Illustration of Cyrano and some of the letters he wrote for Christian

Cyrano de Bergerac

by Edmond Rostand

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What words, phrases, and actions in Cyrano de Bergerac provide insight into Cyrano, Roxane, and Christian?

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The three central characters in Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand are Cyrano, Roxane, and Christian; their lives are inextricably connected almost from the beginning of the play. 

Cyrano de Bergerac is a romantic character who lives his life with panache. He is as good a poet as he is a swordsman, and when he does both simultaneously in act one of the play, he displays that panache. While Cyrano loves the grand gesture, he also loves the poetic detail and the unheralded moment. At times he acts boldly, as he does when he shuts down a theatre performance or single-handedly fights a hundred men; at other times his actions are small, as when he accepts the young girl's kind offer of a meal and takes a few grapes, some water, and half a macaroon.

More than anything Cyrano is a man who loves with his whole being and is loyal to those whom he loves. He has loved Roxane since they were children together, but she only sees him as her "brother-friend" with whom she used to play every summer. When she proclaims her love for Christian, Cyrano suppresses his own feelings and hurts and puts her first, a perfect example of selfless love. Even after Christian has been dead for fifteen years, Cyrano is unwilling to disrespect either his friend or Roxane's memory of him. Cyrano loves for all time, something that causes him more pain than joy most of the time.

Notice I mentioned nothing about Cyrano's most striking feature: his prodigious nose. While his nose is significant because it has shaped his character, it is not the most important thing about him. More than anything, Cyrano's nose tells us more about the people he encounters than it does about him.

In many ways, Roxane is not worthy of the kind of love Cyrano has for her. She is only attracted to Christian's appearance but claims to love him. She tells Cyrano in Act II:

I love him; all is said, But you must know

I have only seen him at the Comedy....

She demands beautiful words of love and is so mesmerized by Cyrano's words which are spoken by Christian that she does not figure out their grand deception. She is a bright, educated woman, and she should have done that; instead she chooses to let pretty words cloud her thinking. In fairness, she does come to love Christian for more than his looks; however, she does not make the grandest discovery of all until the end of the play because she is too self-absorbed to notice it. Without Roxane, we have nothing against which to compare Cyrano's love for her, and hers is shown to be shallow in contrast. Without Roxane, we would never get to experience Cyrano's grand love (mostly through Christian's voice, of course).

Christian is rather bewildered by both Roxane and Cyrano, but he becomes a loyal and selfless friend to Cyrano. In fact, we see a greater demonstration of genuine, selfless love by Christian for his friend, Cyrano, than for his wife, Roxane. Though Cyrano could hate Christian, he chooses to love him and even help him win Roxane; though Christian could despise Cyrano at the end, he does not. In fact, the realization he finally makes causes him to be the strongest he ever is in the play, insisting

I will be loved myself—or not at all!

These three characters are the heart of the play, and each of them serves to highlight the best and worst characteristics of the others. Cyrano is the tie that binds the other two together, but without them he would not shine as brightly.

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