Florante at Laura
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Florante at Laura (full title: Pinagdaanang Buhay nina Florante at Laura sa Kahariang Albanya: Kinuha sa madlang "cuadro histórico" o pinturang nagsasabi sa mga nangyayari nang unang panahon sa Imperyo ng Gresya, at tinula ng isang matuwain sa bersong Tagalog; English: "The History of Florante and Laura in the Kingdom of Albania: Adapted from some "historical pictures" or paintings that tell of what happened in early times in the Greek Empire, and were set to rhyme by one delighting in Tagalog verse") by Francisco Baltazar (more famously known as Francisco Balagtas) is considered as one of the masterpieces of Philippine literature.
Balagtas wrote the epic (classified as such despite its main characters' not possessing any extraordinary powers) during his imprisonment. He dedicated to his sweetheart María Asuncion Rivera, whom he nicknamed "M. A. R." and is referenced to as "Selya" in the dedication "Kay Selya" ("For Celia"). Rivera was later married to Balagtas' rival, Mariano Capule, who later leveled false charges against him.
Florante at Laura is written as an awit; the word in its present usage means "song" but is a poetic form with the following characteristics:
- four lines per stanza;
- twelve syllables per line;
- an assonantal rhyme scheme of AAAA (in the Filipino manner of rhyming described by José Rizal in Tagalische Verskunst);
- a slight pause (caesura) on the sixth syllable;
- each stanza is usually a complete, grammatically correct sentence;
- each stanza has figures of speech (according to Fernando Monleón, Balagtas used 28 types in 395 instances throughout the poem);
- the author remained anonymous (according to contemporary tradition);
- the author offered the poem to María Asuncion Rivera (a tradition which Balagtas built upon in Kay Celia); and
- the author asked for the reader's pardon (which Balagtas does very confidently in Sa Babasa Nito, "To Him That Reads This").
The story is about the love and determination of the Duke Florante and the Princess Laura of Albania while being pursued by the usurper Count Adolfo.
In the Albanian forest
The story begins deep within a dark, gloomy forest. Florante, a duke of the Kingdom of Albania is tied to a tree, lamenting the death of his father, Duke Briseo. He is driven mad by the thought that his beloved, Princess Laura, has fallen into the arms of his enemy, Count Adolfo, son of Count Sileno. Nearby, two starving lions keep watch and try to attack Florante. He is saved, just in time, by Aladin, a Persian prince who happens to be at the forest at the same time. Weak and bewildered, Florante faints.
The merciful soldier nurses Florante to health. Upon recovery, Florante is initially taken back by Aladin who he considers as an enemy due to his Islamic faith. After a few explanations are made, Florante is grateful and begins to tell his story.
The son of a princess and a royal adviser, Florante grew up in happiness, showered with love. He liked to play games when he was six, and was almost captured by a vulture that entered in their mountain cottage, which was also followed by the attack of a falcon. He was saved by his cousin Menalipo, an archer from Epirus.
When he turned eleven, his parents, Duke Briseo and Princess Floresca, sent him to Athens, Greece to study under Antenor, a renowned teacher. There, he met Adolfo, a fellow countryman, the brightest student in their school. After six years of study, Florante surpassed Adolfo's capabilities, talents and intelligence, gaining popularity.
While acting during a school play, Adolfo attempted to kill Florante. Fortunately, Florante’s friend, Menandro, was quick enough to intervene. Adolfo headed home to Albania after his failed attempt. One year later, Florante received a letter from his father, announcing the death of his mother.
Though filled with grief, Florante waited two months before he returned home. Menandro, unwilling to be separated from him, accompanied him on his journey. Upon his arrival to Albania, an emissary of the kingdom of Crotone requested his assistance in the incoming war against the Persians. Florante had not the will to refuse, for the King of Crotone was his grandfather. During his stay in Albania, Florante was invited to the royal palace and was enamoured of Laura, the daughter of King Linceo.
Coming to the aid of Crotone, Florante fought with the Persian general Osmalik for five hours, finally slaying him in the end. He stayed in Crotone for five months before returning to Albania to see Laura. He was surprised by the sight of a Persian flag waving atop the kingdom. He recaptured the palace and saved his father, the King, and Count Adolfo. He also saved Laura from being beheaded from the hands of an Emir and was declared “Defender of Albania” for his bravery, deepening Adolfo’s envy and hatred.
