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Title page of 1637 printing of Le Cid.
|Written by||Pierre Corneille|
|Date premiered||January 1637|
|Place premiered||Théâtre du Marais, Paris|
|Setting||Kingdom of Castile|
Le Cid is a five-act French tragicomedy written by Pierre Corneille, first performed in January 1637 at the Théâtre du Marais in Paris and published the same year. It is based on Guillén de Castro's play Las mocedades del Cid, published in 1618. Castro's play in turn is based on the legend of El Cid.
The play followed Corneille's first true tragedy, Médée, produced in 1635. An enormous popular success, Corneille's Le Cid was the subject of a heated polemic over the norms of dramatic practice known as the Querelle du Cid. Cardinal Richelieu's Académie française acknowledged the play's success, but determined that it was defective, in part because it did not respect the classical unities.
Today, Le Cid is widely regarded as Corneille's finest work.
The play focuses on Don Rodrigue and Chimène. Rodrigue's father, Don Diègue, is the old upstart general of Kingdom of Castile and past his prime, whereas Chimène's father is the successful current general, Comte de Gormas. Rodrigue and Chimène love each other, but any chance of marriage is brutally disturbed when Chimène's father insults Rodrigue's father. Torn between his love for Chimène and his duty to avenge his father's honour, Rodrigue chooses the latter and faces the general in a duel in which Don Gormas is killed. Without denying her love, Chimène asks the King for Rodrigue's head.
When the Moors attack, Rodrigue gets the chance to redeem himself in the eye of the nation, and, more importantly, gets a chance to win back Chimène with honour still satisfied. His victories on the battlefield win him the renown of the people, the title of "the Cid", and the gratitude of the King.
Chimène then approaches the King to request that one of his knights duel with Rodrigue for her honor's sake, with the goal of bringing her Rodrigue's head. Chimène chooses Don Sanche as her champion; although she dislikes him, she agrees to marry whoever is the victor of the duel to the death. The King agrees to the duel unhappily (he does not want to risk losing Rodrigue).
Rodrigue speaks to Chimène privately, saying that he will not defend himself against what is symbolically "her" hand. She finally persuades him to do his best, because if he wins, they will marry.
After the duel, Don Sanche (Chimène's champion), carrying a bloody sword, comes to where she is waiting. Chimène assumes the worst without giving him the chance to speak. Going before the king, she finally feels free to confess her love for Rodrigue because she believes him to be dead. Don Sanche then explains that Rodrigue disarmed him and granted him mercy. After the duel, Rodrigue returns straight to the king, leaving Don Sanche to bring his sword to Chimène.
Although they love each other, Chimène and Rodrigue are reluctant to marry because of their history, but the king says that although it seemed impossible at first, circumstances have proven that they were meant to be together. Still, he realizes they need time to adapt. Chimène will set the date for the wedding, up to a year in advance. Meanwhile, Rodrigue, known as the Cid, will conduct a war against the Moors in their own territory.
- Don Rodrigue - (El Cid), Chimène's lover, son of Don Diègue
- Chimène - daughter of Don Gormas
- Don Gormas - (the count) father of Chimène, general of Castille
- Don Diègue - father of Don Rodrigue
- Doña Urraque - (Infante) daughter of the king, in love with Don Rodrigue
- Don Fernand - first king of Castille
- Don Sanche - in love with Chimène, fights Don Rodrigue
- Elvire - governess of Chimène
- Leonor - governess of Doña Urraque
- Don Arias and Don Alonse - Castilian gentlemen
- Garreau 1984, vol. 1, p. 554; Howarth 1997, p. 253 (Howarth gives the premiere date as January 1637; Garreau, as December 1636 or January 1637); Franco 1984, vol. 1, p. 477 (publication date of Castro's play).
- Franco, Andrés (1984). "Castro y Bellvís, Guillén de" in Hochman 1984, vol. 1, pp. 475–477.
- Garreau, Joseph E. (1984). "Corneille, Pierre" in Hochman 1984, vol. 1, pp. 545–554.
- Hochman, Stanley, editor (1984). McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of World Drama. New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 9780070791695.
- Howarth, William D., editor (1997). French Theatre in the Neo-classical Era, 1550–1789. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521100878.