Cyrano de Bergerac

Cyrano de Bergerac Summary and Analysis of Act V: Cyrano’s News

Scene I  

It is 15 years later, in 1655 in the garden of the convent of the Ladies of the Cross. Sisters walk about, some sit near an older nun amid the falling leaves.  

The sisters discuss with Mother Margaret the frequent visits of Cyrano to Roxane, who joined the convent 15 years ago. He is the only one that makes her smile. One remarks that he is poor but does not accept help.  

They notice the Duc de Grammont (the former Comte de Guiche) arriving, whose infrequent visits are due to his business.  

Scene II  

Roxane and De Guiche meet. He asks her if she means to stay here forever to guard Christian’s memory, and she steadfastly assents. He asks if Cyrano still visits and she says he comes every week to bring her the news.  

Le Bret enters and says Cyrano is not well. He criticizes everyone, but no one will attack him for fear of his sword. He is cold and lonely and poor, but Le Bret adds that he has lived the life he wanted.  

De Guiche feels sorry for him because he has nothing, but on his way out he muses that he somewhat envies Cyrano, and that a certain unease accompanies one who rises to great office. Along one’s trail are “dead illusions and regrets” (171). He tells Roxane that Cyrano has enemies and he heard someone in the Queen’s chamber the other day say that he might have an accident. Le Bret says he will warn Cyrano.  

A nun announces Ragueneau is here. Roxane says she will see him, and states that the poor man has fallen on hard times and has tried and failed to have numerous professions.  

Roxane and De Guiche step away for a moment and Ragueneau enters to talk with Le Bret.  

Scene III  

Ragueneau tells Le Bret the terrible news that Cyrano was walking under his window and above him someone purposefully dropped a log on his head and wounded him. He is not dead yet but unconscious, perhaps with brain fever. The two men leave to see him as Roxane returns.  

Scene IV  

Roxane sits to wait in the autumn air for her friend. She wonders why he is late, as he never is. A nun finally announces him.  

Scene V  

Cyrano enters, pale, with his hat pulled over his eyes. Roxane cheerfully asks why he is late and he says someone held him up. She asks if he will tease Sister Martha as usual, so he calls the young nun over. When she sees his face she is shocked, but he whispers that she cannot say anything to Roxane.  

After the nun leaves he looks at the tapestry Roxane is working on, then comments on the leaves, focusing on their color and how they fall to the ground where they will rot.   Roxane asks him for news and he complies, sharing some of the gossip of the Court. As he speaks he grows weaker and weaker, and eventually faints.  

Roxane rushes to him and he comes to, telling her not to worry because it is the old wound from Arras. He makes the effort to smile. Roxane tells him they all have old wounds, and points to her breast with Christian's last letter in it, the one stained with blood and tears. Cyrano asks if he can read it and Roxane says yes.  

She hands it to him and he begins to speak the words out loud. He recites how his heart is full of love and now he is going to die. As he reads Roxane becomes troubled, and suddenly realizes she recognizes his voice. She also realizes he is reading even though it is dark now and the words on the page are not visible.  

With a flash of understanding, she tells him she knows it is he who loved her and wrote the letters. Weakly, Cyrano says that was not he, but Roxane knows that he is lying. She asks why he kept silent, especially about the letter, and he says Christian was the one who shed the blood.  

Scene VI  

Le Bret and Ragueneau return and are shocked to see Cyrano as he is. Cyrano announces that he has one more piece of news -that he was murdered today. He laughs that his fate was to die by a lump of wood from a servant. Ragueneau begins to cry and Cyrano tells him to stop and asks him what he is doing now. The former chef replies he has been working for Moliere but is leaving since it bothers him how he steals Cyrano’s jokes.  

Cyrano muses sleepily how he has spent his life in the shadows, in the wings, as he did that night with Christian and Roxane. She is distraught, but he tells her he is lucky because he had a friend in her, even though he had no love of a woman in his life.  

Roxane despairs that both men she loved are dead or dying, and Le Bret rails about the unjustness of life. Cyrano wavers between delirium and lucidity, asking Roxane to shed a tear for him sometimes.  

She agrees. Cyrano shudders and rises to his feet, saying he will not die sitting down. He says he will meet death standing and with his sword. Roxane almost faints in horror.   Cyrano says he sees death looking at his nose, and starts to talk to her. He greets his old enemies of Cowardice, Spite, Compromise, and Stupidity, and proclaims he will go down fighting. He whirls his sword in the air and claims he will always claim the lover’s garland until he takes it off before God.  

The sword drops, he staggers, and falls into Le Bret and Ragueneau's arms. Roxane kisses him. Cyrano recognizes her and smiles, and says the thing he will take out of this world is his panache.  


Cyrano’s last word of “panache” has more to it than the modern reader or playgoer might imagine. The word is left in the original French, initially because there was no way to translate it into English and then because the word itself began to mean swagger or dash or stylish courage. Carol Clark’s introduction to the Penguin edition of the text includes information on the word, explaining its actual origins as a plume on a helmet and that “Cyrano’s dying words...must refer to the actual plume on his hat, since he speaks of doffing it and sweeping the floor of heaven with it. But it also seems to refer metaphorically to some defining aspect of his character. And this quality must, I believe, be a morally admirable one.”  

Mildred Allen Butler provides information about the real Cyrano's’ death, noting that no one really knows if his death was an accident or murder. He was indeed hit on the head with a piece of wood dropped by a lackey, did receive a concussion and was cared for in the duke’s house and later at the house of one of Le Bret’s friends, and was bedridden for fourteen months before he died. Historians say that Cyrano was lucid at this point; they also say that he worked on revising L'Autre Monde, which Cyano asked Le Bret to ensure was published. He was eventually, by request, taken to his cousin’s country house and died on June 28th, 1655 at the age of thirty-six.  

Cyrano is not the only character that experiences tragedy before the curtain falls; in fact, Act V is what largely renders this play more fully a drama rather than a comedy. Ragueneau has never been able to keep a real job; De Guiche seems worldly and successful but in a rare moment of candor admits that “As one climbs, the ducal ermine trails along a wake of rustling dead illusions and regrets” (171); Roxane has been sequestered in a convent for fifteen mourning Christian and then learns that Cyrano was her true love and watches him die in front of her just as her first lover did. The tone of this act is more subdued, less parodic, with characters reflective and contemplating the ephemerality and cruelty of life. Even when Cyrano dies standing and fighting, it’s rather sad as opposed to funny or fully triumphant.  

Cyrano does, however, have the satisfaction of finally revealing himself as the true author of the letters to Roxane and hearing her proclaim she loves him too. In a scene that mirrors the scene where Cyrano stood in the dark and pretended to be Christian, night falls as he reads the letter and then recites it without being able to see the words anymore. When this fact is revealed to the crowd surrounding him as he prepares to die, he says “That’s been my role: Off in the wings, feeding lines to others” (183) and “All my life is there. I was below, hidden among the shadows while he climbed up to claim the kiss of triumph” (183).  

For all of the truth of the statement in terms of Christian winning Roxane, Cyrano’s words sharply contrast with what we know of him -he does not, in fact, live his life fully in the shadows. He is bold, courageous, brash, prideful, witty, and loyal. He speaks up for himself and is fiercely independent, famed for his wordplay and swordplay. It is only when it comes to love that he is diffident, halting, and lacking in self-confidence. This is attributed to the size of his nose, but his nose is just a metaphor for his general sense that he is not worthy of being loved by a woman like Roxane.