Fortune or Fate: Ambiguity in Robert Greene's 'Orlando Furioso'

In a recent essay Norman Gelber recognizes a certain degree of ambiguity in Greene's Orlando Furioso, and suggests that this ambiguity is created by the dramatist's treatment of women. Yet Greene's dramatic handling of women in this play based on Ariosto's heroic romance appears to be only superficially ambiguous. While Gelber points out that there are three anti-feminine speeches in the romance, he admits (p. 266) that they only provide a 'topical framework and moral foil for the heroine'. The anti-feminine comments 'are negated by the exemplary conduct of the heroine' (p. 264). While Greene is concerned with women in the play, it is hard to agree that the 'major theme concerns the moral quality of the heroine Angelica' (p. 264). There really is no problem with an Angelica whose main qualities are 'fidelity, patient sufferance, and forgiveness' (p. 266). This hardly seems to represent a serious division in Greene's dramatic presentation. However, there is another kind of thematic ambiguity that Gelber does not note, and which is not so readily resolved. In fact, Greene may not be able to resolve it at all.