Ambiguity in Reason in Orlando Furioso
Ariosto addresses an underlying battle between reason and lust in Orlando Furioso, similar to the clash between duty and desires in Vergil’s Aeneid, yet opposite in interpretation. Vergil presents the message that duty overpowers desires, while Ariosto shows the opposite effect when he equates reason, rules, and authority with duty, and love, passion, and lust with desire. The "mettlesome charger" represents Lust that will not stop fighting to obtain its goals and cannot be gently coerced from its direction. Reason rarely overcomes Lust after it is set into action; once it is "tasted" it cannot be forgotten. Bradamant is torn between lust and reason when she must choose between her desires for Ruggiero and her filial duties. Aymon and Beatrice represent authority, thus set the tone for reason; but Rinaldo, Bradamant, and Ruggiero challenge their supremacy. Ariosto ultimately questions the validity of authoritative reason since Bradamant must thwart filial duty and pursue her own passions to fulfill her destiny.
When Rinaldo promises Bradamant’s hand to Ruggiero in marriage, controversy surfaces. Rinaldo feels indebted to Ruggiero for his great deeds, which include saving the lives of Richardet, Maugis, and Vivian. Rinaldo has only good intentions in mind when he takes a stand, and "[he] truly [believes] that Aymon [will] be pleased to contract such a kinship." (44.11) However, his prediction proves false; Aymon angrily receives the news. Not only does he have plans of his own for Bradamant’s future, he is enraged that Rinaldo "[dares] to marry off his daughter without consulting him" (44.36). Aymon prefers to give Bradamant’s hand to Constantine’s son Leo because he has the greater wealth. Ariosto mocks Aymon’s superficial motives when he points out that "Ruggiero did not realize that nobility was worth little, and valour less, unless allied to wealth" (44.36). Later, Rinaldo can no longer keep his promise to Ruggiero, and he blames Aymon for this failure. He denounces his father and shuns filial respect. Aymon ignores Rinaldo’s pleas and "[means] to dispose of his daughter as he [pleases]" (44.75). Clearly, Aymon sees Bradamant as a piece of property. He wants to gain money and a good name to honor his family through Bradamant’s marriage. He does not care whether or not love kindles between his daughter and the man she will spend her life with; he only seeks control over his daughter and the situation. Even though Rinaldo is acting against his father, therefore defying his duties and authority, his innocent intentions justify his action while Aymon’s actions display his self-centered motives.
Beatrice hates Rinaldo’s actions even more than Aymon does and declares her son arrogant. She openly stands against a union between Bradamant and Ruggiero and tries to use her power to get what she wants, a marriage between Bradamant and Leo. She assumes that Bradamant’s ambitions match her own and...