uses legal terminology to describe women who ‘usurped’ a ‘right’ that was not theirs. Women do not have the right to have sex with one another; those who do transform themselves, becoming something else, becoming like men. Thus they disrupt society and act counter to its expectations of women by assuming a male role in intercourse with women. Hildegard does not differentiate between the ‘active’ and ‘passive’ partners. Active verbs are used for both women, one of whom ‘takes up devilish ways’ and the other who ‘subjects herself to such a one’ (rather than ‘is subjected to’). Furthermore, both women usurp a right not theirs. As in Christian texts before it, the Scivias places this condemnation of sex between women beside a condemnation of sex between men. Theological discourse condemning women who ‘play a male role’ in sex with other women developed alongside another vein of theological

16 Hopeless Love

discourse that encouraged women to become like men. Elizabeth Castelli argues that ‘the idea that women can gain access to holiness and salvation by “becoming male”’ becomes ‘one of the central figures of female piety.’37 In the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas, the text that is the focus of Castelli’s argument, Jesus tells Simon Peter that, ‘every woman who makes herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven.’38 In chapter 2 I examine the stories of Saint Theodora and Saint Eugenia, two crossdressed female saints whose assumption of masculine attire was a symbol of their devotion to a Christian life, and I argue that Boiardo uses elements of their stories in his tale of Fiordispina and Bradamante. Like many theological texts, medieval and Renaissance legal texts betray a greater concern with women who penetrate the bodies of other women. Under secular law penetrating women could be punished with execution. Louis Crompton suggests that the view of sex between women as a serious crime developed alongside the idea that crimes against nature were ‘criminal because they provided sexual pleasure without procreation.’39 Legal texts, like theological texts, insist upon the procreative function of sex. Crompton argues that medieval lawmakers had Paul’s Letter to the Romans and its exegetical tradition in mind when they revised canon law, which already prescribed the death penalty for men convicted of sex with other men, to include capital punishment for women convicted of sex with other women. The earliest known secular law condemning sexual contact between women appears in a French code usually dated about 1270. This law calls for a woman convicted of sodomy to ‘lose her member’ for the first two offences, and to be burned on the third.40 By using the word membre, which usually refers to a man’s penis, to refer to the female sodomite’s genitals, the author of this code attributes to them the penetrative capabilities of a penis. The female sodomite becomes somatically like a man and can thus receive upon her body the same brutal punishment. This code illustrates the assumption that many medieval and Renaissance texts make: a penetrating homoerotic woman becomes like a man. Such a woman could be punished in an effort to preserve male privileges, among them the exclusive right to penetrate women’s bodies. Although the French may have codified the first medieval secular law prescribing the death penalty for sex between women, it was the writing of jurists working in Bologna that became influential throughout Europe and was frequently used to justify the punishment of women convicted of such acts. In his 1314 commentary on the Code of Justinian, Cino da Pistoia wrote about an imperial edict of 287 CE apparently formulated to protect the rights of women who had been raped by removing them

Introduction 17

from the class of unchaste women, whom high-ranking Roman men were forbidden to marry. Women who willingly engage in sexual contact with anyone other than their husbands are punished under the law, while women who are raped are exonerated. Cino reads this law to include a condemnation of sex between women: This law can be understood in two ways. One way, when a woman suffers defilement in succumbing to a man. It can be said in another way, when she suffers defilement in succumbing to another woman. For there are certain women taut with the most shameful wickedness, who exercise their lust on other women and pursue them like men as it is publicly said of certain accursed individuals. Note that defilement imposed by force carries no taint of infamy and no sin.41

Cino shifts suddenly from describing women who are victims of sexual assault to condemning women who, like men, pursue other women. Cino does not take this opportunity to condemn male rapists, who seem less noteworthy. These female perpetrators of sexual assault are further guilty of infamy. Their sexuality is not under the control of father or husband, but has become a topic of public discussion. According to Cino, these women have eluded male dominance to become like men themselves. Bartholomaeus de Saliceto, also working in Bologna and whose Lectures were published in 1400, carries Cino’s interpretation a step further by prescribing the death penalty for women who have sex with women, a punishment he justifies through reference to another law that mandates that male homosexual acts be punished by ‘the avenging sword.’42 According to Crompton, Bartholomaeus’ glosses on these edicts remained standard references until the eighteenth century. The writings of Cino and Bartholomaeus form only a part of the commentary on Roman law being generated in the medieval period. This commentary had dire consequences for women convicted of sex with other women. Crompton writes of the dicta of medieval and Renaissance jurists: ‘Since, according to the Roman tradition, the opinions of eminent jurists often had the force of law, it would have been possible, by using these dicta, to argue for the death penalty for lesbianism even in parts of the continent with no national or local legislation.’43 Women could thus be executed for sex with other women on the force of the commentary of legal scholars, whether there were laws prescribing their execution or not. Were the punishments suggested by jurists and on the books throughout Europe actually carried out? According to Crompton, women were

18 Hopeless Love

executed less frequently than men.44 Lesser punishments for sex between women were also prescribed. Joan Cadden refers to a French royal register of 1405 that mentions an appeal for pardon on behalf of a sixteen-year-old married woman named Laurence. Laurence was in prison for having sexual relations with another woman, Jehanne, who is described as the sexual aggressor: ‘she climbed on her as a man does on a woman, and the said Jehanne began to move her hips and do as a man does to a woman.’45 Cadden does not report the outcome of the appeal. Michael Rocke, who has done extensive work on sex between men in medieval and Renaissance Florence, writes: ‘In the thousands of Florentine sodomy cases I have reviewed from a period of nearly two centuries, I have found not a single case of sexual relations between women.’46 Nor does Crompton cite any examples of executions in Italy. Maria Serena Mazzi suggests that there were female prostitutes in Florence who served a female clientele, and that these women were occasionally punished, although she does not say how or on exactly what charges.47 Agostino Vespucci, member of the Florentine chancery and friend of Niccolò Machiavelli, however, reports an execution in Rome. On 16 July 1501 Vespucci wrote to Machiavelli from Rome: As it happens, in these past few days a woman of considerable rank, a Venetian, was burned at the stake in Campo di Fiore for having sodomized (per avere lei pedicato) a girl (una puttina) of 11 or 12 years, whom she kept in her house, and for doing other things to her that I shall not mention, since they were too licentious (troppo disonesto) and similar to the things done by Nero the Roman.48

Vespucci was reminded of this case by the circumstances of his friend Raffaello Pulci. Earlier in the same letter Vespucci writes: Pulci dallies and is always surrounded by 4 whores: we hear him solemnly, and it has been said to me that he is somewhat worried, because, since he has reputation and recognition as a poet and the Academy of Rome wants to crown him at his pleasure, he would not like to incur any risk concerning sodomy (circa pedicationem), because Pacifico, Phaedrus, and some other poets are here who, if they had not taken refuge in the sanctuary now of this, now of that cardinal, would have already been burned at the stake.

According to Vespucci, the execution of this woman ‘confirms the above-mentioned Raffaello in his need to stay continually in the gardens among women, along with others like himself.’

Introduction 19

Vespucci does not specify exactly the crime or crimes for which the Venetian woman was convicted. As we have seen, sexual contact between women not involving penetration would probably not have warranted such harsh punishment. Was it the age of the woman’s partner that disturbed the judges? Was the girl forced? Or do the ‘other things’ about which Vespucci is silent include penetration of some sort? Vespucci’s letter is interesting because he uses the same word (pedicare) to describe the behaviour of the Venetian woman and the acts of his (male) friends in Rome. He also refers to burning as the punishment for both men and women. Vespucci describes his friends as participating in a sort of male homosexual subculture involving poets and the cardinals who have the power to protect them.49 He associates the Venetian woman with this subculture while at the same excoriating her. Vespucci does not describe her crimes because they are ‘too licentious,’ but he does not hesitate in this and other letters to describe the behaviour of his friends. He sees this Venetian sex criminal as being like his friends, but he condemns her. At least one Italian law sought to prevent sex between women through preventive measures. According to Michael Goodich, ‘in 1480, Venetian law even prohibited women from wearing men’s hairstyles and clothes on the grounds that this was a kind of sodomy aimed at attracting other lesbian women.’50 This law supposes that some women find women dressed as men to be sexually attractive. It also demonstrates the anxiety of the lawmakers about women who act like men by pursuing other women for sex, and about the possibility of a world that excludes men, a world complete with its own semiotics. Like theological and legal discourses, medical discourse betrayed a particular anxiety about the penetrating woman. Often she is portrayed as somatically excessive. Arguing against the notion that the clitoris was a Renaissance discovery, Karma Lochrie writes: Two separate models of anomalous female sexualities and genders thus emerge from medical texts in the Middle Ages. The first is the hypertrophied clitoris-wielding woman, whose inflated sexual desire was directed to other women, the other, the virago, whose physiological assimilation to masculinity through the retention of menses led to exorbitant sexual desire and masculine strength. In both cases, morphology, physiology, and anatomy precede excessive lust and sexual proclivities. In the case of the virago, it precedes a kind of female masculinity that did not necessarily imply female homoeroticism.51

20 Hopeless Love

Surgery was one way to deal with a woman considered to be excessive in her body and in her desire. At least as far back as the second century women whose clitorises were perceived to be overly large have been accused of sexual desire appropriate only to men, and have been subjected to clitoridectomies. As Bernadette Brooten writes: In his treatise on gynecology (Gynaikeia), Soranos [second century CE] advocates the surgical removal of part of a woman’s clitoris if it is ‘overly large,’ a condition that he correlates with unrestrained sexual behavior. Soranos’ description of clitoridectomy clearly indicates that an ‘overly large’ clitoris was of medical concern not because the women were complaining of pain or of any type of dysfunctionality, but rather because of his concern about maintaining social structures. A woman who possesses the physical means by which to penetrate another person is unacceptable in a culture that conceives of the sexually active role as properly restricted to males.52

Soranos’ text as well as later Latin translations and a seventh-century surgical treatise by Paulus of Aegina all prescribe a clitoridectomy for the woman whose excessively large clitoris has led her to exhibit ‘male’ sexual desires. The texts do not specify if these women desire to penetrate men or women or both, although given Soranos’ discussion elsewhere in the Gynaikeia of women who sexually desire other women, it seems unlikely that their sexual desire extends exclusively to men. In the Renaissance there was renewed interest in clitoridectomies. In On Monsters and Marvels (1573) French surgeon Ambroise Paré writes: The Greeks call them nimphes, which hang and even, in some women, fall outside the neck of their womb; and they lengthen and shorten as does the comb of a turkey, principally when they desire coitus; and, when their husbands want to approach them, they grow erect like the male rod, so much so that they can disport themselves with them, and with other women. Thus they render them very shameful and deformed being seen naked, and with such women one must tie them and cut what is superfluous because they can abuse them.53

It is not clear if clitoridectomies were performed in Europe during the Renaissance or not. Thomas Laqueur has argued against this possibility,54 while Valerie Traub is not wholly convinced that they were never performed.55 Another way to control women’s ‘excessive’ sexuality, at least conceptually, is to make it an attribute of an ‘other.’ Non-European women are the only ones described as having large clitorises. As Laqueur writes, ‘From Antiquity to at least the late nineteenth century it was thought

Introduction 21

that the clitoris of Egyptian women, and more generally of women in hot climates, grew preternaturally large.’56 Paré describes women in the city of Fez in Mauretania in Africa who pretend to be possessed by a demon, demanding sexual copulation with women to satisfy the demon. Paré relates that some women take a liking to this, and ask their husbands to fetch the women who can drive out demons because they themselves have become possessed, and thus the husbands are tricked into aiding their own cuckolding.57 As Traub points out, there are ‘tight associations forged between sex transformation, hermaphroditism, tribadism, and sodomy in most European legal and medical practices.’58 This is especially true by the second half of the sixteenth century, most notably in France. Kathleen Long describes how the importance of the hermaphrodite in late sixteenthcentury French culture is linked to important events such as the European exploration of the western hemisphere and the Reformation.59 The decades leading to these events precede the height of fascination with the hermaphrodite, and so this figure is not central to Hopeless Love. In the first half of the sixteenth century, however, we can already see the beginnings of what will be the hermaphrodite’s importance. In La calandra, for example, which I examine in chapter 5, Bibbiena uses the figure of the hermaphrodite to thematize the lability of the cross-dressed heroine. Renaissance medical discourse contains numerous stories of women who become men even though they do not necessarily have any masculine characteristics before their transformations. Because it was believed that only the presence (or absence) of heat defines sexual difference, the divide between male and female was not thought to be stable. As Paré writes: Women have as much hidden within the body as men have exposed outside; leaving aside, only, that women don’t have so much heat, nor the ability to push out what by the coldness of their temperament is held as if bound to the interior. Wherefore if with time, the humidity of childhood which prevented the warmth from doing its full duty being exhaled for the most part, the warmth is rendered more robust, vehement, and active, then it is not an unbelievable thing if the latter, chiefly aided by some violent movement, should be able to push out what was hidden within.60

In other words, as Ann Rosalind Jones and Peter Stallybrass write, ‘If only heat, and not physical structure, differentiated men from women, the difference might at any moment be abolished … [W]omen are constantly threatening to become men.’61 Paré dedicates chapter 7 of On

22 Hopeless Love

Monsters and Marvels to ‘memorable stories about women who have degenerated into men.’ Among these stories is that of Germain Garnier, who had been a woman, until he was in the fields and rather robustly chasing his swine, which were going into a wheat field, [and] finding a ditch, he wanted to cross over it, and having leaped, at that very moment the genitalia and the male rod came to be developed in him, having ruptured the ligaments by which previously they had been held enclosed and locked in (which did not happen to him without pain), and, weeping, he returned from the spot to his mother’s house, saying that his guts had fallen out of his belly; and his mother was very astonished at this spectacle. And having brought together physicians and Surgeons in order to get an opinion on this, they found that she was a man, and no longer a girl; and presently, after having reported to the Bishop – who was the now defunct Cardinal of Lenoncort – and by his authority, an assembly having been called, the shepherd received a man’s name.62

After this Germain assumed a male identity and lived out the rest of his life as a man. The authority of ‘physicians and Surgeons’ is not enough to complete Germain’s transformation. It is not until ecclesiastical authority, in the person of the bishop, gives Germain his new name that his masculinity is legitimized. Medicine alone did not have the authority to determine sex; religion came into play as well. Indeed, a number of the life stories of saints feature female-to-male sex change, stories that, as I argue in chapter 2, inform cantari and are further reflected in chivalric romance. Thus the motif of female-to-male sex change represents an interesting point of contact between medical, religious, and literary discourses. It is clear that there was no lack of language to describe sex between women in the Renaissance, that women were known to have sexual contact with each other, and that this contact was subject to sanctions. An important commonality among theological, medical, and legal discourses on the one hand, which acknowledge sex between women in frank and sometimes explicit language, and literary texts on the other hand, which depict queer female desire as an amor impossibilis, is the elaboration of queer female desire as a motif used to articulate male desires. Furthermore, all of these discourses insist that queer female desire is intelligible only in terms of that articulation. Fortunately, as we will see, the destabilizing energy of queer female desire sometimes exceeds the narrative strategies used to redirect it.

1 Warrior Woman/ Lovely Lady

Bradamante is the maiden warrior to whose character Boiardo has added a new twist: she attracts the desire of another woman. The maiden warrior is part of a long tradition stretching from Greek epic’s Penthesilea and Virgil’s Camilla to the various incarnations of these Amazon and maidenwarrior types in circulation in medieval and Renaissance Italy in texts such as Boccaccio’s Teseida, L’Aspramonte by Andrea da Barberino, and Pulci’s Morgante. The elaboration of the maiden warrior in these texts contributes in important ways to Boiardo’s Bradamante. In this chapter I focus on the extent to which the maiden warriors of Italian literature before Boiardo are allowed to assume male prerogatives such as war craft and leadership, and if and when they adopt conventionally feminine roles. In other words, how is this character to negotiate the circumscription of the masculine and the feminine, and what strategies are suggested for policing the border between them? Also, what characteristics make the woman warrior sexually desirable to men? Although my readings of these texts necessarily touch upon questions of disruption and containment, the focus is less on the fact of this element of the stories (because the maiden warrior is always disruptive and must always be contained) than on how exactly the maiden warrior is disruptive and how she is contained.1 I show different ways through which her energies are integrated into the texts: domestication (Teseida), an open ending (L’Aspramonte), and free circulation (Morgante). Critics working on Ariosto’s poem do not agree on the extent of Bradamante’s containment. The most useful work on this question considers Bradamante’s containment alongside a shift in the larger narrative of the poem from the labyrinthine workings of romance to the more direct structure of epic.2 Bradamante must be married to Ruggiero in

24 Hopeless Love

fulfilment of the poem’s epic thrust, but she must first be recuperated from her knightly wanderings, including her adventure with Fiordispina. Because Bradamante’s containment is essential to the epic telos, and because this telos is what queer female desire complicates, I attend in these medieval texts to the workings of the narrative that try to neutralize the woman warrior and drive the story forward. Boiardo’s and Ariosto’s antecedents have, of course, antecedents of their own, reflecting the enduring narrative appeal of the woman warrior. The sheer number of texts featuring this character precludes my presenting a catalogue of them,3 but the following examples are representative. The goal is less to quantify the debt to earlier texts than to suggest the conventions available in developing the maiden warrior Bradamante, the character to which Boiardo will attach the motif of queer female desire. Boccaccio’s Ipolita: The Amazon Domesticated The first book of Boccaccio’s Teseida delle nozze d’Emilia (Book of Theseus) (c. 1340) describes how Theseus and the Greeks conquer the Amazons under Ipolita’s rule and bring them, including Ipolita and her sister Emilia, to Greece. In modern criticism the Teseida has often been considered an unsuccessful attempt at marrying the epic, lyric, and romance traditions.4 Carla Freccero regards the imperfect integration of these modes as, in part, a consequence of the poet’s inability to adequately contain Ipolita, who goes from being an Amazon warrior queen to Theseus’ compliant wife. Freccero writes: The predominant failure to impose ideological coherence on the narrative results from the suppression of the figure of Ipolita as warrior. While on the one hand Boccaccio maintains that Ipolita and Emilia are Amazons and rallies Diana to their defence, on the other he provides no narrative space for them to act out their heroism, reducing their status instead to that of love objects. […] Ipolita’s complete character reversal distances the epic section of the poem from the rest of the romance narrative.5

Freccero argues that Ipolita is suppressed through a ‘strategy of containment or domestication.’6 The most important element of this strategy is a constant interrogation of the moments in which the categories of woman and warrior line up, even as the author designs these very moments. Ipolita’s character is split: she is neither fully woman nor fully warrior. By presenting her as divided even in her role as Amazon queen

Warrior Woman/Lovely Lady 25

Boccaccio lays the groundwork for her transformation into Theseus’ wife. Yet even when Boccaccio marries her to Theseus, her domestication is incomplete: there lingers what Freccero calls a ‘remainder’: ‘[A]lthough the poem works to contain the tensions produced by the abrupt transformation of Ipolita [into dame courtoise], … there lingers a “remainder,” the metaphorical consequence of the anxieties attendant upon such a process of courtly domestication.’7 Through this remainder Ipolita’s bellicose spirit is allowed continued circulation in the poem. Throughout Hopeless Love Freccero’s notion of a remainder is used to indicate the always imperfect nature of the maiden warrior’s domestication. This remainder, which cannot be recuperated for the narratives’ conclusions, complements the queer, which destabilizes Freud’s teleological narrative of sexuality as described by Bersani and Edelman. The word remainder suggests that queer narrative does not take the place of straight teleology, nor does it entirely cede to it. Rather, it is a surplus that continues to exist alongside the ‘official’ narrative. The action of book I of the Teseida opens with a description of the women of Scythia, who rise up together to kill their husbands in order to escape subjugation and to rule themselves. After the slaughter they choose Ipolita to be their queen: La quale, ancora che femina fosse e di bellezze piena oltre misura, prese la signoria, e sì rimosse da sé ciascuna feminil paura, e in tal guisa ordinò le sue posse, che ’l regno suo e sé fece sicura; né di vicine genti avea dottanza, sì si fidava nella sua possanza.


Although she was womanly and incomparably beautiful, she assumed command. Setting aside her feminine timidity, she disciplined her troops so well that she made herself and her kingdom secure. She was so confident of her power that she did not depend at all on the neighboring tribes.

The use here of ‘ancora che’ (‘although’) sets up the fault line in Ipolita’s character from the beginning. Her sex and her superlative beauty are opposed to her rule, which requires her to free herself from ‘feminil paura’ (‘feminine timidity’). Her first orders, however, are to ensure security for both her kingdom and herself: she wishes to police not only the boundaries

26 Hopeless Love

of her kingdom (‘’l regno suo’), but the boundaries of her body (‘sé’) as well. The inward-looking nature of Ipolita’s rule is emphasized by the fact that she has no assistance from neighbouring lands. Furthermore, what will anger the Greeks is Ipolita’s insistence on a penalty levied on trespassers. Ipolita’s kingdom is closed and isolated by design. The tension between Ipolita’s power on the one hand and her sex and beauty on the other is repeated in the style of her rule: she is a ‘mastra di guerra’ (‘mistress of war craft’) (viii, 8), but her sovereignty looks inward in a protective, defensive gesture rather than outward in an aggressive, expansionist one. Ipolita’s determination to keep the land of the Amazons closed irritates Theseus, the duke of Athens, and he decides to attack. By appealing to her subjects as women superior to other women, Ipolita urges them to defend themselves: … se ’n ciò il mio parer non erra, per voler virile animo mostrare, contro a Cupido avete presa guerra, e quel ch’a l’altre più piace fuggite, uomini fatti, non femine ardite. … da servitù vi dilibraste; nell’arme sempre esercitate poi, cacciando ogni atto feminil da voi. Ma se mai virile animo teneste, ora bisogno fa, per quel ch’io senta; … perché nostro piacer non si contenta di quel che l’altre, ciò è suggiacere a gli uomini, faccendo il lor volere.

(xxiv, 4–8; xxv, 6–8; xxvi, 1–2, 6–8)

You have declared war on Cupid if I am not mistaken, in order to display your virile courage. You fly from that which pleases other women most, while you dare to perform manly, rather than womanly, deeds. … [Y]ou freed yourselves from servitude … [Y]ou have practiced with your weapons constantly, at the same time spurning all womanish behavior. … [I]f you ever exercised manly courage, from what I hear it is needed now … [W]e are not satisfied with remaining subject to men and obedient to their whims like other women.

Warrior Woman/Lovely Lady 27

Ipolita tells her soldiers twice that they are of ‘virile animo’ (‘manly spirit’); indeed, she tells them that they are not women. Nevertheless, her repeated words (virile, uomini, femine, feminil, virile, uomini) highlight her subjects’ divided natures. The Amazons’ treacherous actions against their husbands have set them apart from the ‘altre’ (‘other women’) who follow Cupid and who are satisfied to be obedient to men. On the one hand, Boccaccio here destabilizes the association of women with love and men with war by portraying a woman urging other women on to war. On the other hand, in describing the ‘altre,’ Ipolita is pointing ahead to what the Amazons will become: docile and subservient to the Greeks.9 The women fight valiantly, earning the respect of Theseus, but eventually the Greeks find a way to conquer the Amazons: they dig a tunnel under the wall of the city. Ipolita is dismayed, and she writes to Theseus, ‘’l guerregiar con donne e aver vittoria / del vincitore è più biasmo che gloria’ (‘to make war on women and win a victory is more to the shame than to the glory of the victor’) (civ, 7–8), thus suggesting that her soldiers are inferior to those of Theseus, though elsewhere she lauds the excellence of the Amazons. Ipolita wants it both ways, insisting that men and women have separate capabilities suited to them, while at the same time trying to exceed the limits of her ‘feminine’ abilities. In her capacity as a queen and as a warrior Ipolita asserts that women as warriors are always inferior to men. Finally realizing that the Amazons have lost, she counsels her women to surrender, arguing that Venus is rightfully angry with the Amazons and Mars favours Theseus. Thus, she returns to her earlier assertion of women’s martial capabilities in order to realign women with love and men with war. Just before her capitulation to Theseus Ipolita is described as a stilnovo beauty: Ipolita era a maraviglia bella e di valore accesa nel coraggio; ella sembiava matutina stella o fresca rosa del mese di maggio; giovine assai e ancora pulcella, ricca d’avere, e di real legnaggio, savia e ben costumata, e per natura nell’armi ardita e fiera oltre misura.


Hippolyta was marvelously beautiful and enflamed by courage and valor. She seemed like the morning star or a fresh-blown rose in the month of May. She was very young and still a maiden, endowed with wealth and royal lineage, prudent and well-bred, daring in arms by nature, and immeasurably noble.

28 Hopeless Love

Comparing her to a morning star and a fresh rose, Boccaccio portrays Ipolita as a conventional love object. As a maiden she is not implicated in the women’s murder of their husbands. Royal and wealthy, she will make a suitable bride for Theseus. And yet she is ‘per natura’ (‘by nature’) proud and skilled in arms, which implies that her future success, or at least happiness, as Theseus’ wife will always be imperfect, as she will be unable to exercise her skill. Because she has been so convincing as a warrior, she can never be fully convincing as a wife. The transformation of the other Amazons is described as rapid and complete: Le donne avevan cambiati sembianti, ponendo in terra l’arme rugginose, e tornate eran quali eran davanti, belle, leggiadre, fresche e graziose; e ora in lieti motti e dolci canti mutate avean le voci rigogliose, e’ passi avevan piccioli tornati, che pria nell’armi grandi erano stati. E la vergogna, la qual discacciata avean la notte orribile, uccidendo li lor mariti, loro era tornata ne’ freschi visi, gli uomini vedendo; e sì era del tutto trasmutata la real corte, a quel che era prima, essendo sanza uomini le femine, parea, ch’appena alcuna di loro il credea.


The ladies had altered their appearance as they placed their rusty weapons on the ground and returned to the way they used to be: beautiful, charming, fresh, and graceful. Now with blithe movements and sweet songs they transformed their hearty voices; and they changed their steps, which had been great strides before when they were bearing arms, into small ones. And the modesty which they had discarded on that terrible night when they killed their husbands now returned to their fresh faces when they saw the men. And so the royal court was entirely changed back to what it had been before, so that scarcely one of the women believed, it seemed, that they had been without men. (McCoy’s translation, slightly modified)

Warrior Woman/Lovely Lady 29

The women promise not to resort to their earlier ways and to cherish their new husbands forever. Yet even, or perhaps especially, here, the transformation of the women is unconvincing, if only because of the narrator’s insistence on its abruptness and completeness. The reference to the women’s homicides, even to disallow their repetition, highlights the huge distance between what the women were and what they have become. That the women themselves can hardly believe it suggests that they, despite their promises, may never be able to inhabit fully their new roles. The language Boccaccio chooses here shows that the women, rather than undergoing any ontological change, are merely adopting new roles: ‘avevan cambiati sembianti’ (‘they had altered their appearance’), ‘mutate avean le voci rigogliose’ (‘they transformed their hearty voices’), and ‘e’ passi avevan piccioli tornati’ (‘they changed their steps […] into small ones).’ Indeed, the narrator stresses that the women have returned to their earlier ways rather than adopting new ones, a rather alarming prospect given that their period of self-rule was predicated on the murder of their husbands. Thus, the domestication of Ipolita and the Amazons is imperfect at best. By repeatedly articulating a disconnect between ‘woman’ and ‘warrior,’ Boccaccio sets the stage for the transformation of Ipolita and the Amazons, and yet a remainder of their warrior energies lingers to haunt the rest of Boccaccio’s work, as Freccero demonstrates. This imperfect transformation from Amazon warrior to obedient wife is emblematic of the transformations from women to men examined in the chapters that follow. Such extreme changes, effected to satisfy the demands of a heterosexual hegemony, are never complete and leave a remainder of queer energy in the texts. The very abruptness of these changes, which are enacted to (re)instate a straight teleology, suggests a narrative incoherence, a queer oppositionality, as Edelman would have it, to the ‘official’ narrative. Authors continued to develop the Italian maiden warrior after the Teseida, and tried other strategies (never perfect) to direct her disruptive energies. Another such strategy is the open ending. L’Aspramonte’s Open Ending L’Aspramonte, a prose work by the Florentine Andrea da Barberino that describes the battle between the Christians and Saracens at Reggio, enjoyed extraordinary popularity in its day and in the centuries that followed. Although we know that Andrea was born around 1372, scholars have been unable to date his works, and it is possible that Andrea did

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not allow them to circulate in written form during his lifetime.10 They were meant to be read aloud in piazza, and it is likely that Andrea both authored them and read them in public. Although Andrea ‘did not introduce startling innovations, […] he treated the tradition with respect, conserving its norms, plots, and characters.’11 Both Margaret Tomalin12 and Pio Rajna13 before her suggest that Galiziella, the maiden warrior of L’Aspramonte, is the prototype of the Italian warrior maiden, but one who is closely linked to her Amazon ancestors.14 As Boccaccio’s Ipolita is figured a barbarian as opposed to Theseus the Greek, so Galiziella is figured a Saracen as opposed to the Christian Riccieri, the man she will eventually marry. Although Ipolita is described as being of royal lineage (which contributes to her suitability as Theseus’ wife), in this she is unlike most Amazons, who, like Galiziella, are generally described as illegitimate. Like Ipolita, Galiziella will be domesticated: baptized and married to Riccieri, the only knight able to unhorse her. But Andrea leaves Galiziella’s fate uncertain, proposing more than one outcome to her story. This refusal to close down Galiziella’s narrative is highly suggestive. It points to the difficulties inherent in managing the character of the Amazon, and it indicates a path other than the one (unsuccessful, by most accounts) chosen by Boccaccio. The open ending allows the audience to continue to imagine Galiziella, to project her beyond the boundaries of the text. This will be Boiardo’s strategy in dealing with Bradamante at the end of the Innamorato. Galiziella is introduced in chapter eight of book I: ‘In questo tempo giunse Galiziella figliuola del re Agolante; ma era bastarda, e veniva del regno Feminoro con cento damigelle’ (‘At this time Galiziella arrived, daughter of King Agolante; but she was illegitimate, and she came from the Land of Women with a hundred ladies’) (8).15 Galiziella is introduced first by her name, and then in relation to the Saracen king. This relationship, however, is qualified: she is illegitimate, and thus has only partial claim to membership in the royal family. It is not clear how she came to be fathered by the king. Was Agolante one of the men whom the Amazons used only to father children, keeping the girls and murdering or abandoning the boys, according to the legends?16 Andrea’s listeners would have made certain assumptions about Galiziella from this introduction: that she disdains men, for example, and that she is fierce in battle. Galiziella displays her prowess soon after her arrival. Watching jousters from a balcony, Galiziella cannot contain her desire to take part in the action. Her brother Almonte notices this and arranges to have her armed and horsed. Here Galiziella distinguishes herself as a maiden

Warrior Woman/Lovely Lady 31

warrior as opposed to an Amazon: Maria Predelli points out that whereas Amazons (like Ipolita) had appeared in battle only as part of an army of Amazons, the maiden warrior displays her martial capabilities by jousting.17 Amazed at Galiziella’s performance on the field, Almonte urges his mother, the queen, to accept Galiziella as her own daughter despite her illegitimate status. He then promises Galiziella great riches if he should succeed in conquering France, riches so great that she could choose any husband she wanted, but he proposes certain limits: Ma io ti priego che tu non tolga marito se tu non truovi barone che ti abatta da cavallo, imperò che si disdice che una femmina abbia uno marito che possa meno di lei; e però, se niuno barone t’abatte, quello sia tuo marito.(9) I beg you not to take a husband unless you can find a knight who can unhorse you, because it is not allowed that a woman have a husband who is less capable than she; but if there is a knight who can unhorse you, let him be your husband.

Galiziella agrees to this without comment. Brother and sister seem to concur that a wife should not be able to best her husband in a joust.18 So although Galiziella is allowed to excel in the skills of a knight, she is expected to have a traditional relationship with her husband. King Agolante is similarly impressed with his daughter’s jousting, but he also expresses the wish that she marry ‘il più franco barone del mondo’ (‘the most valorous knight in the world’) (9). Galiziella’s skill as a knight, then, elicits a mixed response from her family. She wins the admiration of her father and brother and even of her stepmother. Her success on the battlefield affords her full integration into the royal family despite her illegitimate status: Ed era lodata per la più franca donna del mondo, ed era nella grazia del padre e della reina e de’ fratelli, e aveva ogni grazia ch’ella admandava.(9) She was praised as the most valorous woman in the world, and she was in the good graces of her father and of the queen and of her brothers, and her every wish was granted.

Yet together with admiration, Galiziella’s father and brother express the desire that she conform to the expectations of their culture with respect to marriage. Her skill as a warrior must not exceed certain

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limits. Like Boccaccio in his presentation of Ipolita, Andrea must maintain the disconnect between ‘woman’ and ‘warrior’ in order later to recuperate Galiziella for baptism and marriage. After the Christian warrior Riccieri wounds her brother in battle, Galiziella seeks revenge and goes to challenge Riccieri. Riccieri proves the superior warrior, however, and he unhorses her. Galiziella loses her helmet when she falls from her horse, and her long hair marks her as a woman: ‘e’ capelli si sciolsono e sparsonsi sopra l’arme’ (‘and her hair came loose and spread over her armour’) (31).19 The contrast between Galiziella’s behaviour and armour and her beautiful hair amazes Riccieri, who tells the Christian forces to take her prisoner and not to kill her. Beltramo, Riccieri’s brother, falls in love with her after she appears dressed as a woman. When Beltramo asks to marry her, Galiziella replies that she wants him only if he can beat her in a joust, because ‘io non voglio marito che non mi possa gastigare: e voi sapete che non sarebbe ragione’ (‘I don’t want a husband who cannot discipline me: you know that would be senseless’) (32). Galiziella refers here to what she assumes to be a view of marriage common to both Christians and Saracens: a husband should have authority over his wife. Beltramo refuses, so Riccieri marries her: ‘egli la fece l’altra mattina battezzare, e posele nome Gostanza; ma ella fu sempre chiamata Galiziella. E tornato in sul palazzo la sposò’ (‘he had her baptized yesterday morning, and he gave her the name Gostanza; but she was always called Galiziella. And having returned to the palace he married her’) (32). Although Galiziella’s status changes in two ways here (she is both baptized and married), the third change does not last. Riccieri gives her the name Gostanza, a name that implies Christian virtue, but she continues to be called Galiziella, the name under which she made her reputation as a warrior. The liminality of her status is emphasized by this imperfect name change. The name Galiziella is thus retained as a marker of the warrior’s capabilities, a remainder of her Saracen, bellicose past. Beltramo is furious that he has lost Galiziella to his brother and decides to betray his city in order to exact revenge. Galiziella has a premonitory dream of Beltramo’s betrayal, which Riccieri ignores: ‘Sempre queste femine vanno drieto a’ loro vanità e a’ sogni!’ (‘These women always follow their frivolities and dreams!’) (36). Galiziella is unable to influence her husband because her knowledge of Beltramo’s betrayal was obtained in a way Riccieri considers feminine and therefore unreliable. Furthermore, Galiziella had agreed with her brother Almonte that her husband should be her superior, and so she is not now in a position to assert herself. Riccieri fails to appreciate Galiziella’s intelligence, and

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the Christians lose the battle to the Saracens. Galiziella is remarkable because she has both tremendous physical strength and superior feminine knowledge, but Riccieri allows himself to recognize only her physical strength, because his own is greater. After the Saracens win the battle, Galiziella’s father is outraged to learn that his daughter has been baptized. Galiziella defends herself to her brother: [T]u sai bene che tu mi comandasti ad Arganoro che io non togliessi mai marito se egli non mi vincessi. Costui mi vinse, e non t’era vergogna che uno tale cavaliere fosse mio marito, ch’era il migliore cavaliere del mondo. (44) You know well that in Arganoro you commanded me not to take a husband unless he could best me. He bested me, and it was no shame to you that such a knight was my husband, he who was the best knight in the world.

