Cyrano de Bergerac (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

Cyrano de Bergerac (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781593083878
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Publication date: 05/01/2008
Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 68,193
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)

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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Cyrano de Bergerac 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 134 reviews.
clemmy More than 1 year ago
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?)
Benedick_101 More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be particuarly wonderful. It was wholesome, funny, and had a interesting, captivating plot. It had a certain quality that, once you began to read, anything else that was the slightest distraction became a huge hiderance. This book made me think, which is something that I, personally, look for in a book. Everything from the language to the historical French referances to the detailed format and all over details in the story made me invision the time and see the wonderful French culture that the characters expierenced. I would highly reccomend this book to anyone who enjoys the classics, wants to get into a good book, and likes a little challenge in the language. I read this for Honors English 9 and it was fairly easy, aside from maybe the 4 or 5 times i had to pop out the Merriem-Webster ;) I hope someone will take my advice and read this amazing piece of historical literature. Happy reading!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. I couldn't stop reading, could never find the right place to stop. Cyrano de Bergerac had an unusual but unique and 'page-turning' balance of tragedy, comedy, and romance. I admit, the story caught me off guard a few times and I was having a hard time following, but over-all I really enjoyed it and I definitely recommend it to anyone interested, and even those of you who aren't!
FolkeB on LibraryThing 27 days ago
In Cyrano de Bergerac, Edmond Rostand creates a tale of unconquerable love, and unquenchable pride in the form of a living, vibrant poem running within the play. Cyrano de Bergerac is a philosopher, knight errand, poet, playwright and above all, a gentleman from Gascony, which means he owns enormous pride and vanity along with undying bravery. The play follows his star-crossed love, Roxanne, and comrade-in-arms Christian. Rostand crafts Cyrano as the perfect knight of ages past, as skilled with poetry and philosophy as he is with his sword. For example, in the first act Cyrano duels an opponent and composes a ballad as he duels, to commemorate the duel and as he promises before he even draws his sword, in the last verse strikes home and covers himself in glory before all in the crowded playhouse. It is this dashing nerve, and Cyrano¿s, or rather, Rostand¿s eloquence that makes this play a classic. Cyrano is too proud to function in modern society though, to use his triumph at arms to gain favor with superiors is against his nature. The soul of Cyrano is that of fire and passion, imagination and pride that will never surrender to his old foes ¿falsehood, prejudice, compromise, cowardice, and vanity¿ Cyrano de Bergerac has a slightly rocky start, as Cyrano is not immediately introduced, but when Cyrano is the play takes on a whole new dimension. The play flies by on the wings of lyrical genius and philosophy of what it means to be noble, brave and pure of spirit, along with the folly of pride. I would highly recommend this to everyone out of high school and anyone is not forced to read it. Dan
bruneau on LibraryThing 27 days ago
Best enjoyed in its superior French version, Cyrano is as ¿classy¿ as it gets. Simple, yet most effective, full of humor yet very sad. It is both a touching love story, and the horrible testimony of a flawed human nature constantly fooled by appearances.
StoutHearted on LibraryThing 27 days ago
Amazing story written in gorgeous verse -- it was all worth muddling through irregular verbs in French class to be able to read this drama in Rostand's language! The heartstopping climax of Cyrano's words to Roxane on the balcony are the epitome of romance expressed so beautifully and sincere. His definition of a kiss is one of the most memorable scenes in theater. The drama is cleverly written, with flowing tempo and rhyme that doesn't feel forced. As for the story, many have imitated it since: Ugly, but intelligent, Cyrano is in love with his cousin, Roxane, but is too ashamed of his long nose to tell her. In every other area of his life his is confident and is excellent at swordplay and wit (and can perform both at once!). Also enamoured with the lady is Christian, a handsome man with little brain to match. Roxane is a "Precieuse," a woman who values poetry and beautiful words, and Christian knows that his looks alone won't win her over. He enlists the help of Cyrano, and together, with Christian's looks and Cyrano's words, Roxane is led to believe that Christian is her dream man. Yet, Cyrano must suffer until his secret is revealed years later, too late: Roxane has holed herself up in a nunnery after Christian died in war, and Cyrano suffers a fatal head wound. The tragedy of the revelation is a true tearjerker. For romantics, this is a must-read. But like Cyrano's words, the drama offers much more than romance. The theme of bravery and spirit, the "panache" that Cyrano holds dear, is important to the story. If only Cyrano had his famous courage when it came to confessing his love, he would have surely had his Roxane for himself. But then, we wouldn't have such a beautiful tragedy.
cmbohn on LibraryThing 27 days ago
I will admit that my choice of this book was influenced by my daughter. She got to see this play performed at the Utah Shakepeare Festival and just loved it. She said all the girls thought it was great. Since I had a play category, I chose to read this one.I am not quite as crazy about the play as she was, but I did enjoy it. I loved the first part of the play. Cyrano is a great character. What I didn't enjoy as much was the whole selfless adoration involved. I don't want to spoil it, but let me say that I felt Cyrano should have spoken up sooner.
rennerra on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Absolutely loved this as a teenager, it was probably my favorite book of all time until sometime well into my late 20s
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
5 of 5
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I kid you not, tears streamed down my face in the end! and I thought the best life lesson to be gathered was Cyrano's self-sacrafice, even when Roxane is basically his, he won't say it was he who wrote the letters. And I loved the referance,(as a Dumas fan) to D'artangan the Musketeer!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read this the first time around my senior year in HS back in 2009 and absolutely loved it! Re-read it now for a theatre presentation and once again fell in love with it.
Native1queen More than 1 year ago
I had the wonderful pleasure of being introduced to this masterpiece when I was in high school, not once but twice.  The first Time was when I took my French class and the second was in my English literature class.  I did not think much of this work of art when it was read to me in my french class, because well I could not understand the full-meaning. However, that very next semester I had started my new English class. After everyone had taken their seats  My teacher had started to speak softly and then more robust as he progressed further. The passion at which he spoke gave me chills. Then he had asked all the females in the class, "Have you ever dreamed of one day a man doing anything to make you happy? Even if it meant that they would live in misery? A man who was not only confident but also spoke with conviction? Well if you have then you would not be alone, for most women want a love like that.. And for you men in class hear is how you speak to a lady, a guide on how to win her heart not just her body....."  The way he spoke about this character gave me chills. At the time I was thinking, "Well at least I am having to read a book that wont bore me, but it is still  required reading. " It has now been 15 years and I find myself still longing to read this book.  It is a book that I am no longer forced to read because I want to get a good grade,but a book that I thoroughly  enjoy reading. I highly recommend reading this book to anyone. Not only does it speak of love, but friendship and loyalty and sacrifice and humor and self confidence.   It also has the power to incite a person to strive for better in all aspects of their lives.  If ever you were to read a classic, this would be an amazing place to start. 
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