Critical Commentary On El Cid's Defence Of Valencia

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Critical Commentary on El Cid's Defence of Valencia

Critical Commentary on El Cid's Defence of Valencia


The Poema de Mío Cid is fairly easy to summarise. Inspired by the life in exile of the historical Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (ca1043-1099), it is a fairly short epic poem, consisting of 3733 lines divided into three “Songs” or “Cantares.” The first “Cantar” (vv 1-1084) centres on the exile of the Cid, the second (vv 1085-2277) on his conquest of Valencia and the marriage of his daughters, the final (vv 2278-3733) on the abuse and abandonment of the daughters and the Cid's appeal for justice.

Rodrigo or Ruy Díaz de Vivar, known as the Cid, from an Arabic word meaning 'lord,' or 'master,' is Spain's national hero. He has accordingly been seen as the embodiment of the ideals, naturally rather abstract, most valued by each succeeding generation. As a result, there has been a tendency to simplify his character. The epic Cantar de mio Cid, however, shows very little inclination to abstraction. Rather, it portrays a man of his time, admirable in what he does and says, a master of war, of unsurpassed bravery but even more remarkable for his intelligence and his astute judgment. But in making these comments, we inevitably fall into the habitual abstractions. Let us try to follow the story on its own terms, as it offers a direct experience of a world radically different from ours.

Critical Commentary

The poem begins as the Cid, exiled by the king, leaves his village of Vivar, near Burgos in Castile, on his way into Moorish territory. The first folio (the first two pages) of the only surviving manuscript of the poem is lost. An idea of its content can be inferred from several historical texts called chronicles, drawn from a lost version or versions of the poem. The first lines may have alluded to the motive for the Cid's exile (see below), and probably recounted the news of the king's proclamation, the hero's speech to his vassals inviting them to accompany him on his journey - necessarily a military campaign - and a favorable response by Alvar Fáñez, his "diestro braço" or right-hand man.

The Moorish or Arabic-speaking presence in Spain was tremendously influential in the country's history, and is fundamental to the poem. The "moros" dominated Spain after their invasion from North Africa beginning in 711, but by the eleventh century the Christian kingdom of León, toward the northwest of the Peninsula, had become the greatest power, and was exacting yearly tribute from the Moorish kingdoms to the south and east, fragmented but prosperous compared to the north. The Cid of history (c. 1045-1099) was a native of Castile, a sometimes rebellious part of the kingdom of León. According to the poem, the Cid was sent by the king to collect tribute money from the Moorish king of Seville. Leonese nobles close to the king convinced him that the Cid had kept much of the money for ...
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