Out of the Wings

You are here:

Las mocedades del Cid (1612-1615), Guillén de Castro

English title: The Youthful Deeds of the Cid
Date written: sometime between 1612 and 1615
First publication date: 1618
Keywords: morality > honour, violence, family > duty, family > marriage, history, honour > chivalry, power > war, ideology > honour
Genre and type: historical drama

This play dramatises the story of Spain’s great mediaeval epic hero, El Cid, who fought in the Catholic ‘Reconquest’ of the Iberian Peninsula. Thought to be Castro’s greatest play, it is both a public testament to heroism and bravery, and the story of one man’s private struggle with the warring powers of love and duty.


As the play begins, Rodrigo is knighted, and the King appoints Rodrigo’s elderly father, Diego Laínez, as Prince Sancho’s new tutor. The Count, Lozano, protests in jealousy, and strikes Laínez. The King keeps the affront a secret, guarding Laínez’s honour. Laínez goes home and laments that his old age prevents him from salvaging his honour in revenge, and decides it would be better to allow one of his sons to fight on his behalf than not to retaliate at all. Of his three sons, Rodrigo shows the most spirit in a test and, as his father’s chosen second, faces a dilemma: he must kill the father of the woman he loves (he is in love with the Count’s daughter Jimena), or be dutiful to his father. He overcomes his scruples of love and puts his father first, aligning himself with legendary heroes. Rodrigo kills the haughty Count. In the second act, the King faces a dilemma: he must decide how to bring justice to the situation, and after hearing pleas from Jimena and from Laínez, the old man is arrested. Prince Sancho, who had defended Laínez, appoints himself as his personal guard. Rodrigo visits Jimena’s house, begging her to kill him to even the score, but she refuses and tells him to flee. He bravely visits his father, who advises him to go fight the Moors to win the King’s admiration and gain forgiveness that way. Rodrigo goes, visiting the princess Urraca on his way out of town. The Christians are subsequently victorious in the battle against the Moors; the shepherd narrates the events for the audience, and Rodrigo is gloriously renamed El Cid. Jimena, in mourning clothes, begs for justice for her still unavenged father, but in asides reveals that she is in conflict between the love she feels for Rodrigo and the justice she must secure for her dead father’s reputation. Urraca is jealous; her love for Rodrigo is also strong. The King decides Rodrigo is a hero, and does not punish him, so Rodrigo inspects the spoils of war as a triumphant hero.

The third act finds Urraca concerned about her inheritance, and the King decides to send Rodrigo to determine if the region of Calahorra remains loyal to him.  The King agrees Jimena and Rodrigo should be married, if for no other reason than to stop her relentless pleas to the King for justice.  After mistakenly thinking that Rodrigo has been killed and revealing her feelings for him, when Jimena finds out he’s alive she says she’ll marry the man who brings her Rodrigo’s head. Rodrigo, Good Samaritan-like, eats and drinks with a leper shunned by the other soldiers. When Rodrigo falls asleep the leper transforms into St Lazarus, breathing the Holy Spirit into Rodrigo’s back and heart, and Rodrigo awakens with the memory of divine breath; Lazarus says he will be blessed and victorious as a reward for his charity. The King arranges for Martín González of Aragon to come and fight, and Rodrigo takes up the challenge; they fight for Calahorra, with David and Goliath imagery as Martín is described as a giant. Martín sends Jimena a message that she should get her wedding dress ready, for he’s going to bring her Rodrigo’s head. In the meantime the King tries to divide up his kingdom in his will, but Prince Sancho disputes the division of the kingdom which the King had worked so hard to unite.  Sancho promises to fight his siblings to reunite the kingdom under himself in the event of his father’s death, saddening the King.  Jimena arrives dressed for her wedding, and Urraca offers her ‘sympathy’ as a servant reports a man is on his way with Rodrigo’s head; in fact, this turns out to be the triumphant Rodrigo himself. Rodrigo offers his own head (and hand) to Jimena, along with the head of Martín, whom he has killed. The play ends with the marriage of Rodrigo and Jimena, and the disappointment of Urraca.


This play is directly based on the ballads (romances) of El Cid, which themselves are based on the historical figure of Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (c. 1043-99), who gloriously defeated the Muslim enemies during the ‘Reconquest’ of Spain by the Christians.  The play also reflects later contemporary ballads inspired by that source text, such as:

Juan de Escobar, Historia y Romancero del Cid (Lisbon, 1605)

Juan de Timoneda, Rosa de romances (Valencia, 1573)

Lorenzo de Sepúlveda, Romances nuevamente sacados (Amberes, 1551)

Critical response

McCrary has studied Castro’s Cid plays in depth in his 1967 essay, focusing on Castro’s use of pre-existing material such as legends, ballads and oral tradition, and the craftsmanship of Castro’s dramatic adaptation. He discusses the character of the Cid as he appears in Spanish tradition, and how Castro made this heritage his own.

Pierre Corneille was inspired by this play to write his famous French play, Le Cid (1637). The play has a sequel, Las hazañas del Cid, also published in 1618. There is a published translation of the play and the sequel into French, La jeunesse du Cid (1823).

