Cyrano de Bergerac (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Cyrano de Bergerac, by Edmond Rostand, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

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Cyrano de Bergerac (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Overview

Cyrano de Bergerac, by Edmond Rostand, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

One of the most beloved heroes of the stage, Cyrano de Bergerac is a magnificent wit who, despite his many gifts, feels that no woman can ever love him because of his enormous nose. He adores the beautiful Roxanne but, lacking courage, decides instead to help the tongue-tied but winsome Christian woo the fair lady by providing him with flowery sentiments and soulful poetry. Roxanne is smitten—but is it Christian she loves or Cyrano?

A triumph from the moment of its 1897 premiere, Cyrano de Bergerac has become one of the most frequently produced plays in the world. Its perennial popularity is a tribute to the universal appeal of its themes and characters.

Peter Connor is Associate Professor of French and comparative literature at Barnard College, Columbia University. He is the author of Georges Bataille and the Mysticism of Sin (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000).

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781593083878
  • Publisher: Barnes & Noble
  • Publication date: 5/1/2008
  • Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 72,858
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Connor is Associate Professor of French and comparative literature at Barnard College, Columbia University. He is the author of Georges Bataille and the Mysticism of Sin (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000).

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Read an Excerpt

From Peter Connor's Introduction to Cyrano de Bergerac

There is some truth to the argument that Cyrano de Bergerac succeeded because it permitted a demoralized population to believe once again in the ideals of valor, courage, and sacrifice that recent experience had so severely challenged. At the same time, there is something inherently unsatisfying about such a line of reasoning. It seems a peculiarly negative way of assessing the worth and impact of a work of art, interesting enough from an extratextual perspective, but neglectful of the intrinsic merits of the play, which might also help explain the thralldom of spectators at the turn of the century and beyond. For a great deal of the aesthetic appeal of this play stems from within: from the ingenuity of its characterization (I refer to Cyrano, obviously, but also to Ragueneau, Cyrano's alter ego, in a sense), from the drama as well as the sheer unexpectedness of its plot (no one was expecting a play about a man with a big nose), from its thrilling dynamism (Rostand is superb at handling large-scale crowd scenes with lots of action; see the opening act). Moreover, in broad terms, Cyrano succeeds because it stages so well the tension between the earthy and the ethereal, between the base and the sublime, and because theatergoers recognize in it an intelligent balance of irony, realism, and fantasy. To go a step further, Cyrano stages the triumph of the ethereal over the earthly, of the sublime over the base. To put this in the language of the play, Cyrano is a staging of panache, without doubt the single most important word in the play and one we will examine here in some detail.

But first things first. As the title of the play suggests, Cyrano de Bergerac is very much about Cyrano, and Cyrano is a likable character. There is hardly a juicier role in the dramatic repertory: Cyrano is almost always on stage, and it is almost always Cyrano who does the talking (to such an extent that even when Christian is speaking, it is often in a sense still Cyrano). Rostand fully exploits the dramatic potential of a character whose physical and verbal assuredness "dominates the situation," to use a phrase Rostand applied to panache. If Cyrano's centrality to the play corresponds to Rostand's dramatic vision, it stems partly also from the circumstances of composition of the play. The part of Cyrano was written for one of the leading actors of the time, Constant Coquelin, whom Rostand had met through Sarah Bernhardt. Rostand got into the habit of showing Coquelin completed sections of the play as he went along. Some of the speeches scripted for other characters so pleased the star of the Paris stage that he claimed them for himself. The famous scene (act two, scene vii) in which Cyrano presents the cadets of Gascony, for example, was originally scripted for Carbon de Castel-Jaloux. (During rehearsals, when the actor playing Le Bret complained that he had very few lines, Coquelin responded: "But you have a fine role. I talk to you all the time.")

Theater that stages a hero allows for a more immediate and arguably more gratifying forms of identification than the theater of ideas. Like the cadets in the Carbon de Castel-Jaloux's company, the spectators of this play watch and listen to see what Cyrano will do and say next. Now everything Cyrano does and says is governed by what we could call an ethics of panache. Panache is Rostand's word, or at least a word he made his own; before him, no one had used it in quite the same sense. In its simplest and literal sense, panache refers to the feathered plume of a helmet or other type of military headgear. This is the meaning of the word as it appears in act four, scene iv, where Cyrano speaks of Henri IV, who urged his soldiers during the battle of Ivry to "rally around my white plume; you will always find it on the path of honor and glory" (cited in the Bair translation of Cyrano; see "For Further Reading"). But when Cyrano uses the word again at the end of the play-poignantly, it is his and the play's last word-it has acquired a metaphorical dimension, and suggests at once a commitment to valor, a certain elegance, self-esteem verging on pride, and also a certain . . . je ne sais quoi. Such vagueness is disappointing but also inevitable: Rostand himself warned against limiting the meaning of the word to a dictionary definition, as though to do so would be to imprison a sentiment the essence of which is to insist on absolute freedom from convention.

In his speech to the Académie française in 1903, Rostand described panache, rather mystically, as "nothing more than a grace." "It is not greatness," he said, "but something added on to greatness, and which moves above it." Panache is not just physical courage in the face of danger; it includes a verbal assertiveness in the face of possible death. "To joke in the face of danger is the supreme form of politeness," Rostand said. Hence panache is "the wit of bravura"—not bravura alone (which might be perfectly stupid), but the expression in language of that bravura and indeed language as an expression of bravura: "It is courage that so dominates a particular situation, that it finds just what to say."

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 108 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 111 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 23, 2009

    Why can't we study this in school?

    I am not one for plays, and I thought this was wonderful. Shakespeare gets old, especially in school, where all you read are his tragedies; they are so dull (we all know that at least two people die per tragedy (four in the case of Hamlet)). So...I read this for fun. The writing is wonderful and so is the plot. Cyrano just makes you want to be impulsive and a little violent after you see the wonderful time he has. I wish I knew a guy who was so quick-witted (yeah right) and so fearless in a still, sort-of-sane kind of way. He also reminds you that there are still truly faithful people in this world, a lesson which I think would do well to be preached in school (far better than the repetitive brow-beating with death and infidelity; Great Gatsby, anyone?)

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A Must Read for Theatre Buffs

    I saw a little bit of the Steve Martin version of the play (Roxane), and my father explained the story to me, and later that week at a bookstore, I saw it, and read it for twenty minutes, and was hooked!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2008

    Cyrano

    Cyrano de Bergerac was not my favorite book but it was ok. The story was intresting and i had been somewhat looking forward to reading it. It ended up not as good as i thought'for me'. The problem for me was that first off it was in play format wich for me is more confusing and not as enjoyable as a novel. Also, the begining is realy confusing because there is alot going on, there are a ton of characters, and everything just kind of bounses around from person to person. That was just for the first act though. Once i got to the second act it was fiarly easier to follow. So, over all the book was ok but i don't reccomend reading it if your expecting somthing to blow you away.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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