Cyrano de Bergerac Summary
The action begins at a play performance in Paris. Amid the bustling scene, we meet several members of the audience: Christian de Neuvillette, a new cadet madly in love with the resident hottie, Lady Roxane; Lignière, a super drunk party guy who promptly leaves the play for the purposes of getting drunk and partying; Ragueneau, a pastry chef and poet; and Le Bret, the friend of title character, Cyrano de Bergerac.
Everyone stands around talking about how awesome Cyrano is. Next, we meet our bad guys, Comte de Guiche and his lackey, Vicomte de Valvert. As it turns out, de Guiche is a powerful dude who has plans to force the beautiful Roxane to marry the not-so-beautiful Valvert.
As if that weren’t enough conflict, Christian soon discovers that de Guiche, angry for some petty reason, has plotted to kill Lignière. Since Christian is friends with the guy and would rather not see him dead at the hands of a hundred armed assassins (reportedly), he rushes off to save him, though he is sad to leave behind Lady Roxane—who, it turns out, is also at the play.
It’s time for the play to begin, but not before we hear that Cyrano holds a grudge against the principle actor, Montfleury. Sure enough, as soon as Montfleury delivers his first lines, a voice is heard from the wings. It is Cyrano, saying something along the lines of "You suck!"—except he’s Cyrano de Bergerac, famous for his wit, eloquence, and general speaking abilities, so his version of a gong is actually a clever, pretentious series of rhyming couplet lines delivered in perfect meter.
Now Cyrano gets rid of Montfleury by opening a trap door beneath him on the stage. Cyrano pays the actors to cancel their performance so the audience members can get their money back and everyone can go home happy... albeit without their entertainment for the night.
Meanwhile, we’ve seen that Cyrano has a ginormous nose. He’s Mr. Sensitive about it, so when a comedian kinda-sorta-accidentally makes a joke that may have some sort of olfactory relevance, Cyrano gets in his face. Adding fuel to the fire, Victomte de Valvert (Mini-Me guy) steps forward to take his shot at Cyrano’s sniffer. Unfortunately, Valvert is dumb, so the best he can come up with is, "Your nose is… very large!" Awesome. Cyrano proves his master swordsmanship and verbal excellence by composing a ballad while kicking Valvert’s butt.
After everyone leaves, Cyrano and Le Bret are left alone. We find out that Cyrano is poor and just spent the last of his gold paying the actors to cancel the performance. He’s a principles man, he says, and aims to make himself admirable in all ways. Le Bret is skeptical of the practicality here. Speaking of impracticality, Cyrano is also in love with Lady Roxane, who is apparently his cousin, which wasn’t an issue in 17th-century France. The problem is Cyrano won’t confess his love to her, since he’s afraid she’ll laugh at him (and his nose).
Just then, Roxane’s duenna (or governess) shows up and says that Lady Roxane wants to meet Cyrano tomorrow at Ragueneau’s pastry shop. Cyrano essentially says, "I’m so excited, I could fight giants!" Lignière shows up drunk and is all, "Fighting giants sounds great, but how about fighting the hundred armed assassins waiting to kill me instead?" Cyrano dashes off to do so.
Cut to the next morning, at Ragueneau’s pastry shop. We see that Ragueneau prefers writing poetry to being a chef, which is a problem when your primary source of income is… being a chef. Also, his wife, Lise, is cheating on him with a musketeer. Cyrano shows up, which is great, because this tells us that he didn’t die last night. Ragueneau congratulates him for killing everyone last night.
When Roxane arrives, Cyrano gets her alone. They banter for a bit, and we find out that they used to play together as children. Roxane, noting an injury on Cyrano’s hand (from his battle last night), doctors it—just as she used to when they were children. She then reveals that she loves "someone."
Cyrano gets excited (in the PG way) until Roxane describes this someone as "beautiful," at which point Cyrano knows she can’t possibly be talking about him, which is depressing in more ways than one. That "someone" turns out to be Christian, the newly arrived cadet from Act I. Roxane asks Cyrano to protect Christian, since he’s basically a rookie, and to help him write her a love letter. Cyrano, eager to please Roxane, agrees... which we have to say is just a teensy-bit masochistic.
Roxane leaves, and a group of cadets—including Christian—shows up. Everyone lavishes Cyrano with attention for his victory last night, except for Christian, who shamelessly pokes fun at Cyrano’s nose. Everyone is waiting for Cyrano to bust out in anger, but he checks himself since he’s just sworn to protect Christian. Still, the guy’s only human, so several nose jokes later, he flips out and takes Christian alone into a back room, presumably to duel. Once alone, however, he tells Christian the whole deal with Roxane, conveniently leaving out the fact that, actually, he himself loves the woman, too.
