Cyrano de Bergerac
How we cite our quotes:
You may go –
Or tell me why are you staring at my nose!
THE MEDDLER (in confusion)
No – I –
CYRANO (stepping up to him)
Does it astonish you?
THE MEDDLER (drawing back)
Misunderstands my –
Is it long and soft
And dangling like a trunk?
THE MEDDLER (same business)
I never said –
Or crooked, like an owl’s beak?
A pimple ornaments the end of it?
Or a fly parading up and down?
What is this portent?
But I have been careful not to look –
Not, if you please?
It disgusts you, then?
My dear sir –
Does its color appear to you
Oh, by no means!
Or its form
Not in the least –
Then why assume
This deprecating manner? Possibly
You find it just a trifle large?
THE MEDDLER (babbling)
Oh no! –
Small, very small, infinitesimal –
How? You accuse me of absurdity?
Small? – my nose? Why –
THE MEDDLER (breathless)
My God! – (I. 317-335)
Cyrano allows himself to point out the ugliness of his nose, but allows nobody else to do so; he is conscious and accepting of his looks, but doesn’t want to be judged for them.
My nose!...You pug, you knob, you button-head,
Know that I glory in this nose of mine,
For a great nose indicates a great man –
Genial, courteous, intellectual,
Virile, courageous – as I am – and such
As you – poor wretch – will never dare to be
Even in imagination. For that face –
That blank, inglorious concavity
Which my right hand finds – (he strikes him)
- on top of you,
Is as devoid of pride, or poetry,
Of soul, of picturesqueness, of contour,
Of character, of NOSE in short – as that
(Takes him by the shoulders and turns him around,
suiting the action to the word)
Which at the end of that limp spine of yours
My left foot –
THE MEDDLER (escaping)
Help! The Guard! (I. 335-348)
Cyrano claims that his nose gives him character, that it’s representative of his uniqueness.
Your nose is…rather large!
Oh well –
Is that all?
VALVERT (turns away with a shrug)
Well, of course –
Ah, no, young sir!
You are too simple. Why, you might have said –
Oh, a great many things? Mon dieu, why waste
Your opportunity? For example, thus: -
AGGRESSIVE: I, sir, if that nose were mine,
I’d have it amputated – on the spot!
FRIENDLY: How do you drink with such a nose?
You ought to have a cup made specially.
DESCRIPTIVE: ‘This a rock – a crag – a cape –
A cape? say rather, a peninsula!
INQUISITIVE: hat is that receptacle –
A razor-case or a portfolio?
KINDLY: Ah, do you love the little birds
So much that when they come and sing to you,
You give them this to perch on? INSOLENT:
Your chimney is on fire. CAUTIOUS: Take care –
A weight like that might make you topheavy.
[…] For I say these things
Lightly enough myself, about myself,
But I allow none else to utter them. (I. 338-413)
Cyrano’s response is ridiculously exaggerated; but turning the tables on Valvert, he makes light of his own ugliness and mocks his opponent for his ineloquence and general stupidity.