Cyrano De Bergerac

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.
Panache Theme Icon

The last word of Cyrano de Bergerac is “panache,” which Webster’s Dictionary defines as “dash or flamboyance in style and action.” It’s worth investigating the history of this word—which Rostand’s play popularized—a little further.

Originally, “panache” was a French word referring to a plume on a military helmet. The famous French monarch Henry IV was fond of wearing a white plume on his helmet whenever he fought in battle, and he even told his soldiers that they should “follow his panache” on the battlefield. Cyrano alludes to this famous story in Act 4, when the Count de Guiche—evidently, someone without much panache—claims that he wears a white scarf to demonstrate his high rank, and yet he takes off the scarf in battle for fear of making himself into a target. Cyrano de Bergerac then reveals that he’s taken the Count’s scarf and worn it himself. In Cyrano, the white scarf (or plume)—originally a symbol of awed obedience to one’s social superiors—transforms into a symbol of social subversion, flamboyant disobedience to authority, and a reckless bravery that also advertises its own recklessness: in short, Rostand’s updated, 19th century version of panache.

Where does Cyrano’s panache—the one quality of which he’s most proud—come from? Cyrano doesn’t conceal the fact that Cyrano is insecure about his physical appearance: i.e., his big nose. Surrounded by bullies who tease him for his face, Cyrano compensates (and arguably overcompensates) by perfecting the arts of dueling, arguing, and verbally besting his enemies. When the Viscount Valvert lobs a minor insult at Cyrano, Cyrano responds by challenging Valvert to a duel on the spot, during which Cyrano composes a ballad insulting Valvert. Evidently, Cyrano has had a lifetime of practice—the crowd whispers that Cyrano attacks anyone who insults him.

But Cyrano’s panache is less petty and personal than mere insecurity—panache also represents a proud and often brave way for him to live his life. Cyrano refuses to apologize for his ugly appearance, and indeed flaunts his large nose as part of his persona, jumping on any reference to his nose as a chance to display his verbal and dueling skills. Instead of giving in to society’s insults, Cyrano celebrates his physical and intellectual talents in the grandest way imaginable. One could say that panache is a way of attaining freedom: freedom from social expectations of obedience, as well as from one’s own insecurities.

In the end, however, Cyrano’s panache has dire consequences. He makes so many enemies in his city that by Act 5, he can barely get through a day without having to defend himself. An unknown enemy attacks him by dropping a heavy piece of wood on his head, injuring and ultimately killing him. Still, the fact that Cyrano’s panache comes back to haunt him doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a negative trait. On the contrary, Cyrano’s death lends panache a kind of nobility. Cyrano’s dying word is “panache”—evidently, he has no regrets for the way he’s lived his life. Like so much else that is noble and beautiful in Cyrano (love, for example), panache doesn’t last very long in real life. And yet even though Cyrano, dies, the idea of panache lives on forever: in Cyrano’s reputation, his friends’ memories of his heroic deeds, and in the play itself. This is the heroic tradeoff that Cyrano, and any other exemplar of panache, must make: the tragedy of a short life, but also the glory of an everlasting reputation.

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Panache Quotes in Cyrano De Bergerac

Below you will find the important quotes in Cyrano De Bergerac related to the theme of Panache.
Act 1, Scene 2 Quotes

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

'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.

Sir, your nose is. . . hmm. . . it is. . . very big!

CYRANO (gravely):

THE VISCOUNT (laughing):

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

What do you mean?

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.

Act 1, Scene 5 Quotes

These fops, would-be belligerent,
Will, if you heed them only, turn your head!. . .
Ask people of good sense if you would know
The effect of your fine insolence--

CYRANO (finishing his macaroon):

The Cardinal. . .

CYRANO (radiant):
The Cardinal--was there?

Related Characters: Cyrano de Bergerac (speaker), Le Bret (speaker)
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Le Bret warns Cyrano that his quarrelsome attitude is making him more enemies than friends. Le Bret reminds Cyrano of his behavior the previous night, when he fought a duel in front of a large crowd of people. According to Le Bret, Cardinal Richelieu (in real life, the most powerful man in France at the time), was present for the duel--in other words, Cyrano might be alienating some powerful, influential people by defending his honor.

Le Bret's warning to Cyrano foreshadows the final act of the play, in which Cyrano's reckless behavior finally catches up to him. But for now, Cyrano rejects Le Bret's warnings. For Cyrano, the highest good is his own honor and fame--therefore, whenever anyone attacks his appearance, Cyrano must defend himself, either verbally or militarily, and he even takes delight in performing for powerful people (whether they might be offended or not).

