Performing Medieval Narrative Today

A Video Showcase

Cid: The Cid prepares joyfully to go into battle

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About the scene and clip:
The Cid goes joyfully into battle, with the performer beating  his hands on the table to imitate the sound of the Moorish drums.  The Cid reassures his terrified wife and the ladies that all will be well—he will conquer, and those drums will soon hang in St. Mary’s Church!

About the work: 
The Song of the Cid (Cantar del Mio Cid) is a medieval Spanish epic, probably composed in the 12th century, and preserved in a single, somewhat incomplete 14th-century manuscript; it is probably anonymous (though there is controversy on the issue). It recounts important adventures of an historical figure, Rodrigo (or Ruy) Díaz, known as “El Cid” (from an Arabic honoric term, meaning “lord” or “sir”).  The Cid was a major hero of the “reconquista” (reconquest) of Spain from the Moors. This epic is (especially for an epic) unusually cheerful on the whole: The Cid was “born at the right hour!” The first part tells of his banishment from Castile by King Alfonso (for reasons unclear in the epic), his many conquests in Moorish territory, and his reinstatement at court. The second part focuses on the highly unsatisfactory marriages of The Cid’s two daughters to arrogant, cowardly Spanish noblemen, the sons of Carrión (the king had chosen the marriages); the brothers beat the two women and leave them for dead in the forest, but they are rescued. The Cid contrives a sophisticated and civilized revenge on the two men—and his daughters go on to marry kings.    

About the genre:  
The epic is an ancient genre and is found in almost every culture. It is a long heroic narrative that tells of war and great deeds. Epics are generally composed in verse, and sung from memory or improvised in performance by professional performers with instrumental accompaniment. These narratives are created from traditional elements, commonly without recourse to writing, by poets whose names are often unknown to us. Among the famous traditional epics are the Iliad and the Odyssey, attributed to Homer; the Anglo-Saxon Beowulf; and the Old French Song of Roland. Many known poets adopt epic forms and themes for their literary verse (such as Virgil in his Aeneid).

About the edition/translation:  
The Song of the Cid: A Dual-Language Edition with Parallel Text, trans. Burton Raffel, New York, Penguin Editions, 2009; stanza 91, pp. 117-119.

About the performer/ensemble:  
Jon Sokolow is a Drama student in the Experimental Theatre Wing at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts (2012).

About the production:
This performance was created for the course “Acting Medieval Literature,” taught by Prof. Timmie (E.B.) Vitz at New York University in spring 2012. It was videoed by Alexander Herron and edited by Abigail Wahl.