Orlando Furioso Cast of Characters: Gradasso

Cantos II (Atlantes Tower), IV (Rescued), XII (Magical Villa), XXII (Released), XXVII (Tournament of Grievances), XXX (Durindana), XXXI (Rinaldo), XXXIII (Duel), XL (Lampedusa Plan), XLI (Trial on Lampedusa), LXII (Slain)

King of Sericane

Magical horse Alfana

Classical Type: ?

Coat of Arms: ?

TL;DR: Chief Villain of Previous Poem Held in Stasis Until the Final Battle

Summary

Gradasso’s first scene in the poem is told by Pinabel, who recounts to Bradamante the king’s failed assault on Atlantes’ Tower with Rogero.  The two are completely overcome by the sorcerer’s combination of spells and hippogryph and are taken captive in the fortress of stygian steel.

Gradasso, along with all the other captives, is later set free by Bradamante when she defeats Atlantes and breaks the magic of the fortress.  The king of Sericane attempts to capture the hippogryph but Rogero beats him to it before being carried off to Alcina’s isle.

He makes his next appearance as a captive in the magical villa of Atlantes along with most of the other knights of the story.  He remains there chasing illusions of his true love until Astolpho scatters the knights with his horn of dread and destroys the enchantment of the villa.

Gradasso and Sacripant return to Agramant’s service and help save the army from certain defeat after the first failed siege of Paris.  When the feuding knights–Rogero, Marphisa, Rodomonte, and Mandricardo–return, together they all drive Charlemagne’s army back into Paris and begin a new siege.

Gradasso serves as Mandricardo’s second at the tournament of grievances hosted by Agramant.  When he equips the king of Tartary for his battle against Rodomonte, Gradasso realizes that he has acquired the fabled sword Durindana.  Gradasso immediately challenges his right to the brand and a fight breaks out between the two.

After the two are separated, Gradasso reluctantly agrees to lend the sword to Mandricardo for a day on condition that the two fight for the right to it after the other grievances are settled.  When Rogero draws the winning lot to face Mandricardo next, Gradasso teaches him all he can to ensure that Mandricardo die and forfeit the blade.  Rogero manages to slay the king of Tartary and Gradasso at last acquires Durindana.

Rinaldo leads the counter-attack that drives Agramant’s army back to Arles and Gradasso realizes he has a second chance to acquire the wondrous horse Bayardo.  He carves his way through the war camps, finds Rinaldo, and challenges him to a duel.  When an enormous bat-creature with a 3-yard beak chases off Bayardo, the knights agree to a truce until Bayardo is recovered.

Gradasso finds the horse hiding in a cave and decides to “bend” his promise to return to the duel, deciding in his heart that Rinaldo will have to seek him out in India to finish the duel later.  Instead of returning to help Agramant, the king of Sericane returns to Arles and sets sail for home.

A storm forces his ship to seek shelter on a deserted island where he is reunited with the fleeing Agramant.  Agramant reconciles with Gradasso and informs him of all the woes that have befallen his empire in recent days.  Gradasso hatches the plan of a 3 vs. 3 duel on Lampedusa to settle all disputes.

In the climactic battle, Gradasso excels as the finest of the three Muslim warriors.  He takes Orlando out of the fight temporarily with a stunning stroke to the head and deals Brandimart a mortal blow with Durindana.  This enrages Orlando, who attacks with such vengeful ferocity that Gradasso can only watch while Orlando runs him through.

Judgment

Gradasso is one of the most important characters in Innamorato but Ariosto traps him out of the action for almost all of Furioso.  Even though he ends up being in a fair number of cantos, he is mostly passive and does not “feel” like he plays much of a role until the end.

While not as out of control as Rodomonte, Gradasso displays quite a few vices: his primary motivation throughout both poems is greed, he breaks his oath to Rinaldo, and he displays opportunistic cowardice at Lampedusa.

Fun, but on the forgettable side in this poem.

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