Cyrano De Bergerac

Cyrano De Bergerac

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Cyrano’s Nose Symbol Analysis

Cyrano’s Nose Symbol Icon

The most obvious symbol in Cyrano de Bergerac is the title character’s enormous nose. Cyrano de Bergerac is talented, witty, and good in a fight, but because he has an abnormally large nose, he’s unable to win himself any female admirers. On one level Cyrano’s nose is an argument against the notion that a beautiful mind goes with a beautiful face. Intelligence, virtue, and wisdom have no real correlation with physical features—a fact that seems obvious, but is also easy to forget. As another example of this idea, Christian, who is Cyrano’s rival for the beautiful Roxane, is a young, handsome man, but he’s also foolish and clumsy. Thus Cyrano’s nose is a symbol of the arbitrariness of the idea of “beauty” in a human face, and also of the shallowness of many human relationships, which focus too much on physical appearance and disregard the mind and the spirit.

This symbol goes a bit deeper as well, however, as Cyrano himself has a complex relationship with his nose. On one hand, he feels insecure about it and thinks that women consider him hideous, so he doesn’t even try to pursue the woman he loves—Roxane—because he assumes she would be disgusted by his appearance. This is a mistake based on Cyrano’s low self-esteem regarding his nose, because it seems abundantly clear that Roxane is an intelligent, complex individual who could easily love someone for other qualities than physical beauty (indeed, she outright rejects the handsome Christian when he is awkward and dull in their first encounter). In some way, Cyrano makes his nose into a bigger obstacle to his happiness than it otherwise might be. In matters of pride and “panache,” however, Cyrano seems to flaunt his nose and use it as a point of contention by which he can prove his wit and fighting skill. When Valvert clumsily insults the nose, Cyrano doesn’t seem actually hurt at all, but rather pounces on this opportunity to mock Valvert for his feeble insult and thus display his own verbal virtuosity. Most people know not to mention Cyrano’s nose, as he is “sensitive” about, but he is also very publicly and even proudly sensitive about it. Ultimately Cyrano’s nose is thus a complicated symbol that plays several roles in displaying how physical features affect a person’s inner life and relationship to the world.

Cyrano’s Nose Quotes in Cyrano De Bergerac

The Cyrano De Bergerac quotes below all refer to the symbol of Cyrano’s Nose. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Appearances and Identity Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the G. W. Dillingham Company edition of Cyrano De Bergerac published in 1898.
Act 1, Scene 2 Quotes

RAGUENEAU:
He's prouder than all the fierce Artabans of whom Gascony
has ever been and will ever be the prolific Alma Mater! Above his Toby ruff
he carries a nose!--ah, good my lords, what a nose is his! When one sees it
one is fain to cry aloud, 'Nay! 'tis too much! He plays a joke on us!' Then
one laughs, says 'He will anon take it off.' But no!--Monsieur de Bergerac
always keeps it on.

Related Characters: Ragueneau (speaker), Cyrano de Bergerac
Related Symbols: Cyrano’s Nose
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

In this section, Ragueneau, a popular tavern-keeper, explains a few things about his friend, Cyrano de Bergerac. Cyrano, we're told, is an intensely proud person. He also has an enormous nose--so enormous that it looks like a prop for a party.

Ragueneau establishes the two key facts about Cyrano: 1) he's proud, and 2) he's got a huge nose. As we'll see very soon, these two facts are really one and the same: in other words, Cyrano is proud because he was born with a large nose. Cyrano has always had to defend his honor from bullies and wisecrackers. Although his nose could be considered an embarrassing debility, Cyrano has learned to "wear" his nose with pride, defending his honor against anyone foolish enough to poke fun at him.

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Act 1, Scene 4 Quotes

CYRANO:
'Tis enormous!
Old Flathead, empty-headed meddler, know
That I am proud possessing such appendice.
'Tis well known, a big nose is indicative
Of a soul affable, and kind, and courteous,
Liberal, brave, just like myself, and such
As you can never dare to dream yourself,
Rascal contemptible!

Related Characters: Cyrano de Bergerac (speaker), The Bore
Related Symbols: Cyrano’s Nose
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Cyrano quarrels with a "Bore"--a stranger who foolishly makes fun of Cyrano for his nose. Cyrano responds by boasting of his nose: he claims that his nose is proof of his good character and brave heart.

Cyrano's response to the Bore is a strategy that should be familiar to anyone who's ever had to fight off a group of bullies. Instead of pushing back when the Bore points out his nose, Cyrano agrees that he has a big nose, but then turns the tables to argue that his big nose is an asset, not a debility. In a way, Cyrano is right--over the course of a lifetime, he has trained himself to be brave and proud, in order to compensate for his ugly appearance. Furthermore, he is able to turn the mockery around on the Bore because of his "panache"--his carefully cultivated wit and flamboyance.

