NovelGuide: Cyrano de Bergerac: Character Profiles
Cyrano de Bergerac
Cyrano is a brilliant poet, swordsman, philosopher, and musician. Courageous, honorable, and witty, he is the hero of the play. In matters of love, however, Cyrano’s usual bravery deserts him because he has an enormous nose that convinces him that no woman could ever love him. He is in love with his cousin Roxane, but does not tell her of his love because he is certain that, due to his physical deformity, she could not love him back. He thinks up the ruse of helping the handsome but dull Christian to win Roxane by supplying him with eloquent speeches and letters to deliver as if they were Christian’s own. “Together,” he tells Christian, “We / Can make the perfect man: your looks, my voice” (Act 2, scene 10).
Roxane is won over by Christian’s courtship, but it becomes evident that it is Christian’s “soul” that she loves, not his external beauty. In other words, she loves Cyrano. In the end, Roxane discovers Cyrano’s secret and reveals that she loves him, but it is too late. Cyrano dies, felled by log of wood dropped on his head by a lackey of his enemies. He never fulfils his dream.
Baron Christian de Neuvillette
Christian is to a large extent the opposite of, and foil (a character who contrasts with another character and emphasizes that character’s traits by comparison) to, Cyrano. He is handsome but intellectually dull and lacking in eloquence. When Cyrano provides Christian with the words to woo Roxane, Christian wins her. Eventually, however, it becomes clear that she loves Christian’s “soul” as expressed in Cyrano’s speeches and letters. Christian’s beauty has become irrelevant to her. Overcome with misery that Roxane loves Cyrano, and not him, Christian goes off to the battlefield and is the first to be killed. Roxane, who still does not know his and Cyrano’s ruse, treasures his memory after his death. But when she discovers the secret, she realizes that it is Cyrano, not Christian, whom she has loved for all these years.
Roxane is a beautiful, intelligent, and intellectually accomplished woman. She is Cyrano’s cousin. She is loved and admired by many men, including Cyrano, Christian, and de Guiche. Only Cyrano, however, is her equal in terms of intelligence and courage. At the battlefield at Arras, she undergoes a shift that affects the outcome of the play: she comes to tell Christian that she loves him not for his outer beauty, but for his “soul,” as expressed in the letters she has received. She is unaware that Cyrano, not Christian, provided the words for these letters, as well as for the speeches with which Christian courted her. This shift is not, however, unexpected and sudden, as during Christian’s initial courtship of Roxane, she grew impatient with his bland and unexpressive manner and was only won back by Cyrano’s undercover intervention. It is Roxane’s tragedy that, due to Cyrano’s lack of self-confidence in matters of love, she is not given the opportunity to show that inner beauty matters more to her than outer beauty until Cyrano is dying. At that point, it is too late for them to enjoy happiness together.
Comte de Guiche
De Guiche is an influential nobleman who is in love with Roxane and wants to marry her off to one of his followers, the Vicomte de Valvert, in order to have access to her. De Guiche hates Cyrano because Cyrano repeatedly exposes his hypocrisy. He undergoes a shift from conventional stage villain to an altogether darker character when, on the battlefield at Arras, he arranges for Cyrano’s and Christian’s company to come under attack by the Spanish, exposing them to a high risk of being killed. However, inspired by Roxane’s courage, de Guiche undergoes another transformation, showing bravery and loyalty in his determination to share the men’s fate. From this point, de Guiche becomes a more sympathetic character, as evidenced by the men’s acceptance of him as a fellow Gascon. After Christian’s death, de Guiche visits Roxane in the convent to which she has retired. He is now the Duc de Grammont, and one of the most powerful men in France. He confesses to Roxane that, unlike Cyrano, he has made compromises in order to achieve success. He admires Cyrano for his independence, and tries to save him from being killed by his enemies by delivering a warning to his friend, Le Bret, but in vain.
Le Bret is a friend of Cyrano and a fellow Guardsman. He tries to warn Cyrano that he should not create enemies, but Cyrano takes no notice of him.
Lignière is a friend of Christian and Cyrano. He is a satirist who upsets a prominent nobleman by penning a satirical attack on him. As a result, the nobleman arranges for him to be ambushed by a hundred men. Cyrano single-handedly fights off the hundred men.
Ragueneau is a pasty-cook who loves poetry and accepts poems as payment for his baked goods. He is a friend of Cyrano. When Ragueneau’s wife, Lise, leaves him for the Musketeer, Cyrano saves him from hanging himself and gets him a job as servant to Roxane.
Lise is Ragueneau’s wife. She gets angry with him for giving away his baked goods in return for poems, which she despises so much that she uses the paper on which they are written as wrapping paper for pastries. She leaves her husband to run away with a Musketeer.
Carbon de Castel-Jaloux
Carbon is the captain of the army company of which Cyrano and Christian are members.
Montfleury is a fat and untalented actor whom Cyrano bans from the stage.
The Duenna is Roxane’s servant and chaperone.
Bellerose is the manager of the theater at the Hotel de Bourgogne.
The Capuchin is a monk whom de Guiche employs to carry a message to Roxane. Roxane persuades him to marry her to Christian.
Mother Marguerite de Jesus, Sister Claire, Sister Martha
These are nuns who live at the convent to which Roxane retires after Christian’s death. They are compassionate women who are fond of Cyrano.
Vicomte de Valvert
Valvert is an insolent nobleman and a follower of de Guiche. At the beginning of the play, de Guiche intends to marry him off to Roxane so that he (de Guiche) can have access to her. He insults Cyrano’s nose and as a result, Cyrano fights with him at the theater and publicly humiliates him.
The Marquises are three snobbish and superficial noblemen who give the fashionable view of various characters at the theater in the first Act. They have little time for Christian because he is not dressed in the latest fashion, but fawn on de Guiche because he is successful.