As Cyrano sits alone in the shop, contemplating what Roxane has just told him, Ragueneau and the poets walk in. Ragueneau is about to ask Cyrano how his meeting with Roxane went when a huge crowd, including the Gascon cadets with whom Cyrano serves, rushes into the pastry shop. The men in the crowd compliment Cyrano for his bravery the previous night. (For now, they don’t specify what act of bravery they’re referring to.) A reporter asks Cyrano to describe what happened so that the story can be related in the town newspaper. Cyrano, still upset over the news about Roxane, seems distant and aloof.
The irony of this scene is clear: Cyrano only fought his impressive battle the night before because Roxane’s supposed love inspired him. Now that it’s over, however, he couldn’t care less about his victory, since it’s clear to him that Roxane doesn’t love him no matter his feats of bravery. We also get a better sense for Cyrano’s military life: he’s well liked and respected by his fellow soldiers, who are mostly from the province of Gascon (see Background Info for more).
The Count de Guiche enters the room. De Guiche says that he’s gotten word that Cyrano performed a feat of great valor the previous night. Cyrano stands and addresses the Count as “my lord.” In rhyming verse, he presents his fellow Gascon cadets to the Count. De Guiche is impressed with Cyrano’s obvious intelligence, and offers to put in a good word for Cyrano with Cardinal Richelieu, de Guiche’s powerful uncle. Cyrano is tempted by this offer. He has a play he’s been trying to get staged for many years—as Le Bret reminds him, Richelieu’s favor could help the play succeed. Then de Guiche mentions that his uncle might correct or change a line or two, and Cyrano’s face stiffens immediately. A young cadet enters the room, carrying a pile of hats, which he claims belonged to a group of fugitives. Cyrano takes the hats and throws them on the floor in front of de Guiche.
It’s fair to say that both de Guiche and Cyrano are at fault in this scene. De Guiche is conceited and acts haughtily superior to the Gascon cadets, but Cyrano is also overly rude to de Guiche because he is upset about Roxane. It’s telling that Cyrano becomes angry when de Guiche suggests that Cyrano should allow his words to be censored somewhat. Rostand, writing at the end of the 19th century, respects the importance of free speech, and laughs at the rigid religious censorship common in France in the 1600s. This reinforces the idea that Cyrano is a “modern man”—open-minded, freethinking, etc.—living 250 years before his time.
De Guiche is shocked by Cyrano’s abruptly confrontational behavior. He asks Cyrano if he’s ever read Don Quixote, and Cyrano says he has. De Guiche warns Cyrano not to joust with windmills, lest he end up being thrown to the ground. Cyrano replies that a windmill could just as easily throw him up to the stars. Furious, de Guiche gathers his followers and leaves the shop.
De Guiche seems like an appropriate opponent for Cyrano, and here the two enemies “joust” with words. Cyrano, using his superior knowledge and wit, clearly wins the exchange. It’s interesting to compare Cyrano de Bergerac with Don Quixote: like the famous character from Cervantes’ novel, Cyrano is simultaneously humorous and noble, highbrow and lowbrow, argumentative and peaceful. This reminds us that Rostand’s play, for all its comic touches, is really a tragicomedy with serious undertones.