Cyrano de Bergerac
Act II, scenes i–vi
His face shines with wit and intelligence. He’s proud, noble, young, fearless, handsome. . . .
Summary — Act II, scene i
The next morning dawns. The scene is Ragueneau’s bakery. The bakery bustles with activity as Ragueneau and his pastry cooks prepare the day’s wares. Obsessed with poetry, Ragueneau has written all of his recipes in the form of poems. One of the cooks delights him with a pastry lyre.
Ragueneau’s wife, Lise, enters furiously, angry with Ragueneau for yet again giving away baked goods to poets in return for their verses. She shows him a new batch of paper bags she has made for the shop, shocking her husband because the bags are made from poet’s manuscripts.
Summary — Act II, scene ii
Two children enter the shop and order three small pies. Ragueneau struggles to find a bag, and a poem, with which he can part. After Lise is out of sight, Ragueneau brings the children back and offers to give them more pastries if they will return the bags that have poetry written on them.
Summary — Act II, scene iii
Cyrano appears and tells Ragueneau he is meeting someone. Noticeably nervous and jumpy, Cyrano constantly asks what time it is and cannot sit still. Lise asks Cyrano how he cut his hand, but he refuses to talk about it. A musketeer arrives and Ragueneau says the man is his wife’s friend.
Summary — Act II, scene iv
Some poets arrive and begin eating Ragueneau’s wares, describing the food poetically and thereby delighting the baker. Cyrano tries to write something to Roxane. When Ragueneau leaves, Cyrano warns Lise that Ragueneau is his friend and that he will not tolerate her having an affair with the musketeer. The musketeer hears what he says but does not dare to challenge Cyrano.
Summary — Act II, scene v
Roxane arrives. Overcome with love, Cyrano sends everyone else away. He gives the duenna pastries to distract her while he and Roxane spend time together.
Summary — Act II, scene vi
Cyrano and Roxane begin to talk alone. Cyrano anxiously asks Roxane to state why she has come to talk to him. She shrugs off his insistence, and they reminisce about the childhood summers they spent together. She tends to his wounded hand, and Cyrano tells her he injured it in a fight the night before in which he defeated a hundred men. Roxane confesses to Cyrano that she is in love with someone, a man who does not know she loves him. Cyrano thinks she means him, but when she describes the man as “handsome,” he knows that she means someone else. She tells him that she is in love with Christian, the new member of Cyrano’s company of guards. She says that she is afraid for Christian because Cyrano’s company is composed of hot-blooded Gascons who pick fights with anyone foreign. Christian is not a Gascon. Roxane asks Cyrano to protect him, and Cyrano agrees. She also asks Cyrano to have Christian write to her. Professing friendly love and admiration for Cyrano, she leaves.
Analysis — Act II, scenes i–vi
In Cyrano de Bergerac, poetry either splits lovers apart or binds them together. Poetry divides Ragueneau and Lise, providing the main conflict in their marriage. Whereas Ragueneau is a caring, compassionate individual with a weakness for poets and poetry, Lise, his domineering wife, disparages poetry, pasting old pages of poems together to make bags for the shop. Her disgust becomes even more obvious when her affair with the musketeer becomes apparent. Ragueneau risks his business and his marriage by constantly giving out large amounts of pastries in return for poems. Meanwhile, the power of poetry will soon begin to bring other lovers together, and Ragueneau’s poetic shop will play an important role in that process. In this scene, the sequence of letter-writing that continues through the rest of the play begins when Roxane and Cyrano meet in Ragueneau’s shop.
Cyrano once again exhibits his greatest strengths and weaknesses within the same scene. He stands up for Ragueneau’s honor by threatening Lise and the musketeer. Cyrano will not allow them to deceive Ragueneau while they continue their dishonorable affair. Cyrano may not cherish Ragueneau’s poems, but he respects his character and the goodwill he shows to him and to the other poets. Cyrano’s fragility comes across in his nervousness during his meeting with Roxane. Cyrano is often courageous and fearless, but not when it comes to love. Despite his remarkable talents and abilities, he has the self-doubt and sense of vulnerability common to almost everyone.
When Roxane arrives, it seems as though Cyrano’s dream has come true. She begins to talk about a love interest of hers, and throughout her lengthy and somewhat stealthy description of the man, Cyrano appears to believe that she is talking about him. When she says that this man is “handsome,” Cyrano concludes that the man cannot be him, highlighting one of his most profound and destructive flaws—lack of self-esteem. Cyrano soon convinces himself that Roxane will never reciprocate his love. Sad and despondent, Cyrano resolves to help Christian win her heart. Cyrano’s resolve, as well as his promise to protect Christian, demonstrates his essential heroic qualities. He combats rejection and dejection with selfless love—perhaps Cyrano’s most impressive quality displayed thus far.
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