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How is Cyrano a chivalric character in Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac?

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megan-westerf... | Salutatorian

Posted November 29, 2012 at 11:47 PM via web

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How is Cyrano a chivalric character in Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 25, 2013 at 3:12 AM (Answer #1)

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There are few characters in literature who embody the definition of chivalry more than Cyrano de Bergerac. The story is set in the 1700s, a time of gallantry and musketeers, and Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac depicts the ideal chivalric hero.

Chivalry, like knighthood is characterized by qualities such as bravery, courtesy, honor, and gallantry. By this definition, Cyrano is a chivalric character, despite (or perhaps because of) his prodigious nose.

Cyrano is brave. As a leader fo the Gascons, Cyrano has proven himself in battle many times, and he does so again in the course of the play. What requires even more bravery, though, is fighting alone in the face of insurmountable odds--which is exactly what Cyrano does when he single-handedly fights a hundred men to save his friend Ligniere--and allowing the woman he loves (Roxane) to choose another man.

Cyrano is courteous when it is appropriate, but he is certainly not averse to responding to an insult when it is hurled. In fact, he is able to compose an intricate poem while fighting a duel with a man who offers him a direct (but insipid) insult. He is unselfish and humble, quite aware that what he is on the inside is more important than what people see of him on the outside. Cyrano says:

I have a different idea of elegance. I don't dress like a fop, it's true, but my moral grooming is impeccable. I never appear in public with a soiled conscience, a tarnished honor, threadbare scruples, or an insult that I haven't washed away. I'm always immaculately clean, adorned with independence and frankness. I may not cut a stylish figure, but I hold my soul erect. I wear my deeds as ribbons, my wit is sharper then the finest mustache, and when I walk among men I make truths ring like spurs.

Cyrano certainly proves himself to be an loyal and honorable man in every area of his life. When he shuts down Montfleury's play (something he also sees as a courtesy to the audience), he magnanimously compensates the audience with money he can ill afford to spend. When he sees his friend's wife acting inappropriately with another man, he is loyal and tries (unsuccessfully) to stop the affair. When Roxane (in a heart-breaking scene for Cyrano) confides her love for Christian, Cyrano honors her request to watch over him while Christian is part of the Gascon guards. When Christian is unable to speak eloquently (or at all, really) of his love for Roxane, Cyrano gives him the words to speak without revealing his own feelings for her.

Cyrano is a man worthy of emulation. He puts others' needs before his own; he does not tolerate injustice or infidelity; he loves purely, unconditionally, and forever; he is willing to fight when it is necessary; and he is a loyal and faithful friend. In Medieval times, those were the qualities of a knight and the definition of chivalry. Cyrano is, indeed,  a chivalric character.  

 

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