Galiziella’s story remains unresolved. According to Barberino, there are different possible endings to the story: in one, Almonte, on Agolante’s order, throws Galiziella into the fire; in another, Almonte substitutes another woman for his sister and sends Galiziella to prison in Africa. As a Saracen Galiziella is allowed to be an excellent warrior. Her skill is recuperated for the benefit of the Christian side of the battle when Galiziella fights with the French after Beltramo betrays the Christians to the Saracens. Like Ipolita, Galiziella can be said to be domesticated by the end of her narrative. She readily agrees to the limits on her freedom imposed by her father and brother, and she converts to Christianity and changes her name to marry the only man who is her physical superior. Her premonitions are ignored, and she is compelled to fight against her former countrymen. Her domestication is, however, imperfect and incomplete. The narrator professes himself ignorant of Galiziella’s fate, and her story is left open-ended, a strategy Boiardo will employ in the Orlando innamorato. As Boiardo refuses to close down Fiordispina’s queer desire for Bradamante, so Andrea refuses to close down Galiziella’s identity as a warrior. Although the stakes are quite different in Boiardo’s work, where the refusal to conclude the story is linked to the figuration of queer female desire, Barberino here demonstrates the narrative potential in the open ending.20 Unlike Boccaccio, who attempts, albeit unsuccessfully, to contain Ipolita completely, Andrea, having baptized and married off his heroine, allows a significant remainder to continue to circulate in the story. The subjunctive, which Andrea uses liberally

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elsewhere,21 is rejected in this passage in favour of the indicative, which seems to admit all the possibilities at once: E ancora si dice che in quello fuoco fu gittata Galiziella; alcuno dice che Almonte vi fece gittare un’altra femina, e segretemente mandò Galiziella in Africa in su una nave e fella menare in prigione. Alcuno altro ha detto di lei che ella ebbe uno figliuolo maschio e una femmina. (44) It is said that Galiziella was thrown into that fire; one says that Almonte had another woman thrown there, and secretly sent Galiziella to Africa on a ship and had her imprisoned. Another said that she had one male child and one female.

The possibility of being sent to Africa suggests Galiziella’s return to her non-Christian past. The possible children represent both a physical manifestation of Galiziella’s remainder and the continuing duality of her nature, both masculine and feminine. The open ending, together with Galiziella’s premonitory dream and her participation in the battle against the Saracens, highlights the extent to which Galiziella’s domestication is incomplete. The open ending in L’Aspramonte is a function of the remainder of Galiziella’s warrior past: in this case, the remainder exceeds the demands of a conclusion. Antea Undomesticated Luigi Pulci’s masterpiece Morgante (1478)22 enjoyed wide popularity in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Only marginally a part of the learned humanist circles of Florence, ‘Pulci revived the content and forms of the cantari popolari of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries … [T]he Morgante belongs more to the medieval methods and ideas of the cultural tradition of the fourteenth century than to the humanistic tradition of the fifteenth.’23 Pulci’s poem includes more than one maiden warrior, but I will consider here briefly only the one who figures most prominently: Antea. Antea is fully realized as a maiden warrior, and she is wholly integrated into the action of the poem: unlike Ipolita and Galiziella, she is not domesticated and married off, and she is allowed to retain her status as a warrior. A woman of superlative beauty, Antea is also a superlative warrior. These characteristics are allowed to exist together in her without the qualifying ‘ancora che’ (‘although’) that Boccaccio uses to express the tension between the masculine and the feminine in Ipolita. Anticipating Boiardo’s

Warrior Woman/Lovely Lady 35

Bradamante in this, Antea is not figured as a threat but rather in a consistently positive light. While Ariosto will revisit the need to domesticate the maiden warrior in his poem, this is not a central concern for Pulci or for Boiardo. Antea represents the full acceptance of the maiden warrior figure into the genre. At her introduction into the poem Antea is described in detail over about seven octaves, a very lengthy description indeed. Listing attributes from the top down, the poet pauses on Antea’s face, hair, eyes, nose, teeth, chin, throat, arms, hands, breasts, waist, hips, and so on, comparing her to various goddesses, nymphs, and celebrated beauties. As Paolo Orvieto points out, Antea is described according to the conventions of medieval descriptions of ideal women: her beauty lies less in the perfection of her individual characteristics than in the absolute harmony of their relation to each other together with perfect colouring and a pleasing manner.24 Along with the beauty and grace of the perfect woman, Antea also possesses the capabilities traditionally associated with the perfect man, qualities constitutive of the maiden warrior. She is described as being ‘nelle promesse sue sempre virile’ (‘forever virile in her promises’) (15, ciii, 3),25 an excellent horsewoman to rival Mars (15, civ, 8), and inclined to masculine pursuits: ‘Sapeva tutte l’arti liberali; / portava spesso il falcon pellegrino, / feriva a caccia lioni e cinghiali’ (‘She was conversant with the liberal arts, / had oft the hunting falcon on her arm, / and wounded boars and lions in the chase’) (15, civ). Antea expresses harmony in this assemblage of masculine and feminine attributes, which are not described as being in tension with one another but rather are perfectly combined. The absolute integration of the masculine and feminine is exemplified in the way in which Pulci introduces the martial element to a description of Antea’s feminine beauty. When the poet stops to pause on Antea’s hands, he writes: ‘aveva e lunga e candida la mana, / da potere sbarrar ben l’arco a caccia, / tanto che in questo somiglia Dïana’ (‘her hands were both long and purely white / to be able to hold the hunting bow well – / Diana she resembled in all this’) (15, c, 2–4).26 The attractive length of her hands, a typically feminine attribute, is described as being in the service of a masculine pursuit: hunting. Her prowess as a warrior (it is said that she can unhorse any knight) brings her great fame, and the poet compares her to the Amazons Camilla and Penthesilea (15, cix, 2). This comparison to the Amazons seems a rather empty gesture used only to enlarge the catalogue of famous women to whom Antea is compared. The Italian maiden warrior is by now substantially different from her Amazon

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ancestors. Even love does not domesticate Antea. Although she falls in love with Rinaldo, and he with her, he eventually drifts away. Antea is not presented as broken-hearted about this; indeed she seems unchanged by the experience. She never marries and remains a virgin. Both Gloria Allaire and Maria Predelli note that the figure of the maiden warrior thrived more in Italy than in any other European country. Allaire proposes that this might be due to the ‘strong classical tradition in Italy.’27 Predelli suggests that the maiden warrior developed alongside other cultural products, including various fresco cycles and literary texts of the late medieval period, in which a woman’s greatest virtue was to behave as a man.28 Both Allaire and Predelli suggest that this is a question requiring further study, as it indeed remains. For now, we can say that the ubiquity and the importance of the maiden warrior figure in the Italian literary landscape indicate the richness of ideas from which Boiardo would create his Bradamante. Although I have presented the heroines of these three poems, and the strategies used to deploy their energies, in chronological order, reflecting the development from Amazon to Italian maiden warrior, I would not like to suggest a similar trajectory in strategies of containment. Although Antea is spared domestication, as, to a large extent, is Boiardo’s Bradamante, Ariosto and other poets of the sixteenth century will revisit the project of containment. Boccaccio’s unsuccessful efforts to domesticate Ipolita completely typify the difficulties attendant on such a project. Andrea employs a similar strategy in the domestication of Galiziella through baptism and marriage, but he goes only half way. Rather than insisting on the success of his project of domestication, he leaves the story open-ended, allowing Galiziella’s potentially subversive energies continued circulation. In Antea the masculine and the feminine are allowed to co-exist in a maiden warrior who shows no trace of anxiety or regret. Boiardo and other authors after Pulci working within the epic tradition have these precedents to consider as they elaborate on the maiden warrior character and decide how best to limit or extend her freedoms. The freedom of circulation that the maiden warrior enjoys depends on her status as a warrior and therefore on her ‘masculine’ attributes such as physical strength, fearlessness, and skill in battle. To these Boiardo adds another: Bradamante is sexually desirable to another woman. Like the maiden warrior herself, the queer desire she occasions must be held accountable in some way, and this is a tricky project. Boiardo was the first of the great epic poets to recognize the narrative possibilities in queer female desire, a motif he borrowed from two traditions featuring crossdressed women: the hagiographic and the cantare.

2 To Disguise and Deceive

The motif of the cross-dressed woman as the object of female desire, which probably finds its origins in Ovid’s tale of Iphis and Ianthe in book IX of the Metamorphoses, is featured in numerous French and Italian medieval romances. Among these romances are some stories in which the cross-dressed woman is given a bride and is then miraculously changed into a man to fulfil the role of husband. Ovid’s tale also includes this element, although the motif of the sex change is given much more detail in medieval versions of the story.1 The pre-eminent Ariosto scholar Pio Rajna rejects, for the most part, suggestions that the maiden warriors Bradamante and Marfisa as they appear in both Boiardo’s and Ariosto’s epics derive from the heroines of late-fourteenth-century Italian romances, or cantari, such as Reina d’Oriente and La bella Camilla. He argues that the heroines of these earlier poems should not be considered maiden warriors at all, as they lack many of the attributes constitutive of that character. Unlike Bradamante and Marfisa, these women assume male attire as a costume and in order to accomplish a particular goal. Although they may be skilled with a lance, they are not warriors by occupation. Marfisa and Bradamante, however, wear armour and engage other knights in battle because they are wholly committed to the knight’s life. Although Rajna insists on considering Bradamante apart from female characters who wear armour and bear arms only conditionally and temporarily, I see one important similarity between her and a number of these characters: they all attract the erotic interest of other women. Maria Predelli notes: ‘It is not surprising that numerous authors used [the narrative sequence that goes from marriage to sex change] because this topos offered a great attraction from a narrative point of view, with its possibilities of suspense and audience engagement. Often a tale was actually constructed to arrive at a certain narrative situation, and it

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wasn’t rare for a conclusion to determine the entire course of previous events.’2 If Predelli is right, then queer female desire, which precipitates the marriage–sex change sequence, is what drives these narratives. In Reina d’Oriente and La bella Camilla this queer desire is explored at length before the cross-dressed heroine is miraculously changed into a man. As William Robins writes: ‘[T]he structure of romance allows for this final shutdown [of an alternative sexuality] to be preceded by sustained exploration of how homoeroticism might engage characters in a specific fictional world. It seems that such same-sex unions could only become representable by means of this device of miraculous sex-change, playing as it did to normative expectations.’3 In Heterosyncrasies: Female Sexuality When Normal Wasn’t Karma Lochrie makes a convincing argument for the absence in the medieval period of ‘normative’ expectations of sexuality. I think the expectations in these cantari are less sexual than they are social and political: the bride of a cross-dressed woman must be afforded a heterosexual union that satisfies the demands of her father. This is accomplished through the groom’s change of sex. Although my interest in the repetition of the marriage–sex change–consummation teleology is sustained, I pay considerable attention to what happens between the wedding and the sex change, and I argue for the presence of a remainder of queer female desire that is unrecuperated by the poems’ ends. In the following chapters I argue that an awareness of the narrative conventions of queer female desire in the Italian cantari suggests a way to read the Bradamante-Fiordispina story in romance epic. For the moment let us explore these conventions in Boiardo’s medieval antecedents: cantari and related hagiographic stories. Reina d’Oriente: The King’s Queer Bride The queen of the title in Antonio Pucci’s Reina d’Oriente (before 1375)4 is a beautiful, devout Christian who lives in chastity with an impotent king. The emperor of Rome, upon hearing of her beauty and wisdom, falls in love with her. In order to see her he tells the pope that she is a heretic and should be called upon to defend herself before the pope. The queen leaves the East and travels to Rome for an audience with the pope, who finds her blameless. She asks the pope to pray for her to become pregnant with a son who might inherit her wealth, and he replies that she will soon be with child. The desperate emperor tells his mother of his desire for the queen, so she is invited to the imperial palace. The queen, with misgivings, agrees to the visit, but she goes to the palace accompanied by a thousand

To Disguise and Deceive 39

of her soldiers dressed as girls. At the imperial palace the emperor’s mother attempts to lock the queen and her son in a room together, but the queen’s soldiers come to her defence. The queen kills the emperor’s mother with a sword she had hidden under her dress and escapes the palace. She prays for assistance against the imperial soldiers, an angel gives her a magic wand that causes the Roman troops to disperse, and she escapes with her retinue. The emperor then accuses the queen of magic, and the pope accuses the emperor of falsely slandering the queen. The emperor has a change of heart and begs the pope for forgiveness. The story of the queen’s daughter (for it is a daughter she gives birth to, and not the son she asked for) occupies most of the second and third cantos; it is sandwiched between the story of the queen’s expedition to Rome and the emperor’s attempt to rape her, and the final episode of the Lady of the Thorn. A number of elements in the opening episode foreshadow elements of the story of the queen’s daughter. First, this episode introduces the disconnect between clothes and the people who wear them. Male power concealed beneath female dress is figured by the queen, whose sexual vulnerability is mitigated by the sword she carries under her dress. She is similar to her soldiers, who, dressed as women, also carry concealed weapons. Clothes are shown as providing unreliable information about sex (in the case of the soldiers) and about behaviour (in the case of the queen). Second, this episode includes the first of three instances of divine intervention in the poem. I examine both of these elements as they appear in the story of the queen’s daughter. Upon returning home the queen breaks her habit of chastity with the king, conceives, and tells her subjects that she is pregnant with a boy. Shortly thereafter the king dies. When the queen is in labour, Berta, the queen’s provident secretary, brings in a male infant, whom she exchanges with the girl who is born to the queen. The boy is presented to the people as the queen’s son, and the queen’s daughter is raised as a boy by foster parents: ‘e po’ crescendo a foggia mascolina, / la facïe vestire e stare ad agio, / sicché maschio parëa veramente, / più ch’altro bellissimo e piacente’ (‘and growing up as a little boy, she was dressed and made at ease by Berta in such a way that she truly seemed to be a boy more handsome and pleasing than any other’) (2, xxix, 5–8).5 After seven years the queen sends the substitute boy away and recalls her daughter, who is then sent with Berta to study in Bologna. The child’s masculine performance is most convincing: ‘da tutta gente maschio era tenuta / per atti e per sembianti e per li panni: / delle bellezze tante in sé avea / che molte donne inamorar facea’ (‘everyone thought her to be a boy because of her

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actions, her appearance, and her clothes. She had such good looks that she made many women fall in love’) (2, xxxv, 5–8). The tension between the body and the outward appearance of the queen’s daughter is maintained through the use of feminine pronouns and adjectives to refer to her. In this list of qualities that allow the queen’s daughter to be taken for a boy clothes come last. It is actions in particular that the queen’s daughter uses to convince her audience. When the queen sends for her child, now the king, he returns with a convincing show of masculinity: ‘E lo re poi, per più chiaro mostrare / che fusse maschio com’era tenuto, / imparò di schermire e di giostrare, / e˘ in ciascuno fu ardito e saputo’ (‘And the king also, to demonstrate more clearly that he was a man, as was believed, learned to fence and to joust, and in each was daring and knowledgeable’) (2, xli, 1–4). As Robins points out, the king’s gender here is pure performance as he makes a conscious effort to put his masculinity on display.6 This masculinity is reinforced by the use of masculine adjectives (‘ardito,’ ‘saputo’) describing the king. Meanwhile, the Roman emperor is looking for a husband for his daughter, and the pope suggests the king. The king and his mother, the queen, are very upset, but they do not see how they can refuse. The king accepts, but only reluctantly, ‘non sentendosi maschio di natura’ (‘not feeling himself to be a man’) (2, xlv, 3). The king can fool his subjects, but he cannot fool himself. The use of the word natura here suggests a connection between two of its meanings: character or temperament and genitals, particularly female. The queen, although she acts like a man in killing the emperor’s mother, is ultimately unable to escape the imperial forces on her own and requires divine assistance. She pushes the boundary of her sex, but she is still a woman. The queen’s daughter pushes the boundary much further, presenting herself to the world as and assuming the role of a man, but she is unable to change her natura. It will take another angel to do that. The king departs for Rome, where everyone finds him very attractive, especially the emperor’s daughter. They are married. The king asks Berta what to do when he is in bed with his wife, and she counsels him to preach the benefits of virginity and to try to win his wife over to it. The emperor’s daughter is not convinced, and the king, crying, confesses. His wife forgives him and pledges not to reveal his secret. The king’s charms are so compelling that the emperor’s daughter quickly agrees to live a life of chastity with the king. Why is this girl, described as anxious to marry for the pleasures of the marriage bed and for eventual children, so quick to accept a life of chastity and deceit? The author suggests a certain degree

To Disguise and Deceive 41

of intimacy in the women’s subsequent embrace, and a certain hopefulness when the new wife tells her father the next day that she is ‘me’ che in paradiso’ (‘better than in paradise’) (3, xvii, 4). Perhaps chastity, which in this story does not seem to preclude the women’s passionate embraces, is not a hardship with a partner as beautiful as the king. It is not until the newlyweds return to the East that the author reveals the extent of their mutual sexual satisfaction. When Berta tells the queen that the marriage went well, the queen is very happy, … po’ che il difetto del re non era per altrui sentito. La sposa avea col re magior diletto ch’al mondo avesse mai moglie e marito, e ’l padre suo n’avea lettere assai ch’ella si contentava più che mai.

(3, xxiii, 3–8)

… because no one else was aware of the king’s lack. The bride had with the king the greatest pleasure that a wife ever had with her husband; and her father received many letters about her happiness, which was greater than ever.

The consummation of this marriage between women is displaced from Rome and reserved for the ambience of the East, where it is described in idyllic, if conventional, terms. The sexual satisfaction the king’s wife finds in the body of her lover is compared explicitly to that a wife finds in her husband. The king’s wife also tries to reassure her father that he has made a good match for his daughter. While Berta and the queen are glad that no one else knows of the king’s ‘difetto’ (‘lack’), the king’s wife, enjoying her blissful honeymoon, does not even recognize that a problem exists. The removal from Rome together with the all-female community of the queen, Berta, the king, and the king’s wife constitute a space free from the patriarchal demands of the emperor’s court. The king’s performance as a man is sufficient to satisfy both the queen’s subjects and the emperor and his subjects. The desire for an heir, so important to the queen in the first part of the poem, has been set aside.7 Pucci has instead created a space in which ‘the vantage of official institutions is held in temporary abeyance’8 in order to explore what kind of relationship the king and his wife might create for themselves. In fact, the women become so absorbed in their passion that they become indiscreet:

42 Hopeless Love Po’ che du’ anni insieme furo state, amando l’una l’altra d’amor fino, per lo gran caldo avenne, un dì di state, ch’ell’erano spogliate in un giardino, e donna Berta le trovò abraciate, e riprendélle per aspro latino; ed elle disson: ‘Va via, vecchierella, che non cape tra noi più tuo novella.’

(3, xxiv)

When they had been together for two years, each loving the other with a pure love, it happened one summer’s day, because of the great heat, that they were undressed in a garden. And Berta found them embracing, and accused them harshly; and they said, ‘Get out of here, old woman! What happens between us is not your business any more.’

The harshness with which Berta accuses the lovers should come as no surprise considering the importance of the king’s secret and the consequences should it be revealed. The author of the poem does not present her as scandalized by what she sees; she is described only as angry, and this anger is consistent with her character as someone who anticipates consequences. It was she who first suggested to the queen that she consider what to do if her baby was a girl rather than a boy, it was she who procured the male infant who temporarily substituted for the queen’s daughter, and it was she who oversaw the child’s education and upbringing. Berta accompanied the king on his journey to Rome and advised him of what to do on his wedding night, and, fearing that the emperor’s daughter might not be able to keep the king’s sex a secret, it was she who faked a letter from the queen recalling them home. Indeed, Berta is responsible for the whole ruse, so it makes sense for her to be angry at the prospect of this house of cards collapsing as a result of the king’s rash behaviour. Two details in particular jump out from this description of passionate love between two women. First, there are no masculine adjectives used to describe the king here. Both lovers are clearly marked as women.9 Second, the two had already been together for two years when Berta discovers them. The passion between the women is represented as genuine and sustained, rather than as just an act to make their marriage appear legitimate. Although there is no suggestion that Berta herself is shocked by the lovers’ display, she uses the king’s sex as the means of her revenge. She goes to Rome and tells the emperor that the king is a woman, unable to

To Disguise and Deceive 43

live up to the expectation that she will relieve the emperor’s daughter of her virginity and be a real husband: ‘La tuo [sic] figlia è ancor pulzella, / ché femina è lo sposo sí com’ella’ (‘Your daughter is still a virgin, and her husband is a girl just like she is’) (3, xxv, 7–8). Furious, the emperor recalls his daughter and her husband to Rome. When he asks his daughter if her husband is a man or a woman, she replies: ‘Padre mio, egli è fornito / di ciò ch’a vero isposo si richiede’ (‘Father, he is equipped with that which is required of a true husband’) (3, xxviii, 6–7). The expectations of the emperor are different from the expectations of his daughter. Although she at first told the king that pledging virginity would be wrong because God created marriage for making babies, here she resists giving up her life of ‘chastity’ with the king. Unconvinced, the emperor orders a hunt, after which the king is to bathe. One of the emperor’s men warns the king, telling him that the emperor wants to see ‘se natura di femina vi truova’ (‘if you have a female sex’) (3, xxx, 4). The speaker surely means that the emperor wants to see what the king has beneath his clothes, but his use of the word natura recalls the king’s prior use of the word in an equivocal way, meaning both sex and temperament. The emperor wants to know if the king has a male body that coincides with his male performance. The courtier, in using the word natura, suggests a coincidence of male temperament and body, together with performance. The king, too, understands the conflation of temperament and body in the word natura, but in him these are both female. Desperate, he wanders off, looking for a place to drown himself. Instead, an angel comes to him and tells him that he is a man through the grace of God: ‘E lo re puose mano a suo [sic] natura / com’ebbe inteso l’angiol prestamente, / e ritrovossi sì fatta misura / che comparir poteva arditamente’ (‘the king put his hand on his organ [natura], for he had quickly understood the angel, and found himself to be of such a size, that he could boldly show himself’) (3, xxxiv, 1–4). Now the king has the natura he needs to satisfy the emperor’s requirements for a son-in-law, and he proudly displays it to the members of the court assembled for the bath. His male performance has never been so convincing. That evening the king goes to bed with his delighted wife. His new equipment is not described, however, as being so much a part of him as something that he has: it is ‘sì bella masserizia’ (‘such a handsome tool’) (3, xxxviii, 7), the organ that gives him credibility as a husband in the emperor’s eyes. The king’s wife, ‘[p]o’ ch’ell’ebbe assagiato quell’uccello / disse: ‘Amor mïo, donde avestù questo?’ (‘after she had sampled that

44 Hopeless Love

bird, asked, “Where did you get this, my love?”’) (3, xlii, 2). She uses a common euphemism to refer to her husband’s penis (‘uccello’ [‘bird’]) and calls it ‘questo’ (‘this’), as though she is talking about a supplement to her lover’s body, as though this organ does not coincide completely with the lover she knew for two years before his transformation. In other words, the two meanings of natura no longer coincide. There is no evidence of an ontological change resulting from the king’s transformation into a man. The king’s sense of self is presented as consistent, as is his performance as a man. The only change the king undergoes is a somatic one. In any case, the poem’s narrator suggests with a nudge and a wink that the emperor’s daughter will appreciate the king’s transformation; if she is happy that her spouse has returned, ‘ben sarà più quand’ella saprà il fatto’ (‘she will be even more so when she learns the truth’) (3, xxxvi, 8). The angel who appears to the king links his new penis specifically to the marriage bed in which he will use it: ‘colla sposa fa ciò ch’è mestieri, / ché tu sè maschio per grazia di Dio / e˘ ài ciò che bisogna’ (‘With your wife do what is necessary, because you are a man through the grace of God, and you have what you need’) (3, xxxiii, 6–8). The emperor’s insistence that his daughter’s husband be a man, as well as the angel’s exhortation to do what is necessary, make sense within the conventions of marriage, especially since the emperor has political considerations at stake. Yet the suggestion that the king’s wife will find him a more appealing lover as a man is unconvincing. The king’s wife, who initially subscribed to what Edelman calls ‘reproductive futurism’10 and what Roof calls ‘the looming demagogue of reproduction’11 in her insistence that marriage is for making babies, soon enough rejects this belief in favour of the sexual pleasure she finds in her childless marriage to the king. Pucci declines to ascribe any negative valence to this insistence on pleasure and rejection of fertility, in which, according to Edelman, lies queerness’ oppositionality. He simply writes a penis into the story without disturbing the emperor’s daughter’s insistence on sexual pleasure. I suggest that her desire for her spouse can be called queer even after the king’s sex change, as the emperor’s daughter continues to desire pleasure above all else. The king’s change of sex satisfies the requirements of the emperor, not those of his daughter. La bella Camilla’s Queer Admirers Piero da Siena’s La bella Camilla, another work from the cantare tradition, dates from the same period as Reina d’Oriente and also portrays the queer

To Disguise and Deceive 45

desire of one woman for a cross-dressed woman who is miraculously transformed into a man by the poem’s end.12 Its heroine is Camilla, the daughter of Amideo, king of Valenza, and Idilia di Pietra Belcolore. She delights in dogs and falconry and is an excellent horsewoman who jousts as well as any man. Camilla’s happy life takes a dark turn when her mother becomes ill. On her deathbed Idilia makes her husband promise that he will never marry again unless his new bride is more beautiful than she herself had been. The king agrees, but his search to find a woman more beautiful than his deceased wife is fruitless. Finally, he resolves to take his daughter Camilla as his wife in order not to break his promise.13 Camilla disguises herself as a man, assuming the name Amadio, and, together with her closest friend, Manbriano, who takes the name Fedele, flees by sea. During a period of rest on land Amadio is spotted by the princess Banbelina, who immediately falls in love with him.14 Furious when she is rebuffed, Banbelina orders her knights to kill Amadio, claiming that he tried to rape her.15 Amadio’s men hurry to his defence, but the king quickly arrives with more soldiers, and Amadio is trapped. He appeals to God, who sends an army of fifteen hundred soldiers dressed in white to his defence. One of the soldiers instructs Amadio and his men to flee in their ship while God’s army defeats the king’s men. Having escaped Banbelina, the group sets sail and arrives at a monastery where the abbess and all the nuns immediately fall in love with Amadio. Evading their grasp and surviving a storm, the group reaches a port city where Amadio buys a palace and determines to live out the rest of his life. He goes to offer his services to the king, and while he is at court both the daughter of a baron and the princess Canbragia fall in love with him at first sight. Canbragia swears to her father that she will take no husband but Amadio, despite the fact that the king had already promised her to the prince of Hungary. Furious, the king summons his men, who vow to defeat Amadio in a joust. Canbragia calls upon a lord from another kingdom to aid Amadio if necessary. Because Amadio must either fight or be killed, he defends himself and wins the competition, after which he is married to Canbragia. On their wedding night Amadio confesses to Canbragia, who agrees to keep his secret, but a dwarf hiding under the bed reports back to the king that Amadio is really a woman. Canbragia insists to her father that what the dwarf says is false, but the king wants proof. He proposes that all the men at court go swimming, and he insists that Amadio remove his clothes. Amadio begins to undress, appealing to God to rescue him. A ferocious lioness appears and scares away everyone except Amadio, who approaches her and asks to be devoured in order to escape the perilous

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situation he is in. The lioness reveals herself as an angel and turns Amadio into a man, rewarding him for his great patience. Canbragia is overjoyed, and she and Amadio live happily as man and wife. In La bella Camilla the desire that Amadio attracts provides the narrative impetus for much of the poem’s action. Amadio is a sort of vector of lust, causing all the women who see him to swoon. There are three such episodes described in detail, each different from the others, and each requiring a different kind of escape. The last of these is, of course, Amadio’s change into a man, a final escape that precludes further crisis and closes the action of the poem. Banbelina, the first woman to fall for Amadio’s charms, says, ‘in tutto questo mondo / non naque mai un giovan tanto bello; / vedi chom’è vermiglio, biancho e biondo!’ (‘Such a handsome young man has never before been born in the whole world; see how he is vermillion, white, and blond!’) (2, xxxvi, 2–4).16 Amadio’s beauty, described in conventional terms, represents the androgynous ideal of the time. Banbelina emphasizes his youth, calling him a ‘giovane,’ and the colours she uses to describe his beauty might apply equally well to a woman or a man. With the imperative ‘see!’ Banbelina creates an audience of herself and the reader to spy on the sleeping Amadio. Amadio thus occupies the conventionally feminine position of the object of desire, and Banbelina the masculine position of desiring lover. Upon awakening, Amadio rebuffs Banbelina’s advances, telling her, ‘io ò mogliera e ò mio difetto / ch’io non ti potre’ dar[e] (d’) amor diletto’ (‘I have a wife and I have my lack, so that I could not give you the delight of love’) (2, xlv, 7–8). Banbelina is as undeterred by this ‘difetto,’ as Canbragia will later be, but when she attempts to hug him, Amadio slaps her, a decidedly unchivalrous response. There is a tension here, one that appears often in these scenes of queer desire, between the cross-dressed woman’s insistence that she could not satisfy the woman who desires her, and the desiring woman’s refusal to believe it. It is clear that the desiring woman’s lust is for more than, for something other than, a penis. The lust of the abbess and the other nuns for Amadio occasions what is perhaps the funniest moment of the poem. The lustful nun, common in French and Italian medieval and Renaissance literature, was a readily available comic figure. After escaping the convent Amadio laughingly relates his adventure to Fedele (who knows Amadio is really Camilla) and the captain of the ship (who does not). The captain jests, ‘[E] i’ vi giuro alle santte ghuangnele / che se ella m’avesse invitato, / ch’io sarei

To Disguise and Deceive 47

istanotte cho-llei alberghato: // diletto a tutte arei dato stanotte’ (‘I swear to you on the holy gospels that if she had invited me, I would tonight have lodged with her, and I would have given pleasure to them all tonight’) (3, xxvi, 6–8; xxvii, 1).17 The third and final instance of erotic desire inspired by Amadio parallels events in the Reina d’Oriente. Like the king in Pucci’s poem, Amadio is certain that his spouse will be disappointed to learn the truth: ‘[O] padre, questa è la vera chrudel doglie / quando saprà che di femina è moglie’ (‘O father, this is truly a cruel pain, when she learns that she’s the wife of a woman’) (6, li, 7–8). Canbragia’s desire, like that of the emperor’s daughter in Reina d’Oriente, is disappointed at first but ultimately undiminished by the revelation that her beloved is a woman: Sua bionda treza in una chiuffia d’oro chanbragia la rinvolle e poi si spoglia; nel letto l’abraciò senza dimoro ben cento volte chon bramosa voglia; baciò quel che-ll’à dato tal martoro, poi il cercha tutto chome vento foglia; e quando fatto chom’ella il trovava chon alquant’ira un pezo dimora.

(7, xxix)

Canbragia loosed her blond braid into a mass of gold, and then she undressed. In bed she embraced him without hesitation at least a hundred times, with eager desire. She kissed him who had given her such torment, then she explored all of him as the wind does a leaf. And when she found him to be made like her, she remained for a while in a rage.

Despite her disappointment Canbragia decides to keep Amadio’s secret and returns to bed: Poi il bel manto di dosso levossi tornossi a-lletto e no-lle parve amaro; a sichurtà ciaschuno abracciossi, (e) cento volte insieme s’abracciaro; (e) chanbragia di lui molto saziossi al suo disir[e] salvo il diletto amaro il quale a molti à già tolto la vita, e chosì stando l’alba fu apparita.

(7, xxxiii)

48 Hopeless Love Then, throwing off her beautiful cloak, she returned to bed, and it did not seem bitter to her. In confidence each embraced the other, and a hundred times together they embraced, and Canbragia greatly satisfied her desire for him, except for the bitter delight that has already taken the life of many. And as they were thus, dawn appeared.

The women’s love-making, described as very satisfying to Canbragia, is presented in a positive way, while heterosexual sex, ‘il diletto amaro’ (‘the bitter delight’), is described as causing death. Nothing is said specifically of Amadio’s pleasure, but he is at the very least a willing participant here. The rhyme of this octave reflects the privileging of the women’s coupling over a heterosexual one: lines 2 and 6 end with ‘amaro’ (‘bitter’), stressing the negative aspect of the ‘delight’ of heterosexual love and providing a contrast with the women’s love, represented by the rhyming line 4: ‘s’abracciaro’ (‘they embraced’). The embrace is initiated in the last word of line 3, ‘abracciossi’ (‘each embraced’), rhymed with ‘saziossi’ (‘she satisfied’). Despite the satisfaction of the two lovers, a marriage between his daughter and another woman is unacceptable to the king. The long-suffering Amadio is favoured by God with a sex change that will allow him not only to escape the king’s wrath but also to assume the role of Canbragia’s legitimate husband. The angel who informs Amadio of this change says: Per lo ghran mal[e] che del padre fuggisti e per la pazienza de’ tormenti vuole idio padre che ghrazia n’aquisti che-ttu [che], femina se’, maschio diventi. Poi il segnò chantando li salmisti; allor si schosson suo menbri soventi; chantata e fatta la divozione, chamilla bella trovossi gharzone.

(8, xvii)

Because of your father’s great evil, which you fled, and because of your patience in torment, God the father wishes that you be granted a favour: that you who are female become male. He made the sign of the cross, singing the psalms. Then her limbs shook repeatedly. Having sung and given praise, the lovely Camilla found herself a boy.

