Reader's Encyclopedia

Gerusalemme liberata (Jerusalem Delivered)

The celebrated romantic epic by Torquato Tasso. Written during the Italian Renaissance, sometime between 1559 and 1575, it was published in a definitive version of twenty cantos in 1581. The whole work had been translated into English by 1600, the accomplishment of Edward Fairfax. Unlike other Renaissance romances, it was based on the historic events of the First Crusade (1096 - 99) and it utilized several historical characters. The plot begins with a fictional war in its sixth year and the election of Goffredo (Godfrey) as the chief of the Christian armies encamped on the plains of Tortosa. As they prepare to attack Jerusalem, its king, Aladino, learns from the enchanter Ismeno that the city will not fall if a statue of the Virgin is removed from a Christian church and placed in a mosque. Finding the statue stolen, Aladino plans revenge on the Christian community of the city, but a young Christian maiden, Sofronia, offers to take the blame, as does her beloved, Olindo, who hopes thereby to save her. Aladino promptly orders both put to death, and they are saved only by the timely appearance of the warrior maiden Clorinda, who offers her sword in return for their lives. Now the pagan warrior Argante (Argantes), having failed to dissuade Goffredo from the attack, declares war upon the Crusaders. When the Christians attack the holy city, Argante kills their champion Dudone, and the Christians withdraw to do him honors. Heeding the infernal decree of Plutone (Pluto), the enchanter Idraote sends his beautiful niece Armida to confound the Christian camp. She tells Goffredo of her need for ten knights to retake the city of Damascus; he is unwilling, but many more than ten Crusaders follow her away, among them the most puissant in the Christian army. Rinaldo also departs in anger because Goffredo has denounced him for the murder of Gernando, his rival for the command vacated because of the death of Dudone. Argante now challenges the Christian knights and kills Ottone, but his ferocious duel with Tancredi ( Tancred ) is interrupted when Erminia, who loves the latter, lures him away by disguising herself as his beloved Clorinda. Goffredo's depleted forces now face the challenge of Solimano (the Soldan, or Solyman), leader of the Arabs, but the archangel Gabriel intervenes to save them. Solimano soon joins forces with Aladino. In the renewed assault by the Crusaders, Tancredi unknowingly wounds Clorinda, who forgives him and is baptized before dying. Goffredo, learning from a vision that only Rinaldo can break the enchantments of Ismeno and free the armies to continue their assault upon the city, sends Guelfo and Ubaldo to bring him back. Dallying with Armida, Rinaldo is finally disenchanted and persuaded to return. With his return, the Crusaders are soon victorious. The unyielding Argante is killed by Tancredi, but the Egyptian forces, spurred by Armida, try to renew the battle. Rinaldo administers the final defeat to the infidels by killing Solimano and subduing Armida. With Aladino dead and the Egyptian king killed by Goffredo, the Crusaders can enter the great city at will. There, at dawn, led by Goffredo, they worship at the sepulcher of Jesus.