Cyrano De Bergerac

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The White Scarf Symbol Analysis

The White Scarf Symbol Icon

During the Siege of Arras, the Count de Guiche tells his troops that he wears a white scarf on his uniform so that everyone can recognize that he’s a nobleman. And yet when de Guiche enters battle, he takes off his insignia, for fear that it will make him an easier target for enemy combatants. Humorously, we learn that Cyrano de Bergerac then takes this scarf from across enemy lines and wears it himself during the battle, even though doing so endangers his life. The white scarf is thus a clear symbol of “panache”—indeed, the word “panache” originally referred to the plumes that commanders wore in battle, and particularly the white plume (like de Guiche’s white scarf) warn into battle by the famous French monarch Henry IV. Cyrano, who chooses to live his life boldly, bravely, and flamboyantly, naturally takes the scarf for himself, not worrying about his own safety—and also flaunting the fact that he doesn’t worry about his own safety—and then mockingly returns the scarf to de Guiche after the battle. Panache is a difficult way to live one’s life, and most people—the Count included—can’t handle it.

The White Scarf Quotes in Cyrano De Bergerac

The Cyrano De Bergerac quotes below all refer to the symbol of The White Scarf. 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 4, Scene 4 Quotes

CYRANO (without lifting his eyes from his book):
And your white scarf?

DE GUICHE (surprised and gratified):
You know that detail?. . . Troth! It happened thus:
While caracoling to recall the troops
For the third charge, a band of fugitives
Bore me with them, close by the hostile ranks:
I was in peril—capture, sudden death!--
When I thought of the good expedient
To loosen and let fall the scarf which told
My military rank; thus I contrived
--Without attention waked--to leave the foes,
And suddenly returning, reinforced
With my own men, to scatter them! And now,
--What say you, Sir?

Related Characters: Cyrano de Bergerac (speaker), Count de Guiche
Related Symbols: The White Scarf
Page Number: 184-185
Explanation and Analysis:

Cyrano's commander, Count de Guiche, is a cowardly man. In the midst of a battle, de Guiche wears a white scarf that makes it clear to everyone that he's a high-ranking officer. But when the battle gets ugly, de Guiche removes his scarf, afraid that it'll draw attention and make him a target for the enemy. Cyrano is clearly disgusted with de Guiche's combination of arrogance and cowardice--he doesn't even look up from his book as he interrogates his commander.

The white scarf is an important symbol in the play, because it connects to the idea of the white "plume" that is the literal meaning of the word "panache." Cyrano is defined by his panache, and it's later revealed in this same scene that he has risked his life precisely to retrieve de Guiche's scarf and embarrass his commander. Thus Rostand symbolically shows that de Guiche entirely lacks panache—he literally casts it aside when the going gets tough—while Cyrano is willing to risk death to maintain it.

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The White Scarf Symbol Timeline in Cyrano De Bergerac

The timeline below shows where the symbol The White Scarf appears in Cyrano De Bergerac. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 4, Scene 4
Appearances and Identity Theme Icon
Panache Theme Icon
Social Hierarchy and the Romantic Ideal Theme Icon
Loyalty and Honor Theme Icon
...in battle. Cyrano, without lifting his eyes from his book, asks de Guiche about the white scarf that he wears as a symbol of his high rank. De Guiche feels flattered that... (full context)
Appearances and Identity Theme Icon
Panache Theme Icon
Social Hierarchy and the Romantic Ideal Theme Icon
Loyalty and Honor Theme Icon
De Guiche reluctantly accepts the white scarf from Cyrano. He then waves the scarf to a “useful spy” in his employ, stationed... (full context)