This play, written in France in 1897, was one of the most moving plays I’ve seen. The main character, Cyrano, barges in on a play and threatens the main player’s life. In so doing, he displays the most incredible talent as a poet, dueling a man while composing a 12 line poem. The audience discovers his love for Roxanne, the artistocratic beauty, but is ashamed to confess his love because of his tragically large nose. Instead, Roxanne falls for the beautiful but blundering Christian, a soldier primed for the war with Spain. He loves her as well, but can’t impress her with his words. Roxanne binds Cyrano to protect Christian, and Cyrano ends up writing love letters to her for Christian. When Christian dies, Cyrano keeps his secret for fifteen years before he is discovered and dies tragically in the arms of Roxanne.
There were two main themes rampant in this play. The first was the injustice of capitalism and marketing. Christian, a talentless buffoon, was blessed with good looks, and so he originally won the love of the beautiful Roxanne. Cerano, a righteous, talented, funny, strong, and valiant man, lacked the face that could attract his love. I will however comment that I don’t think Cyrano should have wasted his time with the selfish and demanding Roxanne. Much more quality women were available to him, but in the words of Jessica from the Merchant of Venice, “Love is blind.”
Anyway, we see in the tabloids all the time of beautiful people wandering about their boulevards in alligator purses and ferraris, but what have they accomplished? What breadth of character do they have? Some are talented, but for the most part, our culture loves celebrity for celebrities sake. (See my previous blog.)
The other theme was more important. Cyrano obviously was a quality individual. Yet his hermatia was his nose. One achilles heel in his character ruined his chances for winning his love. It could be argued that he should have had the courage to approach her regardless of his nose, but I think that had he done this, she still would have judged him and withheld her love. Sometimes in life, we will judge a person based on one character flaw. There may be one hiccup in their appearance or personality or values, and we refuse to look past it. Obviously there are some things that really should cause us to break ties or refrain from pursuing relationships. But there are other things that become our own stumbling blocks from attaining what many of us want most in this life: loving, quality relationships.
The play at the Shakespeare festival in Cedar City, incorporated many great stage effects and techniques to bring the words to life. At one point towards the end of the play, after Cerano is mortally wounded, he comments on the autumn leaves:
The autumn leaves!
ROXANE (lifting her head, and looking down the distant alley):
Soft golden brown, like a Venetian’s hair.
–See how they fall!
Ay, see how brave they fall,
In their last journey downward from the bough,
To rot within the clay; yet, lovely still,
Hiding the horror of the last decay,
With all the wayward grace of careless flight!
I felt the meaning also meant the drops of blood dripping to the ground from his own wound. He was finishing his final journey, and the blood and him, would eventually rot in the clay of the earth. They would hide the pain and sorrow of his life for never having Roxanne’s love.
One of the great lines from the play was this:
Cyrano: A lie is but a myth. A myth is partly a truth.
And finally, Cyrano dies in the arms of his love. He finished as a poor poet, never selling his work to the businessman, who would cut and retouch his work. He proved his valiance by never ruining the memory of Christian for Roxanne, never revealing the true author of the love letters Roxanne truly fell in love with. He defended his group of men with fierceness of sword and sharpness of wit. The one thing he kept that could never be taken by his enemies, he exclaims: “My panache!”