Cyrano de Bergerac

Cyrano de Bergerac Summary and Analysis of Act II: The Poets' Cookshop

Scene I

It is Ragueneau’s cooked meat and cake shop, which is stuffed to the brim with geese and roasts and pheasants and cakes. A table is covered with stacks of paper, and Ragueneau is counting syllables on his fingers.

Cooks and bakers jest with Ragueneau as he writes his verses. His wife Lise enters, carrying wrapping paper for him. He theatrically says all his precious books have been dismembered and his friends’ verses turned into “bags for buns” (51). Lise dryly says that before his poet friends came around he never called her a murderess.

Scene II

Children come in to buy buns and Ragueneau makes a deal with them that he will give them extra buns if they return the paper.  He then turns back to his poems.

Scene III

Cyrano enters, and Ragueneau compliments him on seeing him fight. Lise asks him about his hand, which he waves off. Cyrano tells the chef he is meeting someone and wonders if they can leave, but Ragueneau says he cannot because the poets are coming. Lise comments that they are only coming for free breakfast.

A musketeer swaggers in and moves to talk to Lise.

Cyrano tells himself to compose the letter he has written so many times in his head. All he has to do is lay out his soul.

Scene IV

A group of poets enters, praising the delicious smells. One says they are late because there was fighting at the Porte de Nesle. Rumor has it a single swordsman did it. Cyrano, clearly the man they are unknowingly referring to, ignores them as he writes.

The poets grab for buns while Ragueneau stands tall and reads his “Rhyming Recipe” about how to make almond tartlets. The poets praise him loudly. Cyrano tells Ragueneau that all the poets are doing is stuffing themselves, and the chef admits he knows but replies, “I like to feed them, and it does give me a chance to read my verses” (58). Cyrano turns to Lise, who is flirting with the Musketeer. He chastises her and she tries to provoke her lover into teasing Cyrano about his nose, but the Musketeer is horrified and flees. Lise follows.

Ragueneau takes the poets and their cakes to read verses elsewhere, so as to give Cyrano the place to himself.

Scene V

The duenna and Roxane arrive. Cyrano gets rid of the duenna by giving her a bunch of biscuits and sending her back to the streets.

Scene VI

Roxane thanks her cousin for fighting yesterday, and bemoans the fact that de Guiche wants to see her married. She asks him for a favor, invoking the time when they were children and he was like a brother. They reminisce about these pleasant days.

Roxane washes and bandages Cyrano’s hand as she asks about his fight and then tells him she is in love with someone in Cyrano’s regiment -Christian. They have not spoken, and Cyrano tells her he may very well be stupid. She protests and says he can’t be. She then asks Cyrano if he will look after the young man and not let him fight a duel. Cyrano agrees.

As she leaves, he says to himself, “It’s not the hardest thing I’ve done today” (66).

Scene VII

Ragueneau returns, and this time the captain of the cadets, Carbon de Castel-Jaloux, enters as well. Other cadets crowd in, congratulating Cyrano for his fight. Le Bret comes inside too, joining the fray and telling Cyrano everyone wants to see him. He asks Cyrano amid the tumult what happened with Roxane.

The crowd grows boisterous. Ragueneau is delighted but Cyrano is put off, ignoring a man from a Gazette and a poet.  

Cuigy, Brissaille, and other officers arrive. Cuigy explains he brought a message from the Marechal de Gassion, who sends Cyrano his compliments regarding last night. Cyrano thanks him.

De Guiche also enters the pastry-shop. He speaks chivalrous words to Cyrano and asks if he is a Gascon. Cyrano replies, “A cadet, yes” (71). Carbon steps forward and asks Cyrano to do the honors. They all begin to sing a song about being “the boys from Gascony, Captain Carbon’s cadets” (71), who have wolfish grins, walk pride, threaten husbands and seduce ladies, fight with glory, and are “savages, imps, or hounds of hell” (72).

De Guiche asks if Cyrano will accept his patronage, but Cyrano demurs. Le Bret tells his friend thus could be good, that he could stage his version of Agrippina. Cyrano considers it but decides not, as “meeting my standards is my own reward” (73). Dismayed, De Guiche says he is too proud.

A cadet enters with a bunch of hats from the soldiers on the embankment. It turns out De Guiche sent the men to “make a drunken rhymester pay the price” (74). Embarrassed, he warns Cyrano of being like Don Quixote and tilting at windmills, but Cyrano is unimpressed. De Guiche leaves.

Scene VIII

The crowd leaves and Le Bret chastises Cyrano for always throwing people's kindness in their faces. Annoyed, Cyrano asks what he was to do -find a protector? Write “fulsome dedications to money-men, as other poets do” (75)? Play a buffoon? Pay a publisher to publish his own poems? No, he says, that is not for him; he wants to be free and live his own life and dream as he wishes. His writing will be what he wants it to be, and “I swear I’ll rise alone or not at all” (76).

