Philosophe, physicien, Rimeur, bretteur, musicien, Et voyageur aérien, Grand riposteur du tac au tac, Amant aussi - pas pour son bien ! - Ci-gît Hercule-Savinien De Cyrano de Bergerac, Qui fut tout et qui ne fut rien.
This 1897 play by Edmond Rostand is famous enough that its plot has become a trope in its own right!Hercule Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac — the legendary poet, duelist, soldier, philosopher, physicist, musician, playwright, and novelist — has a problem. He has an enormous nose, which he believes makes him so incredibly ugly that he thinks no woman could ever love him, and fears his love for his cousin Roxane will never be reciprocated. Just when he's mustered the courage to hand her the love letter he's written, she announces that she's in love with the beautiful Christian, and asks Cyrano to protect him against danger. Roxane has fallen in love with Christian at first sight and tells Cyrano that if Christian isn't intellectual enough for her, she would be so disappointed that she could die. Cyrano resolves to subdue his love for her and tell Christian about Roxane’s love. Christian despairs, because he also loves Roxane, and even though he is very handsome, he's inarticulate, and believes Roxane would never accept him. So, Cyrano, trying to express his love and to not disappoint Roxane, eagerly offers to script Christian's courtship, beginning by giving him Cyrano's own love letter for Roxane. Naturally, hilarity (and swashbuckling, and eventually tragedy) ensues.Is there a moral? Well, "don't let vanity hold you back," and "Love at First Sight is ridiculous."Critics consider this play notable for being both a cruel satire and straight celebration of the tropes and themes most associated with the The Cavalier Years.The two most respected English translations are Brian Hooker's from 1923 and Anthony Burgess' from 1971. Hooker's version is a translation that doesn't change a line of Rostand's original text except for replacing now-archaic references with references an American audience would be more likely to recognize. While Rostand's French script rhymed, Hooker's English script doesn't, except for things that rhymed in-story such as Cyrano's improvised ballad during his duel with Valvert. Burgess' version is more of a "modern adaptation" in which he claimed he tried to recapture some of Rostand's comedy that he felt was lost in Hooker's translation. It also makes some minor plot changes, combining Cyrano's captain and Cyrano's best friend into one character and replacing Roxane's appearance in person in Act IV with a letter from her. Burgess' version, like the French original, rhymes.The play is Very Loosely Based on a True Story — there really was a French playwright, duelist, and ghost writer of love letters named Cyrano de Bergerac, and the main characters in the play (Roxane, Christian, De Guiche) also existed. This play is as well researched as a Roman à Clef, because Rostand was an academic that researched France’s literary environment at the 17th century, so all the incidental writers, poets, actors, period pieces, places and battles really existed at that time).There are two notable film adaptations: one from 1950 which garnered a Best Actor for José Ferrer, and the acclaimed 1990 version directed by Jean-Paul Rappeneau and starring Gerard Depardieu. In addition, the 1987 movie Roxanne, starring Steve Martin, is a modernized take on the story. The Disney Channel original movie Let it Shine is also clearly based off of this play, even going as far as to giving the main characters similar names (Cyrano= Cyrus; Christian= Chris; Roxanne= Roxy, whose full name is actually Roxanne).There were also a couple of Musical adaptations. One, simply titled Cyrano, ran on Broadway in 1973 but closed after just 49 performances (although Christopher Plummer won a Tony in the title role); the other, Cyrano: The Musical, was originally produced in Holland in 1992 and then translated to English for a 137-performance Broadway run.
The Ace: Christian and Cyrano decide to create a perfect "hero of romance" that includes each of their best traits because Christian and Cyrano believe that it's the only one who has a chance to be paired with Roxane.
The Alcoholic: Ligniere. He dislikes orange juice and milk, only stays at the theater to drink wine, and retires to betake of his pet vice again in a tavern.
Analogy Backfire: Cyrano compares himself to Caesar and Tito to justify why he cannot win Roxane’s love. Caesar and Tito were loved not because they were fair but because they were highly charismatic leaders, like Cyrano himself, as Le Bret points out.
