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August 30, 2007

Blog-a-Book: Cyrano’s Loonier Landing

Cyrano2 In Act III, Cyrano may have become the Chuck Norris of wit -- delivering an endless supply of (rhetorical) lashings, himself impenetrable to an almost inhuman degree. His words have not only stolen the heart of the woman of his dreams, albeit through another's mouth, but he brilliantly fends off her would-be paramour by bantering as a crazy person. He is unfazed, and seemingly unable to be fazed.

The centerpiece of this display is the famous balcony scene, where Christian and Roxane have a romantic exchange -- in verse -- the former being coached by Cyrano from his hiding place in the shadows. Prior to that encounter, Christian had attempted to impress his love by his own poetic affection. He failed, and, in a rather cold response, she left and suggested he try again later. With Cyrano's assistance, however, Roxane is thoroughly charmed and enamored; Cyrano is, in turn, elated that she has been so moved by *his* words even more than Christian's looks.

A short time later, Roxane receives word that the sinister De Guiche, who desires Roxane as a mistress, is on his way. Cyrano intervenes yet again and heads him off, while Roxane and Christian seek to marry before De Guiche arrives. De Guiche is mesmerized by his enemy, who is playing the part of a visitor who just arrived on earth from the moon. Without flinching, he explains how his nose is filled with milk from the Milky Way, and he describes in great detail the many possibilities of "how I got up there." Cyrano is as ingeniously insane as he was ingeniously romantic.

Still, in the end, it is Christian who is married to the fair Roxane, and both Christian and Cyrano are about to be shipped off to war by De Guiche. And Cyrano is left promising once again to keep watch over his rival and to prompt his words of love.

There is plenty of deep, genuine romance in this act, but there is deception at every turn -- not a safe combination, to be sure. Cyrano pours out his true heart to Roxane, but he also helps Christian to deceive her. Roxane deceives De Guiche, as does Cyrano, and De Guiche deceives his military counterparts. And they all deceive the monk. What a tangled web, indeed.

Such is not the path to true love, but I can't help but find Cyrano's passionate display of devotion inspiring. On the other hand, how devastating to be a "beggar at love's banquet." Perhaps there remains a fine line between hero and fool.

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