Cyrano De Bergerac

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Themes and Colors
Appearances and Identity Theme Icon
The Many Kinds of Love Theme Icon
Panache Theme Icon
Social Hierarchy and the Romantic Ideal Theme Icon
Loyalty and Honor Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Cyrano De Bergerac, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Loyalty and Honor Theme Icon

The paradox of Cyrano de Bergerac­—and the source of a lot of its comedy—is that Cyrano, a man who prides himself on his independence, his “panache,” and his refusal to serve a master, must keep his word to another man: the clumsy, foolish Christian de Neuvillette. In general, the play explores the nuances of loyalty and honor by studying the relationships between Christian, Cyrano, and Roxane.

To begin with, Cyrano sacrifices his most important assets—his pride and honor—out of a sense of romantic loyalty to Roxane. He’s made a name for himself throughout town by defending his honor: i.e., attacking anyone who criticizes his enormous nose. Yet because Roxane loves the handsome Christian, she makes Cyrano promise to take care of Christian at all costs. Cyrano is then forced to sit in (hilarious) silence when Christian insults Cyrano’s nose, knowing that he can’t fight the young man because of his loyalty to Roxane and her wishes.

The reason that Cyrano agrees to mentor Christian, remaining loyal to a young man for whom he seems to have little real respect, is more complicated than it might seem. While it’s true that Cyrano is acting because of his feelings for Roxane—he doesn’t dare disobey the love of his life, no matter how painful the consequences of obeying might be—Cyrano also agrees to help Christian because doing so gives him the opportunity to express his own love for Roxane. Cyrano’s loyalty to Christian is an act of both self-interest and selflessness. Cyrano sacrifices some of his pride and honor, but in return, he gets the unique opportunity to seduce Roxane without the embarrassment of rejection. Here, Rostand suggests that loyalty is distinct from and sometimes contradictory to love: it is both selfish and selfless, and doesn’t necessarily align with one’s romantic feelings.

As the play goes on, Cyrano’s motives for loyalty to Christian become harder to articulate. He swears to protect Christian at all costs, but when Christian dies in battle, Cyrano still doesn’t reveal his love for Roxane. His guilt at having allowed Christian to die keeps him silent for the next 15 years, and it’s only when he’s on his deathbed that he reveals how he truly feels. Cyrano’s loyalty to Christian is an important part of his character. Although he’s under no real obligation to keep his feelings hidden after Christian’s death, he continues to do so out of a sense of honor. Although Cyrano has sacrificed his pride and reputation to protect Christian, he then asserts his honor—that is, his honesty, his integrity, etc.—by remaining loyal to Christian and keeping his painful secret. Without this loyalty and honor, Cyrano would be a fundamentally selfish character, and his desire to assert his independence would appear selfish and tiresome—but because of these qualities, Cyrano transcends selfishness and becomes an impressive, even noble character. In spite of his desire to be free of social norms, he also has a strong sense of honor and a rigid moral code, tethered not only to his love for Roxane, but also to his concept of himself as being a man of his word.

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Loyalty and Honor Quotes in Cyrano De Bergerac

Below you will find the important quotes in Cyrano De Bergerac related to the theme of Loyalty and Honor.
Act 2, Scene 6 Quotes

Then you will be his friend?

I swear!

And he shall fight no duels, promise!


Related Characters: Cyrano de Bergerac (speaker), Magdalene Robin / Roxane (speaker), Baron Christian de Neuvillette
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:

In this ironic passage, Roxane (the love of Cyrano’s life) makes Cyrano swear to protect Christian at all times. Roxane has fallen in love with Christian from afar, and wants to make sure that Christian stays safe for her.

The passage is a good example of dramatic irony: this is a comedic scene, because we in the audience realize that Cyrano’s oath to Roxane is agonizing for Cyrano, while Roxane herself has no idea of the truth. In spite of his internal agony, Cyrano bravely agrees to honor Roxane’s wishes—a confirmation of Cyrano’s vast, selfless love for Roxane, as well as his commitment to the Romantic values of honor and loyalty.


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Act 3, Scene 1 Quotes

You would vex a saint!. . . But 'tis your jealousy.

CYRANO (starting):
What mean you?

Ay, your poet's jealousy!

Related Characters: Cyrano de Bergerac (speaker), Magdalene Robin / Roxane (speaker), Baron Christian de Neuvillette
Page Number: 130
Explanation and Analysis:

Cyrano and Roxane (with whom Cyrano is secretly in love) talk about the mysterious letters that Roxane has been receiving from Christian. Roxane believes Christian to be the author of these letters—but of course, Cyrano knows the truth. He has been writing all of Christian’s letters, perpetuating the illusion that Christian is the perfect lover for Roxane—brilliant as well as handsome.

In another fine example of dramatic irony, Roxane remains blissfully unaware that Cyrano is in love with her—when Cyrano bitterly derides the author of the letters, Roxane thinks he’s jealous of Christian’s poetic brilliance, not his romantic success.

Act 3, Scene 12 Quotes

That he shall be faithful!

Doubtless, but. . .

That he will write oft?

CYRANO (pausing):
That, I promise you!

Related Characters: Cyrano de Bergerac (speaker), Magdalene Robin / Roxane (speaker), Baron Christian de Neuvillette
Page Number: 172
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of Act 3, Cyrano and Christian are shipped off to war. Before they go, Roxane makes Cyrano promise her that he'll take care of Christian--to whom Roxane has just been married, much to Cyrano's chagrin. In spite of the fact that Cyrano now has no chance of marrying Roxane, and will have to love Roxane in vain for the rest of his life, he agrees to Roxane's requests, since he's already sworn an oath to protect Christian.

Cyrano's behavior reinforces his honorable character--while he has no practical reason for being loyal to Christian (it's not like protecting Christian is going to win him Roxane), he's a man of his word. At this point in the play, writing letters to Roxane is Cyrano's greatest pleasure--the only way that he can express his true feelings for her (even though he's forced to sign the letters with Christian's name).

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.

Act 5, Scene 5 Quotes

Things dead, long dead, see! how they rise again!
--Why, why keep silence all these fourteen years,
When, on this letter, which he never wrote,
The tears were your tears?

CYRANO (holding out the letter to her):
The bloodstains were his.

Related Characters: Cyrano de Bergerac (speaker), Magdalene Robin / Roxane (speaker), Baron Christian de Neuvillette
Page Number: 243
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Roxane finally realizes the truth about her love for Christian. Cyrano, who's about to die, reads Roxane the letter that he wrote for her on the day Christian died. As Cyrano reads the letter, Roxane recognizes his voice as the voice of the man who seduced her years before. For the past nearly 15 years, Roxane realizes, she has been in love with a fictional creation: a man with Christian's body and Cyrano's mind.

Cyrano's behavior in this passage reinforces the strict moral code that guides his behavior at all times. Roxane asks Cyrano why Cyrano never came forward with the truth after Christian's death--in other words, why Cyrano never told Roxane that she was mourning a fictional creation. Cyrano explains that he didn't want to stomp on Christian's grave--he refused to ruin the illusion of Roxane's love for Christian.

Cyrano's self-control is remarkable. In spite of the fact that Roxane claimed she could love a man for his soul, not his face, and in spite of the fact that Roxane was no longer married to Christian, Cyrano never once tried to woo Roxane. In part, Cyrano refrained from seducing Roxane because he was too frightened (the only reason he's telling her the truth now is because he's about to die), but in part, Cyrano refrained from seducing Roxane out of respect for word and for his old friend--Cyrano swore an oath to Roxane to honor Christian, and he's obeyed that oath for nearly 15 years.