Compare and contrast Cyrano and Christian. Do they have any similarities besides their love for Roxane? Why is Cyrano so sad when Christian dies, apart from his realization that he himself will never be able to tell Roxane he loves her? Is there any other reason?
Cyrano and Christian are mutual foils and virtual opposites in their attributes: Cyrano is brilliant and looks ridiculous; Christian is simple but beautiful. Cyrano is interested in love and hopes to use Roxane to help attain it, whereas Christian is interested in Roxane and hopes to use love to attain her. But they are both courageous, noble individuals—Christian’s grief when Roxane admits she would love him even if he were ugly indicates his honorable, if only partially realized, recognition of his complicity and guilt. Cyrano’s grief over Christian’s death is due as much to the loss of a good friend and a good soul as it is to the end of his romantic hopes for Roxane, not to mention his hopes for romance in general.
How does the play’s comedic style change in Act III? Why do you think Rostand changes his tactics at this point? After Act III, is it still fair to call the play a comedy?
In the first two acts, the comedy of the play centers around the bombast of Cyrano’s character; the source of the humor lies mainly in the surprise and wonderment that a person could look and behave as Cyrano does, particularly when directing his scorching wit at less intelligent characters. In Act III, the play adopts a much more sophisticated, complicated dramatic irony to achieve its humorous effects, and Rostand occasionally uses the conceit of parody, specifically parodying the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. Rostand probably realized that once we familiarize ourselves with Cyrano, we need new sources of humor to maintain interest. The last two acts, with the starving troops and the deaths of Christian and Cyrano, lack the same comic tone and development present in the first three. They still have humor—Cyrano taunting de Guiche and teasing the nuns, for instance—but the mood of the acts is far more serious, as is the treatment of character.
Is Roxane worthy of the love that Cyrano feels for her, or is she simply a romantic ideal of womanhood to him?
Roxane’s attributes demonstrate that she is worthy of Cyrano’s love in several ways. Of all the women in the play, Roxane is the most beautiful, intelligent, and graceful. As the play develops, she proves herself intrepid (driving her coach through the Spanish army), brave (remaining with the troops during the battle), and loyal (staying faithful to Christian’s memory for fifteen years after his death). Le Bret realizes at once that Roxane is the only woman Cyrano could possibly love. But the flatness with which Rostand portrays Roxane suggests that we have too little information to evaluate her character definitively. We know very little about her, and several of the things we do know could be sources of criticism: her friends are pretentious and her methods are sometimes devious (she manipulates the Capuchin into marrying her to Christian). Moreover, most of what we learn about her involves male characters rhapsodizing on the way that they feel in her presence. Perhaps Rostand’s flat portrayal of Roxane highlights the shallowness of Cyrano’s and Christian’s affections.