Christian is pumped, since (as we already know) he loves Roxane back. He confesses, though, that he’s not so great at talking to the ladies; he gets too nervous. Cyrano agrees to woo Roxane via letters under the pretense of being Christian. This sounds like a great plan, and we’re sure that no feelings will ever get hurt in the process.
The next scene takes place outside Roxane’s house. Ragueneau reveals to the Duenna that his wife ran off with the musketeer, and that he subsequently tried to hang himself, but that Cyrano saved him just in time. Now he works as some sort of manservant for Roxane. Cyrano shows up and has chatty time with Roxane in her room. She reveals that she’s really excited about Christian, but mostly because he has such a captivating way with words. This tickles Cyrano’s fancy to no end, since he knows he’s responsible for the letters in question.
It’s all sunshine and rainbows until Comte de Guiche shows up. Cyrano dashes off so he isn’t seen alone with Roxane (which was not really allowed back then), and the Comte earns his Super Jerkosaur title by revealing that, having been made Colonel of the cadets, his first act is to take everyone—including Cyrano and Christian—off to war against Spain. Roxane gets crafty and declares that she loves de Guiche. This is an interesting twist, since he’s already married and was planning to marry her off to his lackey, Valvert.
Married or no, de Guiche isn’t going to say no to a babe like Roxane. So he falls for her act hook, line, and sinker. Roxane then says that, since she loves him, she’ll help him get back at his enemy—Cyrano de Bergerac. Keep the entire group of cadets at home, she says, and Cyrano will suffer the agony of missing the glory of battle. De Guiche agrees and sets up a later rendezvous with Roxane at a nearby convent.
Christian arrives next, ready to woo Roxane (who is still upstairs) from below her balcony. Unfortunately, he’s still Christian, and he’s still as eloquent as a trained monkey, so all he can come up with is, "I love you." Roxane, oh-so-demanding, isn’t satisfied with this, so she sends Christian away. To save the day, Cyrano steps into the shadows under the balcony and imitates Christian’s voice, wooing Roxane with poetry and general verbal fireworks. She’s all for it, and even kisses Christian (who pulls another switcheroo with Cyrano so that he gets the face-time).
Meanwhile, a Capuchin (a religious guy) shows up from the convent with a note from de Guiche detailing the convent rendezvous for later that night. He hands it to Roxane. Since the Capuchin hasn’t read the note himself, Roxane "reads" aloud, but alters its message. She tells the Capuchin that it consists of orders: for her and Christian to be married at once.
As the three of them rush off to the altar, Cyrano is left with the job of distracting de Guiche when he shows up. Cyrano does so with a clever song-and-dance-type gig where he pretends to be a drunkard who believes he has fallen from the moon. As soon as the marriage is over, Cyrano reveals the trick and de Guiche is all, "Blast! Foiled again!" Unfortunately, this means he’s definitely taking all the men to war, and he’s definitely doing so before Christian and Roxane get to seal the deal (meaning sleep together).
And we cut to the battle scene. All the cadets are starving and angry, and even more so when de Guiche shows up and acts like a general jerk (in other words, like himself). He tells a story of this one time when he ran away from battle like a ninny. He had to drop his white scarf so that he wouldn’t be picked out as a target (for his higher military rank).
Cyrano declares that, if he were there, he would have picked up the scarf to make himself more of a target, because he’s a baller like that. Exactly. De Guiche thinks this is a great story, so he responds by telling the men that they’re all going to die. No, seriously, he’s going to sacrifice them all to 100:1 odds to serve as a distraction for other French troops.
Next thing we know, Roxane has shown up with Ragueneau, bringing a feast for the men. Seeing Roxane there, de Guiche declares he will stay and fight to protect her. Cute, but he’s still evil. Roxane gets Christian alone and tells him that, actually, for a long time, she only loved him for his looks. The good news, she says, is that she now loves him because of his letters, because of who he really is. She would love him now, she adds, even if he were ugly.
Christian is devastated. He tells this all to Cyrano, who fails to hide his elation. Christian guesses the truth—Cyrano has loved Roxane all along. Cyrano tries to deny this, but Christian demands that he go tell Roxane the truth and see whom she chooses. Cyrano reluctantly agrees. He goes to Roxane, who affirms her earlier statement that she’s no longer a shallow nincompoop. Just as Cyrano is about to reveal the truth, however, Christian, off in the distance being his own brand of nincompoop, gets shot.
Everyone rushes to his side; he’s dying. Cyrano whispers a lie to him—that he told Roxane the truth and she chose Christian. Christian dies happy, Roxane is still ignorant, and Cyrano is miserable. But he still dashes into the fray, eager to avenge Christian and win honor, glory, etc.
The next scene is fifteen years later. Roxane is living in a convent, having resigned herself to mourning the rest of her life for Christian. Cyrano, who once again is not dead and who still hasn’t told her the truth, visits her once a week to keep her company and to get his own dose of Lady Roxane time. De Guiche also visits Roxane, though he clearly has even less of a chance of winning her love (and also, he’s still married). On this particular visit, though, he asks her forgiveness, which she grants. Then, as he’s leaving, he bumps into Le Bret and tells him that Cyrano, who has still been making enemies at court with his constant dueling, had better be careful—he may suffer an "accident" one of these days.
