Cyrano de Bergerac | Study Guide

Edmond Rostand

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Cyrano de Bergerac | Act 1, Scenes 5–7 | Summary

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Summary

Act 1, Scene 5

As Cyrano eats his dinner of one grape, half a macaroon, and a glass of water, he explains to Le Bret that he makes enemies in an attempt to be admirable. Le Bret wonders why Cyrano hates Montfleury. Cyrano views Montfleury as a despicable, ugly person, and when he saw him gaze at a certain woman, Cyrano felt as if the actor was "a great slimy slug/Crawling along a petal." Le Bret guesses that Cyrano is in love with this woman. Cyrano admits this is true; however, he refuses to tell the woman that he loves her because of his ugly appearance. Cyrano views her as "the most beautiful woman in Paris." Le Bret correctly guesses that the woman is Cyrano's cousin Roxane and encourages Cyrano to confess his love to her. Cyrano tells Le Bret to open his eyes. Because of his ugly nose, Cyrano insists that Roxane could never love him, and fears that she would only laugh at him.

Act 1, Scene 6

Roxane's female servant, Duenna, brings a message from Roxane to Cyrano. Roxane wants to meet with Cyrano at dawn tomorrow. Amazed, Cyrano suggests Ragueneau's pastry shop as the place for the meeting. Cyrano probably hopes Roxane wants to declare her love for him. Duenna agrees to the meeting place and leaves.

Act 1, Scene 7

Inspired by Roxane's message, Cyrano feels as if he could "fight a whole army." Brissaille and Cuigy bring in Ligniére, who is inebriated. Ligniére asks if he can stay with Cyrano for protection. A nobleman has hired 100 men to ambush Ligniére because of a song he wrote. Cyrano sees this situation as a wonderful opportunity to express his passion about meeting Roxane. He decides to fight these men singlehandedly. Le Bret wonders why Cyrano would do this for Ligniére, whom he barely knows. Cyrano says he once saw Ligniére drink holy water after a woman he loved dipped her hand in it. This act impressed Cyrano because, as a drunkard, Ligniére hates drinking water. Actors, musicians, and other theater people want to see Cyrano fight the 100 men. Cyrano says they can come along to watch but must keep their distance. He wants no one to assist him in his fight. Cyrano and his entourage leave for the Porte de Nesle, where the 100 men are waiting to ambush Ligniére.

Analysis

Rostand explores the theme of beauty by using Cyrano's nose as a symbol. As Scene 4 shows, Cyrano claims his ugly nose indicates he is a man with a noble soul. However, in his talk with his friend Le Bret, Cyrano reveals that his nose really makes him feel inferior. Although Cyrano knows he has many beautiful inner qualities, he does not actually embrace his nose as an outer sign of these qualities, but rather is ashamed of it. So Cyrano's pride in his nose is really a facade, which he defends with the use of his sword. Because of his shame about his ugliness, Cyrano cannot believe Roxane could love him. Instead Cyrano fears that Roxane will laugh at him, which, he says, is "the only thing I'm afraid of." Cyrano's nose, therefore, becomes a symbol of his masked sense of inferiority, self-doubt, and fear of being rejected in love.

Also, even though Cyrano knows about the superficiality of outer beauty, he is affected by this type of beauty as much as anyone else. Roxane's physical beauty contributes significantly to his love for her. Cyrano says, "Oh, her smile!/To look upon it is to know perfection." Cyrano realizes Roxane has many positive inner qualities, such as being clever. They are cousins and used to play together as children. However, the reader might wonder if he would love Roxane with such passion if she were physically ugly, despite her inner beauty. Perhaps Cyrano is ashamed of his own ugly appearance because he admires and envies physical beauty so much. He suggests this when he mentions, "By moonlight, I may envy passing lovers,/And dream of being like them." One would assume that these lovers find each other physically attractive.

In addition, Rostand shows how Cyrano's pride is a double-edged sword. He takes pride in standing up for noble thoughts and truth against sham and stupidity. Cyrano tells Le Bret that he antagonizes people because he strives to be admirable. So, his pride in being admirable motivates Cyrano to expose people's hypocrisy and injustice. Cyrano reveals this further with his eagerness to fight 100 men. Even though he barely knows Ligniére, he realizes that 100 men ambushing one man is unfair and cruel. So, Cyrano proudly displays his admirable qualities by taking on this mob. However, Cyrano's pride also works against him, especially with affairs of the heart. He refuses to declare his love for Roxane because he fears she will laugh at him, which his pride could not bear. If a man mocked Cyrano, he would challenge him to a duel and probably kill him. But because Roxane is a woman, Cyrano would have no defense against being mocked. He would have to shamefully accept the mockery, thereby crushing his pride. Just the thought of this terrifies Cyrano. So, he refuses to be open with Roxane about his feelings for her, which leads to deception and tragedy.

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