El Cid (Epic of Spain) I- Introduction of the epic El Cid: The Cantar de mio Cid (El Cid) recounts the heroic deeds of the Cid, an exiledmember of the lower nobility who wins back his king’s favor by battling the Islamicinhabitants of Spain. Based on the exploits of a historical personage, Rodrigo (Ruy) Diazde Vivar, who lived from 1040-1099, this epic offers an important example of theinteraction of history and literature in the Middle Ages. The Cid is best known for its interweaving of irony, heroic drama, and a rarestrain of realism that incorporates multifaceted portraits of Moors, Jews, andChristians. One of the oldest Spanish documents in existence; it is also the onlySpanish epic to have survived almost intact. It is contained in a fourteenth-centurymanuscript, which bears the date 1207, most likely referring to an earlier version of thepoem that was copied in the later book. Several accounts of the Cid’s life, however, existbefore this epic poem was written in manuscript form. Two Latin poems, one writtenbefore the Cid’s death, and the other just after chronicle his life. He is mentioned inArabic sources, and his fame endured throughout the Middle Ages, in works of varyingquality. Fast Facts of the epic El Cid: II- Authorship This epic, El Cid is the life story of a Castilian soldier, Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar.His life is told in different media and this style of being an epic is one of the means thatmade the dissemination of his story possible. Many wrote his own version of his tale andsome wrote it even in different forms. Most of them wrote it in poems. After some time,people made it in films and made computer games with a background story of El Cid. Inshort, the author of his story can’t be counted because they are so many but we may saythat the real author of the story is of course, the one who experience the incidents, ElCid. Every man is the author of his own life, of his own adventure.
III- Setting The epic took place in Spain somewhere in Castile. This is where El Cid serves asa knight to King Alfonso. Some parts of the story, especially El Cid’s exile, happened inthe land near the small Moorish state of Aragon. This is where he recovers his power byhaving a Christian-Moorish army that made him able to conquer the city of Valencia.Most incidents happened in Spain where the real life of the real man, El Cid, occurred. IV- Characters a) Principal Characters: Rodrigo Dias de Bivar, El Cid Campeador – the protagonist of the work. ACastilian soldier who fights for his wealth and honor that was taken once from him. Count Garcia Ordonez – El Cid’s only enemy. In the veins of him and hisrelatives and descendants flows the blood of a wrongdoer that made El Cid suffer andlose his wealth and honor. b) Secondary Characters: King Alfonso – king of Castile. The conqueror on that time. He is who El Cidserved for. El Cid gave three demands to him. Infantes de Carreon – relatives of Count Garcia Ordonez;they are the ones whotortured El Cid’s daughters. The nephew of El Cid – the tortured ones. But, because of El Cid their honor isregained from the Infantes. Jews of Burgos – the two men tricked by El Cid.
V- Summary The hero of El Cid is a Castilian soldier, Rodrigo Dias de Bivar, who isknown by the Arabic title of Sidi or El Cid. The poem begins with the exile of the Cid asa result of intrigues and slander by means of which an enemy, Count Garcia Ordoňez,turns the king against him. He leaves his wife and two daughters in a monastery. To raisemoney he tricks two Jews of Burgos by selling them a chest which he claims to be full ofgold and jewels but which in reality is filled with sand. He sets out with three hundred faithful followers to gain his living in the smallMoorish state of Aragon. Here he prospers well. He wins battle after battle andaccumulates booty and ransom from the Moors. His fame attracts more followers, andwith his invincible army he even defeats in battle the powerful count of Barcelona andacquires the great city of Valencia. He sends for his wife and daughters. His wealth andfame return him into King Alfonso’s favor. The king offers to marry his two daughters to two noblemen (ricos hombres), theInfantes de Carreon, relatives of his old enemy, Count Garcia Ordonez, to which the Cidagrees. His sons-in-law are proud and insolent and marry his daughters (whom theyconsider beneath their rank) only because of the wealthy dowry the Cid gives them. After the marriage, the Infantes obtain permission from the Cid to take theirwives home; but away from the Cid, the bridegrooms strip their bodies naked, beat them,and run away with their dowries. They leave their young wives in the depth of the forest. The Cid appeals to King Alfonso for justice. The king summons a court atToledo and the cid appears before it. He demands the return of his two famous swordswhich the Infantes have taken. The request is granted. He demands the restoration ofhis daughters’ dowries. This is also granted. The third demand is the right to defendhis honor by fighting the two Infantes in a single combat. While the court debates thisrequest, two messengers arrive from the King of Aragon and the king of Navarrerequesting the hands of his daughters in marriage. The Cid’s two nephews, who arepresent, challenge the Infantes de Carreon in single combat. The story ends with thedefeat of the Infantes and the complete restoration of the Cid’s wealth and honor.
VI- Evaluation Most readers tend to focus only to the structure of the poem, story or essayitself rather than the things pertaining to the author. And furthermore, they often regretand forget who the author of the work is. For them, the name of the writer is enough. In biographical perspective study, the author is associated in examining the pieceof writing. Readers will understand more and have more answers to their questions if theyhave knowledge about who the author is, what kind of a person he/she is and what lifedoes he face. The point is, because the epic poem is wrote based on the real and actual eventsfrom history, we may understand the epic more if we know something about Rodrigo Diasde Bivar, the El Cid, his life and all the things with relevance to him. And of course, somethings that are not stated in the poem may make you wonder about some occurrences in itsuch as what is the reason why El Cid is exiled. We all know that the intrigues and slanderthe jealous nobles say against El Cid is the cause of his banishment. But there’s one morethat increases the possibility of his exile. And it is his unauthorized expedition in thebattle of Cabra. Some critic says that more parts of the whole epic poem show someincompleteness so they advise that the readers must have even a little background beforereading the poem in order for them not only to understand but also reflect the poem totheir lives. The poem shows the life of the El Cid, and his unstoppable attitude towardsdefending his honor. And we may use his story as a guideline to our lives so our own rightswill be protected and our own privileges are secluded. VII- Moral Lesson The story is about how someone must fight for his honor. We must fight for ourown rights. And why is that? Because the life you are having is yours and you areresponsible of it. That’s the only one that the epic wants to emphasize. And of course,never give up for yourself not only in protecting it but also enhancing, raising anddeveloping it.