At the Opera Tonight: The play begins at the Burgundy Hotel, a Parisian theater; the public was going to see La Clorise, but before it begins, all they really want to do is play cards, drink wine, eat food, brawl with each other, tease girls, make funny pranks, and pick pockets.
Badass Boast: Cyrano’s gasconades are spread among the entire play beginning with Act I Scene IV.
De Guiche: Oh, ay! Another Gascon boast!
Base Breaker: Played In-Universe at Act II Scene VII when Cyrano finds Don Quixote identifiable, compelling, sympathetic and worthy of imitation, whereas Count De Guiche finds him absolutely insufferable.
Battle Chant: The Gacony Cadets have a chant they do for Christian to demonstrate their togetherness.
Roxane: Live, for I love you! Cyrano: No, In fairy tales When to the ill-starred Prince the lady says
'I love you!' all his ugliness fades fast — But I remain the same, up to the last!
Berserk Button: The cadets warn their new recruit Christian not to mention the word "nose" around Cyrano if he values his life. Christian decides to show off by doing it anyway, pushing Cyrano nearly to strangle him before he learns who he is. Some actors portraying Cyrano show him growing more visibly annoyed at Christian's interruptions and play up the comedy of his attempting to compose himself.
Be Yourself: Poor Christian believes in this philosophy.
Christian:'' I will be loved myself — or not at all!
Bragging Theme Tune: Cyrano improvises a poem about the life of a Gascon Cadet at Act II Scene VII.
Brainless Beauty: Christian, in his own eyes at least. In truth, he is far from stupid, as he improvises some wonderfully witty insults regarding Cyrano's nose when they are first introduced. He's just hopeless when it comes to talking to women. Roxane also (ironically) lampshades this trope in Act III Scene I, saying people usually don't believe someone can be both beautiful and smart.
Broken Ace: Cyrano, Renaissance man, legendary poet, duelist, soldier, philosopher, physicist, musician, playwright, novelist and excellent actor, who also is an ugly, writhing pile of Mommy Issues, who systematically throws away every chance of success he has, would rather help some other guy get the girl he loves than confess to her, and assiduously kills anyone who mocks his enormous nose.
Broken Pedestal: Molière, in Ragueneau's eyes, for stealing a scene from Cyrano. Cyrano himself thinks Molière has good taste and is truly thankful because he knows that it's the only of his works that will not be forgotten.
First poet: We were stayed by the mob; they are crowded all round the Porte de Nesle!... Second poet: Eight bleeding brigand carcasses strew the pavements there—all slit open with sword-gashes! Cyrano(raising his head a minute from writing his love letter): Eight?... hold, methought seven. (He goes on writing.)
Buy Them Off: Used by Cyrano after he refuses to apologize to the Burgundy Theater's audience for interrupting La Clorise; he pays Bellerose for all the entrance fees so they can give it back to the public. Cyrano uses it to bribe the Duenna lefting her and Roxane alone, and De Guiche invokes it with Cyrano and Cardenal Richelieu's patronage.
Dramatic Irony: In Act II Scene IV, the poets comment about how the last night, only one man singlehandedly put a whole band of one hundred men to the rout. Only the audience knows that the hero was Cyrano.
Executive Meddling: An example In-Universe, when Cyrano is tempted to accept a patronage from Cardenal Richelieu, but then De Guiche mentions the one thing Cyrano will not tolerate — someone touching his verses.
Exposition Party: Act I Scene II. Before La Clorise begins, all the important characters are in the theater. Some of them are presented to the Naïve Newcomer Christian, and Mr. Exposition Ligniere talks about the relationship between Roxane, De Guiche and Valvert. The protagonist himself is absent, so everyone talks about him... because he promised to ruin the play they intend to attend.
Raguenau is an expy of M. Jourdain, protagonist of Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme (a play by Molière.)
Cyrano is an expy of Grisóstomo, a character from Don Quixote.
Le Bret is an expy of Ambrosio, best friend of Grisóstomo, a character from Don Quixote.
Roxane is an expy of Marcela, a character from Don Quixote.
The Hero Of Romance is an expy and Spear Counterpart of Dulcinea, a character from Don Quixote: A Shadow Archetype who embodies all that is lovable (and none of the defects) of a woman or a man, and that only lives in the mind of his lover.