The presence of Camilla’s evil father, whose cruel lust led Camilla to assume male disguise, is invoked at the moment that disguise becomes

To Disguise and Deceive 49

irrelevant. Camilla’s metamorphosis into a man frees her completely from the threat of her father’s domination. Camilla in fact becomes her father; she is no longer Camilla in disguise, but a man with a true right to the male name Amadio, a name very close to that of her father, Amideo. Indeed, the angel predicts that Amadio will one day be king himself. Canbragia is overjoyed when she learns of her lover’s transformation, and anxious to take her husband to bed. Much is made of the virginity of both partners: ‘la ghran vergogna che dimora in ello / chonvenne al tutto che giù si ponesse / e che verginità ciaschun perdesse. // Quando ebbe(r) preso il diletto d’amore / e la (lor) ghran virtù ciaschun provato …’ (‘the great shame that resided in him was proper to everything fixed below and both lost their virginity. When they had taken the delight of love and proved their great virtue …’) (8, xxxiii, 6–8; xxxiv, 1–2). The love-making of Amadio and Canbragia before Amadio’s sex change did nothing to stain their chastity, but, as in Reina d’Oriente, it is hard to take seriously the wife’s joy in her husband’s new sex, given her bliss in his previous one. A reading of Reina d’Oriente and La bella Camilla that privileges their conclusions might suggest that the disruptive potential of queer female desire is extinguished by the end: the union of man and wife is superimposed on the scene of two women in bed. But the change of the poems’ heroines from female to male is forced by the aggression of the brides’ fathers and not by the sexual dissatisfaction of the brides. Indeed, the insistence in both poems on the happiness of the brides in their new marital arrangements seems to be an afterthought, a happy corollary of patriarchal demands. Although both poems eventually shut down the women’s queer idylls, they suggest an even more disruptive possibility, one that Ariosto fully exploits and that I will examine closely in his text: not only that sex is mutable, but also that it is irrelevant. The emperor’s daughter and Canbragia are equally happy with their lovers as women and as men. The sex changes satisfy patriarchal, not uxorial, pressure. Hagiography and Queer Female Desire The figure of the cross-dressed female saint is also part of the textual ancestry of Boiardo’s Bradamante. Although the origin of this type has not been conclusively determined, she figures in numerous medieval legends.18 As early as the seventh century European authors wrote about these saints, and their stories circulated widely over the centuries in a

50 Hopeless Love

number of different texts. Among these texts was the Legenda aurea (The Golden Legend), compiled by Jacobus de Voragine, archbishop of Genoa, in 1267. It was one of the most famous books of the Middle Ages, and the over five hundred surviving manuscript copies testify to the extremely wide demand for it. Furthermore, within the first hundred years of its printing, more than one hundred and fifty editions and translations were produced. Valerie Hotchkiss writes: ‘The numerous translations and adaptations of Voragine’s Legenda aurea … firmly established the disguised saint in western hagiography.’19 A number of these stories have common elements: many of these women assume male costume to escape unwanted suitors, and some are accused of fathering a child. In two of these stories, the legends of Saint Theodora and Saint Eugenia, the desire that the cross-dressed saints inspire in other women figures prominently, and it is to these two tales that I turn my attention. Overcome with grief at having cuckolded her husband after being tricked by a suitor, Theodora cut her hair, dressed as a man, and fled to a monastery. She was received by the monks and became known by the name Theodore. One night several years later, as Theodore was returning to the monastery with provisions, he took shelter in a house where a woman asked him to lie with her.20 When he refused, she found another partner. Finding herself subsequently pregnant, the woman named Theodore as the father of her child. Theodore was driven from the monastery and given custody of the child, whom he raised as his own. Seven years later the abbot, considering that Theodore had suffered enough, recalled him. When Theodore died, the abbot had a vision that caused him to go to Theodore’s cell. Together with some other monks, he uncovered the body and discovered that Theodore had been a woman. Like Theodora, Eugenia was a woman of noble birth, and she studied letters and the liberal arts together with two male slaves. She resisted marriage and began to study the writings of Saint Paul. Upon hearing some Christians chanting together, Eugenia said to her two slaves: ‘An usurped authority has made me your mistress by words: by wisdom I have become your sister: now let us be brothers, and follow Christ!’ (‘dominam me verbis usurpata potestas, sororem vero sapientia fecit, simus ergo fratres et Christum sequamur’).21 She dressed as a man and went to a monastery ruled by a man who refused all contact with women. When Eugenia said she was a man, her true sex was revealed to him by God, and he said to her: ‘Thou dost well to call thyself a man, for woman though thou art, thou doest manfully!’ (‘recte vir diceris, quia, cum sis femina, viriliter agis.’)22 In order to follow

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Christ Eugenia took the habit of a monk and the name Eugenius, and he eventually became abbot of the monastery. A noblewoman named Melancia, whom he had healed of a fever, fell in love with Eugenius: ‘Thinking that Brother Eugenius was a man, [she] visited him frequently, and seeing the graciousness of his youth and the comeliness of his form, was smitten with love of him, and began anxiously to devise a way of dealing intimately with him’ (‘Praedicta igitur matrona fratrem Eugenium hominem esse arbitrans saepium eum visitabat vidensque elegantiam juventutis et pulchritudinem corporis in ejus amorem vehementer exarsit’).23 Melancia pretended to be ill and asked Eugenius to come to see her. She then revealed her love for him and embraced him. Eugenius vigourously refused her, and Melancia, afraid that Eugenius would make her actions public, accused him of trying to rape her. Eugenius was brought before the prefect, to whom he denied Melancia’s accusations, but Melancia’s servants, instructed by her, gave false testimony. Eventually, to prove his innocence, Eugenius ripped his garment from the top to the waist, exposing her breasts, and then identified herself as the prefect’s daughter, given up for lost. Melancia and her false witnesses were consumed by a fire sent from heaven. Although Theodora is an example of women’s sexual sinfulness while Eugenia is not, both women are examples of women’s sexual vulnerability, a theme of many of Voragine’s stories. Theodora’s and Eugenia’s male disguise is an attempt to escape sexuality, but it fails to keep them safe from sexual intrigue. Indeed, it is their perceived masculinity that arouses sexual interest. Theodora’s story is particularly interesting in this respect. Her own sexual incontinence causes her to leave her husband in order to expiate her sin, the circumstances of which she repeats: once again, someone demands sexual satisfaction from her. Even as a man Theodore occupies the feminized position of sexual object. S/he seems unable to avoid causing sexual misbehaviour as a member of either sex. The second time, however, the demand for sex is refused, and the consequences of queer desire denied provide the means through which Theodora is ultimately able to expiate her sin: Theodore is burdened with another’s illegitimate child which he raises as his own. Theodora thus does penance for her sin in a way that recognizes the quality of the sin, in a kind of contrappasso. Theodora’s femininity continues to be of central importance in her punishment: raising the child, considered a woman’s job, is something Theodore does well. Unlike Eugenia, Theodora is never described as masculine, perhaps because she is guilty of the ‘feminine’ sins of sexual susceptibility and

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incontinence. As Theodore is raising his son in the fields, he is tormented by the devil in ways that appeal in particular to his status as a wife. The devil comes to him in the form of his husband, calling him home. In another apparition the devil appears to him as a man who calls him a whore. The blameless Eugenia, however, is particularly well suited to male disguise. She calls herself a ‘brother’ to her slaves, and the abbot tells her that she acts in a manly way. Rather than disguising her true self, Eugenia’s habit illuminates it, although it fails to protect her from sexual advances. The motif of queer female desire is particularly developed in the story of Eugenia. Melancia’s desire for Eugenius is described as physical, and the saint’s appeal is neither obviously masculine nor feminine. As in Theodora’s story, the desire that Eugenius attracts highlights Eugenius’ femininity rather than masculinity: even as a man Eugenius continues to be sexually vulnerable. While Theodore’s refusal of the unnamed woman’s advances eventually provides her with a way to expiate her sin, no such penance is required of Eugenia. In her case, Melancia’s desire occasions Eugenia’s reunion with her family, their conversion to Christianity, and Eugenia’s return to female attire. Neither woman is able to prove her innocence without revealing herself as a woman. Truth in these stories is shown as residing in the women’s bodies, and the revelation of these bodies is a dramatic dénouement, particularly in Eugenia’s case. Although both women live part of their lives as men, they are shown in the end to be unequivocally female. The tales of women’s queer desire found in the hagiographic and cantare traditions represent important source material for Boiardo’s story of Bradamante and Fiordispina. Without denying the significance of the Ovidian subtext, relevant in many moments of Boiardo’s poem, I suggest that these other traditions play a heretofore undervalued part in the conclusion of Boiardo’s poem. Taken together, these traditions constitute a discourse that considers the coexistence of masculine and feminine attributes in a cross-dressed heroine. Both portray queer female desire and, in the case of the cantari, foster the expectation of its resolution in a change in the heroine’s body. This expectation plays an important part in the conclusion of the Orlando innamorato, to which I now turn.

3 Stopping without Ending

Just after Boiardo’s death in 1494 a new edition of the Orlando innamorato was published. This edition included the apparently unfinished book III, written after books I and II had been published together in 1487. In the last octave of this third book the poet puts a hasty conclusion to the work that had occupied much of his career: Mentre che io canto, o Iddio redentore, Vedo la Italia tutta a fiama e a foco Per questi Galli, che con gran valore Vengon per disertar non so che loco; Però vi lascio in questo vano amore De Fiordispina ardente a poco a poco; Un’altra fiata, se mi fia concesso, Raccontarovi il tutto per espresso.

(III, 9, xxvi)

But while I sing, o redeemer God, I see all Italy on fire, Because these French – so valiant! – Come to lay waste who knows what land, So I will leave you in this hopeless love Of simmering Fiordispina. Some other time, if it is permitted me, I’ll tell you all there is to this. (Ross’ translation slightly modified)

This conclusion, startling in its abruptness, suggests a number of questions. Did the poet really intend to end the canto here, after only twentysix octaves, or did something prevent him from continuing the poem?1

54 Hopeless Love

Did he really intend to tell us ‘all there is to this’ at a future date, or is this an intentionally empty promise? And why did Boiardo put down his pen at this particular moment, in the scene of Princess Fiordispina’s queer desire for the maiden warrior Bradamante? Critical commentary on this last octave (which is surprisingly limited, given the fame of these lines)2 is not in agreement about the meaning of the poem’s conclusion. The French invasion of Charles VIII in 1494 is sometimes given as the reason for the poem’s sudden end. One critic writes: ‘Faced with the misfortune of the patria, the most honourable poetry was silence, tragic silence over a tragic destiny.’3 Alfredo Panzini describes this last octave as ‘the face of a clock whose hands have stopped at the moment of a great calamity.’4 Charles Stanley Ross offers a simpler explanation: ‘Some more likely reasons that Boiardo left his poem unfinished are that he purposely designed a poem that could be continued indefinitely, that the pressures of office and changing literary tastes distracted him from his masterpiece, and that while occasionally working on his third book, he died.’5 As Ross points out, Boiardo’s health was failing, and it seems that by the fall of 1494 he was physically unable to write. He died that December. Ross also notes that Boiardo was quite busy in his role as a public official in the period following the release of the first edition of the Orlando innamorato and may not have found the time to write any more than he did. Similarly, Werner Gundersheimer reminds us that ‘the poem’s final stanza, while indeed topical, conforms to standard formulae for leave-taking,’ and he asks that we ‘not inadvertently belittle [Boiardo] by conceding that his poetic voice would have yielded to a mere military campaign, however distasteful the outcome.’6 Antonio Franceschetti is not convinced that Boiardo’s conclusion is a conclusion at all, although he goes even further that Ross and Gundersheimer: It is not clear that the invasion of Charles VIII brought about the presumed unfinished state of a poem whose author, writing the very famous last octave, seemed not to be creating a conclusion at all … [Boiardo], who had initially conceived of his poem as a series of fantastic adventures, was never able, and probably never knew how, to finish it.7

Franceschetti’s suggestion that Boiardo did not know how to finish his poem is remarkable, given the inventive genius behind the Orlando innamorato. There is, however, something to the idea that the author ‘seemed not to be creating a conclusion at all,’ an idea that Franceschetti does not develop further and to which I will return below.

Stopping without Ending 55

Some critics explicitly link Fiordispina’s queer desire to the suspension of the poem, describing this desire in pejorative terms and stressing the fact that it is a ‘hopeless’ love. Jo Ann Cavallo sees humour rather than pathos in these lines. Recalling the opening lines of the canto, she writes: ‘Yet all of this lyrical build-up fizzles when we find that the story for which [Boiardo] evoked a divinized Love is nothing more than the humorous account of Fiordispina’s attempt to seduce Bradamante, whom she mistakes for a man.’8 C.E.J. Griffiths writes: ‘The episode stands out from the other stories contained in book III, not only on account of its preposterousness, but also for its unfinished nature.’9 I consider the connection between the perceived preposterousness of queer female desire and the suspension of the poem in some detail below. John McLucas draws a parallel between Italy’s hopeless military situation and Fiordispina’s hopeless desire: ‘Italy’s whole problem was an absence of phallic potency.’10 Where Griffiths stresses the preposterousness of the episode, Ruggero Ruggieri emphasizes the ‘perversion’ of the poem’s action brought about by both Fiordispina’s desire and the invasion of Charles VIII: On one side, the action moves and develops in Paris because of a French ruler and his court and because of a romantic passion in itself blameworthy but neither base nor absurd; on the other side, the action seems irremediably perverted and blocked [pervertita e bloccata] by the ‘hopeless love’ of Fiordispina for Bradamante (two women!) and by the interference of a French sovereign descended into Italy with his ‘Gauls’ not to carry out or inspire noble feats, but to put it ‘to flame and to fire.’11

The action of the poem is indeed, as Ruggieri writes, perverted, and furthermore Boiardo employs a strategy of perverse narrative to accomplish apparently contradictory and irreconcilable goals: both a conclusion of the narrative and the deferral of its conclusion. I borrow the term ‘perverse narrative’ from Judith Roof, who writes: Insofar as perversity belongs to narrative as the instance of its potential dissolution, the perverse narrative … would be a narrative about narrative dissolution … Insofar as lesbian or gay is linked to perversion, the lesbian or gay narrative might be the perverse narrative. But the perverse narrative’s perversity is not in its subject matter, for that is squarely planted in the realm of narrative, but in the way any such narrative enacts a perverse relation to narrative itself.12

I employ this concept of perverse narrative to show how Boiardo uses the reader’s expectation of a heterosexual conclusion to the diversion

56 Hopeless Love

of queer desire to suggest a conclusion the reader already ‘knows.’ Boiardo postpones both the continuation of the poem and the resolution of desire to a moment outside his text, thereby making the despair of queer female longing, always described as impossible and unsustainable, represent the despair of the poet at the moment in which his creative energies have been exhausted. The object of queer female desire is Bradamante, recognizable as the daughter of Ipolita, Galiziella, and Antea. Described as an excellent warrior who wins the respect of many knights, she is ‘come fùlgor del cielo’ (‘like heaven’s lightening’) (II, 7, iv, 7) and ‘ardita’ (‘daring’) (II, 7, v, 2), terrifying other warriors: ‘Avanti a gli altri la donzella fiera / Più de un’arcata va per la pianura, / Tanto robesta e sì superba in ciera / Che solo a riguardarla era paura’ (‘Before the others by a bow’s shot, / Along the field that fierce girl rides / So stern, so arrogant in looks, / Just seeing her is frightening’) (II, 25, xiv, 1–4). With these masculine attributes Bradamante combines an androgynous beauty. She is described as ‘serena’ (‘fair’) (II, 6, xxiii, 5), but she is also similar in appearance to her brother Ranaldo: ‘Avanti a gli altri vien quella donzella, / E bene al suo german tutta assomiglia; / Proprio assembra Ranaldo in su la sella, / E di bellezza è piena a maraviglia’ (‘The maiden, who’s a copy of / Her brother, rides before the rest. / She seems Ranaldo on her horse, / And she is passing beautiful’) (II, 6, lvii, 1–4). Not until she falls in love with Ruggiero and takes off her helmet to reveal herself to him does Boiardo provide the reader with a description of her face: Nel trar de l’elmo si sciolse la traccia, Che era de color d’oro allo splendore. Avea il suo viso una delicateccia Mescolata di ardire e de vigore; E labri, il naso, e cigli e ogni fateccia Parean depenti per la man de Amore, Ma gli occhi aveano un dolce tanto vivo, Che dir non pôssi, ed io non lo descrivo. Her casque came off, her hair fell loose. It was the shade of shining gold. Her face possessed great delicacy, Daring and prowess intermingled. Her features – eyebrows, lips and nose – Seemed painted by the hand of Love,

(III, 5, xli)

Stopping without Ending 57 And she had eyes so sweet and lively No one can – and I won’t – describe them.

In love, her helmet removed, Bradamante’s androgynous beauty becomes a purely feminine beauty, described in conventional terms. Ruggiero is astounded to learn that the knight he saw fight so capably is a woman, and he too falls in love. After she is wounded and separated from Ruggiero, however, her appearance returns to androgyny. Her long hair, the first feminine feature the poet describes when Bradamante removes her helmet to reveal herself to Ruggiero, must be cut to treat her head wound, and the hermit who is treating her ‘li tagliò come a garzone’ (‘cut her hair off like a boy’s’) (III, 8, lxi, 7). It was Bradamante’s hair that first alerted the hermit to the fact that he was treating a woman: ‘Ma, volendoli il capo medicare, / Vide la trezza e fo tutto smarito’ (‘But when he went to treat her head, / He saw her hair. He was amazed’) (III, 8, lx, 3–4). At first, the hermit thinks that she is a devil come to tempt him, but when he realizes that she is a woman, he treats her before sending her away. Hair shorn and helmet off, Bradamante is the ideal androgynous beauty, irresistible to Fiordispina, who spots her resting along the bank of a stream: Mirando il viso e sua forma giuliva, De amor se accese forte nel pensiero, ‘Macon – fra sé dicendo – né natura Potria formar più bella creatura. Oh che non fosse alcun meco rimaso! Fosse nel bosco tutta la mia gente, O partita da me per qualche caso, O morta ancora, io ne daria nïente, Pur che io potessi dare a questo un baso, Mentre che el dorme sì suavemente. Ora aver pazïenza mi bisogna, Ché gran piacer se perde per vergogna.’ Parlava Fiordispina in cotal forma, Né se puotea mirando sazïare. The face, the graceful form she saw, Provoked her thoughts to love. She said

(III, 8, lxiv, 5–8; lxv; lxvi, 1–2)

58 Hopeless Love Inwardly, ‘By Macone! Nature Never produced so fair a creature. Oh how I wish I were alone, My followers off in the woods By some chance, far away from me, Or even dead – I couldn’t care – So I might give this man a kiss While he’s so tranquil and asleep. Now I need patience. Greater pleasures May be lost through immodesty.’ In that way Fiordispina sighed Nor could she satisfy her sight.

Following Petrarchan and courtly love traditions, Fiordispina’s desire is predicated upon sight. It complicates, however, the conventions of these traditions, in that it is desire for another woman rather than for a man. Fiordispina’s desire to kiss Bradamante is so strong that she does not care if it requires the death of her hunting companions to be fulfilled. The perversion of the narrative begins here, in this moment in which Boiardo introduces queer female desire to the story. If, as Roof argues, ‘the correct erotic object choice … is located in the same place as death as the delayed object of narrative desire,’13 then Fiordispina’s displacement of the death associated with the fulfilment of desire from her body and onto those of her companions already suggests the disruption of the narrative and the formulation of queer female desire as a violently destructive force. Fiordispina will not (cannot) move, together with the narrative, along a straight (that is, not queer) trajectory towards the satisfaction of desire and the death figured by the conclusion of the narrative. She is already here asserting her own intention to subvert the teleology of straight narrative. After having introduced the desire of Fiordispina as destined to pervert the narrative, Boiardo allows the princess to imagine her own obliteration through a desire she still believes to be straight: … Fiordispina, che mirando in viso A Bradamante par che se disfaccia E del disio se strugga a poco a poco, Come rugiada al sole o cera al foco.

Stopping without Ending 59 E non potea da tal vista levarsi: Quanto più mira, de mirar più brama, Sì come e farfallin, sin che sono arsi, Non se sanno spiccar mai dalla fiama.

(III, 9, iii, 5–8; iv, 1–4)

… Fiordispin, who watched The face of Bradamant and thought She’d die, dissolved, by slow desire, Like dew at dawn or wax near fire. She could not turn aside her eyes; The more she saw, the more she craved To see, like moths that till they’re burned Can’t tear themselves away from flame.

Boiardo’s language here explicitly recalls that of Ovid’s story of Narcissus. Like Narcissus, Fiordispina leaves the hunt and comes upon a clearing in the forest where there is water. Both are enchanted by the sight of their beloveds (Bradamante and, in the case of Narcissus, his own reflection) and gaze longingly. Like Fiordispina, Narcissus is described as wasting away with love, ‘as the yellow wax melts before a gentle heat, as hoar frost melts before the warm morning sun.’14 As Cavallo notes, this is just one of many instances in which Boiardo uses the figure of Narcissus to portray erotic desire as destructive. Indeed, Boiardo uses the story of Narcissus to stress neither the similitude of Bradamante and Fiordispina nor the ‘impossibility’ of Fiordispina’s desire, but rather the destructive force of that desire. While in medieval versions of the Narcissus story Love punishes Narcissus, Fiordispina appears to have Love on her side. Not knowing her love to be queer, she continues in her fantasy of straight desire, desire favoured and helped along by Love. When Bradamante discovers that her horse has wandered away, Love, ‘che ogni intelletto resviglia, / A Fiordispina subito mostrava / Con qual facilitate de ligiero / Se trovi sola con quel cavalliero’ (‘who wakes the intellect, / showed Fiordispina instantly / how easily, even at once, / she and that knight could be alone’) (III, 9, vii, 5–8). Fiordispina prepares to implement the plan shown to her by Love. Bradamante, however, already recognizes Fiordispina’s mistake and the inevitable frustration of her desire: Bradamante, che vide la donzella Nel viso di color de amor dipenta,

60 Hopeless Love E gli occhi tremolare e la favella, Dicea tra sé: ‘Qualche una mal contenta Serà de noi e ingannata alla vista, Ché gratugia a gratugia poco acquista.’

(III, 9, xi, 3–8)

Bradamante, studying Love’s colors painted in her face, Her trembling eyes, her words, was thinking, ‘One of us won’t be happy! She’s Deceived by what she sees. Because Grate against grate results in little.’ (Ross’ translation slightly modified)

Bradamante acknowledges the correct (straight) trajectory of desire and of narrative as moving towards a result. She emphasizes here the similitude of the two women’s bodies (‘grate against grate’) and the fact that contact between them ‘results in little.’ In short, Bradamante recognizes Fiordispina’s desire as perverse. Roof writes: ‘Perversion … acquires its meaning as perversion precisely from its threat to truncate the story; it distorts the narrative, preventing the desirable confluence of sexual aim and object and male and female, precluding the discharge of sexual substances, and hindering reproduction.’15 Fiordispina’s perverse longing disrupts the teleology of straight desire. Yet Fiordispina, deceived by sight, proceeds with the plan of seduction to which Love inspires her. Love prompts Fiordispina to present Bradamante with her own horse, an animal that frequently ignores the bit and runs away with its rider. The only way to stop the horse is with a verbal command. Fiordispina is the only one who knows this, and she intentionally withholds this information from Bradamante when the maiden warrior accepts her gift. Thus, Boiardo represents Fiordispina as having control over language in two ways. First, it is she who owns the horse that must be controlled through verbal commands, and she is the only one who knows this secret. Second, inspired by Love, Fiordispina fails to tell Bradamante what she must do to stop the horse. Boiardo presents Fiordispina as being both in control of the narrative and as the source of its perversion. After Bradamante mounts the horse, a huge stag appears. Fiordispina orders her hunting party to remain where it is, and, pursuing the stag, she tells Bradamante to follow her. Despite the stag’s head start, the hounds eventually catch up to it and bring it to the ground, and Fiordispina calls to Bradamante’s runaway horse to stop. As Marcelle Thiébaux has pointed out, the topos of the hunt is a common one in medieval and Renaissance art and literature:

Stopping without Ending 61 In an elaborated form the hunt offers a narrative pattern of quest and conflict, with a dénouement. Both in actuality and in fiction, the dénouement of a hunt could vary. A hunter might ‘win’ the contest, that is, by defeating and possessing his quarry. ‘Losing’ could mean that the animal has eluded him, or it could mean that the hunter dies in the pursuit. […] There is a third possible outcome, a fictional one to be sure, suggested by the actuality of long and frustrating hunts: that the obsessed hunter, unable to give up, becomes forever chained to his pursuit. Instead of the hoped-for conflict with the quarry, there is the anguish of an eternal quest.16

As Fiordispina pursues the stag, her dogs overtake it and bring it to the ground. In the obvious parallel of the dogs’ pursuit of the stag and Fiordispina’s pursuit of Bradamante, Boiardo shows a successful dénouement (the hounds catch and take the stag) and one without any possible successful outcome. Bradamante knows this; she has already said that there is no ‘gain’ to be had from a union between the two women. The hunt represents a successful narrative trajectory, as Thiébaux suggests, and therefore a successful sexual trajectory. The hounds’ penetration of the body of the stag stands in contrast to the erotic possibilities that Bradamante suggests are open to the two women. Fiordispina’s pursuit of Bradamante represents a perverse narrative with no possible successful outcome. After the dogs kill the stag, the two women arrive, alone, in a place ideal for lovers: Al fin smontarno in su l’erbette nove, Sottesso l’ombra del fronzuto monte, Ove era un rivo e sopra a quello un ponte. Quivi smontarno le due damigelle. Bradamante avia l’arme ancora intorno, L’altra uno abito biavo, fatto a stelle Quale eran d’oro, e l’arco e i strali e ’l corno; Ambe tanto legiadre, ambe sì belle, Che avrian di sue bellezze il mondo adorno. L’una de l’altra accesa è nel disio, Quel che li manca ben sapre’ dir io.

(III, 9, xxiv, 6–8; xxv)

Then they dismounted onto fresh grass, beneath the shade of a tree-covered mountain, where there was a river, and over it a bridge. There they dismounted, those two maids. Bradamante still wore her armour, the other a blue dress, adorned with stars of gold, and her bow and arrows and horn,

62 Hopeless Love both so graceful, both so beautiful that they might have adorned the world with their beauties. One lady is lit with desire for the other; I could well say what they lack. (My translation)17

The similitude of the women is stressed here in a parallel construction (‘Both so graceful, both so beautiful’), and in the last line of this octave the narrator jumps in to assert his knowledge of what the women are missing. This lack is highlighted by the use of the conditional; the poet could say what the women are missing, but he does not, thereby leaving the lack acknowledged but unnamed. This insistence on a lack in the body of the female beloved recalls the Reina d’Oriente and La bella Camilla, in which the queen’s daughter and Amadio are described as having a ‘difetto’ (‘lack’) that would prevent them from sexual union with the women whose desire they attract. The scene of this unconsummated and unconsummatable encounter between Bradamante and Fiordispina suggests the grove where Brandimarte and Fiordelisa, whose very names encourage comparison with Bradamante and Fiordispina, first make love: E, forte caminando, fôrno agionti Dentro a un boschetto, a un bel prato fiorito, Che d’ogni lato è chiuso da duo monti, De fior diversi pinto e colorito, Fresco de ombre vicine e de bei fonti. Lo ardito cavalliero e la donzella Presto smontarno in su l’erba novella.

(I, 19, lix, 2–8)

[A]nd, after riding hard, they stopped in the lush bower of a grove, enclosed on all sides by two hills, where blooms of different tints and hues were cooled by shade-trees and bright rills. The ardent baron and his lass dismounted on the verdant grass.

The next five octaves describe the couple’s lovemaking in rapturous detail, providing a sharp contrast to Fiordispina’s frustrated desire. Brandimarte and Fiordelisa demonstrate what is supposed to happen when a pair of lovers reaches a beautiful, secluded spot in the woods. Bradamante and Fiordispina, on the other hand, illustrate the frustration of this ideal.

Stopping without Ending 63

The story of Brandimarte and Fiordelisa warrants further comparison with the story of Bradamante and Fiordispina. After making love Brandimarte and Fiordelisa fall asleep, and Fiordelisa is kidnapped by a wizard. In the course of looking for her Brandimarte battles three giants and, with the help of Orlando, rescues the maiden the giants had captured. While the maiden is telling her story to the knights, a beautiful white stag with golden antlers wanders by (I, 22, lvii). As Brandimarte gives chase to the stag, the maiden explains to Orlando that he can never catch it, because it is enchanted and belongs to the Fata Morgana. While the wealth promised by the golden antlers is initially too much for Brandimarte to resist, night forces him to conclude his unsuccessful hunt, and the next morning, after returning to his search for Fiordelisa, he quickly finds her. Although the stag temporarily distracts Brandimarte from his true duty as a knight, as soon as he resumes that duty, his efforts are rewarded, and he is reunited with his beloved. Indeed, Cavallo proposes that Brandimarte and Fiordelisa are the exemplary couple of the Orlando innamorato who attain all the positive values associated with love in the poem: marriage, friendship, family, and conversion.18 Bradamante and Fiordispina, of course, attain none of these. The enchanted stag appears again in canto 25 of book I, after Orlando wins a magic hound. A damsel explains to him that the hound can be used to catch the enchanted stag, and that great riches will come to the hunter. Orlando, however, is not interested in the riches pursuit of the stag would bring him: Ma l’acquisto de l’oro e de l’argento Non m’avria fatto mai il brando cavare; Però chi pone ad acquistare talento, Lui se vôl senza fine affaticare; E come acquista più, manco è contento, Né si può lo appetito sazïare; Ché qualunche n’ha più, più ne desia: Adunque senza capo è questa via. Senza capo è la strata ed infinita, De onore e de diletto al tutto priva. Chi va per essa, a caminar s’aita, Ma dove gionger vôl, mai non ariva. But to win gold or silver, I Would never have unsheathed my sword, Since those who set their minds on wealth

(I, 25, xiv; xv,1–4)

64 Hopeless Love Are working at an endless labor. They’re less content the more they get – They never can be satisfied. Those who have much want only more, And there’s no end to such a road. That way is endless, infinite, Barren of honor and delight. One struggles if one travels it But never reaches where one wants.

The desire for wealth is like Fiordispina’s desire for Bradamante; it cannot be satisfied. Orlando refuses to pursue the stag even though he knows he could catch it with the magic hound. While the magic hound would catch the stag in a narrative with an appropriate conclusion, this would represent only the beginning of the endless labour of the pursuit of wealth. The narrative of such a labour would be a perverse narrative; as Orlando says, ‘There’s no end to such a road.’ He suggests instead a narrative with an appropriate teleology: ‘E vile e discortese è ben colui / Qual la su dama più che ’l cor non prezza’ (‘And a man’s vile and barbarous / Unless he loves his lady more / Than his own heart’) (I, 25, xvi, 5–7). Orlando chooses to devote himself to a pursuit in which he can hope to satisfy his desire – the service of his lady.19 Both Brandimarte and Orlando, then, choose to pursue their ladies rather than the enchanted stag. The possible perversions of the narrative suggested by Brandimarte’s initial pursuit of the stag and Orlando’s description of the endless pursuit of wealth are rejected in favour of narrative with a straight teleology. The pursuit of love so praised by Orlando is compared to the pursuit of war in book II. The narrator explains that, rather than being antithetical, L’una e l’altro esercizio è giovanile, Nemico di riposo, atto allo affanno; L’un e l’altro è mestier de omo gentile, Qual non rifuti la fatica, o il danno; E questo e quel fa l’animo virile. Both war and love befit the young, Both states hate sleep, both states court grief, Both suit a man who’s courteous,

(II, 12, ii, 1–5)

Stopping without Ending 65 Who welcomes work that’s dangerous. They are what makes a man’s heart fit.

Even though at first love and war are compared favourably to each other, they come to be compared negatively. Boiardo despairs that in his time the worthy art of war has become common. Neither love nor war is what it once was: ‘Né l’opra più de amore anco è lodata, / Poscia che in tanti affani e pensier vani, / Senza aver de delitto una giornata, / Si pasce di bel viso e guardi umani’ (‘And Love’s works? They’re no longer praised / but made of vain imaginings / and sorrow, with no day of bliss. / One feeds on fair looks and mild shows’) (II, 12, iii, 3–6). Love here is described as without consummation, comprised of ‘vain imaginings,’ like the ‘vain desire’ of Fiordispina for Bradamante. By the end of book II the poet says that actual war in Italy has disrupted his creative efforts: Mentre che io canto, non posa la mente, Ché gionto sono al fine, e non vi miro; A questo libro è già la lena tolta: Il terzo ascoltareti un’altra volta. Alor con rime elette e miglior versi Farò battaglie e amor tutto di foco; Non seran sempre e tempi sì diversi Che mi tragan la mente di suo loco; Ma nel presente e canti miei son persi, E porvi ogni pensier mi giova poco: Sentendo Italia de lamenti piena, Non che or canti, ma sospiro apena. But my mind can’t rest while I sing. I’ve reached the end, not noticing The breath of this book has expired: You’ll hear the third another time. Then with choice rhymes and better lines I’ll tell of wars and burning love. The world won’t always be so frightening, Our troubles won’t distract my mind. For now, my cantos are lost.

(II, 31, xlviii, 5–8; xlix)

66 Hopeless Love It does not help to concentrate: I hear the cries of Italy And want to sigh instead of sing.

(Ross’ translation slightly modified)

The negative relationship between poetry and turmoil in Italy is underlined by the rhyme versi / diversi / persi (lines / frightening / lost in the translation), and the narration of ‘wars and burning love’ is postponed until a more propitious time. The conclusion of book II provides a template for the conclusion of book III: in both the poet claims that war has made it impossible for him to continue his narrative, and he promises a future book in which the suspended narrative will be resolved. In both books Boiardo speaks of war as interrupting him in the very act of writing: the phrase ‘mentre che io canto’ (‘while I sing’) appears in each. Also linking the conclusions of both books is the common rhyme foco / loco / poco. Finally, the suspended narrative is about an unsatisfiable desire: in book II, that of Orlando for the maidens in the Laughing Stream, and in book III, that of Fiordispina for Bradamante. The narrative resumes in book III, which opens with a description of a sailor in the calm after a storm and a pilgrim who descends from a dangerous mountain onto a safe plain. War is banished and the court is restored. On the level of the poem the narrative of Orlando had been temporarily derailed by his vain desire for the women in the Laughing Stream, who imprisoned him, but Orlando is rescued in canto 7 (by Brandimarte, with Fiordelisa’s help). Fiordispina’s desire for Bradamante has a particular weight as compared with Orlando’s desire for the women in the Laughing Stream. As Roof writes, [The] homosexual moment is more than structural, utilitarian, or transitory; it represents an omnipresent anxiety that is beyond simple homophobia, an anxiety about mastery, control, and production that surfaces at the last point where narrative feigns failure. […] The structural evocation of a homosexual possibility in the narrative’s middle marks an anxiety about narrative’s ability to continue in the face of death.20

And what happens when the homosexual possibility marks the end rather than the middle of the narrative? By letting Fiordispina’s erotic longing for Bradamante stand as the conclusion of his poem, by evoking queer desire at the moment of the narrative’s failure while gesturing to the future conclusion of the narrative with the same breath, Boiardo expresses both defeat and optimism, both narrative failure and narrative possibility. The poet expresses his and Italy’s condition in the present tense, opening the last octave with the word ‘mentre’ (‘while’) to emphasize the synchronicity of Charles VIII’s invasion and Boiardo’s own failure to continue

Stopping without Ending 67

the poem. War is compared to Fiordispina’s desire through the language of burning: just as the princess is ‘accesa … nel disio’ (‘lit with desire’) (25, vii) and ‘ardente’ (‘simmering’) (26, vi), so Italy is ‘tutta a fiama e a foco’ (‘on fire’) (26, ii). The last two lines of the last octave move to the future tense: ‘Un’altra fiata, se mi fia concesso, / Raccontarovi il tutto per espresso’ (‘Some other time, if it is permitted me, / I’ll tell you all there is to this’). These lines express a hope that God will look favourably on the poet, allowing him a future in which to conclude his poem. They also assert the poet’s mastery over the narrative he has yet to tell: ‘I’ll tell you all there is to this.’ If the narrative cannot go on now, it is not because the poet’s ability has failed him, but because circumstances have. A. Bartlett Giamatti’s reading of the conclusion of Boiardo’s poem suggests the tension between Boiardo’s desire to continue and his desire to stop. Giamatti writes: ‘the word that reins in the glorious beast that is the Orlando Innamorato is not the news of Charles VIII but, finally, the ‘vano amore.’ That is the final word, and vision – the fruitless desire of Fiordispina for Bradamante.’ Giamatti continues: ‘even language, for Boiardo the medium for establishing limitation, is subject to the urge to surpass limits … the epic is finally an instance of the problem it describes … [T]he very meaning of his poem, that there is no way to check decay … dictated that Boiardo stop.’21 Boiardo finds a way to reconcile the desire to continue and the desire to stop in the motif of queer female desire. In that Boiardo’s use of this motif evokes Reina d’Oriente and La bella Camilla, it reminds his audience of both the perpetuity of the romance genre and the resolution of similar stories that conclude happily through divine intervention. The suspense occasioned by the desire of Fiordispina for Bradamante serves Boiardo’s purposes exactly. The reader, steeped in the tradition of the cantari, expects the resolution of the story; a straight telos will, in some way, be provided. The reader already ‘knows’ what will happen, mitigating to some extent the professed failure of Boiardo’s narrative. I am not suggesting that Boiardo hints at the possibility of a sex change for Bradamante. The poem destines her for marriage to Ruggiero and for the founding of the Este family. Boiardo is telling us, rather, that there is a solution, perhaps a miraculous one, even to a hopeless desire, to a suspended narrative. As an ending the last octave is the perverse narrative par excellence, because it does not just feign failure but enacts it. After this octave there is no more poem. And yet at the same time that narrative is destroyed, it is successfully suspended – it would have been possible for Boiardo to resume at any moment in the future if will and circumstances were to permit it – by the structure of the narrative itself: the pointing ahead to the conclusion in whose existence the reader already believes.

4 Concluding the Tale

While Ariosto’s Orlando furioso was at the centre of literary debates in the second half of the sixteenth century, the period from 1505 to 1521 was dominated by Boiardo’s masterpiece, and the Orlando innamorato was the focus of significant publishing activity.1 While cantari and other texts of the chivalric romance tradition had always been manipulated – this was part of the way in which these texts were transmitted – the advent of print culture brought new pressures to bear on the Orlando innamorato. Initially minor poems were renamed so that publishers might profit from their association with other, more successful poems. For example, Rinaldo da Montalbano became Innamoramento di Rinaldo after Boiardo’s poem was published. Furthermore, poems’ episodes were reordered and different romances were interpolated with each other.2 In the period between the publication of the third edition of the Orlando innamorato (1494) and the first edition of the Orlando furioso (1516) this tradition of textual manipulation led to the practice of appending completely new episodes (giunte) to popular works such as the Orlando innamorato, which allowed publishers to capitalize further on their success. Later in the century linguistic reform, according to which Tuscan was valued above all other dialects spoken on the Italian peninsula, had a profound impact on the fortunes of the Orlando innamorato. This reform occasioned numerous rifacimenti (‘re-makes’) of popular poems, which were Tuscanized and otherwise altered before being quickly published and distributed. Francesco Berni’s rifacimento of the Orlando innamorato came to replace Boiardo’s original, which was not printed at all between 1544 and the middle of the nineteenth century. In this chapter I explore the Bradamante-Fiordispina episode as it appears in one rifacimento, Berni’s Orlando innamorato (first published in 1541), and in two giunte, Niccolò degli Agostini’s Orlando innamorato of

Concluding the Tale 69

1506 and Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando furioso of 1532. All of these poems aspire, in differing degrees, to dominate Boiardo’s text. Berni’s main concern is to Tuscanize (rather than to continue) Boiardo’s poem. While remaining fairly faithful to the structure of the first Orlando innamorato, the last cantos of Berni’s edition of the poem consider the relationship of sex between women to sex between men and propose the requited desire of Fiordispina for Bradamante. In the case of degli Agostini’s giunta, I evaluate the success of the poet’s conclusion, unsatisfactory to many modern readers, to Boiardo’s tale of unresolved desire. Ariosto’s poem, however, is the focus of this chapter, and I explore the ways in which Ariosto uses the impasse of Fiordispina’s desire for Bradamante to establish his superiority over Boiardo. Francesco Berni’s Orlando innamorato Francesco Berni’s rifacimento of the Orlando innamorato is a rewriting rather than a continuation of the original. Berni’s goal was to Tuscanize Boiardo’s ‘sounds, forms, and syntax. He rewrote almost every line and often reorganized entire octaves, sometimes entire scenes. He suppressed many of Boiardo’s octaves, and he introduced new material.’3 Unfortunately it is not known with certainty exactly how much of this rifacimento, the 1545 version of which is the most correct, was actually authored by Berni.4 Berni almost certainly did not write the lengthy proem about erotic love that appears as a prelude to the BradamanteFiordispina episode. As Elissa Weaver writes, it is difficult to imagine the strong condemnation of sex between men that appears here coming from a poet who in other texts is quite open about his sexual preference for males.5 Nor is it known whether or not Berni wrote the rifacimento’s version of the Bradamante-Fiordispina story. Although the authorship of the passages I consider here is disputed, the 1545 edition of the poem in which they appear has become the most widely circulated. Leaving aside questions of attribution, I read this 1545 rifacimento as a reflection of the complicated relationship of sex between women and sex between men in the Italian Renaissance imagination. I quote the proem to the last canto here at length because it is not generally known to modern readers: Tra tutti i casi che d’amor si vede De’ più diversi d’amorosi effetti, Questo tra gli altri al mio parer si crede,

70 Hopeless Love Che va contrario per li bei diletti. Ogni animal di par si face erede, E per le coppie eguali stan soggetti; Ma se ne vien alcun di strana cura, È per esemplo raro di natura. Natura gran maestra de le cose, Ch’invan non s’affatica di su’arte, Va per le forme ognor più dilettose, Ove si forma in noi la bella parte: E crescono di poi fiamme amorose, U’ il ben d’amor in terra ne comparte Sì, ch’ogni cor dispone a qualch’effetto, Secondo che si vede per l’obbietto. Però natura è quella che dispone Tutte le forme in queste parti e ’n quelle; Ma differenti sono le persone, Secondo de gli effetti de le stelle: E se le forme in noi ci son men buone, O men pregiate tra le cose belle; Non possiamo saper la gran potenzia Che sta rinchiusa in la divina essenzia. Questa congiunse dai primi parenti L’uomo e la donna parimente eguali, E l’altre coppie con diversi accenti, Per dir al fin di tutti gli animali, Così di pari denno andar contenti, Secondo le nature universali; Ma egli è un proverbio di contraria cura, Che le fiamme d’amor non an misura. Però io credo in questo manco male, Donna con donna in amoroso foco Non possa di Cupido bagnar l’ale, Nè disfogarsi il dilettoso gioco. Ma un altro caso fuor di naturale Parmi di porr’ oscuro in questo loco; Che si congiunge un uomo a l’altro in cura Per vituperio espresso di natura.

