Much of the action of this play is stimulated by honor. It is for his father’s honor that Don Rodrigue challenges his future father-in-law to a duel in the very beginning of the play. Before doing so, Rodrigue contemplates honor and how it affects his life. His father was dishonored by a slap in the face and the fact that his arm was too weak to challenge Don Gomes. Rodrigue is left with little choice. Honor dictates that he must fight Don Gomes. If his father is dishonored, then he too is dishonored. And honor, in this play and during this time, was more important than love. For if Rodrigue is dishonored, then it follows that he is unworthy of the love of Chimene.
Chimene also must deal with the concept of honor. She believes that her own father was dishonored by the duel with Rodrigue during which Don Gomes lost his life. In order to protect her father’s honor (and thus her own), Chimene insists that the man she loves, Rodrigue, must be killed.
During all this discussion of honor and the reactions in defense of it, it is interesting to note that the only modern act of honor in the play is the one in which Le Cid spares the life of Don Sanche. In modern times, a slap in the face might be humiliating but it is not worthy of a duel. A duel would be considered illegal. And a father might be sentenced to a jail term if he sends his son to kill a man who has merely insulted him. But when Don Sanche agrees to save Chimene’s honor by challenging Le Cid to a duel; and Le Cid, in turn, does not take the life of Don Sanche, although he easily could have, then a true sense of honor, at least in reflection of modern mores, is practiced.
There are many different kinds of love displayed in the play. First there is the love of Rodrigue for his father. Rodrigue is willing to sacrifice his own love for Chimene in order to avenge his father. The love between Rodrigue and his father is strong but it is not as deep as Rodrigue’s love for Chimene. And yet Rodrigue is willing to lose Chimene in order to protect his father. This is because Rodrigue realizes that he has no choice. He knows he will lose Chimene no matter what he does. If he kills her father, his honor will be restored but Chimene will not be willing to marry him. If he doesn’t kill her father, his honor will not be restored and Chimene will not be willing to marry him. Although Rodrigue loves his father, it is for his father’s (and his own) honor that he faces Don Gomes. But it is for his love of Chimene that Rodrigue is willing to lose his own life. He feels there is no way out of his quandary and would rather die than live without Chimene. And he would rather die by her hand than any one else’s. His love for Chimene is greater than his love of his own life, in other words.
Chimene also loves Rodrigue deeply. But despite her love, she would see Rodrigue dead in order to restore her father’s honor. Her love for her father and her love for Rodrigue are closely linked to one another. She cannot chose which man she loves more. These are different kinds of love but both of them run deep.
Infanta also displays a love, one that she keeps all but secret. Only her lady-in-waiting knows that she loves Rodrigue. But Infanta is torn between her love of her role as a noble woman, a woman who cares very much about the welfare and stability of her kingdom, and her love of Rodrigue. If she exposes her love of Rodrigue she would be going against the rules of nobility, which declare that she must marry according to her social stature. She must marry someone who is in line to become a king. So she inspires and encourages the love between Chimene and Rodrigue. In this...
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