For fourteen years you played the part
of an old friend who came to be amusing!
(See Important Quotations Explained)
Summary — Act V, scene, i
Fifteen years later, in 1655, the
nuns of the Convent of the Ladies of the Cross in Paris talk about
Cyrano. They say he makes them laugh, and they remark how he has
come every week for more than ten years to visit his cousin Roxane,
who first came to live in the convent after the death of her husband.
Summary — Act V, scene ii
Roxane enters the park of the convent accompanied by de
Guiche, who, now an old man, is still magnificent and one of the
most powerful nobles in France. He asks Roxane if she is still faithful
to Christian’s memory, and she says she is. He asks if she has forgiven
him, and she replies, “I am here.” She says that she always wears
Christian’s last letter next to her heart. She tells de Guiche that
Cyrano comes to visit her every week and gives her an impromptu
gazette, telling her all the news. Le Bret enters and tells Roxane
and de Guiche that things are going badly for Cyrano—he is old,
poor, and disliked by a host of enemies as a result of his constant
satirical attacks on hypocrites in society. De Guiche says that
they should not pity him, because Cyrano lives his life as he chooses.
De Guiche says that he would be proud to shake Cyrano’s hand. Privately,
de Guiche tells Le Bret that he has heard at court that some nobles
are planning to kill Cyrano. Le Bret agrees to try to keep Cyrano
Summary — Act V, scene iii
Ragueneau rushes in and appears upset. As Roxane leaves
to talk with de Guiche, Ragueneau tells Le Bret that as Cyrano strolled beneath
a high window, some lackeys pushed a massive log of wood down onto
him, breaking his skull. He is barely alive. If he tries to raise
his head, he may die. Le Bret and Ragueneau hasten to his side.
Summary — Act V, scene iv
After they leave, Roxane reemerges and sits down beneath
an autumn tree to sew. A nun announces Cyrano’s arrival.
Summary — Act V, scene v
Cyrano enters. He is pale and seems to be suffering.
But he talks happily to Roxane, becoming solemn only when he tells
her that he must go before nightfall. Roxane protests, then reminds
Cyrano to tease the nuns, and he stuns Sister Marthe by cheerfully
declaring that he will let her pray for him that night at vespers.
Cyrano gives Roxane a comical summary of the news of the court,
but his face becomes more and more tortured, and he finally loses
Roxane runs to his side, and he comes to, telling her
his injury meant nothing and is merely an old wound. Roxane touches
her heart and says they all have their old wounds. Cyrano asks about Christian’s
letter and reminds Roxane that he would like to read it someday.
She says it is stained with blood and tears and is therefore hard
to read. But she gives it to him, and he begins to read the words he
wrote for her so many years ago.
Twilight begins to fall, and Roxane sits amazed by the
voice with which Cyrano reads the letter. She gradually realizes
that she remembers hearing that voice under her balcony. Meanwhile,
as darkness falls, she realizes that Cyrano is still able to read
the letter. Suddenly, it all becomes clear to her, and she exclaims
that she has realized that it was Cyrano all along. He denies it,
but she now knows the truth. She asks why he kept silent for so
long, since the tears on the letter belonged to him. Cyrano replies
that the blood belonged to Christian.
Summary — Act V, scene vi
Suddenly, Ragueneau and Le Bret rush in and announce with
horror that Cyrano has come to the convent in a physically weakened
state. Cyrano says he has not finished his gazette. He adds that
on Saturday the 26th, an hour before dinner, Monsieur de Bergerac
was murdered. He removes his hat and shows his head swathed in bandages. He
says it is ironic that he, who longed to die laughing on the sword of
a hero, took his mortal blow from someone who ambushed him with
Ragueneau begins to cry and, outraged, tells Cyrano that Molière
has stolen a scene of Ragueneau’s for his new play. Cyrano asks
if the audience liked it, and Ragueneau says that they laughed and
laughed. Cyrano says that his role in life has been to inspire others:
Molière has genius, Christian had good looks, but he is doomed always
to be hidden beneath the balcony while someone else receives the
kiss. Roxane cries that Cyrano cannot die. She says she loves him.
But realizing that he is dying, Roxane cries out that she loved
only one man in her life, and now she has lost him—twice.
Cyrano becomes delirious. He recites a cheerful, jaunty
poem about his life and subsequently falls back into a chair. Roxane breaks
into sobs. Cyrano pushes himself up and says that he will not die
lying down. He rises and, leaning against a tree, draws his sword.
He says that he sees the skeleton of death “daring” to look at his
nose. He begins to fight against invisible enemies, calling out their
names: Lies, Prejudice, Cowardice, Stupidity, and Compromise.
Cyrano declares that his enemies have taken all his laurels,
but that in spite of them, when he meets God that night, he will
carry one thing that no one can take away from him. Suddenly, he
drops his sword and falls into the arms of Le Bret and Ragueneau.
Roxane kisses him on the forehead and asks what immaculate thing
he will take to heaven with him. As he dies, Cyrano opens his eyes
and looks at her. He replies, “My white plume.”
Analysis — Act V, scenes i-vi
Act V is the play’s dramatic epilogue. Set fifteen years
after the main action, the poignant tragedy of this act ties up
the story line following Christian’s death. The setting of this
section of the play is important—it takes place at twilight on an
autumn day. Both the hour and the season connote endings, changes,
and death. The -setting also serves as a metaphor for Roxane’s changing
view of physical beauty. Her realization that Cyrano wrote the letters
occurs only when she notices Cyrano reading Christian’s farewell
letter in the dark. Once the outward visual signs lose their importance,
Roxane hears Cyrano’s true voice and words. The metaphorical setting
creates a highly sentimental ending. Indeed, one common criticism
of the play is that its final scenes become swooning and melodramatic.
Cyrano’s death scene mimics his overall plight. Denied
the chance to die in battle on the sword of a hero, he instead dies
after being ambushed by a falling log . Cyrano’s death, like his
character, is simultaneously tragic, ironic, and comedic. However,
he always manages to elude his fated failure, and he dies fighting
not against a mortal hero but against the specters of falsehood,
cowardice, and compromise—all of his “old enemies.” Throughout the
play, Cyrano suffers both because of his appearance and because
of his unwillingness to sacrifice his principles. By this time,
his long nose has become a symbol of his honorable nature
and a reminder of its consequences. Cyrano dies fighting unconquerable
vices but he knowing that Roxane loves him at last, despite his
appearance. He says he will take his unstained white plume with
him to heaven—the white plume is the mark of a leader on the battlefield
and the symbol of courage. He may die, but his honor will remain
pure and unstained.
Cyrano’s painful realization that his life has been a
failure looms over the brief bits of humor. He argues that his life
has been largely unfulfilling despite moments of fleeting success.
Throughout the play, Cyrano has displayed courage and bravado, but
he never attains his goals or realizes his dreams. Tragically, Roxane
comes to know his secret and love him only after he has been dealt
his final blow. For these reasons, some critics consider Cyrano
de Bergerac a heroic tragedy rather than a heroic comedy.