Act 2, Scene 4 Quotes

CYRANO (who has been watching, goes toward Ragueneau):
Lulled by your voice, did you see how they were stuffing themselves?

RAGUENEAU (in a low voice, smiling):
Oh, ay! I see well enough, but I never will seem to look, fearing to
distress them; thus I gain a double pleasure when I recite to them my poems;
for I leave those poor fellows who have not breakfasted free to eat, even
while I gratify my own dearest foible, see you?

CYRANO (clapping him on the shoulder):
Friend, I like you right well!. . .

Related Characters: Cyrano de Bergerac (speaker), Ragueneau (speaker)
Page Number: 86-87
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Cyrano and Ragueneau bond over their common interest in poetry and art. Ragueneau is a popular tavern owner, but he’s not much of a businessman: he allows his patrons to eat for free if they’ll listen to his poetry. Cyrano’s reaction to Ragueneau’s situation is intriguing. He suggests that Ragueneau’s patrons are just taking advantage of him; i.e., they’re not really interested in listening to some tavern owner’s poetry, but just want the free food.

Cyrano’s observations about Ragueneau are important because Ragueneau’s situation parallels his own. Like Cyrano, Ragueneau’s commitment to poetry and romantic ideals lead him to throw away substantive sums of money. Ironically, Cyrano is capable of noticing the flaws in Rageneau’s behavior, but not his own. And at the end of the conversation, Cyrano confirms that he and Ragueneau really are guilty of the same tragic flaw: in spite of his objections, Cyrano admires anyone who savors poetry and performance, especially at the expense of worldly goods.

Act 2, Scene 8 Quotes

Well, what if it be my vice,
My pleasure to displease--to love men hate me!
Ah, friend of mine, believe me, I march better
'Neath the cross-fire of glances inimical!
How droll the stains one sees on fine-laced doublets,
From gall of envy, or the poltroon's drivel!

Related Characters: Cyrano de Bergerac (speaker), Le Bret
Page Number: 112
Explanation and Analysis:

Cyrano and his friend Le Bret have a conversation about Cyrano’s “vice”—his willingness to get into big fights, even if the source of the fight is a tiny, meaningless provocation. As we’ve already seen, Cyrano can’t stand anyone making fun of his nose, or even talking about it. Cyrano seems perfectly aware that his habit of dueling with bullies is a little excessive, but he also refuses to change his behavior. Indeed, he claims that he feels better—more like himself, perhaps—when he’s provoked his enemies.

Cyrano’s claims here suggest that combativeness—or perhaps, “panache”—is his tragic flaw; the source of his greatness but also his weakness. Cyrano’s desire to win every argument, to perform for a crowd, and to make a big show of correcting his opponents, are precisely what make him such a fascinating character. But these behaviors also lead to Cyrano’s ultimate undoing (as we’ll see later on). In short, Cyrano is a tragic, romantic hero, undone by the very qualities that make him who he is.

Act 3, Scene 11 Quotes

CYRANO (in a dreamy voice):
What's o'clock?

He's lost his mind, for sure!

What hour? What country this? What month? What day?

But. . .

I am stupefied!


Like a bomb
I fell from the moon!

Related Characters: Cyrano de Bergerac (speaker), Count de Guiche (speaker)
Page Number: 162
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Cyrano tricks the Count de Guiche. Outside Roxane’s house, Cyrano needs to delay de Guiche for long enough to allow Roxane the time to marry Christian inside. To provide an appropriate diversion, Cyrano conceals his face and pretends to be a madman who believes he’s fallen from the moon. Cyrano’s words aren't just random, however. They're laced with symbolism, since the moon is a famous symbol of romance—one could say that Cyrano is “falling from the moon” as he performs for de Guiche, since in doing so he’s allowing Roxane to marry someone else, dashing his chances of ever ending up with her.

Cyrano’s performance for de Guiche also demonstrates that Cyrano is capable of putting his talents to good use. We already knew that Cyrano was a theatrical, bombastic person, always willing to act for a willing audience. Here, though, we see Cyrano using his talents for the benefit of his friends, rather than for his own vanity.

Act 4, Scene 3 Quotes

Ay, for homesickness. A nobler pain than hunger,--'tis of the soul, not of
the body! I am well pleased to see their pain change its viscera. Heart-ache
is better than stomach-ache.

Related Characters: Cyrano de Bergerac (speaker), Captain Carbon de Castel-Jaloux
Page Number: 181
Explanation and Analysis:

Although the rest of the army is starving from lack of food, Cyrano seems perfectly content to eat nothing. He plays his troops a lovely song, which makes them remember their hometowns. As the troops cry and sigh, Cyrano points out that homesickness is a greater pain than hunger, and yet a better pain.