(69, i–v)6

Concluding the Tale 71 Among all the known examples of love, of the most varied of love’s effects, this one, I think, distinguishes itself among the others, as it opposes the sweet delights. Each animal with an equal makes its progeny, and in matched couples they go, but some are of a strange mind, a rare case in nature. Nature, the great mistress of things, who does not exert herself in vain, passes through forms always more pleasing, making in us the beautiful part whence grow the flames of love and where the good of love on earth is found, so that every heart inclines to some aim according to its purpose. Nature is that which orders all creation in these parts and in those, but people are different, according to the effects of the stars. And if our shapes are less good or less valued among beautiful things, we cannot know the great power enclosed within divine essence, reached by our first relatives, man and woman equal, and the other couples with different accents, and ultimately all the animals, so they go contented, according to universal natures. But there is a contrary proverb: that the flames of love are without measure. But I believe that there is no harm in this, since woman with woman in love’s fire cannot wet Cupid’s wings, nor find release in the delightful game. But another case outside of nature seems to cast a shadow over this place: that a man should join himself to another man in an abuse of nature.

For this poet sex between women and sex between men are similar in that neither follows the ‘universal natures’ of living creatures. Yet they are described in different terms. Sex between women (twice referred to as ‘questo’ [‘this’] [i, 3 and v, 1]) is contrary (i, 4 and iv, 7) to natural law, while sex between men is ‘outside’ nature (v, 5) and abusive of it (v, 8). Although love between women is described in negative terms (lines 3 and 4 of octave v begin ‘non’ and ‘nè’), this negativity renders it inconsequential and harmless. Two women are excluded from ‘li bei diletti’ (‘the sweet delights’) and ‘il dilettoso gioco’ (‘the delightful game’). So although two women may feel the flames of love (‘le fiamme d’amor,’ ‘amoroso foco’), their desire can find no satisfaction. Sex between men, however, is ‘un altro caso’ (‘another case’) (v, 5). In this entirely phallocentric view of sex women may desire each other and men may desire each other, but only men can engage in homosexual relations of any consequence. Sex without penetration is unsatisfying and meaningless. ‘Grate against grate,’ as we will remember, ‘results in little’ (Innamorato III, 9, xi, 8). The next octaves tell the story of Fiordispina’s gift to Bradamante of the runaway horse, more or less unchanged in Berni’s version. Also unchanged is the rehearsal of the Petrarchan conventions of love predicated on the sight of the beloved. New to Berni’s version of the story is that Bradamante unequivocally returns Fiordispina’s desire:

72 Hopeless Love E tutte due accese in tal disío: E li mancava il meglio al parer mio. Avevan di desìo in dolce foco E d’amorose fiamme accesi i cori; E non potean venir al dolce gioco, Qual si conviene a li vezzosi amori. Eran solette quivi in questo loco, Tutte infiammate de’ soavi ardori, E l’una e l’altra accessa di tal sorte, Ch’in tal morir chiamavan dolce morte. Mille punte nel cor e mille dardi Gli diede il bel fanciul di Citerea; E non gli valse i cori aver gagliardi Contra il figliuol de la celeste Dea: E li pensier veloci si fer tardi; Che l’una e l’altra non più forza avea: E sopra l’erba assise, in questa foja L’una de l’altra par che se ne moja.

(69, xxxiii, 7–8; xxxiv–xxxv)

And both were lit with such desire, and they were lacking the best part, it seems to me. Their hearts were lit with sweet fire and with the flames of love. They cannot play the sweet game, which is necessary to charming loves. They were alone in this place, all aflame with delight’s warmth, and one and the other lit to such an extent that thus to die they would have called sweet death. A thousand stings, a thousand darts in the heart, the lovely boy of Citerea gave them, and it did not help them to have strong hearts against the son of the heavenly goddess. Their quick thoughts slowed, as neither one nor the other had any strength left, and upon the grass, collapsed with lust, one seems to die for the other.

As in Boiardo’s poem, the women are ‘missing’ something, but while this poet describes the impossibility of the women’s desire, he also describes its reciprocal nature: both women are ‘da l’inganno prese’ (‘tricked’) (69, xxxvi, 2), both ‘non potean venir al dolce gioco’ (‘cannot play the sweet game’). Even so, the poet continues to use the Petrarchan language of penetration to describe the women conquered by Cupid’s arrows. They are described as being in an orgasm-like swoon: their thoughts slow down, they lose their strength, and they collapse on the

Concluding the Tale 73

grass. The word ‘foja,’ used to describe their lust, is the same word used to describe the rutting of beasts and lends an element of the animalistic to the women’s desire.7 In wanting to show the women’s desire as mutually satisfying and yet at the same time impossible this poet has written a story that does not make a lot of sense. Other poets chose either an impossible love (Boiardo, degli Agostini, Ariosto) or a love that, however satisfying to the women in question, was unacceptable for narrative reasons (Pucci, Piero da Siena). Both of these strategies create a productive tension between the women’s desires and the exigencies of the narrative as they were understood by the (male) authors. The straight conclusions of these poems (Boiardo’s excepted) allow for the satisfaction of the demands of the narrative, while queer female desire provides a pleasurable diversion whose remainder makes the text richer. The author of these lines in Berni’s edition of the Innamorato, however, calls queer female desire impossible and then describes its satisfaction without recourse to any further narrative process. On the one hand, we might read this representation of sex between women as a rejection of a phallocentric understanding of sex. On the other hand, this narrative makes little sense, coming as it does in the context of a characterization of queer female desire as unsatisfying. Niccolò degli Agostini’s Orlando innamorato Niccolò degli Agostini’s conclusion to Boiardo’s tale has likewise been found wanting, and many modern critics consider it to be unsatisfactory. Rosanna Alhaique Pettinelli expresses a general unhappiness with degli Agostini’s insensitivity to the possibilities presented by the episode: ‘This is not the only example of how our poet disposes of adventures and episodes begun but not completed by Boiardo, concluding them rapidly and passing immediately, through a less artistically attentive use of the cavalier tradition, to new situations.’8 Elisabetta Baruzzo is more specific in her criticism. She writes: ‘The hasty exit of Fiordispina, who, passed over, leaves the field upon Ruggiero’s arrival, appears unjustified: the erotic motif is employed in a rudimentary way in the development of the story, working as a divisive force between Fiordispina and Bradamante, and as a uniting force between Bradamante and Ruggiero.’9 From Baruzzo’s comments it is clear that she expects the conclusion to include both Fiordispina and an elaboration of the erotic motif. Degli Agostini’s conclusion, in which Fiordispina cedes to Ruggiero, includes neither. Enrico Carrara is the most critical of all. He writes: ‘[degli Agostini] imagines

74 Hopeless Love

that Ruggiero, returning from the adventure with the dwarf, winds up where Fiordispina in her vano amore gazes at Bradamante. The true lovers recognize each other immediately, and poor Fiordispina has no choice but to go. Thus the new narrator can deceive himself into thinking that he “finishes” the stories. He does finish them, but he also kills their spirit.’10 Like Pettinelli and Baruzzo, Carrara expresses the sense that degli Agostini has squandered a narrative opportunity. This is surely true if we compare degli Agostini’s handling of the episode with that of Ariosto, who devotes considerable attention to it. But what exactly is the opportunity that has been squandered? The poet begins his conclusion of the Bradamante-Fiordispina episode with a description of the entirely conventional locus amoenus in which Bradamante and Fiordispina find themselves. He repeatedly refers to Bradamante as a ‘cavalier,’ stressing Bradamante’s masculine appearance, and to Fiordispina as a ‘dama’ or ‘damigella.’ The author thus seems to be describing a thoroughly conventional love. Indeed, although Fiordispina is ‘tutta accesa di fiamma amorosa’ (‘burning with love’s fire’) (286r),11 her love is not described as impossible in any way at this point. Nor does Bradamante, sympathetic to the princess’ suffering, describe Fiordispina’s love as hopeless. Although Fiordispina insists that she is ready to kill herself if her love is not returned, she is unconvincing. She asks the knight’s pedigree in order to ascertain his suitability as a husband. Her words strike a strange note of rational thought in an otherwise typical protestation of all-consuming love: Dimmi ti prego hor mai di chi sei figlio, Se voi con meco farti unico sposo, Perche figliuola son del Re Marsiglio, Se tu di sangue sei degno, e famoso.


Tell me, I beg you, whose son you are, and if you are of worthy and renowned blood, if you wish to be my one true spouse, because I am the daughter of the King of Marseilles.

Fiordispina’s words, which sound more like those of a father trying to obtain a suitable match for his daughter than those of a true lover, reduce the erotic tension of the moment even before the arrival of Ruggiero. This is more or less where Boiardo left the two women at the end of his poem. Degli Agostini announces his conclusion to Boiardo’s scenario with some fanfare:

Concluding the Tale 75 Dolce brigata mia, piacciavi un poco, Poner à ciò ch’io dico alquanto cura, Ch’io spero darvi tal solazzo, e gioco, Che anco mai non haveste per ventura. Perche giunse Ruggier ivi in quel loco; Ov’è le Dame belle oltra misura, E se starete ad ascoltarmi attenti, Spero col cantar mio farvi contenti.


My sweet companions, let it please you a little to grant some attention to what I say, because I hope to give you such pleasure and fun that you’ve never had through luck before. Because Ruggiero arrived in that place where the women, beautiful beyond measure, are, and if you listen to me well, I hope with my rhyme to make you content.

There is the assumption here, set in place by Boiardo in the last octave of his poem, that the story as it is, with Bradamante and Fiordispina alone together, is incomplete. Listeners, degli Agostini’s words presume, have been left unsatisfied, and degli Agostini’s verses will make them ‘content.’ All the stories of women in disguise that inform Boiardo’s Bradamante-Fiordispina story include, at some point, the revelation of the women’s sex. This is true for the cantari and the saints’ life stories, and it is also true for Ariosto’s version of the story and for the plays that I will consider in chapter 5. Even Boiardo’s story, which ends before Fiordispina can learn Bradamante’s identity, includes a scene of revelation in which Bradamante removes her helmet to reveal her beautiful, feminine hair (III, v, 41). In degli Agostini’s poem, strangely, it is not Bradamante who is revealed, but Ruggiero, or, specifically, his love. Upon seeing Bradamante, Ruggiero is overjoyed, but he tries to keep his love hidden. This, the narrator tells us, is impossible: Celar non si può Amor a la riscossa, Però fece sua voglia manifesta, Ruggier nel trarsi l’elmo fuor di testa, E Fiordispina che se n’era accorta, Vedendo l’un, e l’altro esser sì bello, In volto venne allhor pallida, e smorta, E sencì dentro il cor tanto flagello, Tal che sembrava una persona morta,

76 Hopeless Love Poi disse se’l destin mio crudo, e fello, Vuol ch’arda in van ne l’amorosa face, Per non vi molestar restate in pace. Cosi di là partissi sconsolata …


The lover cannot hide his love at its reawakening, but he makes manifest his desire, as did Ruggiero in removing his helmet. And Fiordispina, who realized this, seeing one and the other both so handsome, became pale and wan, and she felt a scourge in her heart such that she seemed to be dead. Then she said, ‘If my hard and cruel destiny wishes me to burn in vain in love’s fire, so that I don’t disturb you, remain in peace.’ Then she departed, disconsolate …

In this peculiar moment of revelation Fiordispina does not learn that Bradamante is a woman, and she does not comment at all on her belief that these two lovers are men. Degli Agostini wastes the opportunity to use Boiardo’s scenario to contribute to the narrative, choosing instead to dismiss Fiordispina summarily. He gives no reason for the arrival of Ruggiero, who appears ‘a caso’ (‘by chance’) (286v); and with the reunion of Bradamante and Ruggiero already foretold in Boiardo’s poem, there is no reason for degli Agostini to bring about their meeting in this particular moment and at Fiordispina’s expense. As in the episode appearing in Berni’s edition of the poem, queer male desire seems to be suggested by queer female desire, although here it is left unremarked. Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando furioso The giunta to the Orlando innamorato that became a masterpiece in its own right is Ariosto’s Orlando furioso. Although it picks up many of the narrative threads of the Innamorato, its relationship with the earlier poem is more than that of a sequel. As Peter Marinelli writes: Throughout and paradoxically, [the Furioso] establishes an almost obsessive but highly independent relationship with its parent. Ariosto’s dominance of Boiardo’s text is total, his assertion of that dominance ubiquitous. At every point we are confronted (if we hold the two poems simultaneously to the lens) with the most elaborate discrepancies, testifying to the wide range of techniques Ariosto employed for the piecemeal absorption and transformation of Boiardo’s truncated poem - techniques of suppression, compression,

Concluding the Tale 77 conjunction, expansion, outright contradiction and reversal, transference, and termination.12

Given Ariosto’s intent to dominate Boiardo’s poem, it makes sense that as Boiardo uses the motif of queer female desire as an amor impossibilis to stand for the despair of the poet whose creative energies have been exhausted, so Ariosto will seize on the moment of Boiardo’s ‘defeat’ to assert with particular force his greater poetic skill. Ariosto’s investment in the Bradamante-Fiordispina episode is clear, and he develops at length the elements provided by Boiardo, devoting some of canto 22 and more than half of canto 25 to the tale. Ariosto’s placement of these two parts of the story within his poem lends the tale additional weight. As Giulio Ferroni points out, ‘the two moments come one to anticipate and the other to follow, with more or less the same textual distance, the episode of the madness of Orlando (at the perfect centre of the poem).’13 Orlando’s madness, the result of his frustrated desire, has important resonances with the story of Bradamante and Fiordispina. In this section I read Fiordispina’s desire against that of Orlando, with a particular emphasis on the role that narrative, and who controls it, plays in these two stories. I am especially interested in what I consider to be the radical nature of Fiordispina’s desire and the ways in which narrative is ultimately used to squelch its subversive potential. I also look back to Marfisa’s encounter with the homicidal women in cantos 19 and 20 in order to suggest, in light of canto 25, an interpretation of some puzzling lines. While in Boiardo’s poem queer female desire stands for male narrative impotence, in Ariosto’s it stands for male narrative opportunity. The prominent place Ariosto gives to the Bradamante-Fiordispina episode shows that he recognized it as a particularly rich chance to ‘dominate,’ as Marinelli would have it, the Innamorato, and queer female desire thus becomes a privileged site of male poetic competition. While I read the Bradamante-Fiordispina episode in Ariosto as a story of narrative superiority, it is, in the opinion of a number of readers, not a superior narrative. Elizabeth J. Bellamy refers to the ‘glaring irresolution of Fiordispina’s sexual impulses’14 and declares the resolution of the episode to be ‘as arbitrary as it is unsatisfying.’15 Given that Fiordispina does find erotic satisfaction, it would seem that Bellamy is looking for a different kind of resolution. As I argue below, the openness of Fiordispina’s sexual impulses is what allows her to be so completely taken in by a skilful narrator and is thus an important aspect of the tale. Giulio Ferroni also feels that there is something not entirely

78 Hopeless Love

satisfying about the conclusion of the story: ‘The closure of the affair (for which no sudden recognition, no reappearance of Bradamante, is needed) does not suggest recompositions, syntheses of opposites, but leaves, as we will see, a residue of “martyr” and of “pain” not easily reconcilable.’16 Like Bellamy, Ferroni seems to be looking for a conclusion other than that provided by Ariosto. C.E.J. Griffiths is another reader disappointed with Ariosto’s handling of the story. He writes: Although, on the one hand, Ariosto’s resolution may be considered extremely skillful, on the other hand it may be said to diffuse the dramatic tension of the situation, which exists in Boiardo’s poem, with the two women face to face. Ariosto, by allowing Ricciardetto, Bradamante’s twin brother, to become the narrator-protagonist, puts the story at one further remove from the reader and relegates it to the role of a mildly bawdy ‘filler.’17

Like Bellamy, Griffiths objects to an element in the tale that, as I will argue below, is essential to Ariosto’s project of establishing his superiority as a narrator. What are Bellamy, Ferroni, and Griffiths looking for in Ariosto’s Bradamante-Fiordispina story that they do not get? If we read this episode only as the tale of Fiordispina’s desire for Bradamante, we may well be disappointed. Fiordispina is duped by Bradamante’s identical twin, Ricciardetto, disguised as his sister, and although she happily (if unknowingly) accepts him as a substitute, she is ultimately abandoned by Ariosto as a prisoner in her father’s dungeon, punished for her sexual adventures, while Ricciardetto is rescued by Ruggiero, Bradamante’s fiancé. If, however, we read this tale as a struggle for narrative superiority, we may find the resolution of the episode to be more than satisfactory, as all of its elements contribute to establishing Ariosto and Ricciardetto as superior narrators. Such a reading is justified because in the very form Ariosto gives it the Bradamante-Fiordispina episode is a story about narrative. We hear the story as it is narrated by Ricciardetto, who casts himself as its protagonist (for reasons that will become clear below) as he tells it to Ruggiero. I suggest that we can, in this episode at least, read Ricciardetto as Ariosto himself, the narrator of a tale begun and abandoned by Boiardo and subsequently expanded and dominated by a superior narrator who uses it to showcase that superiority. A number of critics have convincingly linked Ariosto’s efforts to impose a conclusion on Boiardo’s narrative as coincidental with his move away from the conventions of romance and towards those of epic.

Concluding the Tale 79

David Quint, for example, writes: ‘The Innamorato is the romanzo of copia and multiplicity, the poem without end. Ariosto superimposes a teleological epic structure upon the digressive romance narrative of Boiardo’s poem.’18 Boiardo’s refusal to end his poem and his identification of that refusal with Fiordispina suggest that she is emblematic of romance, and a suitable figure for Ariosto to abandon in his movement towards epic. Bellamy writes: ‘romance, in its most fundamental sense, is the locus of the unconscious, an indeterminate topography of thresholds that suspends the subject, the questioning “libido,” on the verge – but only on the verge – of identity and selfhood.’19 While imposing epic closure on Boiardo’s romance, Ariosto leaves Fiordispina perpetually suspended in the ‘indeterminate topography’ of romance. In Ariosto’s story, as in Boiardo’s, Fiordispina is in the woods with a hunting party when she sees Bradamante, sleeping beside a stream and dressed in the costume of a knight. Believing the maiden warrior to be a man, Fiordispina immediately falls in love with her. Upon waking Bradamante recognizes Fiordispina’s error and explains that she is a woman. This revelation does nothing to change Fiordispina’s desire: Per questo non si smorza una scintilla del fuoco de la donna inamorata. Questo rimedio all’alta piaga è tardo: tant’avea Amor cacciato inanzi il dardo. Per questo non le par men bello il viso, men bel lo sguardo e men belli i costumi; per ciò non torna il cor, che già diviso da lei, godea dentro gli amati lumi.

(25, xxxii, 5–8; xxxiii, 1–4)

These revelations did not abate love-struck Fiordispina’s passion one jot; Cupid had thrust in his dart to make so deep a gash that this remedy was now too late. To Fiordispina my sister’s face seemed no less beautiful for this, her eyes, her movements no less graceful; she did not on this account retrieve mastery over her heart, which had gone out to Bradamant to bask in her adorable eyes.

The repetition of the adjective ‘bello’ in lines 1–2 of octave xxxiii echoes Ruggiero’s description of Ricciardetto the first time he sees him: ‘Veggo (dicea Ruggier) la faccia bella / e le belle fattezze e ’l bel sembiante / … de la mia Bradamante’ (‘I am looking at the comely face and beautiful

80 Hopeless Love

figure of my Bradamant’) (25, xx, 1–4). This echo serves three purposes. First, it highlights the ease with which the twins can be mistaken for one another, a crucial element of the story, by using the same adjective to describe them both. Second, it introduces the possibility of male same-sex desire (also based on mistaken identity) to complement Fiordispina’s desire for Bradamante. Ricciardetto will have some fun with this later in the story. Finally, by echoing the language Ruggiero uses to describe the knight who he thought was Bradamante, Ricciardetto bestows upon Fiordispina the role of the subject desirous of Bradamante, the role otherwise played by Ruggiero. Ricciardetto is thus setting Fiordispina up as the protagonist of this love story in order to be able to displace Fiordispina and assume this role for himself later. Lines 3 and 4 of octave xxxiii, with their clear Petrarchan echoes, further establish Fiordispina in the role of the desiring subject that poetic tradition had reserved for men. In fact, the sort of language Fiordispina uses to describe her erotic impulses appears elsewhere in the poem to describe a man’s sexual possession of a virgin. Fiordispina says: ‘D’ogn’altro amore, o scelerato o santo, / il desïato fin sperar potrei; / saprei partir la rosa da le spine’ (‘Were it a question of any other love, evil or virtuous, I could hope to see it consummated, and I should know how to cull the rose from the briar’) (25, xxxiv, 5–7). In the first canto of the poem, the knight Sacripante expounds upon the importance of a girl’s virginity: La verginella è simile alla rosa, ch’in bel giardin su la nativa spina mentre sola e sicura si riposa, … La vergine che ’l fior, di che piú zelo che de’ begli occhi e de la vita aver de’, lascia altrui côrre, il pregio ch’avea inanti perde nel cor di tutti gli altri amanti.

(1, xlii, 1–3; xliii, 5–8)

A virgin is like a rose … she remains on the thorn whence she sprang, alone and safe in a lovely garden … The virgin who suffers one to cull her flower – of which she should be more jealous than of her own fair eyes, than of her life – loses the esteem she once enjoyed in the hearts of all her other wooers.

A similar turn of phrase is used to describe the first time Angelica, the main object of desire of the first half of the poem, and Medoro make love: ‘Angelica a Medor la prima rosa / coglier lasciò’ (‘Angelica let Medor

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pluck the first rose’) (19, xxxiii, 1–2). Fiordispina’s appropriation of this male language, and the fact that this language recalls Fiordispina’s name itself (‘rosa da le spine’ = Fiordispina), establishes her in the role of the sexually aggressive subject desirous of a woman. Yet the same name that emphasizes her position also serves to destabilize it. ‘Fiordispina’ might indicate a flower that has already been plucked: a ‘deflowered’ girl. Or, it might mark her as a virgin waiting to be deflowered, the object rather than the subject of desire. Fiordispina’s love blurs the boundaries between the categories of subject and object, man and woman. Despite, or perhaps because of, the flexibility of her desire (flexible because she desires Bradamante both before and after discovering that she is a woman), Fiordispina believes that it can never be satisfied: Vedendola in quell’abito, l’è aviso che può far che ’l desir non la consumi; e quando, ch’ella è pur femina, pensa, sospira e piange e mostra doglia immensa.

(25, xxxiii, 5–8)

Seeing her accoutred as a man, she had imagined that there would be no need for her passion to remain unassuaged; but now the thought that her beloved was also a woman made her sigh and weep and betray boundless sorrow.

Addressing Love, Fiordispina describes why she is sure Bradamante can never satisfy her: Né tra gli uomini mai né tra l’armento, che femina ami femina ho trovato: non par la donna all’altre donne bella, né a cervie cervia, né all’agnelle agnella. In terra, in aria, in mar, sola son io Che patisco da te sí duro scempio; E questa hai fatto acciò che l’error mio Sia ne l’imperio tuo l’ultimo esempio. La moglie del re Nino ebbe disio, il figlio amando, scelerato et empio, e Mirra il padre, e la Cretense il toro: ma gli è piú folle il mio, ch’alcun dei loro. La femina nel maschio fe’ disegno, speronne il fine, et ebbelo, come odo:

82 Hopeless Love Pasife ne la vacca entrò del legno, altre per altri mezzi e vario modo. Ma se volasse a me con ogni ingegno Dedalo, non potria scioglier quel nodo che fece il mastro troppo diligente, Natura, d’ogni cosa piú possente.

(25, xxxv, 5–8; xxxvi–xxxvii)

Neither among humans nor among beasts have I ever come across a woman loving a woman; to a woman another woman does not seem beautiful, nor does a hind to a hind, a ewe to a ewe. By land, sea, and air I alone suffer thus cruelly at your hands – you have done this to make an example of my aberration, the ultimate one in your power. King Ninus’ wife was evil and profane in her love for her son; so was Mirra, in love with her father, and the Cretan woman with the bull. But my love is greater folly than any of theirs. These females made designs upon the males and achieved the desired consummation, so I am told. Pasiphae went inside the wooden cow, the others achieved their end by other means. But even if Daedalus came flying to me with every artifice at his command, he would be unable to untie the knot made by that all-too-diligent Maker, Nature, who is all-powerful. (Waldman’s translation slightly modified)

Notwithstanding Fiordispina’s insistence on her desire as unique, there is an obvious literary precedent for a woman desiring another woman. While Ariosto’s tale of Fiordispina’s love for Bradamante comes from Boiardo’s poem, the language in Ariosto’s lines clearly echoes that of Iphis, a girl in love with another girl who thinks Iphis is a boy, in book IX of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.20 Fiordispina, while declaring her ignorance of the story of Iphis, uses language taken almost directly from it. There is a disjuncture between desire and narrative: Fiordispina claims to be outside of any narrative tradition while at the same time Ariosto inscribes her into it. Allusion to the story of Iphis foreshadows the change of sex in Fiordispina’s story while it hints at the way in which Fiordispina’s desire, subversive because it claims to be outside of narrative, will ultimately be controlled by it. Fiordispina’s desire is potentially subversive not only because Bradamante must be free to marry Ruggiero but also because it could overshadow Fiordispina’s filial obligations. Iphis desires Ianthe and longs to be able to fulfill the role of her husband according to the wishes of their families. The goddess Isis changes Iphis into a boy, who goes happily to his wedding. Iphis’ desire, although for another girl, conforms with the wishes of her father, as opposed to Fiordispina’s desire, which is a lust

Concluding the Tale 83

for ‘la faccia e le viril fattezze’ (‘the face and manly build’) (25, xxviii, 5) of Bradamante, a lust for sex that is not necessarily accompanied by a desire for marriage. With this lust Fiordispina occupies the position of the desiring subject, the same position that Iphis occupies in Ovid’s tale. Yet Fiordispina’s wish is different. Iphis immediately sees a change of sex either for her or for Ianthe as the answer to her problem: ‘though Daedalus himself should fly back on waxen wings, what could he do? With all his learned arts could he make me into a boy from a girl? or could he change you, Ianthe?’ (ix, 742–4). This conclusion to Ariosto’s scenario is the one that is also suggested by the cantare and hagiographic traditions explored in chapter 2. Yet Fiordispina never expresses the wish for a change of sex, either for herself or for Bradamante. Her wish is more complicated: she would have Daedalus ‘scioglier quel nodo che fece … Natura’ (‘untie the knot made by … Nature’) (25, xxxvii, 6–8). ‘Quel nodo’ refers to two things.21 The first is Bradamante’s lack of desire for Fiordispina, which is an impediment to Fiordispina’s satisfaction. This lack of desire is a reflection of the law of the natural world, in which, according to Fiordispina, female animals do not desire other female animals. The second is the boundary that Fiordispina is certain even Daedalus himself is powerless to help her cross, the boundary of sexual difference. If there were not two sexes, the construction of which Fiordispina attributes to Nature, Fiordispina could desire whomever she chose and hope for satisfaction. It is Fiordispina’s wish to ‘untie the knot’ that will be her own eventual undoing. Despite what she sees as the hopelessness of the situation, Fiordispina does her best to seduce an unwilling Bradamante through her powers of persuasion. When Fiordispina invites Bradamante to spend the night at her family’s castle, the maiden warrior accepts, not knowing how to refuse. Upon arriving at the castle Fiordispina tries to arouse the unwilling Bradamante with caresses: ‘Fece là dentro Fiordispina bella / la mia sirocchia accarezzar non poco, / E rivestita di feminil gonna’ (‘Fiordispina made much of my sister; she dressed her once more in feminine attire’) (25, xl, 5–6). That Fiordispina dresses Bradamante in female attire and continues to try to seduce her suggests that it is not necessarily a man she is after. The two sleep in the same bed, and, according to Ricciardetto, Fiordispina repeatedly dreams that Bradamante has been turned into ‘il miglior sesso’ (‘a preferable sex’) (25, xlii, 8). Fiordispina touches Bradamante repeatedly throughout the night: ‘Si desta; e nel destar mette la mano, / e ritrova pur sempre il sogno vano’ (‘she would wake and reach out, only to find that what she had seen was but an empty dream’)

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(25, xliii, 7–8). Yet Bradamante wants no part of an affair with Fiordispina. She leaves Fiordispina’s castle, proceeds to her family’s house, and tells everyone there the story. Among those listening is Ricciardetto, who looks so much like his sister that even their family cannot tell them apart. Ricciardetto’s substitution for his sister in love-making with Fiordispina lets Bradamante off the hook so she can continue down her predestined path towards marriage to Ruggiero and her role as Este progenetrix. This path, as Deanna Shemek points out, represents the movement of epic as opposed to romance: ‘Through Bradamante’s eventual union with Ruggiero the poem jettisons its romance baggage and claims its epic link with the narrative of Italian history.’22 Although Shemek hastens to qualify the claim that Bradamante is altogether domesticated by the poem’s end, she links Bradamante both to epic and to narrative motion forward.23 Fiordispina, however, remains firmly rooted in the romance mode, linked to narrative wandering and multiplicity. Queer female desire, in its complicated relationship with narrative closure, is emblematic of romance and must be rejected in the poem’s movement towards epic. For this reason Ariosto cannot make the choice that the author of this episode in Berni’s edition of the poem does in having Bradamante return Fiordispina’s desire. Ricciardetto had seen Fiordispina before on a number of occasions and had found her very attractive. He sees in Fiordispina’s desire for his sister the opportunity to satisfy his own desire for the princess. Telling no one of his plan, Ricciardetto dresses in his sister’s armour and rides to the Spanish castle. When he arrives, Fiordispina takes him for Bradamante, and showers him with attention: Le belle braccia al collo indi mi getta, e dolcemente stringe, e bacia in bocca. Tu puoi pensar s’allora la saetta dirizzi Amor, s’in mezzo il cor mi tocca. Per man mi piglia, e in camera con fretta mi mena; e non ad altri, ch’a lei, tocca che da l’elmo allo spron l’arme mi slacci; e nessun altro vuol che se n’impacci. Poi fattasi arrecare una sua veste adorna e ricca, di sua man la spiega, e come io fossi femina, mi veste, e in reticella d’oro il crin mi lega.

(25, liv; lv, 1–4)

Concluding the Tale 85 Throwing her graceful arms around my neck, she softly hugged me and kissed me on the lips. You can imagine after this how Love guided his dart to pierce me at the heart of my heart! She took me by the hand and quickly led me into her bedroom; here she would suffer none but herself to undo my armour, from helmet to spurs; no one else was to take a hand. Next she sent for a dress of hers, richly ornate, which she herself spread out and put on me as though I were a woman; and she caught my hair in a golden net.

With this passage the narrator Ricciardetto begins to force Fiordispina from the role of desiring subject into the role of the desired. Although Ricciardetto shows himself as the object of Fiordispina’s ministrations, his repetition of the pronoun mi forces the reader (as well as the listener, Ruggiero) to consider Ricciardetto’s increasing involvement as a protagonist in a tale that began as the story of Fiordispina’s love for Bradamante. Indeed, by repeating the scene in which Fiordispina dresses Bradamante in a woman’s clothes, but in much greater detail and substituting himself for his sister, Ricciardetto effectively cancels out Bradamante’s presence in the story. While allowing himself to be dressed as a woman, Ricciardetto is quick to remind Ruggiero that he has the equipment to do the job that Bradamante could not: ‘Quivi d’alcuni mi risi io piú volte, / che non sappiendo ciò che sotto gonne / si nascondesse valido e gagliardo, / mi vagheggiavan con lascivo sguardo’ (‘Here several times I was amused when certain men, unaware that my skirts concealed something sturdy and robust, kept making eyes at me’) (25, lvi, 5–8). Ricciardetto draws the attention of his audience to his penis, which becomes the solution to the narrative impasse occasioned by queer female desire. This image is particularly interesting because Ricciardetto, in his most feminine moment (dressed as a woman and the object of male desire), here insists on his masculinity. Ricciardetto understands the specificity of Fiordispina’s desire enough to continue the fiction he has invented. Still pretending to be Bradamante, Ricciardetto explains to Fiordispina that after leaving her castle he saved a nymph from being devoured by a stag, and the nymph in return promised to give him whatever he wanted. He says that he did not ask for riches or power or victory and honour in war, ‘ma sol che qualche via donde il desire / vostro s’adempia, mi schiuda e disserre: / né piú le domando un ch’un altro effetto, / ma tutta al suo giudicio mi rimetto’ (‘but that she would show me some way I could fulfill your desire; I did not ask to achieve this in one way or in another, but left the method up to her own discretion’) (25, lxiii, 5–8). According to Ricciardetto’s story,

86 Hopeless Love .

the nymph turned Bradamante into a man. Ricciardetto thus realigns Fiordispina’s desire with the penis by insisting that he is actually Bradamante, except now a man. Furthermore, he insists that he did not ask to be changed into a man, but only that he be granted the means to satisfy Fiordispina’s desire. Ricciardetto thus tricks Fiordispina into believing that the satisfaction of her desire depends on Bradamante’s penis (once absent, now present), and that the nymph, who has the power ‘far cose stupende, / e sforzar gli elementi e la natura’ (‘to perform miracles, to coerce nature and the elements’) (25, lxii, 1–2, emphasis mine) wills it thus. The devouring stag can be read as nature perverted (since stags do not prey on other animals) as well as love perverted (since in the topos of the hunt the hunter represents the lover, and the stag, his quarry, the beloved). By killing the stag Ricciardetto restores both nature and love to their proper courses. In his dangerously successful narrative Ricciardetto presents himself as Bradamante with a newly acquired male organ, thereby aligning the satisfaction of Fiordispina’s desire with Bradamante’s possession of a penis. He thus makes allowances for Fiordispina’s very specific desire for Bradamante while diminishing the subversive potential of that love by changing it into desire for Bradamante who is a man. Ricciardetto recognizes what makes Fiordispina’s desire so queer: that she desires Bradamante across sex boundaries. She loves the Bradamante who is a woman but who appears to be a man, the Bradamante whom she knows to be a woman, and the man she believes to be Bradamante (really Ricciardetto) turned into a man. To ask whether or not Fiordispina’s love is homosexual, as many critics have, is to ask the wrong question. Fiordispina’s love is subversive because it defies such categorization.24 Fiordispina’s desire renders irrelevant not only the categories of homoand heterosexual, but also those of man and woman. Because her desire is so specifically for Bradamante, her interest in which body parts Bradamante possesses is not direct; it is Ricciardetto who tells Ruggiero that Fiordispina desires a penis. The differentiation and naming of sexual body parts is essential to the organization of heterosexuality. Judith Butler writes: ‘That penis, vagina, breasts, and so forth, are named sexual parts is both a restriction of the erogenous body to those parts and a fragmentation of the body as a whole. Indeed, the “unity” imposed upon the body by the category of sex is a “disunity,” a fragmentation and compartmentalization, and a reduction of erotogeneity.’25 Fiordispina’s desire celebrates instead what she perceives as the fluidity of Bradamante’s gender, which, in her eyes, changes from male to female and back to male again.