Sure enough, some lackey drops a log on Cyrano’s head and mortally injures him. As he’s dying, he asks to read Christian’s last love letter aloud to Roxane. Roxane realizes that he has the letter memorized, and a few dull seconds later realizes that Cyrano wrote it. Shortly after that, the woman comes to the astounding conclusion that Cyrano wrote all the letters. Cyrano tries over and over to deny it, but Roxane won’t listen. She declares she loves him and kisses him. Then he dies, but not without several lengthy rhyming couplet speeches first. We would expect nothing less.
The First Act: A Performance at the Hotel de Bourgogne
- Before any action actually starts, what with this being a play and all, we get a description of the stage. The scene is the hall of the Hotel de Bourgogne in 1640, which has been set up for stage productions. In other words, the set-up is a play-within-a-play.
- Our main stage ends up being the floor of the play-within-a-play. Make sense? If not, just imagine some chandeliers and a big curtain and you’re ready to go.
- Before a stage production of La Clorise at the aforementioned Hotel de Bourgogne, several cavaliers, lackeys, marquises, and audience members arrive early for the sole and meta purpose of… setting a comedic tone.
- For fun cultural flavor, an orange girl (the fruit, not the color) sells her confections and drinks in the background.
- Christian de Neuvillette, just in from Gascony, arrives in search of a lady with whom he has fallen in love. We learn that he has come to Paris to enlist in the Guards. He is accompanied by his friend, Lignière.
- We learn that Lignière is the big man on campus, and by "on campus" we mean "around town." He knows everybody. He also has a reputation as a drunkard.
- This information is proven true when Lignière refuses to buy juice or milk from the orange girl, but does accept some Muscatel (a type of wine).
- Ragueneau—a chef/poet/total dweeb—arrives next. He is surprised that Cyrano de Bergerac isn’t there yet, because he (Cyrano) has a grudge against one of the play’s principal actors, a guy named Montfleury.
- The grudge is so intense that Cyrano has forbidden Montfleury to perform on stage; apparently, the man is a horrible, horrible actor.
- Le Bret, another friend of Cyrano’s, arrives on the scene. Everyone stands around and talks about their man-crushes on Cyrano, who is apparently "poet," "swordsman," "musician," and "philosopher."
- Ragueneau adds that the man is proud and has an unusually big nose. But still, he could have been a model.
- Christian’s lady arrives to watch the play. He learns her name and situation from Lignière (who is drunk by this time). She is the Lady Roxane, cousin of Cyrano de Bergerac and the target of Comte de Guiche, who wants to marry her to Vicomte de Valvert.
- After imparting this information, Lignière leaves to hit up some more bars.
- The Comte de Guiche arrives with his entourage, including Vicomte de Valvert, to watch the play.
- Christian, at first sight of Valvert, reaches for his glove (to slap Valvert in the face) and challenges him to a duel for Roxane’s love.
- But instead of finding his glove, Christian finds the hand of a pick-pocket, known here as a cut-purse.
- To escape being thrown in jail (or maybe to avoid being slapped in the face with a glove, which is clearly the thing to do), the cut-purse tells Christian some important information:
- It just so happens that Lignière wrote a satirical song about de Guiche.
- The Comte, being a vengeful man and apparently possessing the temper of a three-year-old, has planned to have Lignière murdered by a hundred men tonight at the Porte de Nesle.
- Christian leaves the play to find his friend (likely in the gutter by now) and warn him of the danger, although he is quite reluctant to leave Roxane behind.
- As the play is about to start, we learn that Cardinal Richelieu is in the audience. He is not well-liked, but honestly, who is in this play (besides Cyrano)?
- The play starts and, sure enough, Montfleury is the star. (As we’ve already been told, this is the guy whom Cyrano hates).
- Three lines into Montfleury’s opening words, Cyrano—unseen and offstage—interrupts. He tells Montfleury to get off the stage or suffer violent consequences.
- Cyrano then makes his grand entrance on the stage itself, arising from the wings beneath. He eventually gets Montfleury off stage—by releasing a trap door beneath him—and offers to pay the rest of the actors to cancel the performance for the night.
- The audience is none-too-pleased at having their entertainment cancelled. But the actors, especially Jodelet the comedian, are fine with it as long as they get the cash from Cyrano. They do.
- Then there’s a hilarious comic bit in which a poor man accidentally says something that Cyrano interprets as an insult to his nose.
- Cyrano, who is Mr. Sensitive on the topic, verbally chases to man to hell and back to find out just what he said and what he means.
