Born: September 8, 1474, in Reggio, Emilia, Duchy of Modena
Died: July 6, 1533, in Ferrara, Italy
Ludovico Ariosto was an Italian whose only ambitions were to write and tend to his garden. Ariosto lived during the period when the Renaissance had reached its fulfillment in the sixteenth century. He helped establish the Italian language, long eclipsed by Greek and Latin, as a medium of serious literary expression. A major influence on his writings was Pietro Bembo, a contemporary poet and scholar.
Ariosto's father was Count Niccolò, who was commander at Reggio Emilia before moving the family back to Ferrara when Ariosto was ten. From 1489 to 1494, Ariosto was forced to study law, but switched to literature in 1499. Ariosto always considered Ferrara his home.
After his father's death in 1500, Ariosto supported the family. In 1502, he became commander of the citadel Canossa. In 1503, he entered the service of Cardinal Ippolito d'Este. In 1509, Ariosto followed the Cardinal in a campaign against Venice with hopes of joining the court of Pope Leo X, which would allow him time to pursue his dream of writing.
Because his dream of joining the court didn't come to pass, he quit the service. By this time, he had written some poetry. He joined with the Cardinal's brother, accepting a position at Garfagnana, where he maintained peace in a wild area of country. From 1517 to 1525, he wrote seven satires that would influence European comedy.
He was a man with simple tastes forced to be a courtier. When he retired, he secretly married his mistress to avoid ecclesiastical benefices to which he was entitled. The sign above the door to Ariosto House said: He knew the house was small, but he bought it with his own money. The remainder of his life was spent tending his garden with Alessandra Benucci, his disabled brother Gabriele, and his son Virginio.
His work Orlando Furioso (Mad Orlando or Roland) is regarded as a perfect expression of the artistic tendencies and spiritual attitudes of the Italian Renaissance. This epic, which deals with the struggle of Charlemagne and his knights against the Saracens, weaves together heroism, villainy, pathos, sensuality, humor and irony. This work was written to complement Orlando Innamorator, by Biordo.