Cantos VIII (First Mention), XXIV (Zerbino v. Mandricardo), XXIX (Orlando v. Rodomonte), XXXI (Brandimart v. Rodomonte), XXXV (Bradamante v. Rodomonte), XXXIX (Restoration of Orlando), XLI Lampedusa Prep), XLIII (Brandimart’s Funeral)
Beatrice? Zeus? Divine Wisdom? Blessed Virgin Mary? Iris, the divine messenger in Iliad and Aeneid, seems the most solid bet for reasons too numerous to list here. Maybe post on it some day.
Spooky Deus Ex Machina Flits Throughout Poem Directing Traffic Until Her Lover Is Killed
A month after Brandimart leaves Paris to find Orlando, Flordelis sets forth without any guide to find him. [OOH continuity fail! in XXIV he says she waited 6 or 8 months!] She misses the siege of Paris and re-enters the action by finding Zerbino and Isabel collecting the scattered arms of the now furioso Orlando. Brandimart has been penned up in Atlantes’s Villa most of this time, and has now returned to Paris ignorant that Flordelis wanders the continent for him.
She departs the Zerbino-Mandricardo duel before its conclusion hoping to find Brandimart to tell him about the arms of Orlando. After far wanderings she comes upon the river near Acquamorta where Rodomonte has set up his bridge and monument to now-dead Isabel. There she observes the wrestling match between the two furiosi but again departs before the battle is over to find Brandimart.
Just a few days later, on the bank of the Seine near Paris, Rinaldo and a cadre of knights cross paths with her. Here she informs them of the fate of Orlando and his arms. When Charlemagne and Rinaldo combine their forces to break the renewed siege of Paris, she is re-united with Brandimart and informs him of Orlando’s fate.
Together they abandon the battle and head to Acquamorta to find Orlando. When Brandimart is knocked into the river by Rodomonte, she successfully pleads with the Sarzan to spare his life. She then journeys to find heroes capable of defeating Rodomonte and freeing her captive Brandimart. As the war relocates to the south of France and all heroes assemble there, Flordelis meets up with Bradamante. After Bradamante defeats Rodomonte at the bridge joust, Flordelis journeys to Arles and on to Africa to retrieve Brandimart from the Algiers slave pits.
She next appears when Astolpho, having already liberated Rodomonte’s captives, leads his Nubian forces against the Moors in Africa. In the aftermath of the battle she is re-united with Brandimart and then gets to deliver one of the great lines of the poem: “Behold, the count!” as all the heroes pile onto the furioso Orlando and successfully restore his wits.
Full of fear, she prepares Brandimart’s armor and coat for the final contest to determine the fate of Europe. She dreams of weeping tears of blood over the sable surcoat of her dead husband (that’s Zeus weeping over Sarpedon). When Brandimart indeed returns in state, she goes berserk with grief and makes herself an anchorite in his tomb to live out her few remaining days.
Judgment: She’s an odd one. She shows up so infrequently that even Ariosto forgets her story–in Canto VIII he says she waits in Paris a month before setting out after Brandimart but revises this to 6-8 months in Canto XXIV (probably because the idea of a guideless lady surviving war-torn Europe for 5-7 months is just too ridiculous even for Ariosto). She enters and exits scenes without explanation and has an inexplicable omniscience about events. She feels a bit unfinished–like an intended supernatural guide who needed another pass of the editor’s pen.