Places: Cyrano de Bergerac

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1898 (English translation, 1898)

First produced: 1897

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Tragicomedy

Time of work: c. 1640-1655

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places DiscussedHôtel de Bourgogne

Hôtel Cyrano de Bergeracde Bourgogne (oh-TEL deh Bur-GOIN). Parisian mansion whose main hall is normally used for tennis, but which on occasion is set up as a theater with a stage. Act 1 of Rostand’s play opens in this theater, where its play within a play focuses the audience’s attention on drama. Cyrano’s own lifelong pursuit of honor makes him seem like a combination actor and playwright, composing and delivering his lines for the applause of his peers.

Ragueneau’s pastry-shop

Ragueneau’s pastry-shop (rah-geh-NOH). Large Parisian kitchen that provides the location of act 2. The shop symbolizes the search of the pastry chef and would-be poet Ragueneau for honor as a poet and his inability to produce well. Overflowing with food, the room reflects his true talent–that of a chef.

Roxane’s house

Roxane’s house. The primary locale of act 3, Roxane’s house has a vine-covered wall and balcony that are meant to remind audiences of a similar setting in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (1595-1596). The house stands in a conservative district of Paris that contrasts with the daring of the young lovers, Roxane and Christian de Neuvillette. The knocker on Roxane’s door “is bandaged with linen like a sore thumb,” as if the house, injured by too many suitors seeking Roxane, will irritably resist any future ones.

*Arras

*Arras (ah-RAS). Spanish-held city in northern France retaken by the French after a siege in 1640 that provides the setting for act 4 of Cyrano de Bergerac. There Christian and Cyrano risk their lives for king and honor and are visited by Roxane immediately before Christian is killed by a sniper. The scene in which Roxane brings a wagon of food to the starving soldiers of the Gascon Guards found a receptive audience in Paris, which had suffered through a horrifying siege and famine during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871.

Sisters of the Holy Cross convent

Sisters of the Holy Cross convent. Parisian nunnery in whose garden Cyrano and Roxane meet in act 5, fifteen years after the battle at Arras. Falling leaves accord with Cyrano’s advancing age, while the solitary, “enormous” tree in the middle of the stage stands apart, like Cyrano in its size and loneliness. Neither the tree nor Cyrano is on a straight path to the chapel, which symbolizes Heaven. It is here that Cyrano finally reveals to Roxane that he wrote the love letters she received from Christian many years earlier.

BibliographyChandler, Frank Wadleigh. The Contemporary Drama of France. Boston: Little, Brown, 1920. Rostand is depicted as “an idealist endowed with a sense of humor.” Ranks Chantecler, however, at a slightly higher level than Cyrano de Bergerac, for “the scintillating wit, the brilliant extemporization, the profusion of words and images that make us dizzy.” Good for comparing the tone of Cyrano de Bergerac with the rest of the canon.Clark, Barrett Harper. Contemporary French Dramatists. Cincinnati: Stewart & Kidd, 1915. A short but informative essay on Edmond Rostand, his work habits, and his thin but excellent canon. Helps put Cyrano de Bergerac in perspective, and explains why subsequent dramas did not measure up to the masterpiece. Discusses the “nose” monologue in some detail.Matthews, Brander. French Dramatists of the Nineteenth Century. 3d ed. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1901. Unusual in criticizing Cyrano de Bergerac for lacking passions, real action, and realism. Questions Cyrano de Bergerac as a lasting piece of stagework–“at bottom too slight a thing to serve as the corner-stone of a new school.”Rostand, Edmond. Cyrano de Bergerac: A Heroic Comedy in Five Acts. Translated and edited by Louis Untermeyer. New York: Heritage Press, 1954. This deluxe edition, with color illustrations by Pierre Brissard, features a foreword introducing the person on whom the stage figure is based. Brief biographical notes and a performance history to 1947. Smith, Hugh Allison. Main Currents of Modern French Drama. New York: Henry Holt, 1925. Acknowledges Cyrano de Bergerac as definitive in evaluating the qualities and worth of Rostand’s poetic drama. Summarizes articles that appeared after the first production. Finds the play’s “freshness and salubrity” the main source of its popularity. Cyrano was not the beginning of a new school but rather an indication of “the survival and culmination of Romanticism.”
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