GENREALITY


July 22nd, 2011 by Rosemary
Literary Crushes: Cyrano de Bergerac

Oooo, this post is late this morning, but I have a good writers reason. Or at least, a good language lover’s reason. I went with my friend Jenny last night to see Cyrano de Bergerac at Dallas’s Shakespeare in the Park.

It seemed like plays were the only things I really enjoyed reading in High School literature. Maybe because they were short. (My other favorites were all short, too–Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Pride and Prejudice…)  But I distinctly remember Rostand’s play, despite my teacher’s best effort to drain the joy out of it by over-analysis, like everything else.

CYRANO
Magnificent,
My nose!…You pug, you knob, you button-head,
Know that I glory in this nose of mine,
For a great nose indicates a great man –
Genial, courteous, intellectual,
Virile, courageous – as I am – and such
As you – poor wretch – will never dare to be
Even in imagination. (I. 336-342)

Yes, there are important character study moments, and commentary, and historical references, and what Rostand has to say about the politics of artistic patronage and Cyrano’s refusal of it.

CYRANO 
So, when I win some triumph, by some chance,
Render no share to Caesar – in a word,
I am too proud to be a parasite,
And if my nature wants the germ that grows
Towering to heaven like the mountain pine,
Or like the oak, sheltering multitudes –
I stand, not high it may be – but alone! (II. 428-434)

But really, I loved Cyrano because he was one of my first literary crushes. That scene in the first act where he rattles off all the different ways one might have described his nose if one had any creativity? Genius. But really? It’s the scene in Act iii in the garden that really does it.

CYRANO

Your name is like a golden bell
Hung in my heart; and when I think of you
I tremble, and the bell swings and rings –
“Roxane!” …(III. 300-316)

Roxanne is an idiot, of course. I find her infuriating (and undeserving of Cyrano’s devotion), and I have no sympathy for her as a character, only for the actress who has to try and make her likable. She’s really quite clever, except in love. Even after she falls in love with Christian’s (really Cyrano’s) letters and declares she would love him even if he were hideous (as Cyrano considers himself), this is never tested. And in fact, she continues to cling that that false vision of perfect love (beautiful AND eloquent) like a plaster saint. Which might make her a better drawn character than I’d ever given her credit for, but still an idiot.

How could you hear someone say THIS to you, and EVER mistake the sound of his voice for any other’s?

Yes, that is Love – that wind
Of terrible and jealous beauty, blowing
Over me – that dark fire, that music…
Yet
Love seeketh not his own! Dear, you may take
My happiness to make you happier,
Even though you never know I gave it you –
Only let me hear sometimes, all alone,
The distant laughter of your joy!…(III.316-323)

*sniffle*

Looking up these quotes, I came across an essay comparing Dr. House (of the TV show) to Cyrano, in his wit, his arrogance and self-loathing, and his damn-the-consequences challenge of authority. I think that’s dead accurate, and it makes me realize that I wouldn’t much like to LIVE with Cyrano.

But that’s the thing about literary crushes. They’re captured in a crystalline moment that highlights their heroic brilliance, and their fatal flaw is heartrending and tragic.  In the frame of a book or a play, there’s only the night of literary passion, and not the morning after of “God! Just talk about your feelings already!”

So why go all High School Lit Class on a blog about genre fiction?  Because Shakespeare and Rostand weren’t writing literary masterpieces at the time. They were as populist as any of us on this blog, but they pushed their characters outside of the bell curve of the ordinary, and made them endure.

Heroic brilliance. Tragic flaw. A touch of melodrama and an ounce of wit and a gallon of courage. That’s my Kryptonite in a literary crush. What’s yours?

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4 comments to “Literary Crushes: Cyrano de Bergerac”

  1. gwen hayes
    Comment
    1
     · July 22nd, 2011 at 12:01 pm · Link

    Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte kills me. Whenever Rochester says anything about his feelings, I melt into a happy puddle of mush.

    Here is my favorite:
    I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you–especially when you are near me, as now: it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame. And if that boisterous channel, and two hundred miles or so of land come broad between us, I am afraid that cord of communion will be snapt; and then I’ve a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly



  2. Rosemary
    Comment
    2
     · July 22nd, 2011 at 12:29 pm · Link

    Swwwwwwoooooooooonnnnnn!!!!!

    Excellent choice!



  3. Julia Broadbooks
    Comment
    3
     · July 22nd, 2011 at 8:49 pm · Link

    I didn’t read Cyrano until after I had seen the film with Gerard Depardieu as Cyrano. After I’d seen it I rushed out and bought a copy of the book. It really is a great performance of the play. Even Roxanne comes across as obvious, but not completely stupid.

    I know own it on DVD.



  4. Rosemary Clement-Moore
    Comment
    4
     · July 25th, 2011 at 10:27 am · Link

    I just put it on my Netflix cue. Thanks!



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