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Cyrano de Bergerac | Study Guide

Edmond Rostand

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Cyrano de Bergerac | Themes



In Cyrano de Bergerac Rostand explores the contrasts of inner and outer beauty, as well as inner and outer ugliness. The author shows these elements in various combinations in the four main characters: Cyrano de Bergerac, Roxane, Christian de Neuvillette, and Count de Guiche. Cyrano has outer ugliness, inner beauty, and inner ugliness. His huge nose makes his appearance unattractive. However, he has many noble inner qualities, such as poetic skill, a romantic sensibility, compassion for the downtrodden, and the willingness to say the truth no matter the danger. Cyrano, though, also has a darker side. His fear of being rejected by the woman he loves leads him to commit deceptions that have tragic results. By doing this he deceives not only others but also himself. Roxane has outer beauty, inner beauty, and inner ugliness. She has many positive inner qualities, such as cleverness, courage, and a romantic soul, but she is willing to deceive others to achieve her goals.

Christian also has outer beauty, inner beauty, and inner ugliness. However, his inner characteristics are the direct opposite of Roxane's and Cyrano's. She is clever with words; he is dull with words. She has a willful spirit prone to deception; he has a wishy-washy soul prone to manipulation by others. Christian, though, is basically an honest person, who feels ill at ease about being deceptive. In contrast Cyrano and Roxane seem to have no qualms about being deceptive.

Finally, Count de Guiche has outer beauty and inner ugliness. He is a cold, calculating person who deceives and manipulates others for his own ambitions. His inner virtues seem to be few, but he does show bravery at the battle of Arras.

Through the various inner and outer traits of the main characters, Rostand suggests that the ideal person does not exist. Each person has his or her flaws, which can lead to deception and tragedy. When Cyrano attempts to create the ideal man by lending his inner beauty to Christian's outer beauty, the attempt succeeds for a while but eventually collapses, harming all involved. Rostand also demonstrates the adage that people unfortunately tend to judge a book by its cover, instead of by its contents. Many of the characters in the play are concerned about how they appear to society and how others view their appearance. Because of this the inner qualities of a person, such as Cyrano's sensitive soul and Roxane's intelligence, are seen as less important.


The entire play is framed through the theme of deception: In the play's opening scene, Rostand shows the deception involved in the performance of a play for an audience. In this case, the people in the audience allow themselves to be deceived as they enter into the story of the play. Rostand thus further complicates the play's exploration of deception and reality by showing how this type of theatrical deception can be used to convey truths about human nature.

There are two main causes for the acts of deception that various characters perform, specifically ambition and fear of rejection. Cyrano fears Roxane will reject his love for her because of his ugliness. However, he stills wants to receive her love. So, he tries to achieve this ambition by ghostwriting love letters for Christian to give to Roxane. In this way, he gets to experience Roxane's love through his surrogate, Christian.

For his part, Christian fears he will be rejected by Roxane because of his stupidity. Also, like Cyrano, he wants to receive Roxane's love. So, he is willing to go along with deceiving her. In contrast, Roxane and de Guiche deceive others mainly to achieve their ambitions. Roxane wants to marry Christian, so she deceives de Guiche to obtain her goal. De Guiche loves Roxane but because he is married knows he cannot have her as his wife. So, he plans a deception that involves Valvert's marrying Roxane so that he can easily have an affair with Roxane.

For Rostand, deception often leads to tragic outcomes. Because of the deception of Roxane, Christian is devastated when he realizes she cannot truly love him. Roxane ends up mourning for years a person she doesn't love and then mourns the person she does love, leaving her crushed. Cyrano lives a life of frustration, visiting the woman he loves while hiding his love from her. On the surface, de Guiche's deceptions seem to have given him what he wants, namely success in society. However, even this success is fraught with pain. Near the end of the play, de Guiche reflects with regret upon his lost dreams. Apparently de Guiche once had noble ideals but lost them as he resorted to deception to achieve his goals.


Rostand shows pride as a double-edged sword that can both benefit and harm a person. The author mostly conveys the theme of pride through Cyrano and de Guiche. Although both are prideful, these characters have pride for different reasons. Cyrano has the pride that comes from integrity and upholding his ideals. In contrast, de Guiche has pride in his high social standing and superiority over others. Because of Cyrano's pride, he fights for justice and stands up for the truth. However, his pride also prevents him from declaring his love for Roxane. De Guiche's pride allows him to manipulate people he views as inferior and thereby achieve success. Because of this, he manipulates where the Spanish attack will take place to get his revenge on Cyrano. However, this manipulation works against him when Roxane arrives, and he realizes with horror that she could be harmed in the attack.

Rostand suggests that Christian and Roxane have pride as well but does not extensively develop this trait for either character. Christian seems to have pride as a brave, fighting man. Because of this, he tries to pick a fight with Cyrano. And Christian does have enough pride to break off his relationship with Roxane when he realizes she loves Cyrano. As for Roxane, her pride revolves around her involvement with the précieuses and in her sensitivity to poetry and the arts.

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