Le Cid

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Le Cid is a tragicomedy in five acts by Pierre Corneille , composed in Alexandrians rhyming in pairs . The material or the main character Rodrigue alias the "Cid" comes from the Spanish history of the 11th century , when the military leader Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, known as " El Cid ", played a central role in driving back the Arabs ( Moors ). Corneille, however, takes over the main features of the plot of his play from the Spanish play Las mocedades del Cid (Die Jugenddaten des Cid, 1618) by Guillén de Castro .

At the center of the plot is the conflict between love on the one hand, honor and a sense of duty on the other. The young noblewoman Chimène accuses the king of her fiancé Don Rodrigue because he challenged and fatally injured her father, who in turn had offended his old father. The king does not want to punish Rodrigue, however, because he has just done a great job as a military leader in the defense of the city of Seville and because he thinks he knows that Chimène loves him. The latter denies this indignantly and insists on punishment, even promising her hand to the person who carries out the punishment. In fact, a young nobleman offers to duel with Don Rodrigue for her. When, as she believes, he returns to her victorious, she lets her grief over the supposedly dead Rodrigue run wild and vows that she would rather go to the monastery than get married. The king clears up the misunderstanding and officially betrothed her to Rodrigue, who was actually victorious.

The piece, probably composed in 1636, was premiered at the end of 1636 / beginning of 1637 (exact details unknown) and was a great public success. It is considered the best piece of Corneille. The cid was dedicated to Marie-Madeleine de Vignerot, Duchess of Aiguillon, Cardinal Richelieu's favorite niece .


first act

I. Chimène reveals her love for Don Rodrigue to her governess Elvire.
II. The Castilian Infanta Doña Urraque also reveals her love for R. to her governess Léonor, but knows about her hopelessness, as she cannot marry a simple noblewoman. So she accepts the marriage of Ch. To R.
III. Don Gomès, Comte von Gormas and Father Ch.s, ventures his anger towards Don Diègue, Father R's, that the King has appointed him, and not himself, the Prince Educator. The discussion ends with a slap in the face that Don Diègue gives.
IV. Don Diègue's monologue, he thinks about revenge.
V. He wants his son Don Rodrigue to avenge him and asks him.
VI. Don Rodrigues monologue, he ponders: Chimène or honor? He chooses revenge.

Second act

I. The Comte speaks to Don Arrias, a Castilian nobleman, about what to do. He doesn't want to apologize - honor and the king are very important to him.
II. Don Rodrigue and the Comte. Rodrigue provokes him to a duel .
III. Chimène speaks to the Infanta. This supports and encourages them. Chimène is afraid of losing Rodrigue and afraid of his decision.
IV. The page says Don Rodrigue and the Comte left together.
V. The Infanta still has hope - if Rodrigue is to win, he is the hero and she can still marry him. She thinks that as a king he is good and brave.
VI. King Don Fernand is angry with the Comte, the nobles defend him. The king fears the Moors , the nobles encourage him.
VII. The Comte is dead. Chimène is sad, the King loses a servant.
VIII. Chimène wants justice, she wants the death of Rodrigues at all costs. His father, Don Diègue, defends him.

Third act

This is the dramatic climax of the piece.

I. Don Rodrigue comes to Chimène in arms, she is not there. Elvire is hiding it. Chimène comes in.
II. Don Sanche, in love with Chimène, offers her revenge and offers her his arm. Chimène refuses.
III. Chimène wants revenge and then dies because she still loves him. He heard everything in his hiding place.
IV. He comes out - and gives her his life: she is very sad
. V. Don Diègue alone - he is looking for his son and fears justice.
VI. He orders his son to go into battle against the Moors in order to regain the honor of the king and the love of Chimène.

Fourth act

I. Chimène is pleased to learn that Rodrigue defeated the Moors.
II. The Infanta asks Chimène not to kill Don Rodrigue, since he is now a hero. She wants Chimène to reject his love but let him live.
III. The king congratulates Don Rodrigue, who is now called the cid. He tells a long story of the fight against the Moors.
IV. The king tells Chimène that Rodrigue is dead and she is devastated to death. But when she learns the truth, she wishes him dead. The king accepts a duel between Don Rodrigue and Don Sanche - she promises to marry the winner. Don Sanche naturally wants to be her hero.

Fifth act

I. Rodrigue says goodbye to Chimène - he wants to be killed. She tries in vain to convince him to fight.
II. The Infanta still loves him and tries to suppress her love.
III. She tells Leonor about her growing love - he's no longer a simple knight, but the cid.
IV. Chimène also speaks to her governess. In any case, she sees herself as the loser: if Rodrigue wins, she will marry her father's murderer, and if Don Sanche wins, she will marry her lover's murderer.
V. Don Sanche appears with the sword Rodrigues. - Chimène is injured.
VI. Rodrigue is not dead, they deceived Chimène. He won the duel and spared Don Sanche. The king says Chimène should marry Rodrigue because she loves him so much.
VII. The king sends the hero Rodrigue away for another year to fight the Moors, after which he is supposed to marry Chimène.

Reception and effect

The play had a considerable success. But the positive portrayal of the duel among nobles provoked the almost all-powerful minister of the time, Cardinal Richelieu , who had just forbidden the duels. Other authors also envy the success. This led to a heated controversy, the so-called Querelle du Cid , in which Corneille was attacked superficially with the argument that he had not respected the three entities - above all those of the place and those of the time. In addition, there was a kind of copyright dispute in which it was discussed to what extent an author could use a topic that had already been dealt with (specifically the work Las mocedades del Cid by Guillén de Castro , published in 1618. Castro himself had himself through the medieval myth of the cid and also inspired by the epic Cantar de Mio Cid .) Richelieu commissioned the newly founded Académie française to deliver a judgment. This was politely formulated, but negative, so that the poet first took a creative break.

In 1885, Jules Massenet composed his opera Le Cid based on Corneille's tragic comedy .


  • Jean Firges : Pierre Corneille: “Le Cid”. The swan song of the nobility. (Exemplary series literature and philosophy, 24) Sonnenberg, Annweiler 2008 ISBN 3-933264-51-0

Web links

Wikisource: Le Cid  - Sources and full texts (French)