False Friend: The poets who frequent Raguenau's company claim to love his poetry, but they only want to leech off him. Le Bret lampshades that the true sign of success in Paris at The Cavalier Years is being surrounded by False Friends.
Fetch Quest: The Pickpocket sends Christian to various taverns to leave Ligniere a note in each of them about the plot against his life.
Fire-Forged Friends: Cyrano and Christian’s friendship is not born because they fight against the same enemy, but because they are courting The Ace Roxane, from whose rejection both of them are terribly afraid and must gather all their courage only to face her.
Flowery Insults: De Valvert tries to insult Cyrano, but all he can say is: "Sir, your nose is... hmm... it is... very big!" Cyrano berates him for being unimaginative, and gives examples of better insults in many different styles.
Foil: de Guiche for Cyrano, as outlined in his speech comparing the two of them in Act V.
Grumpy Bear: Despite all the evidence the audience can see to the contrary, Cyrano just cannot consider even for a second that Roxane actually might be able to look past his appearance and love him for his soul.
Ha Ha Ha No: Cyrano invokes this trope in Act I Scene V when he considers the possibility that an ugly man could love, and De Guiche plays it straight in Act II Scene VII when he reveals that he was the man who hired a hundred men against a poet for a satiric poem.
Heel-Face Turn: de Guiche, to an extent, at the end of the play. It seems that he realizes how much he hurt Roxane through his machinations, and has mellowed significantly. Even before that, he surprises everyone in Act IV by electing to stay at the front and fight alongside the men under his command who are facing Certain Doom... even though his rank as an officer would allow him to lead from the rear.
Roxane the refined intellectual surprises her three suitors by proving quite the adventuress, sneaking behind enemy lines to deliver food to the French soldiers and then staying with them once the battle starts.
Christian gets written off by many who haven't read the play as a male bimbo. While he's not as book smart as Cyrano or Roxane and is utterly hopeless at talking to women, he's witty enough to think of several nose-related puns on the fly when he first meets Cyrano.
Given Raguenau’s status as the Butt Monkey in Act II, he could be considered a mere Plucky Comic Relief character. Then we have Act IV where Raguenau risks his life to smuggle food to the Gascon Cadets in the siege of Arras.
Hope Spot: Cyrano has two in his hope for winning Roxane’s love. His first Hope Spot lasts a night (between Acts I and II) until he hears Roxane describe the guy she loves as "fair," and the other lasts only mere seconds, right before he hears that Christian has been mortally wounded.
Hurricane of Puns: The hurricane of nose puns that Christian applies to Cyrano's tale is all but funny because all the cadets anticipate Cyrano's response in silent horror. Cyrano usually doesn't tolerate ANYBODY mentioning noses around him, and only his promise to Roxane to protect Christian from the rest of the soldiers' attempts at hazing the new recruits keeps him from starting a fight.
Humiliation Conga: Cyrano puts Valvert through one and De Guiche through many, Roxane puts Christian through one and the last four acts are a long Humiliation Conga for Cyrano. The fact that he retains a measure of his characteristic "panache" despite the situation reveals just how deep his moxie goes.
Jerk Ass: This play deconstructs this trope, as a matter of fact; it’s easier to mention the people who don’t act like a jerkass to someone, sometime in the play. note (Le Bret, the buffet Girl, the nuns)
Kick the Dog: De Guiche finally loses his cool after Cyrano insults him one too many times. Since they're at the front lines, he promptly sends a signal which ensures that in about an hour Cyrano and his men will be attacked by quite a lot of the Spanish army.
Kissing Cousins: Cyrano is in love with his cousin Roxane, but she can only see him as a brother.
Leaning on the Fourth Wall: This play is a blend of farce and drama, and his first act is placed at the Burgundy Theater. Cyrano has interrumpted the Show Within a ShowLa Clorise. The rest of the theater actors are rehearsing a new play, and Cyrano invites them to look at a Sword Fight he will have with one hundred men. It Makes Sense in Context, but it still feels as though Cyrano is talking about his own play.