  • Angliviel de la Beaumelle, Victor Laurent S.M. trans. 1823. La jeunesse du Cid, première et seconde parties, par Guillem de Castro, pp. 151-305 (Part 1) and pp. 323-448 (Part 2). Chefs-d'œuvre des théatres étrangers 24. Paris, Chez Ladvocat, Librairie (in French)

  • Castro, Guillén de. 1618. Primera parte de las Comedias de Don Guillén de Castro, Valencia, Felipe Mey

  • Castro, Guillén de. 1925-7. Las mocedades del Cid I. In Obras de Gullén de Castro y Bellvís, ed. Eduardo Juliá Martínez, vol. 2, pp. 169-208. Madrid, Real Academia Española, Imprenta de la Revista de Archivos, Bibliotecas y Museos

  • Castro, Guillén de. 1978. Las mocedades del Cid, ed. Luciano García Lorenzo. Madrid, Cátedra

  • Castro, Guillén de. 1996. Las mocedades del Cid, ed. Stefano Arata. Barcelona, Crítica

  • Castro, Guillén de. 2002. Las mocedades del Cid, eds. James Crapotta and Marcia L. Welles, European Masterpieces, Cervantes and Co. Newark, Delaware, Juan de la Cuesta

    This is a fantastic student edition with an introduction in English, a Spanish-English dictionary at the back, and a study of versification and antique grammar, along with notes in English to the text throughout.

  • Manuscript editions of Las mocedades del Cid are held: Rijksuniversiteit Bibliotek de Leyden, 760 F 13; Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris, Rès.p.Yg.19; and two in the Biblioteca Nacional de Madrid, R-9522 and R-14698.

Useful readings and websites
  • Abrams, Fred. 1969. ‘The Enigmatic Lion Passage in Guillén de Castro’s Las mocedades del Cid’, Modern Language Notes, 84, 314-17

  • Agheana, Ion T. 1975. ‘Guillén de Castro’s Creative Use of the Romancero: One Instance in Las mocedades del Cid’, Bulletin of the Comediantes, 27, 2, 79-80

  • Armistead, Samuel G. 1957. ‘The Enamored Doña Urraca in Chronicles and Balladry’, Romance Philology, 11, 1, 26-9

  • Casalduero, Joaquín. 1962. ‘Guillén de Castro: Primera comedia de Las mocedades del Cid’. In Estudios sobre el teatro español, pp. 45-71. Madrid, Gredos (in Spanish)

  • Castro, Guillén de. 2002. Las mocedades del Cid, eds. James Crapotta and Marcia L. Welles, European Masterpieces, Cervantes and Co. Newark, Delaware, Juan de la Cuesta (in Spanish)

    This is a fantastic student edition with an introduction in English, a Spanish-English dictionary at the back, and a study of versification and antique grammar, along with notes in English to the text throughout.

  • Castro, Juan and Miguel de. 1923. ‘Refundición y adaptación a la escena moderna de Guillén de Castro, Las mocedades del Cid’, La Novela teatral, 8, 327 (25 February 1923) (in Spanish)

  • Crapotta, James. 1984. Kingship and Tyranny in the Theater of Guillén de Castro. London, Tamesis

  • García Nieto, José and Hierro, José. 1968. Adaptation of Guillén de Castro’s Las mocedades del Cid, Madrid, Editora Nacional (in Spanish)

  • Lauer, Robert A. 1987. Tyrannicide and Drama. Part 2: The Tyrannicide Drama in Spain from 1579 to 1698, pp. 71-182. Stuttgart, Steiner

  • Lauer, Robert A. 1988. ‘The Use and Abuse of History in the Spanish Theater of the Golden Age: The Regicide of Sancho II as Treated by Juan de la Cueva, Guillén de Castro and Lope de Vega’, Hispanic Review, 56, 17-37

  • McCrary, William C. 1967. ‘Guillén de Castro and the Moçedades of Rodrigo: A Study of Tradition and Innovation’. In Romance Studies in Memory of Edward Billings Ham, ed. Urban Tigner Holmes, pp. 89-102. Hayward, California State College Publications

  • McKendrick, Melveena. 1989. 'Guillén de Castro (1569-1631)'. In Theatre in Spain 1490-1700, pp. 127-9. Cambridge, University Press

  • McMullan, S. J. 1979. ‘Epic, Ballad, Drama: The Mocedades del Cid’. In Belfast Spanish and Portuguese Papers, eds. P. S. N. Russell-Gebbett, N. G. Round and A. H. Terry, pp.123-43. Belfast, The Queen’s University of Belfast

  • Ratcliffe, Marjorie. 1992. ‘Powerless or Empowered? Women in Guillén de Castro’s Las mocedades del Cid and Las hazañas del Cid’, Bulletin of the Comediantes, 44, 2, 261-7

  • Rincón, José María. 1990. Adaptation of Guillén de Castro’s Las mocedades del Cid (comedia en verso dividida en dos partes y catorce cuadros). Madrid, Teatro Español (in Spanish)

  • Thacker, Jonathan. 2007. ‘Cervantes, Tirso de Molina, and The First Generation’. In A Companion to Golden Age Theatre, pp. 56-91. Woodbridge, Tamesis

  • Wilson, William E. 1973. Guillén de Castro. New York, Twayne

  • Zubieta, Mar, ed. 2007. ‘El Cid: Poesía y teatro’, Cuadernos de Teatro Clásico, 23. Madrid, Compañía Nacional de Teatro Clásico (in Spanish)

Entry written by Kathleen Jeffs. Last updated on 4 October 2010.

Tag this play

You must be logged in to add tags. Please log in or sign up for a free account.

Post a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment. Please log in or sign up for a free account.

  • King's College London Logo
  • Queen's University Belfast Logo
  • University of Oxford Logo
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council Logo