Study Guide

Cyrano de Bergerac

by Edmond Rostand

Cyrano de Bergerac eText - Act II

This eText contains embedded glossary terms and other notes added by our community of educators. Simply mouseover or tap on the yellow highlighted words within the text to see the annotations.
Turn Off

Act II

The Poet's Eating-House

RAGUENEAU's pastry shop. It is a large kitchen at the corner of the Rue St. Honore and the Rue de l'Arbre Sec, which are seen in the background through the glass door, in the gray dawn.

On the left, in the foreground, is a counter. Above this counter hang geese, ducks and water peacocks. In great china vases are tall bouquets of simple flowers, mainly yellow sunflowers.

On the same side, farther back, is a large open fireplace. From each andiron hangs a little saucepan. Drippings from various roasts fall into the pans.

There is a door in the right foreground. Farther back, a staircase leads to a little room under the roof, the entrance of which is visible through the open shutter. In this room a table is laid. A small candelabra is lit. It is a place for eating and drinking. A wooden gallery, continuing the staircase, apparently leads to other similar little rooms.

In the middle of the shop an iron hoop is suspended form the ceiling by a string with which it can be drawn up and down. Big game is hung around this hoop.

The ovens in the darkness under the stairs give forth a red glow. The copper pans shine. The spits are turning. Heaps of food are formed into pyramids. Hams are suspended from hooks. Scullions, fat cooks, and diminutive apprentices bustle and hurry around, their caps decorated with chicken feathers and hens’ wings. On metal and wicker plates they bring in piles of cakes and tarts.

Tables are covered with rolls and dishes of food. Other tables surrounded with chairs are ready for the customers. RAGUENEAU is seated at a small table

THE CURTAIN RISES.

Scene I

RAGUENEAU, PASTRY-COOKS, then LISE, RAGUENEAU is writing, with an inspired air, at a small table, and counting on his fingers.

[He passes on farther.]

[He uncovers the tray, and shows a large lyre made of pastry.]

[She puts a pile of papers on the counter.]

FIRST PASTRY-COOK:
[bringing in an elaborate fancy dish] Fruits in nougat!
SECOND PASTRY-COOK:
[bringing another dish] Custard!
THIRD PASTRY-COOK:
[bringing a roast, decorated with feathers] Peacock!
FOURTH PASTRY-COOK:
[bringing a batch of cakes on a slab] Cakes!
FIFTH PASTRY-COOK:
[bringing a sort of pie-dish] Beef casserole!
RAGUENEAU:
[stopping his writing and raising his head] The silver rays of the dawn begin to glint even now on the copper pans! Stifle the God of Song in your breast, Ragueneau! Soon the hour of the lute will come. But now, ’tis the hour of the oven! [He rises, and speaks to one of the cooks.] Improve that sauce—it's short of something!
COOK:
How much too short?
RAGUENEAU:
About three feet.
COOK:
What on earth is he talking about?
FIRST COOK:
[showing a dish to RAGUENEAU] The tart!
SECOND COOK:
The pie!
RAGUENEAU:
[before the fire] Retire, my muse, lest thy bright eyes be burned by the fire's blaze! to a COOK, showing him some loaves of bread] You have split these loaves in the wrong place. Don't you know that the pause always occurs at the center of the line? [to ANOTHER, showing him an unfinished pastry] Build a roof for this palace of crust! to a young APPRENTICE, who is seated on the ground placing poultry on a spit] On your spit, my son, you must alternate the modest chicken and the superb turkey, just as old Malherbe alternated his long lines of verse with short ones. Just as a couplet should be well-turned, so should a roast!
ANOTHER APPRENTICE:
[coming up with a tray covered by a napkin] Master, I thought of your tastes and made this. I hope it pleases you.
RAGUENEAU:
[enchanted] A lyre!
APPRENTICE:
’Tis of pastry dough.
RAGUENEAU:
[touched] With candied fruits!
APPRENTICE:
And I made the strings out of sugar.
RAGUENEAU:
[giving him a coin] Go, and drink to my health! seeing LISE enter] Shhh! My wife! Go now, and hide that money! [to LISE, showing her the lyre, with a self-conscious look] Isn't it beautiful?
LISE:
It's ridiculous!
RAGUENEAU:
Bags? Good! We need them! [He looks at them.] Heavens! My cherished pages! The poems of my friends! Torn apart to make bags for holding biscuits and cakes! You've desecrated great poetry, just as the Bacchantes tore apart Orpheus!
LISE:
[dryly] And am I not free to put to some use the only things that your wretched scribblers leave behind them by way of payment?
RAGUENEAU:
Groveling ant! Don't insult the divine grasshoppers!
LISE:
You never called your wife an ant—much less Bacchantes—until you started keeping company with that bunch!
RAGUENEAU:
Oh, to turn my poetic words to such use!
LISE:
That's all your poetry is good for!
RAGUENEAU:
I hate to think of what you would do to prose, then!

Scene II

The same, plus two CHILDREN, who have just trotted into the shop

[She stands on a chair and begins to put plates on a shelf.]

[The CHILDREN give him back the bag, grab the pies, and go out.]

[Cyrano enters hurriedly.]

RAGUENEAU:
What would you like, little ones?
FIRST CHILD:
Three pies.
RAGUENEAU:
[serving them] See, hot and well-browned.
SECOND CHILD:
If you don't mind, Sir, will you wrap them up for us?
RAGUENEAU:
[aside] Alas! One of my bags! to the CHILDREN] Must I really wrap them up for you? [He takes a bag, and just as he is about to put in the pies, he reads.] “Ulysses thus, on leaving fair Penelope …” No! Not that one! [He puts it aside, and takes another, and as he is about to put in the pies, he reads.] “The gold-locked Phoebus …” No! Not that one either!
LISE:
[impatiently] What are you dallying for?
RAGUENEAU:
Here! Here! [He chooses a third, resignedly.] The sonnet to Phillis! Oh, but it's also hard to part with!
LISE:
Thank goodness he's made up his mind at last! [shrugging her shoulders] Fool!
RAGUENEAU:
[taking advantage of the moment she turns her back, calls back the CHILDREN, who are already at the door] Psst! Children! Give me back that sonnet and I'll give you six pies instead of three!
RAGUENEAU:
[smoothing out the paper, begins to declaim] “Phillis! …” Oh, a smear of butter on that sweet name! “Phillis! …”

Scene III

RAGUENEAU, LISE, CYRANO, then the MUSKETEER.

