- “Del día que fue conde”: The Parodic Remaking of the Count of Barcelona in the Poema de mio Cid
Near the end of the first cantar of the Cantar de mio Cid (CMC), the exiled Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar moves his forces into the territory of Zaragoza, which is under the protection of the Count of Barcelona, Berenguer Ramón II, identified by the poet as “Remont Verenguel” (v. 998).1 After an exchange of threatening letters, the forces of the Cid and the Count meet on a hillside in the piney woods of Tévar, and the latter is quickly defeated when his light cavalry of “francos” are thrown from their horses by the more heavily equipped Castilians (v. 1003). What follows is a comic, almost farcical interlude that is absent from an earlier account of the battle in the Historia Roderici and seems somewhat out of place in the epic.2 As Thomas Montgomery has observed, [End Page 121] “several things about it are at first vaguely puzzling, and the reader . . . may be inclined to wonder why the episode is included at all” (“The Cid and the Count of Barcelona” 1).
Having been captured and taken prisoner, Remont is offered food from the Cid’s victory feast, “‘Comed, conde, d’este pan e beved d’este vino’” (v. 1025). The indignant count, however, refuses to accept a morsel and, in a show of defiance, vows to starve himself to death: “Dixo el conde: –Comede, don Rodrigo . . . que yo dexarm’é morir, que non quiero yantar“ (vv. 1028–1029). Twice more the Cid offers him food using the same verbal formula, comed, conde, and promises freedom as well as protection from the Moors on the condition that he break his fast. After three days, the count agrees to eat and asks for water to wash his hands, but the Cid nevertheless continues to insist with the same alliterative wordplay: “Pues comed, conde . . . si bien non comedes, conde, don yo sea pagado, / aquí feremos la morada” (vv. 1039, 1054–1055). The Castilian warlord then sits above his prisoner, watching as the proud nobleman makes a spectacle of himself by devouring the food with relish: “comiendo va el conde, ¡Dios, qué de buen grado! . . . apriessa va yantando . . . tan bien bolvié las manos . . . Del día que fue conde non yanté tan de buen grado” (vv. 1052–1062). Having cleaned his plate, the “Frankish” count is provided with a saddled palfrey, a fur coat, and a cloak, and finally released with his companions: “¡Ya vos ides, conde, a guisa de muy franco!” (v. 1068).3 While it has long been observed that Remont Verenguer’s noble status is subverted by the Cid (who holds the lesser rank of infanzón), the connotations of this parody have not been fully explained. My purpose is to show how the episode not only creates humor through its portrayal of the victory feast and gift-giving at Tévar, but also comically alludes to the succession of the historical counts of Barcelona and the legendary origins of their title. In doing so, the CMC engages in a form of parody that has been [End Page 122] aptly described by Linda Hutcheon as “trans-contextualization”, insofar as the mythic foundation and received history of this countship is viewed ironically through a new contextual frame.4
Over the years, scholars have offered a number of explanations for Remont’s aborted hunger strike. Montgomery was the first to point out that by forcing the count to dishonorably celebrate his own defeat, the poem expresses a feeling of resentment “by the less privileged toward those whom they regard as overprivileged” (7).5 Other critics have considered how the Tévar episode draws on a stereotypical image of the Frankish warrior, and suggested that it may also implicate the legal ramifications of breaking bread with the enemy. Specifically, Geoffrey West associates Remont’s humiliation with depictions of fictional knights who, in the cycles of Charlemagne and William of Orange, indulge in sumptuous feasts and make boisterous claims before going into battle – including the pledge to abstain from eating in the face of defeat. Ivy Corfis, in a...