Song of Roland

The Effect of Feudalism on its Contemporary Texts

The French epic The Song of Roland (ca. 1100) loudly echoes the feudal values of its time. As it describes the transformation of France into a Christian nation united by loyalties to the king and country, the epic embodies the spirit of loyalty between a lord to his vassal. Although "Aucassin and Nicolette" is also an anonymous piece written in the same French vernacular at approximately the same point, it seems to be moving in an alternate direction. As a medieval romance, it also describes the same feudal society, yet appears to treat the situation more satirically. Nevertheless, despite the satire in "Aucassin and Nicolette", it remains alongside The Song of Roland as a chronicle of the age of feudalism, and thus both reinforce values promoted at the time.

By the twelfth century, feudalism, which began in France during the eighth and ninth centuries under Charlemagne, had captured the governmental principles of much of Europe, including England, the Holy Roman Empire, Spain, Sicily and Byzantium. The Feudal system changed according to time and place, yet adhered to the two main principles of warfare and land. The lord and the vassal swore allegiance (fealty) to each other, and thus the feudal ties...

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