[He paces up and down the shop.]

[LISE goes up to him quickly.]

[He writes. Through the glass of the door, the silhouettes of their figures move uncertainly and hesitatingly.]

CYRANO:
What time is it?
RAGUENEAU:
[bowing low] Six o'clock.
CYRANO:
[with emotion] In just one hour's time!
RAGUENEAU:
[following him] Bravo! I saw the—
CYRANO:
You saw what?
RAGUENEAU:
Your duel!
CYRANO:
Which one?
RAGUENEAU:
Last night, or course, in the Hotel Burgundy!
CYRANO:
[contemptuously] Oh, that duel …
RAGUENEAU:
[admiringly] Indeed, the duel in verse!
LISE:
He can't talk of anything else!
CYRANO:
Well, fine! Let it be!
RAGUENEAU:
[lunging with a spit as if it is a sword] “At the end of the refrain, I strike! … At the end of the refrain, I strike!” … Oh, it was wonderful! [with increasing enthusiasm] “At the end of the refrain—”
CYRANO:
What time is it now, Ragueneau?
RAGUENEAU:
[stopping short in the act of thrusting to look at the clock] Five minutes after six! … “I strike!” [He straightens himself.] Oh, to write a ballade!
LISE:
[to CYRANO, who has absently shaken hands with her as he passes the counter] What's wrong with your hand?
CYRANO:
Nothing, just a little cut.
RAGUENEAU:
Have you been in some danger?
CYRANO:
None at all.
LISE:
[shaking her finger at him] I think you're lying when you say that!
CYRANO:
Why? Did you see my nose quiver when I spoke? My goodness, it must have been a monstrous lie to be able to move it! [changing his tone] I'm waiting for someone. Please, when it comes time, leave us alone.
RAGUENEAU:
But that's impossible! My poets are coming!
LISE:
[sarcastically] Oh, indeed, for their first meal of the day!
CYRANO:
I beg you, please take them aside when I make a signal for you to do so. What time is it now?
RAGUENEAU:
Ten minutes after six.
CYRANO:
[nervously seating himself at RAGUENEAU'S table, and drawing some paper toward him] A pen!
RAGUENEAU:
[giving him the one from behind his ear] Here's a swan's quill.
A MUSKETEER:
[with fierce mustache, enters, and speaks in a very loud voice] Good day!
CYRANO:
[turning around] Who's that?
RAGUENEAU:
’Tis a friend of my wife. A great warrior—or so he says himself.
CYRANO:
[taking up the pen, and motioning RAGUENEAU away] Hush! [to himself] I'll write her a note, fold it, give it to her, and run out! [throws down the pen] Coward! But I just don't dare speak to her—not even one word! [to RAGUENEAU] What time is it?
RAGUENEAU:
A quarter after six!
CYRANO:
[striking his chest] I dare not speak a single word of all those I have in here! Writing it all down is much easier. [He takes up the pen.] I'll do it! I'll write her that love letter that is always in my thoughts! I've written it and rewritten it so many times that it lies there in my mind ready to be put down in pen and ink. All I must do is lay my soul beside this sheet of paper and copy what's written on it!

Scene IV

RAGUENEAU, LISE, the MUSKETEER, CYRANO at the little table writing. The POETS, dressed in black, their stockings sagging and covered with mud.

[He goes on writing.]

[They go upstage, still eating.]

[He bows to the MUSKETEER and goes to the doorway to watch, after looking at the clock.]

[He goes quickly farther away, and LISE follows him.]

They all go out behind RAGUENEAU, after sweeping all the cakes off the trays.]

