Return of the ERC: Magical Villa

That nerdiest of Abbey Boy adventures, the Epic Recitation Club, has made its triumphant return.  Well, more like under-the-radar, since we have somehow managed to get left off the official roster of clubs each year for a while now.  But the boys hold me hostage each Friday after school once again and our slow plod through the poem resumes.

The officers have taken it upon themselves to get us organized in a way that is both admirable and absurd.  Not wanting to haggle each week over “how far did we get last time?” they have created a Schoology page for the club, appointed administrators, and added members.  It took about 30 minutes of our meeting time a few weeks ago to set it up.

The only use of this web page, I stress, is to have an update box on the front page where they can write down which canto/stanza we stop at each week.  That’s right, the smartest boys in the Washington, D.C. area are using satellites and servers in place of a bookmark.

I hope that, in time, their project may grow to involve other technological applications justifying the Schoology page–much as I hope that some day they will take notes in class, study for quizzes, and write their names on their work.  Teaching boys is the best.

Now for the poem itself.

In Canto XII, all the knights are trapped in Atlantes’s second magical fortress, this time a villa in Libya.  The enchantment of this one is different than the Stygian fortress; instead of an unscalable aerie, the villa works like the Mirror of Erised in Harry Potter.  Each knight is trapped there by illusions of his heart’s desire: the helmet he lost, the horse he covets, his true love, etc.

But all of these knights additionally desire Angelica, as Ariosto has made abundantly clear through the poem.  And so what could make for more madcap fun than to have her show up and set the place off like a powder keg?  Wandering invisible since her near-rape by Rogero, she stumbles upon the prison and attempts to pluck Sacripant from the place to guide her back to Cathay.  She unintentionally reveals herself to Ferrau and Orlando at the same time, resulting in all three saddling up and pursuing her as she flees.

Angelica renders the men buffoons by her invisibility ring and then Ferrau starts insulting the other two knights.  This leads to a wonderful dialogue where Ferrau, not knowing he is talking to Orlando, boasts of having beaten Orlando many times and promising to divest him of his helmet the next time he sees him.

Ariosto has set things up very well, assuming you have the memory of Methusaleh to reach back to Canto I, and the ERC roared with approval both at the text of the poem and my somewhat crude, modernized version of the trash-talking.  Obviously a fight follows and the scene from Canto I where Angelica escapes is repeated (as I believe I mentioned many moons ago…ah yes, here).

We made a number of new comments on the narrative use of the villa, which I shall endeavor to set down in a separate blog post.  And Ferrau will have to be next on my cast of characters–someone from Germany is lighting up my blog every day to read my notes on the cast.  Happy to help with your literature project, my anonymous friend, just don’t skip out on reading the poem yourself!

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