In 1516 the Italian poet Ludovico Ariosto published the Orlando Furioso, one of the greatest literary achievements of all time. Through his epic poem, Ariosto weaves an intricate narrative, often comic, and sometimes tragic, epic of warriors, magical beasts, star-crossed lovers, weapons of mass destruction, religious conflict, political intrigue, and feverish struggles for power. Ariosto’s poem exerted dazzling influence over artists and authors of his time and subsequent generations, up to and including our own popular culture with popular entertainments such as the Star Wars franchise, the Harry Potter series, and HBO’s Game of Thrones. Together we will read selections from Ariosto’s great poem. We will also consider selections from other works of the Italian Renaissance such as Baldassare Castiglione’s The Courtier, Matteo Maria Boiardo’s Orlando innamorato, and Giorgio Vasari’s Lives of the Artists, to heighten our understanding of Ariosto’s world and increase our appreciation of his poem. We will put specific emphasis on the relationship between Ariosto and one of his Florentine contemporaries: Niccolo Machiavelli. We will read plays, short stories and Machiavelli’s political treatise The Prince alongside the Orlando Furioso to understand Machiavelli’s disillusionment with Ariosto, and to understand, perhaps, why Ariosto went to great lengths to distance himself and his characters from Machiavelli.We will have the special opportunity to experience ways that various media have absorbed Ariosto’s work through working with the celebrated Italian theatrical group the Teatro delle Albe, who will be visiting Penn and joining the class. We will also watch video of various stage productions, puppet-theater, film works, and visits from faculty to help celebrate the inventiveness of Ariosto’s work.All works will be read in translation, no previous knowledge of Italian is expected, just bring a desire to read one of the most imaginative, expansive, and humorous works of all time and participate in a rare opportunity to engage with a world-renowned acting group.