LISE:
[entering, to RAGUENEAU] Here they come, your mud-spattered friends!
FIRST POET:
[entering, to RAGUENEAU] Brother in art!
SECOND POET:
[to RAGUENEAU, shaking his hand] Dear brother!
THIRD POET:
High soaring eagle among pastry-cooks! [He sniffs.] My, it smells good here in your nest!
FOURTH POET:
Phoebus of the kitchen!
FIFTH POET:
Apollo of cooks!
RAGUENEAU:
[whom they surround and embrace] Ah! How quickly at ease I find myself among these friends!
FIRST POET:
We were delayed by the mob; they're all crowded around the Porte de Nesle!
SECOND POET:
Eight bandits lay dead in the street there—all slit open with sword-gashes!
CYRANO:
[raising his head a minute] Eight? I thought it was seven.
RAGUENEAU:
[to CYRANO] Do you know who the hero of that fight might be?
CYRANO:
[carelessly] Not I.
LISE:
[to the MUSKETEER] And you? Do you know?
MUSKETEER:
[twirling his mustache] Maybe!
CYRANO:
[still writing, he is heard murmuring a word from time to time.] “I love you!”
FIRST POET:
’Twas one man, they say. They all swear to it—just one man, who single-handedly beat the entire band of assassins!
SECOND POET:
’Twas a strange sight! Pikes and cudgels were strewn all over the ground!
CYRANO:
[writing] “Your eyes …”
THIRD POET:
They were picking up hats seven blocks away!
FIRST POET:
My God! The man must have been ferocious!
CYRANO:
[still writing] “Your lips …”
FIRST POET:
He must have been a fearsome giant!
CYRANO:
“… and when I see you come, I faint from fear.”
SECOND POET:
[filching a cake] What have you written lately, Ragueneau?
CYRANO:
[still writing] “I worship you …” [He stops, just as he is about to sign, and gets up, slipping the letter into his jacket.] No need to sign, since I'll give it to her myself.
RAGUENEAU:
[to SECOND POET] I have put a recipe into verse.
THIRD POET:
[seating himself by a plate of cream-puffs] Go to it! Let's hear those verses!
FOURTH POET:
[looking at a cake which he has taken] Oh my, this cake is lopsided! I'll fix it! [He takes a bite off the top.]
FIRST POET:
[taking a cake] Ah, how this gingerbread woos the starving poet with its almond eyes!
SECOND POET:
[to RAGUENEAU] Go ahead, we're listening.
THIRD POET:
[gently squeezing a cream-puff] How it laughs! Until its very cream runs over!
SECOND POET:
[biting a bit off the lyre-shaped pastry] This is the first time in my life I've gotten any true nourishment from the lyre!
RAGUENEAU:
[who has cleared his throat, settled his cap, and struck a pose, in preparation to recite his poem] A recipe in verse!
SECOND POET:
[to first, nudging him] Is this your breakfast?
FIRST POET:
[to second] Yes, and you are taking your dinner, it seems.
RAGUENEAU:
How almond tartlets are made.
Beat your eggs up, light and quick;
Froth them thick;
Mingle with them while you beat
Juice of lemon, essence fine;
Then combine
The burst milk of almonds sweet.
Circle with a custard paste
The slim waist
Of your tartlet-molds; the top
With a skillful finger print,
Nick and dint,
Round the edge, then, drop by drop,
Pour some cream upon each one—
Almost done!
In the oven place each mold.
Reappearing, softly browned,
The renowned
Almond tartlets you behold!
THE POETS:
[with mouths crammed full] Exquisite! Delicious!
A POET:
[choking] Humph!
CYRANO:
[who has been watching, goes toward RAGUENEAU] Don't you see how they stuff themselves while you recite your poetry?
RAGUENEAU:
[in a low voice, smiling] Oh, yes! I see it well enough, but I won't let them know that I see it. I wouldn't want to embarrass them, you know. Plus, I gain a double pleasure when I recite my poems to them, for I give those poor starving fellows the freedom to eat, even while I gratify my own dearest weakness!
CYRANO:
[clapping him on the shoulder] Friend, I like you! [RAGUENEAU goes after his friends. CyranO follows him with his eyes, and then speaks rather sharply.] Lise! Is that musketeer making passes at you?
LISE:
[offended] One proud glance of my eye can conquer any man that should dare venture to attack my virtue!
CYRANO:
Pooh! Conquering eyes, I think, are often conquered eyes.
LISE:
[choking with anger] But—
CYRANO:
[bluntly] I like Ragueneau. So mark my words, Lise—I will not permit you to make a laughing-stock of him by any—
LISE:
But—
CYRANO:
[who has raised his voice so as to be heard by the MUSKETEER] A word to the wise …
LISE:
[to the MUSKETEER, who has merely bowed in answer to CYRANO'S bow] What's with you? Have you no courage? You didn't even make fun of his nose!
MUSKETEER:
His nose? Oh yes, his nose.
CYRANO:
[from the doorway, signing to RAGUENEAU to take the poets away] Psst!
RAGUENEAU:
[showing them the door on the right] We shall have more privacy in here.
CYRANO:
[impatiently] Psst! Psst!
RAGUENEAU:
[drawing them farther away] We can better read our poetry over here.
FIRST POET:
[despairingly, with his mouth full] What! Must we leave the cakes?
SECOND POET:
Never! Let's take them with us!

Scene V

CYRANO, ROXANE, the DUENNA.

[He shuts the door, comes down toward ROXANE, and stands at a respectful distance from her with his hat in his hand.]

CYRANO:
Ah! If I see even the faintest glimmer of hope, I'll give her my letter! [ROXANE, masked, followed by the DUENNA, appears at the glass pane of the door. He opens it quickly.] Come in! [aside to the DUENNA] May I have two words with you?
DUENNA:
You may have as many as you like, Sir!
CYRANO:
Are you fond of sweet things?
DUENNA:
Oh, yes, I could eat myself sick with them!
CYRANO:
[grabbing some of the paper bags from the counter] Good. Take these two sonnets written by Monsieur Benserade—
DUENNA:
[slightly disappointed] Oh …
CYRANO:
Which I will fill for you with cream cakes!
DUENNA:
[changing her expression] Oh!
CYRANO:
I'll wrap up six of them for you in the bosom of a poem by Saint Amant! And here in these verses of Chapelain I'll drop a piece of sponge cake. Oh, and do you like warm pies?
DUENNA:
Oh, yes, to the core of my heart!
CYRANO:
[filling her arms with the bags] Now, please go and enjoy them all out in the street.
DUENNA:
But—

Scene VI

CYRANO, ROXANE

[She goes out. CYRANO stands motionless, with his eyes to the ground. There is a silence. The door opens and RAGUENEAU looks in.]