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When Ricciardetto directs Fiordispina’s desire away from what had originally attracted her, ‘la faccia e le viril fattezze’ (‘the face and manly build’) (25, xxviii, 5) of Bradamante and towards his penis, he is reaffirming the naming of body parts that defines sexual difference and heterosexuality. The performative aspect of gender identity was essential to Renaissance definitions of male and female, including the ability to perform in bed,26 and Ricciardetto convinces Fiordispina that her satisfaction depends on a penis. He literally reconstructs Fiordispina’s desire, and she is drawn back into the order of a binary gender system, the knot constructed by Nature that Fiordispina sought to undo. Monique Wittig argues that this ‘natural’ system is not natural at all. She writes that sex, like race, is taken as an ‘immediate given,’ a ‘sensible given,’ ‘physical features,’ belonging to a natural order. But what we believe to be a physical and direct perception is only a sophisticated and mythic construction, an ‘imaginary formation,’ which reinterprets physical features (in themselves as neutral as any others but marked by the social system) through the network of relationships in which they are perceived.27

Ricciardetto squelches Fiordispina’s attempt to interpret physical features in her own way, outside of the heterosexual imperative, and insists that she, too, organize her desire according to the dominant paradigm. Ricciardetto has Love himself on his side in his efforts to tighten the knot of sexual difference: ‘Di questa speme Amore ordisce i nodi, / che d’altre fila ordir non li potea’ (‘Out of this hope, Love wove knots, having no other cord with which to weave them’) (25, l, 1) (Waldman’s translation slightly modified, emphasis mine). When Ricciardetto goes to Fiordispina, ‘Amore è duce’ (‘Cupid is guide’) (25, lii, 1), and Fiordispina is completely bound by the knots that Ricciardetto and Love contrive: ‘Non con piú nodi i flessuosi acanti / le colonne circondano e le travi, / di quelli con che noi legammo stretti / e colli e fianchi e braccia e gambe e petti’ (‘Never did twisting acanthus entwine pillars and beams with more knots than those which bound us together, our necks and sides, our arms, legs, and breasts in a close embrace’) (25, lxix, 5–8, emphasis mine). Ricciardetto also has narrative, an ally at least as powerful as Love, on his side. It is Ricciardetto who tells the entire story of Fiordispina and is in complete control of the narrative. It is therefore crucial to remember that the reader hears the story of Bradamante and Fiordispina through numerous filters: Bradamante tells Ricciardetto of her encounter with the princess, and Ricciardetto adds to the story in telling it to Ruggiero.

88 Hopeless Love

Furthermore, Ricciardetto has a good deal at stake in telling this story to Ruggiero. He is greatly in debt to Ruggiero for saving his life, and he can begin to repay that debt by entertaining his companion to make their journey less tiresome. Ricciardetto also promises Ruggiero a good story: ‘Io non credo che fabula si conte, / che piú di questa istoria bella fosse’ (‘I don’t believe there can be a story more beautiful than this one’) (25, xxvii, 5–6). Having made such a promise, he must deliver. Finally, by telling Ruggiero a story that showcases his own ingenuity and sexual prowess Ricciardetto can shore up his masculinity, compromised by his having had to be rescued by Ruggiero in the first place. Ariosto, through Ricciardetto, installs a straight teleology that will conclude the tale of queer female desire provided by Boiardo. While in the Innamorato Fiordispina’s desire for Bradamante occasions a narrative crisis, in Ariosto’s text it occasions narrative opportunity. Ricciardetto intervenes in the Bradamante-Fiordispina story, taking over the narrative and casting himself as its protagonist, just as Ariosto intervenes to dominate Boiardo’s text. And while both Boiardo and Ariosto employ the motif of queer female desire as an amor impossibilis, they do so to different ends. In the Innamorato queer female desire occasions the failure of narrative while at the same time suggesting, through extratextual precedents that would be immediately recognizable to Boiardo’s contemporaries, a narrative telos. In the Furioso queer female desire leads to narrative opportunity, realized in a straight narrative telos. This is in keeping with Ariosto’s overall project in his poem. Yet his very success generates at the same time a reflection on narrative as deceit, because Fiordispina, so completely duped by Ricciardetto’s narrative, trades reality for a fantasy according to which sex boundaries are fluid. Fiordispina is not the only character in the Furioso to be destroyed by narrative. The position of her story in the poem as a whole suggests a comparison of Fiordispina to Orlando, another victim of words. Ariosto presents the Fiordispina episode in two parts. In canto 22 Ruggiero comes upon one of Fiordispina’s ladies crying in the woods, who tells him that she fled the castle because the princess’ lover had been caught and was to be burned. Ruggiero and Bradamante agree to save the young man and set off with the lady. In canto 25 Ruggiero rescues Ricciardetto, who he soon learns is Bradamante’s twin brother. Ricciardetto proceeds to tell Ruggiero the story of Fiordispina’s love for Bradamante, and eventually for him. The fact that the Fiordispina story sandwiches the poem’s central incident has important ramifications for its interpretation.28 The episode of Orlando’s madness, a story of

Concluding the Tale 89

narrative and its relationship to desire, provides useful clues for reading canto 25. Orlando goes mad in canto 23 upon learning that Angelica, the object of his desire, is in love with someone else. Angelica and Medoro have written their names together all over a small grove: ‘Angelica e Medoro con cento nodi / legati insieme, e in cento lochi vede’ (‘He saw “Angelica” and “Medor” in a hundred places, united by a hundred loveknots’) (23, ciii, 1–2, emphasis mine). These ‘nodi,’ which Orlando is desperate to loosen, prefigure the knot in canto 25 that Fiordispina would have Daedalus untie. In both instances the knots point to a truth within the poem. Angelica and Medoro are in fact bound together; they have consummated their love with sexual union. Fiordispina is forced, through Ricciardetto’s narrative, to accept the knot of sexual difference as a prerequisite for the satisfaction of her desire. Orlando tries to dissuade himself of the truth he sees: ‘Va col pensier cercando in mille modi / non creder quel ch’al suo dispetto crede’ (‘He searched in his mind for any number of excuses to reject what he could not help believing’) (23, ciii, 5–6). ‘Usando fraude a se medesmo’ (‘Thus deceiving himself’) (23, civ, 6), Orlando tries to convince himself that someone else is lying: ‘pensa come / possa esser che non sia la cosa vera: / che voglia alcun cosí infamare il nome / de la sua donna’ (‘he hoped against hope that it might simply be someone trying to besmirch his lady’s name this way’) (23, cxiv, 1–4). He proceeds to an inn, where he finds the ‘odiato scritto’ (‘hateful inscriptions’) (23, cxvii, 3) covering the walls. A shepherd confirms the truth about Angelica and Medoro, showing Orlando the jewel that Angelica had given him in thanks for his hospitality. This last bit of evidence is incontestable. Orlando goes mad and rages throughout the forest, destroying the graffiti of Angelica and Medoro: ‘Tagliò lo scritto e ’l sasso, e sin al cielo / a volo alzar fe’ le minute schegge’ (‘[he] slashed at the words and the rock-face, sending tiny splinters shooting skywards’) (23, cxxx, 1–2). As Millicent Marcus points out, ‘He kills the writing, vainly hoping, by a kind of magical transference, to destroy the referents of the offending script.’29 Orlando tries desperately to disassociate his desire from narrative truth, both the narrative of the ‘cento nodi’ as well as the narrative of canto 21, through which the reader already knows of Angelica’s marriage to Medoro. In the end it is the incompatability of narrative truth and Orlando’s desire that drives Orlando mad. The story of Fiordispina can be read in much the same way. Fiordispina’s willingness to believe Ricciardetto’s false narrative draws her into a kind of madness in which she believes a nymph has turned

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her beloved Bradamante into a man in order to satisfy her desire. She hovers in a liminal state between sleep and wakefulness, between belief and incredulity. When she touches Ricciardetto’s penis, agli occhi, al tatto, a se stessa non crede, e sta dubbiosa ancor di non dormire; e buona prova bisognò a far fede che sentia quel che le parea sentire. ‘Fa, Dio (disse ella), se son sogni questi, ch’io dorma sempre, e mai piú non mi desti.’

(25, lxviii, 3–8)

[S]he could not believe her eyes or her fingers or herself, and kept wondering whether she were awake or asleep. She needed solid proof to convince her that she was actually feeling what she thought she felt. ‘O God, if this is a dream,’ she cried, ‘keep me asleep for good, and never wake me again!’

Fiordispina wants to believe that her dream has come true, that a love such as hers, which ignores boundaries of sex, can be fulfilled because sex itself is a transient, changeable quality.30 As Ferroni writes, The fantasy of a happy indistinctness between masculine and feminine, between truth and trick, solidity and illusion, in an erotic universe without boundaries, is the impulse that guides the eternal dreaming of Fiordispina, her impossible identification with an object of desire in which opposite sexual valences contradict and reconcile with one another.31

Indeed, Fiordispina’s fantasy is consistent with the world created by the chivalric poem as characterized by Aldo Scaglione: ‘a pure world of imagination, coherent only with itself and its laws, which do not necessarily obey the laws of common reality.’32 Yet to Fiordispina her desire was not impossible; as far as she knew, she had found what she wanted. But such belief in the changeability of sex is dangerous indeed, and once again narrative intervenes to put Fiordispina in her place. The dominant paradigm of sexual organization reasserts itself in the form of the king’s dungeon, where Ariosto leaves Fiordispina to rot, never to be heard from again. Even though she is left behind, however, Fiordispina is still a source of pleasure in the form of the story Ricciardetto tells to Ruggiero to make their journey less tiresome.

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Although Ruggiero expresses his desire to hear the story, the reader already knows that stories told for palliative reasons can be dangerous. The shepherd tells Orlando about Angelica and Medoro to lighten the knight’s burden: Il pastor che lo vede cosí oppresso da sua tristizia, e che voria levarla, l’istoria nota a sé, che dicea spesso di quei duo amanti a chi volea ascoltarla, ch’a molti dilettevole fu a udire.

(23, cxviii, 3–7)

The herdsman, who saw him so downcast and sad and wanted to cheer him up, embarked, without asking leave, upon the story of those two lovers: he knew it well, and often repeated it to those who would listen. There were many who enjoyed hearing it.

With this tale Orlando is driven into madness. He is, however, given another chance after the knight Astolfo journeys to the moon, collects Orlando’s wits, and restores them to him. His sanity having been recovered, Orlando rejects desire, the original cause of his madness: Poi che fu all’esser primo ritornato Orlando piú che mai saggio e virile, d’amor si trovò insieme liberato; sí che colei, che sí bella e gentile gli pare dianzi, e ch’avea tanto amato, non stia piú se non per cosa vile. Ogni suo studio, ogni disio rivolse a racquistar quanto già amor gli tolse.

(39, cxi)

His old self once more, a paragon of wisdom and manliness, Orlando also found himself cured of love: the damsel who had seemed hitherto so beautiful and good in his eyes, and whom he had so adored, he now dismissed as utterly worthless. His only concern, his only wish now was to recover all that Love had stolen from him.

His wisdom restored, Orlando is beyond the influence of desire and therefore of narrative. Fiordispina, however, still desiring, does not manage to sort out the relationships between desire and narrative, between

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narrative and truth. With these two examples Ariosto has shown the reader different ways in which narrative might be interpreted, and thus how his own poem might be read. Indeed, reading canto 25 as a story about the struggle for narrative superiority suggests a way to read an earlier moment of the poem in which sex between women is presented as an impossible problem always blocked by the knot of sexual difference. Reading Marfisa’s encounter with the homicidal women in cantos 19 and 20, in which Marfisa declares herself ready to accept the challenge of satisfying ten women in bed on the same night, as parallel to Bradamante’s adventure with Fiordispina can help us to better understand the importance of both episodes.33 Comparing Fiordispina’s nodo to the one described in canto 19 by Marfisa shows how in this earlier episode, just as in the tale of Fiordispina, sex between women represents not a narrative impasse, as it does in Boiardo’s poem, but rather a narrative challenge, one that is appropriated and mastered by a male narrator while the female protagonists of the impossible sexual adventure are silenced or redirected into other narratives. The Bradamante-Fiordispina episode thus emerges not as an isolated episode of queer female desire, but rather as part of a larger project of figuring the struggle for male narrative superiority through the motif of sex between women as an impossibility. About halfway through canto 19, Marfisa and her comrades find themselves at sea in a terrible storm. When the storm finally breaks, they are forced to land in the harbour of the homicidal women, as their vessel is no longer sea-worthy: ‘gli arbori e l’antenne avea perdute: / eran tavole e travi pel ferire / del mar, sdrucite, macere e sbattute’ (‘the masts and spars were gone and the ship’s planks and timbers, pounded by the seas, were all stove in, crushed or working loose’) (19, lv, 2–4). This figuration of the ship (and, by extension, her passengers) as castrated and feminized complements the figuration of the harbour of the homicidal women as a vagina dentata: ‘Fatto è ’l porto a sembianza d’una luna, / … et in ciascuna / parte una ròcca ha nel finir del corno’ (‘The harbour was in the shape of a crescent-moon … On each tip of the crescent stood a fort’) (19, lxiv, 1–4). Once the ship enters the harbour, ‘tra una ròcca e l’altra il mar si serra: / da navi e da catene fu rinchiuso, / che tenean sempre instrutte a cotal uso’ (‘the harbour-entrance [was] closed off by ships and chains always kept ready for this purpose’) (19, lxv, 6–8). In this vulnerable position Marfisa and her comrades confront the homicidal women, who, according to custom, hold men in perpetual

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slavery, or else kill them. The only alternative for groups unlucky enough to land here lies in the successful completion of a challenge: if one knight among them can kill ten knights on the battlefield and satisfy ten women in bed that same night, the others can go free, but the winner must stay behind as husband to ten women. Failing either of the two tests, the chosen knight will be killed and the others enslaved. Our heroes are enthusiastic at the prospect of this contest. Astolfo even laughs (19, lix, 1) because, as the poet reminds us (19, lxi, 3–4), one blast from his magic horn would send everyone running. This reminder serves to soften the gravity of the problems the group will encounter on the island, suggested by their ominous enclosure within the harbour. True to character Marfisa is not afraid: ‘et a Marfisa non mancava il core, / ben che mal atta alla seconda danza; / ma dove non l’aitasse la natura, / con la spada supplir stava sicura’ (‘Nor did Marfisa lose heart: she may have been ill equipped for the second performance, but where Nature left her unaided she was confident of making good with her sword’) (lxix, 5–8). She insists on being included in the lottery to determine who among them will face the trial, overriding the objections of her comrades: ‘trovar dovesse inciampo / ne la seconda giostra de la sera; / ch’ad averne vittoria abil non era’ (‘she would find an obstacle in the second joust, the night one, as she was not equipped to achieve a victory here’) (19, lxxiii, 6–8). She of course wins the lottery and assures her comrades that she will succeed: Ella dicea: – Prima v’ho a por la vita, che v’abbiate a por voi la libertade: ma questa spada (e lor la spada addita, che cinta avea) vi do per securtade ch’io vi sciorrò tutti gl’intrichi al modo che fe’ Alessandro il gordïano nodo.

(19, lxxiv, 3–8)

‘I must venture my life,’ she told them, ‘before you hazard your freedom. But I give you this sword as a pledge’ – and she pointed to the sword girt upon her – ‘that I’ll resolve your problems the way Alexander disposed of the Gordian knot.’ (Waldman’s translation slightly modified)

No one doubts that Marfisa is capable of winning the first battle – her victories are legendary. It is the second test, then, that could be a problem. Her faith in her sword, first expressed in octave lxix, to assist her in

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this second test, and her repeated boasting of the efficacy of her sword in octave lxxiv, suggest that ‘gl’intrichi’ in line 7 refer to this second contest, since Alexander disposed of the Gordian knot with his sword. Should she somehow win this test, a new problem would present itself as, according to the custom, a victorious knight is compelled to remain while the others go free. Yet Marfisa presents herself as the saviour of the group, the protagonist of the contest who will liberate her comrades. She uses the second-person-plural pronouns vi and voi five times in octave lxxiv, insisting that the woes she is about to eliminate belong to her comrades, but not to her: ‘io vi sciorrò tutti gl’intrichi’ (‘I’ll put an end to your trammels’) (19, lxxiv, 7). She brags of being able to undo (the verb is ‘sciorre,’ equal to ‘sciogliere,’ meaning to untie, the same verb that Fiordispina uses in reference to her knot) the ‘intrichi’ (problems, tangles, knots) of her comrades in the same way in which Alexander dispatched the Gordian knot. Thus in Marfisa’s simile the ‘intrichi’ (the second contest) are like the ‘gordïano nodo,’ and her actions will be like those of Alexander. According to the Alexandreida in rima,34 Alexander arrives in Cardin (the modern name for Gordium), and finds the knot: Qui era lo gi[o]co fatal del qual se grida, legato e annodato d’una corda, che ciascuno che l’havesse disnodato signor de l’Asia serìa chiamato. Lo re Alexandro, volendo dislegare li nodi molti, sì se fo affatigato e mai el capo podette snodare. Allhora con ira disse: ‘Questo fato non dice già in che forma sì se de’ fare.’ E poi la spada se trasse dal lato e quelle corde alor tutte mozòne, e quelli nodi così disligòne; o veramente deleggiò le sorte, o veramente quel fato renchiuse.

(3, lxxxiv, 5–8; lxxxv; lxxxvi, 1–2)

Here was the famous yoke of destiny, tied and knotted by a cord, and whoever untied it would be called the ruler of Asia. King Alexander, want-

Concluding the Tale 95 ing to untie the many knots, struggled mightily but was unable to find the end. He said angrily, ‘This prophecy does not say how it must be done.’ And he took his sword from his side and he struck all the cords and thus undid the knots; either he tricked fate or he mastered it.

So Alexander did not undo the knot; he cut it. Then why doesn’t Marfisa use a verb with that meaning, given that she clearly intends to use her sword in some way? Further complicating the reference is the fact that disposing of the Gordian knot was tied to future success as a ruler. Rule over the homicidal women is the prize promised (and forced upon) the victor, and expressly what Marfisa does not want. Reading Marfisa’s lines from the vantage point of canto 25 can help explain what is going on here. Fiordispina describes sexual difference as a knot (nodo) that cannot be untied (the verb is sciogliere), as it is made by Nature, ‘d’ogni cosa piú possente’ (‘all-powerful’) (25, xxxvii, 8). When Ricciardetto assumes the identity of his sister and claims that a nymph has intervened to give ‘her’ a man’s body, he convinces Fiordispina that the knot has been magically undone. Ricciardetto’s ruse is so clever because it accomplishes two things at the same time: it allows Fiordispina to think she is getting Bradamante, which from Fiordispina’s point of view is an Alexandrian solution that solves the impossible problem, while at the same time it gives Fiordispina Bradamante as a man, thereby tightening the knot of sexual difference by insisting that difference is necessary for Fiordispina’s satisfaction. Ricciardetto as narrator takes over the story of Fiordispina’s queer desire for Bradamante and forces his way into the role of protagonist. Like Fiordispina, Marfisa wants to undo the knot of sexual difference. Just as Fiordispina’s only desire is for Bradamante, so Marfisa’s only desire is to be a superlative knight. Fiordispina complains that the knot of sexual difference keeps her from obtaining the object of her desire, as it keeps Marfisa from obtaining hers, because Marfisa’s hold on her vocation is threatened as long as there is a contest to which she is not equal. Marfisa’s goal, then, becomes not so much victory in this contest, but the contest’s obliteration. She says: ‘Non vuo’ mai piú che forestier si lagni / di questa terra, fin che ’l mondo dura’ (‘It is my intention that travelers should never more, so long as this world endures, have cause to complain of this city’) (19, lxxv, 1–2). In eliminating the contest Marfisa would eliminate the threat to her claim to be a knight. Marfisa gives no suggestion of how she might accomplish this objective, and the reader

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wonders what Marfisa will do when confronted with the task of satisfying sexually ten women. Marfisa is never allowed to attempt to untie the Gordian knot. She does not even succeed at the first test. After killing the first nine knights she struggles with the tenth until darkness forces them to postpone their fight until the next day. This knight courteously invites Marfisa and her comrades to lodge with him, pointing out that Marfisa had widowed ninety women that day, who would surely be looking for revenge. When the warriors remove their helmets, both are surprised: Marfisa to learn that her opponent is very young, and he to learn that his opponent is a woman. After giving his pedigree at the beginning of canto 20, the knight, Guidone, is asked to explain the customs of the land, and it is this description that occupies the next 59 octaves. Guidone’s narrative in these octaves represents a hijacking of Marfisa’s story. As the knight chosen to represent the group on the battlefield (as well as in bed), Marfisa begins as the tale’s protagonist. The reader follows her as she trounces nine knights in battle, and anxiously waits to see how she will triumph over the highly skilled tenth opponent, as well as how she will confront the second test. With the introduction of Guidone Marfisa is displaced. Guidone tells Marfisa and the others how he first slew ten knights before winning also at the second test and becoming husband to ten women. In his narrative Guidone not only forces the reader’s focus away from Marfisa and onto himself, but he actually appropriates Marfisa’s story. The reader never discovers how Marfisa fares against the tenth knight in the continuing battle, or how she might face the second test. That narrative is truncated and replaced by Guidone’s story of his victory on the battlefield and in bed. Guidone can thus be read as replacing Marfisa on both battlefields. This occlusion of sex between women by heterosexual sex anticipates the replacement of Bradamante by Ricciardetto in Fiordispina’s bed in canto 25. Thomas P. Roche, Jr., points out that ‘Ariosto … wanted to shift the burden of expectation from his woman warrior to the shoulders and prowess of an eighteen-year-old, who had obviously achieved victory in the double ordeal soon to be presented to Marfisa.’35 And yet the ordeal is never presented to Marfisa – she is not allowed to get that far. Instead, the group, now including Guidone, who wishes more than anything to escape his ‘vil servitú’ (‘base servitude’) (20, lxiv, 8), hatches a plan. Guidone’s most trusted wife, who wishes his attentions exclusively for herself, is called upon to ready a ship for their escape. In an echo of Marfisa’s ‘io vi sciorrò,’

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Guidone counsels flight under cover of night, promising, ‘io vi trarrò de la crudel cittade’ (‘I shall lead you out of this cruel city’) (20, lxxvi, 8). Marfisa refuses, choosing as always the boldest path and thus attempting to recast herself as the protagonist of the story: Tu fa come ti par (disse Marfisa), ch’io son per me d’uscir di qui sicura. Piú facil fia che di mia mano uccisa la gente sia, che è dentro a queste mura, che mi veggi fuggire, o in altra guisa alcun possa notar ch’abbi paura. Vo’ uscir di giorno, e sol per forza d’arme; che per ogn’altro modo obbrobrio parme.

(20, lxxvii)

You do as you please, rejoined Marfisa; as for me, I know very well that I can leave this place. But it is easier for me to slaughter by my own hand the people dwelling within these walls than to be caught fleeing or showing any sign of fear. I mean to break out in broad daylight and by force of arms alone: any other way strikes me as shameful.

In these lines Marfisa taunts Guidone, suggesting that she is the braver and therefore the superior knight. While Roche maintains that ‘[w]hat comes through in this remarkable episode is the utter vulnerability of male and female, if there is not cooperation,’36 I would argue that the battle between Marfisa and Guidone, begun on the battlefield, continues through their struggle for mastery of the narrative, as each seeks to be its protagonist. Their cooperation is not a success. In fact, it appears that in their attempt to escape our heroes are in serious trouble: ‘ma tanta e tanta copia era dei dardi / che, con ferite dei compagni e morte, / pioveano lor di sopra e d’ogn’intorno, / ch’al fin temean d’averne danno e scorno’ (‘But they were assailed by such a deluge of arrows, leaving many of their company wounded or dead, that in the end they feared they must have the worst of it’) (20, lxxxvi, 5–8). On one hand, this whole adventure can be characterized as a failure for Marfisa. Through her insistence on absolute adherence to the values of knighthood, both in refusing to be excluded from the lottery and in refusing the benefit of darkness in the group’s planned escape, she continually endangers her comrades. Her faith in the ability of her sword to bring her success in all challenges, including that of satisfying ten

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women in bed, is presented as absurd, and she descends into the comic. Unequal to this task, which as a knight she claims for herself, she is therefore unequal to that title. As Ita Mac Carthy writes, ‘[Marfisa] might look and perform the part, but underneath it all, she simply lacks the accoutrements of a fully-fledged knight.’37 Satisfying women in bed is, according to the logic of the poem, a man’s job; it was Guidone’s job, and Ariosto presents Marfisa as completely incompetent here. Finucci argues that Marfisa is ‘characterized throughout as unfeminine: in the economy of the text, not to play the woman means not to be one; not to enter the circuit of male desire amounts to remaining forever excluded from desire.’38 Finucci further argues that Marfisa is punished for this, ‘since Ariosto keeps her solidly stuck in the realm of the comic, forever playing the nonwoman and the nonman.’39 However, as Margaret Adams Groesbeck points out, because Marfisa never has to confront ten women in bed, ‘[h]er sword alone has been sufficient for this contest.’40 Guidone’s masculine performance, impressive though it was, could not free him from the homicidal women. And in any case, we know that in the Furioso a man’s sexual promiscuity is not necessarily an indication of masculinity; in fact, quite the opposite might be true.41 Marfisa’s foolhardiness is redeemed by Astolfo’s horn, which resolves the story: Astolfo tra sé disse: ‘Ora, ch’aspetto che mai mi possa il corno piú valere? Io vo’ veder, poi che non giova spada, s’io so col corno assicurar la strada.’

(20, lxxxvii, 5–8)

Said Astolfo to himself: ‘What am I waiting for? What better occasion than this to fall back on my horn? As our swords are getting us nowhere, let us see if I can’t clear our path with my horn.’

Roche convincingly argues for an allegorical reading of the horn as eloquence, and writes: ‘The main point of this triumph of Astolfo’s horn is that it is symbolic and quintessentially literary (in my terms allegorical) in that it allows Ariosto to complete his narrative fiction without resorting to discursive explanations of why Marfisa’s spada will not do the job.’42 By refusing to follow the narrative thread of Marfisa’s adventure in the land of the femine omicide, Ariosto allows Guidone to take it over and Astolfo, with his horn, to conclude it. The horn destroys the impasse and forces the protagonists to scatter into new

Concluding the Tale 99

adventures. If the horn is eloquence, then it is Astolfo in this case who masters the narrative. Marfisa has her heart’s desire in that the land of the femine omicide is obliterated, but this did not come about through her prowess, and she must seek to reestablish her claim to the title of knight in other contests.

5 Queer Female Desire in Cinquecento Comedy

In chapter 4, I argue that the Furioso’s conclusion to the Innamorato’s suspended story of queer female desire is a salient moment in Ariosto’s competition with Boiardo, one in which the younger poet seeks to establish his superiority through the tale of Ricciardetto’s narrative intervention in Fiordispina’s longing for Bradamante. Although engaged most obviously and most directly with Boiardo’s poem, Ariosto’s BradamanteFiordispina story is also in dialogue with texts of the commedia erudita, defined by Louise George Clubb as ‘the vernacular five-act drama with intrigue plot employing characters and situations developed from Attic New Comedy and from the Boccaccian novella tradition, regulated by unity of time and place according to principles of generalized realism, representing a contemporary urban middle class as festival entertainment for an élite audience.’1 Clubb further notes that plays of the commedia erudita were not only performed but also published and discussed by theoreticians. The author of five plays himself,2 Ariosto does not employ the motif of queer female desire in his works for the stage. Some of the most important plays of the commedia erudita, however, do. These include Bibbiena’s La calandra (The Comedy of Calandro) (1513),3 the Accademici Intronati di Siena’s Gli ingannati (The Deceived) (1532),4 and Alessandro Piccolomini’s L’Alessandro (Alessandro) (1544).5 Reading these three plays against the Furioso provides a larger literary context for Ariosto’s Bradamante-Fiordispina story and establishes that queer female desire was under elaboration as a motif in Italian literature beyond the romance epic. I pay particular attention to the articulation of the impossibility of queer female desire, as well as to what I see as an emerging sense of the dramatic possibilities of queer female desire and an increasing explicitness in the mode of its theatrical representation

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over the course of the first half of the cinquecento. I begin with La calandra, whose important innovation is to make one of the two male twins of Plautus’ Menaechmi, the play on which Bibbiena’s comedy is based, a girl. This development allows for a queer female desire based on mistaken identity while simultaneously providing a solution for this desire in the person of the male twin. Without overestimating the importance of queer female desire in this play, I concentrate on its use of somatic mutability and of sex change, important elements in Ariosto’s story. Gli ingannati develops the motif of queer female desire in two ways: it features a staged kiss between two female characters, and the arrival of the heroine’s identical male twin, while certainly pleasing to the girl who previously desired his sister, is not essential to the resolution of the heroine’s love story. Queer female desire in Gli ingannati is purely comic, and the stakes are low. This play shows, however, an increased awareness of the dramatic possibilities of one girl’s desire for another while also being less coy than either La calandra or the Furioso about the willingness of a love-crazed girl to accept her beloved’s twin brother as a substitute. L’Alessandro features not twins, but rather a pair of lovers, both cross-dressed and ignorant of each other’s identities. This play is striking both for its insistent articulation of a woman’s desire for someone she believes to be another woman and for the register of this story, which is not a comedy and tends towards elegy, the mode that will characterize queer female desire in seventeenthcentury literature.6 This play thus represents a link between the conventions of the commedia erudita and the elegy associated with queer female desire in Ovid, in the Furioso, and in later dramatic traditions. Largely absent in the Furioso, the issue of marriage alliances is central to these three plays and is tied to the motif of queer female desire.7 Sons and daughters here are usually pursuing their own freedom and must be brought into conformity with patriarchal expectations. Stephen Orgel argues that cross-dressing in Renaissance drama demonstrates anxiety about marriage and inheritance rather than about sex or gender: [T]he cross-dressing represented in so much Renaissance drama … expresses a wide variety of patriarchal anxieties, but these have more to do with the anxiety of the father within the family structure, with issues relating to inheritance, the transfer of property and the contracting of alliances, than with gender or sexuality – marriages are arranged for boys as well as girls, and the characteristic fantasy of freedom throughout the drama of the period is one in which the children of both sexes can elude the paternal arrangements and settle the question of their marriages themselves. These

102 Hopeless Love anxieties are generational, a function of the patriarchal structure itself, responding to those elements in society that are its essential currency.8

Although Orgel is undoubtedly right to identify inheritance issues as central, I am not sure that we need to oppose concern with family wealth to gender anxiety, as the two are so tightly bound up with one another in these plays. Indeed, it is the device of cross-dressed identical twins that allows the prescribed marriages to be delayed for so long, the repeated substitutions and deceptions always pulling away from the resolution of marriage. As Giulio Ferroni writes, ‘The tempo of these plays does not move towards narrative resolution (even if the solution at the end cannot not be), but becomes held up in the tumult and in the equivocation of every direction, of every kind, and of every narrative role.’9 Queer female desire is one of the ways in which the narrative is prolonged and the conclusion delayed. ‘Conclusion’ in these plays equals ‘marriage,’ but according to literary convention queer female desire threatens to disrupt the marriage alliances proposed by fathers. As we saw in chapter 2, marriage between women is a motif in cantari such as Reina d’Oriente, in which the bride and groom lived happily for two years without being discovered. In La bella Camilla Canbragia refused the groom chosen by her father in order to marry Amideo, and she agreed to keep her spouse’s identity secret after it was revealed to her. Even if the unions had been shown to be illegitimate (an eventuality negated by the grooms’ change from women to men), the brides’ reputations, and those of their fathers as well, would have been tarnished, jeopardizing the possibility of future marriage alliances. The delaying tactic of queer female desire helps the sons and daughters in the plays evade the marriage plans of their fathers and pursue their own desires. The world of the urban Italian bourgeoisie, however, will require different solutions from those appropriate to the enchanted world of the cantari. La calandra The action of La calandra opens against a backdrop of impossible queer female desire. Antecedent to the events of the play, the girl Santilla, believing her identical twin brother Lidio to be dead as a result of war in their hometown of Modon, had assumed his name and dress in order to flee and travel freely. Under this new identity Lidio femina10 was taken into the home of a Roman nobleman, Perillo, who took a liking to the newcomer. Wishing to make Lidio femina a permanent member of his family, Perillo has made arrangements for ‘him’ to marry his daughter

Queer Female Desire in Cinquecento Comedy 103

Virginia (who never appears on stage). Virginia’s wish to marry Lidio femina is in accordance with her father’s intentions and is motivated by the desire to assume the role of wife and eventual mother that is expected of her. For Lidio femina this marriage would represent an end to her fiction: until this point Lidio femina has successfully played the role of a man, but she does not know how to talk her way out of what she believes to be an impossible situation. Her successful disguise is based on her androgynous appearance (in the play’s argument the twins are described as being indistinguishable from each other unless differently attired), ‘masculine’ attributes (Perillo has found Lidio femina to be a good business associate), and men’s clothes. A viable marriage to Virginia would require a male body underneath those clothes, however, and that is where Lidio femina’s ruse fails: Femina sono, e conviemmi esser marito! Se io sposo costei, subito cognoscerà che io femina, e non maschio, sono; e, da me scornati, el padre e la madre e la figlia potriano farmi uccidere. Negar di sposarla non posso; e, se pur niego di farlo, sdegnati, a casa maladetta me ne manderanno. Se paleso esser femina, io medesima a me stessa fo il danno. Tener così la cosa più non posso. Miser’a me! che da un lato ho il precipizio, da l’altro e’ lupi. (II, viii)11 I’m a woman, and it seems I’m to be a husband! But if I marry this woman, it will immediately become clear that I’m a woman and not a man. And for that offense, father, mother, and daughter will all want to kill me. I can’t refuse to marry her, and yet if I do, they will curse me and throw me out. If I reveal that I’m a woman, I’ll just cause the same thing to happen. I can’t stand this any longer! Woe is me! As they say, ‘One path leads over the cliff, and on the other the wolves are waiting.’

Because marriage between two women is described by Lidio femina as impossible, its danger would seem to be to no one but Lidio femina herself, who would lose her comfortable position in Perillo’s household and find herself with neither money nor an acceptable guardian. But such a marriage, when revealed, would also tarnish Perillo’s reputation for good judgment and jeopardize future alliances for Virginia. The control and transmission of wealth emerge as a central concern in La calandra as soon as Lidio femina raises the issue of marriage: [C]redendosi Perillo, come sapete, che io maschio sia, e fidelissimo nelli affari suoi avendomi trovato sempre, me ama tanto che vuol darmi per moglie Verginia unica figliuola sua e di tutti li beni suoi farla erede. (II, i)

104 Hopeless Love Since Perillo believes me to be a man [as you know] and has found me always absolutely trustworthy in his business concerns, he has become so fond of me that he wants to give his only daughter, Virginia, to me as my wife along with all his goods, which will be hers when he dies.

