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Cyrano de Bergerac | Study Guide

Edmond Rostand

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Cyrano de Bergerac | Plot Summary

See Plot Diagram


Act 1

Cyrano de Bergerac is set in 17th-century France. Act 1 takes place at a theater in Paris in 1640. Before the play begins, the nobleman Christian de Neuvillette, his friend Ligniére, and a pastry cook named Raguenaeu enter. Christian tells Ligniére that he loves a woman he has never met named Roxane. Ligniére tells him she belongs to a women's group that meets to discuss ideas. When Christian learns this, he is devastated because he does not express himself well with words. Christian finds out that a married nobleman, Count de Guiche, is also in love with Roxane. Roxane, who is at the theater, gazes fondly at Christian. Ligniére leaves for a tavern.

Christian learns that someone has planned to ambush Ligniére with 100 men, and he decides to leave to warn his friend. Soon an actor named Montfleury starts to perform. Cyrano de Bergerac, a respected soldier and poet, comes on stage and orders the actor to leave because he is a bad actor. Montfleury obliges. Cyrano pays the theater owner for the canceled play. Tired of Cyrano's boasting, another nobleman, the Viscount de Valvert, insults Cyrano by pointing out the size of his huge nose. Cyrano criticizes Valvert for his dull insult and proceeds to rattle off a series of clever insults about his own nose. Valvert and Cyrano have a sword fight, during which Cyrano composes a poem about defeating Valvert. Cyrano then impales his opponent as he finishes his poem. Afterward, Cyrano admits to Le Bret that he gave away all his money to pay the theater owner.

Cyrano confesses to his friend Le Bret that he's in love with his cousin Roxane, but he refuses to express his love to her for fear she will reject him because he is ugly. Roxane's servant, Duenna, tells Cyrano that her mistress wants to meet with him at dawn the next day. Cyrano hopes Roxane does love him after all. Inspired by Roxane's message, Cyrano decides to fight the 100 men who plan to ambush Ligniére.

Act 2

Act 2 takes place at a cook's shop, where Ragueneau tries to compose a poem as he cooks. Cyrano waits anxiously for Roxane and writes a love letter to her. When Roxane arrives, she explains to Cyrano that she loves Christian. Knowing that Roxane is clever, Cyrano wonders what she would do if Christian turned out to be stupid. Roxane cannot believe a man as handsome as Christian could be dimwitted. She asks Cyrano to protect Christian, who just joined Cyrano's cadets. Although secretly dejected about Roxane's not loving him, Cyrano agrees to protect Christian.

The cadets enter and congratulate Cyrano for his triumph over 100 men. De Guiche, who hired the 100 men to attack Ligniére, is also impressed by Cyrano's victory. De Guiche offers to be Cyrano's patron, but Cyrano declines. Cyrano wants to keep his independence and not have to write things to please a patron. To prove his bravery, Christian tries to pick a fight with Cyrano by insulting his nose. Although tempted, Cyrano refrains from fighting Christian. When alone with Christian, Cyrano introduces himself as Roxane's cousin and says that Roxane wants to meet Christian. Christian admits he loves Roxane but fears talking with her because he lacks eloquence. Cyrano offers to write romantic lines for Christian to say to Roxane. Despite his hesitancy, Christian agrees. Cyrano gives him the love letter he recently wrote for Roxane but did not sign.

Act 3

Act 3 takes place outside Roxane's house. Roxane tells Cyrano that she has been swept off her feet by the way Christian talks and writes about his love for her. De Guiche enters and expresses his love for Roxane. She knows de Guiche commands Cyrano's cadets, which include Christian. To prevent Christian from being harmed she convinces de Guiche to keep the cadets in Paris instead of sending them to war. This would be a way for de Guiche to punish Cyrano, who loves fighting. De Guiche agrees and leaves.

As Roxane attends a nearby women's meeting, Christian tells Cyrano that he is tired of always expressing Cyrano's words to Roxane. Convinced of Roxane's love, Christian wants to speak for himself. So, when Roxane arrives, Christian talks about his love for her, but he does so in a dull way. Frustrated by Christian's stupidity, Roxane goes inside her house. Christian pleads for Cyrano to help him. When Roxane comes out on her balcony, Cyrano feeds lines to Christian, which he repeats to Roxane. She soon softens toward Christian. Finding the situation awkward, Cyrano takes Christian's place in the darkness and speaks in a way that sounds similar to Christian. As he does this, his expressions of love for Roxane become more passionate. Christian wants to kiss Roxane. Because of this, Cyrano convinces Roxane to let herself be kissed. Then, Christian climbs to the balcony and kisses Roxane.

