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Medieval and Classical Library


Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #30

The following text was scanned from The Lay of the Cid, translated by R. Selden Rose and Leonard Bacon, and published in Berkeley, California, by the University of California Press in the year 1919 as part of the series entitled Semicentennial Publications of the University of California: 1868-1918.

This work was prepared for OMACL, and made available 4 May 1997

[ Background | Bibliography ]


The Lay of the Cid is a translation of the Cantar del mio Cid, a poem written in the mid-twelfth century about the Castilian Hero, Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar, and relating events from his exile from Castile in 1081 until shortly before his death in 1099. Although the Cid accomplished the remarkable feats of capturing the rich Muslim kingdom of Valencia and holding it as his own, and being the first of the Christian leaders to defeat the Almoravides, a warlike band of zealots from North Africa, the poem concentrates upon his relationship with King Alfonso VI of Leon-Castile. Like many feudal epics, The Lay of the Cid portrays the breakdown of the vassal-lord relationship due to some shortcoming of the lord, the manner in which the vassal attempts to deal with this situation, and reaches a climax and resolution in a detailed account of a formal trial.

The Cid became a universal hero to the Spanish, and his history was elaborated by numerous ballads, legends, and other tales until the historical figure was completely obscured by this fanciful literature. The Cid was rescued from fiction by the Spanish Scholar Ramon Menendez Pidal, who devoted the entirety of his long life to uncovering the historical Cid and in portraying the Spain in which he lived.


There are numerous translations of The Song of the Cid in English. The basic work for understanding the historical background of the work is Ramon Menendez Pidal (1869-1968), The Cid and his Spain Translated by Harold Sunderland (London: F. Cass, 1971), while Colin Smith, The Making of the Poema de Mio Cid (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983), and Richard Fletcher, The quest for El Cid (New York: Knopf, 1990) offer more general, but readable account. Guillen de Castro (1569-1631), The Youthful Deeds of the Cid, Translated by Robert R. La Du, Luis Soto-Ruiz, and Giles A. Daeger (New York: Exposition Press, 1969), and Robert Southey (1774-1843), The Spanish ballads, and the Chronicle of the Cid (London: Warne, 1873), provide texts of some of the later accretions to The Song of the Cid. El Cid produced by Samuel Bronston, directed by Anthony Mann, written by Frederic M. Frank & Philip Yordan. (Tulsa, OK: distributed by United Entertainment, Inc., 1979) is an epic film rendition. This score and libretto for the opera Il Cid by Antonio Sacchini (1730-1786) has been published by Stainer and Bell (London: 1996), and Le Cid, the opera by Jules Massenet (1842-1912), is available from CBS Records Masterworks (Austria: 1989)