Cyrano De Bergerac

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The Many Kinds of Love Theme Analysis

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.
The Many Kinds of Love Theme Icon

The predominance of appearances, words, and faces in Cyrano de Bergerac presupposes love between different characters—without love, there would be no need for Cyrano and Christian de Neuvillette to craft elaborate lies and draft long letters to Roxane. And yet because Cyrano presupposes the existence of love, it’s often hard to say, what, exactly, real love is, especially because the play challenges our intuitive definition of love as a sincere, honest bond between two souls. In Cyrano, love seems to hinge on lies, elaborate disguises, and 15-year-long cons.

One way to begin talking about love in Cyrano is to ask why Cyrano is in love with his cousin, Roxane. Cyrano’s love shows elements of the Platonic ideal: the notion, named for the ancient Greek philosopher Plato, that love should be based on people’s attraction to one another’s minds or souls, rather than their bodies. Cyrano has known Roxane since they were both children, and has accumulated an enormous amount of knowledge about her personality, her interests, and her views of the world. Furthermore, we see during the course of the play that Roxane is intelligent, well-spoken, and quick-witted: in other words, the perfect intellectual match for Cyrano. And yet Cyrano clearly doesn’t believe that love can ever be only Platonic. He’s embarrassed by his big nose and ugly face, and senses that Roxane could never love him solely for his mind, since she’ll never be able to “move past” his physical features. This further suggests that Cyrano is attracted to Roxane for her physical beauty as well as her mind (indeed, Cyrano rhapsodizes about Roxane’s eyes and face far more than he rhapsodizes about her brains). One could say that Cyrano offers up a definition of love as both physical and spiritual: in other words, there’s nothing improper or shallow about being attracted to someone for their looks as well as for their mind. This form of love seems vastly superior to the love that Christian feels for Roxane, especially by contemporary standards. Whereas Cyrano takes the time to get to know Roxane, Christian declares his love for Roxane as soon as he’s seen her beautiful face.

So far, the characters in Cyrano exemplify two different forms of love: love that is both physical and intellectual, and love that is purely physical (and, we’re tempted to add, shallow). Roxane, on the other hand, seems to best exemplify the more “pure” Platonic ideal of love. For the first half of the play, Roxane is attracted to Christian for his good looks and—she thinks—his sophisticated mind. Yet by Act 4, Roxane claims to have moved past her physical attraction altogether: she says that she loves Christian for his mind, and only his mind. Though this seems like the most “ideal” form of love in the play, it’s also hard to say whether we should take Roxane at her word. It’s easy for Roxane to pay lip service to Platonic love, because the fact remains that while she claims that she doesn’t care about her husband’s physical beauty, Christian still is beautiful. But after Christian’s death, Roxane spends 15 years mourning his loss—her love is clearly enduring and faithful, long outlasting the “shallowness” we might think of as associated with a strictly physical attraction. And yet she’s also mourning a human who didn’t really exist: someone who had Christian’s face and Cyrano’s eloquence.

It’s not until the final pages of Cyrano that Roxane has a chance to prove the Platonic nature of her love. After 15 years, Cyrano reveals that he’s always loved Roxane, and that it was he who wrote the beautiful letters that made Roxane fall for Christian. It’s clear that Cyrano is only revealing his secret to Roxane because he knows that he’s about to die—indeed, before Roxane can respond to Cyrano’s admission that he loves her, Cyrano has drawn his last breath. The “test” of Platonic love—that is, whether Roxane could truly love an ugly man with a beautiful mind—ends as soon as it begins, even though it’s suggested that Roxane would have “passed” that test. Cyrano ends without advancing a clear definition of what “good” and “bad” love look like. The implicit message is that there are many kinds of love, ranging from Platonic to anti-Platonic, all of which have some redeeming value. Christian’s love may be shallower than Cyrano’s, but evidently they’re both strong and sincere—both men love Roxane even to the point of death. And as Roxane’s case proves, it’s also possible to feel true love for a person that doesn’t even exist. Though there’s always an element of play and deception in love, love itself is the most important and the most truthful part of the characters’ lives.

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The Many Kinds of Love Quotes in Cyrano De Bergerac

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

LIGNIERE (tasting his rivesalte in sips):
Magdalene Robin--Roxane, so called! A subtle wit--a precieuse.

Woe is me!

Related Characters: Baron Christian de Neuvillette (speaker), Ligniere (speaker), Magdalene Robin / Roxane
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we're introduced to the potential relationship between Christian and Roxane. Christian is a young, handsome man--so handsome that few women can resist his face. And yet Christian isn't very bright; specifically, he gets tongue-tied very easily. As a result, Christian is devastated when he finds out that Roxane, the young woman he loves, has a "subtle wit"--Christian hasn't got much wit at all.

The passage sets up the central problem of the play: the inability of either Christian or Cyrano to woo the beautiful Roxane. Cyrano has a big nose, and Christian has an awkward tongue; however, by "pooling their talent," Christian and Cyrano find a way to woo Roxane together, fooling her into believing that she's come across a man who is both brilliant and beautiful.


