Saturday, October 06, 2018

Cyrano de Bergerac

Cyrano de Bergerac. Edmond Rostand. Translated by Gladys Thomas and Mary F Guillemard. 1897. 240 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Hollo! You there! Your money!

NOTE: I've read Cyrano de Bergerac several times throughout the years. I believe this is the second time I've reviewed it for Becky's Book Reviews. It is, without a doubt, one of my favorite plays. (The only one that might come close is William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.)

I decided to reread Cyrano de Bergerac for #Victober. One of the challenges is to read a book published in the last ten years of the Victorian period. Cyrano de Bergerac was published in 1897.

I am cutting and pasting the plot summary from my first review.  The "my thoughts" are new.

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 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, love, love Cyrano de Bergerac. I'm not sure I equally adore Roxane. Cyrano is already madly in love with her before Act I. His love for her is never in question, and never in doubt. To him, she is absolute perfection. His longed-for ideal. But is he seeing only what he wants to see? How well does he know the real her? Does he love her because she is beautiful? Does he love her because she is so out of reach and unattainable? Does his love of her have roots from their shared childhood?

Roxane doesn't see the real him until it is too late. She has known him most of her life and never actually seen him. That is incredibly sad. I'm just trying to guess if she really was all that he imagined her to be. Was his love was a 'storybook love'--the stuff of daydreams only. Surely Roxane had flaws! Who doesn't have flaws?! Surely Roxane would have proved disappointing or irritating at times if they'd lived together closely.

Christian. How do I feel about him?! I think Cyrano and Christian are using each other--taking advantage of one another. This agreed upon dishonesty isn't all that healthy when all is said and done. Christian realizes--on a fateful day--that he needs more, deserves more. He doesn't want to be loved for his 'fairness' his fineness. He wants to be loved heart and soul for himself. He doesn't want to be an object of lust. Does Christian love Roxane for more than her looks? her body? Does he love her truly heart, soul, mind, body. I'm not sure. Perhaps the play--when scrutinized--reveals how silly "true love" is and how deceptive the human heart can be. Roxane didn't have a clue who Christian was--not really. She never saw him for who he really was. And if Christian had lived instead of died, chances are Roxane would have broken his heart.


