Cyrano de Bergerac – Plot Overview

In Paris, in the year 1640, a
brilliant poet and swordsman named Cyrano de Bergerac finds himself
deeply in love with his beautiful, intellectual cousin Roxane. Despite
Cyrano’s brilliance and charisma, a shockingly large nose afflicts
his appearance, and he considers himself too ugly even to risk telling Roxane
his feelings. One night, Cyrano goes to the playhouse at the Hotel
de Bourgogne to make trouble: he has forbidden the actor Montfleury
to take the stage for one month, but Montfleury plans to perform
in the night’s production of La Clorise, with Roxane
in the audience. Also in the audience is a young, handsome nobleman
named Christian, who confides in his friend Ligniere that he loves
Roxane.
When Montfleury takes the stage, Cyrano bullies him off
it. A group of aristocrats tries to send Cyrano away, but he challenges them
all to a duel. He fights Valvert, a Vicomte whom the Comte de Guiche
has selected as a husband for Roxane. As he fights, Cyrano improvises
a poem about the duel. Then, upon speaking his last line, Cyrano
thrusts his sword home. His victory causes a sensation, and Roxane’s
duenna brings him a message from her mistress, asking him to meet
her in the morning. As he agrees, he learns that Ligniere has offended
a powerful nobleman with his latest satire and that a hundred men
are waiting to ambush him on his way home. Cyrano boldly proclaims
that he will see Ligniere safely home and, if necessary, fight all
hundred men in the process.
The next morning, Cyrano meets Roxane at Ragueneau’s
pastry shop. He nearly tells her his feelings, but she confides
in him that she loves Christian, who will soon join Cyrano’s company
of guards, the Cadets of Gascoyne. She asks Cyrano to protect Christian,
and he agrees. Outside, a crowd has gathered, buzzing with the news about
Cyrano’s triumphs the night before. Cyrano angrily ignores them,
upset by his meeting with Roxane. When the cadets arrive, Christian
tries to prove his courage by insulting Cyrano’s nose—an act generally
considered fatal. Instead of killing Christian, however, Cyrano
embraces him and tells him about Roxane’s feelings. Delighted at
first, Christian then becomes distraught. He considers Roxane an
intellectual and sees himself as a simple, unpoetic man. Then Cyrano
has a bright idea: Cyrano can write to Roxane -pretending to be
Christian. Christian agrees, welcoming the opportunity to reach
Roxane’s heart. Now, Cyrano can express all his thoughts and feelings
secretly.
One night soon after, Roxane confides in Cyrano that
she thinks Christian is the most ravishing poet in the world. Cyrano’s
disguised letters have moved her inexpressibly. Christian tells
Cyrano he no longer wants Cyrano’s help, and then makes a fool of
himself trying to speak seductively to Roxane. Roxane storms into
her house, confused and angry. Thinking quickly, Cyrano makes Christian
stand in front of Roxane’s balcony and speak to her while Cyrano
stands under the balcony whispering to Christian what to say. Eventually, Cyrano
shoves Christian aside and, under cover of darkness, pretends to
be Christian, wooing Roxane himself. In the process, he wins a kiss
for Christian. Roxane and Christian are secretly married by a Capuchin,
but their happiness is short-lived: de Guiche, angry to have lost
Roxane, declares that he is sending the Cadets of Gascoyne to the
front lines of the war with Spain.
At the siege of Arras, the cadets languish and suffer
from hunger. Cyrano writes to Roxane every single day, using Christian’s
name. Moreover, he risks his life each morning by sneaking through
the Spanish lines to a place where he can send the letters. De Guiche reveals
that the Spaniards will attack within the hour. Suddenly, a coach
arrives and Roxane climbs out of it. She has longed to see Christian,
again and brings a feast to the soldiers. But Christian has guessed
Cyrano’s secret feelings for Roxane, and he forces Cyrano to tell
her the truth and make her choose between them. On the cusp of revealing
his feelings, Cyrano is interrupted by a sudden gunshot that kills
Christian. Cyrano cannot tell Roxane the truth. She faints, and
de Guiche redeems himself by taking her to safety while Cyrano charges
into the battle.
Fifteen years later, Roxane lives in a convent, and Cyrano
visits her every week. His friend Le Bret informs Roxane that Cyrano
is doing very poorly—he has made many powerful enemies, and his life
is constantly in danger. Then, Ragueneau rushes in and privately tells
Le Bret that Cyrano has been ambushed and hit with a heavy log pushed
out of a high window. His health severely jeopardized, Cyrano could
die by simply raising his head from his pillow. Le Bret and Ragueneau
rush off to their friend’s side. No sooner have they gone than Cyrano
appears at the convent, walking slowly and with a pained expression
on his face, but sounding as cheerful as ever. He gives Roxane a
news update.
As night falls, Cyrano asks to read Christian’s last letter
to her. He reads it, and when it is completely dark, he continues
to read, as if he knows the letter by heart. Roxane realizes that
Cyrano wrote the letters—she has found the soul she was in love
with all along. Upset, Ragueneau and Le Bret rush in, proclaiming
that Cyrano has killed himself by getting out of bed. Cyrano removes
his hat, revealing his heavily bandaged head. Roxane exclaims that
she loves him and that he cannot die. But Cyrano draws his sword
and engages in one last fight with his “old enemies”—falsehood,
prejudice, and compromise—slashing at the air insensibly. Then he
collapses and dies, smiling as Roxane bends over him and kisses
his face.