Cyrano de Bergerac

by: Edmond Rostand

Act IV, scenes i–v

Summary Act IV, scenes i–v

Summary — Act IV, scene vii

De Guiche announces that if Roxane stays for the battle, he will stay to fight as well. The men decide that he must be a Gascon after all, and they offer him some food. He refuses, and they are even more impressed. Cyrano tells Christian that he has written Roxane more often than Christian thought—in fact, every day. Christian again suspects Cyrano’s secret, but Roxane interrupts.

Summary — Act IV, scene viii

Christian asks why Roxane risked death to see him again, and she says that she was driven mad by his beautiful love letters. She says that, at first, she loved only his beauty, but now she has forgotten about his beauty and loves his inner self, the soul she felt in the letters. When Roxane says she would love him even if he were ugly, Christian is miserable. He sends her to go speak to the cadets and to smile at them because they are about to die.

Summary — Act IV, scene ix

Christian tells Cyrano that Roxane is no longer in love with him. Instead, he says, she loves his “soul” and that means she loves Cyrano. He accuses Cyrano of secretly returning her love. Cyrano cannot deny it. Christian says that Cyrano must tell Roxane and ask her to choose between them. Christian calls Roxane and runs off toward the other men. Cyrano asks Roxane if she could really love Christian if he were ugly. She says that she could. Cyrano feels ecstatic and is on the cusp of revealing his secret when suddenly they hear gunfire. Le Bret cries out for Cyrano. He whispers something in Cyrano’s ear, and Cyrano says that now he can never tell Roxane his feelings. A group of men comes into the camp, carrying something. Soon, we see it is Christian’s body. He is dying.

Summary — Act IV, scene x

The men run off to fight, and Roxane collapses over Christian’s body. Cyrano leans down and whispers into Christian’s ear that he told Roxane the secret, and that she chose Christian. The battle breaks out all around them and Christian closes his eyes, dead. Next to Christian’s heart, Roxane finds the farewell letter that Cyrano wrote for Christian to give her. She faints with grief, and Cyrano sends Ragueneau and de Guiche to take her away and protect her. Carbon emerges from the fighting, twice wounded. But the army has returned, and the men will win if they can hold out only a little longer. Cyrano tells Carbon not to worry. Now, he says, he has two deaths to avenge: Christian’s and his own. Cyrano charges into battle. When he hears a Spaniard ask, “Who are these men who are so eager for death?” he begins to sing the song of the Cadets of Gascoyne. Cyrano charges off into a hail of bullets, singing as he fights.

Analysis — Act IV, scenes vi–x

The theme of inner versus outer beauty escalates and comes to a climax during the battle scene. Even as Roxane reveals that she values inner beauty more than physical attractiveness, Cyrano has been forging letters to her. His actions call into question his own integrity and open up the possibility that ultimately, he has calculated to win Roxane himself. Cyrano’s character appears tarnished at the very moment his words move Roxane to honor inner goodness. Her announcement completes the dissection and destruction of the romantic hero that Cyrano and Christian together created. Playing different halves of the hero, both Cyrano and Christian have proven to be inadequate. Because Cyrano cannot take credit for winning Roxane’s love without revealing his duplicity, the play’s triumphant moment belongs to love and to poetry, not to Cyrano.

The irony of this scene is staggering. Roxane travels far and takes great risks to tell Christian her wonderful news, and it turns out to be the worst news that Christian, and even Cyrano, could possibly hear. Still, Cyrano commits another act of tremendous chivalry when he consoles Christian—and tells him that Roxane picked Christian—just before he dies. Christian dies an honorable and happy death, as a good soldier and a fulfilled lover. Cyrano would rather spend the rest of his life apart from the woman he loves than dishonor the memory of his friend.

Moreover, Christian’s death symbolizes the death of the superficial half of the romantic hero. By denouncing the value of outer beauty, Roxane renders Christian an unimportant and useless part of the composite romantic hero.Though she doesn’t know it, Roxane loves the other half, the soul of the hero, played by Cyrano. Christian quickly dies and disappears from the play. Yet his death also prevents Cyrano from telling Roxane the truth and perhaps from making a moral mistake—dishonestly winning her love.

The war parallels the emotional war between the main characters. The climax of the play occurs on the battlefield when Christian, Cyrano, and Roxane interact with startling dialogue and emotion. The tension between Christian and Cyrano eases, dissolving the fused romantic hero they had attempted to become.

As Cyrano’s duplicity intensifies, de Guiche begins to redeem himself. He turns out to be a Gascon under all his Parisian trappings. One of the soldiers reveals that de Guiche has a Gascon accent. Because the main conflict in Cyrano de Bergerac lies within Cyrano, Rostand transforms his rather superficial villain into a newly minted hero without sacrificing the play’s dramatic drive.