A description of Roxane
When one looks at her one thinks of a peach smiling at a strawberry!
Cyrano to Christian
None is a fool who knows himself a fool. And you did not attack me like a fool.
Cyrano to Christian
Will you complete me, and let me complete you? Let me be wit for you, be you my beauty! 
Christian speaks for himself....
CHRISTIAN (sits by her on the bench. A silence): Oh! I love you!
ROXANE (shutting her eyes): Ay, speak to me of love.
CHRISTIAN: I love thee! 
ROXANE: That's The theme! But vary it. 
ROXANE: Vary it!  
CHRISTIAN: I love you so! 
ROXANE: Oh! without doubt!--and then?. . . 
CHRISTIAN: And then--I should be--oh!--so glad--so glad If you would love me!--Roxane, tell me so!  
ROXANE (with a little grimace): I hoped for cream,--you give me gruel! Say How love possesses you? 
CHRISTIAN: Oh utterly! 
ROXANE: Come, come!. . .unknot those tangled sentiments! 
CHRISTIAN: I am grown stupid! 
ROXANE (dryly): And that displeases me, almost as much As 'twould displease me if you grew ill-favored.  
ROXANE: Yes, you love me, that I know. Adieu. (She goes toward her house.) CHRISTIAN: Oh, go not yet! I'd tell you-- 
ROXANE (opening the door): You adore me? I've heard it very oft. No!--Go away!
  Cyrano "saves" the night by speaking for Christian in shadows...
ROXANE: To-day. . . Your words are hesitating.
CYRANO (imitating Christian--in a whisper): Night has come. . . In the dusk they grope their way to find your ear.  
ROXANE: Meseems that your last words have learned to climb. 
CYRANO: With practice such gymnastic grows less hard! 
CYRANO (more and more moved): Stay awhile! 'Tis sweet,. . . The rare occasion, when our hearts can speak Our selves unseen, unseeing! Your eyes Have beams that turn men dizzy!--But to-night Methinks I shall find speech for the first time!
ROXANE: Ay! I am trembling, weeping!--I am thine! Thou hast conquered all of me!
CYRANO: Then let death come! 'Tis I, 'tis I myself, who conquered thee! One thing, but one, I dare to ask--
CHRISTIAN (under the balcony): A kiss
Cyrano on kisses...
A kiss, when all is said,--what is it? An oath that's ratified,--a sealed promise, A heart's avowal claiming confirmation,--A rose-dot on the 'i' of 'adoration,'-- A secret that to mouth, not ear, is whispered,-- Brush of a bee's wing, that makes time eternal,--Communion perfumed like the spring's wild flowers,-- The heart's relieving in the heart's outbreathing, When to the lips the soul's flood rises, brimming!
Cyrano before the last battle
CYRANO: Poets, at last,--by dint of counterfeiting-- Take counterfeit for true--that is the charm! This farewell letter,--it was passing sad, I wept myself in writing it!
CHRISTIAN: Wept? why?
CYRANO: Oh!. . .death itself is hardly terrible,. . . --But, ne'er to see her more! That is death's sting! --For. . .I shall never. . .
Cyrano confesses to Christian
CYRANO: You have. . .written to her oftener than you think. . .
CYRANO: Thus, 'faith! I had taken it in hand to express your flame for you!.  
CHRISTIAN: But how did you contrive, since we have been cut off, thus. . .to?. . . CYRANO: . . .Oh! before dawn. . .I was able to get through. . . 
CHRISTIAN (folding his arms): That was simple, too? And how oft, pray you, have I written?. . .Twice in the week?. . .Three times?. . .Four?. . . 
 CYRANO: More often still. 
CHRISTIAN: What! Every day? 
CYRANO: Yes, every day,--twice.
Roxane says a little too much...(abbreviated)
ROXANE: 'Tis your fault if I ran risks! Your letters turned my head! Ah! all this month, How many!--and the last one ever bettered The one that went before! Ah! you cannot conceive it! Ever since That night, when, in a voice all new to me, Under my window you revealed your soul-- Ah! ever since I have adored you! Now Your letters all this whole month long!--meseemed As if I heard that voice so tender, true, Sheltering, close! ROXANE: I read, read again--grew faint for love; I was thine utterly. Each separate page Was like a fluttering flower-petal, loosed From your own soul, and wafted thus to mine. Imprinted in each burning word was love Sincere, all-powerful. . . 
CHRISTIAN: At first I loved you only for your face! 
CHRISTIAN (horror-stricken): Roxane! 
ROXANE: And later, love--less frivolous-- Like a bird that spreads its wings, but can not fly-- Arrested by your beauty, by your soul Drawn close--I loved for both at once!
CHRISTIAN: I do not ask such love as that! I would be loved more simply; for..  ROXANE: Ah! how you err! 'Tis now that I love best--love well! 'Tis that Which is thy true self, see!--that I adore! Were your brilliance dimmed. 
ROXANE: I should love still! Ay, if your beauty should to-day depart. . . CHRISTIAN: Say not so!
ROXANE: Ay, I say it!  CHRISTIAN: Ugly? How?

Christian speaks his mind...
CHRISTIAN: I will be loved myself--or not at all! --I'll go see what they do--there, at the end Of the post: speak to her, and then let her choose One of us two!
Cyrano's aside...
CYRANO (aside--drawing his sword): Ay, and let me die to-day, Since, all unconscious, she mourns me--in him!
Cyrano reveals all to Roxane...
CYRANO: His letter! Ah! you promised me one day That I should read it.
ROXANE: What would you?--His letter?
CYRANO: Yes, I would fain,--to-day.  
CYRANO (reading): 'Roxane, adieu! I soon must die! This very night, beloved; and I Feel my soul heavy with love untold. I die! No more, as in days of old, My loving, longing eyes will feast On your least gesture--ay, the least! I mind me the way you touch your cheek With your finger, softly, as you speak! Ah me! I know that gesture well! My heart cries out!--I cry "Farewell"!'  
ROXANE: You read in such a voice--so strange--and yet-- It is not the first time I hear that voice!  
CYRANO: 'Here, dying, and there, in the land on high, I am he who loved, who loves you,--I. . .' 
ROXANE: How can you read? It is too dark to see!  
CYRANO: Roxane! 
ROXANE: 'Twas you! 
CYRANO: No, never; Roxane, no! 
 ROXANE: I see through all the generous counterfeit-- The letters--you! 
ROXANE: The sweet, mad love-words! You! 
ROXANE: The voice that thrilled the night--you, you! 
CYRANO: I swear you err. 
ROXANE: The soul--it was your soul!  
CYRANO: I loved you not. 
ROXANE: You loved me not? 
CYRANO: 'Twas he! 
ROXANE: You loved me! 
ROXANE: --Why, why keep silence all these fourteen years, When, on this letter, which he never wrote, The tears were your tears? 
CYRANO (holding out the letter to her): The bloodstains were his.
I loved but once, yet twice I lose my love!
Cyrano gets the last word in...
I would not bid you mourn less faithfully That good, brave Christian: I would only ask That when my body shall be cold in clay You wear those sable mourning weeds for two, And mourn awhile for me, in mourning him.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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