Cyrano De Bergerac

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

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 De 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."

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 a 1990 version directed by Jean-Paul Rappeneau. In addition, the 1987 movie Roxanne, starring Steve Martin, is a modernized take on the story.

Cyrano De Bergerac is the Trope Namer for:

Tropes used in Cyrano De Bergerac include:
  • 0% Approval Rating: Count De Guiche.
  • The Ace: Christian and Cyrano decide to create a perfect "hero of romance" that includes the best of them both 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.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Cyrano, Christian and De Guiche love Roxane; not one of them will get her. Roxane won’t get any guy too, because she's been Loving a Shadow. Even Raguenau is abandoned by his wife, Lise. Nobody gets anyone.
  • Altum Videtur: Used twice by Bellerose and Captain Carbon.
  • 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.
  • Ambition Is Evil: The Gascon moral code doesn’t approve of getting power through connections instead of personal valor.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil:
  • Arranged Marriage: Implied in De Guiche’s marriage, De Guiche tried it with Roxana and De Valvert, and Invoked with Christian and Roxane.
  • Arc Words: panache
  • As You Know: In Act V Scene I, we have the conversation of two supporting characters, Sister Claire and Mother Margarita, strictly for the audience's benefit.
  • Attention Whore: Raguenau is one at Act II Scene IV
  • 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!

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!

  • Birds of a Feather: Roxane and Cyrano are both adrenaline junkies who love poetry.
  • Bittersweet Ending
  • 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.
  • Bully Hunter: Cyrano proclaims himself a bully hunter at Act I Scene V by challenging anyone to bully his enormous nose, threatening (and dispensing) Disproportionate Retribution.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Most prominently, after some comments about Cyrano's murdering ways by the cadets, Christian makes a Hurricane of Puns about Cyrano's nose.
  • But for Me It Was Tuesday:

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.)

Cyrano: Why then that air disparaging? -- perchance you think it large?
The Bore (stammering): No, small, quite small--minute!
Cyrano: Minute! What now?
Accuse me of a thing ridiculous!
Small--my nose?

Cyrano: I loved you not.
Roxane: You loved me not?
Cyrano: 'Twas he!
Roxane: You loved me!
Cyrano: No!
Roxane: See! how you falter now!
Cyrano: No, my sweet love, I never loved you!

Viscount De Valvert: Base scoundrel! Rascally flat-footed lout!
Cyrano: (taking off his hat, and bowing as if the viscount had introduced himself) Ah? And I, Cyrano Savinien
Hercule de Bergerac.

  • Interrupted Suicide: Cyrano does this for Ragueneau.
  • In the Blood: When Cyrano reacts with shock at Roxane's intention to remain with them during the battle, she responds, "Monsieur de Bergerac, I am your cousin."
  • It's All My Fault: Roxane says this in Act V.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Cyrano. Later, Christian.
  • Jerkass: 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. [1]
  • Jerk Justifications: Cyrano has Type I, II and II, De Guiche and Raguenaeau have Type II.
  • 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 and Roxane. Except without any actual kissing.
  • Lame Comeback: Immediately jumped on by Cyrano as an opportunity to mock the guy in the Flowery Insults scene.
  • Large Ham: Depardieu as Cyrano in The Movie.
  • The Last DJ: Cyrano dares to refuse Cardinal Richelieu's patronage as a playwright because Richelieu could alter his lines.
  • 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 Show La 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.
  • Let Them Die Happy: Cyrano tells Christian that Roxane chose to love him.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Roxane breaks Cyrano's heart with this speech (with a chaser of Just Friends) in Act II Act II Scene VI.
  • 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!).
  • Love Hurts
  • Love Letter Lunacy
  • Loves My Alter Ego
  • 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.
  • Martyr Without a Cause: Cyrano, and Le Bret continuously scolds him about this attitude.
  • Meaningful Rename: Cyrano's cousin was named Madeleine Robin, but as a member of Les Précieuses, she took a new name in order to reflect the change in their role in life. "Roxane" is an Iranian Name (Roshanak) that means "Little Star" and was the name of princess Roxane, who married Alexander the Great. "Roxane was said by contemporaries to be the most beautiful lady in all Asia". Truth in Television, because the Real Life Madeleine Robin chose this name.
  • Miles Gloriosus: The Musketter is identified as this by Raguenau, who doesn't seem to realize that he is his wife's lover.
  • Minor Flaw, Major Breakup: Roxane's requirement that her guy prove how special she is to him via poetic genius.
  • 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.
  • Motif: Hunger and food (desire and satisfaction).
  • Naive 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.
  • Outdated Outfit: The marquises notice Christian is wearing one, signifying his status as another Impoverished Patrician who is a Naive Newcomer to Paris.
  • Overly Long Name: Lampshaded in Act IV, Scene VI:

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!")

Ragueneau: Have you been in some danger?
Cyrano: None in the world.
Lise: (shaking her finger at him) Methinks you speak not the truth in saying that!
Cyrano: Did you see my nose quiver when I spoke? 'Faith, it must have been a
monstrous lie that should move it!

Cyrano: ... And, shortly, you shall see what you shall see!

  • Shout-Out:
    • 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).
    • Also to Tito and Berenice and Cesar and Cleopatra, two of the most famous romances in history, The Adventures of Pinocchio, and Don Quixote.
  • Smitten Teenage Girl: Cyrano picks up one in the theater.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Cyrano accuses Cardinal Richelieu of this when he dismisses the idea of him being bothered by the interruption of La Clorise.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Roxane is known as "Roxana" in the Anthony Burgess version.
  • Stalker with a Crush: de Guiche for Roxane, despite that he is already married.
  • 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.
  • Stylistic Suck: Ragueneau's theme for a poem is a recipe in verse.
  • Supreme Chef: Ragueneau
  • 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.
  • Take That:
  • 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.
  • Throwing Down the Gauntlet
  • Triang Relations: Type 4.
  • True Beauty Is on the Inside: Cyrano is too cynical to believe people actually believe this. Nevertheless, he invokes this trope at Act I Scene IV when Viscount De Valvert mocks his poor clothes:

Cyrano: True; all my elegances are within.

Carbon: True, that smile is a passport!

  1. (Le Bret, the buffet Girl, the nuns)