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« What’s to Be Done? | Main | The Gospel According to Bach »

September 12, 2007

Blog-a-Book: Wittily Ever After

Cyrano2 [Ed. note: Major Cyrano spoilers below!]

Cyrano has seemed to play the part of a noble hero through most of this story, but after Act V's denouement, it is hard to see him as more than a noble fool. He had won the heart of his beloved, yet he refused to accept it, instead allowing her to languish in mourning for a love that she hadn't even lost.

Following Christian's death, Roxane had joined a convent to spend the rest of her days grieving her late husband. The ever faithful Cyrano spends the remainder of his life offering her -- and the nuns -- abundant friendship, bringing weekly updates and conversation. Yet he also continues to be an outspoken public figure, and eventually his enemies catch up to him.

Run through
  By a hero's sword, that's what I said, but look!
  Here is my real fate, struck from behind
  With a lump of wood, by a servant -- even my death
  Will have been laughable.

Cyrano succumbs to death's grip, but not without making a defiant stand. And not without, in the most poignant moment of the story, allowing Roxane to discover his true identity. He asks her if he can read Christian's final letter, but he does so with such flourish that she quickly recognizes the true "soul" behind the words. Cyrano attempts a strained denial of his affection, but to no avail. He dies in Roxane's arms, finally knowing her love but ultimately leaving her with renewed heartbreak.

It is a tragic, ironic end. Cyrano challenges Death by noting that "whoever fought because he hoped to win? Hopeless odds make the beauty of the thing." Perhaps this joy in being the underdog fueled his quest for Roxane's heart, yet he was too distracted by his own countenance to realize when he had beaten the odds. And Cyrano was, incidentally, the only one to give any real attention to his perceived physical flaws. If love is blind, pride may be blinder.

Cyrano seems to be a reversal of the Beauty and the Beast or Cinderella plots, remade as a comedy/tragedy -- it can't be a coincidence that they are alluded to at several points in the play. Whereas in those tales pride is pushed aside to reveal true and pure love, Cyrano's pride is never really punctured. He loves Roxane genuinely enough, but he cannot understand or accept her love in return. He endlessly appreciates her beauty, but he cannot believe that she would find any in him. And though Cyrano's faith, or lack of it, is only addressed offhandedly in the final act, it could be that his pride kept him from acknowledging God's love and grace as well. How sobering.

See also: Prelude, Act I Pt. 1, Act I Pt. 2, Act II, Act III, Act IV

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