- Finally, the pompous Vicomte de Valvert steps forward and, putting an end to all this nonsense, flat-outs insults Cyrano’s oversized nose.
- This is an act of either great bravery or great stupidity, since we’ve seen that Cyrano will fight to the death to defend his smeller.
- Actually, now that we think about it, we’re going to go with stupidity, mostly because the best the Vicomte could come up with is, "Your nose is… rather large!"
- Unfortunately for him, Cyrano is as witty as they come. He mocks the Vicomte in verse, listing at length all the clever insults the Vicomte could’ve come up with, but didn’t.
- Valvert, thoroughly insulted by Cyrano’s string of insults against Cyrano (yes, that’s right), challenges the man to a duel.
- Cyrano, the resident master swordsman, easily defeats the Vicomte—so easily, in fact, that he makes up an impromptu ballad and recites it while dueling the Vicomte. The Vicomte leaves, thoroughly embarrassed.
- We learn that Cyrano is poor. After paying off the actors, he does not even have enough money to buy dinner. However, the orange girl (smitten by Cyrano’s cleverness, and possibly by his nose) offers him free food. Cyrano gallantly takes only a little—half a macaroon, a glass of water, and a grape.
- He then talks to his friend Le Bret, who doesn’t understand why Cyrano goes around making so many enemies. Cyrano replies that his goal is to "make [him]self in all things admirable!"
- We learn that Cyrano, unfortunately, is in love with the Lady Roxane, which, back in the day, wasn’t mutually exclusive with being her cousin.
- Anyway, he won’t tell her about his love because he fears she thinks him ugly (due to his big nose). Also, his greatest fear in the world is that she will laugh at him.
- At this point, Lady Roxane’s Duenna (or governess) arrives and delivers a message from Roxane: she wants to meet Cyrano in private at Ragueneau’s pastry shop the next day.
- Cyrano declares he is so delighted by the news that he feels he could fight giants.
- At this point, Lignière—completely drunk—returns to ruin the moment. He has found a note from Christian warning him of the hundred men sent to assassinate him, so he is quaking in his boots.
- Cyrano, who’s still hopped up on "I can fight giants" feelings of loving goodness, offers to fight all hundred men for Lignière.
- Apparently, everyone thinks this is a good idea, as the entire company follows Cyrano in his march to Porte de Nesle to face impossible odds—though, in all fairness, probably not as impossible as fighting giants.
The Second Act: The Bakery of the Poets
- This scene takes place at Ragueneau’s pastry shop, a spacious corner building. On the left is a counter with hanging ducks, geese, and peacocks. There’s a fireplace and, to the right of the stage, a door. Beyond that is a staircase that leads up to a dining room we can see through open shutters. In the middle of this room is an iron hook that can be raised or lowered by pulley; various game meat hangs off of it, so it’s like a chandelier… for meat-eaters.
- We join the scene the morning after Cyrano runs off to kill a hundred men. Ragueneau is seated in his pastry shop at a corner table writing poetry.
- Much to his frustration, he repeatedly has to stop writing to do his job as chef. Much to the cook’s frustration, he gives his cooking advice in poetical terms (add a dactyl of soup, a caesura in between the rolls, etc.).
- Ragueneau’s wife, Lise, enters with a stack of paper pastry bags; to her husband’s anger, we see that she has made them out of his poetry.
- Lise snips at her husband for a bit about wasting time and money on useless poetic endeavors.
- Ragueneau isn’t a happy camper, but since a customer is waiting, he has to pick which poetry to sacrifice as pastry-wrappings. He can’t bear to part with "Ulysses, when he left Penelope" or a sonnet to Phyllis, so he instead gives the customer more food and asks for the bag back.
- He then laments that there is a spot of butter on Phyllis’s name.
- Cyrano then arrives at the shop, where Ragueneau further displays his man-crush for all things Cyrano (mostly, he admires him for his swashbuckling in verse at the play last night).
- Lise, in passing, shakes hands with him, notices something about his hand, and remarks on it.
- Cyrano brushes her off; there’s nothing wrong, he says, but she comments that he must be lying.
- Nervous about his meeting with Roxane, Cyrano passes the time by writing a letter to her declaring his love. Meanwhile, a musketeer entering the shop joins Lise (raise eyebrows now).
- Ragueneau’s poet-friends arrive late for breakfast, bearing news of a gory sight at Port de Nesle, where eight villainous-looking scoundrels lay dead.
- Cyrano is all, "Eight?! I thought there were seven!" but doesn’t reveal that he was the one to kill said scoundrels. No one seems to know who the big hero was.
- Meanwhile, Cyrano has finished his letter to Roxane—but leaves it unsigned.
- The poets, we see, have come to the shop with the sole intention of getting free food off of Ragueneau. He entertains them willingly while they chat of verse, at one point even reciting his own "Recipe for Making Almond Tarts" in rhyme.
