Sunday, 6 January 2013

Cyrano de Bergerac: Maybe the Love is Not At All Unrequited

It's a pity I neither speak nor read French. Had I known the language better, had I the ability to read it in the language it's originally written, perhaps I could have enjoyed it better.

It doesn't mean that I didn't enjoy it – I did. But the play is still a play, and it's hard to translate a play no matter what language you want to translate it into. I'm just hoping I don't miss much.

Cyrano de Bergerac is a soldier, duelist, and poet. He's brave and skilled in words as well as in sword. He somewhat reminds me of D'Artagnan, with the same level of obstinacy and playfulness. He enters the stage dramatically, starting only as a voice that demands one actor to descend. His adventure doesn't end there. He then engages in a duel with Valvert, and wins the game while composing a ballad. Hmm, charming. But the great amazing thing is him fighting five scores of men to save his friend, Lignière.

But that's not the main plot. Cyrano is in love with his cousin, Roxane, a charming and beautiful lady. But he has a problem. Cyrano thinks that he is ugly, with an enormous nose on his face. He sure has the skill with words, but he doesn't feel confident with his looks.

“Look well at me--then tell me, with what hope This vile protuberance can inspire my heart! I do not lull me with illusions--yet At times I'm weak: in evening hours dim I enter some fair pleasance, perfumed sweet; With my poor ugly devil of a nose I scent spring's essence--in the silver rays I see some knight--a lady on his arm, And think 'To saunter thus 'neath the moonshine, I were fain to have my lady, too, beside!' Thought soars to ecstasy. . .O sudden fall! --The shadow of my profile on the wall!”

Meanwhile, Roxane confesses to him that she's in love with a handsome soldier, Christian. Christian is exactly Cyrano's opposite – good-looking but not a good speaker.

Instead of begrudging Roxane's love or challenging Christian in a duel, Cyrano chooses to join forces with him. Cyrano expresses his love in words to Roxane while making her believe that it's actually Christian.

“Roxane shall never have a disillusion! Say, wilt thou that we woo her, double-handed? Wilt thou that we two woo her, both together? Feel'st thou, passing from my leather doublet, Through thy laced doublet, all my soul inspiring?...Will you complete me, and let me complete you? You march victorious,--I go in your shadow; Let me be wit for you, be you my beauty!”

Well, Cyrano might be wrong. Perhaps it's not always the outward look that matters. Perhaps he's not that ugly at all. Perhaps Love is sometimes blind. And perhaps, his love is not at all unrequited. But perhaps, Fate uses the phrase “too late” too much.

I like the play, though I prefer to read it in its original language. I like the hero too. Cyrano reminds me of the Three Musketeers plus D'Artagnan. There are duels, battle, valour, honour, fun, and a lot of nice things in the play. Although the play is not a comedy, it's not dark as well.

Historical Facts and Background:

  • Cyrano de Bergerac was a real person, though the love story is entirely fictional
  • The play is set in 17th Century France, and the battle involved is a part of Thirty Years' War between France and Spain. 


  1. Hi there Lemon Tree - I followed this link from Historical Tapestry as I was intrigued to see what you thought of reading the play. I absolutely adore the film of Cyrano de Bergerac and wondered if you'd seen it, because the English translation used for the subtitles is much wittier and smoother than the translation you seem to have been reading here (as far as memory serves). If you haven't watched the film, I really recommend it (it's easily available on DVD) because Gerard Depardieu does a fantastic job as Cyrano. The duelling / couplets scene also works very well on screen - I only wish I knew who did that translation for the subtitles so I could recommend their work by name...

    Also, having learned a little bit about Cyrano's fictional persona, you might be interested in the biography of the real-life Cyrano by Ishbel Addyman. If you want a bit more info on that, I posted on it about a year ago:

    And now I'm going to have a look at some of your other posts and see if I can find anything else to add to my to-be-read list :-)


    1. I'm going to watch it. I have been looking for the movie for some time now. I love Gerard Depardieu as Valjean and can't wait to see him as Cyrano. I also plan to watch the opera as well. Thanks a lot. :D

  2. Reading your quotes, seems that the English is not difficult to understand. Did you read from ebook?

    1. Yup, ebook. It's hard to find hard copy, right. Besides, I just love ebooks. The English is not hard, but it misses a lot of French jokes, I'm afraid.