Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Although it was Corneille’s eighth play, The Cid was his first great popular and critical success. He transformed the medieval epic legend of the Cid into a very intimate play in which Rodrigue and Chimène suffer unnecessarily because of the selfishness of their fathers. Rodrigue and Chimène love each other very much and want to get married. Instead of considering the happiness of their adult children, Don Gomès (Chimène’s father) and Don Diègue (Rodrigue’s father) become involved in a petty argument that turns violent. Each claims to merit the honor of serving as the governor to King Fernand’s eldest son, a purely honorary position. The king’s decision is totally arbitrary and does not imply any criticism of the man not chosen. When Don Gomès realizes that his rival will receive this appointment, he loses his temper and slaps Don Diègue, who interprets this not as the crime of battery but rather as an offense against his family’s honor. He demands that his son avenge this insult by killing Don Gomès in a duel—a request that places Rodrigue in a terrible situation and does not give him enough time to consider an alternative. As a lawyer, Corneille knew that there were obvious legal remedies available for Don Diègue. Charges should have been brought against Don Gomès, and a court should have tried him for his physical attack against Don Diègue, who could also have begun a civil suit against his attacker. Death was an excessive penalty for the crime of battery. In act 1, both Don Diègue and Rodrigue deliver...
(The entire section is 629 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Because she is the princess royal, the infanta feels she cannot openly love Rodrigue, a nobleman of lower rank. She encourages, therefore, the growing attachment between Chimène and Rodrigue. Chimène asks her father, Don Gomès, to choose either Rodrigue or Sanche to be his son-in-law. She awaits the choice anxiously; her father is on his way to court and she will soon hear his decision. Don Gomès chooses Rodrigue without hesitation, chiefly because of the fame of Don Diègue, Rodrigue’s father.
However, a complication soon arises at court. The king chooses Don Diègue as preceptor for his son, the heir apparent. Don Gomès believes that the choice is unjust. Don Diègue was the greatest warrior in Castile, but he is now old. Don Gomès considers himself the most valiant knight in the kingdom. In a bitter quarrel, Don Gomès unjustly accuses Don Diègue of gaining the king’s favor through flattery and deceit. He believes that the prince needs a preceptor who will be a living example of the proper virtues, not a teacher who will dwell in the past. In the quarrel, Don Gomès slaps his older rival. Don Diègue, too feeble to draw his sword against Don Gomès, upbraids himself bitterly for having to accept the insult. His only recourse is to call on his young son to uphold the family honor.
Torn between love and duty, Rodrigue challenges Don Gomès to a duel. After some hesitation because of Rodrigue’s youth and unproved valor, Don Gomès accepts the challenge of his daughter’s suitor. To the surprise of the court, Rodrigue, the untried novice, kills the mightiest man in Castile, piercing with his sword the man whom he respected as his future father-in-law.
Chimène now feels herself in a desperate plight because her love for Rodrigue is mixed with hatred for the murderer of her father. She finally decides to avenge her father by seeking justice from the king. Since she has the right to petition the king, Don...
(The entire section is 799 words.)