Not Just a Pretty Face (But Also Really Pretty)
Much of Cyrano de Bergerac is driven by the fact that everyone wants to get with Roxane. So what’s so great about this chick? Well, she’s beautiful, she’s rich, and she’s a virgin. As far as we can tell, that makes her a hot commodity in 17th-century France:
Who and what is this woman?
Mortally, without meaning; exquisite
Without imagining. Nature’s own snare
To allure manhood. A white rose wherein
Love lies in ambush for his natural prey.
Who knows her smile has known a perfect thing.
She creates grace in her own image, brings
Heaven to earth in one movement of her hand—
Nor thou, O Venus! balancing thy shell
Over the Mediterranean blue, nor thou,
Diana! marching through broad, blossoming woods,
Art so divine as when she mounts her chair,
And goes abroad through Paris! (I.551-563)
But besides being the object of everyone’s sexual desires, Roxane is a strong woman for her time. She knows what she wants and she is staunch in pursuing it. She does not give into immorality (like the questionable advances of de Guiche) or associate with the shallow or proud, as seen by her rejection of Vicomte de Valvert.
She’s also, as far as we can tell, not dumb. She can think quickly on her feet and make up stories to achieve her ends. She deceives de Guiche to finagle her eventual marriage to Christian:
But Cyrano? What will you do to him?
Order him into danger? He loves that!
I know what I should do.
Leave him here
With his Cadets, while all the regiment
Goes on to glory! That would torture him—
To sit all through the war with folded arms—
I know his nature. If you hate that man,
Strike at his self-esteem.
Who but a woman would have thought of this?
He’ll eat his heart out, while his Gascon friends
Bite their nails all day long in Paris here.
And you will be avenged! (III.99-110)
She also makes it past enemy lines to bring food to the starving soldiers (although her motivation may have been more about seeing her new husband than saving everyone’s lives).
But, like all people, she is not without flaws. For one, she’s completely blind to the fact that she’s being wooed by Cyrano, not Christian. Two, she is (admittedly) a shallow chick for most of the play (though she later repents), loving Christian only for his good looks:
I came here to say
"Forgive me"—(It is time to be forgiven
Now, when we may die presently)—forgive me
For being light and vain and loving you
Only because you were beautiful.
Afterwards I knew better. Afterwards
(I had to learn to use my wings) I loved you
For yourself too—knowing you more, and loving
More of you. And now—
It is yourself
I love now: your own self. (IV.434-443)
Lastly, she is one demanding woman.
Picture the scene, ladies: you’re standing on a balcony being serenaded by a gorgeous man below, who is calling up to you in desperate, pleading tones that he absolutely loves you with all of his soul. And your response is: "Seriously? 'I love you'? Is that the best you can come up with?"
Granted, we’ve got a bit of a culture (and time) barrier here, but still. If Roxane weren’t so obsessed with being told of her beauty 24/7, she could have been happy with Christian sans Cyrano’s help. And if she hadn't been so interested in Christian's pretty face, she might have realized she loved Cyrano earlier.Lady Roxane Timeline