A monk arrives with a letter for Roxane from de Guiche. When she reads the letter to herself, she realizes de Guiche is planning to have a romantic rendezvous with her tonight at her house. However, when Roxane reads the letter aloud, she changes the content, saying that de Guiche wants her to marry Christian even though she doesn't want to. Roxane, Christian, and the monk go inside her house, where the monk will marry the couple. Meanwhile, de Guiche arrives. To prevent him from interrupting the marriage ceremony, Cyrano pretends to be insane. Soon Roxane and Christian come out of the house—a married couple. Realizing he has been deceived, de Guiche orders Cyrano's cadets, including Christian, to the battlefront immediately.

Act 4

Act 4 takes place at the siege of Arras, where the cadets are sleeping in their camp. Cyrano has just delivered a letter for Roxane through enemy lines, something he has done each day during the siege. The cadets wake up and complain about starving. Using a white sash, De Guiche signals where the Spanish should attack, specifically at the cadets. Soon, Cyrano, de Guiche, and Christian are shocked to see Roxane arrive by carriage. The love letters Cyrano has ghostwritten for Christian have caused her to risk coming through enemy lines to see Christian. She refuses to leave, even though she knows the cadets will soon be attacked. Roxane has brought plenty of food for the cadets, who start to devour it.

Cyrano admits to Christian that he has risked his life once or twice a day to deliver letters for Roxane. Surprised, Christian suspects Cyrano loves Roxane. When Roxane explains to Christian that she risked coming to see him because of the love letters, he is mortified. Roxane goes on to say she would love Christian even if he were ugly. Devastated, Christian tells Cyrano what Roxane said. Cyrano can't believe this but admits he loves Roxane. Christian tells Cyrano to confess his love to Roxane. She must choose between Christian and Cyrano.

The battle has begun. Roxane repeats to Cyrano that she would love Christian even if he were ugly. Stunned, Cyrano tries to gather his courage to confess his love for her. However, he is interrupted when soldiers bring Christian back, mortally wounded. Roxane rushes to Christian, who dies in her arms. She finds a letter on Christian, which was ghostwritten by Cyrano. Roxane cries as she clutches the letter. To comfort Roxane, Cyrano agrees with her about Christian being a sensitive poet. De Guiche leads Roxane and Cyrano away, and his badly outnumbered cadets charge at the Spanish.

Act 5

Act 5 takes place in a convent, 15 years later. Roxane has been living at the convent all these years, mourning Christian. De Guiche visits her. After Le Bret arrives, Roxane leaves with de Guiche. Ragueneau arrives and tells Le Bret that someone has dropped a log of wood on Cyrano, mortally wounding him. Roxane returns and waits for Cyrano to visit, like he does every week. However, this time he is late. Cyrano arrives looking pale and weak but tries to hide this from Roxane. He asks if he could read the last letter Christian wrote to her. She agrees and hands him the letter. However, as Cyrano reads it, his own passion for Roxane becomes obvious. Roxane realizes Cyrano wrote the letter and all the other love letters. Cyrano loves her, and she loves Cyrano. At first Cyrano continues to deny his love for her, but he finally admits it. Then, Roxane realizes Cyrano is near death. Cyrano manages to stand and deliver a speech about fighting against compromise, spite, cowardice, and stupidity. Roxane kisses his brow, and he dies.

Cyrano de Bergerac Plot Diagram

123456789101112131415ClimaxResolutionIntroductionRising ActionFalling Action


1 Cyrano fears Roxane will reject his love because he's ugly.

Rising Action

2 Cyrano offers to write letters for Christian to woo Roxane.

3 Cyrano's ghostwritten letters make Roxane love Christian.

4 Cyrano pretends to be Christian wooing Roxane.

5 Roxane marries Christian.

6 De Guiche sends Christian to the battlefront.

7 At the battlefront, Cyrano ghostwrites letters to Roxane.

8 Inspired by letters, Roxane meets Christian at battlefront.

9 Roxane tells Christian she would love him if he were ugly.

10 Cyrano hesitates, believing Roxane could love him.


11 Christian dies; Cyrano does not confess his love to Roxane.

Falling Action

12 At a convent, Roxane mourns Christian.

13 Wounded, Cyrano visits Roxane and reads his last letter.

14 Roxane realizes Cyrano wrote the letters and loves her.


15 Roxane says she loves Cyrano, but he soon dies.

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