Notes to the Second Canto, Part 3

The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto II, Part 1, Stanzas 41-60, Notes

43. Chevron. A broad, inverted, V-shape on a shield.
Argent. Literally silver. The heraldic term for white.
Azure. The heraldic term for blue.
Plain. Properly called the field, changed here for sake of rhyme.
Basilisk. A mythical snake, about a foot long, with a white crown-shaped spot on its head, whence its name (Greek for “Little king”). Allegedly so poisonous that the mere look of it eye could kill a man, and that stabbing it with a lance would be fatal to the knight, as the venom traveled through the wood. However, it could be killed by weasels, or by the crowing of a rooster, or by seeing itself in a mirror. Frequently confused with the cockatrice, which is a monster with similar powers and weaknesses, but looks like a rooster with dragons’ wings and a snake’s tail. The creatures were allegedly spawned from chicken’s eggs either laid by roosters, or hatched by toads.
46. Isolieri. Traditional minor character.
47. Gualtiero of Monleon. Or Walter of Montleon. A Christian, and traditional minor character. May or may not be the same as the Walter Hum of the Song of Roland.
48. Spinella of Altamone.
Matalista. No more is known of him than what is given here.
Fiordespina. Will feature much later in the poem.
49. Grandonio. Traditional minor character. Appears in the Song of Roland as Grandonie, where he is killed by Orlando at Roncesvalles.
50. Images of Mahomet are, of course, forbidden by the Koran. Though the prohibition was not always as strictly enforced as it is today, it is doubtful any Saracen ever bore a picture of the camel-driver on his shield.
51. Macario and Grifone. These names are given to Maganzans and other Carolingian villains so frequently that it is impossible to tell which are meant to be the same characters. One Grifone is father of Ganelon. Another Grifone is son of Olivier, and twin brother of Aquilante.
According to two romances, the French La Reine Sibille and the Italian Macaire, Macaire kills a man by treason, and is later killed by the dead man’s faithful dog in a trial by combat. The legend was later transferred to the reign of Charles V. The later version goes by the name of “The Dog of Montargis”, and can be found in Andrew Lang’s The Animal Story Book.
Ranier and Falcone. Very minor traditional characters.
Pinabello. This is the Pinabel who is killed in trial by combat at the end of the Song of Roland. Ariosto, who did not know the Song, kills Pinabello off in the Furioso, well before Roncesvalles.
56. Guido of Borgogna. Traditional minor character.
57. Avin, Avolio, Ottone, and Berlengier. The four sons of Duke Naimo of Bavaria. They are mere names, and always mentioned together. They seem to be derived from the Song of Roland’s Yvon, Yvor, Otho, and Berengier, who are not related to each other, but are merely four of the Twelve Peers, and who all die at Roncesvalles.
58. Ugo of Marseilles. Boiardo’s invention.
Ricciardetto and Alardo. Two brothers of Rinaldo, and with him and Guicciardo, the Four Sons of Aymon. Their sister is Bradamante. Ricciardetto is also known as Richard [Ricardo]. Since he is the youngest brother, he was known as “Little Richard” or “Richardet”. Some commentators on the Carolingian legend wrongly call Ricardo and Ricciardetto two separate characters.
Olivier. Oliver of Vienne [a town in France, not Vienna, Austria], boon companion of Orlando, and brother of Alda, Orlando’s betrothed. His kinship varies from romance to romance, but he is usually a distant cousin of Orlando. The story of how he and Orlando became friends can be found in Girart of Vienne, in Heroes of the French Epic, translated by Michael Newth.
62. My son. Figuratively speaking.
63. Muslims are, of course, forbidden to drink wine. Cards are an anachronism; they were invented in China in the ninth century, but did not reach Europe until the fourteenth.
68. Galleys. The galleys of Greece and Rome were manned by freemen. The practice of condemning criminals to row ships was begun in Christian countries (mostly France) in the mid 1500’s, and somewhat sooner in Islam. The practice began to die out in the late 1700’s, in Christendom first, and in Islam only with the conquest of the Barbary Corsairs by France.
Giant. Grandonio. He is only seven feet or so. It should be noted that a giant’s intelligence usually bears an inverse relation to his height. Charlemagne, Ferragu, and Grandonio are almost ordinary (as knights go). The eighteen foot Margutte is a clever rogue, the twenty-four foot Morgante is honest and loyal, but rather simple, and the thirty foot giants who form Angelica’s retinue are never clearly shown to be sentient.

On to Canto III

Back to Part 3


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