When Cyrano de Bergerac was first produced at the Porte Saint-Martin Theatre in Paris, France, on December 28th, 1897, the audience applauded for a full hour after the final curtain was drawn. A classic was created on that night, and an unforgettable hero of literature was born.
The play is based loosely on the life of playwright Savien de Cyrano de Bergerac (1619-1655), Edmond Rostand's favourite writer. Actor Constant-Benoit Coquelin had asked Rostand to write a play to showcase his versatile acting abilities. Rostand, though writing in the 1890's, set his action in the 1640's, during the last two decades of the real de Bergerac's life. This "heroic comedy" uses rhymed Alexandrine verse to combine romance, heroic action, and humor to give life to one of the most enduring characters in modern literature: Cyrano de Bergerac, a hero who is not only a swashbuckler but a poet, using words as effectively as weapons.
Cyrano de Bergerac is a classic tale of romance and tragedy. The soulful poet/philosopher and brilliant swordsman Cyrano (Kline), a cadet in the French Army, falls for the beautiful, strong-willed Roxane (Garner), but is too ashamed of his large nose to tell her. Instead, when he learns that she loves the handsome but not-so-bright Christian de Neuvillette (Sunjata), he writes poetry and love letters to Roxane on Christian's behalf. After many years, the truth is revealed. Will love or beauty conquer all?
The characters played by Euan
Lignière is Christian’s friend. He is a satirist and drunkard with many powerful enemies. Cyrano protects him from the hundred men hired by the Comte de Guiche to ambush him.
Adapted from www.sparknotes.com
Théophraste Renaudot (1586-1653),
is a physician and social-service administrator who, as the founder of France's first newspaper, is considered the father of French journalism.
All the other characters
Cyrano de Bergerac - A poet, swordsman, scientist, playwright, musician, and member of the Cadets of Gascoyne, a company of guards from Southern France. For all his prodigious talents, Cyrano is unattractive, cursed with a ridiculously long nose that makes him insecure and keeps him from revealing his love for his cousin Roxane.
Roxane - Cyrano’s cousin, a beautiful and intellectual heiress. She has a soft spot for romance and a love for poetry and wit.
Baron Christian de Neuvillette - Perhaps the opposite of Cyrano, Christian a handsome but simple young nobleman who lacks wit and intelligence. New to Paris and to the cadets, he falls in love with Roxane and joins Cyrano’s company of cadets early in the play. His good looks are matched only by Roxane’s.
Comte de Guiche - A powerful, married nobleman in love with Roxane and not fond of Cyrano. Deceitful and always angry, he attempts several times to have Cyrano killed, once by a hundred men.
Ragueneau - Cyrano’s friend, a pastry chef with a deep love for poetry. Ragueneau gives away pastries in return for poems, and, therefore, innumerable poets visit him frequently. He reflects the theme that poetry is food for the soul, and underlines the division between the physical and spiritual aspects of the world. After his business fails, he becomes Roxane’s porter.
Le Bret - Cyrano’s friend and closest confidant. He is a fellow soldier and guardsman. Le Bret worries that Cyrano’s principles will ruin his career, but Cyrano ignores Le Bret’s concerns.
The duenna - Roxane’s companion and chaperone,who tries to keep Roxane out of trouble. She is a character reminiscent of Juliet’s nurse in Romeo and Juliet.
Vicomte de Valvert - An insolent young nobleman lauded by de Guiche as a possible husband for Roxane, a scheme that would give de Guiche access to Roxane. After he insults Cyrano’s nose, he is defeated in an ensuing duel.
Montfleury - A fat, untalented actor whom Cyrano bans from the stage.
Carbon de Castel-Jaloux - Cyrano’s friend and the captain of his company. He is a strong-willed and successful leader.
Bellerose - The man in charge of the theater at the Hotel de Bourgogne.
Lise - Ragueneau’s sharp-tongued wife. She does not approve of her husband’s patronage of the local poets. An altogether unhappy woman, she leaves Ragueneau for a musketeer after Act II.
Capuchin - A modest and well-meaning monk. De Guiche employs him to carry a message to Roxane. He is diverted at first by Cyrano when they are outside Roxane’s residence. He later presides over Roxane and Christian’s hasty wedding.
Mother Marguerite de Jesus, Sister Claire, Sister Marthe - Nuns of Roxane’s convent. They are compassionate women who admire and respect Cyrano and therefore allow him to visit whenever he wishes.
Cardinal Richelieu - Not a character, but a historical figure referenced in the play as de Guiche’s uncle. Perhaps the most powerful man in France, he is a skilled political manipulator whose authority rivals and probably exceeds that of the king.
About the author
Edmond Rostand was born on April 1st, 1868 in Marseilles, France. The son of a prominent journalist and economist, Rostand was encouraged to write from a very early age. He is best known for his play Cyrano de Bergerac. Rostand's plays are light and entertaining, providing an alternative to the brooding thoughtfulness of naturalistic theatre.
Adapted from www.enotes.com
About the play
Cyrano de Bergerac was produced December 28th, 1897, at the Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin, Paris, with Constant Coquelin in the title role. The American premiere took place on October 3rd, 1898, in the Garden Theater, New York City, with Richard Mansfield as Cyrano.
Cyrano de Bergerac was first published in France by Charpentier et Fasquelle in 1898; and first translated into English by Howard Thayer Kingsbury for Lamson, Wolfe, and Co. the same year. The play has been produced all over the world. In 1950 it was brought to movie screens in the United States by the United Artists studio with Jose Ferrer starring in the title role. Noted writer Anthony Burgess (A Clockwork Orange) translated the play in 1971: this translation was used as the basis for the subtitles for the 1990 French film version directed by Jean-Paul Rappeneau and starring Gérard Depardieu.
Sources: www.theatrehistory.com and www.enotes.com
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Cyrano de Bergerac, Act 1 Scene 1
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Selection of articles
Broadway.com (September 26th 2007) Morton, Sarandon & More Join Kevin Kline in Cyrano de Bergerac
Playbill.com (September 25th 2007) Morton, Sarandon and Baker Will Join Kline in Broadway's Cyrano; Casting Complete