Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Cyrano de Bergerac

Cyrano de Bergerac. Edmond Rostand. Translated by Lowell Blair. 1897. 240 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Stop! You haven't paid your fifteen sols!

Premise/plot: Cyrano de Bergerac is in love with his cousin, Roxane. The problem? He lacks the courage to tell her so because he feels his nose--his hideous, ugliness--will prevent her from ever loving him in return. Also standing in his way is the fact that Roxane declares herself head over heels in love with oh-so-handsome Christian de Neuvillette. How does Christian feel about Roxane? He loves her of course. Why? Because she's beautiful. (At least Cyrano knows Roxane, and, his love isn't based on her beauty alone.) Roxane asks Cyrano to watch over Christian and be his friend. (Christian has just joined the same regiment.) Cyrano tells Christian that Roxane does love him, but, instead of that being the end of it...it is just the start. For Roxane is determined that the man she loves will be brilliant and exceptionally well-spoken. He must win her heart through his words. The problem? Christian's idea of wooing is to say "I love you" and go in for a kiss. NOT WHAT ROXANE WANTS AT ALL. The solution is for Cyrano to give Christian the words to speak to win her heart for once and all. But is that a real solution?! Is a happily ever after possible in this love triangle?!

Cyrano de Bergerac is a five act (French) play by Edmond Rostand written/performed in 1897. It is set in seventeenth century France around the same time as The Three Musketeers. And like The Three Musketeers, it has sword fighting. Lots and lots of sword fighting.

My thoughts: I LOVE it. I really, really, really love it. I think I first saw the 1990 French film with English subtitles. I found it swoon-worthy then. I am not sure when I first read it, probably in high school or college. I don't think I read it more than once, however, so it was like rediscovering a forgotten friend to reread it after all these years.

I do think (like most plays) it is best read in one sitting if at all possible. (I do allow for intermissions! After all, if you were to see it performed live, they'd certainly be at least one break!)

Act five is certainly the most dramatic perhaps, but, it is also for me a wonderfully bittersweet way to end the play. THAT ENDING gets me every time.

I think this play is beautifully written. I adore the character of Cyrano de Bergerac. I love his integrity, his wit, his passion, his dashing courage.

Have you read Cyrano de Bergerac? What did you think?

Favorite quotes:
Cyrano: I have a different idea of elegance. I don't dress like a fop, it's true, but my moral grooming is impeccable. I never appear in public with a soiled conscience, a tarnished honor, threadbare scruples or an insult that I haven't washed away. I'm always immaculately clean, adorned with independence and frankness. I may not cut a stylish figure, but I hold my soul erect. I wear my deeds as ribbons, my wit is sharper than the finest mustache, and when I walk among men I make truths ring like spurs. (40)
Cyrano: Look at me and tell me what hope this protuberance might leave me! I have no illusions. Sometimes, in the blue shadows of evening, I give way to tender feelings. I go into a garden, smelling the fragrance of spring with my poor monstrous nose, and watch a man and a woman strolling together in the moonlight. I think how much I, too, would like to be walking arm in arm with a woman, under the moon. I let myself be carried away, I forget myself--and then I suddenly see the shadow of my profile on the garden wall. (50)
Ragueneau: How can you treat poetry with such disrespect?
Lise: I'll treat poetry however I please!
Ragueneau: I shudder to think of what you might do with prose! (62)
Cyrano: I'll now put down on paper the love letter that I've already written within myself a hundred times. I have only to look into my soul and copy the words inscribed in it. (66)
Cyrano: My poor girl, you're so fond of fine words and gracious wit--what if he should prove to be an uncultured savage?
Roxane: Impossible. He has the hair of one of d'Urfe's heroes!
Cyrano: His speech may be as crude as his hair is elegant.
Roxane: No, there's delicacy in everything he says. I feel it.
Cyrano: Yes, all words are delicate when they come from lips adorned with a shapely mustache...But what if he's a fool?
Roxane: [stamping her foot] Then I'll die! There, are you satisfied? (78)
Cyrano: Shall we complete each other? We'll walk together: you in the light, I in the shadow. I'll make you eloquent, you'll make me handsome. (102)
Roxane: Your words are hesitant tonight. Why?
Cyrano (pretending to be Christian): Because of the darkness, they must grope their way to your ears.
Roxane: My words have no such difficulty.
Cyrano: They go straight to my heart, a goal too large to miss, whereas your ears are small. And your words travel swiftly because they fall, while mine must slowly climb.
Roxane: But they seem to be climbing better now.
Cyrano: They've finally become accustomed to that exercise.
Roxane: It's true that I'm speaking from high above you.
Cyrano: Yes, and it would kill me if you let a harsh word fall on my heart from that height. (126)
Cyrano: After all, what is a kiss? A vow made at closer range, a more precise promise, a confession that contains its own proof, a seal placed on a pact that has already been signed; it's a secret told to the mouth rather than to the ear, a fleeting moment filled with the hush of eternity, a communion that has the fragrance of a flower, a way of living by the beat of another heart, and tasting another soul on one's lips! (133)
Roxane: I've adored you since the evening when under my window, you began to reveal your soul to me in a voice I'd never heard you use before, and when I read your letters it was like hearing that same voice. I could feel its tenderness enveloping me! Finally I had to come to you, no matter what the danger! Penelope wouldn't have calmly stayed home with her weaving if Ulysses had written to her as you've written to me! She would have become as ardent as Helen of Troy, thrown her work aside, and gone off to join him! (184)
Roxane: Ah, how many things have died, and how many have now been born! Why were you silent for fourteen years, knowing that he hadn't written that letter, and that the tears on it were yours?
Cyrano: The blood was his. (218)
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

3 comments:

Nadia A 9:43 AM  

I had forgotten about this book. Wow! It does sound like such a fun read. I have to admit that I immediately think of the Steve Martin film version of it, which I can't help but laugh just thinking about it. Great post!

Mel u 12:24 AM  

I have seen more than one movie version but until your posted it never occurred to me to read the play. I agree if possible plays should be read in one setting. Thanks for this post.

Barbara H. 12:05 PM  

I've seen and enjoyed this as a play in college but somehow it never occurred to me to read it. I'm going to put it on my TBR list!

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