- When Cyrano asks (quietly) why Ragueneau puts up with their free-loading, Ragueneau admits he loves the attention.
- Still waiting for Roxane, Cyrano takes Lise aside and asks her if, by any chance, she’s been sleeping with the musketeer.
- She denies it, but not very convincingly. Cyrano tells her not to make a mockery of her husband anymore.
- When Roxane arrives, Cyrano ensures that they are alone. He sends the Duenna away with sweets from the bakery.
- Roxane starts off by thanking Cyrano for dueling Valvert the night before and by reminding us all that Valvert’s patron, de Guiche, is trying to make her marry Valvert.
- She reminisces about her time with Cyrano when they were children. Turns out, they used to play together in the gardens. Aw. Whenever he hurt his hand, she would bandage it for him.
- At this convenient point, she just so happens to take Cyrano’s hand and realize he has hurt it again. He admits that it happened while "playing" at Porte de Nesle.
- She bandages it for him while he swells with unvoiced love and calls her a "wise little mother," which isn’t Freudian at all.
- Then… Roxane reveals that she’s in love with someone.
- It turns out to be Christian.
- At this opportune moment, the Duenna comes back in saying that she’s done eating the sweets. Cyrano sends her back out to read the poems on the bags, which she does.
- Roxane says she’s afraid for Christian because of his hot Gascon temper. She wants Cyrano (a famous swordsman) to protect Christian (a novice) from folly and harm during his service with the Cadets. She also wants Christian to write a letter to her.
- The disappointed Cyrano agrees to all this, out of his obsessive love for her.
- Roxane leaves, oscillating between praising Cyrano for his heroic, hand-hurting efforts last night and declaring her love for Christian.
- Now that Cyrano is alone again, Ragueneau and his poetry buddies join him.
- Just then, the Captain of the Guards, Carbon De Castel-Jaloux, arrives with a group of cadets (this is Cyrano’s company). The Captain quickly praises Cyrano for basically being the greatest guy ever, and everyone oohs and ahhs over his impossible victory last night.
- Christian is there, too.
- Adding to the mix, de Guiche and his cronies arrive to congratulate Cyrano. At his Captain’s request, Cyrano composes an impromptu anthem about his men—the Cadets of Gascoyne. Keep this song in mind.
- De Guiche offers Cyrano a position with his uncle, Cardinal Richelieu, as a playwright. Initially Cyrano is tempted by the offer, but eventually declines when he hears the Cardinal will have the right to edit his work. (Edit!? The nerve!)
- De Guiche eventually admits that he’s the one who hired the hundred men to assassinate Lignière. However, he justifies his action on the grounds that he is too lordly to carry out such a base task (as killing someone) on his own.
- We’re still waiting to hear why he needed one hundred men to do it, but whatever.
- This completely lame excuse angers Cyrano; de Guiche quickly takes his leave before our hero can pounce on him.
- Le Bret asks Cyrano why he insists on making the whole world his enemy. (Sound familiar?)
- Cyrano replies with a grand ode (sigh) that discourses on his pride and love of freedom.
- Meanwhile, Christian is warned by several of his peers never to insult Cyrano’s nose on pain of death. As if he hadn’t figured that out yet.
- Christian snubs this advice and pokes fun of Cyrano’s nose.
- Cyrano, enraged, nevertheless remembers his promise to Roxane and tolerates Christian’s insults.
- Adding insult to, well, insult, Christian continually interrupts as Cyrano tries to tell the heroic story of his victory the night before. This wouldn’t be so bad if said interruptions weren’t primarily remarks about Cyrano’s nose.
- The other cadets watch in fascination, waiting for Cyrano to bust out.
- Cyrano takes it like a man. For about two minutes. Then he says something along the lines of "Arghhhhhhhh!"
- The rest of the men quickly clear the room, leaving Cyrano alone with soon-to-be-dead-meat Christian.
- Once the men are alone, Cyrano reveals to Christian that, in fact, he’s not going to cut him up into little pieces. Rather, he tells him that Roxane is in love with him. All he has to do is write the woman a letter.
- Very sadly, Christian cannot speak or write well to women, because he gets nervous.
- Cyrano, ever the gentleman, offers to write on Christian’s behalf, but doesn’t disclose that he, too, is in love with the woman in question.
- The two men become fast friends under this alliance, apparently forgetting all about the nose jokes from minutes before.
- When the cadets return, they find Cyrano and Christian hugging.
- This would be great, except the men take this to mean that they can now safely insult Cyrano’s nose.
- One poor sucker goes first, but Cyrano immediately knocks him to the ground.
- Glad to have the old Cyrano back, everyone stands around and chuckles, except for the man on the floor, who is likely weeping quietly into a pool of his own blood.
The Third Act: Roxane’s Kiss
- This scene is in a square in Marais outside Roxane’s house. There’s a bench and a tall wall with a balcony, so we all know there’s going to be some balcony-related love-profession going on in the near future. On the other side of the stage is a similar-looking house with a knocker that is all banged up "like an injured thumb."
