The first original chivalric poem written by an Italian woman, Floridoro imbues a strong feminist ethos into a hypermasculine genre. Dotted with the usual characteristics—dark forests, illusory palaces, enchanted islands, seductive sorceresses—Floridoro is the story of the two greatest knights of a bygone age: the handsome Floridoro, who risks everything for love, and the beautiful Risamante, who helps women in distress while on a quest for her inheritance. Throughout, Moderata Fonte (1555–92) vehemently defends women’s capacity to rival male prowess in traditionally male-dominated spheres. And her open criticism of women’s lack of education is echoed in the plights of various female characters who must depend on unreliable men.
First published in 1581, Floridoro remains a vivacious and inventive narrative by a singular poet.