El Cid Summary

El Cid tells the epic story of a man who fights to restore his honor after being banished.

  • El Cid is banished from Spain and forced to abandon all of his belongings. Determined to restore his name, he and his vassals conquer a series of Moorish settlements. This pleases the king, who eventually pardons El Cid.

  • El Cid, now wealthy and powerful, becomes the lord of Valencia, and his daughters marry princes.

  • The cowardly princes mistreat El Cid's daughters and El Cid enacts revenge against them. The daughters then marry kings.

  • El Cid lives the rest of his life wealthy, happy, and respected.

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1341

By royal edict, the Cid is banished from Christian Spain by King Alfonso VI of Castile. The royal edict allows him nine days in which to leave the kingdom but forbids him from taking with him any of his wealth and goods. Any man in the kingdom who offers aid...

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By royal edict, the Cid is banished from Christian Spain by King Alfonso VI of Castile. The royal edict allows him nine days in which to leave the kingdom but forbids him from taking with him any of his wealth and goods. Any man in the kingdom who offers aid to the Cid will forfeit his estate. Nevertheless, the Cid enlists the aid of Martín Antolinez in swindling two moneylenders, Raquel and Vidas, in exchange for two large sealed coffers, supposedly loaded with the Cid’s riches but containing only sand. The Cid and a small force of vassals then ride away and make a secret camp. On the morning of the Cid’s actual departure from the country, with a fair-sized group of loyal vassals, Mass is said for all at the abbey where Doña Ximena, the Cid’s wife, and his two infant daughters, Doña Elvira and Doña Sol, have been ordered to remain.

Becoming a soldier of fortune, the knight leads his host in conquest of one Moorish territory after another, each time generously sharing the spoils and booty among his knights and vassals, even the lowliest. Thus he builds up a larger and stronger force with every foray, and after each victory Mass is said in thanksgiving. The Cid fights his way to the eastern side of the peninsula, where he fights his most crucial battle and wins his greatest victory when he takes as his prisoner Count Ramón of Barcelona. After Count Ramón has been humbled and forced to give up all his property, he is granted his liberty.

Although Minaya Alvar Fáñez returns to King Alfonso with gifts and a glowing report of the Cid’s successes, the king does not revoke his decree of banishment. Minaya’s estates are restored, however, and he was granted freedom to come and go without fear of attack. The Cid continues his campaigns against the Moorish territories in order to increase his favor with King Alfonso. After he has conquered the provinces of Valencia and Seville, however, his men grow tired of fighting, and many wish to return to Castile. The Cid, although still generous and understanding, proves himself master by threatening all deserters with death.

Again the Cid sends Minaya to King Alfonso, this time with a gift of one hundred horses and a request that Doña Ximena and her daughters be permitted to join him in Valencia. Visibly softened by the Cid’s growing power, King Alfonso grants this request. In addition, he returns to the Cid’s men their former estates.

Shortly after a triumphant reunion with his family in Valencia, the Cid overcomes the king of Morocco. As a gesture of victory, he sends the Moroccan’s tent to King Alfonso. This dramatic gift earns the Cid’s pardon as well as the king’s request that the Cid give his daughters in marriage to Diego and Fernando, the princes of Carrión. At the victory feast, many marvel at the great length and abundance of the Cid’s beard, for he had sworn at the time of his banishment that his beard would never again be cut. The fullness of his beard has now taken on a mystical significance related to the Cid’s power and success.

The Cid has reservations about giving his daughters to the princes of Carrión. His daughters are, he thinks, too young for marriage. Also, he distrusts the two men. However, with a great show of humbleness and subservience, he returns Doña Elvira and Doña Sol to the king with word that Alfonso will honor the Cid by disposing of his daughters’ future as the monarch sees fit.

After the weddings, the elaborate wedding feast, to which all the Cid’s vassals as well as those of the territory of Carrión have been invited, lasts for more than two weeks. The Cid expresses some satisfaction in having his family united with noblemen as rich as Prince Diego and his brother Fernando.

Two years of happiness follow, then, one day, one of the Cid’s pet lions escapes. Far from showing valor in the emergency, Diego hides from the lion under the bench on which the Cid is asleep, and Fernando flees into the garden and hides behind a winepress. After the Cid’s vassals easily subdue the lion, the favored princes become the butt of much crude humor and scorn. The Cid, however, choosing to ignore the evident cowardice of his daughters’ husbands, makes excuses for them.

Once again the Cid is forced to war with the Moroccans, this time against the mighty King Bucar. After a great battle, Bucar is killed and his vassals are subdued. The Cid is jubilant. As the spoils are divided, he rejoices that at last his sons-in-law have become seasoned warriors. His vassals are half amused and half disgusted at this, because it is common knowledge among them that neither Diego nor Fernando showed the slightest bravery in the conflict, and at one point the Cid’s standard-bearer had been forced to risk his life to cover for Fernando’s shocking cowardice.

Diego and Fernando are richly rewarded for their supposed valor, but their greed is not satisfied. Resentful and injured by the insults and scorn heaped on them by the Cid’s vassals, they begin a scheme for revenge by telling the Cid that, proud of their marriages and their wealth, they would like to make a journey to Carrión to show off their wives and to sing the Cid’s praises. In secret, they plan not to return from this journey. The noble and generous Cid, always ready to think the best of anyone, grants their request without question. He adds further to the princes’ treasure and sends them off with a suitable company of his own vassals as an escort of honor. Then, belatedly concerned for the safety of his daughters, he also sends with them his nephew, Félix Muñoz, after charging the young nobleman with the care of Doña Elvira and Doña Sol.

When they are safely away from Valencia, the princes send the company on ahead and take their wives into the woods. There, with viciousness, they strip the women of their rich garments and their jewels, whip them, and leave them, wounded and bleeding, to die. Félix Muñoz, whose suspicion has been aroused by the princes’ desire to separate their wives from the rest of the party, follows the princes’ tracks and finds the women. He nurses them back to consciousness and returns them to the Cid.

The princes’ scheme of revenge rebounds to their further disgrace. Word of their wicked and dishonest acts spreads quickly, and King Alfonso, in his great displeasure with the Carrións, swears to try them in Toledo. The Cid swears to avenge the treatment his daughters have received by marrying Doña Elvira and Doña Sol to the richest men in the land.

At the trial, the princes are first ordered to return the Cid’s valued swords, which he had given them as tokens of his high regard. Then they are ordered to return his gold; because they have squandered it all, they are forced to give him equal value in horses and property. In the meantime, ambassadors from Aragón and Navarre have arrived to ask for the Cid’s daughters as queens for their kings. The Cid is jubilant, but still he demands that the princes of Carrión pay in full measure for their brutality: trial by combat with two of the Cid’s chosen knights. King Alfonso charges the princes that if they injure their opponents in the least, they will forfeit their lives. Proved craven in the fight, the princes are stripped of all honor and wealth. The Cid rejoices that, once banished, he can now count two kings of Spain among his kinsmen. He dies, Lord of Valencia, on the Day of Pentecost.

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