CYRANO:
Blessed be this day that you recognize my existence and come to meet me, and to say …
ROXANE:
[who has taken off her mask] I came to say thank you, first of all, for your victory last night. That arrogant man whom you beat in swordplay was the man whom a certain great lord, infatuated with me—
CYRANO:
de Guiche?
ROXANE:
[casting her eyes downward] —tried to force on me as a husband.
CYRANO:
Indeed, a husband! A duped husband! A husband only in form! [bowing] Then I am glad to know that I fought last night not for my ugly nose but for your beautiful virtue!
ROXANE:
I also have a confession to make. But before I do so, I must see you again as that brother-friend with whom I used to play by the lakeside!
CYRANO:
Yes, you would come each spring to Bergerac!
ROXANE:
Remember the reeds you used to cut to make your swords?
CYRANO:
And you wove corn silk to make braids for your dolls’ hair!
ROXANE:
Those were the days of games!
CYRANO:
And eating blackberries!
ROXANE:
In those days, you did everything I asked of you!
CYRANO:
You were called Madeleine then, in your little girl dress!
ROXANE:
Was I pretty then?
CYRANO:
You certainly were not plain!
ROXANE:
I remember many times you would come running to me, hands all cut up from a fall, and I would act as if I were your mother. I would try to sound severe. [She takes his hand.] I'd say sternly, “What happened here? Did you hurt yourself again?” [She looks at his hand, surprised.] Oh! It's too much! What happened to your hand? [CYRANO tries to draw away his hand.] No, let me see! Still injuring yourself, at your age! Where did you get that scratch?
CYRANO:
I got it while playing at the Porte de Nesle.
ROXANE:
[seating herself by the table, and dipping her handkerchief in a glass of water] Give me your hand!
CYRANO:
[sitting by her] So soft! So motherly and sweet!
ROXANE:
Tell me, while I wipe away the blood, how many men were against you?
CYRANO:
Oh, about a hundred.
ROXANE:
Tell me more!
CYRANO:
No, let it be. But I'd like you to tell me what it was you were about to confess.
ROXANE:
[keeping his hand] Yes, now I can tell you! The memory of those old days makes me bolder! Here it is. I am in love with someone.
CYRANO:
Ah!
ROXANE:
But he does not know it.
CYRANO:
Ah!
ROXANE:
Not yet.
CYRANO:
Ah!
ROXANE:
But he shall soon learn.
CYRANO:
Ah!
ROXANE:
A poor young man, who all this time has loved me, timidly, from afar, and dares not speak.
CYRANO:
Ah!
ROXANE:
My, your hand feels feverish! He dares not speak, but I have seen love trembling on his lips.
CYRANO:
Ah!
ROXANE:
[bandaging his hand with her handkerchief] And it just so happens, dear cousin, that he's a member of your regiment!
CYRANO:
Ah!
ROXANE:
[laughing] A cadet in your own company!
CYRANO:
Ah!
ROXANE:
His brow bears the stamp of genius. He is proud, noble, young, intrepid, handsome—
CYRANO:
[rising suddenly, very pale] Handsome!
ROXANE:
What's the matter?
CYRANO:
Nothing. It's … [showing his hand, smiling] It's only a little pain from this scratch!
ROXANE:
I love him. Now I've said it. But I must tell you I've only seen him at the theater.
CYRANO:
You mean you've never spoken to him?
ROXANE:
Eyes can speak.
CYRANO:
But then, how do you know that he …?
ROXANE:
Oh, people talk. Gossip spreads quickly under the linden trees at Place Royale.
CYRANO:
He is a cadet?
ROXANE:
Yes, in the Guards
CYRANO:
What's his name?
ROXANE:
Baron Christian de Neuvillette.
CYRANO:
What? He's not in the Guards.
ROXANE:
He just joined this morning, under Captain Carbon de Castel-Jaloux.
CYRANO:
Oh, how quickly we lose our hearts! But, my poor child—
DUENNA:
[opening the door] I've eaten all the cakes, Monsieur Bergerac!
CYRANO:
Then read the poems printed on the bags! [She goes out.] My poor child, you who love flowing words and sharp wit—what if he turns out to be dull?
ROXANE:
No, his hair is just like the hair of one of d'Urfe's heroes!
CYRANO:
Ah! Nice hair but witless speech, perhaps?
ROXANE:
Oh, no! His words are fair and elegant—I can just feel it!
CYRANO:
All words seem elegant when they lurk beneath an elegant mustache! Suppose he's really a fool!
ROXANE:
[stamping her foot] Then I'll just die!
CYRANO:
[after a pause] Did you bring me here in order to tell me this? I must say I don't understand why.
ROXANE:
It's because I learned just yesterday that all of your company are Gascons and—
CYRANO:
And we always provoke any newcomer who somehow gains favor without being a pure Gascon?
ROXANE:
Yes! Think how I fear for him!
CYRANO:
[aside] And with good reason!
ROXANE:
But when I saw you last night, fighting so bravely and fearlessly, holding your own against all of those brutes, I thought, “If only he, whom everyone fears, if only he would …”
CYRANO:
All right. I will befriend your little Baron.
ROXANE:
Oh! Do you promise you'll do this for me? I've always held you as a tender friend.
CYRANO:
Yes, yes.
ROXANE:
Then you will be his friend?
CYRANO:
I swear!
ROXANE:
And he shall fight no duels?
CYRANO:
None. I promise.
ROXANE:
You are so kind, cousin! Now I must go. [She puts on her mask and veil, and then speaks distractedly.] Oh, but you haven't told me about your battle last night—what a hero you must have been! Please tell him to write to me! [She sends him a kiss with her fingers.] Oh, how good you are!
CYRANO:
Yes, yes.
ROXANE:
A hundred men against you! What a hero! But I must go. You're such a great friend!
CYRANO:
Yes, yes.
ROXANE:
Tell him to write to me. You'll tell me all about the fight one day. A hundred men! Oh, how brave!
CYRANO:
[bowing to her] I have fought better since.

Scene VII

The bold Cadets of Gascony,
Of Carbon de Castel-Jaloux!
Brawling and swaggering boastfully,
The bold Cadets of Gascony!
Bragging of arms and heraldry,
Their veins brimming with blood so blue,
The bold Cadets of Gascony,
Of Carbon de Castel-Jaloux.
Eagle-eyed, and graceful as cats,
Fierce mustache and wolf-like grin,
They slash those before them as though they were gnats.
Eagle-eyed, and graceful as cats,
Haphazardly sporting their torn and worn hats,
With feathers to cover the holes there within,
Eagle-eyed and graceful as cats,
Fierce mustache and wolf-like grin.
Stab-Your-Belly and Slit-Your-Trunk
Are the gentlest nicknames they bear.
With fame and glory their soul is drunk!
Stab-Your-Belly and Slit-Your-Trunk,
In brawl and battle they show their spunk,
Doing things others would never dare,
Stab-Your-Belly and Slit-Your-Trunk
Are the gentlest nicknames they bear!
Behold the Cadets of Gascony!
All jealous lovers are sport for you!
Fair ladies will lose their purity!
Behold the Cadets of Gascony!
The ones all husbands fear to see,
For their wives the Cadets will woo!
Behold the Cadets of Gascony!
Husbands and lovers are game for you!

