Essay on Chanson de Roland Commentary

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Seen by most as the birthmark of French Literature, as well as perhaps the greatest and oldest chanson de geste (epically heroic poems that began to appear in the late eleventh century), La Chanson de Roland is undoubtedly a landmark in Medieval Literature. It celebrates the heroic feats of count Roland, Charlemagne’s nephew and right-hand, in serving his country, his king and his faith.
A large variety of themes, including religion, faith, loyalty, bravery and heroism, amongst others, recur throughout La Chanson de Roland. I intend to draw upon a few of these themes, paying particular attention to what is considered by most as the climax of the chanson, Roland’s death; more specifically, laisses CLXXI and CLXXII.

The importance given
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It is mainly through the use of language and direct speech that the importance of loyalty is highlighted. Firstly seen when Roland directs himself to his sword and says ‘Ne vos ait hume ki pur altre fuiet!’. Here, a slight sense of resentment towards anyone disloyal enough to do such a thing is detected. The importance of loyalty is further seen through Roland’s last great efforts, prior to his death, to destroy his sword, as he claims that ‘Mielz voeill murir qu'entre paiens remaigne’. The utter devotion here towards his nation, France, is more than evident. His devotion towards his king is even more so: in both laisses, particularly laisse CLXXII, Roland’s numerous heroic feats and countless conquests are listed. It is immediately afterwards pointed out, however, that these conquered lands are lands ‘Que Carles tient’, thus indicating who Roland truly fights, without hesitation.

In some ways linked to the theme of loyalty, honour is yet another key theme the author gives great importance all throughout the chanson, particularly, again, in these two laisses. Again seen through his desperate and numerous attempts (.X. colps) to break his sword as opposed to letting it end up in enemy hands, it is evident that honour is imperative to Roland. This is further emphasized as he apostrophizes Durendal, his sword,

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