When Alfonso d'Este succeeded his father Duke Ercole in 1505, his dynasty and court stood in firm control of political authority and cultural patronage in their city state. In the early years of Duke Alfonso's reign, Ludovico Ariosto composed Orlando Furioso for that aristocratic audience entirely dependent upon the despotic rulers of Ferrara. Orlando Furioso fosters the fiction that it simply carries on Orlando Innamorato, the popular romance left unfinished by Matteo Maria Boiardo in 1494. With this device Ariosto guaranteed himself a ready-made and enthusiastic upper class audience: Orlando Innamorato had been the delight of Duke Ercole's circle, especially of the young Estensi, the later poet's patrons Ippolito and Alfonso among them. Up to its abrupt interruption, Orlando Innamorato addresses a court which could believe that its culture was ascendant, its political hegemony secure. Orlando Furioso springs out of what might be characterized as a rather more schizophrenic political situation. When Ariosto began his chivalric epic in the first decade of the sixteenth century, the interplay of the Estensi's absolute power at home and waning status abroad embodied the kind of underlying conflict in Orlando Furioso which Fredric Jameson, in The Political Unconscious, characterizes as a "social contradiction" which narrative struggles to resolve on an aesthetic plane (Jameson 76-79). In Ariosto's poem, as in the court in Ferrara, prevailing discourse is necessarily framed in the language of dominance and subordination. Orlando Furioso must play to the powerful while it still tries to engage with the historical forces which threaten to overwhelm them. Therefore the poem's praise of Cardinal Ippolito d'Este, his brother Duke Alfonso, and their entourage is extravagant but often tinged with irony.