Life After Emilee Logo | Neal Klein honoring his wife after losing her to pancreatic cancer
Life After Emilee Logo | Neal Klein honoring his wife after losing her to pancreatic cancer
Life After Emilee Logo | Neal Klein honoring his wife after losing her to pancreatic cancer

Why I Love Cyrano De Bergerac

Some of this is borrowed from thought.com. The end is all mine. It is all about love. Romantic love. Love of wit. Love of words, and tempo, and a soul that is good and pure and well meaning. It is all about love. Outward appearance, and inner beauty. You must look it up on you tube, because to truly feel the magnificence of this scene, to feel the full impact, you need to hear Hose Ferrer brilliantly speak the lines.

Edmond Rostand’s play, Cyrano de Bergerac, was written in 1897 and set in France in the 1640s. The play revolves around a love triangle that involves Cyrano de Bergerac, a multi-talented cadet who is a skilled duelist and a poet but has an unusually large nose. Cyrano’s nose separates him from everyone else in the play physically and also symbolizes his uniqueness.

In Act One, Scene 4, our romantic hero is at the theater.

He has just bullied a blustering actor off of the stage as well as an audience member. Considering him a nuisance, a wealthy and haughty viscount goes up to Cyrano and declares, “Sir, you have a very big nose!”

Cyrano is unimpressed with the insult and follows up with a monologue of far wittier insults about his own nose. Cyrano’s humorous monologue about his nose is a crowd-pleaser and an important piece of character development, let’s delve into it.

THE VISCOUNT: No one? But wait! I’ll treat him to. . .one of my quips!. . .
See here!. . . (He goes up to Cyrano, who is watching him, and with a conceited air): Sir, your nose is. . .hmm. . .it is. . .very big!CYRANO (gravely): Very!THE VISCOUNT (laughing): Ha!

CYRANO (imperturbably): Is that all?. . .

THE VISCOUNT: What do you mean?

CYRANO: Ah no! young blade! That was a trifle short!
You might have said at least a hundred things
By varying the tone. . .like this, suppose,. . .
Aggressive: ‘Sir, if I had such a nose I’d amputate it!’
Friendly: ‘When you sup It must annoy you, dipping in your cup;
You need a drinking-bowl of special shape!’
Descriptive: ”Tis a rock!. . .a peak!. . .a cape! —
A cape, forsooth! ‘Tis a peninsular!’
Curious: ‘How serves that oblong capsular?
For scissor-sheath? Or pot to hold your ink?’
Gracious: ‘You love the little birds, I think?
I see you’ve managed with a fond research
To find their tiny claws a roomy perch!’
Truculent: ‘When you smoke your pipe. . .suppose
That the tobacco-smoke spouts from your nose–
Do not the neighbors, as the fumes rise higher,
Cry terror-struck: “The chimney is afire”?’
Considerate: ‘Take care,. . .your head bowed low
By such a weight. . .lest head o’er heels you go!’
Tender: ‘Pray get a small umbrella made,
Lest its bright color in the sun should fade!’
Pedantic: ‘That beast Aristophanes Names Hippocamelelephantoles
Must have possessed just such a solid lump
Of flesh and bone, beneath his forehead’s bump!’
Cavalier: ‘The last fashion, friend, that hook?
To hang your hat on? ‘Tis a useful crook!’
Emphatic: ‘No wind, O majestic nose,
Can give THEE cold!–save when the mistral blows!’
Dramatic: ‘When it bleeds, what a Red Sea!’
Admiring: ‘Sign for a perfumery!’
Lyric: ‘Is this a conch?. . .a Triton you?’
Simple: ‘When is the monument on view?’
Rustic: ‘That thing a nose? Marry-come-up!
‘Tis a dwarf pumpkin, or a prize turnip!’
Military: ‘Point against cavalry!’
Practical: ‘Put it in a lottery!
Assuredly ‘twould be the biggest prize!’
Or. . .parodying Pyramus’ sighs. . .
‘Behold the nose that mars the harmony
Of its master’s phiz! blushing its treachery!’
–Such, my dear sir, is what you might have said,
Had you of wit or letters the least jot:
But, O most lamentable man!–of wit
You never had an atom, and of letters
You have three letters only!–they spell Ass!
And–had you had the necessary wit,
To serve me all the pleasantries I quote
Before this noble audience. . .e’en so,
You would not have been let to utter one–
Nay, not the half or quarter of such jest!
I take them from myself all in good part,
But not from any other man that breathes!

