Alison Taufer

title.none: Fonte, Floridoro (Alison Taufer)

identifier.other: baj9928.0811.016 08.11.16

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Alison Taufer, California State University, Los Angeles,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2008

identifier.citation: Fonte, Moderata. Edited with an Introduction by Valeria Finucci, translated by Julia Kisacky. Floridoro: A Chivalric Romance. The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006. Pp. 448. $75.00 (bh) 0-226-25677-4 (hb). ISBN: $29.00 (pb) 0-226-25678-2 (bp).

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 08.11.16

Fonte, Moderata. Edited with an Introduction by Valeria Finucci, translated by Julia Kisacky. Floridoro: A Chivalric Romance. The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006. Pp. 448. $75.00 (bh) 0-226-25677-4 (hb). ISBN: $29.00 (pb) 0-226-25678-2 (bp).

Reviewed by:

Alison Taufer
California State University, Los Angeles

A collaborative project by Julia Kisacky and Valeria Finucci, this modern English edition of Moderata Fonte's sixteenth century chivalric romance the Tredici canti del Floridoro is part of The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe series edited by Albert Rabil and Margaret L. King and published by the University of Chicago Press. The series currently includes almost fifty texts by women or by men about women written between the years 1300 and 1700. Translated into modern English, each book includes two introductions. The first, by the series editors King and Rabil, provides a context for the literary works published in the series, and succinctly lays out the cultural, philosophical, and religious origins of attitudes toward women in Europe during the period in question, including a history of the querelle des femmes and a brief explanation of texts and literary traditions of the early modern period dealing with the status of women. The second introduction by the volume editor, in this case, Valeria Finucci, provides a biography of the author, and a background and discussion to the text itself. Finucci's introduction does an excellent job of discussing the Floridoro within the context of the Italian chivalric romance tradition, especially in regards to Ludovico Ariosto's influence on the genre in Italy, although the introduction focuses perhaps a bit too narrowly on Italian literature. To call Matteo Maria Boiardo and Ariosto "the effective founders of the genre" of chivalric romance, as Finucci does in her introduction, is misleading, given that the genre had flourished in Europe since the twelfth century (16). Kisacky, who translated the Floridoro for this edition, bases her English translation on Finucci's 1995 modern Italian edition of the romance and on a 1581 original edition that is part of Duke University's Special Collections Library. Maintaining the eight line stanza of the ottava rima without the rhyme, Kisacky's translation is clear, accessible, and a delight to read. Both Finucci and Kisacky provide the very thorough and detailed textual notes, which include in-depth explanations of classical myths and of Venetian history, information regarding literary influences and story incidents that parallel Fonte's own life, and various narrative elements influenced by or adapted from Boiardo or Ariosto.

Published in Venice in 1581 and dedicated to Francesco I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, apparently to commemorate his marriage to his Venetian mistress Bianca Capello in 1579, the Tredici canti del Floridoro, which consists of thirteen cantos totaling 1,050 rhymed octaves, was Moderata Fonte's first published text. Moderata Fonte was actually the pen name of the Venetian author Modesta Pozzo, who also published the religious drama, Le feste (Celebrations) and the narrative poem La passione di Christo (The Passion of Christ) in 1582, and the narrative poem La resurrezione di Giesu Christo (The Resurrection of Jesus Christ) in 1593. Her most famous work is a dialogue entitled Il merito delle donne (The Worth of Women), published posthumously by her children in 1600. It also has been translated into English and published through the Other Voices in Early Modern Europe series (1997).

In a dedicatory letter to de' Medici, included in this edition in both Italian and English, Fonte states that she was encouraged by other poets to send the first thirteen cantos of Floridoro to press before the romance was completed, and that if the poem pleased the grand duke, she would continue the work, which she had already plotted out and which would be more than fifty cantos. Fonte never completed the Floridoro, and the only cantos in existence are the originally published thirteen. Whether the duke did not show Fonte the interest that she had anticipated or whether she lacked the time or the inclination to complete the romance remains unknown.

Although the romance is entitled Floridoro, the female knight Risamante plays a more important role in the development of the narrative. Her adventures begin and end the romance, and her story is interwoven through almost every canto. Through Risamante's quest to regain her rights to the kingdom of Armenia, the text explores a variety of inheritance issues including the right of women to inherit and the right of the father to determine who inherits. The story of Risamante's disappearance and her resulting disinheritance because her father believes her dead appears at the beginning of the romance in Canto 2 and is again repeated at the end in Canto 13, framing the entire narrative. In both cantos, Risamante battles a knight who champions her twin sister, Biondaura. In Canto 2, Risamante kills the giant Macandro who arrives in Athens to prove by combat that Biondaura's beauty is greater than that of the Greek Princess Celsidea's. In Canto 13, Risamante vanquishes King Cloridabello in the one-on-one combat that determines Risamante's claim to her inheritance and thus establishes her right to the Armenian throne that Biondaura has denied her. Fonte's own struggles with inheritance appear to be reflected within Risamante's story, and the fact that Risamante's story is the only one provided with any kind of conclusion suggests its importance to Fonte. As Finucci notes in her introduction, Fonte had to fight for her legal rights to inherit from her parents, who may have died intestate, leaving Fonte as eligible to inherit as her older brother. In fact, Fonte notes in 3.3 and 3.4, "How many orphans today have no access/to the possessions that were their fathers'/ for lacking, not someone who would court death/ but someone who would employ even his tongue in their favor?...But among those few I have reason to praise heaven/for some who are not of that sort, /who seek with faith and friendly zeal/ to relieve me where I am so oppressed."