THE VISCOUNT:
Sir, your nose is. . . hmm. . . it is. . . very big!

CYRANO (gravely):
Very!

THE VISCOUNT (laughing):
Ha!

CYRANO (imperturbably):
Is that all?. . .

THE VISCOUNT:
What do you mean?

CYRANO:
Ah no! young blade! That was a trifle short!
You might have said at least a hundred things
By varying the tone.

Related Characters: Cyrano de Bergerac (speaker), Viscount de Valvert (speaker)
Related Symbols: Cyrano’s Nose
Page Number: 50-51
Explanation and Analysis:

In this famous scene, the Viscount de Valvert tries to insult Cyrano in the least creative way imaginable. Instead of thinking up an elaborate metaphor or pun about Cyrano's large nose, Valvert goes right for the throat, and calls the nose ... "very big." Cyrano responds with mock disgust, asking the Viscount why he didn't try for a more elaborate insult. (He then proceeds to list some of the cleverer ways the Viscount could have insulted him.)

Cyrano's behavior in this passage is a classic example of self-deprecating humor. Instead of fighting back against the Viscount's insult, Cyrano ingeniously takes the wind out of his enemy's sails, doing a far better job of insulting himself than the Viscount could ever manage. Although Cyrano is talented with the sword, his greatest asset is his mind, not his bravery. With words, Cyrano "wounds" the Viscount more deeply than sword ever could, implying that the Viscount is a fool who can barely string a sentence together.

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Cyrano’s Nose Symbol Timeline in Cyrano De Bergerac

The timeline below shows where the symbol Cyrano’s Nose appears in Cyrano De Bergerac. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 2
Appearances and Identity Theme Icon
Panache Theme Icon
...philosopher, and a musician. And yet, Ragueneau joins in, Cyrano has one strange quality: his nose. Cyrano’s nose is enormous—so big that when people meet him for the first time, they... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 3
Panache Theme Icon
...the crowd and climbs onto the stage. He has a splendid mustache and an enormous nose. (full context)
Act 1, Scene 4
Appearances and Identity Theme Icon
Panache Theme Icon
Social Hierarchy and the Romantic Ideal Theme Icon
As Cyrano talks, the Bore can’t help but stare at his enormous nose. Cyrano asks the Bore what he’s staring at, and the Bore, eyeing Cyrano’s sword, is... (full context)
Appearances and Identity Theme Icon
Panache Theme Icon
...amused by the spectacle, goes up to Cyrano and tells him he has a big nose. Cyrano asks Viscount if that’s the best insult he could think of. He lists dozens... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 5
Appearances and Identity Theme Icon
The Many Kinds of Love Theme Icon
Panache Theme Icon
...should tell Roxane how he feels, but Cyrano dismisses this idea, saying that his ugly nose will prevent him from ever getting a beautiful woman to love him. Having a big... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 9
Appearances and Identity Theme Icon
Panache Theme Icon
Loyalty and Honor Theme Icon
...calls Christian a weak, inexperienced boy. He also warns Christian never to say the word “nose” in front of Cyrano. Another cadet chimes in, explaining that in the past Cyrano has... (full context)
Appearances and Identity Theme Icon
The Many Kinds of Love Theme Icon
Panache Theme Icon
Loyalty and Honor Theme Icon
...saying the night was so dark that Cyrano must have been able to see his nose and nothing else. The cadets are dumbfounded by Christian’s insult. Cyrano, furious, asks a cadet... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 10
Appearances and Identity Theme Icon
The Many Kinds of Love Theme Icon
Panache Theme Icon
Loyalty and Honor Theme Icon
...for Cyrano and Christian. Cyrano turns to Christian, who has been making fun of his nose in order to prove his bravery to his peers. Cyrano compliments Christian for his bravery... (full context)
Appearances and Identity Theme Icon
The Many Kinds of Love Theme Icon
Loyalty and Honor Theme Icon
...writing, he explains. Cyrano admits that he has the opposite problem: he’s eloquent, but his nose makes him unpopular with women. (full context)
Act 2, Scene 11
Appearances and Identity Theme Icon
The Many Kinds of Love Theme Icon
Panache Theme Icon
Loyalty and Honor Theme Icon
...cadets are gathered, waiting to hear the sounds of Cyrano attacking Christian for insulting his nose. One cadet pokes his head into a window and is shocked to see Christian and... (full context)
Appearances and Identity Theme Icon
The Many Kinds of Love Theme Icon
Panache Theme Icon
Loyalty and Honor Theme Icon
The group concludes that Cyrano no longer minds people talking about his nose. Emboldened, a Second Musketeer goes up to Cyrano and insults his nose. Cyrano immediately hits... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 9
Appearances and Identity Theme Icon
The Many Kinds of Love Theme Icon
...Roxane. Christian asks Cyrano why he doesn’t tell Roxane himself, and Cyrano replies that his nose and face are too ugly. (full context)