Song of Roland Analysis
In The Song of Roland (1990), the author presents how Roland, a loyal vassal of King Charlemagne, sacrificed himself and all great vassals in the rearguard fighting the Saracens in order to protect Charlemagne from King Marcella’s ambush attack. Among almost three hundred lasses describing the intenseness of the war and braveness of the vassals, there are less than twenty lasses introducing and presenting the only two female figures in the text, Aude, and Bromimonde. By examining the text, we can establish an inference that the society described and praised women by their outer beauty rather than their intelligence. The author introduced and referred to both Aude and Bromimonde in the text as Roland and King Marcella’s wives indirectly reflected women’s weak social status during the medieval period. What is more, society considered females as the legal property of their husbands rather than strong and independent individuals? By comparing and contrasting Aude and Bromimonde from The Song of Roland, and the wife of a wealthy knight from The Nightingale, we can see the reflection of women’s role in the medieval period through their dependence, submissiveness, and loyalty.
At the introduction of the book The Song of Roland, the author did not focus on Aude’s outer beauty but rather on her nobility. Roland, for instance, earned his nobility by himself. On the contrary, Aude had guaranteed nobility subject to the fact that she was Oliver’s sister who is one of the Twelve Peers. Indeed, Aude drew her nobility from being Oliver’s sister. Notably, Aude qualified to marry Roland, the great vassal’s wife courtesy of her nobility. This example indirectly reflects the importance of classism in the medieval period, in which there was no such thing as “upward mobility.” Noblewomen married noblemen and peasants married peasants. A woman of inferior rank would never have been able to marry a nobleman. The social inequality for women is clearer in Aude and Roland’s political marriage, which were referred by author Ramey, “[Aude] has been a gift between noblemen, destined to be the wife of Roland, her brother’s best friend” (pgs. 234-235). Although we could see the political marriage, the text also shows that she loved her fiancé. Grieving and obeying his duty of fealty to Roland, Charlemagne offered his son to Aude in place of Roland when he informed Aude of Roland’s death.
“Sister, dear friend, you ask me about a dead man.
I shall give you a very fine replacement;
That is Louis, I do not know of better.
He is my son and he will rule my kingdom.”
How Aude killed herself, rather die than marry someone else, which goes against traditions in the Middle Ages—marry up/nobility. Not comply with tradition. (Love vs. politics, nobility, and status)
Through Aude’s action that she refused to live on and passed away the moment she knows the unfortunate of Roland. The author asserts that Aude loved Roland so much that she could not live without him. As such, she lacked the confidence and motivation to marry another man after Roland’s death. In other words, as her fiancé, Roland was the only hope, dream, and motivation in her life. Indeed, in a surprise move, Aude rejected Charlemagne’s marriage offer. Notably, Aude stopped from being submissive and became an independent decision-maker after her fiancé’s death. Aude made a personal decision to reject Charlemagne’s marriage offer despite her fiancé’s death. Aude was courageous to maintain her loyalty to her fiancé, Roland. This contracted the social conventions of the medieval era that allowed women to engage other men after their fiancé’s death. On the other hand, Queen Bramimonde is less conservative, unlike Aude who was a specific feminist.
After king Marislla died, Queen Bramimonde went to France as a slave. Out of her own will, Bramimonde soon converted to Christianity and changed her name. Although Bramimonde’s conversion symbolized the true victory of Charlemagne in the Battle of Roncevaux, the story implicitly criticizes women. The heroic figure, Roland or the anti-hero, King Marislla, both sacrificed themselves by fighting for their beliefs. On the other hand, the minute Queen Bramimonde saw the downfall of her country she redeemed herself by disowning pagans.
1. France—stronger victory
- Feministic movement: changing her religion for her own benefit, regardless of the controversy.
After a close study of Aude and Queen Bramimonde, the author seems to imply that women in that period become less submissive and much more active and by taking control of their lives once they lost their husbands. It seems marriages were preventing women from being independent-minded. Indeed, the text shows that women depended on their husbands and fiancés for material, moral, and financial support. Subject to this dependency, women had to be submissive and loyal to men. However, we should not confuse the submissiveness and loyalty of women to men with the lack of an independent mind. Indeed, the widows redeemed themselves by changing their names, religion, and made important decisions. Ideally, women had the capacity to take full control of their lives after their husbands or fiancés’ demise. They had to be independent, provide for themselves, and pursue their destiny. For instance, we can see Aude and Queen Bramimonde becoming less submissive and much more active and by taking control of their lives once they lost their husbands.
In the medieval period, women assumed the role of a mother and wife in a family. Women had an important role in taking care of the children and husband. Indeed, women were to tend to their husband’s needs at all times. The marriage set did not allow women to divorce their husbands. Indeed, only a few reasons would have led to the dissolution of a marriage. In this context, women had minimal control in a marriage when husbands had full rights over their wives. As such, most women lived in loveless marriages and were subservient to men. The text, The Nightingale shows the wife of a wealthy knight and how weak women begun to gain independence (Shoaf 1). The two wealthy knights depict the position of men in the medieval period where power and fame were enough to find a wife. One knight married a wise, polite, polished, and valuable woman that seems to introduce an independent woman. The text also shows how the other knight used his goodness, fame, and wealth to lure a neighbor’s wife (Shoaf 1). Although this presents the woman as adulterous, it also shows how women began to make a decision regarding whom to love.
Seemingly, the married woman was in a loveless marriage and ended up falling in love with the knight subject to his wealth and fame. The “love affair” shows how women depended on men for material things. Moreover, the “love affair” disregarded the requirement for nobility in a marriage. Initially, men made women their property as we can see in the text, The Nightingale. The text refers to the husband as the lord and master of the married woman (Shoaf 3). The master was cruel and angry that his wife spends the night outside. He sought to protect his property by hatching a perfect plan to trap the nightingale (Shoaf 3). Indeed, he later trapped, killed, and threw the Nightingale at the woman. However, we can see the wife redeeming herself by taking up the body, mourning, and cursing all traitors that led to the Nightingale’s death. She took up the initiative of fixing the faith problem in her marriage (Shoaf 5). The decision to solve her marital problems shows how women gained independence to make important decisions in a family unlike in the early medieval period where I exercised ultimate power over women.
Burgess, Glyn. The Song of Roland. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1990. Print.
Shoaf, Judith. Marie de France. 1991. Web. 4 October 2014.