The third act (still set in the year 1640) begins in a small public square in Paris, adjacent to Roxane’s house. Ragueneau and the Duenna stand talking, and Ragueneau explains to the Duenna that his wife, Lise, has left him for a handsome Musketeer. Ragueneau was so devastated by the news that he tried to hang himself. Luckily, Cyrano walked in on Ragueneau just as he was about to die. Cyrano used his sword to cut his friend down, and convinced him to live. He then got Ragueneau a job working as a steward for Roxane.
As we enter the second half of the play, things get significantly darker, even if they’re still draped in Rostand’s comedy and witty language. Ragueneau’s tenure as the town’s beloved pastry chef has, inevitably, come to an end: his wife left him for a less “comic” figure, and, perhaps more to the point, he couldn’t keep getting paid in poetry forever. All this is both comedic and a foreshadowing of tragedy to come.
The Duenna, listening to Ragueneau’s story, calls out to Roxane. Roxane is scheduled to visit a nearby house to hear a lecture of poets who will discuss the “Tender Passion.” Suddenly, the sound of lute music fills the air. Cyrano enters, followed by two musicians. Cyrano hums along with the music, but corrects the musicians at several points, eventually playing a lute himself.
Cyrano has many talents, and apparently has good taste in everything. He is a true romantic: a poet, a social rebel and outsider, a lover capable of great and dramatic emotion, and even a player of the lute, one of the most quintessentially romantic of all instruments.
The Duenna greets Cyrano and asks him why he’s walking with lute players. Cyrano explains that he’s won a bet with an associate, D’Assoucy, the stakes of which were “music for a day.” With this, Cyrano sends the musicians away.
It’s entirely appropriate that the stakes of a bet with Cyrano would be “music for a day”: something objectively worthless, but extremely valuable to someone like Cyrano, who appreciates such things above other, more mundane (but practical) “winnings.”
Roxane emerges from her home and greets Cyrano. She gushes that Christian is brilliant and handsome—she has read “his” letter, which, she believes, proves that he has even more wit than Cyrano himself. She reads Cyrano lines from the letter, and Cyrano criticizes them. Roxane laughs that Cyrano is only jealous—that is, as one poet, he’s naturally jealous of other poets. Roxane explains that “Christian” has been sending her many letters lately, each of which is lovelier than the last. As Cyrano and Roxane talk outside her house, the Count de Guiche appears. Roxane pushes Cyrano into her house before the Count can see him.
The various subplots of the play now start intersecting in a satisfying (but somewhat tragic) way. Cyrano is forced to endure the simultaneous pleasure and agony of writing beautiful letters to the love of his life and getting no credit for doing so. It’s interesting that Cyrano criticizes his own writing—for all his pride in himself, he can’t bear to see his words stolen away from him, and clever self-deprecation has always been a part of his wit and “panache.” And, just in case we’d forgotten, Rostand here reminds us that Roxane is also being courted by the rich, powerful Count de Guiche, a man who has a significant amount of power over both Cyrano and Christian, who are his military subordinates.