CYRANO, RAGUENEAU, the POETS, CARRBON DE CASTEL-JALOUX, the CADETS, a CROWD, then DE GUICHE.

[RAGUENEAU signals to his friends and they all come in. At the same time, by a door at the back, CARBON DE CASTEL-JALOUX enters, in Captain's uniform. He makes gestures of surprise upon seeing CYRANO.]

[There is a tumult outside. The noise of boots and swords is heard.]

[The cadets enter, shouting exclamations in the Gascon dialect.]

[Outside the street has filled with people. Carriages are stopping.]

[A CROWD rushes into the shop, pushing one another and cheering.]

[There is a movement in the CROWD. DE GUICHE appears, escorted by OFFICERS, including CUIGY, BRISSAILLE, and the officers who went with CYRANO the night before. CUIGY comes rapidly up to CYRANO.]

[A tense silence ensues.]

[DE GUICHE goes out and gets into his chair. The other LORDS go away whispering together. LE BRET goes to the door with them. The CROWD leaves.]

RAGUENEAU:
Can we come in?
CYRANO:
[motionless] Yes.
CARBON:
Here he is!
CYRANO:
[raising his head] Captain!
CARBON:
[delightedly] Our hero! We heard all about it! Thirty or more of my cadets are here!
CYRANO:
[shrinking back] But…
CARBON:
[trying to draw him away] Come with me! They will not rest until they see you!
CYRANO:
No!
CARBON:
They're just across the street, drinking at The Bear's Head.
CYRANO:
I—
CARBON:
[going to the door and calling across the street in a loud, booming voice] He won't come! The hero's in a bad mood!
A VOICE:
[outside] Sandious!
CARBON:
[rubbing his hands] They're running across the street!
RAGUENEAU:
[drawing back, startled] Gentlemen, are you all from Gascony?
THE CADETS:
Yes, all of us!
A CADET:
[to CYRANO] Bravo!
CYRANO:
[nodding] Baron!
ANOTHER:
[shaking his hands] Hurrah!
CYRANO:
Baron!
THIRD CADET:
Come! I must embrace you!
CYRANO:
Baron!
SEVERAL CADETS:
We'll all embrace him! All in turn!
CYRANO:
[not knowing whom to reply to] Baron—Baron—I beg you—
RAGUENEAU:
Are you all Barons, Sirs?
CADETS:
All of us!
RAGUENEAU:
Is it true?
FIRST CADET:
You could build a tower with nothing but our coronets!
LE BRET:
[entering, and running up to CYRANO] Everyone wants to see you! There's a wild mob led by the men who followed you last night!
CYRANO:
[alarmed] You haven't told them where to find me, have you?
LE BRET:
[rubbing his hands] Yes!
A BURGHER:
[entering, followed by a group of men] Sir, everyone in the Marais is coming here!
LE BRET:
[in a low voice, smiling, to CYRANO] What happened with Roxane?
CYRANO:
[quickly] Hush!
CROWD:
[calling from outside] Cyrano!
RAGUENEAU:
[standing on a table] My shop is being invaded! They're breaking everything! How magnificent!
CROWD:
[gathering around CYRANO] My friend! My friend!
CYRANO:
It seems that just yesterday I didn't have this many friends!
LE BRET:
[delighted] Success!
A YOUNG MARQUIS:
[hurrying up with his hands held out] My friend, if you only knew—
CYRANO:
Friend? How can you be my friend if I've never even seen you before?
ANOTHER:
Sir, please let me present to you some fair ladies who are waiting in my carriage.
CYRANO:
[coldly] Oh? And who will introduce me to you?
LE BRET:
[astonished] What's wrong with you?
CYRANO:
Hush!
A MAN OF LETTERS:
[with a writing-board] Sir, may I have a few details?
CYRANO:
No.
LE BRET:
[nudging his elbow] That's Théophraste Renaudot, editor of the “Gazette!”
CYRANO:
Who cares?
LE BRET:
But his paper is of great importance! They say it will be an immense success!
A POET:
[advancing] Sir—
CYRANO:
Another one!
POET:
Please permit me to make a pentacrostic out of your name.
A MAN:
[also advancing] Please, Sir—
CYRANO:
Enough! Enough!
CUIGY:
[to CYRANO] I present Monsieur de Guiche. [The CROWD murmurs and everyone gets out of the way.] He comes with a message from the Marshal of Gassion!
DE GUICHE:
[bowing to CYRANO] The Marshal expresses his admiration, Sir, for your exploit that everyone is talking about.
CROWD:
Bravo!
CYRANO:
[bowing] The Marshal is a judge of valor.
DE GUICHE:
He could not have believed it, unless these gentlemen had sworn they witnessed it.
CUIGY:
With our own eyes!
LE BRET:
[aside to CYRANO, who appears distracted] Aren't you going to say something?
CYRANO:
Hush!
LE BRET:
What is it? You seem to be suffering.
CYRANO:
[starting] Suffering? In front of this mob? [He draws himself up, twirls his mustache, and throws back his shoulders.] Wait! You shall see!
DE GUICHE:
[to whom CUIGY has spoken in a low voice] Your career is already filled with great exploits. And you also serve with those crazy Gascons?
CYRANO:
Yes, I'm with the Cadets.
A CADET:
[in a fierce tone] He's one of us!
DE GUICHE:
[looking at the CADETS, who all stand behind CYRANO] Ah! These proud and haughty gentlemen must be the famous warriors!
CARBON:
Cyrano!
CYRANO:
Yes, captain!
CARBON:
Since all my company is assembled here, please favor me and present them to the Count.
CYRANO:
[making two steps toward DE GUICHE and pointing to the CADETS] My Lord de Guiche, permit me to present my fellow cadets:
DE GUICHE:
[looking snobby and seated casually in an armchair brought quickly by RAGUENEAU] A poet! It's the latest fashion! Would you like to be my personal poet?
CYRANO:
No, Sir! I'm no man's poet!
DE GUICHE:
Your exploits last night pleased my uncle, Cardinal Richelieu. I'll gladly say a word to him for you.
LE BRET:
[overjoyed] My God!
DE GUICHE:
I believe you have written a play?
LE BRET:
[in CYRANO'S ear] Your play! Agrippine shall be performed at last!
DE GUICHE:
Take it to him.
CYRANO:
[beginning to be tempted and attracted] Well, I…
DE GUICHE:
He is a skilled critic. He may correct a line or two, at most.
CYRANO:
[whose face stiffens at once] Impossible! My blood freezes just to imagine that even one comma should be changed!
DE GUICHE:
But when he likes a piece of writing, he pays extremely well for it, good friend.
CYRANO:
He cannot pay as well as I do. For when a verse I've written pleases me, I pay the writer the highest reward by singing it to myself!
DE GUICHE:
You are proud.
CYRANO:
Really? Have you noticed that?
A CADET:
[entering, with a string of old battered plumed beaver hats, full of holes, slung on his word] Look, Cyrano! See the brightly-feathered game we found this morning out in the street!
CARBON:
The spoils of war!
ALL:
[laughing] Ha, ha, ha!
CUIGY:
Whoever hired those cowards must be cursing and swearing today!
BRISSAILLE:
Who was it?
DE GUICHE:
It was me. [The laughter stops.] The job was too dirty for my sword, so I hired them to punish that drunken sot of a poet.
CADET:
in a low voice, to CYRANO, showing him the hats] What should we do with them? They're all greasy. Maybe we should make a stew!
CYRANO:
[taking the sword and, with a salute, dropping the hats at DE GUICHE'S feet] Please, Sir, be good enough to return them to your friends.
DE GUICHE:
[rising, and speaking sharply] Bring me my chair at once! I'm leaving! [to CYRANO, angrily] As to you, Sir!
VOICE:
[in the street] Porters! Bring Count de Guiche's chair!
DE GUICHE:
[who has regained control of himself, smiling] Have you read Don Quixote?
CYRANO:
I have! And I take off my hat to that mad knight!
DE GUICHE:
I advise you study—
PORTER:
[appearing at the back] My lord's chair!
DE GUICHE:
—the windmill chapter!
CYRANO:
[bowing] Chapter thirteen.
DE GUICHE:
For when one attacks windmills, it may happen that—
CYRANO:
Are you saying that I attack those who change with every change of the breeze?
DE GUICHE:
—that the arms of windmills may catch you and sweep you down into the mud!
CYRANO:
Or upward to the stars!