Lidio femina would profit greatly from marriage to Virginia, while Perillo stands to be hurt by the union. Apparently an orphan with no surviving siblings, Lidio femina is also a Greek, so Perillo would gain no political or social allies in Italy. Ideally, Perillo’s wealth would eventually be transferred to Virginia’s children, impossible if she were married to a woman. Furthermore, Perillo has no other children, making Virginia the only conduit through which his wealth could be passed on to his descendants. In short, a marriage between Lidio femina and Virginia would leave Perillo’s wealth very vulnerable indeed. Lidio femina goes to her nurse and to her servant Fannio (both of whom know about the disguise) for advice, and while they are talking, an opportunity presents itself that will keep Lidio femina out of sight for a while and also provide them with a little money. The necromancer Ruffo (who thinks that Lidio femina is a man) tells them that the married noblewoman Fulvia is in love with Lidio femina and wants Ruffo to act as a go-between. What Lidio femina, Fannio, and Ruffo do not realize, however, is that Lidio femina’s brother, Lidio maschio, is alive, has come to Rome to look for Santilla, and has taken Fulvia as a lover. Lidio maschio had been visiting Fulvia in her house, disguised as a woman and using the name Santilla, in order to avoid the suspicion of Fulvia’s husband, Calandro. It is Lidio maschio whom Fulvia wants, not Lidio femina. Unfortunately for Fulvia, Lidio’s ardour has apparently been diminishing, which is why she engages the services of Ruffo to win it back. Fannio, Lidio femina, and Ruffo agree that Lidio femina will pretend to be in love with Fulvia, and that Ruffo and Lidio femina will share the money Fulvia gives to Ruffo for his services. After Ruffo leaves, Fannio suggests that they extend the trick even further: Fulvia has asked that Lidio maschio come to her ‘in forma di donna’ (‘as a woman’) (II, iv), meaning dressed as a woman; instead, Lidio femina will go to Fulvia as a woman. Thus the (albeit temporary) solution to the problem of a pending marriage between two women is grounded in the supposed attraction of Fulvia to Lidio femina. In other words, the way for Lidio femina to avoid the desire of one woman is to court the desire of another. Lidio femina’s female body is established as an insurmountable obstacle both to her marrying Virginia and to her satisfying Fulvia. Her body

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lies behind her problems: vulnerable in its femininity, it is what drove her to seek safety in male disguise; it is also the cause of her marriage predicament. Yet, together with her servant, Lidio femina finds a way to use her body to her advantage, postponing a confrontation with Perillo. Both the danger and the usefulness of this body are described in negative terms. As Fannio says of the prank they concoct for Fulvia: ‘Tu donna sei; ella in forma di donna te adomanda; da lei anderai: a provar quel che cerca, troverrà quel che non vuole’ (II, iv) (‘She’s asked you – a woman – to come to her disguised as a woman! You should go to her: trying out just what she’s asked for, she’ll find just what she doesn’t want’). Other characters also insist that Fulvia does not want a lover with a woman’s body. When Fannio says that Fulvia will not be happy to see Lidio femina, Ruffo replies: ‘Sì, sì, perché Lidio userà seco il sesso feminile’ (‘Yes, yes, you’re right, because Lidio can only make love to her as a woman!’) (III, xxi). Fulvia’s ‘discovery’ that Lidio has been turned from a man into a woman occurs between acts 3 and 4, a position of prime importance, in an episode absent from the action and retold after the fact by other characters. Upon finding a woman where she expected a man, Fulvia is just as disappointed as Fannio had said she would be. She says to Ruffo: O il cielo o il peccato mio o la malignità dello spirito che stato si sia, non so; ma, una volta voi avete, oimè! di maschio in femina converso Lidio mio. Tutto l’ho maneggiato e tocco; nè altro del solito ritrovo che la presenzia in lui. E io non tanto la privazion del mio diletto piango quanto el danno suo; ché, per me, privo si trova di quel che più si brama. (IV, ii) It’s either fate or my sins or the vileness of the spirit, I don’t know which, but you’ve suddenly changed my Lidio from a man into a woman. I felt him all over and touched him, and I didn’t find any of his normal things, except for the fact that he looks the same. And it’s not so much the loss of my pleasure that I’m crying for as the damage to him. For it seems to me he no longer has what is most desirable. (Giannetti’s and Ruggiero’s translation slightly modified)

This is just the reaction Lidio femina expected from Virginia on their wedding night. Fannio is prepared for this. He had concocted a story about Lidio femina’s being a hermaphrodite, which Ruffo, who believes it, tells Fulvia. She demands that Lidio return to her dressed as a woman, but with a man’s body.

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As a liminal figure the hermaphrodite is the emblem of indeterminate sexual identity and of the deferral of narrative resolution.12 It is also an emblem of Fulvia’s sexual fantasy, as she believes that her lover has changed from a man to a woman and back to a man, and she asks for a further transformation in the final act in order to calm the suspicions of her husband. Even after Fulvia learns that Santilla is alive, we do not know if Fulvia fully understands the trick that has been played on her. Fulvia’s fantasy of sexual mutability is at the heart of La calandra, and her bedroom is an important, if unseen, space in the play, the locus of both Fulvia’s adulterous liaisons with the cross-dressed Lidio maschio and her queer encounter with Lidio femina. Fulvia bears some resemblance to Fiordispina in that she is tricked into believing that sexual mutability is at the service of love. As Ruffo says: Con gran ragione Amor si dipinge cieco, perché chi ama mai il ver non vede. Costei è per amor accecata sì ch’ella s’avvisa che uno spirito possa fare una persona femina e maschio a posta sua: come se altro fare non bisognasse che tagliare la radice de l’uomo e farvi un fesso, e così formare una donna; e ricucire la bocca da basso e appiccare un bischero, e così fare un maschio. Oooh, amatoria credulità! (IV, ii) It is with good reason that Love is depicted as blind, because those who are in love never see the truth. This woman is so blind that she believes that a spirit can change a man into a woman and back again, as if nothing more was required than to cut off the member of a man and make a crack there and then you have a woman. Or sew up that lower mouth and stick on an instrument and you’ve made a man. Ohhh, the foolishness of lovers! (Giannetti’s and Ruggiero’s translation slightly modified)

I would argue that Bibbiena encourages his audience to sympathize with Fulvia, first and foremost by making her the only true lover in the play, that is, the only character who is motivated entirely by love. Although Lidio maschio is supposedly in love with her too, we do not see any expression of that in the play. And although Calandro is in love with Lidio maschio (believing him to be a woman), as a typical vecchio innamorato (and beffato besides) he is nothing more than a fool. Strangely, despite being the play’s only real lover, Fulvia is also the only one (again, apart from Calandro) left out of the play’s happy ending. In an adventure parallel to his wife’s Calandro is also tricked into believing that somatic changeability is at the service of love. His servant

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Fessenio promises to deliver him to Fulvia’s beautiful visitor (the crossdressed Lidio maschio), with whom he has fallen in love. (Fessenio has secretly arranged for a prostitute to take Lidio maschio’s place in bed with Calandro.) Fessenio tells Calandro that, in order to be smuggled into Santilla’s house, he must break his body into pieces so he can fit into a trunk. This is a common practice on ships, he says, when a large number of people must be boarded. The passengers’ limbs are removed, stowed away, and then when the ship reaches its destination, everyone goes to claim the pieces of his or her body that have been removed. Fessenio continues that sometimes people claim the wrong limbs, which can result in problems. Calandro wants to be sure this does not happen to him: ‘In buona fé, mi guarderò bene io che non mi sia nel forziero scambiato il membro mio’ (‘I can tell you that when I’m in that chest, I’m going to be very careful not to lose my member!’) (II, vi). This threatened castration is what Fulvia believes has happened to her lover when she finds a female body where she expected a male. Although Lidio’s ‘missing’ organ is restored, La calandra does not end happily for Fulvia. Temporarily reunited with his lover, Lidio maschio is then recuperated for marriage to Virginia, and Santilla, returned to feminine attire, is betrothed to Fulvia’s son. These marriages mark the rather awkward shift of Fulvia from the role of obsessed lover to that of Santilla’s mother-in-law and neutralize Fulvia’s bedroom, once a space of illicit sex. This is somewhat difficult to accept, despite the fact that the union between Lidio and Fulvia was adulterous; it is unsatisfying to see the passionate Fulvia stuck with the ridiculous Calandro. More troublesome still is the question of money, which, along with the problem of a marriage between Virginia and Santilla, opens the play. The marriage between Lidio and Virginia gets Santilla out of hot water and should solve the problem of an heir for Perillo’s wealth. However, theirs is a marriage based on substitution, deception, and a continuing charade. Fessenio says: ‘Tanto meglio, quanto Italia è più degna della Grecia, quanto Roma è più nobil che Modon, e quanto vaglion più due ricchezze che una’ (‘As much better as Italy is better than Greece, as Rome is more worthy than Modon, and as two fortunes are worth more than one’) (V, xii). These two riches are those of Perillo, which will someday come under Lidio’s control, and those of Calandro, to which Santilla, through her husband, will have partial access. Thus, the wealth of two noble families winds up at the disposal of a pair of tricksters who are the very embodiment of the instability and confusion that characterize the play.

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Gli ingannati Like La calandra, Gli ingannati opens with its heroine trying to avoid an unwanted marriage. Lelia and her father, Virginio, have finally made their way to Modena after being imprisoned by the Spaniards after the sack of Rome in 1527, in which Virginio lost everything, including, he believes, his son, Lelia’s identical twin brother, Fabrizio. When the play opens, Virginio believes Lelia to be safe in a convent while he makes plans to marry her to his friend, the aging Gherardo. The circumstances of this marriage would be very favourable to Virginio and his family. The dowry arrangements are described in detail: ‘Ora io la marito a Gherardo con condizione che, se Fabrizio non si truova infra quattro anni, abbi mille fiorini di dote; se ritornasse, ne abbi aver solamente dugento; e, del resto, la dota egli’ (‘I can marry her to Gherardo with the proviso that if Fabrizio doesn’t turn up within four years, she’ll have a dowry of one thousand florins. If he does, she’ll get only two hundred from me, and Gherardo will make up the rest’) (I, ii).13 This would have been a very advantageous arrangement, in that it provides for Lelia even if she should be left a widow (quite possible considering that Gherardo is much older than she), and it provides for Fabrizio should he return. Gherardo has been generous in accepting this arrangement, and he has also agreed to pay all the wedding expenses. Through this marriage Virginio would cement his friendship with the wealthy Gherardo, and Gherardo could hope to have a son with Lelia. As in La calandra, then, the playwright establishes at the very beginning of the play that its conclusion will have to accommodate certain economic considerations. Yet Gli ingannati also makes it quite clear that Gherardo is an unsuitable match for Lelia. He is much older than she is, and a typical vecchio innamorato who boasts about his sexual prowess while simultaneously revealing it as limited. When Virginio mentions his age, which is almost equal to Gherardo’s, Gherardo says, ‘Vecchio? Oh! Ti prometto ch’io mi sento così bene in gambe ora come quando io era di vinticinque anni; e massimamente la mattina, prima ch’io pisci. E, s’io ho questa barba bianca, nella coda son così verde come il poeta toscano’ (‘Old? Why, I can tell you that I feel as strong and hard as I did when I was twenty-five, especially in the morning before I pee. Even if I have this white beard, between my legs I’m still as green as the Tuscan poet [Boccaccio]!’) (I, i) (Giannetti’s and Ruggiero’s translation slightly modified). Clemenzia, Lelia’s former nurse and Virginio’s lover, is worried

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that Lelia will not be satisfied with such a husband. She tells Virginio, ‘le giovani vogliono essere trattate da mogli e non da figliuole; e voglion chi le strazi, chi le morda e chi l’accenci ora per un verso e ora per un altro, e non chi le tratti da figliuole’ (‘young girls want to be treated like wives, not daughters. They want men who sweep them off their feet, bite them, lay into them first from one side and then the other, not someone who treats them like a daughter’) (I, ii). All signs point to the young heroine becoming the classic mal maritata. The audience soon learns that Lelia is in love with Flamminio, who is of the same political party and a good friend of her father. Flamminio used to be in love with her too, but is now in love with Isabella, Gherardo’s daughter, who does not return his love. If Lelia could win back Flamminio’s love before she were forced to marry Gherardo, she could have the husband she wants and her father could still have a friend and political and economic ally as a son-in-law. Unbeknownst to her father, Lelia has assumed male attire and the name Fabio in order to be with her beloved Flamminio, who, fooled by the costume, has employed Fabio as his page. Lelia’s cross-dressing could ruin the plans so advantageous to both Virginio and Gherardo. Indeed, when Gherardo finds out that Lelia has been running around dressed as a man, he asks his friend, ‘Come vòi ch’io mi metta in casa una che s’è fuggita dal padre e va per questa casa e per quella vestita da maschio, come le disoneste donnacce? Non vedi ch’io non trovarei da maritar mia figliuola?’ (‘How can you ask me to take into my home a woman who has fled from her father and goes from house to house dressed as a man, like common sluts? Don’t you understand that if I do that I won’t be able to marry my daughter off?’) (III, vi) (Giannetti’s and Ruggiero’s translation slightly modified). Not only does Lelia’s method of pursuing Flamminio jeopardize her marriage to Gherardo, but she also risks ruining her reputation, and thus any future chances for marriage. Lelia is fully aware of the danger in which she puts herself: ‘Gli è pure un grande ardire, il mio, quando io ’l considero, che, conoscendo i disonesti costumi di questa scoretta gioventú modanese, mi metta sola in questa ora a uscir di casa!’ (‘Leaving the house alone at this hour requires real courage when one considers the evil ways of the rowdy young men of Modena!’) (I, iii). Lelia is worried that her father’s return from a trip and Flamminio’s move to the city will result in her detection and disgrace. She decides to seek advice from Clemenzia, who, after finally recognizing Lelia, fears the worst:

110 Hopeless Love Clemenzia: Saresti mai diventata femina del mondo? Lelia: Sì, che io sono del mondo. Quante femine hai tu vedute fuor del mondo? Io, per me, non ci fu’ mai, ch’io mi ricordi. Clemenzia: Adunque, hai tu perduto il nome di vergine? Lelia: Il nome no, ch’io sappi, e massimamente in questa terra. Del resto si vuol domandarne gli spagnuoli che mi tenner prigiona a Roma. (I, iii) Clemenzia: Have you become a woman of the world? Lelia: Yes, I’m of the world. How many women have you seen from outside the world? As far as I’m concerned, I don’t remember ever being outside the world. Clemenzia: But have you lost, then, the name of virgin? Lelia: The name, no – not as far as I know, especially here in Modena. For the rest, you’ll have to ask the Spaniards who held me prisoner in Rome.

This suggestion that Lelia may not be a virgin makes it even more important that she find a suitable spouse, particularly as she is no longer especially young. (Virginio’s comments in I, i indicate that Lelia is eighteen.) Certainly Flamminio, the man Lelia has chosen for herself, would be a suitable spouse, but he is pursuing Isabella, Gherardo’s daughter, and sends Fabio to carry messages to her. Isabella has fallen in love with Fabio and is crazy with desire, which is described in entirely comic terms. Her servant Pasquella remarks: ‘da certi dì in qua, è intrata in tanta frega ed in tanta smania d’amore che né dì né notte ha posa. Sempre si gratta il pettinicchio, sempre si stropiccia le cosce; or corre in su la loggia, or corre a le finestre; or di sotto, or di sopra’ (‘Recently she’s fallen so madly in love and become so lathered up that she can’t find any peace, day or night. She’s always scratching her groin, stroking her thighs, or running up onto the porch or over to the window or running down the stairs or up the stairs’) (II, ii) (Giannetti’s and Ruggiero’s translation slightly modified). Fabio feigns interest, suggesting that Isabella ought to get rid of Flamminio. Isabella’s attempt to seduce Fabio occurs on stage and is witnessed by a couple of male servants in what Richard Andrews calls ‘the crucial eavesdropping scene (theatrically quite complex by the standards of the time).’14 The servants become increasingly sexually excited by the sight of Isabella kissing Fabio, adding to the humour of the scene. The richness of the joke is reserved for the audience, because while the servants believe Fabio to be a man, the audience knows that he is really Lelia. Queer female desire is here presented as pure spectacle.

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Lelia professes to herself afterwards that the game amuses her. ‘Io ho, da un canto, la più bella pastura del mondo di costei che si crede pur ch’io sia maschio; dall’altro, vorrei uscir di questa briga e non so come mi fare’ (‘On the one hand, I’m having the best time ever playing with this woman who believes I’m a man. On the other, I want to get out of this muddle and am not sure how’) (II, vi). Lelia’s equivocation here points to a certain pleasure in tricking Isabella, just as Lidio femina had fun tricking Fulvia. Yet the staged kiss in Gli ingannati suggests that Lelia is enjoying perhaps more than the trick. In many ways Lelia is a more interesting heroine than both Santilla-Lidio femina and Fulvia. Lelia has no reason to dress as a man other than to have access to her beloved. Lelia does not don male attire to protect herself from predatory male sexuality, but rather to make herself available to the man she loves. She does not seek safety in her costume, but rather wishes to leave the safety of the convent in search of love, in open disregard of her father’s wishes. Like Santilla, Lelia is the victim of war, but she does not adopt her costume until after the war is over. The charms of Lelia-Fabio may impress more than just Isabella. Clemenzia, for example, imagines that Flamminio might have conceived a desire for Fabio: Clemenzia: Dimmi un poco: e dove dormi tu? Lelia: In una sua antecamera, sola. Clemenzia: Se, una notta, tentato dalla maladetta tentazione, ti chiamasse ché tu dormisse con lui, come andarebbe? Lelia: Io non voglio pensare al mal prima che venga. Quando cotesto fusse, ci pensarei e risolvereimi. (I, iii) Clemenzia: Wait just a minute – where do you sleep? Lelia: In a small room off his bedroom, alone. Clemenzia: What would happen if one night, moved by an evil lust, he should call you to sleep with him? Lelia: There’s no sense worrying about problems before they occur. If it happens, I’ll think it over and decide.

Lelia herself hints that Flamminio is attracted to Fabio in a conversation with Isabella’s servant Pasquella: Pasquella: Credo ch’ella vorrebbe che tu stesse con lei tutta la notte ancora, io. Lelia: Oh! io ho da fare altro. A me bisogna servire il padrone: intendi, Pasquella?

112 Hopeless Love Pasquella: Oh! Io so ben che a tuo padron non faresti dispiacere a venirci, non. Dormi forse con lui? Lelia: Dio il volesse ch’io fusse tanto in grazia sua! ch’io non sarei ne’ dispiaceri ch’io sono. Pasquella: Oh! Non dormiresti piú volentieri con Isabella? Lelia: Non io. (II, ii) Pasquella: I imagine she’d like to have you stay the whole night, I’m afraid. Lelia: Well, I have other things to do. I have to serve my master. Do you understand, Pasquella? Pasquella: Well, I’m sure your master would feel that you were serving him in coming here, right? But wait, are you perhaps sleeping with him? Lelia: I wish to God he liked me that much! If that were the case, I wouldn’t be in the mess I’m in. Pasquella: Oh my! But wouldn’t you rather sleep with Isabella? Lelia: Not me.

Gherardo also appears interested in Fabio, because he reminds him of Lelia. Pasquella says, ‘hagli fatto mille carezze, presolo per la mano, toccato sotto ’l mento, come se fusse suo figliuolo. E dice che gli par che s’assomigli a una figliuola di Virginio Bellenzini’ (‘He has … given him a thousand little caresses, taking his hand and chucking him under the chin as if he were his son. And he says that he thinks he resembles a daughter of Virginio Bellenzini’) (II, iii). To which Pasquella’s Spanish interlocutor replies, ‘Ah, reniego del putto! Vieio, puerco, vellacco! Ya, ya, sé io lo que quiere’ (‘Ah, that old pig, that lecher! Yes, yes, I know what he’s after!’). As in La calandra, in which both Lidio maschio and Lidio femina attract the desires of both Fulvia and Calandro, in Gli ingannati there is the sense that a cross-dressed character’s androgynous charms are too much for everyone, men and women alike, to resist. Upon hearing of Isabella’s and Fabio’s kiss from his servant, Flamminio swears he will kill them. Clemenzia intervenes, telling Flamminio the story of a girl so in love she sacrificed everything to dress as a boy and serve as her beloved’s page. Flamminio says that the man who is the object of such a love is the luckiest man alive. When Clemenzia reveals that he is in fact the object of such a love, and that Fabio is really Lelia, Flamminio is overjoyed and insists on marrying her on the spot. It is thus Clemenzia, and not Lelia’s twin, Fabrizio, who intervenes for the happy outcome of the affair. In this Gli ingannati is significantly different

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from La calandra, because the arrival of the male twin is irrelevant to the resolution of the play’s main problem. Lelia determines her own future through sheer force of will, with a little help from her former nurse. And although the audience is surely glad to see Lelia and Flamminio reunited, Clemenzia’s story is more than a little dishonest, her description of Lelia’s ‘virginal meekness’15 a hoax. Because Clemenzia’s story does not take into account the fact that Fabio was toying with Isabella in order to win Flamminio’s love, Flamminio ‘is being led by the nose, tricked by a female into unmasculine acquiescence.’16 Lelia’s marriage to Flamminio rather than to Gherardo could damage Virginio’s friendship with the rejected suitor. However, Fabrizio arrives to cement that friendship, substituting for his sister in union with Isabella. Although Isabella knows that Fabrizio is not Fabio, she is perfectly satisfied with him, mostly because of how he looks: ‘Io credevo del certo che voi fusse un servitor di un cavalier di questa terra che tanto vi s’assomiglia che non può esser che non sia vostro fratello’ (‘I was certain that you were the servant of a local knight. You look so much like him that you must be his brother’) (V, vi). Isabella’s frankness highlights the difference between the world of the commedia erudita and that of the romance epic, her pragmatism standing in contrast to Fiordispina’s fantasy of sex change. Whereas Ricciardetto felt it necessary to pretend to be Bradamante changed into a man, Fabrizio simply takes his sister’s place rather than her identity. L’Alessandro Alessandro Piccolomini’s L’Alessandro (1544) shares numerous elements with both La calandra and Gli ingannati: the disruption caused by war, a preoccupation with appropriate marriage alliances in order to transmit family wealth, fathers’ struggles to control their children countered by their children’s impulses towards independence, conniving servants, cross-dressed characters who, by the plays’ ends, are returned to sexappropriate attire, and the motif of queer female desire.17 In L’Alessandro, however, this motif is used differently than in other texts of the commedia erudita. In its pathos L’Alessandro represents a link between the commedia erudita and queer female desire as expressed in the elegiac mode of Ovid and the Furioso.18 L’Alessandro does not stress the hopelessness of queer female desire, although it still describes it in terms of impossibility. Instead, the lover feels a glimmer of hope that her beloved

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lady might respond to her advances. The plot of L’Alessandro also respects the specificity of queer female desire in that its resolution depends not on a substitution but on a revelation, so that the beloved and the betrothed are, in the end, the same person. In this it recalls the Furioso, in which Ricciardetto insists that he is Bradamante. The first scene lays out the theme central to La calandra, Gli ingannati, and L’Alessandro all: a father’s concern with his family’s wealth, jeopardized by war, and the importance of finding an appropriate spouse for his offspring. As the action of the play opens, Vicenzo, father of the young Cornelio, complains to Fabrizio, an old friend, that Cornelio has rejected his studies for love. Vicenzo lists the numerous authorities to whom his son is no longer obedient: study, his body’s basic physical demands, parental authority, the demands of good financial management, God, and, in short, the world itself. Vicenzo’s main concern is with his own loss of control over Cornelio, who was once obedient, but who is no longer. Furthermore, where Cornelio was once frugal, he now spends, apparently wastefully. This is a matter of grave concern, because, as Vicenzo points out, Cornelio is an only child. Vicenzo concludes by returning to the theme of obedience: ‘Al mio tempo avevano i figli paura della sferza, che avevan venti e venticinque anni; ora non arrivano a dodici che vogliono essere i padri loro’ (‘When I was young, sons feared the whip, even when they were twenty or twenty-five; now they aren’t even twelve and they expect to do whatever they like [to be their own fathers]’) (I, i).19 The whip with which fathers controlled their sons in years past is no longer effective; sons now want to be their own masters. Cornelio, who chafes under his father’s authority (‘ma quest’aver padre è una morte’ [‘What a bother it is to have a father!’] [II, v]), is not easily reined in. Luckily, the object of his affections is Lucilla, the daughter of his father’s friend Costanzo and a perfectly appropriate match. In fact, Cornelio’s father, without knowing that it is she whom his son loves, indicates in the first scene that he would consider her to be a perfect match, because her family is rich and noble, and she is an only daughter. Yet Costanzo has refused Vicenzo’s suggestion that Cornelio and Lucilla marry, though he will not say why. (As it turns out, he had promised Lucilla to another who will eventually decide on an ecclesiastical career, freeing Lucilla to marry Cornelio.) Because the obstacles facing this pair of lovers are relatively few, their story is not altogether compelling and lacks both the pathos and the humour that characterize the other two love stories that make up L’Alessandro’s plot. Furthermore, although they seem to be the typical giovani

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innamorati, Belladonna remarks that there ‘is intentional irony in the use of rather stilted courtly love expressions in Act III, sc. iii, when Lucilla and Cornelio finally meet, much as if these bourgeois lovers were trying to imitate the language of romance and sixteenth-century love treatises.’20 Most of the humour in the play comes from Costanzo’s attempts to woo Brigida, wife of the Spanish Captain Malagigi. Costanzo is portrayed as the typical vecchio innamorato, bragging about his sexual prowess and dressing and behaving as a younger man would. He is also the victim of a clever trick by Querciuola, Cornelio’s servant, who is instructed to keep Costanzo away from home so Cornelio can visit with Lucilla. Querciuola instructs Costanzo to dress as a locksmith and to parade up and down the streets calling, ‘Ohu, chi vuol, donne, acconciar chiavi in toppe, e toppe rotte?’ (‘Hello, ladies, who needs to have keys and broken locks repaired?’) (III, i). Upon hearing him, Brigida is to admit him to her house. Costanzo bungles his call in a number of obscene and hilarious ways that play on keys and locks. After Costanzo enters Brigida’s house, Querciuola locks him in from the outside while Brigida escapes through a side door. The true lovers in L’Alessandro are Fortunio (really the girl Lucrezia) and Lampridia (really the boy Aloisio), and their desire, which each considers to be queer, is mutual. One way in which L’Alessandro differs from the two earlier plays considered here, as well as from the Furioso, is that it does not present queer female desire in a comic light. Indeed, the comedy of the play is to be found entirely in the other two love stories that comprise its plot. In this L’Alessandro is more like Reina d’Oriente and La bella Camilla, in which queer female desire is presented, as it were, straight. In a monologue addressed to Fortune Aloisio describes how his father dressed him as a girl and gave him the name Lampridia so that the two could escape their political enemies and the war in Palermo unrecognized. Before dying Lampridia’s father entrusted her to his friend Belisario, telling him of her true identity.21 Belisario, before he died, gave Lampridia into the care of his brother Vicenzo, telling him that she was his daughter, begotten in France. Lampridia has been living as a woman for seven years and has not seen her beloved Lucrezia since leaving Palermo. As of late Lampridia has been courted by Fortunio, whose advances she does not reject: ‘che per somigliare alquanto nel volto la mia Lucrezia, non posso far ch’io non lo guardi volentieri’ (‘His face bears some vague resemblance to that of my Lucrezia, so I can’t help being partial to him’) (I, iii). Her servant Niccoletta urges her to accept Fortunio’s advances, and not to

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waste her youth. There is here the suggestion of homosexual pleasure on the part of Lampridia, who enjoys the attentions of Fortunio. However, Piccolomini does not exploit the possibilities of this situation as he might, preferring to devote more attention to Fortunio’s desire for Lampridia. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine how the desire of a man for someone he took to be another man could be portrayed in a play like L’Alessandro. While there are a number of Italian works of this period that describe the pleasures of sex between men, or between a man and a boy, and while Aretino’s play Il marescalco is quite explicit in portraying one man’s exclusively homosexual interests, there are, to my knowledge, no descriptions of queer male desire in the same register as Fortunio’s description of his desire for Lampridia. At the opening of act II Fortunio reveals to the audience that he is really Lucrezia, Aloisio’s beloved.22 Fortunio’s father had been cast out of Palermo during the time of political crisis, and Fortunio was sent to his uncle, with whom he fled the city dressed as a man to avoid detection. After serving as a page in the service of various masters, he eventually took a job in Pisa. Not only is Fortunio mourning his lost love, Aloisio, but he has also fallen in love with Lampridia. The fact that he is in love with someone he believes to be another woman is the source of much confusion and grief: Gli altri, se ardon per amore, almen godono di quella fiamma, sperando che, vinta la crudeltà dell’amante loro, ogni cosa ritorni in gioia; ma io amo con tutto il cuore, e se ben io vincessi con la mia servitù la durezza di Lampridia, ch’avrei fatto? Son donna come lei, e rimarrebbe ingannata del caso mio. […] Ma quel ch’è peggio, dove che io avrei qualche conforto di ogni male con la memoria del mio Aloisio, m’hai fatto, più crudele, innamorar d’una femmina, per non so che somiglianza ch’ella ha di lui, dalla quale nè dura nè pietosa, non è possibile ch’io ottenga quel che desidero. (II, i) Others who burn with love can at least enjoy their passion because they hope to experience some joy in the end, after they have overcome their ladies’ cruelty. I love with all my heart. Yet, even if I were to soften Lampridia’s harshness with my servitude, what would I stand to gain? I am a woman, like her, and I would be cheating her. […] But what’s worse, though I could have derived some small comfort to my sorrows from the memory of my Aloisio, now, cruel Fortune, you have made me fall in love with a woman because of a vague resemblance she bears to him; no matter whether she is hard or merciful towards me, I shall never obtain my truest wish.

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What is interesting about Piccolomini’s use of queer female desire is that he describes not a woman who falls in love with a woman she initially takes to be a man, but rather a woman dressed as a man who falls in love with someone whom she takes to be another woman. Until the final revelation of Lampridia’s true sex, Fortunio believes himself to be a woman who knowingly falls in love with and pursues another woman. In La calandra Fulvia has no idea that Lidio femina had taken the place of Lidio maschio, so she does not suspect that the object of her desire is a woman. In Gli ingannati Isabella does not know that Lelia is a woman. Lelia confesses that she is having some fun playing a trick on Isabella, but the play gives no details about what exactly Lelia thinks is fun about the trick. In L’Alessandro there is for the first time in the commedia erudita a woman who falls in love with someone whom she takes to be another woman. Lampridia’s maid Niccoletta tries to convince Fortunio to take Lampridia by force, arguing that once Lampridia sees what it is like to be with a man, she will not resist. After Niccoletta leaves, Fortunio says to himself: S’io l’accetto e ch’io vada da Lampridia, e che la persuada a far quanto ch’io voglio, e ella conosca poi che io son femmina, non sarà uno scorgimento? oltre che scopertami poi per femmina, e saputosi per Pisa, mi sarà cagion di maggior pericolo. Dall’altra parte io avrei pur un gran contento di trovarmi seco, e baciar il volto e il petto di sì bella donna. Io già non son la prima donna ch’amasse donna. Ella mi avrà per iscusata, e per mio bene, s’io ne la priego, terrà segreta la cosa; in modo che, dal far questo non me ne può venir se non piacere. (II, i) If I follow it and go to see Lampridia and persuade her to do as I like, wouldn’t that be an unmasking? Besides, when people find out that I’m a woman and it becomes known all over Pisa, things will be more dangerous for me here. On the other hand, it would give me great pleasure to be with her and to kiss the face and the breast of such a lovely woman. After all, I’m not the first woman who has loved another woman. She’ll forgive me and, if I ask her, she’ll keep it a secret for my sake. So, nothing but pleasure can come from this meeting. (Belladonna’s translation slightly modified)

L’Alessandro not only represents a woman who consciously desires another woman, but it develops the thoughts and feelings of this character to a significant degree. In this monologue Fortunio has a moment of hope. After admitting the danger of revealing both his

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love and his identity to Lampridia, Fortunio considers the pleasures that would await him in her company. His assertion that ‘Io già non son la prima donna ch’amasse donna’ (‘I’m not the first woman who has loved another woman’) is in direct contrast to the lament of Ariosto’s Fiordispina, who says, ‘Ne tra gli uomini mai ne tra l’armento / Che femina ami femina ho trovato’ (‘Neither among humans nor among beasts have I ever come across a woman loving a woman’) (Furioso 25, xxxv, 5–6). Fiordispina’s lack of knowledge of a precedent for her desire leads her to insist on its impossibility. Fortunio, who initially insists that ‘non è possibile ch’io ottenga quel che desidero’ (‘I shall never obtain my truest wish’) calls upon an unspecified precedent (Fiordispina?) for courage to reveal himself to his beloved. With this precedent in mind, he imagines that Lampridia might accept him as a lover and that, to protect him, she will not reveal his identity to anyone else. This hope recalls the scenarios of La bella Camilla and La reina d’Oriente, in which collusion between the two women is an important element of the story. Fortunio’s optimism is short-lived, and his worries return as he prepares to go to Lampridia: Io mi metto a un’impresa, che non me ne può venir cosa che non m’affligga; s’ella mi disdice, la sua crudeltà e ingratitudine m’ucciderà; e s’ella, fatta pietosa de’miei dolori, si lascerà alla fin vincere come molte fanno, che farò io per far cosa che le soddisfaccia? O ella conoscerà ch’io son femina o no; se lo conoscerà, si piglierà per iscorno tutto l’amore, e tutte le dimostrazioni che io ho fatte verso di lei, e si accenderà di voglia di vendicarsi. S’ella non lo conoscerà, oh che risa, oh che beffe si farà di me, che, a guisa d’un cuculo, tenga l’ali basse poco manco ch’un uom di pasta! Può esser maggior scorno a un giovine innamorato che condursi solo con la donna sua e mancarle sul buono? Oh che strana fortuna è la mia! non veggio modo da riuscir da questa impresa con onore. Ma faccia Iddio, io pur l’abbraccerò, e bacerò mille volte, e chi sa? Forse che amore non abbandona chi’l serve con fede; venuta ch’io sarò da lei, mosso a pietà di me, mi farà per un’ora diventar uomo; andar voglio; escane quel che vuole. (III, ii) Nothing but trouble can come to me from what I’m about to do. If she rejects me, her cruelty and ingratitude will kill me. If she takes pity on my sorrows and surrenders to me, as many women do, what can I do to please her? Either she’ll find out that I’m a woman or she won’t. If she does, she’ll consider all the love and devotion which I have shown her as an insult, and

Queer Female Desire in Cinquecento Comedy 119 she’ll count the minutes till she can take her revenge. If she doesn’t find out, how she’ll laugh at me when, like a cuckoo, I keep my wings down, acting like a foolish dummy! What can be worse for a young lover than to be alone with his lady and to fail her? Ah my cruel fate! There is no way I can come out of this predicament with honour. But let God work His will. I’ll embrace her and kiss her a thousand times and, who knows, perhaps Love will not forsake his loyal servant. When I’m with her, he will take pity on me and turn me into a man for an hour. I’ll go, no matter what happens.

