Sunday, February 13, 2011

Cyrano de Bergerac, by Edmond Rostand

Cyrano de Bergerac, by Edmond Rostand

Not long ago I had a brief discussion with friends that reminded me how much I enjoyed this story. I don’t think I’ve read it since high school, but upon picking it up again found it an immediate treasure. Cyrano de Bergerac is unmatched in intellect and panache, but his hideous nose causes him to be overlooked in society. His colleague Christian has the chiseled good looks everyone admires, but is rather dense. Both men love the beautiful Roxanne, although she is only aware of Christian’s attraction. Cyrano agrees to help his friend woo Roxanne, setting up a battle of inner and outer beauty that remains compelling through the decades. “Eloquence I will lend you! . . . And you, to me, shall lend all-conquering physical charm . . . and between us we will compose a hero of romance!”

I had forgotten just how close to a one-man-play this is; Cyrano is the focus of nearly every scene and conversation, and gives every speech of any length. Even when Christian is talking, it is often Cyrano supplying the voice! Other than his appearance, Cyrano is the ideal man: brave, witty, and loyal to a fault. He doesn’t back down from a fight, either verbally or physically, and he keeps the secret of Christian’s courtship of Roxanne long after Christian’s death, sacrificing his own happiness in the process. While Cyrano ends up a broken and unpopular man, he remains true to his beliefs and is portrayed as a better person than his more successful peers that compromised their ideals. In today’s world where politicians, athletes, and performers are the idols of choice, political parties, free agency, and recurring rehab seemingly prevent any honest admiration. Where is Cyrano when you need him?

First Sentence:
A Play at the Hôtel de Bourgogne

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