Scene VIII

CYRANO, LE BRET, and the CADETS, who are eating and drinking at the tables on the right and left.

[CHRISTIAN has just entered, and has tried to mingle with the cadets, who do not speak to him. He has seated himself at a table, where LISE serves him.]

CYRANO:
[bowing mockingly to those who go out without daring to salute him] Gentlemen… Gentlemen…
LE BRET:
[coming back, with an expression of despair] Oh, what a fine mess!
CYRANO:
Oh, go ahead! Scold away!
LE BRET:
You must admit that destroying every opportunity that comes your way is a little extreme!
CYRANO:
Yes, I admit it. I am sometimes extreme.
LE BRET:
[triumphantly] Ah!
CYRANO:
But to take a stand, or to defend a principle, sometimes requires one to act in extreme ways.
LE BRET:
Oh, lay aside your pride for a moment. Fortune and glory await you!
CYRANO:
Oh, yes? But what would I have to do for it? Seek a patron to support me and protect me? Be like the wretched ivy that clings around a big tree and creeps upward not by its own strength but by trickery? No, thank you! Dedicate poems to bankers, like other poets have done? Act like a cringing fool just for the hope of seeing a condescending smile on a patron's lips? Thank you, but no! Learn to swallow insults every day? Scrape my knees raw from kneeling and bend my back till it breaks from bowing? No, thank you! Or be two-faced and sly, running with the hare while at the same time hunting with the hounds? Learn the cheap art of flattering people so that they may praise me? Step on people to make my way ahead? Navigate the sea of life with madrigals for sails, blown gently windward by old ladies’ sighs? Thank you, but no! Bribe kindly editors to print my poetry? Aspire to be elected pope of tavern councils held by drunken idiots? Work my whole life to bank my reputation on one famous sonnet instead of writing hundreds? Be terrorized by all the papers, thinking such things as, “Oh, if only the Mercury would give me a kind review!” Grow pale and fearful and scheming? Prefer to make visits instead of poems? Seek introductions to the right people, sign the right petitions? No! No! And no again! But sing? And dream and laugh? Yes! Go freely, wherever I please, with eyes that look straight forward and with a fearless voice! To wear my hat just the way I choose! To decide for myself in any situation whether to fight a duel or to recite a poem! To work without one thought of fortune or fame, and to realize that journey to the moon! Never to write a line that has not sprung straight from my heart. To be modest. To be content with every flower, fruit or even leaf—but pluck them from my own garden and no one else's! And then, if glory ever does by chance come my way, I'll pay no tribute to Caesar, because the merit will be my own. In short, I will never be like that wretched ivy. Whether I rise very high or not, I am content because I climb alone!
LE BRET:
Be alone if you will, but where did you ever get the idea that you should be making enemies at every turn?
CYRANO:
I got it from watching you make friends at every turn by fawning over people and flattering them. As you smile at people you despise, I pass by joyfully, thinking, “Oh, good—I've made another enemy today!”
LE BRET:
Sheer lunacy!
CYRANO:
Think of it as my vice. It gives me pleasure to displease people. I love to be hated! I march better beneath the crossfire of hostile glances! How amusing it is to see my jacket stained with so many spatters of envy and fear! The dull friendships which you and others keep enfold your neck like an open-laced collar. Such a collar makes it easy to move your head every which way, but makes it impossible to hold your head up straight. My hatred is like a stiff and starched collar which presses in upon me and keeps my head held high! And every new enemy adds a stiff new pleat to it, for hatred grips like a vice, but frames one like a halo!
LE BRET:
[after a silence, taking his arm] Speak loud and proud to the world. But whisper the truth into my ear—she does not love you, does she?
CYRANO:
[sharply] Hush!

