Your true self has prevailed over your outer appearance. I now love you for your soul alone.

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Summary: Act 4, scene 1

At the siege of Arras, the Cadets of Carbon de Castel-Jaloux languish, surrounded by the encamped Spaniards and lacking food and water. Le Bret keeps watch with Carbon early one morning, and they discuss the plight of the soldiers. They hear gunfire in the distance, and Cyrano runs in. Every morning he has been crossing enemy lines to post a daily letter to Roxane. Cyrano tells the startled guards that he promised Roxane that Christian would write her every single day. Cyrano looks at the sleeping Christian and says that Christian is dying of hunger but is still handsome.

Summary: Act 4, scene 2

Dawn breaks, drums sound, and Cyrano goes off to write another letter. The cadets awaken and complain about their hunger. There is talk of a mutiny, and Carbon asks Cyrano for his help.

Summary: Act 4, scene 3

Cyrano comes out and talks to the cadets, restoring morale with a clever speech and his passionate commitment to the cause. He implores a piper to play a song from Provence, and though the cadets become tearfully homesick, they do forget about their hunger. De Guiche enters, evoking a general murmur of resentment from the cadets. Cyrano tells the miserable cadets to stop moping and to look busy as de Guiche arrives.

Summary: Act 4, scene 4

Prompted by Cyrano, de Guiche boasts of his conduct in the previous day’s battle when, to confuse the Spaniards, he flung away the white plume that marked him as an officer. Cyrano then proclaims that a courageous man would never have flung away the white plume, and he offers to wear it in the next bout of fighting. De Guiche says Cyrano makes the pledge only because he knows the plume lies somewhere on the battlefield. To the cadets’ delight, Cyrano produces the plume from his pocket.

Furious, de Guiche seizes the plume and waves it to a sentry, who runs toward the Spanish encampments. De Guiche says that he has just given a signal and that the Spanish will attack in perhaps an hour. He says that the cadets will all die but that, in the process, they will buy the French forces as much time as possible. Cyrano thanks de Guiche solemnly for the opportunity to die with glory.

Christian tells Cyrano he wishes he could say farewell to Roxane, and Cyrano shows him the farewell letter he has just written. Christian notices the mark of a tear on the letter and nearly guesses Cyrano’s secret. He is interrupted by the arrival of a mysterious coach.

Summary: Act 4, scene 5

De Guiche thinks that the coach is from the king’s service. But Roxane delightfully surprises both him and the other men when she climbs down from the coach. She says that the war was lasting too long and that she had to see Christian. Cyrano, Christian, and de Guiche tell her she must leave immediately because the Spaniards will attack soon. She refuses to leave, saying that she is brave—after all, she is Cyrano’s cousin. De Guiche leaves angrily.

Analysis: Act 4, scenes 1–5

The beginning of Act IV marks a severe shift in tone and sentiment. The cadets, at war, are starving. Their morale is low, and they yearn to return home. Cyrano is the only soldier in decent spirits: his daily writing to Roxane gives him a sense of purpose in the difficult time. De Guiche decides to have his sentry advise the Spanish to attack the cadets, partly in revenge for his humiliation at the hands of Cyrano, but mainly because he needs to buy time as part of a larger military maneuver. Pitted against the overwhelming Spanish force, the cadets will suffer almost certain death.

The jokes in these scenes, while present, add to this shift in tone, providing a sense of unease rather than delight. For instance, while the hungry cadets sleep, Carbon evokes the proverb, “He who sleeps dines.” Le Bret agrees, but adds, “That’s not much comfort when you have insomnia.” Similarly, Cyrano’s observation, that Christian might be dying of hunger but still has his good looks, exemplifies a sense of humor that simultaneously creates and stifles laughter.

Still, Cyrano never misses an opportunity to highlight de Guiche’s hypocrisy and ignorance, and thus continues to bring a sense of vibrancy and life to the outwardly hopeless situation. The ironic exchange between Cyrano and de Guiche regarding the white plume adds to the impression that de Guiche is an inferior coward and buffoon. Cyrano accomplishes this feat through his use of irony and surprise. Intending to attack de Guiche for his cowardliness eventually, Cyrano prompts de Guiche to begin bragging about how he strategically fooled the enemy in the previous battle. After setting him up, Cyrano can now tear him down, showing not only how de Guiche threw away the symbol of courage, but how Cyrano braved the battlefield to retrieve the white plume.

Indeed, the white plume begins to symbolize idealistic bravery, honor, and glory. Worn by colonels, it serves the practical purpose of signaling to a brigade the whereabouts of the troops’ leader. However, it also might leave the colonel vulnerable to personal attack from the opposition. Yet, while de Guiche sees the plume as a limitation and cleverly evades the Spanish threat by casting it aside, Cyrano illustrates that the plume serves a higher purpose, adding respectability and honor to battle, so much so that Cyrano risks his own life to retrieve and honor it. Perhaps more romantic than realistic in nature, the plume and the ideals associated with it serve as a beacon for Cyrano’s insurmountable, uncompromising spirit.