Leave the Two Lovebirds Alone: Cyrano invokes this trope when Roxane and her Duenna met him at the bakery of the poets (Roxane's Duenna is supposed to be her chaperone). Cyrano bribes the Duenna with pastries and ask her to eat them in the street, so he can have some privacy with Roxane.
Longing Look: Montfleury gives one of these to Roxane; this is the true cause of Cyrano’s grudge against him.
Long List: Act I Scene IV: Cyrano improvises twenty better insults that "Your nose is very big" about his own nose.
The number of taverns Christian needs to visit to leave a note to Ligniere warning about the plot against him.
The number of enemies (not counting the ladies) that Cyrano has made at the Burgundy Theater.
Love at First Sight: Deconstructed, as Roxane tells Cyrano she fell in love with Christian this way, and his response amounts to, "Are you nuts?! You don't even know a single thing about the guy, and you're in love with him?!" (When he meets Christian, however, he admits he can't blame her, as he is good-looking and proves to be as brave as the stories about him say). Roxane later apologizes to Christian, saying it was wrong of her to fall for him purely for his appearance and that she's learned to love him for his soul (right lesson, wrong guy!).
Manly Tears: Cyrano insists in Act I that he never cries, but in Act IV, Christian notices a tear drop on his most recent love letter to Roxane.
Master of Delusion: Cyrano cannot conceive that any woman, even an ugly one, could love him. Roxane ignores any proof Christian is not eloquent or that Cyrano loves her, De Guiche cannot conceive that Roxane could reject him. Christian is the only one capable of facing the truth.
Martyrdom Culture: All the Gascons sincerely believe that dying for one's beliefs is the only truly worthwhile thing one can do with one's life.
Mommy Issues: In Act V Scene VI, we learn the reason why Cyrano could never believe the obvious fact that Roxane could love him back and why he insisted on being a Love Martyr.
Cyrano: Never on me had rested woman's love. My mother even could not find me fair: I had no sister; and, when grown a man, I feared the mistress who would mock at me.
Mood Dissonance: In Act II Scene VI, Cyrano's heart is broken when Roxane confesses him that she is in love with Christian. Then the Duenna interrupts Cyrano and Roxane telling him she has eaten all the pies Cyrano give them. He comically sends her to read poems and closes the door in her face. The last four acts of this play have funny things and tragic things happening one after the other.
Mood Whiplash: Given this play is a blend between Farce and Tragedy, there first three acts are more of a comedy with some dramatic elements, and the two last acts are more of a drama with comedic elements, but in all acts the contrasting elements resonate against each other.
Motifs: Hunger and food (desire and satisfaction).
Naïve Newcomer: At Act I, Christian has scarcely been twenty days in Paris and begs Ligniere to introduce him to Roxane. He also will join the Guards in the Cadets the next day.
New Meat: Christian obviously lacks combat experience and is bullied by the rest of the cadets. Fortunately for him, Cyrano helps him to be accepted after Christian demonstrates his valor by bullying Cyrano with a cool Hurricane of Puns.
Not a Mask: In Act I Scene II, Cyrano is described by one of his friends, Raguenau, as someone who has a nose so incredible, that everyone think it's a joke and he will take his mask off, but Cyrano will always keep it on.
One-Man Army: Between Acts I and II, Cyrano stands against one hundred men and kills eight of them. Between Acts IV and V, he manages to survive the Last Stand of only one company of Gascon cadets against all the Spanish Army.
Carbon: It is perchance more seemly, since things are thus, that I present to you some of these gentlemen who are about to have the honour of dying before your eyes. Baron de Peyrescous de Colignac! The Cadet: Madame... Carbon(continuing): Baron de Casterac de Cahuzac,- Vidame de Malgouyre Estressac Lesbas d'Escarabiot, Chevalier d'Antignac-Juzet, Baron Hillot de Blagnac- Salechan de Castel Crabioules... Roxane. But how many names have you each? Baron Hillot: Scores! ("Des foules!")
Pass the Popcorn: They don’t eat anything, but the audience of the Burgundy Theater is pretty excited to see Cyrano's exploits.