Scene IX

On the knuckles! But I said to myself, “Forward, Gascon! Duty calls! On, Cyrano!” And so I ventured on. And then, from out of the shadows, came—

CYRANO, LE BRET, the CADETS, CHRISTIAN DE NEUVILLETTE.

[He goes upstage, arm and arm with LE BRET, the two of them talking in low voices.]

[He points to CYRANO, who is talking with LE BRET.]

[There is a silence. All the CADETS stand with crossed arms and look at CHRISTIAN. He rises and goes over to CARBON DE CASTEL-JALOUX, who is talking to an officer, and pretends to see nothing.]

[He turns his back on him.]

[There is complete silence. Everyone slowly rises, looking in terror at CYRANO, who has stopped speaking, dumbfounded. There is a pause.]

[Everyone starts up. CHRISTIAN balances on his chair.]

[The CADETS rush to the doors.]

[All have gone out by different doors; some have left by the staircase. CYRANO and CHRISTIAN are face to face, looking at each other for a moment.]

A CADET:
[seated at a table, glass in hand] Cyrano! [CYRANO turns around] Tell the story!
CYRANO:
Give me a moment!
THE CADET:
[rising and coming downstage] The story of the fight! [He stops at the table where CHRISTIAN is seated.] It will be a good lesson for this timid young apprentice!
CHRISTIAN:
[raising his head] Apprentice?
ANOTHER CADET:
Yes, you weak northerner!
CHRISTIAN:
Weak?
FIRST CADET:
[mockingly] Listen, Monsieur de Neuvillette, there is something you must know. There is an object that no one dares to name. Calling attention to this object would be like mentioning rope in a home where a man hung himself!
CHRISTIAN:
What might this object be?
ANOTHER CADET:
[in a fierce voice] See here! [He taps his finger three times, mysteriously, on his nose.] Do you understand?
CHRISTIAN:
Oh! You must mean—
ANOTHER CADET:
Hush! Never breathe that word, unless you want to deal with him!
ANOTHER CADET:
[who has meanwhile come up quietly to sit on the table, whispering behind him] Listen here! He put two men to death, just because they spoke with nasally voices!
ANOTHER:
[in a hollow voice, darting on all fours from under the table, where he had crept] If you'd rather not die young, do not ever mention the fatal cartilage!
ANOTHER:
[clapping him on the shoulder] Not a word! Not a gesture! Even pulling out a handkerchief could land you dead!
CHRISTIAN:
Captain!
CARBON:
[turning and looking at him from head to foot] Sir!
CHRISTIAN:
Please tell me, what should one do to southerners who swagger and boast?
CARBON:
Prove to them that one can be a northerner and also be brave!
CHRISTIAN:
Thank you.
FIRST CADET:
[to CYRANO] Now tell the tale!
ALL:
The tale!
CYRANO:
[coming toward them] The tale? [They all bring their stools up and group around him, listening eagerly. CHRISTIAN sits astride a chair.] Well! I went all alone to meet the scoundrels. The full moon was shining like a big clock in the sky. Suddenly, an unseen hand slipped a cloud in front of the clock face, and the night went black! All the docks were hidden in the murky dark. I could see nothing further—
CHRISTIAN:
Than the end of your nose!
CYRANO:
Who in God's name is that?
A CADET:
[whispering] He just joined today.
CYRANO:
[making a step toward CHRISTIAN] Today?
CARBON:
[in a low voice] Yes, his name is Baron de Neuvil—
CYRANO:
[stopping himself] Very well. [He turns pale, then turns red, and looks as if he will attack CHRISTIAN.] I— [He gains control of himself.] What was I saying? [with a burst of rage] MORDIOUS! [then continuing calmly] It was dark. [The CADETS are astonished. They reseat themselves, staring at him.] On I went, thinking to myself, “For a brave cause, I might provoke some great man, some great prince, who might certainly break—”
CHRISTIAN:
Your nose!
CYRANO:
[in a choked voice] My teeth! Who might break my teeth, and that I, unwisely, might be putting my—
CHRISTIAN:
Your nose!
CYRANO:
Myself into a bad situation. He might prove strong and rap me—
CHRISTIAN:
In the nose!
CYRANO:
[wiping his forehead]
CHRISTIAN:
A crack on the nose!
CYRANO:
A thrust from someone's sword! I parried it, and found myself—
CHRISTIAN:
Nose to nose—
CYRANO:
[rushing at him] Good God in heaven! [All the Gascons leap up to see, but when he is close to CHRISTIAN, he controls himself and continues.] With a hundred brutes, who all stank—
CHRISTIAN:
So much you had to hold your nose!
CYRANO:
[ghostly pale, but smiling] Of onions and cheap brandy! I leapt out and charged right into the midst of them—
CHRISTIAN:
Nose first!
CYRANO:
I charge! I immediately gore two and impale one! Then another aims at me—Paf!—and I parry—
CHRISTIAN:
Pif!
CYRANO:
[bursting out loud] Great God! Get out! All of you!
FIRST CADET:
The tiger awakens!
CYRANO:
Everyone out! Leave me alone with him!
SECOND CADET:
He'll be mince meat! Chopped up finely and ready to be baked into a pastry!
RAGUENEAU:
I am turning pale! I curl up like a napkin, limp and white!
CARBON:
Let's be gone.
A CADET:
There won't be a crumb left of him!
ANOTHER:
I die of fright just to think of what will happen to him!
ANOTHER:
[shutting the door as they all leave] Something too horrible!

