Orlando Furioso Cast of Characters: Gryphon

Cantos XV (Orrilo), XVI (Orrigila), XVII (Tournament), XVIII (Gryphon at the Bridge!), XIX (Laiazzo), XX (Captured), XXII (Pinabel’s Castle), XXXI (Relief of Paris), mentioned by name at the baptism of Marphisa XXXVIII

Brother of Aquilant, son of Oliviero (Marquis of Burgundy) and Sigismonda, lover of Origilla

Coat of Arms:

Simple White


Naively Noble Superknight Finally Snaps, Fades to Background


Gryphon, along with his brother Aquilant, first appears in Canto XV fighting the quicksilver knight Orrilo in Egypt.  After Astolpho kills Orrilo, Gryphon and Aquilant agree to return with him to Europe to fight in the war against Agramant.  They travel to Jerusalem where they are hosted by Sansonetto of Mecca.  Gryphon here learns that his fickle love, Origilla, has left Constantinople and is in Antioch with another man.

Sick at heart, he leaves Astolpho and Aquilant and travels toward Antioch to find Origilla.  At Damascus he stumbles upon her in the company of her lover, Martano.  Fearing that Gryphon will kill them, the wicked pair manage to convince him that Martano is her brother and she has come seeking Gryphon.  Blinded by love and incapable of similar guile, Gryphon swallows the tale and travels about in their company, grateful for Martano’s “noble” help.

In Damascus they compete in a tournament held by King Norandino in celebration of the safe recovery of his betrothed Lucina.  After Martano cravenly dishonors himself by fleeing from a fight, Gryphon takes the field and crushes everyone: an anonymous baron of Laodicea, the brothers Corimbo and Thyrsis of Apamia, Salinterno the vizier, Hermophilo and Carmondo of Damascus, and finally the lord of Seleucia who had defeated Martano.

Gryphon is so angry about the dishonor of Martano and weary from fighting so many knights that he returns to his quarters before the feast.  Martano switches arms with him while he sleeps and takes credit for his great victory.  When Gryphon shows up in Martano’s arms to avenge the treachery, King Norandino and all the others assume he is Martano and throw him in chains for besmirching the honor of the tournament champion.  The people of Damascus parade him in a prison cart, mocking him and abusing him for being a liar and a coward.

When they remove the chains from the confused and horrified knight, he immediately grabs a sword and shield and proceeds to kill everyone in reach.  Thinking that the people of Damascus must be very wicked indeed to abuse a valiant man, he unleashes bloody vengeance on the entire city.  Norandino’s knights rush to stop him and he makes a heroic stand on a bridge leading to the city’s temple.  As he creates giant mounds of corpses and wounded all around him, Norandino realizes they have made a terrible mistake and calls for a halt to the fighting.  He prostrates all of Damascus before Gryphon in apology and puts his surgeons to work on his wounds for several days.

While Gryphon is still recovering his brother brings Orrigila and Martano back to Damascus in chains.  Gryphon requests mercy for them, so that Martano is merely scourged to within an inch of his life and Orrigila is imprisoned in a tower until Queen Lucina can return to decide her fate.

King Norandino calls a new tournament in honor of Gryphon, a formality by which he will win a set of beautiful captured arms.  When Astolpho and Marphisa show up to reclaim her arms, a chaotic melee breaks out.  Gryphon and his brother are both unhorsed by Astolpho’s magical lance but then Gryphon successfully parlays with Astolpho and Marphisa to end the conflict amicably.  Gryphon returns Marphisa’s arms and, after a tenday rest, departs for Europe with Aquilant, Marphisa, and Astolpho.

They take a boat to Cyprus and beyond but a storm drives them for four days.  St. Elmo sends his fire, prayer abates the storm, and the ship drifts to a forsaken shore of the Anatolian coast: the bay of Laiazzo.  The amazonian kingdom requires men to win 10 fights in sequence or be put to death; a winner, by contrast, becomes a stud for the propagation of the kingdom.  Gryphon is a silent observer to Marphisa’s deeds in this place until, with Guido’s help and Astolpho’s magical horn, they all escape.  A boat takes them across the Mediterranean until they reach Marseilles.

After Marphisa heads off on her own, Gryphon and the others (Aquilant, Guido, Sansonetto) stay at a castle that turns out to belong to Pinabel, the treacherous Maganzese.  The four are captured in their sleep and compelled by oath to be champions of the castle for the villain.  While fighting Rogero, who had come with Bradamante to challenge the villainous tower, Gryphon accidentally expose the gorgoneion and all are left paralyzed on the ground.

When they awake Gryphon and Aquilant head for Paris and join the relief of the second siege.  There they are reunited with Guido and, with Rinaldo, hear the plea of Flordelis for heroes to save Orlando from his furioso state.  Under Rinaldo’s lead Gryphon and others make a stealthy and devastating attack on Agramant’s army that sparks the Muslim retreat to the south of France.

He slips into anonymity for the rest of the poem and shows up by name at the baptism of Marphisa in Charlemagne’s camp.

Judgment: He has some of the same buffoonery as Zerbino, easily duped by a wicked woman.  Has the best (funniest and most evocative) scene in the poem, hands down.  After Laiazzo/Amazonia he fades more and more from the action until he becomes just another soldier in the battle that is the setting for the poem.  A strange end to a protagonist with such fantastic deeds.

7 thoughts on “Orlando Furioso Cast of Characters: Gryphon

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