‘Thirty pieces of silver’
Interpreting anti-Jewish imagery in the Poema de mio Cid manuscript
in Bestsellers and masterpieces
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This chapter focuses on one of the episodes in the Poema de mio Cid that has attracted the most critical attention: the hero’s duping of two moneylenders, identified as Rachel and Vidas and understood to be Jews. Exiled by the king, the Cid borrows their money to fund his raids and conquests, leaving them with a chest full of sand. Critics agree that, on the basis of their Jewish identity, the two are associated with avarice and depicted as lacking manly virtues and honour. While some have characterised the passage as antisemitic, others have found that such a reading is anachronistic or lacking in historical context (and have even argued that the hero of Spain’s most celebrated epic later repaid the moneylenders). This chapter first revisits this question in light of more recent approaches to anti-Judaism and the origins of racial categories by David Nirenberg and Geraldine Heng. It then argues that verses in the episode, recorded in the one surviving manuscript, evoke specific biblical language from the Old and New Testaments in a way that links usury and sodomy, in keeping with an anti-Judaic trope that can be found in medieval sermons, Bibles moralisées and other visual imagery from the period.

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