The knight Floridoro, who gives the romance its name, does not appear in the text until Canto 5, where he becomes enamored of the Greek princess Celsidea, and although Fonte makes reference to the couple's future marriage and role as the ancestors of the founders of Venice, their union does not appear in the published cantos. Floridoro's main adventure is his thwarting of King Acreonte's attempted kidnap/rape of Celsidea that results in the king's accidental death at the hands of his own brother Marcante. As is typical of the chivalric romance, a number of secondary story lines are interwoven throughout the text. The widowed queen of Dacia escapes rape at the hands of the knight Amandriano with the aid of the wizard Celidante. Odoria, who dresses as a knight for protection, but who is not one, falls in love with Risardo on a trip to the temple of Delphi. With the help of a fairy, the Queen of Phrygia hides from her husband's rage after she bears a son to another knight. The lovers Nicobaldo and Lucimena wed, and immediately afterward, Lucimena is kidnapped by a witch who demands Nicobaldo's love. The diminutive King of the Pygmies disguises himself as a servant in order to be near the Egyptian princess Raggidora, whom he loves and attempts to aid when she is unjustly accused of assassinating her uncle the king of Egypt. Circetta, the enchantress daughter of Circe and Ulysses, falls in love with the knight Silano, who happens upon the island where she lives. The magical island provides the setting for the lengthy history of Venice and celebration of Venetian poets that forms most of Cantos 12 and 13, but all of these remaining stories, like the story of Floridoro, remain unfinished with no indication of how they will end. Only the story of Risamante contains any kind of closure.

Fonte's text demonstrates a keen understanding of the conventions of the Renaissance chivalric romance, and the textual notes do an excellent job of noting where she borrowed or adapted these conventions from the earlier works of Boiardo and Ariosto. Fonte's originality appears primarily in her characters. The female knight Risamante's goal is the reclaiming of her inheritance and kingdom; unlike the female knights of male-authored chivalric romances, she has no love interest nor does she marry, although the prophesy regarding her daughter Salarisa as the ancestor of the Medici suggests that Fonte planned to have her wed later in the narrative.

Other characters, perhaps more traditional in behavior, are not the stock characters of chivalric romance either. Circetta is an enchantress, but unlike other enchantresses that appear in Renaissance chivalric romance, she is not a seductress, as Fonte emphasizes repeatedly. In fact, Fonte suggests that Circetta will be seduced by the knight Silano later in the text, although this does not appear in the published cantos. In romances of chivalry, women and property are often presented as prizes to the victorious knight, but neither the princess Celsidea nor Risamante's sister Biondaura offers herself or her kingdom as a prize to her champion. Although Odoria is clearly not a knight, she continues to cross-dress as one, even while escorted by Risardo. Male characters also vary from the established expectations of chivalric romance. Fonte's virtuous males, such as Floridoro and Nicobaldo, are characterized by their faithfulness and chastity, attributes usually celebrated in women, not men. Floridoro is presented in distinctly feminine terms, and the description of his extraordinary beauty is far more detailed and extensive than any physical description of a woman in the text. The femininity of his appearance is emphasized in 5.46: "Love laughed in his tranquil brow; / rather he appeared Love's very image. / His splendid white and vermilion complexion/made everyone eager to contemplate him./ Every part of him, except his speech,/appeared that of an illustrious and beautiful girl." As the textual notes observe, Floridoro also dresses in white, the color of women warriors in Renaissance chivalric epics (72 n. 24). The motif of mirrors runs as a unifying device throughout the narrative, emphasizing that the characters are not what they originally may seem to be. As Floridoro mirrors a woman in his physical appearance, so do Risamante and Odoria mirror men in their dress and demeanor. Although opposites in personality, Risamante and Biondaura are described physically as mirror images of each other, emphasized by the confusion that ensues when Risamante, after removing her helmet, is mistaken for Biondaura in Cantos 2 and 13.

For those who would like to compare the English translation to the Italian original, the edition includes an appendix that contains the complete Cantos 1 and 2, and parts of Cantos 4, 8, 11, and 13 in Italian. Since Fonte's narrative style, as is typical of the romance of chivalry, intricately ties together a number of plot lines filled with numerous secondary characters, an appendix containing a list of characters also would have been a useful addition, especially for students not familiar with the chivalric romance genre. In every other way, Floridoro: A Chivalric Romance is a fine addition to the Other Voices in Early Modern Europe series. It is accessible enough to use in the classroom, and scholarly enough to include in any research library.