Biography of Edmond Rostand

Edmond Rostand was an acclaimed 19th century playwright most famous for Cyrano de Bergerac (1897). Rostand was born in 1868 in Marseille to an artistic family. A brilliant student, he arrived in Paris to study law in 1884. He frequented literary circles and began to write, winning the prestigious annual prize of the Academie de Marseille for an essay on "Two Provencal novelists" in which he compared Honore d'Urfe and Emile Zola.  

Rostand married the poet and playwright Rosemonde Etienette Gerard at age twenty-two; the couple had two sons, Maurice and Jean.  

By the time he twenty-six, he had written a few vehicles for Sarah Bernhardt, one of the most famous actresses of the day. He also published a volume of poems in 1890. The early dramatic works represented the realistic and naturalistic trends in drama that currently prevailed.  

Rostand started writing Cyrano in 1896 and first published and produced it the following year. It garnered immediate acclaim, running for 300 consecutive nights. That year he was elected to the Legion d'Honneur, and two years later he was also elected to the Academie Francaise. Cyrano was notable for deviating from the realist style  

By 1900 Rostand was tired of the fame and its concomitant pressures on his family, and began to suffer from lung and nervous troubles. He and his family spent more time on his country estate. In 1900 he wrote L'Aiglon (The Eaglet) about the Duke of Reichstadt, the son of Napoleon; in 1910 he wrote Chantecler, in which the main characters were birds and played by actors wearing beaks and feathers. Although both, especially the latter, were awaited by the public, nether were particularly successful. Rostand also had two other unfinished plays at the time of his death –Yorick and Les Petites Manies.  

Rostand was judged medically unfit to serve in WWI, but he did visit the trenches to see the reality of war.  

Edmond Rostand died in 1918 during the worldwide influenza pandemic. He is buried in the Cimetiere de Marseille, and his country estate is now a heritage site and museum dedicated to his life and Basque architecture and crafts.  

Study Guides on Works by Edmond Rostand