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Main Ideas in "The Song of Roland"

In Song of Rowland, the author tells the story of Charlemagne’s attempted takeover of Saragossa, a land controlled by the Muslim king, Marsilla. The poem covers the feud among Rowland and his stepfather Ganelon, as well as the disastrous consequences that come from that feud, like the betrayal of their lord and kinsman, Charlemagne. Via characterization and plot, the author is able to convey the all round theme of the work—that of loyalty.

Over the course of the poem, three characters are introduced to show varying degrees of loyalty. One of these characters is Ganelon, a vassal to Emperor Charlemagne and stepfather to the title character, Roland. Right after getting nominated by his stepson for a suicide mission as a messenger to Marsilla, Ganelon travels to Saragossa and, acting disloyally to Charlemagne, betrays Roland to Marsilla. He tells the Muslim leader that Roland is the cause that they continue to fight, and that they will not have peace even though he still lives. Ganelon even gives Marsilla the location exactly where Roland is likely to be when they return to France, saying “The king will reach the major pass at Sizer, even though obtaining left his guard deployed behind him. His nephew will be there, the rich Count Roland, and Olivier, whom he relies on so. They’ll have a force of twenty thousand Franks. Send out a hundred thousand of your pagans…” (Roland, 583-588).

Marsilla then prepares to ambush Roland and his males as they return to France with the gifts of the Muslims. Even though it is debatable no matter whether or not this move is disloyal, as Ganelon had issued Defiance to Roland, there can be a sturdy case produced that Ganelon was acting disloyally. Ganelon initial acted disloyally to his household. Roland was his stepson, so attempting to harm or kill him would be seen as a disloyal act, as they are kin, if only because Ganelon was married to Roland’s mother. Nonetheless, Roland was carrying out Charlemagne’s orders, so not only did Ganelon betray Roland, but by default he also betrayed Charlemagne, a particular person that Ganelon swore an oath of loyalty to. Ganelon’s very first duty was to his lord, not his feud with Roland. Also, Ganelon’s act of disloyalty impacted more than just Roland, as he was not the only individual to be killed as a outcome of it. Ganelon’s disloyalty led to the destruction of almost 20,000 men. Therefore, Ganelon is the most obvious character to act disloyally, as he betrayed each his family and his lord.

Even so, Ganelon was not the only a single to act disloyal to Charlemagne. At very first glance, Roland appears to be the perfect instance of a model vassal. In court, he speaks against sending a messenger to negotiate a peace treaty, as the previous messengers have all been killed. He says “…some fifteen pagans he dispatched, each and every carrying an olive branch they stated the very identical words to you then…you sent two of your counts out to the pagans (Basan was one particular, the other one particular was Basil) who promptly took their heads close to Haltilie.” (Roland 202-209) Whilst he is getting loyal to Charlemagne by possessing the greatest interest of the Franks at heart, Roland is inadvertently disloyal to his fellow vassals, as he speaks out of turn. As Roland was a younger vassal, he should have waited to speak until greater ranking vassals had done so. He also proves disloyal whilst below attack by the Muslim forces at the pass at Sizer. Right after seeing the size of the Muslim army, Olivier asks Roland to blow the horn and get in touch with for help, as they are outnumbered severely. Nevertheless, Roland refuses to call for help, saying “May God forbid…that it be mentioned by any man alive I ever blew my horn simply because of pagans! My loved ones shall never be reproved. When I am in the midst of this wonderful battle and strike a thousand blows, then seven hundred, you’ll see the blade of Durendal run blood.” (Roland 1073-1079)

Roland refuses to surrender his honor, even if it signifies the loss of his males and even his personal life. This is clearly disloyal to Charlemagne, as a loyal vassal does not get 20,000 men killed, simply since he does not want to lose honor. As a result, even though Roland was loyal for the most element, he allowed individual honor to interfere with that loyalty. Also, the loyalty to his family members is referred to as into question, as he nominated Ganelon to be the messenger back to Marsilla. As Ganelon was his stepfather, it was both disrespectful and disloyal to his household for Roland to recommend that Ganelon travel to Saragossa. Ganelon acknowledges this disloyalty, saying “They know really effectively that I am your stepsire—yet you name me to go out to Marsilla. If God should deign that I come back once again, then I shall stir up such a feud with you that it will last as long as you reside.” (Roland 287-291) Roland, being aware of that the messenger to Marsilla would most most likely be going to his death, nominates Ganelon, acting disloyal to his household, as the death of Ganelon would be detrimental to the entire family members, not just Ganelon himself.

The most loyal character in the poem is Olivier, Roland’s best buddy and a vassal to Charlemagne. He shows his loyalty to Charlemagne, supplying to go with Blancandrin back to Saragossa, saying “But if it pleases the king, I’d like to go.” (Roland 258) Charlemagne, however, refuses, as Olivier is one particular of the twelve peers, and Charlemagne refuses to permit any of the twelve peers to serve as the messenger. Even so, Olivier is not only a loyal vassal. He is a loyal friend as nicely. At the battle at the pass at Sizer, he suggests that Roland sound the horn and get in touch with for help, as they are outnumbered. Obtaining observed the quantity of pagan soldiers that they are up against, Olivier advises Roland, saying “There are several pagans, and, it seems to me, we Franks are handful of. Companion Roland, you ought to sound your horn so Charles will hear and bring the army back.” (Roland 1049-1052) He was loyal to each Charlemagne and Roland, as he supplied Roland guidance in times of difficulty and suggested that Roland try to avoid the deaths of 20,000 guys. He also stands by Roland, rather than leaving, even although he knows it will in the end lead to his death. Roland, seeing that Olivier has died in the fight, acknowledges his loyalty, saying “Olivier, fair comrade, you were the son of wealthy Duke Renier, who ruled the frontier valley of Runners. To break a lance-shaft or to pierce a shield, to overcome and terrify the proud, to counsel and sustain the valorous, to overcome and terrify the gluttons, no country ever had a much better knight.” (Roland 2207-2214) Olivier can be noticed as the model instance of a loyal vassal not only simply because of his loyalty to his lord, Charlemagne, but also since of his unfailing loyalty to his buddy, even until death.