- Great. So when the scene opens, we see Ragueneau conversing with the Duenna on the bench; he’s in the middle of lamenting his wife having run off with a musketeer. Not cool on her part.
- Even less cool, her actions resulted in Ragueneau attempting to hang himself. Fortunately, Cyrano discovered him in the process and saved his life. He then set Ragueneau up with a job taking care of Roxane, which wasn’t based on his self-interest at all.
- In the middle of all this catching-up, Roxane calls down from her window for the Duenna to hurry up; they’re getting ready to go see a play called The Tender Passion.
- Cyrano shows up to visit Roxane, singing and being a know-it-all while accompanied by two musician-pages, whose service he won in a bet over grammar. He sends them away to either end of the street and tells them to play if anyone comes along to interrupt his private meeting with Roxane.
- Cyrano is glad to find Roxane’s opinion of Christian is high, but only because it’s based on his lyrical lovelorn letters, which she has memorized.
- Seeing that Comte de Guiche is on his way, Roxane tells Cyrano to hide, lest de Guiche find him with her and get suspicious that there’s some hanky-panky going on.
- Cyrano agrees and leaves just as de Guiche arrives.
- The man doesn’t have good news; he tells Roxane that he has been made Colonel of the company. His first act as the Big Man will be to leave tomorrow—with his cadets (Cyrano’s regiment) to go to war.
- Roxane freaks out because Christian is in his company of cadets (so is Cyrano, but he’s obviously less important).
- Roxane thinks fast; she decides to pretend to be in love with de Guiche in order cut a deal with him to save Christian and Cyrano.
- So she’s all, "I’m in love with you! I’ve just been pretending to hate you!" which, thanks to de Guiche’s wishful thinking, is very, very believable.
- (Keep in mind that he’s married already himself and has been trying to force his friend/lackey, Vicomte de Valvert, on Roxane. This makes him super-sleazy in the following interaction.)
- She then tells him the best way to avenge himself on Cyrano (whom he hates for embarrassing his friend, Valvert) is to keep Cyrano and his cadets in town, away from the war. Cyrano, she explains, would hate being kept from the action and excitement of the battlefield.
- De Guiche, clearly a complete moron, agrees to it readily.
- Fortunately, instead of jumping Roxane there and then, he decides to rendezvous with her later in a nearby convent.
- Seriously? A convent?
- Roxane "agrees."
- After de Guiche leaves, Christian arrives. When Cyrano tries to prep him to romance Roxane, he refuses; Christian is tired of hiding behind Cyrano’s words and wants to speak for himself.
- Meanwhile, the Duenna says, "We missed the play!" But everyone ignores her.
- Anyway, Christian’s idea sounds like a great plan.
- But it goes disastrously. All he can come up with to say to Roxane is "I love you," and nothing more. Roxane leaves angrily.
- Christian goes crawling back to Cyrano with his tail between his legs, begging him to make things right again.
- Cyrano complies; he imitates Christian’s voice and rhapsodizes his love to Roxane while hidden in the shadows beneath her balcony.
- Moved by this eloquence and passion, Roxane forgives "Christian" for his earlier clumsiness and listens, captivated.
- Cyrano, in his rapture, almost reveals himself—he says such things as "to-night, I indeed speak / for the first time!" and "[I] have no fear / of moving you to laughter" (by telling her the truth, he means). But each time he wusses out and spins his words poetically.
- By the end, Roxane is trembling and weeping in love.
- Then Christian, who has been hanging out and listening, almost ruins it. He requests a kiss, much to Cyrano’s horror.
- At this point, music plays, alerting Cyrano to an intruder. A Capuchin friar arrives, looking for Roxane. Cyrano sends him in the wrong direction and returns his attention to Roxane on the balcony.
- Cyrano tries to gloss Christian’s request over, but there is no need; as we said, Roxane is all lovey-dovey and ready for a make-out session.
- So Christian climbs up the balcony and kisses her. Cyrano considers this his own triumph because his words won her kiss, not anything that Christian did, apparently ignoring the fact that this is very twisted and also, what the heck does he plan to do now?
- Everyone is again interrupted by the Capuchin, who comes back bearing a message for Roxane from Comte de Guiche; he’s reminding her to meet him at the convent—tonight.
- Roxane, thinking on her feet, makes up a very different message and pretends to read it aloud to Christian (because announcing her plans to rendezvous another man would be not-so-tactful). She tells him the Cardinal wants them (meaning herself and Christian) to be married as soon as possible.
- So she and Christian rush to the altar for a secret wedding.
- Before she leaves, Roxane asks Cyrano to stay behind and distract the Comte should he arrive before the ceremony is complete. Cyrano agrees and is left alone in the bushes.
