Cyrano and Le Bret sit down to eat, Cyrano having just accepted free food from a kind Buffet-Girl. Le Bret warns Cyrano that he’s making enemies in town by interrupting theater performances—he reminds Cyrano that “the Cardinal” (Cardinal Richelieu, the most powerful man in France) was in the audience that night, not to mention de Guiche and Valvert.
In a clear instance of foreshadowing, Le Bret suggests that Cyrano’s actions have consequences: at the rate Cyrano’s going, he’ll have angered everyone in town within a few years. Cyrano ignores these warnings, in part because he’s naturally reckless and partly because he has faith in his own charisma. Cyrano thinks that by wowing a crowd, he can remain popular, well liked, and successful. He thinks that impressing an audience of commoners is more important than pandering to a group of dull aristocrats—and indeed, this is partly what makes Cyrano stand out so much among his peers.
Le Bret demands to know why Cyrano despises Montfluery so much. Cyrano explains that Montfluery has been ogling a woman for whom Cyrano himself has feelings. This woman, Cyrano goes on, is the most beautiful he’s ever known: his own cousin, Roxane. Le Bret tells Cyrano that he 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 nose is a lonely way to live, Cyrano explains sadly. Le Bret disagrees—surely Cyrano’s wit and humor could help him win over beautiful women.
Here, we learn a secret about Cyrano, something that is clearly too private and important to him for him to exhibit it in his performances: he’s in love with his cousin Roxane (love between cousins would not have been taboo at the time). In a way, Cyrano’s verbal and physical performances are disguises: by pretending to be combative and aggressive, he conceals the fact that he’s secretly tender, and a romantic at heart. Cyrano’s nose is a symbol of outward ugliness concealing a “beautiful” interior, but here we also see that it may be more of an obstacle for Cyrano himself than for others—he doesn’t even try to court Roxane because he assumes that she would be repulsed by his nose. Once we actually meet Roxane, however, it’s suggested that this may be a mistake, and Cyrano’s insecurities may be robbing him of happiness.
As Le Bret and Cyrano talk, a Duenna (a serving woman) approaches them and tells Cyrano that she has come from Roxane to deliver a message.
Right on cue, we learn that Roxane has a message for Cyrano. We can’t help but wonder if Roxane share’s her cousin’s feelings.