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.
The Many Kinds of Love ThemeTracker
The Many Kinds of Love Quotes in Cyrano De Bergerac
LIGNIERE (tasting his rivesalte in sips):
Magdalene Robin--Roxane, so called! A subtle wit--a precieuse.
Woe is me!
Then you will be his friend?
And he shall fight no duels, promise!
You would vex a saint!. . . But 'tis your jealousy.
What mean you?
Ay, your poet's jealousy!
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!
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. . .
Yet never till to-night my speech has sprung
Straight from my heart as now it springs.
That he shall be faithful!
Doubtless, but. . .
That he will write oft?
That, I promise you!
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.
CYRANO (in despair. to Roxane):
He's gone! 'Tis naught!--Oh, you know how he sees
Importance in a trifle!
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. . .
Does that word
Embarrass you before my face, Roxane?
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.
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!
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):