Le Cid



  • A tragicomedy by Corneille. Its first performancein 1637 in Paris is usually considered the inception of the classicalFrench theater. The play's success provoked fierce attacks from Corneille'srivals and critics, ostensibly because he took liberties with theunities; the ensuing pamphlet war, which culminated in theplay's suppression, came to be known as the querelle du Cid.Nevertheless, the play established Corneille as the leading dramatistof the day. In the first production the great actor Montdoryplayed the title role (his most acclaimed part) at his Théâtredu Marais.

    The play was based on Las mocedades del Cid, a chronicleplay about the exploits of the Spanish hero by Guillen de Castro yBellvis. The plot, in which a son avenges an insult to his elderlyfather by killing his fiancée's father, is typical of the Spanishpundonor (point of honour) drama, in which action is emphasizedover character and morality is black and white.

    The historical El Cid was Roderigo or Ruy Diaz de Bivar (c.1040 - 99), also called El Campeador, the champion of Christianityagainst the Moors. His exploits, real and legendary, form the basisof many Spanish romances and chronicles. The title is a corruptionof seyyid, Arabic for lord.