It is interesting here that Fortunio puts himself in the position of the male lover: ‘Può esser maggior scorno a un giovane innamorato che condursi solo con la donna sua e mancarle sul buono?’ (‘What can be worse for a young lover than to be alone with his lady and to fail her?’). He imagines his masculinity to be threatened by his perceived inability to satisfy Lampridia. Finally, Fortunio imagines a fantasy situation in which Love turns him into a man for an hour so that he can satisfy his beloved. I would suggest that here Piccolomini refers to medieval cantari such as La bella Camilla, in which the woman dressed as a man really is turned into a man. In his monologue Fortunio does not suggest that Lampridia, discovering him to be a woman, might desire him. As in La calandra, the bedroom encounter between the two women is absent from the action of the play and is recounted instead after the fact. Niccoletta, talking with her friend, reports that Fortunio has discovered that Lampridia is really a man: Or di lì a poco il giovinetto tornò a me, e mi disse come mentre ch’ella dormiva, l’aveva pian pian tramenata, e baciata mille volte senza destarla, e volendole metter le mani giù alla, tu m’intendi, vi trovò una cosa più grossa che tu vedessi mai; ond’egli stupito, non ritrovandola femina come si pensava, senza destarla tornò a me, lamentandosi ch’io l’aveva ingannato … Io risposi a questo giovine, che essendo questo, si poteva andar con Dio; perciocchè, che voleva far d’un maschio? ma egli più focoso e più innamorato che prima, diceva di voler andar a provar con esso sua ventura in ogni modo. Io sdegnata, che costui mi fusse riuscito una fregagnuola, lo lasciai andar dove volse. (IV, v) Shortly after, the young man came back to me and told me that while she was asleep he had quietly felt her all over and kissed her many times, and that when he was caressing her you know what, he found something there which he didn’t expect, the largest you’ve ever seen. In his astonishment,

120 Hopeless Love finding that she wasn’t a woman, as he had thought, he came back to me without waking her up, to complain that I’d cheated him … I told the young man that, such being the case, he should just leave the whole thing alone, since he couldn’t have any use for a man. But he looked more hotblooded and in love than ever and he said he wanted to go back and try his luck again. I was quite annoyed he turned out to be a fag, and let him go where he liked.23

Niccoletta’s monologue establishes Lampridia’s masculinity, compromised from the beginning of the play, by endowing him with ‘una cosa più grossa che tu vedessi mai’ (‘the largest you’ve ever seen’). The theme of homosexual desire is kept alive even as Fortunio discovers his desire to be heterosexual. What is initially (to Fortunio) a homosexual encounter between two women, becomes (for Niccoletta) a homosexual encounter between two men. The confusion is quickly resolved. Fortunio and Lampridia are caught in the bedroom together by Cornelio, who reports back to his father, Vicenzo. Fabrizio and Lucrezio, who are visiting Pisa from Palermo, run into Vicenzo, who is listening to Lampridia tell her story. When Lampridia reveals herself to be Aloisio, Lucrezio identifies himself as his uncle. Thus, Aloisio immediately comes into some money, because, as Lucrezio had said before, ‘[I]o che non ho figlie, nè altra persona a mondo del sangue mio, che questo mio nipote Aloisio, al qual torna la roba di tutti i miei…’ (‘I’ve no other children or relatives in the world except my nephew, who is to inherit all the wealth of the family’) (IV, iii). As it turns out, Aloisio also has a ‘dowry’ left to him by Vicenzo’s brother. Fortunio, recognizing his beloved Aloisio, asks him if he has married. He replies that he will never marry unless he finds his lost Lucrezia. Fortunio reveals himself to be Lucrezia, at which point Fabrizio realizes that she is his daughter. So, at the same time that the lovers are reunited with each other, they are also reunited with their families. Although Cornelio never gives up his love, he is, by the end of the play, safely inscribed in the boundaries Vicenzo has set for him. He marries Lucilla, the girl his father had chosen for him in the first place. This match sets him up well financially, so he comes to control a large amount of wealth. Vicenzo says: ‘Per mia fè, che quest’è stata una buona ventura, che ne verrà, oltre alla dote, una buona quantità di ricchezze’ (‘By my soul, this is a stroke of good luck! Besides her dowry, this will bring us quite a bit of extra money’) (V, iv). L’Alessandro develops the motif of queer female desire in a number of significant ways. More than a diversion from the central plot, queer

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female desire is centre stage. While its resolution collapses into a heterosexual match, this match is not effected through substitution, but rather through an unmasking. Queer desire is made to correspond to the heterosexual match through the double revelation of Lampridia’s and Fortunio’s identities. Thus, the bodies that are desired actually remain constant. Furthermore, L’Alessandro to a great extent moves queer female desire out of the realm of the comic. Although the audience may still laugh at Lampridia’s and Fortunio’s initial failures to recognize each other, the tricks and the jokes that queer female desire occasions in the other plays are absent here. La venexiana As a kind of epilogue to this chapter I add a brief note about La venexiana.24 Neither comedy nor tragedy, this anonymous Venetian play, dated by Giorgio Padoan to either the winter of 1535–6 or the following one,25 is an anomaly. Its plot is very simple, relating the story of the widow Angela and the newly married Valeria, two Venetian noblewomen and neighbours who both fall in love with and pursue Iulio, a handsome young foreigner. Iulio first spends the night with Angela, and the play concludes with Valeria leading Iulio off to her bed the following night. Before she is able to convince Iulio to visit her, Angela goes to her maid Nena in her room, and the two women make love. This episode is striking for its graphic portrayal of sex between women and for the fact that this encounter, like the other sexual encounters in the play, is presented as being without consequences. Indeed, the whole play is a kind of fantasy in which all desires are fulfilled and illicit acts have no repercussions. As Nino Borsellino writes, characters are not interlocutors in a moral debate that imposes punishment or vindication for their actions, as in tragedy; or even, where responsibilities are less serious, final conciliation through a trick or through agreement, as in comedy … The meeting between Angela and Iulio in the third act, prepared for with a fervent homosexual simulation between lady and maid in the first act, remains a dramatic action without relationship to anything but itself.26

Because this play demonstrates intimate knowledge of the lives of widows and young married women, and because its action takes place in domestic spaces, it is possible that the play was written by a woman.27

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Women are the protagonists of this play, which is concerned with the competition between Angela and Valeria, and with the exchanges between these two women and their maids. I read the sexual encounter between Angela and Nena as part of the play’s central concerns: to examine the behaviour of lovers, and to explore women’s relationships with each other. The play establishes in the prologue women’s agency in love, asking the audience to consider Angela’s and Valeria’s pursuit of Iulio, who is the object rather than the subject of sexual desire. The prologue’s last line suggests that men and women are equals when it comes to love: E non ve imaginate altrimenti donne, se non quanto lo vedrete, vestite: che poi, spoliate, siano non amate, ma amanti, insieme cun voi.28 And don’t imagine that women are any different from you except when they are dressed up as women. When they take off their feminine dress, they are not objects of love but lovers just like you.

Angela is single-minded in her pursuit of Iulio, and her desire for him dominates most of the first three acts. After their night together the play’s focus shifts to Valeria. In the first act Angela goes to see Nena in order to find some respite from her desire. When Angela reveals to Nena that she is in love with the young foreigner, Nena suggests that Angela speak her desire aloud: ‘Disè un puoco zò che volè far’ (‘Go ahead, tell me a bit about what you want to do with him’) (I, iv). She plays Iulio as Angela acts out her desire: Angela: Butarghe cussí le braze al colo, zicar quele lavrine e tegnirlo streto streto. Nena: E po no altro? Angela: La lenguina in boca. Nena: Meio lo saverae far mi, ca esso. Angela: Quela bochina dolçe, tegnirla per mi, cussí, sempre, sempre! Nena: Stè indrío, ché me sofeghè … Angela: Caro, dolçe pí che no xè el zúcaro! Nena: Vu no v’arecordè che sun dona. Angela: Sun morta, mi. Sudo, in aqua, tuta. (I, iv) Angela: I want to take him in my arms like this and taste his lips and hold him tight, very tight. Nena: And then? That’s it?

Queer Female Desire in Cinquecento Comedy 123 Angela: The tongue in the mouth. Nena: I could do it better than he could. Angela: His sweet little mouth, I want it for myself always like this, always! Nena: Enough, you’re suffocating me! Angela: Dearest boy, sweet, sweeter than sugar! Nena: You’re forgetting that I’m a woman. Angela: I’m about to faint away. I’m all hot and bothered!

After Nena agrees to act as go-between for Angela and Iulio, they continue: Nena: Orsú, tornè al vostro luogo e dormè. Angela: Voio star qua. E, se ti vul che dorma, gètame cussí le to brazze; e mi sererò gi oci e te crederò el fio. Nena: Volèu cussí? Angela: Sí, cara fia. Nena: Me credèu mo? Angela: No ancora. De qua un pezeto. Nena: Vogio dormir, mi. Guardè, non me strenzè … Angela: Vostu farme un piaser? Nena: Che? Angela: Cara, dolçe, sta’ cussí un poco; e po comenza a biastemar, azò che ti creda omo. Nena: Non sciò che dir, mi. Angela: Biastema el Corpo de Cristo; menzona le parole sporche, co fa i òmeni. Nena: Disè: che parole? Angela: Quele sporcaríe che se dise in bordelo. No sastu? Nena: Se no dormo, le dirò; ma, se dormo, non dirò gnente, mi … Angela: Cara Nena, fa’ un puoco el sbisao per mio amor. (I, iv) Nena: Go back to your own bed now and sleep. Angela: I want to stay here. And if you want me to be able to sleep, take me in your arms like this, and I’ll close my eyes and make believe that you’re that boy. Nena: Like this? Angela: Yes, my dear child. Nena: Do you believe that I am he? Angela: Not quite yet. After a little more. Nena: I want to sleep. Take it easy – don’t squeeze me so hard! Angela: Do you want to do me a favor? Nena: What?

124 Hopeless Love Angela: Dear sweet, stay like this for a little; and then begin to swear, so that I can pretend that you’re a man. Nena: I don’t know what to say! Angela: Swear on the body of Christ, say dirty words like men do. Nena: What words? Angela: Oh, those dirty things they say in the bordello – you know. Nena: If I don’t fall asleep, I’ll say them; but if I do fall asleep, I won’t. Angela: Sweet Nena, play the pretty boy a little, for my love!

Taking up Borsellino’s comments again, I would argue that rather than being a ‘homosexual simulation,’ ‘a dramatic action without relationship to anything but itself’ that ‘prepares’ for the encounter between Angela and Iulio, the encounter between Angela and Nena is comparable to that between Angela and Iulio. These episodes need not be read as preparation and consummation, but can rather be seen as sequential moments constituting the erotic life of Angela. The queer female desire in La venexiana is different from that in any other play of the period. Although Nena encourages Angela to imagine her as Iulio, both women know that they are women, and the two are equal partners in desire: Angela goes to Nena in her bedroom, and Nena leads Angela on, flirting with her and even claiming that she can satisfy her mistress better than Iulio could. Nena’s reminder that she is a woman does not have to be read as a protestation against Angela’s advances, but could also be Nena’s attempt to differentiate herself from Iulio while still enjoying herself with her mistress. The scene is presented in explicit terms: it is not recounted after the fact, nor is there anyone else present to mediate or to interpret the scene for the audience. There is no resolution of the women’s relationship as in other plays; they are not punished for their desire, and neither woman is married by the end of the play. They could quite easily continue to have encounters such as this. I would argue that Angela’s advances towards Nena are not very different from her advances towards Iulio, because in both cases her actions are not circumscribed by any authority. She neither resists nor conforms to authority; she simply acts, whereas Santilla, Lelia, and Lucrezia are initially shown to struggle before acceding to acceptable marriages. In this way La venexiana highlights the oppositional work that queer female desire is made to do in these other plays by featuring a queer female desire that is not made to do anything.


By the 1540s the Orlando furioso had gained tremendous popularity and began to be republished constantly. As Daniel Javitch writes, ‘By the 1560s the Furioso had become the most frequently reprinted work of Italian poetry, surpassing Petrarch’s bestselling and already canonical Canzoniere. Between 1539 and 1570 at least eighty-five editions of the Furioso were published.’1 While earning profits for publishers, these many editions served to promote the Furioso as a modern classic, and publishing and editorial efforts such as lavish editions, commentaries, and annotations, previously devoted to the epics of Homer and Virgil, were now devoted to Ariosto’s poem as well. Despite all the support for the canonization of the Furioso, there were certainly those who were opposed to this enterprise, and a debate arose over the merits of Ariosto’s poem. According to Bernard Weinberg, we can trace this debate from 1549, the year in which a lengthy commentary on the poem by Simone Fornari was published, together with an apology.2 This apology indicates an already ongoing criticism of Ariosto, which unfortunately modern scholarship cannot consult directly. Many of the objections to which Fornari responds stem from an unfavourable comparison of the Furioso to the precepts of Aristotle’s Poetics. The sixteenth-century vogue for neo-Aristotelianism, set into motion by the 1498 Latin translation of the Poetics by Giorgio Valla, gained momentum with the publication in 1536 of a superior translation by Alessandro de’ Pazzi that appeared in a small, portable, inexpensive edition, together with the Greek text. The improved translation and the convenient size of the book contributed to its being reprinted, and led to a series of public lectures on the work. In 1549 the first modern vernacular version of the Poetics appeared: a translation into Italian by Bernardo Segni, which

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included an introduction and commentary. All this activity, along with the publication of other editions of the Greek text, contributed to Aristotle’s status in sixteenth-century Italy as an authority on poetry equal to Horace, who already enjoyed tremendous prestige. The objections to the Furioso to which Fornari responds were raised by those who thought that the poem ought to conform to HoratianAristotelian principles. These concerns would remain the subject of the debate about the merits of Ariosto’s poem throughout the sixteenth century, and after 1581 about Ariosto’s poem as compared to Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata, the next great narrative poem written in the Italian vernacular. Ariosto’s critics complain that the Furioso contains many and confusing actions rather than a unity of action, that the poet depends too much on magic and the supernatural, thereby creating an unrealistic poem, and that the author fails to observe decorum. The Bradamante-Fiordispina episode comes up numerous times in this debate, and in ways that I would suggest are indicative of Ricciardetto’s success as a narrator in making the story of Fiordispina’s desire for Bradamante a story about himself. Indeed, the commentary on this episode in the 1580s centres on Ricciardetto and either condemns or defends his behaviour. The fact that it is Ricciardetto’s actions rather than Fiordispina’s that are subjected to scrutiny suggests to me that Ariosto’s description of the princess’ desire was not remarkable because queer female desire was a common motif that was not seen to violate the principle of verisimilitude. Fiordispina’s desire comes to the fore only in recent decades, in the work of North American Italianists inspired by feminist criticism and gender studies. Of course, the debate of the 1580s was closely focused on Ariosto and Tasso with respect to the question of genre. However, even when the issue of decorum is raised, Fiordispina herself is largely absent from the discussion, suggesting perhaps that an impossible, inconsequential desire cannot be an indecorous one. Il Carrafa by Camillo Pellegrino, published in 1584, assumes an already ongoing debate over the relative merits of Ariosto and Tasso, and in openly expressing a preference for Tasso it was ‘to precipitate the lively polemic that lasted to the end of the century and beyond.’3 Pellegrino criticizes the indecency of the Bradamante-Fiordispina episode: a me par fallo maggiore che Ricciardetto inganni Fiordispina a quel modo che egli ingannò, e che narrando egli poi il successo a Ruggero, gli eschino di bocca parole non degne di eroica persona, sì come quella della ottava

Epilogue 127 che comincia ‘Non rumor di tamburi o suon di trombe’ e quel che segue. Ma di molte altre simili sconvenevolezze è ripieno il poema dell’Ariosto.4 To me it seems a great defect that Ricciardetto tricks Fiordispina in the way that he does, and that in narrating his success to Ruggiero, words not befitting a heroic personage issue from his mouth, such as those in the octave beginning, ‘There was no roll of drums, no peal of trumpets …’ and that which follows. Ariosto’s poem is full of many other similar indecencies.

Pellegrino criticizes only Ricciardetto, comparing him negatively to a ‘heroic personage.’ The term ‘eroica persona’ here suggests that Pellegrino wishes to compare Ricciardetto either to the character of a knight as he ought to appear in an epic poem, or to an actual knight. So either Ricciardetto does not adhere to the mandates of the genre, or he does not adhere to the mandates of knighthood. In either case Pellegrino would say that Ariosto does not follow Aristotle’s rule of verisimilitude. Ricciardetto’s failure to behave properly is found both in his actions (the trick he plays on Fiordispina) and in his words (the tale he tells to Ruggiero). Pellegrino accuses Ariosto more forcefully for the latter by denying Ricciardetto the grammatical position as subject of the sentence in favour of ‘words’: ‘gli eschino di bocca parole non degne di eroica persona’ (‘words not befitting a heroic personage issue from his mouth’). Knowingly or not, Pellegrino hits Ricciardetto where it hurts: perhaps above all, Ricciardetto wants to be in control of his words. Fiordispina is not subjected to any criticism. Her desire, apparently considered unremarkable, raises no objections. Pellegrino does not compare Fiordispina’s behaviour to the behaviour of real women as he compares Ricciardetto’s behaviour to that of real knights. For Pellegrino Fiordispina’s desire is apparently not inconsistent with the principle of verisimilitude. Orazio Ariosti, the great-nephew of the poet, responds directly to Pellegrino’s criticism of Ricciardetto, and to the charge of indecency: Poi l’inganno di Ricciardetto è fatto a donna di diversa religione e nimica, se ben regina. E finalmente Ricciardetto non fu mai predicato prima di questo fatto per prudente né per temperato dall’Ariosto; sì che una tale azione abbia a repugnare al costume attribuitogli … Quanto alle parole lascive, ch’egli gli fa dire, io non lo torrei a difendere potend’elle in effetto esser reputate contrarie a’ buoni costumi; ma più si deve incolparne quell’età, nella quale simili cose e peggiori anco erano in uso, che lo

128 Hopeless Love scrittore. […] [S]i potria dire ch’egli avesse fatto questo per mostrarne che, se daremo orecchi a narrazioni lascive come aveva fatto Ricciardetto a quella di Bradamante (fuori però della favola), potrà avvenirci che non solamente trascorreremo nelle opere d’intemperanza, ma tant’oltre procederemo ancora che ci compiaceremo di narrare e al vivo imitare ciò che di vizioso avremo adoprato.5 Ricciardetto’s trick is done to a woman of another religion, and an enemy, even if a queen. And finally, Ariosto had never praised Ricciardetto as prudent or temperate, which would have made his actions contrary to the character attributed to him. As far as the lascivious words he has him say, I wouldn’t defend him, as these words are considered to be contrary to good manners, but one must blame the age, in which similar things and worse were in use, more than the writer. […] [O]ne could say that he did this to show that, if we lend our ears to lascivious stories as Ricciardetto did to that of Bradamante (outside of the narrative, however), it could happen not only that we might lapse into intemperate deeds, but also that we might proceed to amuse ourselves recounting and then imitating those vices that we employed.

Ariosti believes that Fiordispina, as a Muslim, gets what she deserves, but he never says exactly why. He neither specifies her crime nor describes her desire as unnatural or illicit in any way. In fact, by reminding readers that Fiordispina is both an enemy and a non-Christian, he seems to be saying that those in themselves are characteristics warranting punishment. As far as the lascivious words go, Ariosti counters Pellegrino in the terms he had established, insisting that Ariosto here does follow Aristotle’s principle of verisimilitude in making Ricciardetto’s character consistent with itself. In fact, he even suggests that Ariosto shows restraint in this episode, by not showing things to be as bad as they actually may have been. Finally, he suggests that this lascivious story may have a didactic purpose, if it can demonstrate the perils of behaving as Ricciardetto does. In this, Ariosti is perhaps thinking of Lodovico Dolce’s commentary, which appeared well before the Carrafa and the debate it generated. In his comments appearing at the beginning of canto 25, Dolce writes: In Fiordispina, la quale s’innamorò di Bradamante, stimando ch’ella fusse un Caualliero; & poi si giace con Ricciardetto tolto in scambio di Bradamante; comprendesi quanto la someglianza inganni il giudicio humano. Ne i piacer amorosi di Ricciardetto, li quali ultimamente manifestandosi lo ridussero a rischio di morire pienamente s’informano gli innamorati, che per l’Amor lasciuo incorronsi gran pericoli di perder la uita insieme con la persona amata.6

Epilogue 129 In Fiordispina, who falls in love with Bradamante, thinking her to be a knight, and who then lies with Ricciardetto, taken for Bradamante, one understands how much resemblance tricks human judgment. In Ricciardetto’s pleasure in love, which eventually reduces him to the risk of dying, lovers, who for lascivious love run the great risk of losing their lives together with the lives of their beloveds, learn a lesson.

Dolce reminds readers that Ricciardetto is suitably punished for his behaviour, and he suggests that this might serve as a lesson for lovers. Dolce does not spend much energy promoting Fiordispina as an exemplum. In fact, the lesson he proposes that readers might learn from Fiordispina’s story (do not trust appearances) could be found in any number of episodes in the Furioso. Since Ariosto describes Fiordispina’s love for Ricciardetto as more intense and more desperate than his for her, and since she meets a worse fate than Ricciardetto does, Fiordispina’s desire functions as an even better example of the destructive effects of love. Yet neither Dolce nor other sixteenth-century critics suggest that Ariosto uses her story in this way. Like Orazio Ariosti, Leonardo Salviati responds directly to Pellegrino, although in a much more pointed way: Era Ricciardetto in età, che l’hauer fatto altrimenti sarebbe nel poema apparito fallo di sconueneuolezza: si come anche in Fiordispina, il non auer mostrato di credere à cotanta fauola si incredibile, poichè tornaua … à suo vopo, sarebbe da molti stata tenuta sciochezza. In qualunque modo non si potrebbe chiamare inganno quel che si tocca con mano … [S]e nello ’nganno di Ricciardetto è maluagità di costume, al peccato seguita immantinente il castigo, cioè l’essere stato presso, che per perderne la persona. Le parole poi: non romor di tamburri, & c. recitando fatto amoroso, à persona d’eta matura, non che à colui, che ancora sbarbato, non si disconuerrebbono. massimamente, che l’ascoltatore non era anch’egli vn Senocrate. Ma è bella cosa, ch’in tutto’l Furioso si và scegliendo vn luogo per trouarlo sconueneuol nelle parole, e ne gli altri non si tien cura di molti, che lo racchiuggon ne’fatti: e dicesi, e di molte altre sconueneuolezze: e non si dice quali, perchè nel uero non vi sono. Questo si è inganno non quel di Ricciardetto.7 Ricciardetto was at an age at which his having done otherwise would have appeared in the poem to be an inappropriate failure. Similarly, not having shown Fiordispina to believe in such an incredible tale would have been held to be foolish by many, since it profited … her needs. In any

130 Hopeless Love case, that which can be touched cannot be called a trick. If Ricciardetto’s trick represents bad behaviour, sin is immediately followed by punishment, that is, being taken and threatened with death. The following words, ‘There was no roll of drums,’ etc., describing the act of love to a person of mature age, to say nothing of one still beardless, would not be unsuitable, especially because the listener was no Xenocrates. But it’s a fine thing to go through the whole Furioso choosing one place in which to find indecency in its words, and not bothering with other [authors], who show it in actual deeds, and in saying, many similar indecencies, without saying which, because in truth there are none. This, and not Ricciardetto’s actions, is indeed a trick.

The somewhat ambiguous ‘Era Ricciardetto in età’ (‘Ricciardetto was at an age’) could mean either ‘in Ricciardetto’s time’ or ‘at Ricciardetto’s age,’ but either way Salviati defends Ariosto’s decision to have Ricciardetto act the way he does, as his behaviour is consistent with reality. Salviati also defends the verisimilitude of Fiordispina’s behaviour, specifically her belief in Ricciardetto’s tale, which is consistent with what she wants. Indeed, it is not Fiordispina who is foolish to believe Ricciardetto’s story, but Ariosto who would have been foolish to write it otherwise. Salviati denies (with a nudge and a wink) that Ricciardetto’s story of his sex change is a trick, since its results can be touched. (Maybe we should not consider Fiordispina to be so gullible after all!) Salviati points out that even if Ricciardetto behaved badly, he suffered for his actions and is therefore not a model to be followed. Salviati saves his sharpest barbs for Pellegrino’s criticism of Ricciardetto’s licentious words. This is a work meant for adults, not for children, he says, and anyway, the audience probably cannot be compared to Xenocrates, the Greek philosopher known for his integrity and purity. Salviati’s final criticism is of Pellegrino’s method. Where Pellegrino cites ‘many similar indecencies,’ Salviati finds none, and he accuses Pellegrino of deceit to rival Ricciardetto’s. Ieronimo Ruscelli defends the Furioso against a different charge of indecency: that either Ariosto or Ricciardetto attributes licentious talk to Bradamante, who must have spoken too freely to her brother for him to know that Fiordispina groped Bradamante during their night in bed together. Ruscelli writes that it would be perfectly normal for Ricciardetto to have intimate knowledge about what happened between the two women: Ma che poi ritrovandosi tanti giorni, & tante notti con Fiordispina in letto, & fuori, con tutte quelle domestichezze, che si può creder che fossero tra

Epilogue 131 due amanti, maschio & femina, ella una e più uolte le fosse uenuta ricordando tutto quel fatto, & rallegrandosene con esso lui, come accade, dicendo, Non ui ricorda di questa & di quella cosa ch’io dissi & feci? e così da lei, che non era, nè vergine, nè di quel rispetto con Ricciardetto, che si conueniua d’essere a Bradamante vergine, sua sorella, egli havesse potuto intendere quei particolari, de’ quali diciamo. Et in questa maniera l’Autore non uiene in alcun modo ad essere uscito del decoro debito, ne a macchiare in alcuna parte l’onestà & la modestia di Bradamante.8 He found himself many days and many nights in and out of bed with Fiordispina, with all the familiarities that one could believe two lovers, male and female, could have, and she remembered many times the whole story, and cheering herself about it with him, as happens, said, Don’t you remember this and that, that I said and did? and so on, she who was neither a virgin nor required to behave with Ricciardetto as Bradamante, a virgin and his sister, was. Thus he was able to understand those details of which we speak. And so the author in no way departs from decorousness, nor does he stain in any way the honesty and the modesty of Bradamante.

Ruscelli falls back on two typical defences. First, he claims that Ricciardetto got his information from Fiordispina herself, because it is very likely that she would speak intimately with her lover. Thus, the poet adheres to the mandate of verisimilitude. Further, Ruscelli points out that Fiordispina’s behaviour is not only realistic, but also consistent with her character. The observations of Alberto Lavezuola respond to the claim that Ariosto relies too heavily on magic and the supernatural. He, too, insists on the verisimilitude of the episode: A che io rispondo in difesa del Poeta, che non s’è partito dal verisimile; perciòche dalla nostra religione, & dalla santa chiesa si tengono streghe & si fatta sorte di donne, le quali d’ammaliare, & fare altre operationi aitate dal demonio: si che non dee parer disconueneuole, se potesse Fiordispina donzella, & innamorata credere à si fatto inganno.9 I respond in defence of the Poet, who does not depart from verisimilitude, because in our religion and in the holy church we have witches and similar women who can bewitch people and perform other deeds with help from the devil. Thus, it should not appear excessive if Fiordispina, a woman in love, believes in such a trick.

132 Hopeless Love

Lavezuola’s defence of the poet is a little strange. Certainly a woman in love might be led to believe things that other people would dismiss. But it is odd that Lavezuola cites the church’s beliefs in witches and devil’s work as precedents for Ricciardetto’s story of transformation, first of all, because in the stories that inform Ricciardetto’s tale the change of the heroine’s sex from female to male is the work of an angel and not of a devil; second, because Ricciardetto’s story was a trick and not a recounting of his experience; and third, because Fiordispina is not a Christian, and thus is not a follower of the church’s beliefs regarding witches and demons. If we no longer judge Ariosto’s work, or that of the other poets who continued Boiardo’s poem, according to Horatian-Aristotelian principles, how can we evaluate the Bradamante-Fiordispina episode? The ‘glaring irresolution of Fiordispina’s sexual impulses’ that leaves Bellamy unsatisfied10 and the diffusion of ‘the dramatic tension of the situation, which exists in Boiardo’s poem, with the two women face to face,’ that bothers Griffiths11 do not have to be considered defects in Ariosto’s story. For one thing, whether it satisfies readers or not, his resolution of the Bradamante-Fiordispina episode reflects the narrative conventions of cantari and of the comedies featuring brother-and-sister twins that begin with La calandra. As we know from these texts, a continuation of the erotic story between two women cannot contribute to the resolution of the narrative, which requires the imposition of a straight telos. While theological, legal, and medical discourses concern themselves in particular with the penetrating (and penetrated) queer woman, this character does not appear in Italian Renaissance literature. Because the poetry and drama of this period do not address the issue of penetration, the story of queer female desire is a diversion from or a suspension of the primary narrative arc. To this narrative the author always returns, and the tale of queer female desire is straightened (as in Ariosto) or abandoned (as in degli Agostini). As we have seen, however, the straightened narrative, central though it may be, does not altogether occlude the queer. An involved reader or listener will not forget that the queer lovers in Reina d’Oriente carried on their affair for two years before being discovered, that Canbragia knowingly makes love to her female ‘husband’ and defends ‘him’ to her father, that Fiordispina tries to seduce Bradamante even after learning her true sex. Authorial insistence on the hopelessness of queer female desire is belied by the representation of women’s sexual pleasure in other women. This pleasure is the remainder, the excess that cannot be incorporated into the straightened narrative, that does not participate in the

Epilogue 133

teleological trajectory of the narrative’s arc. Yet this pleasure constitutes its own purpose in the texts in which it appears. In romance, characterized by errancy, queer female desire is the quintessential diversion, allowing the narrator to linger in the pleasure of forestalling the exigencies of epic. In theatrical texts queer female desire highlights the fiction of its medium: the costume, the performance, the willing acceptance of one person in another’s place. These moments of suspension hang parallel to the ‘truth’ of the teleological narrative: the truth of Bradamante’s sex, of Angelica’s love for Medoro, of what’s under Ricciardetto’s dress. Albert Ascoli in his book on Ariosto reminds us that ‘Truth is dangerous, but so is ignorance. Poetry lies, but also tells the truth. And the point is that these two things can never be separated – lying and truth, infidelity and faith, are always simultaneous.’12 This simultaneity refuses to close down any possibilities, epistemological or temporal. So where does that leave us readers, we who turn to narrative to satisfy our own desires? If we allow ourselves to be seduced by what the telos cannot include, we can experience the pleasure the narrator has left for us there.

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Introduction 1 Peter V. Marinelli, Ariosto and Boiardo 3. An important study on the relationships between authors and their predecessors is Harold Bloom, Anxiety of Influence. 2 All quotations of the poem are from Matteo Maria Boiardo, Orlando Innamorato, trans. Charles Ross, unless otherwise noted. The Italian text reprinted together with Ross’ facing-page translation is that edited by Scaglione. I have noted instances in which I modify Ross’ translation, and I have also indicated where I found it useful to provide my own translation. 3 Valerie Traub develops the significance of this term throughout The Renaissance of Lesbianism; it is used to refer to the characterization of love between women as impossible, ‘a thematic convention within a long literary heritage’ (279). Traub adapts the term from Terry Castle, The Apparitional Lesbian. 4 All Italian quotations of the poem are from Ludovico Ariosto, Orlando furioso, ed. Caretti. All English translations are from Ariosto, Orlando Furioso, trans. Waldman. I have noted instances in which I modify Waldman’s translation. 5 Cantari were romances written in ottava rima that were generally recited, or sung, in piazza. Boccaccio’s Teseida was among the first works of note to use ottava rima, which became the standard form for both cantari and chivalric romances. Marina Beer in Romanzi di cavalleria describes the cantare tradition as a rich intersection between oral and print culture and literate and illiterate audiences, of long duration and wide European diffusion (17). 6 William Freedman, ‘The Literary Motif’ 127–8. 7 1994 saw the publication of the landmark Queering the Renaissance, ed. Goldberg. 8 Gary Cestaro, Introduction to Queer Italia: Same-Sex Desire in Italian Literature and Film, ed. Cestaro 3. 9 See Jonathan Goldberg and Madhavi Menon, ‘Queering History.’

136 Notes to pages 6–13 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

23 24 25 26


Sigmund Freud, Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality 1. Freud 101. Freud 63. Freud 95. Freud 97. Leo Bersani, The Freudian Body: Psychoanalysis and Art 64. Bersani 114. Bersani 114. Lee Edelman, No Future 27. Judith Roof, Come As You Are xxiv. Roof xxvii. Roof 187. The flexibility of the term queer leads me to use it rather than the terms chosen by other scholars of medieval and Renaissance Europe. For the use of lesbian, see Traub, Renaissance of Lesbianism 13–17; Judith Brown, Immodest Acts; and David Halperin, How to Do the History of Homosexuality 51–2. For female sodomy, see Helmut Puff, ‘Female Sodomy’ 41. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Tendencies xii. As I discuss in chapter 4, this passage is almost certainly not the work of Berni but was added to his version of the poem. Annamarie Jagose, Inconsequence 2. A close reading of Paul’s letter forms a sizeable part of Bernadette J. Brooten, Love between Women. I cite here the translation of Paul’s letter given on 215– 16. In Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition Derrick Sherwin Bailey sees ambiguity in Paul’s words: ‘it is not clear how the women “changed the natural use.” Nothing more might be meant than the adoption of variations in coital position or method.’ He concludes, however, that ‘it is likely that St. Paul was alluding to homosexual acts between females’ 40–1. Augustine interpreted Paul’s text differently from most other readers; he reads Romans 1:26 as referring to unnatural sexual relations, such as anal sex, between a man and a woman. See Brooten 353. Brooten argues that Paul is referring to homosexual intercourse. She writes: ‘Most interpreters believe that v. 26 speaks about sexual relations between women, although a few suggest bestiality or anal intercourse. I argue that “unnatural intercourse” refers specifically to sexual relations between women, because (1) the “likewise” (homoios) of Rom 1:27 serves to specify the meaning of Rom 1:26; and (2) other ancient sources depict sexual relations between women as unnatural (Plato, Seneca the Elder, Martial, Ovid, Ptolemy, Artemidoros, probably Dorotheos of Sidon)’ 248–9. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiæ, trans. Blackfriars 43:245 (quest. 154, art. 11, point 11).

Notes to pages 14–20 137 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40

41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48


50 51 52

Antoninus, Summa Theologica 2:col. 668A. Translation mine. Antoninus 2:col. 669E. Ovid, Metamorphoses 9.731–2. See Michael Rocke, Forbidden Friendships 12 for the use of sodomy in Florence; and Guido Ruggiero, The Boundaries of Eros 114 for its use in Venice. Ruth Mazo Karras, Sexuality in Medieval Europe 110. ‘St. Peter’s Apocalypse,’ in Visions of Heaven and Hell before Dante, ed. Gardiner 8. Cited in John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality 204. Burchard of Worms, Decretum, Patrologia Latina 140:971–2. Translation mine. Hildegard of Bingen, Scivias, trans. Hart and Bishop 279. Elisabeth Castelli, ‘“I Will Make Mary Male”’ 30. Cited in Castelli 30. Louis Crompton, ‘The Myth of Lesbian Impunity’ 14. Crompton writes: ‘Conceivably, the formula “perdre membre” in 23 might refer to the loss of an arm or leg; however, it is identical with that used in 22, where the context indicates that the man’s penis is meant. Apparently this law called for the infliction of a clitoridectomy, but it is difficult to imagine how this operation could be performed twice. Rarely has a law aimed primarily at male offenders been more grotesquely adapted to women’ (13). Cino da Pistoia, Codicem commentaria 2:546A. Translation mine. Cited in Crompton 16. Crompton 16. Crompton 17. Joan Cadden, The Meanings of Sex Difference in the Middle Ages 224. Rocke 258 n. 23. Maria Serena Mazzi, Prostitute e lenoni nella Firenze del Quattrocento 364. Agostino Vespucci, in Machiavelli and His Friends, ed. and trans. Atkinson and Sices 37. Italicized English text indicates the use of Latin in the original text of the letter. The Italian text of the letter can be found in Niccolò Machiavelli, Opere, ed. Vivanti 2:34–5. For discussion of a male homosexual subculture during the Renaissance, see Stephen Murray and Kent Gerard, ‘Renaissance Sodomite Subcultures?’ 183– 96. See also dall’Orto, ‘Antonio Rocco and the Background of His “L’Alcibiade Fanciullo a Scola”’ 224–32; dall’Orto, ‘La fenice di Sodoma’ 61–83. Michael Goodich, The Unmentionable Vice 14. Unfortunately Goodich does not quote the text of the law, and I have not been able to locate it. Karma Lochrie, Heterosyncrasies 89. For a full discussion of the masculine woman, see Lochrie 71–102. Brooten 162–3. Brooten is careful to point out that a clitoridectomy performed because a woman’s clitoris is considered too large has cultural meanings other than those of clitoridectomies performed for ritual reasons.

138 Notes to pages 20–30 53 Ambroise Paré, On Monsters and Marvels, trans. Pallister 188 n. 35. This passage, which appeared in the 1573 edition, was cut at the request of the medical faculty of Paris, and eventually moved to On Anatomy (1585). 54 Thomas Laqueur, ‘Amor Veneris, vel Dulcedo Appeletur’ 91–131. 55 Traub, ‘The Psychomorphology of the Clitoris’ 81–113. 56 Laqueur 113. 57 Paré 188 n. 35. 58 Traub The Renaissance of Lesbianism 46. 59 Kathleen P. Long, Hermaphrodites in Renaissance Europe. 60 Paré 32–3. 61 Ann Rosalind Jones and Peter Stallybrass, ‘Fetishizing Gender’ 84. 62 Paré 32. 1 Warrior Woman / Lovely Lady 1 Traub nicely articulates the need to complicate the disruption/containment question in the Afterward to Desire and Anxiety. 2 Valeria Finucci in The Lady Vanishes sees Bradamante’s containment as more or less complete. Julia Hairston takes quite a different view in ‘Bradamante, “Vergine Saggia”’ 455–86. I like the middle track taken by Deanna Shemek in Ladies Errant. 3 For a very broad overview of the maiden warrior, see Abby Wettan Kleinbaum, The War against the Amazons. For a sophisticated analysis of the Amazon and her recuperation in the English Renaissance, see Kathryn Schwarz, Tough Love. 4 See David Anderson, Before the Knight’s Tale. 5 Carla Freccero, ‘From Amazon to Court Lady’ 239. 6 Freccero 226. 7 Freccero 230. 8 Boccaccio, Teseida delle nozze d’Emilia, ed. Limentani 2:231–664. English quotations are from The Book of Theseus, trans. McCoy. As all quotations are from book I, I give only the octave and line numbers. 9 As Winthrop Wetherbee points out, ‘In the opening account of Teseo’s Amazon campaign, the inherently shocking spectacle of open combat between men and women is transformed, by elaborate narrative engineering, into a ritual of courtship’; see ‘History and Romance in Boccaccio’s Teseida’ 176. 10 See Gloria Allaire, Andrea da Barberino and the Language of Chivalry 9–10 for a discussion of this possibility. 11 Allaire 2. 12 Margaret Tomalin, The Fortunes of the Warrior Heroine in Italian Literature.

