Cyrano de Bergerac: Act 3, Scenes 5-14
Act 3, Scenes 5-14
Act 3, scene 5
Roxane and the Duenna return home. Roxane sits outside her house with Christian, and she asks him to talk to her about love. All he can say is “I love you.” Roxane expects him to elaborate, but he cannot, except to ask to kiss her neck. She is angry, goes into her house, and shuts the door on Christian. Cyrano appears and ironically congratulates Christian on his success.
Act 3, scene 6
Christian begs Cyrano to help him get Roxane back. A light appears in the balcony window, so the men know that she is in her room. Cyrano hides under the balcony and makes Christian stand in front of it. Cyrano throws pebbles at Roxane’s window to get her to come out.
Act 3, scene 7
Roxane opens her window and tells Christian to go away as he has nothing to say. She is on the point of closing her window when Cyrano prompts Christian with eloquent speeches, which he delivers to Roxane. She changes her mind and decides to listen to her suitor. She asks Christian why his speech is full of delays (she does not know that it is because he has to wait for Cyrano to give him his lines before he can speak). Cyrano quickly pulls Christian under the balcony and steps out in his place. He imitates Christian’s voice and, because it is dark, Roxane cannot see that it is Cyrano who is addressing her. Cyrano is at last able to express the love he has always felt for Roxane. Spellbound by Cyrano’s poetry, Roxane wants to come down, but Cyrano persuades her not to. Christian almost ruins the moment by asking Roxane for a kiss, which pulls her out of her enchantment, but Cyrano rescues the situation through his tact and sensitivity. He hears someone coming, and Roxane hastily withdraws inside the house.
Act 3, scene 8
A Capuchin monk enters, looking for Roxane’s house. Cyrano, not wanting to be disturbed, sends him in the opposite direction.
Act 3, scene 9
Christian tells Cyrano that he must have a kiss from Roxane. Cyrano reluctantly agrees.
Act 3, scene 10
Roxane reappears on her balcony. Cyrano charms her into agreeing to the kiss. He urges Christian to climb up and kiss Roxane. Christian hesitates, saying, “It feels wrong.” But Cyrano urges Christian more insistently, and Christian climbs up onto the balcony and kisses Roxane. Cyrano takes comfort in the thought that his words won the kiss.
Act 3, scene 11
The monk reappears, having discovered that Roxane does live here. He brings a letter to Roxane from de Guiche. In the letter, de Guiche says that he has not gone to the war but has remained behind, hiding in a nearby convent. He intends to visit Roxane tonight. Pretending to read the letter aloud, Roxane says that de Guiche wants Christian to marry Roxane immediately; the monk will conduct the ceremony. The monk hesitates, but when Roxane pretends to discover a postscript promising a large donation to the convent, he agrees to marry them. The monk, Christian, and Roxane go into the house for the ceremony. Roxane asks Cyrano to keep de Guiche outside, talking, to prevent him disturbing the wedding.
Act 3, scene 12
Cyrano pulls his hat down over his eyes and waits on the balcony for de Guiche.
Act 3, scene 13
De Guiche arrives, feeling his way in the dark. He goes to enter the house. Cyrano swings down on a tree branch, landing between de Guiche and the door. Disguising his accent, Cyrano claims to have fallen from the moon. He distracts de Guiche with an outlandish speech about his journeys through space. Finally, Cyrano removes his hat, resumes his normal accent, and reveals that Christian and Roxane are married. At that moment, the wedding party emerges from the house. De Guiche curses, realizing that he has been tricked.
Act 3, scene 14
An angry de Guiche tells Roxane that she can bid her husband goodbye, as Christian must leave immediately with the regiment for the war. He adds that the wedding night will have to wait, a fact about which Cyrano is secretly relieved. Christian and Roxane say a tender farewell. Cyrano drags Christian away, promising Roxane that he will look after Christian. She asks Cyrano to make sure Christian does not look at any other women, and to make him write to her every day. Cyrano says he can definitely promise to fulfill this last request.
Analysis of Act 3, scenes 5–14
Christian’s attempt to woo Roxane for himself is, predictably, a disaster. It is clear that he cannot fulfill her expectations, being unable to deliver anything beyond the simplest of platitudes, such as “I love you.” He only wants to kiss her, whereas she wants poetry and intellectual stimulation. Her disgust at his lack of intelligence is confirmation that it is not Christian’s good looks that entrance her, but Cyrano’s heartfelt words. If only Cyrano would take this message to heart, the outcome of the story would be quite different. Perhaps Cyrano is put off by Roxane’s comment to Christian: “I don’t like you stupid, any more / Than I’d like you ugly.”
In his misplaced self-confidence that he can win Roxane on his own, Christian is the opposite of Cyrano, who, it could be said, has a misplaced humility.
Further evidence of Cyrano’s heroism emerges from these scenes. Just as Cyrano previously rescued Ragueneau from hanging himself, here, he rescues Christian from losing Roxane forever. His physical movement from standing under Roxane’s balcony to pushing Christian underneath the balcony and standing in front of it is symbolic of his greater right to be Roxane’s lover. There is immense pathos in Cyrano’s eloquent and passionate speech to Roxane in the persona of Christian. It is clear that he has never before revealed what is in his heart, and Christian’s usurpation of his friend’s words to claim the kiss appears as a tragic injustice. It is impossible to blame Christian, however, since the plan was entirely Cyrano’s.
Roxane’s ploy in pretending to read out an order for her to marry Christian in de Guiche’s letter can be seen as further proof of her intelligence and skill at persuading people to fall in with her plans, though some critics point out that it also shows a tendency to deception and manipulation. Like Cyrano, she is an active mover of events rather than a passive onlooker or victim. Cyrano shows yet more proof of his persuasive skills when he successfully distracts de Guiche with his inventive story about falling from the moon. Cyrano enchants de Guiche against his will, preventing him from disrupting the wedding. Christian, in contrast with Cyrano and Roxane, tends to be more passive, which is another way in which he seems less worthy of Roxane than does Cyrano.
There is dramatic irony in de Guiche’s determination to send Christian to war before his wedding night. On one level, this is the malicious act of the stage villain, opposing the love of the innocent young couple. But on another level, unknown to de Guiche and the young couple, it is in tune with Cyrano’s wishes (“That won’t break my heart”) and with the underlying subtext of the play, which decrees that Cyrano, not Christian, is the rightful lover and husband of Roxane. Cyrano’s promise to Roxane that Christian will write to her every day tells the audience that Cyrano’s proxy courtship of Roxane will continue.
The balcony scene is a deliberate parody of the balcony scene in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. In Shakespeare’s play, the handsome and intelligent Romeo stands beneath Juliet’s balcony and the two declare their love for each other. The fact that in Cyrano de Bergerac there are two incomplete lovers, one of whom provides the face and the other the words, adds to the comedy of the play and comments humorously on the felt inadequacies that frequently torture lovers.