What happens in El Cid?

El Cid tells the epic story of a man who fights to restore his honor after being banished from Spain. Following many successful campaigns against the Moorish settlements in Spain, he's pardoned and marries his daughters off to princes.

  • When El Cid is banished from Spain, he's forced to leave his gold, land, and family behind. Determined to restore his name, he and his vassals conquer a series of Moorish settlements. This pleases King Alfonso, who eventually pardons El Cid.

  • El Cid, now wealthy and powerful, revels in his success. King Alfonso requests that El Cid's daughter marry the princes of Carrión. The princes prove themselves to be brutish cowards, however, and nearly beat El Cid's daughters to death.

  • Once captured, the princes are sentenced to trial by combat. When they lose, King Alfonso strips them of their lands and titles. Thus avenged, El Cid marries his daughters to the King of Aragón and the King of Navarre.

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(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

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...

(The entire section is 1,341 words.)