Paralyzing Fear of Sexuality: Cyrano confesses to Le Bret that the only thing he fears in the world is that Roxane will laugh at him when he confesses his love for her.
The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Invoked by Cyrano's improvised poem The Bold Cadets of Gascony, where he describes the life of a Gascon Cadet as nothing more than brawling, swaggering, hiding they are poor, getting badass sobriquets, chasing married women, and [intimidating their husbands.
Poirot Speak: Ragueneau hears only a few words spoken in Gascon dialect and realizes that the Cadets are a regiment composed by Gascons. Notice those are the only Gascon words in the play (apart from some in Act IV) because the Gascon Cadets all talk in SurprisinglyGoodFrench.
Practical Joke: The Pages in the upper gallery pull up a Burgher's wig on the end of a string.
Run or Die: Montfleury makes his choice in Act I Scene IV after Cyrano claps a third time: he runs for his life. Later, The Bore also makes his choice, after Cyrano literally kicks his ass. It was the correct choice for both of them.
Self-Deprecation: After a man tries to insult Cyrano and tels him that his nose is "very big", he gives a Long List of better insults in various styles. However, he makes it clear that he wouldn't take such insults from anyone but himself.
Side Bet: Cyrano has threatened to punish Montfleaury if he acts in La Clorise. Raguenau and the first Marquis bet a fowl "a la Raguenau" over if he will fulfill his threat or not.
After Cyrano fights a duel while improvising a poem early in the play, d'Artagnan (also a Gascon) shows up briefly to tell him how cool it was. In real life they were contemporaries — it would be surprising if Cyrano de Bergerac (1619-1655) and d'Artagnan (1615-1673) had not run into each other quite a bit.
In Act I Scene VII: Theophrast Reunadet (talented creator of the first paper, famous philanthropist who died in poverty) shows up briefly only to be dismissed by Cyrano ("Who cares?"). Renaudet was homely, and this affected him throughout his life (the real Cyrano seemed not so affected by this).
Starving Artist: From Act I through Act V (that’s fifteen years), Cyrano’s friends constantly comment on how he rarely eats well. It's not that Cyrano is a bad artist; it's just that he writes satiric letters denouncing false people –- namely, everyone.
Stepford Smiler: Cyrano is a Type A, obsessed with not projecting an image of sadness in order to be accepted by his peers.
Sword Fight: In Act I Scene IV, Cyrano and Viscount de Valvert engage in one and Cyrano wins. In Act V Scene VI, Cyrano raves about another Sword Fight with all his enemies (Falsehood, Treachery, Compromise, Prejudice, Folly and Death itself), a combat that Cyrano know he has already lost.
Take Our Word for It: Between acts, Cyrano fights (and defeats!) one hundred thugs, saves Raguenau’s life doing an Interrupted Suicide, manages to write love letters beautiful enough to make Roxane fall more madly in love with Christian, and to pick De Guiche’s scarf from the battlefield.
Think Nothing of It: Cyrano does not claim the credit for the victory over one hundred thugs; he even denies being the hero. Then subverted Roxane, the only person he cares about, really think's nothing of his victory.
The Watson: Le Bret. In half of his dialogue with Cyrano, he asks Cyrano the same questions the audience must be asking (ex. "Why in hell did you something so jerkish/stupid/selfdestructive?"), and Cyrano explains what's going on.
Well, Excuse Me, Princess!: Roxane's requirement that her guy prove how special she is to him via poetic genius is reminiscent of this.
What Happened to the Mouse?: Does Viscount de Valvert survive his Sword Fight with Cyrano in Act I Scene IV or not? The last we see of him is that his friends carry him offstage after his defeat.
Writers Suck: Viscount de Valvert shows his contempt for poets by calling Cyrano one of them.
Wrong Insult Offence: Cyrano had a very large nose, which a bit character insulted by calling it "rather large." Cyrano's reaction was to tell him that "rather large" was an absolutely pathetic excuse for an insult and go on to tell him various better ways to insult him.
You Fight Like a Cow: Cyrano composes a ballad in honor of Viscount De Valvert while they have a Sword Fight. Valvert is too busy fighting for his life to answer a word.