Overview The play centers around a swordsman named Cyrano de Bergerac who is as deadly with his words as he is with his sword Despite his great skill with words and metal, he is handicapped with a grotesquely large and ugly nose
Overview His nose is the main reason for Cyrano’s only real weakness: the lack of confidence he feels when it comes to matters of the heart Cyrano is deeply in love with a woman named Roxanne, but because he is so ugly he thinks he is beneath her Roxanne, in turn, tells Cyrano she is in love with one of Cyrano’s cadets, Baron Christian de Neuvillette
Overview Cyrano tells Christian of Roxanne’s love, but Christian then become distraught because he feels he lacks the poetry and eloquence to woo a woman of Roxanne’s caliber Cyrano’s bright idea is what spurs on the rest of the action: Cyrano will write Roxanne pretending to be Christian.
Cyrano de Bergerac The protagonist Talented with words and steel Member of the Cadets of Gascyne (royal guards) Confident in almost all things except for love because of his ugly, long nose
Roxane Beautiful and Intellectual Appreciates Cyrano’s vast wit and loves poetry Initially falls in love with Christian because of his good looks
Christian Falls in love with Roxane While he possesses the beauty Cyrano lacks, he does not have any of his inherent wit and charm He is an honorable person and wants Roxane to be happy
Comte de Guiche The play’s antagonist In love with Roxane and has a dislike of Cyrano Tries to have Cyrano killed on several occasions throughout the play
Edmond Rostand French poet and dramatist Wrote Cyrano de Bergerac in 1897 when he was 28 years old Great success came with this wildly popular play. The Author
Still popular today - Cyrano’s character was used as the inspiration for the film version Cyrano de Bergerac starring Gerard Depardieu It also served as the inspiration for Steve Martin’s popular film, Roxanne and Will Smith’s Hitch
The Art of Wooing In the 17 th century, straightforward and public declarations of love were generally not acceptable, particularly in the courtship stage. In theory, almost the entire “wooing” process was supposed to take place in the presence of chaperones. Long before the days of e-mail and text messaging, love letters and love poetry were the most popular ways of discreetly expressing love. The phrase “courtly love” was popularized in the late 1800s, around the time that Cyrano was written. In the spirit of courtly love, a man must make himself worthy of his mistress by acting bravely and honorably, and by subjecting himself to a series of tests to prove his affection and commitment. In the play, acts of courtly love are seen in both serious and comic forms.
The Real Cyrano The real Cyrano - Hercule-Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac – was a swordsman, poet, and philosopher who lived in the 17th century (1600’s). Like Cyrano in the play, the real Cyrano served as a cadet in the French military. After years of service and one life- threatening injury, Cyrano put down his sword and picked up the pen, becoming the author of some of the world’s first science-fiction novels. Is the part about his large nose true? Yes! The real Cyrano had a large nose, which his friend once wrote, « spreads itself over a three quarter view of his face. » Historical accounts prove there was a real Roxane as well.
Inspired by an Era The play is set in 1640 & 1655. France was involved in the Thirty Years’ War from 1618 – 1648. The battle at Arras was a key battle of the Thirty Years’ War. The real Cyrano de Bergerac took part in this battle Act IV of the play takes place at the battle in Arras.
The Romantic Era Although set in 1640, Rostand wrote Cyrano in a period which is today referred to as the Romantic Era. He applied many themes that were popular during this time, such as patronage, dueling and bravado, and nobility, to his play. In many ways, Cyrano’s popularity makes perfect sense. Cyrano has a little something for everyone – a swashbuckling hero, a beautiful heroine, sword fights, war, love, friendship, heartbreak, humor, wit, intelligence – you name it. Written in the wake of a war-torn century (French and Indian War, American Revolution, French Revolution), the warfare and turmoil of the Romantic era led to a great deal of nationalism – writers were proud of their country, their people, and their cause. They believed writing was their way of contributing to the cause. As both a poet and a soldier, Cyrano is a perfect representation of this idea.
Patronage During the middle of the play, the Duke, impressed by Cyrano’s wit and mastery of language, offers to become his patron. Patronage is the financial support and encouragement that one individual gives to another. Throughout history, it has been a customary practice for kings, popes, and other powerful figures to provide financial support for talented people in the arts. Although Cyrano scoffs at his offer, in reality patronage was quite an honor. Many famous writers and artists—including Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and William Shakespeare—sought and enjoyed the support of patrons.
Patronage During the middle of the play, the Duke, impressed by Cyrano’s wit and mastery of language, offers to become his patron. Patronage is the financial support and encouragement that one individual gives to another. Throughout history, it has been a customary practice for kings, popes, and other powerful figures to provide financial support for talented people in the arts. Although Cyrano scoffs at his offer, in reality patronage was quite an honor. Many famous writers and artists—including Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and William Shakespeare— sought and enjoyed the support of patrons.
Dueling & Bravado The 1640s, the time in which Cyrano is set, was described as "a time of short verses and long rapiers; of close shaves and unbridled sword play; …someone looked at you—instantly a duel; someone did not look at you—another duel; the one had insulted you, the other underrated you." With a new need for one to "defend one’s honor," rapier and civilian dueling began to rise in popularity, as demonstrated in Cyrano. Dual meaning – rapier – thin, light sword, but also extremely sharp, keep wit
Nobility In many instances, the values of seventeenth-century nobility play a major part in literature of the time, most notably the obsession with power, prestige, and luxury. Many seventeenth-century literary heroes have been labeled as vain, extravagant, and prideful. One’s status, for example, was very much determined externally. Cyrano was a fascinating combination of times—a mix of seventeenth-century customs and nineteenth-century progression. From there the Folger once more heads in a new direction, with its twenty-first century, Americanized adaptation of this classic production