Cyrano de Bergerac

by: Edmond Rostand

Motifs

Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.

Society

The first few scenes of Cyrano de Bergerac demonstrate the fallen grace of French society during Rostand’s time. In the late nineteenth century, Rostand felt that the French people had forgotten the values and ideals that made them a proud and virtuous people, the qualities and character that made them honorable and specifically French. The critique of society continues in the presentation of several peripheral characters. De Guiche is a corrupted, powerful man who fails to win the respect that a leader should. Lise is unfaithful to her husband and leaves him to seek sensual adventure.

The Letters

Cyrano is constantly composing, whether he writes ballads as he fights, recites poetry in the dark, or writes love letters for Christian. His compositions are not just literary; they also represent a way for Cyrano to create an identity for himself that he feels he can never have in real life. The letters in which he declares his love for Roxane begin to replace Cyrano himself. However, they also reveal a failing on Cyrano’s part: just as Christian cannot express himself in words, Cyrano cannot express himself in action. The only action he undertakes to win Roxane’s heart is this deceptive composing. The letters become inseparable from Cyrano’s inner beauty.

Fighting and War

Many characters in the play are fighters, whether they are members of the cadets or the musketeers. In the first three acts, these characters display their strengths and settle their arguments with swords. The play has a violent twist. When the play presents the war in Act IV, much of the play’s tension begins to heighten, and the climax suddenly occurs: Christian dies in Roxane’s arms while Cyrano looks on. After this heart-wrenching scene, most of the play’s force, or conflict, dissolves, and the characters return to their lives however they may have changed.