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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
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
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.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Cyrano de Bergerac!