Places Discussed

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Royal palace

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Royal palace. Corneille portrays the two houses in The Cid basically as elegant prisons in which Chimène and the infanta lead apparently comfortable lives but cannot express their deepest feelings to others. One might expect the infanta to be a happy person because she is so wealthy, but such is not the case. The royal palace in which she lives is a marble museum and almost a tomb for her. There she must always act and speak in conformity with the expectations of her social standing.

Chimène’s house

Chimène’s house (shee-MEHN). The home of the daughter of Don Gomès is more modest than the royal palace, but is equally oppressive. Chimène is constantly watched by a female servant who reports to her father. Corneille effectively contrasts the interior spaces occupied by Chimène and the infanta with the open surroundings in which the warrior Rodrigue operates. Rodrigue, like the women, is also profoundly alienated. Once he believes that he can never marry his beloved Chimène, he seeks death in a rash attack to defend Seville against the invading Moorish forces, only to win an unexpected victory. He is no happier on the battlefield than are Chimène and the infanta in their elegant domestic prisons.

Historical Context

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Eleventh-century Spain
From the eighth until the eleventh century, Muslims (or Moors as they were once called) controlled most of the Iberian Peninsula, which contains the present-day Spain, Portugal, and Andorra. The first Muslim leader, Abd-al-Rahman, settled his forces in Cordoba in southern Spain, and it was from this city that he and his descendents ruled for almost three hundred years. At the turn of the eleventh century, Cordoba had become one of the largest metropolitan areas in the Mediterranean. But as the eleventh century neared, the Iberian Peninsula was in no way united. Allegiance to the rulers in Cordoba deteriorated and then completely fell apart when the last leader in Cordoba died in 1036. At this time, small kingdoms (called taifas) declared their independence. Among the most significant of these taifas were Seville, Cordoba, Granada, Toledo, Lisbon, and Valencia.

In the meantime, Christian communities in northern Spain began to fight back against the Moors. In the eleventh century, as Muslim control of the peninsula began to deteriorate, Christian armies proved more successful than they had been in the past and eventually regained control of northern and central Spain. But when Christians were victorious in the city of Toledo, which marked their largest triumph, Muslims became very concerned and asked for reinforcements. Their requests were honored, and troops from northern Africa soon arrived on Iberian shores. In 1086, Muslims again controlled many of the kingdoms on the peninsula; however, they were not able to keep control. In 1094, El Cid, Spain’s first legendary hero, recaptured the prominent kingdom of Valencia. Unfortunately for the Christians, upon El Cid’s death in 1099, the Muslims once again took over Valencia.

El Cid (also referred to as El Campeador, ‘‘the champion’’) was born Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar in 1043 in Vivar, Castile. He was of minor noble lineage on his father’s side and part of the landed aristocracy on his mother’s side. Raised at the court of Ferdinand I, he was a child with many privileges. At the age of twenty-two, under the rule of Sancho II, El Cid was appointed commander of the royal troops. In 1067, he was critically involved in the fall and annexation of the Morish kingdom of Zaragoza, thus signaling both his military and political prowess.

Sancho was not happy with the way the kingdom had been divided in his father’s will. He began to wage war against his brother Alfonso, who ruled the other half of the land. El Cid, although he might have done so reluctantly, supported Sancho in these endeavors. When...

(The entire section contains 3205 words.)

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Critical Essays


Teaching Guide