Cyrano de Bergerac
Act II, scenes vii–xi
Will you let my soul pass from my leather jerkin and lodge beneath your embroidered doublet?
Summary — Act II, scene vii
Cyrano’s company of guards tumbles into the shop, ecstatic over Cyrano’s triumphs the night before. The whole city is in a tumult over the sensation he created. Carbon, the captain of the guards, tries to lead Cyrano out into the adoring throng, but Cyrano refuses to go. People begin rushing into the store, doting on Cyrano. Prominent men ask for the details of the night before; Cyrano’s friends see an opportunity for him to help his career, but he refuses to provide any details. De Guiche enters with a message of admiration, and Cyrano presents to him the song of the Cadets of Gascoyne. De Guiche suggests that his uncle, Cardinal Richelieu, the most powerful man in France, might be willing to help Cyrano. But again Cyrano refuses. During the hubbub, a cadet appears with a set of hats belonging to the men Cyrano defeated the previous night. De Guiche reveals that he hired the hundred men, and he angrily storms out of the store. The crowd dissipates, and only the guards remain.
Summary — Act II, scene viii
Le Bret argues that Cyrano is ruining his chances of becoming a successful man or a famous poet. Cyrano says he will live according to his ideals and that he has no interest in making friends with unworthy men. Suddenly, Christian enters.
Summary — Act II, scene ix
The other guardsmen, not privy to Cyrano’s vow to Roxane, tease Christian and warn him never to mention Cyrano’s nose. Christian, upset that he is being teased, asks Carbon what to do when Gascons grow too boastful. Carbon replies that he must prove a man can be a Norman and still have courage. So when Cyrano begins to tell the story of his fight with the hundred men, Christian repeatedly interrupts him with references to his nose. Cyrano fills with anger, and the cadets expect him to attack Christian. Remembering his promise to protect Christian, however, Cyrano controls himself. Christian’s insults continue until at last Cyrano angrily sends away the cadets. Expecting him to kill Christian, they hasten from the room.
Summary — Act II, scene x
Rather than killing Christian, Cyrano embraces him and reveals that he is Roxane’s cousin. Christian proclaims that he simply cannot write to Roxane because he is too stupid—he thinks she will lose all feeling for him the moment she reads his words. Struck by a powerful idea, Cyrano offers to write letters for Christian—though he says he is only interested in practicing his comic poetry, inwardly, he burns for the opportunity to express his feelings to Roxane. Christian agrees, and they embrace again.
Summary — Act II, scene xi
The cadets return to the room, stunned to see that not only is Christian still alive, but that he is embracing Cyrano. Lise’s musketeer decides to follow Christian’s lead and insults Cyrano’s nose. Cyrano knocks him over a bench. The cadets, pleased to have their old Cyrano back, rejoice.
Analysis — Act II, scenes vii–xi
The structure of Act II is important for several reasons. It introduces the plot’s main event: Cyrano’s plan to woo Roxane for Christian by writing the letters himself. It shows Cyrano at the peak of his sensational popularity following his triumph at the theater and in the duel against a hundred men. It also shows how his pride and virtue compel him to shun his popularity.
Rostand expresses in words the code of behavior to which Cyrano swears. Cyrano’s refusal of Richelieu’s patronage is significant. Rather than pander to money and power by taking a great offer to become financially and politically backed by the most powerful man in France, Cyrano prefers to live by the ideals and values that he holds dear. Moreover, Cyrano’s argument with Le Bret over Cyrano’s rash behavior shows his allegiance to integrity, impetuousness, bravery, wit, the pursuit of glory, and the idealization of love and women—all in the face of great enmity. These connote the most important, recurring themes of the play.
Another important theme of Cyrano de Bergerac is the traditional contrast between inner worth and outward appearance, embodied mainly in the opposing characters of Cyrano and Christian. Christian and Cyrano are opposites in several ways. One is ugly, the other handsome. One is smart and artistic, the other simple. One is confident, the other noticeably shy but effectively charming. Cyrano, despite his awkward physical appearance, is the “most delightful man under the sun,” a consistently brilliant and soulful man. Christian is beautiful to look at, but he lacks wit, poetry, and fire. By working together to woo Roxane, they form a more powerful single character, a “romantic hero.” This romantic hero has the best of both worlds: Cyrano’s inner beauty and Christian’s outer beauty. Though together they form a romantic hero, Cyrano and Christian also risk becoming perceived as part fraud and part coward.
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