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

Cyrano de Bergerac

by Edmond Rostand

Start Free Trial

Describe the mood and pacing of scene 1 in Cyrano de Bergerac.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Edmond Rostand's 1897 romantic verse drama, Cyrano de Bergerac, opens with a remarkable example of metatheatre. Metatheatre (or metadrama) is any play that draws attention to itself as a play or presents a play within another play.

Cyrano de Bergerac takes place in Paris in 1640. Act 1, scene 1 is set in the great hall of the Hotel de Bourgogne, which has been temporarily "arranged and decorated for a theatrical performance" (1.1). There's a stage, benches on both sides of the stage, and side-seating galleries with lower and upper levels, with the upper level of seating divided into boxes. Chandeliers with candles have been lowered to stage level, waiting to be lighted and raised to illuminate the stage.

The stage is set for a performance of a play, La Clorise, as the on-stage "audience" begins to arrive and take their seats. The audience is a cross-section of sevneteenth-century Parisian society and includes lackeys, pickpockets, young pages, a drunkard, a cavalier, a musketeer in the French army, a burgher (a city official) and his son, ordinary citizens, and low-ranking members of the aristocracy.

The cavalier and musketeer use the time before the play beings to practice fencing on the stage. The lackeys play cards on the floor in front of the stage as other characters mill around, eat food from the prepared buffet, and interact with other members of the audience whom they know.

The pacing of the scene is moderate and unhurried, although the action seems to move faster because of the relatively brief sections of dialogue between and among members of the audience, the activity of the soldiers and the card-players, and the gradually increasing number of characters who populate the stage.

There is an expectant mood as more and more audience members fill the theater. Anticipation for the beginning of the play La Clorise rises as the candles in the chandeliers are lighted, the chandeliers are raised into position above the stage, and the on-stage audience moves towards their seats.

At this point, the play-within-a-play surrounding La Clorise and the play of Cyrano de Bergerac itself converge with the entrance of Christian de Neuvillette, one of the major characters in Cyrano de Bergerac. Christian scans the seats in the galleries, hoping to catch a glimpse of the young, beautiful Madeleine Robin, known as Roxane, with whom Christian has fallen in love from a distance.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial