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In The Liberation of Jerusalem (1581), Torquato Tasso set out to write an epic to rival the Iliad and the Aeneid . Unlike his predecessors, he took his subject not from myth but from history: the Christian capture of Jerusalem during the First Crusade. The siege of the city is played out alongside a magical romance of love and sacrifice, in which the Christian knight Rinaldo succumbs to the charms of the pagan sorceress Armida, and the warrior maiden Clorinda inspires a fatal passion in the Christian Tancred. Tasso's ...

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