Le Cid

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Le Cid
Title page of the 1673 printing of Le Cid
Title page of 1637 printing of Le Cid.
Written by Pierre Corneille
Characters See below
Date premiered January 1637
Place premiered Théâtre du Marais, Paris
Original language French
Genre Tragicomedy
Setting Kingdom of Castile

Le Cid is a five-act French tragicomedy written by Pierre Corneille, first performed in January 1636 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.[1] 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.

Plot summary[edit]

Act I

The play opens with Don Sanche and Don Rodrigue fighting for the hand of Chimène.  Chimène prefers Rodrigue, and her governess, Elvire, tells her that Chimène’s father believes him to be the stronger choice for her marriage. Chimène does not allow herself yet to be overjoyed, and fears that fate will change her father’s mind.

The Infante (or princess) reveals that she is also in love with Rodrigue, but could never marry him because of his lower social class. Therefore, she has decided to bring Chimène and Rodrigue together in order to extinguish her own passions.

Chimène’s father, Don Gomès, Count de Gormas, discovers that the king has asked Rodrigue’s old father, Don Diègue, to tutor the Prince of Castille, the count believes he is worthier of the position and tells Diègue this. Diègue says the two should become friends because their children wish to be married, the count refuses and slaps Diègue, who draws his sword but is too weak to hold it. The count disarms him and insults him before leaving.

Diègue is ashamed by this encounter and asks his son to avenge him and fight the count. Rodrigue realizes if he fights and kills the count, he will lose Chimène’s love, but still chooses to fight to honor his father’s name.

Act II

Don Arias tells the count that the king forbids a duel between him and Rodrigue, but the count arrogantly disobeys and wants to fight regardless, he taunts Rodrigue but also commends him for his lack of fear and spirit and asks him to stand down, but Rodrigue refuses.

Chimène tells the princess how distraught she is about her lover and her father fighting. A page notifies them that he saw the two men leaving the palace. Chimène realizes they have gone to duel, and leaves quickly, the Infante considers if Rodrigue wins the duel, Chimène will reject him, and the Infante will be able to win him after all.

Meanwhile, the king tells Don Sancho and Don Arias of his anger regarding the count’s cruelty to Diègue and his agreement to duel Rodrigue, the king also worries about a potential impending attack by the Moorish navy moving toward his lands. Don Alonse enters and announces that Rodrigue has killed the count.


Rodrigue comes to Chimène’s home, and tells Elvire that he will be killed by Chimène’s hand. Elvire tells him to flee, and he hides as Chimène approaches. Chimène tells Elvire of her conflicting feelings, but that she must make sure Rodrigue dies, she plans to follow him in death afterward. Rodrigue reveals himself and gives Chimène his sword to kill him, but she cannot.

Rodrigue returns home, and his father tells him the Moors are going to attack. Rodrigue must fight them, and if he returns alive and a winner, the king will praise him and he will regain Chimène’s love.

Act IV

Rodrigue goes to war and is very successful, the captured Moors even revere him, and call him “The Cid.” The Infante begs Chimène to give up her quest to kill Rodrigue, but Chimène refuses. The king tricks Chimène into believing Rodrigue has been killed, and her reaction proves to everyone that she still loves him. Regardless, she still feels the need to avenge her father’s death. Don Sanche says he will fight Rodrigue on her behalf, and she promises to marry whoever triumphs.

Act V

Rodrigue comes to Chimène and says he will not defend himself in the fight against Don Sanche, she says he must truly fight to save her from a marriage to Don Sanche.

In a monologue, the Infante declares that Rodrigue belongs to Chimène, if so little hatred has come between them since he killed her father.

Chimène sees Don Sanche come in with a bloody sword, and believes he has killed Rodrigue, she cries that she loved Rodrigue, and pleads not to marry the victor, but will instead enter a convent and grieve forever over her father and Rodrigue. She will leave all of her possessions to Don Sanche. However, the king tells her Rodrigue is still alive. Rodrigue disarmed Don Sanche but decided to let him live. Don Sanche says the two should marry because of their obvious love for one another.

The king tells Chimène she has served her father enough by putting Rodrigue in danger and no longer needs to avenge him, he tells her to do something for herself by marrying Rodrigue, but realizes she still needs time to “dry her tears.” They will be married in a year, and in the meantime, Rodrigue will continue to fight against the Moors and remain faithful to Chimène and become even more worthy of her love.


  • Don Rodrigue - (Le 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


The play is the basis for the opera Le Cid by Jules Massenet and partly for Handel's Flavio.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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.

External links[edit]