- When de Guiche arrives, Cyrano makes good on his word. The Comte is masked and cloaked to hide his identity, and Cyrano takes advantage of the Comte’s temporary blindness (from the mask).
- Cyrano pretends to be a drunken madman who thinks he has just fallen from the moon. In spite of himself, the Comte becomes interested in this madman’s story and listens for a quarter of an hour—the time required to complete the marriage ceremony by a priest in France.
- When the Comte realizes what has happened, he takes immediate revenge by ordering Cyrano and Christian to their places in the regiment. He tells them they are to leave tonight for a siege at Arras (in northern France) against the Spanish.
- Roxane and Christian do not even have time to consummate their marriage, much to Cyrano’s relief.
- Roxane begs Cyrano to protect Christian in battle, ensure he remains faithful, and make sure he writes every day. Cyrano agrees (surprise!) and they march off to war.
The Fourth Act: The Cadets of Gascoyne
- This scene takes place a month later in downtime from a siege, with battle drums and other war-related paraphernalia. It is near dawn.
- When the action starts, we see that Cyrano’s regiment—under the command of Captain Carbon de Castel-Jaloux—is starving. Carbon calls on Cyrano to raise the men’s morale, which he does by jesting with them and turning their hunger for food into homesickness (hunger for the homeland).
- Comte de Guiche arrives. The soldiers hate him for his obvious wealth and arrogance. They don’t want him to see them miserable so they pretend to be happy by playing card games and dice upon his arrival.
- The Comte knows he is not popular among the soldiers, which isn’t so much a reflection of his amazing abilities of perception as much as the obvious intensity of their disdain.
- De Guiche decides that, despite this hatred, he should boast about his cleverness by telling stories. Awesome.
- During a siege, the Comte begins, he found himself in the enemy lines of the Spaniards. So he quickly took off his white scarf—a mark of French military rank—blended in with the other fugitives, and got away alive.
- Cyrano accuses him (deftly, of course) of cowardice; if he himself had been there, he says, he would’ve taken the white scarf from the Comte, worn it to make himself a target, and displayed his manly courage.
- The Comte scoffs at Cyrano. Nice comeback. The scarf is gone, he says, so Cyrano can’t prove his manly courage or whatever.
- Cyrano one-ups him by producing the very same white scarf from his pocket. Oh, snap.
- In revenge, Comte de Guiche tells the regiment some news of the war; his Spanish spy has reported that in order for the French army to be resupplied, this regiment will have to sacrifice themselves to the Spaniards. This way, there’s more time for the Marshal to get the supplies to the army, since the enemy (who outnumbers them 100:1) will be busy slaughtering these guys.
- Christian realizes he will probably never see Roxane again. He goes to Cyrano with a heavy heart, saying he wants to write a farewell letter to his love.
- Cyrano is way ahead of him; he’s already written it.
- Christian notices a teardrop on the letter and questions Cyrano about it. Cyrano answers glibly that a poet often believes what he writes and is moved to tears by it.
- Convincing speech, but Christian, for all his ineloquence, isn’t stupid; he begins to suspect the truth: Cyrano actually loves Roxane himself.
- As all the soldiers despair, someone arrives in the King’s carriage. It's Lady Roxane. Everyone, including de Guiche, tries to tell her to go home to safety, but she will not listen.
- The men are delighted to see a woman among them. They clean themselves up to meet her, and the gallant Carbon ties her handkerchief to a lance to use as the Company’s flag.
- After de Guiche leaves to check on weapons, Roxane reveals that her carriage’s footman is none other than the poet-pastry chef, Ragueneau. Together, they unpack huge amounts of food for the cadets—much to the soldiers’ delight. Everyone gorges.
- De Guiche returns and the soldiers hide the feast from him out of spite. De Guiche, seeing that Roxane means to stay despite the danger, vows to stay and fight—and possibly die—with the men, all in her name.
- The thought of de Guiche dying pleases the men, so they decide to share the food with him. Roxane then speaks with Christian; she’s become smitten by "his" letters and has come to see him and to make a confession.
- The confession is this: at first, she just thought he was hot. But now, she realizes he’s not just a hot body. You know, roughly speaking.
- She adds that he would love him now even if he were ugly. (Really? Even if he had a ridiculously big nose?)
- Christian is appalled.
- Downhearted, he reveals everything to Cyrano. Cyrano tries to reassure him, but Christian is stubborn. He realizes that not only does Roxane truly love Cyrano, but that Cyrano loves her back as well.
- Cyrano admits this is true; Christian wants him to tell Roxane the truth and then let her decide whom she really loves. He takes Cyrano to Roxane and then leaves them alone together.
- Cyrano gets Roxane to confirm what she earlier claimed (that she would love the letter-writer even if he were ugly).
- Then, just as he is about to reveal the truth to her, Christian gets shot in battle.
