Genealogies of Fiction: Women Warriors and the Dynastic Imagination in the Orlando Furioso

By Eleonora Stoppino | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
An Amazonian Past
Female Rule and the Threat
of Illegitimacy

Bradamante, Marfisa, and the other female warriors that populate the Renaissance chivalric tradition, like Rovenza, Ancroia, Trafata, and Fanarda, or Pulci’s Antea, are all free agents, individual warriors that happen to be women. Like the warrior Camilla of Virgilian memory, they are members of an army, albeit very visible ones. What is, then, the distinction between these figures and their classical ancestors, the Amazons? Ariosto offers a possible answer to this question with the tale of the “femine omicide,” the murderous women of cantos XIX and XX, introducing in his poem a state entirely composed of and ruled by female warriors. With this episode, a true Amazonian society enters the space of the poem and is the stage for the deeds of the other woman warrior of the text, Marfisa. Marfisa’s nature, in turn, further puts into question the status of Bradamante as a character.

Between the battlefield and the dynastic marriage, Bradamante embodies the conflicting dynamics of the woman warrior, and fulfills all the necessities of this role. What is her connection to the structured violence of the Amazonian society? This chapter

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