Cyrano de Bergerac eText - eText

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What is a literary classic and why are these classic works important to the world?

A literary classic is a work of the highest excellence that has something important to say about life and/or the human condition and says it with great artistry. A classic, through its enduring presence, has withstood the test of time and is not bound by time, place, or customs. It speaks to us today as forcefully as it spoke to people one hundred or more years ago, and as forcefully as it will speak to people of future generations. For this reason, a classic is said to have universality.

Edmond Rostand was born on April 1, 1868, into a wealthy, refined French family. The young boy was encouraged to explore his imagination, and he had a book of his poems published in a literary magazine by the time he turned sixteen. Rostand went to college to become a lawyer, but a literary career interested him much more, and he never practiced law.

In 1890, Rostand married the poet Rosemonde Gerard, and they had two children.

After two unsuccessful attempts at writing dramas, his play, Les Romanesques (The Romancers), written in 1894, became popular with the French public, and Rostand was finally a well-known author.

A famous French actor, Constant-Benoit Coquelin, persuaded Rostand to write a play that would showcase his wide range of acting abilities. Out of this association came the masterpiece for which Rostand is remembered, Cyrano de Bergerac. The story is loosely based on the life of Hercule Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac, who was not a great swordsman, but who did have a large nose—although not as large as Rostand's Cyrano—and was quite vain about it. Cyrano de Bergerac, however, marks the end of French dramatic Romanticism, which was soon overtaken by more naturalistic styles.

In 1901, strictly on the popularity of Cyrano de Bergerac, Rostand was elected to the Académie Française, the prestigious French language institution. Rostand wrote only a few additional plays, none of which were well-received. Despondent and ill, he retired to his estate in the country.

Rostand died on Dec. 2, 1918, a victim of the worldwide influenza pandemic.