A Defense of the Excellence of Bradamante The merits and shortcomings of Bradamante's conduct in the

Pamela Benson
unpublished
Orlando furioso have long been a subject of controversy among critics of the poem. Some have found the heroine to be perfection itself , a woman who "assomma le qualità più elette della donna cinquecentesca; l'ardore verecondo di Gaspara Stampa e di Bar-bara Torella; la tristezza di Vittoria Colonna; l'accortezza di Isa-bella Gonzaga; l'audacia ardimentosa di Caterina Sforza." 1 Others have found her a disappointing figure who does not live up to the reader's expectations for the behavior of a
more » ... the behavior of a lady knight. Long ago Pio Rajna complained, "mi piace poco. .. quando verso la fine del poema me la vedo diventare una buona figliuola qualunque, che non ha il coraggio di disubbidire alla mamma." 2 More recently , Bradamante has been rejected in favor of Marfisa because Marfisa is "a credible person, positive, clear-headed, well-integrated ," whereas Bradamante, required "to relinquish the role of guerriera and accept that of passive donna," is "basically unsure which role she wishes to play." 3 Different as these evaluations of Bradamante are, they share one common factor: all of them are based on assumptions about independent women current in modern times; none is founded on a real knowledge of sixteenth-century attitudes. As a result each may explain the attraction or repulsion his day feels for Bradamante, but none can accurately assess the literary failures or successes of the character since none is aware of the qualities of the contemporary ideal against which she must be measured. It is surprising that both the presentation of the Renaissance ideal of womanhood in the Furioso and Bradamante's relation to it have gone unanalyzed in this period of interest in independent women, but critics interested in the poem's discussion of women have generally turned their attention to the more colorful issues of female infidelity and the double standard rather than to the topic of woman's ability and right to act in traditional male roles. Even the two best studies of the use of the Renaissance controversy QUADERNI d'italianistica, Volume IV, No. 2, 1983
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