Orlando Furioso Cast of Characters: Sansonetto

Cantos XV (Jerusalem), XVIII (Damascus), XIX (Laiazzo), XX (Laiazzo Escape), XXII (Pinabel’s Castle), XXXI (Paris), XXXV (Rodomonte’s Bridge), XXXVIII (Marphisa’s Baptism), XXXIX (Orlando), XL (Biserta), XLI (Army), XLIII (Brandimart’s Funeral)

Defender of Jerusalem, Conqueror of Joppa

Coat of Arms: White Flowers on a Red Field

Classical Type: none (?)

TLDR: Famous Convert to the Faith Leaves Jerusalem to Help the Main Characters

Summary:

Sir Sansonetto of Mecca, famously converted to the Catholic faith by Orlando in previous literature, is now the defender of Jerusalem.  Gryphon, Aquilant, and Astolpho travel there on their way back to France and find him in the midst of preparing greater fortifications to keep the Holy City safe.  Astolpho gives Sansonet the giant and his magical net as gifts and receives the spurs of St. George in return.

Sansonetto travels with Astolpho to Damascus, meets Marphisa along the way, aids her in assault to regain her armor, and wins King Norandino’s reconciliation tournament.  Inspired by Charlemagne’s need, he leaves a steward in Jerusalem and joins the others to travel to France from Tripoli by boat.

After a wandering path across Mediterranean turns into a deadly storm, Sansonetto and company are stranded in amazonian Laiazzo.  There the company meets Guido, enslaved champion of the amazons, and works out a plot to escape together to Europe.  Sansonetto is nearly killed escaping, even losing his horse, before Astolpho sounds his horn of dread.  In the confusion, Sansonetto flees to the harbor with Gryphon, Aquilant, Marphisa, and Guido.  They set sail without Astolpho, who is forced to find his own way back to Europe. Another Mediterranean tour ends in Marseilles.

At Marseilles they split up–Marphisa on her own, Sansonetto traveling with Gryphon, Aquilant, and Guido.  They come upon a castle (count of Poitiers) where, while staying the night in supposed safety, they are captured and compelled by Pinabel to swear to perform a wicked service: they must serve as champions of the castle for a year and a month, defeat any knights who attempt to pass near, and strip them of their arms.  Worse, they must agree to strip bare any ladies traveling with the knights so that Pinabel’s dame may have the finest attire.  They must cast lots to see who sallies first, and if defeated then the others all come out as well…and they must fight to the death.

When Rogero and Bradamante arrive to put an end to this foul scheme, Sansonetto draws the lot and sallies to defeat Rogero.  Rogero unhorses him in a mighty joust, then accidentally paralyzes them all when the cover over the shield of Atlantes is torn open.

He finds his way back to the gates of Paris some time later, where he reunites with Gryphon, Aquilant, Guido, who all join Rinaldo in breaking the second siege of Paris and driving Agramant’s army to Arles.

During the search for Orlando, Sansonetto comes upon Rodomonte’s challenge bridge and is summarily defeated and sent off to Argier stripped of arms.  Ariosto forgets this in a fit of madness and has him present at Marphisa’s baptism at Charlemagne’s court, even though…

…he is with the cadre of Rodomonte’s captives that Astolpho frees before the attack on Biserta.  When Orlando wanders by furioso, Sansonet disarms him by cleaving the tree that he is using as a weapon before the many heroes all eventually tackle and subdue the count.  Sansonetto then commands the naval portion of the assault on Biserta, which ends in the destruction of Agramant’s capital city.

When Orlando, Olivier, and Brandimart head to Lampedusa for the final showdown, Sansonetto and Astolpho are left in charge of Charlemagne’s army.  They receive the victorious yet grieving Orlando and company, who then departs to hold the funeral ceremony for Brandimart.

With that, Sansonetto is gone.  He does not feature in the final wedding scene, having returned (presumably) to Jerusalem.

Judgment:

My favorite name of all the characters.  Heavily underutilized in this poem.  His only signature here is that he is a famous convert to the faith; his only great deeds are done when other knights allow it (the tournament in Damascus) or as one of many in a company (driving Agramant to Arles, destroying Biserta).  If you like this guy, you’ll have to read other poems!

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