Notes to pages 30–8 139 13 Pio Rajna, Le fonti dell’Orlando furioso esp. 45–55. 14 See Maria Bendinelli Predelli, Cantari e dintorni 161–5. 15 Andrea da Barberino, L’Aspramonte, ed. Cavalli. Translations mine. As all quotations are from book I, I cite only the chapter number. 16 See Kleinbaum. 17 Predelli 174–5. 18 As Juliann Vitullo points out, in one fifteenth-century version of this story ‘it is Galiziella herself who first decides that she should marry a man who can dominate her’: The Chivalric Epic in Medieval Italy 66. See Andrea da Barberino, Cantari d’Aspramonte, ed. Fassò. 19 The revelation of the warrior as a woman when her helmet is removed to reveal long, beautiful hair becomes a motif repeated by Boiardo, Ariosto, and Tasso, among others. 20 Guido Sacchi, writing about sixteenth-century narrative poems, argues that the open ending had become, by then, a topos: ‘The protestation of incompleteness can be taken as a topos of the genre, included among the elements to be redeployed, and the poem comes to be, in a manner of speaking, projected as incomplete’ (Fra Ariosto e Tasso 117). Translation mine. 21 See, for example, the passage quoted above, in which Galiziella defends herself to her brother for having been baptized. 22 It seems that Pulci began work on Morgante in 1460 or 1461. What appears to be the first 23-canto edition of the poem (now lost) appeared in 1478. The oldest known printed edition appeared in 1481. See Edoardo A. Lèbano’s Introduction to Luigi Pulci, Morgante, trans. Tusiani xxii. 23 Lèbano xxiii. 24 See Paolo Orvieto, Pulci medievale (1978) 48–85. 25 Pulci, Il Morgante, ed. Ramat; all English quotations are from Pulci, trans. Tusiani. 26 I have modified Tusiani’s translation in this quotation in order to remove his ‘but,’ which does not appear in the Italian – my point exactly! Tusiani’s translation reads: ‘and both her hands were long and purely white / but brave enough to hold the hunting bow.’ 27 Allaire, ‘The Warrior Woman in Late Medieval Prose Epics’ 40. 28 Predelli 175–6. 2 To Disguise and Deceive 1 For a chronology of different versions of this tale, see Predelli. 2 Predelli 148. My translation from the Italian.

140 Notes to pages 38–50 3 William Robins, ‘Three Tales of Female Same-Sex Marriage’ 43–62. I am grateful to Professor Robins for sharing his work with me prior to its publication. 4 For the dating of the poem, see the Introduction by Attilio Motta and William Robins in Antonio Pucci, Cantari della Reina d’Oriente, ed. Motta and Robins. 5 Pucci, Cantari della Reina d’Oriente, ed. Motta and Robins. Citations are from the right-hand pages, on which the critical edition, based on a study of the poem’s entire textual tradition, is presented. Translations mine. 6 Robins ‘Three Tales of Female Same-Sex Marriage.’ 7 The potential for queer female desire to disrupt the transmission of wealth and power from one generation to the next comes to the fore in the sixteenth-century comedies I examine in chapter 5. 8 Robins ‘Three Tales of Female Same-Sex Marriage.’ 9 In some editions of the poem line 2 of this octave reads ‘amandosi l’un l’altro d’amor fino;’ masculine pronouns are used even though it is clear that both subjects are women. 10 Edelman 27. 11 Roof xxiv. 12 Predelli makes a tentative case for the anteriority of Reina d’Oriente. See 139. 13 This series of events often befalls the fanciulla perseguitata (persecuted girl), a type described by Alessandro Wesselofsky in the introduction to his edition of the Novella della figlia del re di Dacia. 14 I refer to Camilla as ‘her’ and Amadio as ‘him.’ 15 References to the story of Potiphar’s wife are common in both the cantare and the hagiographic traditions. In Genesis 39 the wife of Joseph’s master, Potiphar, commands him to lie with her. When Joseph refuses, she accuses him of assaulting her and he is thrown into prison. 16 All quotations of this poem are from Piero da Siena, La bella Camilla, ed. Fiorini. I have used modern spelling conventions for u and v. Translations mine. 17 As Predelli notes, many listeners and readers of this poem, both then and now, will be reminded of the first tale of Day Three of Boccaccio’s Decameron (c. 1350), in which Masetto pretends to be mute and takes a job as a gardener at a convent, where he is pressed into sexual service by all the nuns, the abbess included. Predelli 150. 18 For possible archetypes, see Valerie R. Hotchkiss, Clothes Make the Man. 19 Hotchkiss 15. 20 Using pronouns is tricky in discussing these stories. I take my cue from the characters and use masculine pronouns when the characters wear male disguise and feminine when they are revealed.

Notes to pages 50–64 141 21 The English translation is from Jacobus de Voragine, The Golden Legend, trans. and adapted by Ryan and Ripperger 537. The Latin is from Jacobi a Voragine, Legenda Aurea, ed. Graesse 603. I have slightly modified Ryan and Ripperger’s translation here. 22 Ryan and Ripperger 537; Graesse 603. 23 Ibid. 3 Stopping without Ending 1 Most cantos have between fifty and sixty octaves, and some have more. Book III has only nine cantos, whereas books I and II have twenty-nine and thirtyone cantos, respectively. 2 Alessandro Tortoreto calls these lines ‘universally known and admired (so much so that they are memorized at school)’: ‘L’Ottava finale dell’“Orlando innamorato”’ 511. Translation mine. 3 G. Zitarosa, quoted in Tortoreto 511. Translation mine. 4 Quoted in Boiardo, Orlando innamorato, ed. Scaglione 625. Translation mine. 5 Charles Stanley Ross, ‘Boiardo and His Poem,’ Introduction to Orlando Innamorato, trans. Ross 5. 6 Werner Gundersheimer, ‘Io ben comprendo la vergogna’ 137–8. 7 Antonio Franceschetti, ‘Struttura e compiutezza dell’Orlando innamorato’ 293. Translation mine. 8 Jo Ann Cavallo, Boiardo’s ‘Orlando Innamorato’ 25. 9 C.E.J. Griffiths, ‘Orlando Innamorato, Book III’ 37. 10 John McLucas, ‘“Faccio o nol faccio?”’ 45. 11 Ruggero M. Ruggieri, ‘Aspetti dell’“Umanesimo cavalleresco” nell’Orlando innamorato’ 478. Translation mine. 12 Roof xxiv. 13 Roof 17. 14 Ovid 3.487–9. 15 Roof xxi. 16 Marcelle Thiébaux, The Stag of Love 49–50. 17 Ross’ translation of these last two lines reads: ‘A longing for the other pricked / one lady. I’d say what she lacked.’ While I find Ross’ translation generally excellent, his unwarranted use of the word pricked here provides exactly what the narrator insists the ladies are missing! I have further modified Ross’ translation here. 18 Cavallo, Boiardo’s ‘Orlando Innamorato’ 137–49. 19 Of course, Angelica does not return Orlando’s love, but in the narrative of his desire for her there is always, at least in theory, the possibility of a straight denouement.

142 Notes to pages 66–74 20 Roof 85–6. 21 Giamatti, ‘Headlong Horses, Headless Horsemen’ 292. 4 Concluding the Tale 1 See Alberto Casadei, ‘Riusi (e rifiuti) del modello dell’“Innamorato” tra il 1520 e il 1530’ 87–100. 2 See Beer esp. 11–31. 3 Elissa B. Weaver, ‘Francesco Berni’s Rifacimento of the Orlando innamorato’ 54. 4 This rifacimento has no authoritative edition; the first two editions on which all subsequent editions are based are known to be partly spurious. The second edition was published in 1545; the title page indicates that it contains many authentic stanzas that are not in the first edition, namely the first eighty-two octaves. It is highly doubtful that Berni actually authored these octaves. The anonymous editor of the 1781 edition expresses doubt about the authorship of the end of the rifacimento, specifically from book III, canto 8 on (the section that includes the Bradamante-Fiordispina episode). See Elissa B. Weaver, ‘The Spurious Text of Francesco Berni’s Rifacimento’ 111– 31. See also Weaver, ‘Erotic Language and Imagery in Francesco Berni’s Rifacimento’ 80–100; Maria Belsani, ‘I Rifacimenti dell’Innamorato’ 4:311–403 and 5:1–56; H.F. Woodhouse, ‘Towards a Reassessment of Berni’s Rifacimento’ 31–51; and Woodhouse, Language and Style in a Renaissance Epic. 5 See Weaver ‘Erotic Language and Imagery.’ 6 All citations are from Orlando Innamorato di Matteo M. Bojardo rifatto da Francesco Berni. Translations mine. 7 This description of sexual desire between women has disgusted at least one critic: ‘It’s clear that Berni came a couple of generations after Boiardo, and in an era of more deliberate corruption. Boiardo, a straightforward man, could not even immagine that a woman could become inflamed with amorous passion for another woman. But Berni was able to refine the emotional complications of relations against nature. In the effeminacy and morbidity reflected in these octaves, there is not a merry and spontaneous licentiousness, but rather a deliberate immorality’ (Angelandrea Zottoli, Dal Bojardo all’Ariosto 85 n. 1). Translation mine. 8 Rosanna Alhaique Pettinelli, ‘Tra il Boiardo e l’Ariosto: Il cieco da Ferrara e Niccolò degli Agostini’ 247. Translation mine. 9 Elisabetta Baruzzo, Nicolò degli Agostini continuatore del Boiardo 30–1. Translation mine. 10 Enrico Carrara, ‘Dall’ “Innamorato” al “Furioso” (Niccolò degli Agostini)’ 255. Translation mine.

Notes to pages 74–88 143 11 All quotations are from Niccolò degli Agostini, Orlando innamorato del S. Matteo Maria Boiardo, Conte di Scandiano, insieme co i tre libri di M. Nicolo degli Agostini. Translations mine. 12 Marinelli 3. 13 Giulio Ferroni, ‘Da Bradamante a Ricciardetto’ 140. Translation mine. 14 Elizabeth J. Bellamy, ‘Androgyny and the Epic Quest’ 32. 15 Bellamy, Translations of Power 117. 16 Ferroni, ‘Da Bradamante a Ricciardetto’ 144–5. Translation mine. 17 Griffiths 37–8. 18 David Quint, ‘The Figure of Atlante’ 87. 19 Bellamy, Translations of Power 28. 20 See Rajna 368–9. 21 Finucci in The Lady Vanishes argues that ‘quel nodo’ refers to the ‘male organ’ (208); this makes little sense to me given that this noun is the object of the verb sciogliere (to untie or to loosen). 22 Shemek 77. 23 Eric MacPhail argues, somewhat differently, that ‘Bradamante can be said to be an historic figure … insofar as her career ignores prophecy and verges into unexpected intersections with other narrative paths.’ In this way, ‘the Orlando Furioso acquires a temporality unavailable to epic, for genuine epic cannot acknowledge the novelty of the present’ (‘Ariosto and the Prophetic Moment’ 48 and 37). 24 Ferroni in ‘Da Bradamante a Ricciardetto’ writes that Fiordispina’s advances ‘circle insidiously around the suggestion of a homosexual passion, as strong as it is lacking in any suggestion of an outlet or of satisfaction’ (148). Translation mine. In The Lady Vanishes Finucci insists that ‘the absent penis has to be the narrative center,’ and that because the penis is the true object of Fiordispina’s desire, her wish is ‘heterosexual and normative’ (212–13). 25 Judith Butler, Gender Trouble 114. 26 See the section on Marfisa at the end of this chapter for an example of the relationship between male sexual performance and masculine identity. 27 Monique Wittig, The Straight Mind and Other Essays 11–12. 28 Weaver writes: ‘The plot of the Orlando furioso consciously puts to use the signifying possibilities of entrelacement, a technique inherited from the Italian chivalric tradition and from the even older French tradition, that interrupts and divides narrative sequences in order to link them on an associative level; episodes are deepened or complicated through implicit analogies with other episodes … Once the reader has grasped a single episode … he or she is invited to note the resonances of that episode in others adjacent or similar (in structure, theme, or language), and as a result,

144 Notes to pages 89–100

29 30

31 32 33 34

35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42

meanings multiply, complicate each other, complete each other’ (‘Letture dell’intreccio dell’Orlando Furioso’ 384). Translation mine. Millicent Marcus, ‘Angelica’s Loveknots’ 43. Daniel Rolfs notes that this is one of many episodes in the poem in which dreams are associated with ‘some misperception of reality’ (‘Sleep, Dreams, and Insomnia in the Orlando furioso’ 465). Ferroni ‘Da Bradamante a Ricciardetto’ 157. Translation mine. Scaglione, ‘Chivalric and Idyllic Poetry’ 255. Thomas P. Roche, Jr, has made the case that Marfisa appears ‘in adventures that parallel and aid the dynastic search of Bradamante’ (‘Ariosto’s Marfisa’ 115). The anonymous Alexandreida in rima was the most widely circulated poem about Alexander the Great. It was probably written in the first half of the fifteenth century, and it was first printed in 1512. It was reprinted continuously over the following two hundred years and reprinted five more times in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. See Anne Wilson Tordi, Introduction to Alexandreida in rima. The poem is cited from Tordi’s edition. Translation mine. Roche 117. Roche 117. Ita Mac Carthy, ‘Marfisa and Gender Performance in the Orlando furioso’ 190. Finucci, ‘The Female Masquerade’ 62. Finucci, ‘The Female Masquerade’ 81. Margaret Adams Groesbeck, ‘Tra noi non restò più di differenza’ 73. Finucci, The Manly Masquerade. Roche 126.

5 Queer Female Desire in Cinquecento Comedy 1 Louise George Clubb, Italian Drama in Shakespeare’s Time 29. 2 These are: La cassaria (1508), I suppositi (1509), Il negromante (1520), La lena (1528), and the unfinished I studenti. 3 In his critical edition of 1985 Giorgio Padoan corrects the traditional La calandria with La calandra. While the influence of La calandra on the Orlando furioso has been noted, the relationship between the two works has never been fully explored. See, for example, Finucci, The Manly Masquerade 195; and C.P. Brand, ‘Ariosto’s Ricciardetto and Fiordispina’ 121–33. 4 Gli Accademici Intronati di Siena was a group of aristocratic Sienese intellectuals. Members of the group seem to have written the play together (as the Prologue attests), and it is not attributable to a single author. Alessandro Piccolomini was a member of this group and most likely contributed to this play.

Notes to pages 100–14 145 5 The popularity of these three plays in particular is attested to by their publication in Delle comedie elette novamente raccolte insieme, con le correttioni, et annotationi di Girolamo Ruscelli in Venice in 1554. This collection also included Niccolò Machiavelli’s La mandragola and another play by Piccolomini, L’amor costante. See Clubb 29–30. 6 See Traub, Renaissance of Lesbianism 172–5; and James Holstun, ‘“Will you Rent our Ancient Love Asunder?”’ 835–67. 7 One could argue that this theme is important to the Furioso as well: Bradamante must marry Ruggiero by the end of the poem, and Fiordispina could divert the dynastic heroine. Bradamante’s marriage is, however, prophesied from the beginning of the poem, and her adventure with Fiordispina can therefore represent nothing more than a diversion. Still, similarities between La calandra and canto 25 of the Furioso may remind an audience familiar with the play of Bradamante’s obligations to her parents and to her fiancé. 8 Stephen Orgel, ‘The Subtexts of The Roaring Girl’ 14–15. 9 Giulio Ferroni, ‘Il sistema comico della gemellarità’ 355. Translation mine. 10 Following the text of the play, I shall refer to Santilla dressed as Lidio as ‘Lidio femina’ and Lidio as ‘Lidio maschio.’ 11 All quotations are from Bibbiena, La calandra, ed. Padoan. The English translations are from ‘The Comedy of Calandro,’ in Five Comedies from the Italian Renaissance, trans. and ed. Giannetti and Ruggiero. 12 The hermaphrodite also occupies a liminal space in the public’s imagination, as hermaphroditism was, to a point, known to be a real phenomenon. Finucci writes: ‘In La calandria, when Fulvia touches Santilla’s body thinking she is caressing Lidio’s and notices a body part missing, the audience of the time understood the joke but knew just as well and perhaps even half-believed that such a sexual mishap could happen’ (The Manly Masquerade 214). 13 Accademici Intronati di Siena, ‘Gli ingannati,’ in Commedie del Cinquecento, ed. Borlenghi 155–266. The English translations are from ‘The Deceived’ in Five Comedies from the Italian Renaissance, trans. and ed. Giannetti and Ruggiero. 14 Richard Andrews, ‘Gli Ingannati as a Text for Performance’ 41. 15 Andrews 44. 16 Andrews 44. 17 For a comparison of plot devices in L’Alessandro, La calandra, and Gli ingannati, see Florindo Cerreta, Alessandro Piccolomini; and A.L. Stiefel, ‘George Chapman und das italienische Drama.’ 18 Rita Belladonna notes this influence but does not explore it. See the introduction to her translation of Piccolomini, L’Alessandro 10. 19 All quotations are from Alesssandro Piccolomini, L’Alessandro. English translations are from Piccolomini, L’Alessandro, trans. Belladonna.

146 Notes to pages 115–31 20 21 22 23 24


26 27 28

Belladonna 14. I refer to Aloisio as ‘him’ and Lampridia as ‘her.’ I refer to Fortunio as ‘him’ and Lucrezia as ‘her.’ Belladonna translates fregagnuola as gay. I substitute the pejorative fag, which is more in keeping with the tone of Niccoletta’s speech. The one surviving text of this play was discovered and published by Emilio Lovarini in 1928. The correct spelling of the play’s title, according to the manuscript, is La Veniexiana, but this spelling did not appear in publications until 1967. For the sake of consistency I will use the spelling Venexiana in keeping with Ludovico Zorzi, whose edition of the text I quote throughout. For a summary of how Padoan arrived at this conclusion, see Bodo L.O. Richter, ‘La Venexiana in the Light of Recent Criticism’ 133–53. Also see Giorgio Padoan, Momenti del rinascimento veneto. Nino Borsellino, ‘L’Eros in scena’ 115. Translation mine. See the Introduction to ‘The Venetian Comedy,’ trans. Giannetti and Ruggiero, in Five Comedies of the Italian Renaissance, ed. Giannetti and Ruggiero xviii. Quotations are from La Venexiana, ed. Zorzi. English translations are from ‘The Venetian Comedy,’ trans. Giannetti and Ruggiero.

Epilogue 1 Daniel Javitch, ‘Sixteenth-Century Commentaries on Imitations in the Orlando Furioso’ 221. Javitch’s full-length study on this topic is Proclaiming a Classic. 2 Bernard Weinberg, A History of Literary Criticism in the Italian Renaissance. The general information given here about sixteenth-century literary criticism is from Weinberg’s work; see esp. 2:954–1073. 3 Weinberg 2:991. 4 Camillo Pellegrino, Il Carrafa, o vero della epica poesia, in Trattati di poetica e retorica del cinquecento, ed. Weinberg 3:324. Translation mine, with Waldman’s translation of the line from the Furioso. 5 Difese dell’ Orlando Furioso fatte dal signor Orazio Ariosto, in Giuseppe Venturini, Orazio Ariosti e la polemica intorno alla superiorità del Tasso sull’Ariosto 75. Translation mine. 6 Lodovico Dolce, Orlando fvrioso di m. Lodovico Ariosto (not paginated). Translation mine. 7 Leonardo Salviati, ‘Degli Accademici Della Crvsca Difesa Dell’Orlando Fvrioso Dell’Ariosto; Contra ’L Dialogo Dell’Epica Poesia Di Cammillo Pellegrino. Stacciata Prima’ C8. Translation mine. 8 Ieronimo Ruscelli, Orlando furioso de m. Lodovico Ariosto; nuouamente adornato di figure de rame da Girolamo Porro Padouano 282. Translation mine.

Notes to pages 131–3 147 9 Orlando furioso de m. Lodovico Ariosto; nuouamente adornato di figure de rame da Girolamo Porro Padouano 21r. 10 Bellamy ‘Androgyny and the Epic Quest’ 32. 11 Griffiths 37–8. 12 Albert Ascoli, Ariosto’s Bitter Harmony 329.

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158 Bibliography Saccone, Eduardo. ‘Osservazioni su alcuni luoghi dell’Innamorato.’ MLN 86 (1971): 31–60. ‘St. Peter’s Apocalypse.’ In Visions of Heaven and Hell before Dante. Ed. Eileen Gardiner. New York: Italica Press, 1989. 1–12. Sangirardi, Giuseppe. Boiardismo ariostesco: Presenza e trattamento dell’Orlando Innamorato nel Furioso. Lucca: Maria Pacini Fazzi Editore, 1993. Scaglione, Aldo. ‘Chivalric and Idyllic Poetry.’ Italica 33 (1956): 252–60. Schwarz, Kathryn. Tough Love. Durham NC: Duke University Press, 2000. Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. Tendencies. Durham NC: Duke University Press, 1993. Shemek, Deanna. Ladies Errant: Wayward Women and Social Order in Early Modern Italy. Durham NC: Duke University Press, 1998. Sherberg, Michael. Rinaldo: Character and Intertext in Ariosto and Tasso. Saratoga CA: Anma Libri, 1993. Stiefel, A.L. ‘George Chapman und das italienische Drama,’ Jahrbuch der deutschen Shakespeare-Gesellschaft 35 (1899): 180–213. Thiébaux, Marcelle. The Stag of Love. Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press, 1974. Tomalin, Margaret. The Fortunes of the Warrior Heroine in Italian Literature. Ravenna: Longo Editore, 1982. Tordi, Anne Wilson. Introduction to Alexandreida in rima: The Life and Deeds of Alexander the Great in an Anonymous Italian Renaissance Poem. Lewiston, Ontario: Edwin Mellen Press, 2004. Tortoreto, Alessandro. ‘L’Ottava finale dell’ “Orlando innamorato,” Una lettera del Boiardo e la lirica contemporanea.’ In Il Boiardo e la critica contemporanea. Ed. Giuseppe Anceschi. Florence: Olschki, 1970. 511–19. Traub, Valerie. Desire and Anxiety. New York: Routledge, 1992. – ‘The Psychomorphology of the Clitoris.’ GLQ 2 (1995) 81–113. – The Renaissance of Lesbianism in Early Modern England. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Venturini, Giuseppe. Saggi critici: Cinquecento minore: O. Ariosti, G.M. Verdizzotti e il loro influsso nella vita e nell’opera del Tasso. Ravenna: A. Longo, 1970. Vitullo, Juliann. The Chivalric Epic in Medieval Italy. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000. Weaver, Elissa B. ‘Erotic Language and Imagery in Francesco Berni’s Rifacimento.’ MLN 99 (1984): 80–100. – ‘Francesco Berni’s Rifacimento of the Orlando innamorato: Why and How.’ Pacific Coast Philology 10 (1975): 53–8. – ‘Letture dell’intreccio dell’Orlando Furioso : il caso delle tre pazzie d’amore.’ Strumenti Critici 34 (1977): 384–406. – ‘The Spurious Text of Francesco Berni’s Rifacimento of Matteo Maria Boiardo’s Orlando Innamorato.’ Modern Philology 75 (1977): 111–31.

Bibliography 159 Weinberg, Bernard. A History of Literary Criticism in the Italian Renaissance. 2 vols. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961. Wesselofsky, Alessandro. Introduction (‘La favola della fanciulla perseguitata’) to Novella della figlia del re di Dacia. Pisa: Tipografia Nistri, 1866. Wetherbee, Winthrop. ‘History and Romance in Boccaccio’s Teseida.’ Studi sul Boccaccio 20 (1991–2): 173–84. Wittig, Monique. The Straight Mind and Other Essays. Boston: Beacon Press, 1992. Woodhouse, H.F. Language and Style in a Renaissance Epic: Berni’s Corrections to Boiardo’s ‘Orlando Innamorato.’ London: The Modern Humanities Research Association, 1982. – ‘Towards a Reassessment of Berni’s Rifacimento.’ Italian Studies 35 (1980): 31–51. Zatti, Sergio. The Quest for Epic: From Ariosto to Tasso. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006. Zottoli, Angelandrea. Dal Bojardo all’Ariosto. Milan: R. Carabba, 1934.

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Accademici Intronati di Siena: Gli ingannati (The Deceived), 12, 100–1, 108–13, 117, 124, 144n4, 145n5 Alexandreida in rima, 94, 144n34 Allaire, Gloria, 36, 138n10 Amazon, 23–31, 35–6, 138n3 amor impossibilis, 4, 8–9, 10, 12, 22, 55, 72, 77, 81–2, 88, 92, 100, 102, 113, 118, 132, 135n3 Anderson, David, 138n4 Andrea da Barberino: L’Aspramonte, 9, 23, 29–34, 36 Andrews, Richard, 110, 145nn14,15,16 Angelica, 80, 89–91, 133, 141n19 Antea, 34–6, 56 Antoninus [Antonino], 13–14 Apocalypse of Peter, 15 Aquinas, Thomas, 13 Aretino, Pietro: Il marescalco, 116 Ariosti, Orazio, 127–9 Ariosto, Ludovico: Orlando furioso, 3–5, 9, 11, 23, 24, 35, 36, 49, 76–99; plays, 144n2; reception of Orlando furioso, 12, 125–33; rivalry with Boiardo, 3–4, 11, 76–7, 88, 100. See also Bradamante-Fiordispina

episode: in Ariosto, Ludovico, Orlando furioso Aristotle: Poetics, 125–8, 132 Ascoli, Albert, 133 Astolfo, 91, 93, 98–9 Augustine, Saint, 136n26 Bailey, Derrick Sherwin, 136n26 Bartholomaeus de Saliceto, 17 Baruzzo, Elisabetta, 73–4 Beer, Marina, 135n5, 142n2 Belladonna, Rita, 115, 145n18 Bellamy, Elizabeth J., 77–9, 132, 147n10 Belsani, Maria, 142n4 Berni, Francesco: Orlando innamorato, 9, 11, 68–73, 84, 136n24. See also Bradamante-Fiordispina episode: in Berni, Francesco, Orlando innamorato Bersani, Leo, 6–7, 25 Bibbiena. See Dovizi, Bernardo, da Bibbiena Bloom, Harold, 135n1 Boccaccio, Giovanni: Decameron, 140n17; Teseida (The Book of Theseus), 9, 23, 24–9, 30–4, 135n5

162 Index Boiardo, Matteo Maria: Orlando innamorato, 3–5, 9, 10–11, 23–4, 33, 36, 52, 53–68. See also BradamanteFiordispina episode: in Boiardo, Matteo Maria: Orlando innamorato Borsellino, Nino, 121, 124 Bradamante, 9, 23–4, 37, 56, 88, 128–9 Bradamante-Fiordispina episode: in Ariosto, Ludovico, Orlando furioso, 3–4, 12, 23–4, 38, 68–9, 73, 75, 76–92, 95–6, 100–1, 113–15, 126–33, 138n2; in Berni, Francesco, Orlando innamorato, 68–73, 84; in Boiardo, Matteo Maria, Orlando innamorato, 3–4, 10, 16, 30, 33, 34–5, 36, 38, 49, 52, 53–67, 68, 73, 87; in degli Agostini, Niccolò, Orlando innamorato, 68–9, 73–6 Brand, C.P., 144n3 Brandimarte, 62–4, 66 Brooten, Bernadette, 20, 136n26 Brown, Judith, 136n22 Burchard of Worms, 15 Butler, Judith, 86 Cadden, Joan, 18 Camilla: [Amadio] in Piero da Siena, La bella Camilla, 44–9; in Virgil, Aeneid, 23, 35 cantari, 4, 9–10, 12, 22, 36, 37–8, 52, 67, 68, 75, 82, 102, 119, 132, 135n5 Carrara, Enrico, 73–4 Casadei, Alberto, 142n1 Castelli, Elizabeth, 16 Castle, Terry: The Apparitional Lesbian, 135n3

Cavallo, Jo Ann, 55, 59, 63 Cerreta, Florindo, 145n17 Cestaro, Gary, 5 chivalric romance, 4–5, 9, 22, 23, 37, 67, 78–9, 84, 100, 113, 133 Cino da Pistoia, 16–17 clitoridectomy, 19–20,137n52 Clubb, Louise George, 100, 145n5 comedy, 4, 12, 100–2, 113, 121, 133 Crompton, Louis, 16, 17, 18 cross-dressing: 101–2; by men, 39, 84–5, 101–2, 104, 106, 112, 113; by women, 9, 16, 21, 36, 37–8, 39, 45, 46, 49, 50, 52, 79, 101–2, 109, 112, 113 degli Agostini, Niccolò: Orlando innamorato, 11, 68–9, 73–6, 132. See also Bradamante-Fiordispina episode: in degli Agostini, Niccolò, Orlando innamorato dildo, 14 divine intervention, 37–9, 43–6, 48, 50, 85, 132 Dolce, Lodovico, 128–9 Dovizi, Bernardo, da Bibbiena: La calandra (The Comedy of Calandro), 12, 21, 100, 101, 102–7, 112, 113, 114, 117, 124, 132, 144n3, 145n5 Edelman, Lee: No Future, 7, 25, 29, 44 elegy, 101, 113 Eugenia, Saint, 10, 16, 50–2 fanciulla perseguitata, 140n13 Ferroni, Giulio, 77–8, 90, 102, 143n24

Index 163 Finucci, Valeria, 98, 138n2, 143nn21,24, 144n41(ch 4), n3(ch 5), 145n12 Fiordelisa, 62–3, 66 Fiordispina, 9, 12–13, 54, 106, 113, 118, 126–32. See also BradamanteFiordispina episode Fornari, Simone, 125–6 Franceschetti, Antonio, 54 Freccero, Carla, 24–5, 29 Freedman, William, 4–5 Freud, Sigmund: Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, 5–8, 25 Galiziella, 30–4, 36, 56 Garnier, Germain, 22 Giamatti, A. Bartlett, 67 Giannetti, Laura, 146n27 Goldberg, Jonathan, 135nn7,9 Goodich, Michael, 19 Gordian knot, 93–6 Gospel of Thomas, 16 Griffiths, C.E.J., 55, 77–8, 132, 147n11 Groesbeck, Margaret Adams, 98 Guidone, 96–8 Gundersheimer, Werner, 54 hagiography, 4, 9–10, 12, 36, 38, 49–52, 75, 83 hair, long, as a feminine attribute, 32, 56–7, 75, 139n19 Hairston, Julia, 138n2 Halperin, David, 136n22 hermaphroditism, 13, 21, 105–6, 145n12 Hildegard of Bingen, 15 Hincmar of Reims, 15 Holstun, James, 145n6

Hotchkiss, Valerie R., 50, 140n18 hunting, 60–4, 86 inheritance, 101–4, 107, 108, 113, 120 Ipolita, 24–9, 32–3, 34, 36, 56 Jacobus de Voragine: Legenda aurea (The Golden Legend), 10, 50–2 Javitch, Daniel, 125, 146n1 Jones, Ann Rosalind, 21 Karras, Ruth Mazo, 14 Kleinbaum, Abby Wettan, 138n3 knot, 87, 89, 92, 94–5. See also Gordian knot lack, 41, 46, 62, 72, 107 Laqueur, Thomas, 20–1 Lavezuola, Alberto, 131–2 law: French, 16, 18; Roman, 16–17, 18–19 Lèbano, Edoardo A., 139nn22,23 lesbian, 136n22 Lochrie, Karma, 19, 38 Long, Kathleen, 21 Mac Carthy, Ita, 98 Machiavelli, Niccolò, 18, 145n5 MacPhail, Eric, 143n23 maiden warrior, 3, 9, 10, 23–4, 30, 32, 35–6, 37, 138n3; and containment, 9, 23–4, 36; and domestication, 9, 23–5, 29–31, 33–4, 36, 83; and free circulation, 9, 23, 34–6 male narrative, 8–9, 77, 92 Marcus, Millicent, 89 Marfisa, 12, 37, 77, 92–9 Marinelli, Peter, 3–4, 76–7

164 Index marriage, 28–9, 31–2, 37–8, 40–4, 48, 63, 82, 83, 101–5, 107, 108–10, 112, 113, 120, 145n7 Mazzi, Maria Serena, 18 McLucas, John, 55 Menon, Madhavi, 135n9 motif: definition of, 4–5. See also queer female desire: as motif Motta, Attilio, 140n4 Narcissus, 59 narrative: control of, 60, 87–8, 92, 96–7; crisis, 4–5, 10, 66, 88, 92; opportunity, 4–5, 88, 92; perverse (see perverse narrative); of queer female desire (see queer female desire: and narrative); sexual development as, 5–6; sexuality as non-narrative, 6–7; suspended, 4, 10, 66–7; and telos, 5–7, 24–5, 58, 60, 64, 67, 88, 133 natura, 40, 43 normative sexuality, 38 open ending, 29–30, 33–4, 139n20 Orgel, Stephen, 101–2 Orlando, 62–4, 66; madness of, 3, 12, 77, 88–9, 91 Orvieto, Paolo, 35 Ovid: Metamorphoses, 14, 37, 52, 59, 82–3, 101, 113 Padoan, Giorgio, 121, 146n25 Panzini, Alfredo, 54 Paré, Ambroise, 20–2 Paul, Saint: Letter to the Romans, 13, 16, 136n26 Paulus of Aegina, 20 Pellegrino, Camillo: Il Carrafa, 126–30

penetration, 9, 14, 16, 18–20, 61, 71–2, 132 Penthesilea, 23, 35 perverse narrative, 7–8, 10, 55, 58, 60–1, 64, 67 Pettinelli, Rosanna Alhaique, 73–4 Piccolomini, Alessandro: and Accademici Intronati di Siena, 144n4; L’Alessandro, 12, 100–1, 113–21, 124, 145n5 Piero da Siena: La bella Camilla, 10, 37–8, 44–9, 62, 67, 73, 102, 115, 118, 119, 132 Plautus: Menaechmi, 12, 101 Potiphar’s wife, 140n15 Predelli, Maria, 31, 36, 37, 139n1, 140nn12,17 procreation, 6–9, 13, 16 Pucci, Antonio: Reina d’Oriente, 10, 37–44, 47, 49, 62, 67, 73, 102, 115, 118, 119, 132 Puff, Helmut, 136n22 Pulci, Luigi: Morgante, 9, 23, 34–6 Pulci, Raffaello, 18 queer, 7–8 queer female desire: as motif, 4–5, 9–12, 22, 24, 36, 38, 52, 67, 76, 92, 100–1, 110, 113, 120–1, 132–3; and narrative, 7–9, 10–11, 38, 77, 88, 92, 132–3; as strategy of representation, 9, 55–6, 67, 77, 91–2, 100, 124; as threat, 8, 11–12, 49, 86, 102 Quint, David, 79 Rajna, Pio, 30, 37, 143n20 remainder, 25, 29, 33–4, 38, 73 Ricciardetto, 3–4, 11–12, 77–9, 84–90, 95, 113, 126–33 Richter, Bodo L.O., 146n25

Index 165 Robins, William, 38, 40–1, 140nn3,4 Roche, Thomas P., Jr., 96–8, 144n33 Rocke, Michael, 18, 137n31 Rolfs, Daniel, 144n30 romance. See chivalric romance Roof, Judith, 7–8, 10, 44, 55, 58, 60, 66 Ross, Charles Stanley, 54, 141n17 Ruggieri, Ruggero, 55 Ruggiero: in Ariosto, Ludovico, Orlando furioso, 3, 23, 78–80, 82, 84, 85, 86–8, 90; in Boiardo, Matteo Maria, Orlando innamorato, 56–7, 67; in degli Agostini, Niccolò, Orlando innamorato, 11, 73–6 Ruggiero, Guido, 137n31, 146n27 Ruscelli, Ieronimo, 130–1 Sacchi, Guido, 139n20 ‘St. Peter’s Apocalypse.’ See Apocalypse of Peter Salviati, Leonardo, 129–30 same-sex relations, 121; as unnatural, 13, 71; between men and between women compared, 11, 15–19, 69, 71, 115–16; in legal discourse, 16–19, 22, 132; in medical discourse, 19–22, 132; in theological discourse, 13–16, 22, 132; male homosexual subculture, 137n49; punishment for, 12, 15–19, 22 Scaglione, Aldo, 90 Schwarz, Kathryn, 138n3 Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky, 8 sex change, 3, 10, 13, 21–2, 29, 37–8, 43–6, 48–9, 67, 82, 85–6, 95, 100, 102, 105, 119, 132

Shemek, Deanna, 84, 138n2 sodomy, 14, 19, 21, 136n22 Soranos, 20 Stallybrass, Peter, 21 Stiefel, A.L., 145n17 Tasso, Torquato: Gerusalemme liberata, 126 telos. See narrative: and telos theatre. See comedy Theodora, Saint, 10, 16, 50–2 Thiébaux, Marcelle, 60–1 Thomas. See Gospel of Thomas Tomalin, Margaret, 30 Tordi, Ann Wilson, 144n34 Tortoreto, Alessandro, 141n2 Traub, Valerie, 21, 135n3, 136n22, 138n1, 145n6 La Venexiana (The Venetian Comedy), 121–4 Vespucci, Agostino, 18–19 Vitullo, Juliann, 139n18 war, 10, 26–7, 32–4, 54–5, 64–6, 102, 111, 113, 115 Weaver, Elissa B., 69, 142nn3,4, 143n28 Weinberg, Bernard, 125, 146n3 Wesselofsky, Alessandro, 140n13 Wetherbee, Winthrop, 138n9 Wittig, Monique, 87 Woodhouse, H.F., 142n4 Zitarosa, G., 141n3 Zottoli, Angelandrea, 142n7