Song of Roland

Form

The poem is written in stanzas of irregular length known as laisses. The lines are decasyllabic (containing ten syllables), and each is divided by a strong caesura which generally falls after the fourth syllable. The last stressed syllable of each line in a laisse has the same vowel sound as every other end-syllable in that laisse. The laisse is therefore an assonal, not a rhyming stanza.

On a narrative level, the Song of Roland features extensive use of repetition, parallelism, and thesis-antithesis pairs. Roland proposes Ganelon for the dangerous mission to Sarrogossa; Ganelon designates Roland to man the rearguard. Charlemagne is contrasted with Baligant.[9] Unlike later Renaissance and Romantic literature, the poem focuses on action rather than introspection. The characters are presented through what they do, not through what they think or feel.

The narrator gives few explanations for characters' behaviour. The warriors are stereotypes defined by a few salient traits; for example, Roland is loyal and trusting while Ganelon, though brave, is traitorous and vindictive.

The narrator is openly biased towards the Franks. His moral view is very black-and-white: the Franks are good, and the pagans are bad.

The story moves at a fast pace, occasionally slowing down and recounting the same scene up to three times but focusing on different details or taking a different perspective each time. The effect is similar to a film sequence shot at different angles so that new and more important details come to light with each shot.


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