armed with sword and shield and his horn at his side, Roland attacks another soldier

The Song of Roland

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Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 333

Many commentators on The Song of Roland debate the question of Roland's character. Does his refusal to summon help for the rear guard support an interpretation of Roland as a brave and noble man, or does it mark him as guilty of the sin of pride? Can a case be made for both interpretations?

The character of Ganelon claims that he always remained loyal to his lord and king, Charlemagne, even though he betrayed another of Charlemagne's knights to the Saracens. Can Ganelon's claim be justified? Compare his actions with incidents from modern history in which highly-placed officials broke laws or caused harm while claiming to keep faith with a leader. Examples might include: the Watergate conspirators, Colonel Oliver North, German army officers during World War II, or Soviet and U.S. double agents during the Cold War.

The Song of Roland is said to be the written form of an oral story. Read about oral performance and investigate ways that the text of The Song of Roland might demonstrate its oral origin.

Research the early history of France and look at the ways that The Song of Roland reflects more about eleventh century France than the France of the eighth century in which it is set.

Roland's fiancee, Aude, prefers death to living without her beloved. This was considered an honorable and desirable choice for a woman of her time. How is this choice viewed by a twentieth-century reader of this work?

The trial of Ganelon gives us a picture of medieval justice. Compare this system of justice with that of the late twentieth-century United States.

Toward the end of The Song of Roland, the captive Saracen Queen Bramimonde voluntarily renouces her Muslim faith and is baptized as a Christian. To the anonymous author of this epic, this is proof of her wisdom and goodness. Offer another explanation of why a foreign prisoner of a war in which her husband was killed might choose to accept the belief system of her captors.

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