The Role Of Women In The Song

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The Role Of Women In The Song Of Roland Essay, Research Paper The Role of Women in the Song of Roland Women are not mentioned often in the Song of Roland. They appear in only seventeen of almost three hundred laisses. It is because they are included so rarely, however, that the women stand out amidst the throng of male characters and call attention to the areas of the text in which they appear. One of the principle woman characters is Queen Bramimionde, wife of the pagan King Marsile. She plays an important role at the end of the text, becoming by association the whole of pagandom, and it is only through her that the French emperor Charlemagne can achieve a true victory over the Saracens. The first mention of women in the Song of Roland comes in laisse 23, when Ganelon speaks

to Charles: ?I well know that I must go to Saragossa;/Whoever goes there cannot hope to return./Moreover, I have your sister as my wife….? In these lines, Ganelon uses kinship as a means to link himself to Charlemagne, via the woman. He is in effect communicating his ?last words? to the emperor and, being reluctant to perform the dangerous task set before him, is attempting to evoke guilt in Charles. A suitable paraphrase of the lines would be: ?Remember that I am married to your sister, whom you are now effectively making a widow.? Laisse 23 is not only significant because it makes first mention of a woman, but also because it is tied directly to the introduction of Bramimonde. The pagan Queen first appears in laisse 50: ?Then Queen Bramimonde came forward:/?I love you dearly,

lord,?she said to [Ganelon],/?For my lord and his men hold you in very high esteem./I shall send your wife two necklaces….? In this passage two women are mentioned; the Queen promising rich gifts to the wife in exchange for the husband?s treachery. This passage immediately stands out from those before it because it tells of a gift that is from woman to woman rather than a gift from one of the many pagan dukes to Ganelon. Additionally, laisse 50 acts as the mirror image of laisse 23–the same idea, just backwards. Note how the mention of Ganelon?s wife is employed in distinctly opposite ways: in laisse 23 Ganelon is attempting to avoid a task and in laisse 50 the Queen is providing him with extra incentive to accomplish a task. Bramimonde, in her very first appearance,

completes one of the trademark symmetries employed so frequently in the Song of Roland. The Queen serves repeatedly to emphasize the failure of the pagans versus the success of the Franks. In laisses 187 and 188 Bramimonde laments the first decimation of the Saracens and curses the pagan gods: ?She tears at her hair and bewails her fate;/Thereupon she cries out at the top of her voice:/?O, Saragossa, how you have been deprived this day/Of the noble king who held you in his power!/Our gods committed a grave crime/In failing him this morning in battle.? In laisse 195, when an emissary from the pagan emir greets her with a praise of Tervagant and Apollo, she replies: ?Now I hear great foolishness,/These gods of ours have abandoned the fight;?. Often in the same breath as these

complaints she will praise Charlemagne and the Franks: ?…these bold men/Who are so fierce that they disregard their own lives./The emperor with the hoary-white beard/Is full of valour and great daring.?(Laisse 188) As well as: ?Charles will have the whole of Spain in his power,? in laisse 195. She describes the wound received by her husband in the same passage: ?He has lost his right hand, he no longer has it;/Count Roland the powerful cut it off.? Bramimonde manages to insult the pagan gods, tell of the injury inflicted upon Marsile–and by association pagandom as a whole, and praise Charles–and by association Christianity. At first her identity to the reader is essentially a pagan woman. She does not participate in combat, so perhaps instead of filling the text up with the