Ludovico Ariosto

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Ludovico Ariosto, woodcut in the third edition of Orlando furioso , Ferrara 1532, produced by Ariosto himself
Signature Ludovico Ariosto.PNG

Ludovico Ariosto ( German  Ariost ; born September 8, 1474 in Reggio nell'Emilia , † July 6, 1533 in Ferrara ) was an Italian humanist , military man, courtier and author. His main work, the verse epic Orlando furioso ("The raging Roland"), is considered to be one of the most important texts in Italian literature and was received throughout Europe.

Life and work

Ariosto (or Ariost, as he is often called in German-speaking countries) was the eldest of twelve children of the poorly wealthy nobleman Niccolò Ariosto, who was in the service of Duke Ercole I. d'Este (1431-1505), the ruler of Ferrara and Modena , commanding the Reggio nell'Emilia garrison .

After attending the Latin school in Ferrara from 1484, Ariost began to study law at the university there in 1489 at the request of his father. However, he did not complete it, but devoted himself mainly to humanistic studies. Here he made friends with the somewhat older Pietro Bembo , who later became an important author, language theorist and finally a cardinal. With him he also shared an interest in recent vernacular Italian literature, in particular the poetry of Petrarch and the stories of Boccaccio , as well as the writings of the Florentine Neoplatonists . Thanks to the position of his father, he gained access to the court in Ferrara, which Duke Ercole had made and expanded after 1471 to become the capital of his dominion between the Duchy of Milan , the republics of Venice and Florence and the Papal States.

In 1493 he joined a theater group that performed plays at court. At that time he wrote the (lost) Tragedia di Tisbe . From 1495 he began to write his first Latin poems and wrote various poems in Latin during his time as a student and spectator at court.

When his father suddenly died in 1500, he had to help feed the family, including a paralyzed brother and five sisters. He followed in his father's military footsteps and, as captain, took command of a border fortress near Canossa .

In 1503 he was able to return to Ferrara and was accepted as secretary in the service of Cardinal Ippolito d'Este, a son of Duke Ercole. In the hope of receiving an ecclesiastical benefice through him that would make him financially independent, he was granted minor ordinations and was indeed assigned a benefice in a wealthy parish in 1506, where, as usual in such cases, he was only sporadic needed to be present. He was very busy in the service of the cardinal, as the cardinal required his courtiers to be on duty at all times. I.a. he traveled several times to Rome on his behalf. Ariost was dissatisfied with his work. He felt constantly overwhelmed, poorly paid and, moreover, not sufficiently recognized as a poet. In spite of his service obligations, however, he found time to be active in literature, and from around 1505 only in Italian. He wrote a number of occasional poems as well as sonnets and canzons in the style of Petrarkism. He also wrote, in prose, the comedies La Cassaria (1508, German about The thing with the chest [cassa] ) and I suppositi (1509, German the undersigned ), in which he broke away from the usual models Plautus and Terence and treated contemporary looking subjects. Above all, however, he worked on the Orlando , a verse epic in eleven-syllable punches , which he had started around 1505 as a continuation of Matteo Boiardo's unfinished verse epic Orlando innamorato ("Roland in love") and which he recorded in 1516 in a first version of 40 chants had a dedication to Ippolito printed.

His hopes, under Pope Leo X , elected in 1513 , who knew and valued him, to get a post in Rome and financial benefits, were not fulfilled. When Ippolito took over a diocese in Hungary in 1517, Ariostus did not go with him. Rather, in April 1518 he was able to switch to the service of the somewhat more generous Duke (since 1505) Alfonso I d'Este , his brother. He was also on several diplomatic missions for him.

At the same time, as always, he was active as a writer. B. with a series of verse satires (1517-25), which combine biographical, political and general human aspects. In the first, he reflects on the compulsions of being a courtier and explains why he did not follow Ippolito to Hungary. In a second he polemics against the papal court, which had often disappointed him. In 1520 he wrote another comedy with Il Negromante ("The Nekromant ", first performance in 1528). In 1521 he published an edition of the Orlando that had been increased by five chants and was reprinted several times in the following years. In the third of his seven satires ( satire ) he wistfully praises the simple life of a scholar, far from the pressures of day-to-day business - evidently a reflection of his strenuous activity in the troubled border province of Garfagnana , where he served as governor from 1522 to 1525, evidently skilfully . He processed his experiences there in a fourth satire from 1523. The fifth deals with the choice of the right woman , not without the misogyny typical of the clergy . The topic was topical for Ariost, because he (see below) was thinking of getting married. The sixth, written in 1524/25, which he dedicated to his friend Pietro Bembo, deals with the subject of education and upbringing, as he was a father of two from previous relationships.

In 1525, after briefly working as director of the Ferrares court theater, Ariost withdrew into a private life. He refused the offer (why, he explains in a seventh satire from 1524) to become ducal ambassador to Rome, and in 1526 bought a small house in Ferrara in Via Mirasole, which he shared with his son Virgilio. In 1527 or 1528 he married, secretly so as not to have to give up his benefice, with Alessandra Benucci, the widow of the Florentine humanist and author Tito Strozzi (1425-1515), with whom he had had a relationship for a long time.

In the following years he wrote the comedy La Lena ("Die [matchmaker] Lena", 1528) and especially revised the Orlando again . He adjusted the text in the sense of the consolidating Italian literary and written language and he changed the direction by trying to address the anonymous reading audience, which had developed in the meantime, instead of the courtly audience originally targeted.

The epic about the struggles of Roland and the paladins of Charlemagne with the pagans for Roland's love for the flighty Angelica and for the love between Ruggero and Bradamante, the alleged founders of the House of Este, was very successful and was re-published in 1532 in 46 songs was reprinted nearly two hundred times in the 16th century alone. Voltaire and Goethe still valued the work.

In 1532 Ariost accompanied his Duke, whom he had repeatedly served as an advisor, to negotiations with Emperor Charles V in Mantua . After returning home, he became seriously ill and never recovered.


Statue of the poet in Reggio nell'Emilia

Statues and monuments

Text editions and translations

  • Dennis Looney, Mark Possanza (Eds.): Ludovico Ariosto: Latin Poetry. Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Massachusetts) 2018 (Latin text and English translation)
  • The premier volume de Roland Furieux […] mys en rime françoise par Jan Fornier. Anvers 1555.


Web links

Commons : Ludovico Ariosto  - album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Ludovico Ariosto  - Sources and full texts