But a more pervading element of this play, one that is acted out by not only the protagonist but many other characters is that of sacrifice.
Seen in purest form in the earlier plays, this hero, torn between the dictates of duty, honor, and patriotism and the demands of love, achieves, through the strength of reason and will, an absolute realization of self. Often surrounded by mediocrity or by relative values, the hero is concerned solely for his gloire, which might be defined as an extreme form of aristocratic honor and self-respect, providing self-definition.
It is not surprising that Pierre Corneille has historically enjoyed periods of popularity before and during wars: Act 1 is a kind of prologue: Pridamant has spent years searching for his son Clindor, who was alienated from his father ten years earlier.
Having found no trace of his son, Pridamant is brought by his friend Dorante to the grotto of the magician Alcandre. Thus, in act 2 a play-within-a-play begins in which Clindor is valet to the cowardly military captain Matamore, a farcical character who boasts of fantastic military and amorous exploits.
Both men love Isabelle, who in turn loves Clindor. Adraste, another rival for the love of Isabelle, fights Clindor, who, though wounded, kills Adraste. Clindor is condemned to execution for murder. He, Lyse, and the beloved Isabelle flee.
Clindor, richly dressed, courts another woman. The jealous husband of the woman whom Clindor is courting, Prince Florilame, has Clindor killed and kidnaps Isabelle. Pridamant, who believes that he has witnessed the murder of his son, is inconsolable until Alcandre reveals yet another scene: Clindor, Isabelle, and the others are counting and dividing money.
It turns out that they are actors, and the last scene was a fragment of a tragedy that they had just performed. The notion of theatricality is central to the play. The magician Alcandre takes on the role of director and author while Pridamant represents the dazzled and deceived audience.
Within the levels of illusion, there is a hierarchy. On the highest level, Alcandre creates superbly effective, magical, supernatural illusions that occur in a secret place the grotto and are inaccessible to the vast majority of people.
It was necessary to adapt this long and diffuse foreign play to the tastes of the French audience. Corneille simplified and condensed, keeping the essential Romanesque theme of an aristocratic hero who accepts the tragic burden of opposing moral obligations and thus transcends the contingencies of the human condition.
Though steeped in emotion, the decision is thus both logical and necessary. She is torn between two passions, family honor and love, and she chooses honor.
This she cannot do: She demands that he leave her house yet gives him to understand that she loves him still. This emotional duel is said to have provoked great admiration and emotion in contemporary audiences. This scene of interior conflict accompanies an exterior threat: The infidel Moors are massing to attack the city of Seville.
Exhorted again by his father, Rodrigue leads a force that, in the course of a nocturnal battle, defeats the Moors and saves the realm.
Now a great hero, the right arm of the king, Rodrigue receives the title of le Cid, or Lord, from his vanquished foes. He is resigned to his death. Cursing Don Sanche, she admits publicly her undying love for Rodrigue. The king reveals the truth: The concept of rivalry informs the action of The Cid.
The inevitable conflict then falls on the children: Products of a feudal ethic that places honor above all else, the young couple are heroic yet sensitive.
The king, who has the last words in the play, imposes his will on a younger generation, which accepts the idea of monarchical order.
Represented by the fathers, the less-sympathetic older generation exhibits the intransigent feudal mentality of kill or die. It is important to note that the play traces the development of Corneillian heroism in Rodrigue.
The Cid remains perhaps the best example of the ethical values of Corneillian drama: The last criticism is perhaps the most interesting. The concept of vraisemblance—verisimilitude—was a fundamental tenet of the classical theoreticians.
Critics condemned the incident as shocking:Le Cid is often called the first great French classical tragedy, and its dramatic power resides in Corneille's skillful manipulation of the conflict of honor and love.
The play's numerous violations of the neoclassical “rules” of tragic design prompted published attacks by Corneille's rivals as well as defenses by Corneille and his supporters.
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Couprie, Alain, Pierre Corneille, Le Cid, Paris: Presses universitaires de France, Cite this article Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.
Pierre Corneille’s Le Cid focuses on a legendary hero of eleventh-century Spain and his feats of heroism, chivalry, and honor. But a more pervading element of . “Le Cid” is a French tragicomic play by Pierre Corneille, first performed in at Paris’s Théâtre du Marais.
The plot is based on a previous play by Guillén de Castro’s “Las Mocedades del Cid,” which itself is based on the legend of El Cid, the national hero of Castile, Spain.