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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.

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 4 Quotes

And how know you I cannot speak?--
I am not such a fool when all is said!
I've by your lessons profited. You'll see
I shall know how to speak alone! The devil!
I know at least to clasp her in my arms!
(Seeing Roxane come out from Clomire's house):
--It is she! Cyrano, no!--Leave me not!

Related Characters: Baron Christian de Neuvillette (speaker), Cyrano de Bergerac , Magdalene Robin / Roxane
Page Number: 140
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Christian shows how awkward and frightened he really is. For a while now, Christian has been sending letters to Roxane. Although the letters have been composed by Cyrano, Christian thinks he’s getting the hang of wooing Roxane, and can manage on his own. Christian brags that he’ll be able to get by without Cyrano’s help—but as soon as he sees Roxane in person, he loses his nerve and begs Cyrano for help.

There’s a strange symbiotic relationship between Christian and Cyrano in the play. Christian is utterly incapable of wooing Roxane on his own—he thinks he can do so, but can’t. Cyrano is equally incapable of wooing his love, as his nose gets in the way (or so he assumes—it's important to note that he never actually tries). Rostand suggests the impossibilities of romance here. It’s impossible to find the “perfect man” who can win Roxane; indeed, the only such “perfect man” in the play is a fiction, a combination of Christian’s appearance and Cyrano’s brain.

Act 3, Scene 6 Quotes

Ay, it is sweet! Half hidden,--half revealed--
You see the dark folds of my shrouding cloak,
And I, the glimmering whiteness of your dress:
I but a shadow--you a radiance fair!
Know you what such a moment holds for me?
If ever I were eloquent. . .

You were!

Yet never till to-night my speech has sprung
Straight from my heart as now it springs.

Related Characters: Cyrano de Bergerac (speaker), Magdalene Robin / Roxane
Page Number: 148
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Cyrano woos Roxane the only way he knows how—eloquently, but sightlessly. Speaking to Roxane as she stands at her balcony (a sly nod to the famous scene from Romeo and Juliet), Cyrano pretends to be Christian, and gives Roxane a beautiful speech, claiming that love is better when it is “half hidden.” Although Roxane thinks that “Christian” is being romantic and poetic, Cyrano’s words are quite literal—the only way he can successfully make Roxane fall in love is by standing far away from her, so that she’s not aware of his ugly appearance.

The irony of Cyrano’s speech is that he claims it’s “straight” from his heart, when in reality the speech is a deception. Cyrano sincerely loves Roxane, and yet the only way he can express his love is by using deception, hiding his feelings behind Christian’s handsome façade. In an imperfect, unfair world, some level of deception is the only way to conduct a love affair.

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 1 Quotes

To think you risk a life so precious. . . for the sake of a letter. . . Thankless one.
(Seeing him turning to enter the tent):
Where are you going?

I am going to write another.

Related Characters: Cyrano de Bergerac (speaker), Le Bret (speaker), Magdalene Robin / Roxane
Page Number: 176
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we meet Cyrano on the battlefield. When he's not fighting, Cyrano spends all his time writing beautiful letters to Roxane, which he signs in Christian's name. As soon as Cyrano delivers one letter (risking his life to do so), he goes back to his tent to write another one.

The passage makes us wonder--why does Cyrano compose so many letters to Roxane, if he knows that none of his letters will ever make her fall in love with him (and will actually just make her love Christian more)? Cyrano is a true romantic--he doesn't dwell on the practicality or the long-term consequences of his actions. His love for Roxane is like an unquenchable thirst, and though his letters to Roxane don't make Roxane love him, they do bring him the joy of expressing his feelings.

Act 4, Scene 10 Quotes

CYRANO (in despair. to Roxane):
He's gone! 'Tis naught!--Oh, you know how he sees
Importance in a trifle!

ROXANE (warmly):
Did he doubt
Of what I said?--Ah, yes, I saw he doubted!

CYRANO (taking her hand):
But are you sure you told him all the truth?

Yes, I would love him were he. . .

(She hesitates.)

Does that word
Embarrass you before my face, Roxane?

Related Characters: Cyrano de Bergerac (speaker), Magdalene Robin / Roxane (speaker), Baron Christian de Neuvillette
Page Number: 215
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Cyrano comes extremely close to telling Roxane the truth about her love for Christian. Roxane has come to believe that she now loves Christian entirely for his soul, not his face. Cyrano, of course, is moved by this news--if Roxane is capable of loving Christian's soul, then she might be capable of loving Cyrano, in spite of his ugly face. Thus, Cyrano tries to make completely sure that Roxane loves "Christian's" (actually, Cyrano's) soul.

Even Roxane seem to sense the truth in this passage--the way she hesitates before using the word "ugly," clearly in response to the fact that Cyrano is ugly, suggests that she's really speaking about Cyrano himself, not Christian. It's as if Roxane can sense Cyrano's sincere love for her, despite the fact that previously Cyrano has had to "package" his love in Christian's body.

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.

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.