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The Orlando Legend in Nineteenth-Century French Literature

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Dana A. Kress

The opening years of the nineteenth century in France, marked by the constant turmoil that accompanied the rise of Napoleon, saw an increased interest in Ariosto's Orlando furioso. An eager but insecure public delighted in a work that gave tribute to France's greatest and earliest heroes as they saved her from her external enemies. A second, unintended way to interpret the poem paralleled the rise of Napoleon. The work provided an automatic, if historically inaccurate, mythology that effectively legitimized the first Empire. The fall of the Empire, coupled with the rediscovery of the Chanson de Roland in 1837, contributed to the gradual eclipse of Ariosto in French art and letters.