Cyrano de Bergerac

Cyrano de Bergerac Summary

Act I is set in an opulent playhouse. Guests of all backgrounds arrive and greet each other as they await the beginning of the play. Two cadets, Cuigy and Brissaille, and a man named Le Bret, discuss the imminent arrival of the famous swordsman and poet, Cyrano de Bergerac -- also famed for his very long nose. They hear Cyrano plans to make a fuss about the actor Montfleury if he goes onstage. A young man, Christian, speaks to his friend Ligniere about how he hopes to see his beloved there. He learns her name is Roxane and that she is a precieuse. He is too nervous to speak with her, but sees that another man, the Comte De Guiche, avails himself of her conversation. De Guiche is married and cannot have her himself, so he hopes to marry her to his protégé, Valvert.The lights dim and the play begins. A ruckus is heard, and Cyrano makes his presence known to the delight of the crowd. He runs the obnoxious actor off, flummoxes a busybody trying to pry into his affairs, and successfully outwits and out-fences the sneering Valvert to the chagrin of his erstwhile foe De Guiche. The crowd fades away and Cyrano privately tells his friend Le Bret that he is in love with Roxane, his cousin, but knows she will never love him in return due to his proboscis. Cyrano is startled and pleased, then, when Roxane’s duenna (her chaperone) tells him she would like to meet privately with him later. A meeting at the pastry-chef Ragueneau’s place is formed. Cyrano and Le Bret decide to sally forth into the night to help out Ligniere, who has gotten himself in trouble due to provocative verse he wrote about a nobleman.

In Act II, Ragueneau hosts young poets at his pastry-shop. He is an aspiring poet himself and enjoys their company, even though he knows they use him for his desserts. Cyrano and Roxane arrive, separately, and converse together. Roxane tells him she is in love with the young Christian. She asks if he will look after him, as he has joined the Gascony cadets of which Cyrano is a part. He hesitantly agrees. After Roxane leaves, Christian and the cadets arrive. Although warned not to talk about Cyrano’s nose, Christian insults the famed cadet to curry favor with the other men. Shocked, they leave when Cyrano orders them to do so. He commends the young man’s courage and tells him about Roxane’s feelings. Christian confesses he does not think he is intelligent enough to woo her. Cyrano devises a plan in which he will write the words of love for Christian to use with Roxane; both men are happy about this plan.

In Act III Roxane tells Cyrano how much she loves Christian and how incredible his letters are. He is pleased that his letters are so impactful, but still loves her himself. De Guiche comes to visit Roxane and Cyrano hides inside her house. The cadets are going to be sent off to fighting soon and he wants to see her before he goes. She flirts with him and convinces him to hold the cadets behind from the rest of the troops; she does this to save Christian, but pretends she wants to help De Guiche find a way to provoke Cyrano. Roxane tells Cyrano she is expecting Christian to speak his words of love to her. After she says goodbye to him and goes upstairs, he calls to Christian, who has been hiding nearby. He tells Cyrano he is tired of pretending to be someone he is not and is sure Roxane will love him for who he is. He calls her down and they sit together. Almost immediately his silly words begin to anger and frustrate Roxane, and she eventually goes back inside. Despairing, Christian calls on the smug Cyrano for help. Cyrano stands off from a distance and feeds Christian the words as he woos Roxane from her bedroom window. At one point Cyrano even takes over, and Roxane does not recognize his voice. He procures a kiss for Christian, although Roxane is hesitant. A monk comes by and says he is looking for Roxane because he has a letter from De Guiche. She reads it and discovers De Guiche was so taken with her flirting that he has stayed back from war and is planning on coming over that night. She changes the words and says De Guiche wants the monk to marry her and Christian. Cyrano holds off De Guiche by delivering fantastical tales under a disguise, but then reveals to him what the happy couple just did. When De Guiche sees them he is incensed, and declares the cadets are now going off to the war with Spain. Roxane begs Cyrano to have Christian write to her every day.

In Act IV, the cadets are at war. They complain of the lack of food and make fun of De Guiche. Cyrano reveals he has been sneaking through enemy lines to get Roxane a letter every day. Roxane arrives in a carriage, having flirted her way through. She brings food for the men but is there to see Christian, whom she informs that his letters have so moved her that she no longer cares that he is handsome but loves him only for his words. Christian tells Cyrano that he is depressed about this, and then realizes that Cyrano loves Roxane and she must love him too. He plans to tell Roxane and Cyrano begins to hope that he might have a chance. Fighting begins. Before Christian can say anything, he is brought back to the camp, dying. Cyrano decides to preserve the grieving widow’s impression of Christian and says nothing. Christian dies, and Cyrano rallies the troop.

In Act V, it is fifteen years later. Roxane lives in a convent, where she has been throughout this time. Cyrano visits her every day to deliver the news. On this day De Guiche comes to see her first; everyone has forgiven his past bad behavior because of his bravery. Le Bret and Ragueneau also come to the convent (the latter lost his pastry business because of his cheating and dishonest wife, and has held odd jobs ever since) and discuss how Cyrano is impoverished and how he has a lot of enemies. Indeed, Cyrano has been killed that very day -a servant dropped a log on his head. Dying, he covers his head and comes to visit Roxane one last time. He feebly delivers the news and then they talk about Christian. He asks if he can read his last letter and Roxane consents. She realizes it was him all along when she recognizes his voice and sees that he knows the words when it is too dark to read. Cyrano collapses and his friends rush over. Roxane is distraught and tells him she loves him. Cyrano refuses to die lying down and stands up, brandishing his sword and deliriously fighting enemies. He proclaims no one can take his panache.