DE GUICHE (trying to draw away the dismayed viscount):
Come away, Viscount!

THE VISCOUNT (choking with rage): Hear his arrogance!
A country lout who. . .who. . .has got no gloves!
Who goes out without sleeve-knots, ribbons, lace!

CYRANO: True; all my elegances are within.
I do not prank myself out, puppy-like;
My toilet is more thorough, if less gay;
I would not sally forth–a half-washed-out
Affront upon my cheek–a conscience
Yellow-eyed, bilious, from its sodden sleep,
A ruffled honor,. . .scruples grimed and dull!
I show no bravery of shining gems.
Truth, Independence, are my fluttering plumes.
‘Tis not my form I lace to make me slim,
But brace my soul with efforts as with stays,
Covered with exploits, not with ribbon-knots,
My spirit bristling high like your mustaches,
I, traversing the crowds and chattering groups
Make Truth ring bravely out like a clash of spurs!

SUMMARY

Unfazed by a viscount poking fun at his nose, Cyrano points out that the viscount’s remarks were unimaginative and sarcastically tries to help him by making fun of his own nose in a variety of tones. Cyrano makes it dramatically extensive to prove how unoriginal the viscount is compared to himself. To really drive it home, Cyrano ends the monologue by saying the viscount could have made fun of Cyrano in so many different ways, but “unfortunately, you’re totally witless and a man of very few letters.”

ANALYSIS

To understand the importance of this monologue, some plot background is needed. Cyrano is in love with Roxane, a beautiful and smart woman. Although he is a confident extrovert, Cyrano’s one source of doubt is his nose. He believes his nose prevents him from being seen as handsome by any woman, especially Roxane. This is why Cyrano is not upfront with Roxane about how he feels, which leads to a love triangle that is the basis on the play.

In making fun of his own nose with a monologue, Cyrano acknowledges that his nose is his Achilles heel, while at the same time establishing his talent for wit and poetry as incomparable to others. In the end, his intellect outshines his physical appearance.

I believe this is a timeless theme. It is as appropriate today as it was when it was written. It not only talks of how we are often focused on external appearances, but also how people are ridiculed and bullied and judged because of outward appearance (or practice or color or religion or sexual orientation, etc. ad nauseum) and how it is what is inside that matters. Beauty and the beast, same theme. Cyrano is an exquisitely beautiful soul, if tearfully tragic.

Why do I feel such a kinship with Cyrano? I too, have a large proboscus. I too, have been made fun of as a child and know the burn of ridicule. Alas, I did not possess such speed of wit and response. Nor could I pick up a foil, and “thrust home” as he would say as he ran his foil through his opponent.

And, alas, I too, am guilty of ridiculing others for their outward appearance (not in recent years, as with age a little wisdom), and I, too, base my sense of beautiful often with overemphasis upon physical appearances.

I am also guilty in the following. Just “run me through” now, for my conscience will never forget. Emilee always had issues with body image, and her weight would fluctuate up and down, she could go from thin (anorexically) to moderate, to heavy, and back and forth.

She would ask if I still loved her, and early on, I said I will always love you, but my attraction level may change as your appearance changes. (Okay, Okay, it IS ON MY PAGE OF REGRETS AND ***HOLE THINGS I HAVE SAID AND DONE). Needless to say, that was not a winning response to her question nor a soothing balm to her fears. Being a victim of childhood and adult trauma, body image was always an issue. I thought I was being honest. Honest is NOT always the best policy.

Alas, I would also love the wit and spontaneity of words to construct impromtu on the fly, and believe me from time to time I try.

But not with such grace and compose, unless of course it is in prose, but it is with flippant pique I digress,

In saying that my discourse is less, less than Cyrano master of poetry and flourish of eloquence, or is it elegance I speak,

As his humanity regardless of his looks doth shine, and forgive me if I wish his speedy wit and frothy verse were mine.

Neal Klein
Life After Emilee, on the loss of my wife to pancreatic cancer. I’m not accepting comments right now but please feel free to get in touch via my Contact page.

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