Cantos: II (recounted by Pinabel), III (d’Este prophecy), IV (Atlantes tower), VII (Alcina’s Isle), VIII (Escape), X (Orc and Angelica), XI (Rape of Angelica), XII (Magical Villa), XIII (Prophecy and Failed Rescue), XXII (Pinabel’s Tower), XXV (Richardetto and Agrismonte), XXVI (Marphisa, Rescue, Magic Fountain, Rodomonte and Mandricardo), XXVII (Agramant’s Tournament), XXX (Kills Mandricardo), XXXV (Challenged by Bradamante), XXXVI (Marphisa-Bradamante love battle), XXXVII (Marganor’s Tower), XXXVIII (Fights Rinaldo), XL (Dudon in Marseilles), XLI (Shipwreck), XLIII (Rescued by Orlando), XLIV (Travels East), XLV (Defeats Bradamante), XLVI (Marriage Feast)
True Love of Bradamante, founder of House d’Este, son of Rogero and Galaciella, twin brother of Marphisa, ward of Atlantes, later King of Bulgaria
Coat of Arms: Argent Eagle on Azure Field (Hector’s Ensign); White Unicorn on Crimson Field (Incognito in the East); Imperial Eagle on Crimson (Leo’s arms). Wields the magical sword Balisarda and rides the horse Frontino
Classical Type: Hector, Odysseus, Aeneas
TLDR: Meta-Main Character Does It All, Gets It All, and as Final Reward Delays Death Until the Epilogue
This will be long.
By the time Rogero shows up in the action of the poem, he’s already been introduced three times (!): by the narrator in the opening lines, by Brunello in his account of the battle before the tower of Atlantes, and by Melissa in her prophecy of the d’Este line. His first action-appearance is inauspicious: when Bradamante disarms the magical tower of Atlantes, Rogero is promptly carried off to Alcina’s isle by the hippogryph.
On Alcina’s magical isle he fails to heed the warning of tree-Astolpho and falls under the Circean spell of the old witch. Eventually brought to his senses by Melissa’s intervention, he cuts his way to the realm of Logistilla and freedom. Melissa arms him with the magical shield of Atlantes (a gorgoneion) and tames the hippogryph before sending him back to Europe.
With his fantastical arms Rogero easily defeats the Orc and rescues Angelica. Overcome by her beauty, he attempts to rape her and fails only because she uses the magical ring to turn invisible and escape. Back to his senses again, Rogero immediately falls victim to another trap of Atlantes: this time the magical villa of heart’s desire, which tricks him into believing Bradamante is a captive there in need of rescue.
With a healthy dose of romantic irony, Bradamante is also trapped in the villa, trying to rescue Rogero, but the magic of the place prevents them from recognizing each other. When Astolpho undoes the magic of the place the lovers are briefly reunited.
They come upon Pinabel’s tower, where they are forced to battle for the right to pass. While Bradamante runs off to kill Pinabel, Rogero fights Guido, Gryphon, Aquilant, and Sansonetto all at the same time. In the course of the battle the cover of the gorgoneion is pulled back accidentally, and Rogero’s enemies are instantly overcome. Disgusted with this low tactic, however inadvertent, Rogero throws the shield of Atlantes down a well.
Leaving the well, Rogero encounters a page of Agramant who summons him back to the war against Charlemagne. When he first discharges his duty to escort Pinabel’s lover to safety, he finds that Richardetto, Bradamante’s twin brother, is held captive by Marsilius. Rogero carves his way through the Maganzese soldiers and rescues Richardetto easily.
The two travel to Agrismonte and learn that Richardetto’s cousins, Vivian and Malagigi, are also captive to the vile Maganzese. Rogero pens a letter to Bradamante in which he pours out his heart and declares his intention to seek baptism and her hand in marriage. Then he leaves with Richardetto to save the cousins.
Before the two can carve through more Maganese, they meet up with the mystery-knight Marphisa, Rogero’s long-lost twin sister (unbeknowst to either). The three knights easily rout the treacherous Maganzese, with Rogero and Marphisa mutually impressed with each other.
With Vivian and Malagigi added to their number, the knights come upon a fountain of prophecy and hold a courtly feast. Their repose is interrupted by the arrival of Rodomonte and Mandricardo, and a four-way conflict breaks out between them and Rogero and Marphisa: Rodomonte is riding Rogero’s horse and Mandricardo disputes his right to the crest of Hector.
The four bicker and battle each other to Agramant’s camp. After Rogero helps drive back Charlemagne’s forces he participates in the tournament of grievances to settle the disputes between the four. He is dismayed to see Rodomonte quit the camp with Frontino, but decides to settle his score with Mandricardo before pursuing his horse.
