The Female Knight in Renaissance Romance Epic: The Grace of the Tigress

Addison, Catherine
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Southern African Society for Medieval and Renaissance Studies
The female knights in the romance epics of Boiardo, Ariosto, Tasso and Spenser do not realistically reflect the lives and pursuits of women of their period, and yet they have been and remain attractive, popular literary figures. The gender roles of these female knights are complex, for they do not simply mirror the behaviour of the male knights of their texts. Instead, they project a type of womanhood that is possible rather than either realistic or fantastic. These Renaissance women warriors trace their literary genealogy to Greek and Latin forebears such as Virgil’s Camilla and Quintus’ Penthesilea and yet only a minority of the later figures suffer the tragic fate of Amazons in classical epic. This paper anatomizes the characters and narrative trajectories of Bradamante and Marfisa as they appear in both Orlando innamorato and Orlando furioso, Clorinda and Gildippe in Gerusalemme liberata and Britomart and Radigund in The Faerie Queene. It also pays attention to other warlike women characters in these texts, such as Armida, Belphoebe, and the communities of Amazon-like women that feature in both Spenser and Ariosto. The two main questions guiding the exploration of these figures ask why the female knights are so attractive and what precise gender roles they perform in their texts and contexts.
Ariosto , Boiardo , Tasso , Britomart
Catherine Addison, 'The Female Knight in Renaissance Romance Epic: The Grace of the Tigress', Southern African Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 29 (2019): 73-97