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« Re: Betrayal or ’God Grew Tired of Us’ | Main | ’Ain’t nobody coming’ »

September 04, 2007

Blog-a-Book: Nothing’s Fair in Love and War

Cyrano2 Act III of Cyrano ended with a marriage, so perphaps it shouldn't be surprising that Act IV ends with a funeral of sorts. Cyrano, Christian, and the cadets have traveled to battle against the Spaniards, and the supplies have been depleted. The men are famished (and complaining incessantly about it), morale is non-existent, and they soon learn that De Guiche has drawn the enemy to their location, with an attack expected within the hour. It is a suicide mission. "A hundred to one, eh?" De Guiche tells Cyrano. "You'll enjoy today."

Cyrano, meanwhile, has been sneaking past Spanish lines daily -- sometimes multiple times a day -- to send off "Christian's" notes of affection to Roxane. And the letters have had such an impact on the woman that she braves the battlezone herself in order to stand in her husband's presence again. In return, her presence -- along with the food she smuggled in -- emboldens the cadets to stand their ground against the coming warriors, though Cyrano, De Guiche, and Christian implore her to leave the scene.

She refuses and proclaims her undying commitment to Christian. Yet he is dismayed to hear Roxane profess that she is in love with his "soul" rather than his body, realizing that it is actually Cyrano's soul that has so moved her. And Christian finally realizes that his mentor's poetic words were not an act at all. Then, in a noble but painful exhange, Cyrano and Christian argue over who is more worthy of their beloved's heart.

"Why should you lose the hope of happiness," asks Christian, "because I'm handsome? No! It's too unfair."

"Why should you lose a perfect wife who loves you just because I can string some words together to say the things you feel?"

Christian leaves Roxane and Cyrano alone, but as Cyrano is about to reveal his secret, Christian is carried into camp for his last breaths, having been the first casualty of the battle. Roxane is crushed, and Cyrano angered, but he is content to believe that she is really grieving for his words.

The act ends tragically, but the protagonists have all experienced redemption to some degree: Roxane regretting that her romance had originally been rooted in shallow attractions, Christian conceding that he had not been the one capturing Roxane's love, and Cyrano realizing (almost anyway) that his physical countenance would not overshadow his poetic soul.

These are themes that have been drawn out in abundant ways throughout the play, but probably no more so than in Act IV.  As if to underscore the point, the scenes contain at least two allusions to the story of Cinderella. On several other occasions, both the cadets and their enemies are strengthened, captivated, distracted, and subdued by Roxane's intoxicating beauty. Yet she, apparently, is transfixed by the flowing expressions of love written by Cyrano.

Has true love thus been finally achieved, or has it been sacrificed to an illusion? It seems too simplistic to merely note that beauty is more than skin deep. Yet certainly true beauty must be discovered in, or discovered by, the soul. "Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain," say the Scriptures, "but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised." Charm and Beauty both have their moments in the sun in this story, but true love consists of honor, commitment, and devotion, between man and woman and, lest we forget, their God.

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