Book Review: Cyrano de Bergerac

Image from Amazon.com

I read this play by Edmond Rostand at this moment in time (after having to read it way back in high school) because the movie was coming out and it looked so good. Unfortunately, the movie has come out and Amazon wants $20 for me to rent it. Ah, well. It will come down some day. But I can’t wait to review until then, so here goes a review on the finish date.

Cyrano de Bergerac is good stuff. I suppose if you don’t like to read plays or don’t understand the time and language in meter of late-Victorian writing (I mean, once it has been translated from the original French) then you might not love it. But I am adept enough at both to see a wonderful play when I see it. I am actually surprised that it is not on any of my Best Ofs list and I believe that it should be on the Plays list, at least. Maybe it’s just an oversight? I mean, why else would I have to have read this in high school if it isn’t a classic?

I must say, though, that watching the preview for the new movie and also from very old recall, I was surprised by the melancholy side of this otherwise funny and romantic story. I mean, the vast majority of the play is word-play which, at the time (called wit) would have solicited many guffaws from the audience. And yet it has that classic French twist of the depressed with it’s also classic French liberality of love and passion. I guess I thought that was a more modern thing. Maybe Edmund Rostand originated it. I’m just thinking aloud. So be aware: it’s not going to be all comedy and warm fuzzies, but there will be comedy and warm fuzzies. For one, the play takes place over a longer time than you might expect. It also has quite a bit of violence (often committed during lightning-quick repartee in rhyme), and part of it even takes place on the front lines of war. Surprise!

And I find that I have already said most of what I meant to, just while musing about the play’s surprises. It is extremely well-written, witty (even though outdated), funny, romantic, violent, and ultimately bittersweet. And now that you are almost done with the review, I will tell you what it is about: Cyrano de Bergerac is a swordsman extraordinaire and a nobleman-soldier who is in love with his cousin, Roxane, but he would never tell her this because despite his many credits (including, we are left to suppose, his penchant for causing fights and being offended), he has an enormous nose. We are led to believe that physically, he is little more than a circus sideshow freak, but he is not only a swashbuckling hero but an extremely witty poet, an artiste with words. So when de Bergerac (who it turns out was a real person) finds out that Roxane is in love with a pretty face, he works toward her happiness by polishing up the young lad’s words (and intelligence) for him, resulting in some classic, situational comedy and some eventual need for multiple revelations. There are more plot twists, but to wind any further would be to sacrifice the joy of your reading (or viewing).

If you haven’t already riddled it out, I really enjoyed reading Cyrano and I am looking forward to the movie (which has swapped de Bergerac’s nose for his being a little person). I would recommend it, especially if you are interested in reading plays or enjoy being rewarded after a small challenge (poetry, time, etc.). There are two notable translations, and any large bookstore should stock it, as well as many high schools.

Image from Amazon.com
Image from IMDB.com

MOVIES

When I finally watch the 2022 version with Peter Dinklage, I will post the review here.

Perhaps I should also watch Roxanne, the modern-day version with Steve Martin.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s