The lecture at Clomire’s house has just finished, and Roxane is leaving with her Duenna—they arrived far too late, and missed the entire lecture. As Roxane steps out, she notices Christian standing nearby. She greets Christian and invites him to walk and converse with her.
It’s important to remember that the scenes of this play follow each other without any temporal breaks—in other words, Roxane is walking out of the lecture only a few minutes after entering it. It’s symbolically fitting that Roxane misses the lecture on love—if there’s an easy road to romance, none of the characters know of it.
Christian begins his conversation with Roxane by saying, “I love you.” But he finds that he can only repeat his sentiment, or say similar things, such as “I love you so.” Roxane is unimpressed, and gets up to leave. Not knowing what to say, Christian exclaims, “I love thee not!” then realizes his mistake. Amused and disappointed, Roxane walks back into her house. As Roxane walks away, Cyrano emerges from behind the wall, whispering to himself, ”It is successful!”
Christian begins with the simplest and sincerest expression of how he feels—“I love you”—but this just isn’t enough. Roxane doesn’t want simple sincerity—she wants sincerity decorated in fancy phrases and elaborate rhetorical maneuvers. In short, she wants the appearance of love (along with proof of her lover’s worth and intelligence) as much as she wants love in itself. It’s unclear if this was Cyrano’s intention all along, but he is obviously pleased to see his “student” humiliate himself in front of Roxane—and Cyrano himself can keep his conscience clear, as he hasn’t broken any promises to either Roxane or Christian. Another conclusion to draw from this scene is that even now, Roxane seems to love Christian more for his words than his appearance—he stands before her in all his handsomeness, but she rejects him when he can’t produce Cyrano’s wit and wisdom. All this adds to the tragic aspect of the play, as it’s suggested that Roxane may have been able to love Cyrano all along, if he’d only admitted his feelings to her instead of hiding behind Christian.