Notes to the Ninth Canto, Part 1

The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto IX, Stanzas 1-20 Notes

7. It is unclear whether Angelica will do this herself by magic, or will have Malagise burnt at the stake. Anent this, please note that the burning of witches at the stake was not done out of cruelty, but to prevent their corpses from being stolen and used in further magical rites. It was customary  to strangle the criminals before burning their bodies; burning alive was a late development. The witch hunts had not reached their full height in Boiardo’s day, but the fear was growing. It should be noted, however, that only 50,000 people (one-third of them men) were executed for witchcraft in the entire history of post-Roman Europe. The figure of nine million women, frequently bandied around, is a lie.

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