The tragedy “Cid” is the most famous work by Pierre Corneille. It was written in verses in 5 acts. The plot is set in Spain in the 11th century. The main character of the story is the Spanish national hero Cid and the whole plot is taken from the play “Cid’s youth” by the Spanish writer Guillen de Castro.
Even though the main character and the plot were copied it did not affect the development of the plot. There is a strong connection with the Spanish history and the plot and the conflict is represented by the conflict between the characters themselves.
The plot revolves around Rodrigo, well known as Cid, who is the son of Diego and Chimena that’s the daughter of Gormais. They are the main characters who have to decide between emotions and reason, love and honor, wishes and duty.
As in many cases so far Cid was also written using historic sources and legends. The author probably heard the story of the Castile’s hero and because of that he was accused of plagiarism.
To interpret “Cid” in the right way it is important to understand the moral dilemma. We have two of them – one is linked to the love towards family and the other one is love by choice or better said the relationship between two people. Rodrigo and Chimena picked between their families and the love they feel for one another.
Because of the many dilemmas, the ending is left unclear; it’s neither happy nor sad. Even though the character didn’t experience a tragic death, in the end, the main characters never got married. The end is left to the readers to imagine what will happen when Rodrigo comes back in a year.
The plot begins with a conversation between Chimena and Elvira, her educator. Elvira told to Chimena that her father don Gormais doesn’t oppose to her engagement with the nobleman Rodrigo, better known as Cid, the son of don Diego.
Chimena was very happy to hear the news and in the same time she was scared because the beautiful king’s daughter was also in love with Cid. The love between the king’s daughter and Cid was impossible due to the class differences so she spent her day suffering and confessing to her educator Leonor.
An unexpected confrontation between don Diego and don Gormais occurs. The cause was the king’s decision that don Diego takes care of his son’s education which was very offensive to don Gormais. Don Gormais was a hero and an estimated soldier so the king’s decision hurt him. The two of them got into a dispute, insults were coming from each direction and in the end don Gormais slapped don Diego.
Don Diego thought that after everything his honor can be defended only in a battle and death of don Gormais. Don Diego asked his son to challenge don Gormais to a battle and defend him and his family.
Rodrigo was caught in the middle between his love for Chimena and his family’s honor. In the end he put aside his feelings for Chimena and picked his family.
Right in the beginning of this act don Gormais encounters a Castilian nobleman don Ario. He had to give don Gormais a message from the king. The king asked don Gormais to apologize to don Diego in order to prevent the battle. Don Gormais didn’t even think of apologizing and while he left the palace he arranged the battle with Rodrigo.
Chimena was desperate and had no idea what to do and the king’s daughter consoled her by saying that the men will listen to his father and give up the fight. Then they received the news that the battle between Rodrigo and don theater had started.
The battle upset the king because not only had he worried about the battle but he also heard that the Moors were coming closer. The king planned on punishing don Gormais but he gave up his idea because he knew he will be needing a skilled soldier as him in the war.
Don Gormais was killed by Rodrigo and when Chimena finds out about it she goes to the king and asks him to execute her father’s killer.
Rodrigo comes to Chimena’s home and her educator Elvira cannot believe that don Gormais’s murderer has the audacity to show his face in that house. She told him to leave because the only thing that Chimena wants from him is to die. Rodrigo says his desire is the same but that he wants to be killed by Chimena. Elvira asks him to hide until Sancho, a young nobleman in love with Chimena, leaves.
Sancho offered his sword to Chimena to use it in her revenge and she accepted it.
When Sancho left Chimena ran crying to Elvira and confessed to her that she was still in love with Rodrigo but had no choice. She had to kill him.
Rodrigo came and decided to give Chimena his sword so she could kill him because life without her love was a bigger punishment for him than death. Chimena was unable to go through with her revenge so Rodrigo left.
While Rodrigo passed the main square he encountered his father who told him that the Moors were getting closer and that a war is coming.
Chimena talks to the king’s daughter who begs her not to kill Rodrigo and to defend her honor by not marrying him. The king’s daughter knew about the upcoming war and hoped that Rodrigo will be a hero and receive the king’s blessings to marry his daughter. Chimena couldn’t imagine such turn of events so she declined her offer.
Soon everyone in the palace celebrated the war victory. Rodrigo stood out for his achievements in the battle and he was called Cid – the master. He tells the king how he captivated and outsmarted the enemies.
The big celebration was interrupted by Chimena who was told by the king that Rodrigo was dead. She fell unconscious and when she wakes up she finds out that it was a lie. She still isn’t ready to give up her revenge and decides that Sancho will to it for her. A battle between Rodrigo and Sancho is arranged and the king decides that the one who wins will marry Chimena.
A touching scene marked the last act. The plot begins with Chimena’s and Rodrigo’s farewell before the battle. She tells him he had to win because she couldn’t envision a life without him and next to Sancho. The king’s daughter realizes it was meaningless to fight for Rodrigo’s love but still she waited with anticipation the battle’s ending.
Later Sancho came to Chimena and she welcomed him with rough words because she thought that Rodrigo was dead.
She asked the king to liberate her from the commitment of marrying Sancho and then the king told her the truth. Rodrigo actually won and Sancho just came by to hand in his sword to her.
She was thrilled because Rodrigo was alive but still she can’t step on her honor and marry him.
The king made his final decision. Rodrigo was going to war for a year and when he comes back Chimena will have to marry him. Before the marriage she will have to forgive him publically for everything he had done to her family.
Characters: Cid, Chimena, Don Diego, Don Germais, Elvira, the king and his daughter, Sancho , Lenora, don Ario
Rodrigo (Cid) – a brave and noble fighter and soldier. Even though he loved Chimena thoroughly, his love for his family’s honor was stronger. In the end, he realized that his life was meaningless without his beloved Chimena so he accepted death. He got his nickname Cid from the enemy army that considered him to be an excellent soldier and Cid in translation means master.
Chimena – she loved Rodrigo but couldn’t step on her pride and dignity. He had killed her father and she couldn’t forget it. Despite all of her efforts to get her revenge she never stopped loving him.
Pierre Corneile Biography
Pierre Corneile was born in 1601 in Rouen, Normandy. He was a famous French dramatic who lived in a modest family on the verge of poverty and he was the seventh child.
He was schooled in Jesuit schools and he studied law which he never practiced because his love for literature was much bigger.
He was only 23 when his play “Melite” was premiered in 1629 in Paris. The play was a great success and it encouraged him to keep on writing.
From 1630 to 1634 he wrote several new comedies which were: “Clitandre”, “La Veuve”, “La Galerie du Palais”, “La Palace Royal”.
In 1635 his tragedy “Medee” was premiered and it wasn’t a big success. His comedy “L’Illusion comique” was a success and he became famous because of “Cid” in 1636.
He was inspired by the play “Cid’s youth” by Guillen de Castro in which the main character is Cid also known from the Spanish national epic “Cantar de Mio Cid”.
Even though the audience liked his tragedy he was hit by critics that noticed the absence of rules in the play. He drifted away from the theater but not for long. Soon he wrote: “Horace”, “Polyeucte”, “La Mort de Pompee”, and the comedy “Le Menteur”.
In 1652 he published his tragedy “Pertharite” that was a complete failure which made him stop writing for the theatre for a few years.
He spent his last days in Italy, forgotten by everyone and living on the verge of poverty. He died in 1684.