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Comments, Opinions, and Brief Case Reports
January 14, 2002

Ludovico Ariosto's Angina

Arch Intern Med. 2002;162(1):95. doi:

Angina pectoris is still a topical issue. As is well known, the syndrome was first described and given its name by Heberden1 and was later identified as a condition of the coronary arteries by Jenner.2 What is less known is the straightforward, yet exhaustive description that the Italian poet Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533) made of it in his poem "Orlando Furioso" about 200 years before. It is true that a number of scholars had already reported a condition with symptoms that resembled those of the inflammation of the fauces—for which both the Roman term "angina" and previously the Greek term "synanche" were coined—but with entirely different clinical features and outcome. In particular, one of the more vivid descriptions was that of Aretaeus of Cappadocia (about 120-200 AD).3 However, we believe that the picture described by our poet from Reggio Emilia is worthy of note for its poignant accuracy. A paladin of the Christian King Charlemagne, Orlando had fallen for a young woman named Angelica, but eventually became an unwilling witness to the unfolding love affair between Angelica and his rival Medoro. The unequivocal manifestations of affection between the 2 lovers enraged Orlando (hence, the title of the poem, which translates as "Orlando Enraged") to the point of madness. His torment is so described by Ariosto:

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