Cyrano stands with Roxane. Roxane asks Cyrano what’s wrong with Christian. She guesses that he has doubts about whether she truly loves him. Cyrano carefully asks Roxane if she truly loves Christian for his wit, not for his face. Roxane insists that she does—even if Christian were hideously disfigured, she says, she’d still love him just as much.
Cyrano excels at using performances and masks, and here he tries something especially complicated: he finds a way to ask Roxane if she loves him without ever actually bringing up himself (instead, he mentions Christian). This reminds us of why Cyrano agreed to help Christian seduce Roxane in the first place (at least in part): through Christian, Cyrano could woo Roxane and profess his love to her without the indignity of being denied or rejected. Here Roxane confirms that she has moved on from the physical to a purely “Platonic” or intellectual love. Of course, it’s impossible to know just how true this really is right now—it’s easy for her to say she’d love Christian even if he were ugly, but the fact remains that he isn’t ugly. Yet for all intents and purposes, her words seem sincere.
Cyrano, seemingly satisfied that Roxane is capable of loving a man for his wit, not his face, tells Roxane that he needs to tell her something immediately. Suddenly, Le Bret runs up to Cyrano and whispers something in his ear. Cyrano is stunned—he says, “now I can never tell.” Roxane asks what’s the matter, but Cyrano refuses to say.
At the precise moment when Cyrano and Roxane seem poised to express their true love for each other, fate conspires to keep them apart. The comedy keeps becoming more and more tragic.
A group of cadets walk up to the camp, carrying something. Cyrano whispers to Roxane that Christian “was” a great, noble man. Roxane realizes that the cadets are carrying Christian’s body: he was struck by an enemy bullet, and will be dead soon. Roxane bursts into tears and embraces Christian. Christian whispers Roxane’s name. Quickly, Cyrano runs up to Christian and quietly tells him that he told Roxane the truth—and Roxane still loves Christian. With this news, Christian closes his eyes and dies.
With Christian’s death, Cyrano feels that he has failed to keep Christian safe, as per his promise to Roxane. In a touching example of Cyrano’s loyalty, he tells a lie to ensure that Christian dies happy, saying that Roxane still loves him even after she learned the truth. Cyrano seemed to have had little respect for Christian earlier in the play, but by this point he is willing to make great sacrifices because of his loyalty to the man—even to the point of never telling Roxane the truth.
Roxane crouches over Christian’s body while everyone else—except Cyrano—goes off to fight. Roxane says that Christian was a brilliant, beautiful, and wise man. Cyrano agrees. Count de Guiche calls out that French soldiers are bringing more provisions for the cadets. Roxane sees that Christian is holding a letter—the tear-stained letter Cyrano wrote for Roxane. Roxane sees that the letter is covered in Cyrano’s own blood. As she notices this, she swoons and collapses, and Cyrano catches her.
In this scene, Rostand uses symbolism to clarify why Cyrano can’t confess his feelings for Roxane. Cyrano’s love for Roxane may be more sincere and passionate than Christian’s, but the fact remains that Christian is dead, and he loved Roxane up to the moment of his death. In short, Christian’s blood is more powerful and dignified than Cyrano’s tears: if he were to confess his love now, Cyrano would be tarnishing the memory of a dead soldier, and ruining Roxane’s love. As an honorable man, Cyrano refuses to do so. Rostand’s timing of the events here is especially tragic.
Cyrano, still holding Roxane, calls for the Count de Guiche. He tells de Guiche to take care of Roxane, and passes her to the Count. With this, Cyrano walks away, saying, “Farewell, Roxane.”
Cyrano is literally saying goodbye to Roxane, but he also knows that he’ll never be as spiritually close with her as he was in the moment before Christian’s death. De Guiche suddenly doesn’t seem like a villain anymore, but rather a powerful man who loves Roxane and can protect her in her grief.
Cyrano draws his weapon and joins the battle. He shouts to Captain Carbon that he has to avenge his friend’s death, as well as his own “dead” happiness. A great battle breaks out, and many cadets are killed or wounded.
This scene ironically parallels the finale of Act I: in that earlier act, Cyrano’s optimistic love for Roxane inspired him to take on 100 opponents. Here, Cyrano’s melancholy love—a love he now knows will never be realized—inspires him to fight even harder.