The Emperor Charlemagne in La Chanson de Roland

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La Chanson de Roland (The Song of Roland) is an Old French epic poem that belongs to the genre of the chanson de geste.Literally translated as "song of deeds", they can be considered the foundation and beginning of French literature.Emperor Charlemagne is one of the main protagonists in the poem who is based on a historical figure but takes on epic proportions in the context of the chanson.It is evident from the text that, while Charlemagne's character is at its highest point of nobility in La Chanson de Roland, his character is simultaneously undermined. The ways in which Charlemagne's character is constructed in the chanson reflects changes in both the literary and historical worlds that occurred contemporaneous with the creation of the poem.This depiction of Charlemagne's character is a watershed in the evolution of the genre and of French Literature.
A reader must always remember that the foremost theme of this poem is the triumph and superiority of Christianity over foreign religions and foreign civilizations (i.e. the Saracens)."The Song of Roland evolves around the image of an old king whose mission is the establishment and constant defense of an empire beloved of God" (Uitti, 65).Therefore Charlemagne, as the Holy Roman Emperor and leader of the religiously devoted Franks, is represented in the poem as the incarnation of Christianity on earth."The memory of the imperial power of the historical Charlemagne contributes potently to the original mystery of the epic king of France.But it was Charles the warrior, the right arm of the Church, the valiant defender of Christendom against pagan and Infidel invasion that comes most prominently into view" (Comfort, 285).Charlemagne, with the help of his knights, has been divinely elected to carry out the all-important mission of spreading Christianity across Western Europe.They are engaging in what they interpret as God&apo…