Le Bret counsels him just not to be against his friends, but Cyrano says he has no need to make friends wherever he goes. He likes to annoy people; he compares other people to limp linen, and himself to a stiff Spanish ruff.

Le Bret gently takes his friend’s arm and asks him to admit that she does not love him.

Christian enters, unseen by Cyrano, and sits with the cadets.

Scene IX

A cadet asks Cyrano to tell the story of his fight. The other cadets warn Christian to say nothing of Cyrano’s nose. Cyrano begins his story but Christian interrupts and mentions his nose. Cyrano, astonished, asks whom this is, and is told. He tries to continue his story but Christian interjects with more comments about his nose.

Cyrano grows more and more enraged, and eventually orders all but Christian out. The men nervously comply. Cyrano tells Christian he is brave. He then tells the young man he is Roxane’s brother, or cousin to be exact. Christian is relieved and happy, and tells him he admires him and was a stupid fool. He wishes he could talk to Roxane but feels too dumb; he can easily attack men with words but cannot talk to women.

Cyrano gets an idea: Christian should use his words. He will write his lines for him. This is a scheme that would always tempt an artist. He gives Christian the letter he already wrote, lying and saying he as all poets do has letters lying around. Christian takes it and wonders if anything will need to be changed, but Cyrano laughs and says women are so vain Roxane will think it was written just for her.

Scene XI

The men outside peer in and are relieved to see Cyrano and Christian acting companionably. A musketeer boldly says perhaps now they can all talk about the nose, and Cyrano boxes his ears.


In this section Rostand dedicates a decent amount of space to Ragueneau, the pastry chef and would-be poet. He does this not only for comic relief, as Ragueneau is funny and charming and somewhat bumbling, but also to expand on one of the text’s most pervasive themes -the power of poetry. Ragueneau may primarily compose verses on how to make almond tartlets and evoke the Muse in the same space as cooking smoke, but he is fervently dedicated to the craft of versifying. He cannot help but weave in the noble art into the everyday, as exemplified by the fact that he has to wrap his buns in paper with his poems on them. He observes how “Dawn’s rosy fingers gild the saucepans” (50) and responds with “an iamb” when another cook asks how much the sauce should be reduced by. Ragueneau lives and breathes poetry, even when not in the ideal circumstances. This makes him similar to Cyrano, an accomplished swordsman who finds just as much pleasure in his rhymes, but Ragueneau comes across a little more ridiculous in contrast to Cyrano’s high seriousness.

In addition to Ragueneau’s lighthearted buffoonery, this act presents more serious elements in Roxane’s admittance that she loves Christian, Cyrano’s bold statement about how he lives his life, and the hatching of the plan that forms the central conflict in the play. First, the audience/readers get to know Roxane a little better. She, like Christian, exemplifies the Romantic tradition of falling in love at first sight without actually knowing the individual (Cyrano, by contrast, is more “modern” since his love is for someone whom he knows quite well). She is also revealed to be nurturing and kind, but has a flair for the dramatic, as evidenced in her response to Cyrano wondering if Christian was stupid - “then I’ll die, so there!” (65). Later encounters show her to be both a strong woman who resists the advances of debauched men such as De Guiche and Valvert, but also rather foolish in terms of not knowing who is truly wooing her and demanding a great deal from her lover.

Second, Cyrano articulates his passionate dedication to staying true to himself and avoiding entanglements with patrons or others seeking to control him. In a remarkable speech to Le bret, he says he does not want a patron because he does not want to write “fulsome dedications to money-men, as other poets do” (75), or “crawl on my belly” (75) or have his whole reputation based on one poem, or “idolize idiots, live in fear of the press” (76), or “living in fear and trembling, visiting ‘useful’ people instead of writing” (76).

Instead of all of that, Cyrano wants to “lead my life, to be free, to dream” (76) and to decide what he wants to do with his verses and his characters. Le Bret, who by virtue of being Cyrano’s oldest and closest friend, appreciates his friend’s assertions but counsels him on being too independent and willingly offending everyone around him. He also adds, knowingly, “Why don’t you just admit she doesn’t love you?” (77). As discussed in an earlier analysis, Cyrano clearly has a wall put up in order to deal with his own emotional and self-esteem issues.

Third, Cyrano and Christian devise their plan to have Cyrano provide Christian with the flowery words of love necessary to win over Roxane. Both think this is an ideal situation, although the audience/reader can intuit that there will no doubt be many problems to come. This conflict sets up the main dramatic irony in the play, which is that Roxane falls in love with Christian because of his words, but is actually in love with Cyrano. One study guide for the text noted the structural irony as well, explaining, “It is created by the contrast between Cyrano’s inner qualities -his wit and intelligence -and his ugly appearance. This contrast creates most of the dramatic events of the play. Notice also that the ironic contrast between inner and outer qualities carries over to the other characters as well, such as Christian, Ragueneau, and the viscount.”