Cyrano de Bergerac – Act III, scenes i–iv

Summary — Act III, scene i
Ragueneau sits outside Roxane’s house conversing with
her duenna. He tells the duenna that his wife, Lise, ran off with
a musketeer and that his bakery is ruined. He says that he tried
to hang himself but that Cyrano found him, cut him down, and made
him Roxane’s steward. The duenna calls up to Roxane, telling her
to hurry. They are going to a discussion group on the tender passion.
Cyrano strides into the scene followed by a pair of musicians, whose
services he won in a bet over a fine point of grammar. The musicians
are terrible, however, and Cyrano sends them off to play an out-of-tune serenade
to Montfleury.
Roxane comes down, and she and Cyrano talk about Christian. Roxane
says that Christian’s letters have been breathtaking—he is more
intellectual than even Cyrano, she declares. Moreover, she says
that she loves Christian. She recites passages of the letters to Cyrano,
who makes a show of critiquing the poetry. Roxane says that Cyrano
is jealous of Christian’s poetic talent. The duenna cries out that
de Guiche is coming, and Cyrano, hastened by the duenna, hides inside
the house.
Summary — Act III, scene ii
De Guiche tells Roxane that he has come to say farewell.
He has been made a colonel of an army regiment that is leaving that
night to fight in the war with Spain. He mentions that the regiment
includes Cyrano’s guards, and he grimly predicts that he and Cyrano
will have a reckoning. Afraid for Christian’s safety if he should
go to the front, Roxane quickly suggests that the best way for de
Guiche to seek revenge on Cyrano would be for him to leave Cyrano
and his cadets behind while the rest of the regiment goes on to
military glory. After much flirtation from Roxane, de Guiche believes
he should stay close by, concealed in a local monastery. When Roxane implies
that she would feel more for de Guiche if he went to war, he agrees
to march on steadfastly, leaving Cyrano and his cadets behind. He
leaves, and Roxane makes the duenna promise she will not tell Cyrano
that Roxane has robbed him of a chance to go to war.
Summary — Act III, scene iii
Roxane expects Christian to come visit her, and she tells
the duenna to make him wait if he does. Cyrano presses Roxane to
disclose that instead of questioning Christian on any particular
subject, she plans to make Christian improvise about love. Cyrano
agrees that he will not tell Christian the details of her plot,
a gesture Roxane appreciates. She conjectures that Christian would
prepare a speech to her if he knew. Roxane and the duenna leave,
and Cyrano calls to Christian, who has been waiting nearby.
Summary — Act III, scene iv
Cyrano tries to help Christian prepare for his meeting
with Roxane. He urges Christian to learn lines Cyrano has written.
But Christian refuses. He says he wants to speak to Roxane in his
own words, and Cyrano bows to Christian, saying, “Speak for yourself,
sir.”
Analysis — Act III, scenes i–iv
Rostand’s play does not hold musketeers in high esteem.
This dislike becomes immediately apparent when the distasteful Lise
runs away with one. Many of the references to the musketeers and
to Dumas’s The Three Musketeers are overwhelmingly
negative. By this point, the musketeers have been developed as symbols
of an antiquated and corrupt past. Rostand uses the musketeers as
moral foils, contrasting them with more noble characters, such as
Cyrano, Roxane, and even Christian. For instance, when Lise’s despicable
actions with the musketeer drive Ragueneau to desperate measures,
Cyrano saves Ragueneau’s life, consoles him, and finds him a job.
Cyrano cleans up the mess made by the musketeers.
Cyrano’s development as a heroic and moral character becomes even
more remarkable in these scenes. He displays his knowledge of music,
language, and mathematics. Despite his affection for Roxane, Cyrano
enjoys helping Christian win her love, a fact that exemplifies Cyrano’s
attraction to challenges of all kinds. But he also displays modesty:
when Roxane praises the letters, which he secretly wrote, Cyrano
does not believe that they have truly affected her. He realizes
this impact, or allows himself to realize it, only when Roxane recites
many of the lines back to him by heart. Cyrano may be proud, but
he is also unbelievably humble.
These scenes present Roxane as an expert moderator who
has powerful skills of persuasion. First, she convinces Cyrano about
the beauty of the letters. But her most important achievement is
persuading de Guiche to forgo taking vengeance upon Cyrano. Perhaps de
Guiche’s reluctance can be attributed to his feelings for Roxane, but
it is her persuasive flirting that clearly affects him.
The contrast between Cyrano and Christian intensifies
in these scenes: Cyrano is humble and reserved, and Christian is
proud and supremely confident, yet simple-minded. Given Cyrano’s
incomparable love for Roxane, his ability to maintain a strong sense
of reserve as she compliments the letters is remarkable. In comparison, Christian
is more excited than Cyrano, though he did not even write the letters.
At the end of scene iv, Christian seems somewhat unappreciative
of Cyrano and believes the wooing is complete. Christian doesn’t
understand that his decision to speak to Roxane without Cyrano’s
help might lead him down a difficult and disastrous path.