In an epic duel, Rogero manages to kill Mandricardo but is gravely wounded. A strong bond of affection grows between Marphisa and Rogero while he recovers, leading to many rumors that the two will soon wed. He has cold water splashed in his face when Bradamante arrives at the camp, furious at being betrayed, and demanding a duel against him.
Rogero reluctantly takes the field against his true love and, just before the moment of impact, lifts his lance and refuses to strike. Bradamante likewise relents, and the two ride off to a vale to work out their feelings. Marphisa gives chase and a tangled love triangle battle breaks out between the three.
The conflict is interrupted by the shade of Atlantes, who appears to reveal the secret kinship between Rogero and Marphisa and the tale of their abandonment. Rogero declares that he will pursue the path of conversion that will lead to his death, but first he must discharge his duty to Agramant–he cannot abandon his lord until the European campaign is over. Marphisa, owing no such debt, intends to travel with Bradamante to Charlemagne’s court and seek baptism immediately.
Before the three can part ways, however, they hear the cries of the abused women of Marganor. Hastening to the source, they meet Ulania and her servants whom Marganor stripped naked and humiliated for the crime of being women. Outraged at this tyrant, Rogero joins with Marphisa and Bradamante in riding to his tower and obliterating him and his forces. Once a new era of justice is enforced in that land, Rogero at last parts ways with his true love to finish his duty for Agramant.
Unfortunately that duty requires him to face Rinaldo in single combat to decide the fate of Europe. Both armies, exhausted by the war, select their champion and send him forth to do battle on the field outside of Arles. Rogero, not wanting to kill Bradamante’s brother, handicaps himself and refuses to fight at full strength. Agramant, fearing that he is about to lose, is tricked into breaking the truce of the duel and a general melee breaks out between the two sides.
After the battle Rogero seeks out Agramant in order to escort him, beaten, back to Africa. Learning that Agramant has already departed and burned the remaining ships in Arles, Rogero heads for Marseilles in the hope of finding a ship. Along the way he finds seven kings of Agramant’s service under siege by the invading army of Nubians brought by Astolpho. Rogero fights a duel against Dudon for the fate of the seven.
Rogero wins the duel and departs for Africa with the seven kings. On the way a God-sent storm shipwrecks him on the island of a holy hermit. This hermit chastises him for delaying baptism so long, teaches him the Christian catechism, baptizes him, and gives him the full prophecy of his future.
Orlando arrives with wounded Olivier and Sobrino, as well as the corpse of Brandimart, after the battle on Lampedusa. Rogero joins them in returning to Europe, where he is received into Charlemagne’s court with full celebratory honor.
Just before Rogero can live happily ever after with Bradamante, Duke Aymon snatches defeat from the jaws of victory: he has already promised Bradamante to Leo, Constantine’s son, emperor of the east. Rogero departs for the orient to prove his suit for Bradamante by overthrowing and killing Leo.
Things begin well when he single-handedly breaks Leo’s siege of a Bulgarian town and, unbeknowst to him at the time, Rogero is proclaimed king of the Bulgars. Unfortunately he lodges in a Greek town afterward and they imprison him when a survivor from the Bulgarian town recognizes him. Leo, impressed with his incredible skill in battle, saves him from a death sentence, makes him his champion, and brings him back west to battle for Bradamante’s hand.
Disguised Rogero, heavy of heart but honor-bound, faces Bradamante for Leo’s right to marry her. Bradamante is unable to defeat him and Rogero departs to waste away–starve himself to death–in the forest. Fortunately Melissa has one last intervention for the d’Este family: she brings Leo to Rogero and the two new-found friends talk it out. When Leo realizes the twisted tale–and that he would have to face Rogero in battle without a disguised champion!–he forsakes his claim on Bradamante and insists the two be married.
The final scene of the poem finds Rogero and Bradamante wed in holy matrimony and feasting with all the peers of Charlemagne’s court. But we could not end on such a note, not if we are to imitate Vergil! The terrific Rodomonte shows up breathing scorn and contempt one last time. He challenges Rogero to a duel to the death, upon which all the mighty peers insist they stand as Rogero’s champion. The founder of the d’Este line tells Charlemagne to hold his beer and then sends Rodomonte screaming, Turnus-like, to hell.
I never liked that Rogero stole the show from Orlando, about whom I am far more interested. He’s a bit redundant, being a Rinaldo-clone, and he features in the worst story-telling mistake in the poem (the weirdly-compressed Leo arc, introduced far too late and resolved far too briefly). And of course, he kills my favorite character, Rodomonte.
On re-reads he grows on me, however, and he certainly features in a lot of the coolest events in the poem. He plays out the modified Achilles-prophecy well and highlights all of Ariosto’s most important themes. He gets a huge amount of coverage, which in turn means his story (with Bradamante) is best-developed, which is why adaptations of the poem tend to focus on them. The poem isn’t really about Orlando; it’s about the d’Este family.
Alright, alright. I forgive him. He’s awesome.