A Baker's Dozen
Ragueneau is a friend of Cyrano’s and a true Renaissance man. He is a fun-loving jack of all trades—patron of the arts, poet, and pastry cook. He bears a few similarities to Cyrano; namely, his gift with words, though his talent is not as profound as our ballad-spinning protagonist. One could think of him as Cyrano-Lite. Rostand often uses his bombastic language and melodramatic gestures as comic relief. Essentially, Ragueneau wants attention. We’re pretty sure you know someone like this.
As both a poet and pastry cook, Ragueneau represents the concept of language as sustenance, of poetry as the food of the soul. His lines are humorous and witty in their own right, but not at as high or consistent a level as Cyrano’s:
RAGUENEAU (Raises his head; returns to mere earth.)
Over the coppers of my kitchen flows
The frosted-silver dawn. Silence awhile
The god who sings within thee, Ragueneau!
Lay down the lute—the oven calls for thee!
(Rises; goes to one of the cooks.)
Here’s a hiatus in your sauce; fill up
RAGUENEAU (Measures on his finger.)
One more dactyl.
RAGUENEAU (Before the fireplace)
Veil, O Muse, thy virgin eyes
From the lewd gleam of these terrestrial fires! (To First Pastrycook)
Your rolls lack balance. Here’s the proper form— An equal hemistich on either side,
And the caesura in between.
(To another, pointing out an unfinished pie)
Of crust should have a roof upon it.
(To another, who is seated on the hearth, placing poultry on a spit)
And you— Along the interminable spit, arrange
The modest pullet and the lordly Turk
Alternately, my son—as great Malherbe
Alternates male and female rimes. Remember,
A couplet, or a roast, should be well turned. (II.3-19)
Ragueneau’s poetry is all show, all confection—as he is appropriately a chef of pastries (not of more substantive foods)—while Cyrano’s is more robust and meaty.
Never is Ragueneau mentioned without reference to food, except in the final, tragic act. In Act IV, Roxane reveals his presence at almost the same instance she reveals the plethora of food she has brought for the men. Indeed, poetry acts as a source of sustenance for a few of the characters—namely, Roxane and Cyrano. Roxane refers to Christian’s pathetic attempts at poetry as "milk and water" while Cyrano’s are the richer "cream," and shortly before Ragueneau arrives with provisions, Cyrano distracts the men from their hunger with witty verses of the homeland.
Ragueneau may represent what Cyrano might have become if he did not maintain his sense of morality so rigidly. Ragueneau isn’t a bad guy, but he does seem to love attention (and feeding his own vanity, pun intended) more than he does more important things—like his job or his family:
And so she ran off with a Musketeer!
I was ruined—I was alone—Remained
Nothing for me to do but hang myself,
So I did that. Presently along comes
Monsieur de Bergerac, and cuts me down,
And makes me steward to his cousin. (III.1-6)
(Notice how the neglected Lise runs off with a musketeer; she was clearly feeding her own hunger.)
Where Cyrano uses his eloquence for specific reasons—winning his love, fighting his enemies—Ragueneau’s verses are mere trifles; they're things for show. Not that they’re any less fun for it.Ragueneau Timeline