Cyrano de Bergerac
Analysis of Major Characters
Cyrano is courageous, poetic, witty, and eloquent. He is a remarkable fighter, poet, musician, and philosopher, as well as a lover of beauty, ideals, and values. Never presented in a bad or unflattering light, Cyrano is difficult to dislike. Throughout the play, Cyrano acts according to his uncompromising sense of values and morals. He remains steadfast in his pursuit to become an honorable man and comes to represent the kind of man that everyone would like to be—and more.
Cyrano displays bravado reminiscent of the warrior tradition, never talking himself or others out of a fight. Cyrano’s brashness has earned him many enemies. His lack of self-confidence and low self-esteem, however, prove to be his most potent adversaries. More powerful than the simple flaw from which they grew—his nose—Cyrano’s insecurities prevent him from attaining what he cherishes most: love. His inner beauty wins over everyone, but he, and only he, fails to forget about his large nose. In public, Cyrano appears heroic, possessed of an extraordinary wit and a dizzying array of skills. His private self, however, is dark and despondent. Rather than marring his image, the few flaws that Cyrano possesses appear so fundamental to the human condition that they evoke an even deeper appreciation of his character.
Cyrano never wavers in his commitment to Roxane, but he may not be truly in love with her. Perhaps he is in love with the idea of love and of being in love. After all, Cyrano worships and obeys the magic, mystery, and poetry of love, as well as the powers and art of romance. Delighted by the romantic challenge of dying for love, Cyrano allows love to kill him in the end, even after Roxane discovers and reciprocates his feelings.
Cyrano’s plot revolves around the effort, by many men, to win Roxane’s love. With little agency, curiosity, or will in regard to the entreaties of her suitors, Roxane is the constant star in a perplexing galaxy of affection. Nearly every character is either directly affected by her love or is hoping to win it. But winning Roxane is not Cyrano’s or Christian’s goal: winning her love. It alters Christian and Cyrano in respectively different ways throughout the play, and it defines each scene’s tone and attitude.
Roxane’s kindness and sincerity never waver and are never questioned. But she has a major dramatic shift in thought at the war at Arras when she tells Christian that although she once loved him because he was handsome, she now loves him because of his inner beauty. This shift alters the play’s remaining action and resolves its main action and conflict. Roxane exhibits the sheer power of love over attraction, both at Arras and in the play’s final scene, when she declares her love for the deformed Cyrano.
De Guiche is an opposing double to Cyrano. He represents everything that Cyrano would become if Cyrano were to use his wit for flattery and social climbing. De Guiche is a violent, vengeful, and bitter man. As the play’s villain, he constantly plans to have Cyrano killed, and he is unafraid to admit it.
He serves as a symbol of misguided aristocracy and ineffective leadership. His troops do not respect him. They approve of him only late in the play, when he leads a complex military maneuver for the French and then helps rescue Roxane from the dangers of battle. He does become a better person near the end of the play—a change stemming from Cyrano’s remarkable example of kindness, heroism, and respectability.
Christian represents the other half of the romantic hero. He operates as Cyrano’s spokesman and comes to represent the shallowness of outer beauty. His good looks and charm tend to overshadow his lingering shyness, waning creativity, and eloquence. Christian’s needs and desires are simple and clear compared to Cyrano’s more complex motivations and goals. Yet there is an undeniable, human source to Christian’s deeper emotions and feelings. He is a legitimate lover, but he has no talents to express his love. Christian proves to be rather average in all but his striking physical attractiveness.
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