Scene X

CYRANO, CHRISTIAN.

[He throws himself into CYRANO'S arms and they remain this way.]

CYRANO:
Embrace me!
CHRISTIAN:
But, Sir—
CYRANO:
You're a brave man.
CHRISTIAN:
Oh! But—
CYRANO:
I insist!
CHRISTIAN:
Please tell me—
CYRANO:
Come, embrace me! I'm her brother.
CHRISTIAN:
Whose brother?
CYRANO:
Roxane's!
CHRISTIAN:
[rushing up to him] Oh, heavens! Her brother?
CYRANO:
Cousin, brother—same thing!
CHRISTIAN:
And has she told you…?
CYRANO:
She's told me everything!
CHRISTIAN:
Does she love me? Please tell me!
CYRANO:
Maybe!
CHRISTIAN:
[taking his hands] How glad I am to meet you, Sir!
CYRANO:
Well, that's a rather sudden change in feeling!
CHRISTIAN:
Please forgive me.
CYRANO:
[puts his hands on CHRISTIAN'S shoulders and looks at him] It's true, you are a handsome rogue.
CHRISTIAN:
Oh, Sir! If you only knew how much I admire you!
CYRANO:
But what about all those ‘noses?’
CHRISTIAN:
Oh! I take them back!
CYRANO:
Roxane expects a letter from you.
CHRISTIAN:
Oh, woe is me!
CYRANO:
What's wrong?
CHRISTIAN:
If I open my mouth, I'm lost!
CYRANO:
Why so?
CHRISTIAN:
Because I'm a fool! Oh, I could die for shame!
CYRANO:
If one calls himself a fool, he cannot really be a fool. Besides, you did not attack me like a fool.
CHRISTIAN:
It's easy to find words to pick a fight. I'll admit I have a certain military wit. But before women, I'm at a loss! True, when I pass by them, their eyes are kind, but—
CYRANO:
Aren't they even kinder when you stop?
CHRISTIAN:
No! For I am one of those men who are tongue-tied. I don't know how to speak my love to a woman.
CYRANO:
And, I, it seems, would be able to speak my love if only Nature had been kinder to me.
CHRISTIAN:
Oh, to be able to express my thoughts with grace!
CYRANO:
Oh, to be a musketeer, with a handsome face!
CHRISTIAN:
Roxane is so intelligent. I'm sure to prove a disappointment to her!
CYRANO:
[looking at him] If only I had a face like yours to speak what's in my soul!
CHRISTIAN:
[with despair] If only I had some eloquence!
CYRANO:
[abruptly] I'll lend you mine! If you'll lend me your handsome face! Blended together, we'll make one romantic hero!
CHRISTIAN:
But how?
CYRANO:
Do you think you can repeat whatever I may tell you?
CHRISTIAN:
What do you mean?
CYRANO:
Roxane will not be disillusioned if the two of us woo her as one!
Let my words speak through your lips. Let my soul pass from this leather jacket to your embroidered coat. We will win her together!
CHRISTIAN:
But, Cyrano—
CYRANO:
Will you do it?
CHRISTIAN:
I'm afraid!
CYRANO:
You're afraid you will chill her heart if you speak to her yourself.
But if you let me speak through your lips, her heart will flame!
CHRISTIAN:
Your eyes are flashing!
CYRANO:
Will you do it?
CHRISTIAN:
Would it please you so?
CYRANO:
[passionately] It would! [then calmly, business-like] It would… amuse me! It's the type of challenge every poet would hope for. Let us complete each other. You will march victorious, in the light, while I go in your shadow. Let me make you witty and intelligent, and you shall make me handsome!
CHRISTIAN:
The letter! I could never—
CYRANO:
[taking out the letter he had written] Here it is! Here's your letter!
CHRISTIAN:
What?
CYRANO:
Take it! All it needs is your signature.
CHRISTIAN:
But I—
CYRANO:
Do not fear. Go ahead and send it. It's entirely suitable.
CHRISTIAN:
But how did you already—?
CYRANO:
Oh! We poets always have our pockets full of love letters, written to so many imaginary beauties. Now, you can take this one and make the words ring true. Take this fictional letter, meant for no particular lady, and put it to real use. Take all my insincere romantic lines and give them a direction. Make it so these haphazard verses will come together and surround her like love birds coming home to nest!
CHRISTIAN:
Should I change anything at all? If it wasn't written with Roxane in mind, then how will it fit her?
CYRANO:
It will fit her like a glove!
CHRISTIAN:
But—
CYRANO:
Love believes anything! Roxane will think each word was inspired by herself!
CHRISTIAN:
My friend!

Scene XI

CYRANDO, CHRISTIAN, the GASCONS, the MUSKETEER, LISE.

[The CADETS are all delighted to have found the old CYRANO again. They shout and leap around and turn somersaults.]

A CADET:
[opening the door halfway] Not a word! Such a deadly silence! I dare not look! [He puts his head in.] What's this!
ALL THE CADETS:
[entering, and seeing CYRANO and CHRISTIAN embracing] Oh!
A CADET:
This is unbelievable!
MUSKETEER:
[in a jeering tone] Ho! Ho!
CARBON:
Can it be that our demon has become a saint? When struck on one nostril, he turns the other?
MUSKETEER:
Well then, I suppose it's safe to speak about his nose from now on! [calling to LISE, boastfully] Lise, look here! [sniffing in the air exaggeratedly] Oh, heavens! What a stench! [going up to CYRANO] You, Sir, must certainly have noticed how it smells in here! What is it?
CYRANO:
[slapping his face and sending him tumbling down] A stinking bag of hot air!