Loyalty is not confined to the Christian side, nonetheless. Blancandrin, the Muslim vassal of Marsilla, is described as “Among the wisest pagans…very chivalrous and dutiful and able in the service of his lord.” (Roland 24-26) Blancandrin advises Marsilla to inform Charlemagne that he will accept the Christian faith, turn into a vassal of Charlemagne. He also advises that they offer several gifts, which includes hostages, in exchange for the Franks leaving Spain. He goes as far as to provide his own son as a hostage, saying “If he [Charlemagne] ought to ask for hostages, then send them to obtain his confidence—some ten or twenty. We’ll send the sons of our own wives to him though it will imply his death, I’ll send my own. Significantly greater that they should lose their heads up there than we must lose our honor and our lands and let ourselves be brought to beggary.” (Roland 40-46) Blancandrin knows that his son will be killed, as he does not in fact intend for Marsilla to to convert to Christianity or turn out to be a vassal to Charlemagne, but merely promise to do so to get the Christian king out of Saragossa. That Blancandrin is prepared to offer his personal son as a sacrifice goes to show just how loyal he is to King Marsilla.

Loyalty also comes into query during the trial of Ganelon for treason against Charlemagne. Thirty of Ganelon’s kinsmen are present to show help for Ganelon. 1 of these kinsmen is Pinabel. Pinabel areas his loyalty to his kinsman, Ganelon, above his loyalty to his lord, Charlemagne. In court, he convinces the barons who make a decision Ganelon’s fate to let him reside. The barons then inform Charlemagne “Sire, we pray that you will contact it quits with Ganelon—he’ll serve you then in loyalty and love—and let him reside, for he’s a effectively-born man. (Count Roland’s dead you will not see him once again,) and death itself can't return that lord, nor will we ever get him back with wealth.” (Roland 3808-3813) Even so, Charlemagne declares that they are all traitors. Thierry areas his loyalty to Charlemagne above any other loyalty. Out of loyalty to his lord, he argues that Ganelon ought to be punished, saying “Your service need to have guaranteed [Roland’s] safety. Betraying him made Ganelon a felon he broke his oath to you and did you wrong. For this I judge that he need to hang and die and that his corpse need to be thrown [out to the dogs] like that of any typical criminal.” (Roland 3828-3833)

The following battle that ensues not only determines the fate of Ganelon, but also which loyalty ought to come 1st: loyalty to kinsman or loyalty to lord. During the battle, every single attempts to persuade the other to act disloyally. Pinabel asks Thierry to reconcile the king to Ganelon, although Thierry tries to persuade Pinabel to forsake Ganelon and surrender with out fighting. However, both refuse. In the finish Thierry defeats Pinabel, resulting in the death of Ganelon and all thirty relatives who had shown up to help him. The reasoning behind this was “A traitor kills himself as well as others.” (Roland 3959) The triumph of Thierry over Pinabel did far more than decide the fate of Ganelon. It can also be noticed as a symbol that the duty and loyalty to the lord always outranks the duty and loyalty to the kin.

In the epic poem Song of Roland, the theme of loyalty is explored completely. Loyalty and the lack of loyalty can be noticed through a number of characters, such as Ganelon, Roland, Olivier, and Blancandrin. The poem also makes use of the trial of Ganelon to show that loyalty to lord always trumps loyalty to kin. Characterization, plot, and symbol served as means by way of which to show the theme of loyalty.

Functions Cited:

Harrison, Robert L. “44.” The Song of Roland. New York, NY: Signet Classic, 2002. 583-88. Print.

Harrison, Robert L. “14.” The Song of Roland. New York, NY: Signet Classic, 2002. 202-09. Print.

Harrison, Robert L. “85.” The Song of Roland. New York, NY: Signet Classic, 2002. 1073-079. Print.

Harrison, Robert L. “20.” The Song of Roland. New York, NY: Signet Classic, 2002. 287-91. Print.

Harrison, Robert L. “18.” The Song of Roland. New York, NY: Signet Classic, 2002. 258. Print.

Harrison, Robert L. “82.” The Song of Roland. New York, NY: Signet Classic, 2002. 1049-052. Print.

Harrison, Robert L. “163.” The Song of Roland. New York, NY: Signet Classic, 2002. 2207-014. Print.

Harrison, Robert L. “3.” The Song of Roland. New York, NY: Signet Classic, 2002. 22-26. Print.

Harrison, Robert L. “3.” The Song of Roland. New York, NY: Signet Classic, 2002. 40-46. Print.

Harrison, Robert L. “276.” The Song of Roland. New York, NY: Signet Classic, 2002. 3808-813. Print.

Harrison, Robert L. “277.” The Song of Roland. New York, NY: Signet Classic, 2002. 3828-833. Print.

Harrison, Robert L. “288.” The Song of Roland. New York, NY: Signet Classic, 2002. 3959. Print.
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