- Cyrano cannot bear to tell the truth now. Instead, he lies to Christian. He tells him that the truth has been revealed to Roxane and that she still loves him (Christian).
- Christian dies happy.
- Roxane takes his final letter (actually written by Cyrano) from his breast and reads it. She mourns for him.
- Cyrano considers himself dead along with Christian, since Roxane is mourning for the writer of the letter. His life sucks.
- He then entrusts Roxane to de Guiche and tells them to find safety.
- Cyrano then rushes into battle, eager to avenge Christian’s death as well as his own metaphorical demise. He takes with him the banner—with Roxane’s handkerchief attached—as he dashes into the fray.
- Many Frenchmen die at the hands of the Spaniards, who outnumber them greatly.
- The act ends with Cyrano fighting while singing the anthem of the Cadets—first heard in Act II, when he sang it for de Guiche.
The Fifth Act: Cyrano’s Gazette
- This scene takes place fifteen years later (in 1655) at a convent in Paris. It’s late October and there’s lots of beautiful foliage everywhere.
- Action opens with several nuns, through whom we get a slew of information:
- Roxane is now living in this convent (as a nun).
- She’s still wearing her mourning clothes for Christian and still keeps his last letter near her heart. Cyrano, who we’re happy to see is not dead, visits her every Saturday; he is the only one who can make her smile.
- The nuns all like him, but they note that he is poor and he won’t let anyone help him financially.
- Next we see de Guiche visit Roxane and, uncharacteristically, ask for her forgiveness. She grants it (though, to be fair, magnanimity may be a stipulation of her living-in-a-convent gig).
- Roxane confirms (while conversing with de Guiche) that Cyrano does indeed visit her every week, and adds that he functions as her "Gazette," bringing her tabloid-style news of all the goings-on outside the convent.
- Le Bret arrives and reaffirms that Cyrano is in a bad way, lonely, miserable, and still picking fights with everything that moves.
- While Roxane isn’t listening, de Guiche confesses to Le Bret that, in a way, he envies Cyrano.
- He then gets all mushy and introspective, revealing that, in fact, he dislikes himself and regrets most of his life.
- Could this be a new de Guiche?
- Then he tells Le Bret to warn Cyrano that there may be an accident waiting for him, courtesy of the men at court he has managed to royally tick off. It is basically a death threat.
- In other words, this is not a new de Guiche. The guy is still a jerkosaur.
- (Although it is possible that de Guiche is genuinely warning Le Bret.)
- Ragueneau arrives and we hear that in the last fifteen years he’s been running through a variety of different careers, everything from singer to hairdresser.
- Ragueneau tells Le Bret that Cyrano has suffered an "accident"—a heavy log was pushed from a window onto his head as he was passing under it; he is now mortally wounded.
- The two friends hurry to Cyrano’s aid, but it is in vain.
- Because it’s Saturday, it’s Cyrano’s day to visit Roxane. He arrives, but a tad late what with his head injury and his present state at the threshold of death.
- Roxane, as always, pretends to be engrossed in her embroidery, so she doesn’t even see Cyrano’s horrific head injury.
- Cyrano continues the illusion, proceeding as usual; he tells her the daily frivolous news at court. Then, halfway through, he faints.
- Roxane runs to him just as he wakes up; he pulls down his hat to hide his injury and insists that it’s just an old battle wound acting up again. Still the most gullible chick ever, Roxane believes him.
- Cyrano asks for Christian’s last letter and reads it aloud and with passion. The letter declares that Christian knew he was going to die that day in battle. As Cyrano reads, Roxane recognizes Cyrano’s voice from underneath the balcony fifteen years ago.
- Nice timing, woman.
- She realizes it is Cyrano who has loved her all this time. Cyrano tries to deny it, still insisting it was Christian. But when Roxane asks him why he hid himself from her, he gives in and begins to answer.
- Then Ragueneau and Le Bret arrive, interrupting Cyrano’s confession. Finally, Cyrano admits to Roxane that he is mortally wounded. The two friends try to gloss it over, talking about trivial things like Molière (a playwright) stealing Cyrano’s lines for his own play. Hardy-har, yes, that was a good one.
- Cyrano laments that his whole life has been all about giving others the words with which to win the prize while he goes unrewarded.
- Roxane cries out that she loves him, but Cyrano is too far gone. It isn’t part of his tragic tale, he says, for Roxane to love him now.
- Roxane says, "This is all my fault," but Cyrano is still a gentlemen and tells her that he doesn’t regret it, since through her he knew "womanhood and its sweetness."
- Delirious, Cyrano continues on about how he will soon be on the moon, in paradise, with other famous men like Socrates and Galileo.
- Cyrano feels death coming on and rises to his feet, drawing his sword to fight off his impending doom.
- As he falls into his friends’ arms for the final time, he proudly says there is one thing in the world that is his alone, still unstained: his white plume.
- Roxane kisses him.
- Cyrano dies.