We already knew that Cyrano was a lofty idealist--he believes that poetry is more valuable than bread or money. But here on the battlefield, we see the full extent of Cyrano's Romanticism. Cyrano truly believes that ideas and emotions are more important to human life than food or shelter. Cyrano is perfectly willing to endanger his own life in order to protect what he regards as truly important--love, poetry, etc. By the same token, Cyrano believes that one's home--i.e., a feeling of longing and love--is more valuable than food could ever be. Cyrano's beliefs are rather unrealistic, of course (you can't last long without food)--a sign that his way of life can't last forever--but for now they only add to his panache and popularity.

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 1 Quotes

He is so droll!--It's cheerful when he comes!--
He teases us!--But we all like him well!--
--We make him pasties of angelica!

But, he is not a faithful Catholic!

Related Characters: Sister Martha (speaker), Sister Claire (speaker), Cyrano de Bergerac
Page Number: 226
Explanation and Analysis:

In the final act of the play, Cyrano pays a visit to the nunnery where Roxane has been living ever since her husband's untimely death. The nuns note that Cyrano is a charming (and frequent) visitor to their home. Although he's not a particularly religious person, he's likable and funny, and respects the nuns deeply, even when he teases them.

The nuns' description of Cyrano confirms that Cyrano is just as lively and charming as ever, even though years have passed since we last saw him. Cyrano may not be the most conventionally "moral" person (he's arrogant and quick to fight) but he has an undeniable charm and sense of honor that makes us like and admire him. It's also worth noting that Cyrano's distaste for Catholicism (as per the nuns' description) places him at odds with the order of French society at the time. Catholicism, it's often said, is the branch of Christianity most concerned with order and obedience to a central authority (the Pope)--so it's entirely appropriate that Cyrano the "bad boy" would have his doubts about the faith.

Act 5, Scene 6 Quotes

That night when 'neath your window Christian spoke
--Under your balcony, you remember? Well!
There was the allegory of my whole life:
I, in the shadow, at the ladder's foot,
While others lightly mount to Love and Fame!
Just! very just!

Related Characters: Cyrano de Bergerac (speaker), Baron Christian de Neuvillette , Magdalene Robin / Roxane
Page Number: 246
Explanation and Analysis:

In the final pages of the play, Cyrano--who's dying--sums up his life. Cyrano has helped Christian woo Roxane by speaking and writing for Christian. Cyrano has, quite literally, been the "brains" of Christian's romance with Roxane. And yet Cyrano has always been denied the rewards of such a romance--he's never been able to express his love for Roxane directly, since at the end of the day, Christian is the handsome one.

Cyrano's complaints of "living in shadow" are both poignant and ironic. While it's true that Cyrano has been relegated to the sidelines during Christian's romance with Roxane, he certainly hasn't spent his "whole life" on the sidelines--on the contrary, he's been in full-view, performing for an audience of thousands. Cyrano is a born showman, who loves to entertain his many fans. Hence the contradiction of Cyrano's life: even though Cyrano is completely comfortable with himself, he's been forced to hide his true identity in the one arena where true identity really matters--love.

Despite you there is yet one thing
I hold against you all, and when, to-night,
I enter Christ's fair courts, and, lowly bowed,
Sweep with doffed casque the heavens' threshold blue,
One thing is left, that, void of stain or smutch,
I bear away despite you.

ROXANE (bending and kissing his forehead):
'Tis?. . .

CYRANO (opening his eyes, recognizing her, and smiling):
My panache.

Related Characters: Cyrano de Bergerac (speaker), Magdalene Robin / Roxane (speaker)
Page Number: 250
Explanation and Analysis:

At the very end of the play, Cyrano dies--the victim of a mysterious attack. Over the years, Cyrano's arrogance and pride have made him many enemies--he's fought and won so many duels that everyone who doesn't love him despises him. Eventually, Cyrano's combative nature catches up to him, and he's killed as an act of revenge.

And yet Cyrano doesn't regret the life he's lived, despite the fact that he's "failed" in love (for all practical purposes) and his lifestyle has brought him to an untimely death. On the contrary, he glorifies his own panache--i.e., the pride, daring, and cavalier manner for which he's famous. Cyrano is, in other words, a true Romantic hero: although his inborn nature has brought him a lot of danger and sadness, he's always refused to live any other way. Cyrano is so confident in his ideals--the ideals of bravery, wit, and honor--that he's spent a lifetime defending them. Like any good Romantic hero, Cyrano dies young, but his reputation lives on after him: we, the audience members, continue to honor Cyrano's panache more than a hundred years after the play was written--as even the word "panache" was popularized by Rostand and his famous character.