Cyrano de Bergerac is the story of a dashing but big-nosed French cadet whose self-doubt prevents him from wooing the lovely Roxane. Instead, the clever and intellectual Cyrano helps his less witty friend Christian woo Roxane in his stead. Even after Christian's death in a battle with the Spanish, which Cyrano heroically wins, he maintains the lie to honor his friend's memory. Cyrano dies himself years later, still preserving the lie due to his own guilt and self-loathing.
Edmond Eugène Alexis Rostand (1 April 1868 - 2 December 1918) was a French poet and dramatist most famous for his fictional play Cyrano de Bergerac , based upon the life of Cyrano de Bergerac.
Cyrano de Bergerac (1897)
Except where noted, quotes in this section are from the public domain translation by Gladys Thomas and Mary F. Guillemard - Full text online
Valvert: [ laughs ] Ha!Cyrano: [ imperturbable ] Is that all?Valvert: But…
Cyrano: Ah, no, young man, that is not enough! You might have said, dear me, there are a thousand things… varying the tone … For instance … Here you are: — Aggressive: "I, monsieur, if I had such a nose, nothing would serve but I must cut it off!" Amicable: "It must be in your way while drinking; you ought to have a special beaker made!" Descriptive: "It is a crag! … a peak! … a promontory! … A promontory, did I say? … It is a peninsula!" Inquisitive: "What may the office be of that oblong receptacle? Is it an inkhorn or a scissor-case?" Mincing: "Do you so dote on birds, you have, fond as a father, been at pains to fit the little darlings with a roost?" Blunt: "Tell me, monsieur, you, when you smoke, is it possible you blow the vapor through your nose without a neighbor crying "The chimney is afire!"?" Anxious: "Go with caution, I beseech, lest your head, dragged over by that weight, should drag you over!" Tender: "Have a little sun-shade made for it! It might get freckled!" Learned: "None but the beast, monsieur, mentioned by Aristophanes, the hippocampelephantocamelos, can have borne beneath his forehead so much cartilage and bone!" Off-Hand: "What, comrade, is that sort of peg in style? Capital to hang one's hat upon!" Emphatic: No wind can hope, O lordly nose, togive the whole of you a cold, but the Nor-Wester!" Dramatic: "It is the Red Sea when it bleeds!" Admiring: "What a sign for a perfumer's shop!" Lyric: "Art thou a Triton, and is that thy conch?" Simple: "A monument! When is admission free?" Deferent: "Suffer, monsieur, that I should pay you my respects: That is what I call possessing a house of your own!" Rustic: "Hi, boys! Call that a nose? You don't gull me! It's either a prize parrot or a stunted gourd!" Military: "Level against the cavalry!" Practical: "Will you put up for raffle? Indubitably, sir, it will be the feature of the game!" Andfinally in parody of weeping Pyramus: "Behold, behold the nose that traitorously destroyed the beauty of its master! and is blushing for the same!" — That, my dear sir, or something not unlike, is what you could have said to me, had you the smallest leaven of letters or wit; but of wit, O most pitiable of objects made by God, you never had a rudiment, and of letters, you have just those that are needed to spell "fool!" — But, had it been otherwise, and had you been possessed of the fertile fancy requisite to shower upon me, here, in this noble company, that volley of sprightly pleasentries, still should you not have delivered yourself of so much as a quarter of the tenth part of the beginning of the first … For I let off these good things at myself, and with sufficient zest, but do not suffer another to let them off at me!"
Valvert: [ exasperated ] Buffoon!Cyrano: [ giving a sudden cry, as if seized with a cramp ] Aï! …Valvert: [ who had started toward the back, turning ] What is he saying now?Cyrano: [ screwing his face as if in pain ] It must have leave to stir… it has a cramp! It is bad for it to be kept still so long!Valvert: What is the matter?
Cyrano: My rapier prickles like a foot asleep!
Valvert: [ drawing ] So be it!Cyrano: I shall give you a charming little hurt!
Valvert: [ contemptous ] Poet!Cyrano: Yes, a poet,… and, to such an extent, that while we fence, I will, hop!, extempore, compose you a ballade!
Valvert: A ballade?
Cyrano: I fear you do not know what that is.
Cyrano: [ as if saying a lesson ] The ballade is composed of three stanzas of eight lines each…Valvert: [ stamps with his feet ] Oh!Cyrano: [ continuing ] And an envoi of four.Valvert: You…
Cyrano: I will with the same breath fight you and compose one. And, at the last line, I will hit you.
Valvert: Indeed you will not!
Cyrano: No?… [ Declaiming ]Ballade of the duel which in Burgundy house
Monsieur de Bergerac fought with a jackanape…
Valvert: And what is that, if you please?
Cyrano: That is the title.
Cyrano: [ closing his eyes a second ] Wait. I am settling upon the rhymes. There. I have them. [ in declaiming, he suits the action to the word ]Of my broad felt made lighter, I cast my mantle broad, And stand, poet and fighter, To do and to record. I bow, I draw my sword… En garde! With steel and wit I play you at first abord … At the last line, I hit!
[ They begin fencing ]
You should have been politer;
Where had you best be gored?
The left side or the right— ah?
Or next your azure cord?
Or where the spleen is stored?
Or in the stomach pit?
Come we to quick accord…
At the last line, I hit!
You falter, you turn whiter?
You do so to afford
Your foe a rhyme in "iter"?…
You thrust at me— I ward —
And balance is restored.
Laridon! Look to your spit!…
No, you shall not be floored
Before my cue to hit!
[ He announces solemnly ]
Prince, call upon the Lord!…
I skirmish… feint a bit …
I lunge!… I keep my word!
[ The Vicomte staggers, Cyrano bows.] At the last line, I hit!
"I love you!" all his ugliness fades fast—
But I remain the same, up to the last!
My mother even could not find me fair:
I had no sister; and, when grown a man,
I feared the mistress who would mock at me.
But I have had your friendship— grace to you
A woman's charm has passed across my path.
And the unnumbered duels he fought,—
And lover also,— by interposition! —
Here lies Hercule Savinien
De Cyrano de Bergerac,
Who was everything, yet was naught.
I cry you pardon, but I may not stay;
See, the moon-ray that comes to call me hence!
I would not bid you mourn less faithfully
That good, brave Christian: I would only ask
That when my body shall be cold in clay
You wear those sable mourning weeds for two,
And mourn awhile for me, in mourning him.
I fought for lost cause, and for fruitless quest!
You there, who are you!— You are thousands! Ah!
I know you now, old enemies of mine! Falsehood! Have at you! Ha! and Compromise! Prejudice, Treachery!… Surrender, I? Parley? No, never! You too, Folly, — you? I know that you will lay me low at last; Let be! Yet I fall fighting, fighting still!
I hold against you all, and when, tonight,
I enter Christ's fair courts, and, lowly bowed,
Sweep with doffed casque the heavens' threshold blue,
One thing is left, that, void of stain or smutch,
I bear away despite you…