Cyrano de Bergerac | Study Guide

Edmond Rostand

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Cyrano de Bergerac | Act 2, Scenes 1–4 | Summary

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Summary

Act 2, Scene 1

At a cook's shop at dawn various cooks sell their wares, such as peacock and mince pies. Meanwhile Ragueneau tries to compose a poem. He soon realizes he needs to put his poetry aside and attend to cooking. Still inspired by the muse, Ragueneau gives instructions to assistants using references to poetry. His wife, Lise, gives him some wrapping paper. Horrified, Ragueneau realizes Lise has turned pages filled with verses into wrapping paper for baked goods. These verses were written by Ragueneau's poetry friends. Lise refers scornfully to these friends, saying they have turned Ragueneau against her.

Act 2, Scene 2

Ragueneau sells three pies to some children but has difficulty choosing which wrapping paper made from pages of poetry to use. He sadly reads verses written on the papers. Lise yells at him to stop his dithering. He regretfully picks one wrapping paper with a sonnet on it. However, as the children carry away the pies and the paper, Ragueneau says he'll give them three more pies if they bring the paper back. The children eagerly agree, return the paper with the verse on it, and carry away six pies.

Act 2, Scene 3

Cyrano enters and asks Ragueneau what time is it. After Ragueneau says it is six o'clock, Cyrano replies, "One hour from now!" He appears to be waiting anxiously for his meeting with Roxane. Ragueneau praises Cyrano for his feat of composing poetry while fighting a duel. Cyrano pays no attention to this praise and keeps asking about the time. Lise notices that Cyrano has hurt his hand, but he says it's "just a scratch." Cyrano mentions that he's meeting someone and asks Ragueneau if he and his wife could leave him alone during the meeting. Ragueneau says his poet friends will be arriving soon. Cyrano asks the pastry cook to get rid of them and then asks for a pen, which Ragueneau provides. Cyrano plans to write a poem to Roxane and give it to her instead of talking with her.

Act 2, Scene 4

The poets arrive and drool over the baked goods. They talk about a fight they saw last night, in which "a single swordsman/Put the whole gang to flight." Meanwhile Cyrano writes a poem, paying no attention to the poets as they recount the amazing fight. Cyrano finishes the poem but doesn't sign it. As Ragueneau recites a recipe in verse that he wrote, the poets stuff themselves with pastries. Cyrano points out to Ragueneau that the poets are feeding themselves. Ragueneau realizes this, but he doesn't care because the poets are giving him an opportunity to recite his poetry. Cyrano says, "Well done!" He signals to Ragueneau to get rid of the poets. Ragueneau tells the poets to come inside the cook's shop. They do so, taking the pastries with them.

Analysis

In Act 2, Scenes 1 and 2, Rostand develops the theme of beauty by contrasting it with ugliness. The author shows Ragueneau as a person inspired by the beauty of poetry. In fact, he has difficulty tearing himself away from writing verses to attend to his cook's shop. Ragueneau is so immersed in poetry that it influences his work. For example, he sees his pastries as a type of poetry, referring to one pastry as "A lyre! In pastry! Stuck with candied fruits!" In contrast to Ragueneau and his infatuation with poetry's beauty, Rostand presents Ragueneau's wife, Lise. She cares nothing for beauty or poetry, but instead is just concerned about running a business. She resents her husband's poetry friends. So Lise tears up pages of poetry and uses them for wrapping paper. Her crass commercialism results in an ugly act, which Ragueneau views as sacrilege. But even though Lise attempts to destroy beauty, her husband still clings to beauty by refusing to part from the torn pages of poetry.

In Act 2, Scene 3, Rostand contrasts deception with bravery. Ragueneau is astounded by Cyrano's feat of composing a verse while fighting a duel. However, Cyrano views this accomplishment as a matter of small consequence. In fact, he uses deception to make light of the matter: he claims the duel was not dangerous but Lise realizes Cyrano's deception, calling him a liar. This interchange, therefore, shows that Cyrano takes for granted his own bravery with fighting. However, for Cyrano, bravery with romantic love is a different matter, as the following scene shows.

In Act 2, Scene 4, Rostand contrasts Cyrano's bravery with his cowardice, which again leads to deception. Cyrano has no fear about fighting 100 men, but he quakes with fear at the thought of telling Roxane that he loves her. So instead of speaking to her, he decides to write her a love poem. Rostand dramatizes this contrast between Cyrano's bravery and cowardice by having the poets describe his defeat of the gang as he composes the poem, which contains verses such as "my heart fails me when I see your face." After writing the poem, Cyrano rationalizes that he doesn't need to sign it because he will give the poem in person to Roxane. However, if Cyrano just hands an unsigned poem to Roxane and leaves, she could think he was delivering the poem for another person; not signing the poem could easily lead to misunderstandings. Cyrano, though, conveniently overlooks this possibility. He begins to show his tendency to hide behind deception to protect himself from rejection.

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