Florante protected the kingdom once more from the Turkish forces under general Miramolin, an acclaimed conqueror. This took place in Aetolia, where he later received a letter from his father summoning him back to Albania. He left his troops in the care of his friend, Menandro, and upon returning, he was ambushed by 30,000 soldiers under Adolfo’s orders and was imprisoned for 18 days. There, he learned of the tragic fate of his father and the king who were beheaded under Adolfo. Florante was then exiled into the forest and tied to the tree.
Reunion and Peace
Aladin’s speech is interrupted when they hear voices. A woman narrates her escape from a kingdom and a marriage. She speaks of her search for her beloved, a search which lasted six years. She shares that while deep in the forest, she heard cries for help, and upon finding a lady about to be raped, she uses her bow and arrow to kill the assailant. The woman introduces herself as Flerida.
The lady saved by Flerida is revealed to be Laura, who begins to tell her story. While her love was away at war, Count Adolfo used deceit to gain popularity and turned the people of Albania against their king. Count Adolfo then rose to the throne, forcing Laura to be his queen. An army under Menandro, Florante's childhood friend, was able to overthrow Adolfo from power. Seeing all was lost, Adolfo fled into the woods with Laura as his hostage.
After hearing all this, Florante and Aladin reunite with their loved ones. Florante and Laura return to Albania to rule as king and queen. Aladin and Flerida returned to Persia, where Aladin became the new sultan as his father died of depression because Flerida had left him. Aladin and Flerida are then baptised into the Catholic faith, and the two kingdoms lived in harmony and peace.
- Florante – a duke of Albania and the main protagonist of the novel.
- Laura – Daughter of King Linceo of Albania. She is the love interest of Florante and is later married to him.
- Count Adolfo – Rival of Florante and the antagonist of the novel. Once a good friend to Florante during their time at the academy. His jealousy and envy towards Florante sparked his rebellion against the king. He was also responsible for the imprisonment of Florante. He was killed by Flerida as he attempted to rape Laura in his escape against the forces loyal to the king.
- Prince Aladin – Son of Sultan Ali-Adab of Persia. He saved Florante from being eaten by lions in the forest. Later, he marries his love interest Flerida.
- Flerida – Aladin's fiancée. She asked Sultan Ali-Adab to spare Prince Aladin's life on the condition that she will be Ali-Adab's wife. She later escaped and killed Count Adolfo as he attempted to rape Laura in the forest.
- Duke Briseo – Father of Florante and a nobleman of Albania. He was killed, along with King Linceo, by Count Adolfo during his usurpation of power. He was a very good father to Florante.
- Princess Floresca – Mother of Florante and the Princess of Crotone. She died while Florante was studying in Athens.
- King Linceo – King of Albania and the father of Princess Laura. A great ruler of Albania, he and Duke Briseo were killed by Count Adolfo during the latter's takeover.
- Sultan Ali-Adab – Sultan of Persia and the father of Prince Aladin. He sentenced his son to death because of cowardice in the battlefield. In exchange for Aladin's life, Flerida promised to marry the Sultan. After her escape, the Sultan committed suicide.
- Count Sileno – Father of Count Adolfo.
- Menalipo – Cousin of Florante. He saved Florante from vultures when they were younger.
- Menandro – Friend and confidant of Florante. They first met while they were studying in Athens and Menandro saved Florante from a young Adolfo's attempt to murder him. He and Florante shared military expedition. He led the overthrow of Count Adolfo and restored peace in Albania.
- Antenor – Professor of Florante, Menandro, and Adolfo in Athens. A good and wise teacher to Florante.
- General Osmalik – A general of Persia. He was killed by Florante during a military expedition.
- General Miramolin – A general of the Ottoman Empire. He was responsible for the invasion of Albania to bring the kingdom under the imperial officers who sacked Albania together with Aladin during the ongoing campaign of Florante and Menandro in Crotone. He nearly slew Laura for her refusal to love him but was defeated.