The topos of magic has fascinated people from antiquity to the present day. This study uses a thematic and structural approach to examine the various functions performed by magic in two important Renaissance epics, Boiardo’s
Orlando innamorato and Ariosto’s
Orlando furioso. It breaks new ground by exploring the association of magic with the chaotic and irrational, as contrasted more or less strongly with order and reason. It also examines the poets’ use of magic as a vehicle in the Renaissance dialectic between fortune and self-determination.