Sunday, March 7, 2010

Cyrano de Bergerac

Today was really cold, but deceptively sunny. So, when I went outside and figured, "hm, it can't be as cold as my computer says it is because the sun is shining," I decided not to bring gloves or a scarf. The problem was that it was really windy and cold at the same time. Needless to say, I came back quickly and stayed inside for the rest of the day. Apparently, I got a little sunburned, though. That's what Pierre said anyway. Too bad I already knew that "coup de soleil" was sunburn, or else I might have learned a new expression today.

Since that paragraph obviously isn't a proper blog entry, I figure that, in the spirit of my movie review from last night, I'll write about what I'm reading: Cyrano de Bergerac. I'm so close to being done, but I want to go to bed soon so I can wake up bright and early and be at l'ENS with tons of extra time. I'd love to read the end of this play in La Cour aux Ernests! Hopefully it will be sunny and warm!

Cyrano de Bergerac:

I love this edition that Pierre lent me. It's a critical edition, so it has footnotes for every reference, and appendices about the real Cyrano de Bergerac (who went to Louis-le-Grand, by the way) and his writings. In my l'ENS class, the male professor said that this play is the epitome of the ideal French person. He didn't say why, but it probably has something to do with Cyrano's wit, expert swordsmanship, tragically beautiful love story, or the giant nose. On second thought, it must be the nose. Forget the rest.

Act I: Basic introduction of main characters. Christian reveals that he is in love with Roxane, but is afraid to tell her. An idiot insults Cyrano's nose and Cyrano puts him in his place. First, he tells the man all of the insults that he could have used if he had just "varied the tone" a little. Then, he has a sword fight with him while composing a ballad, and at the last line, he wins! It's very quick, but of course, all written in l'alexandrin - the French classical verse, comparable to Shakespeare's iambic pentameter, but much more difficult. With the alexandrin, each line is twelve syllables, with four major accents, and it's also written in rhyming couplets. If that weren't impressive enough, there are different levels of rhymes. I won't get into all the details I learned from Professor Neefs last semester, but basically, the more letters that match, the better the rhyme unless, of course, it's the same word. The Academie would not like that! After the duel, Cyrano reveals that he too loves Roxane. The fact that she's his cousin is insignificant either because, back then, incest wasn't frowned upon like it is today, or because that sort of thing is acceptable in France. I'm not sure, but I hope it's just the former. In The Count of Monte Cristo, Mercedes ends up marrying her cousin, and that takes place much later (though it was written earlier, I believe).

Act II: Cyrano meets with Roxane, who reveals that she is in love with a man: he is in Cyrano's regiment, and he's brilliant, and...oh yeah, he's handsome. Oops...Cyrano was feeling very lucky until that part. Of course, then she says that she hasn't actually talked to this guy. But what if he's not brilliant? Cyrano asked. But Roxane is sure that he is, and begs Cyrano to be his friend. Cyrano has to be a good cousin and say yes, even though he is in love with her too. Later on, Cyrano actually meets Christian, and Christian is very quick to insult his nose. Why? Who knows? But his insults were remarkably clever and quick for a man who we later learn is quite stupid. Instead of killing or publicly shaming Christian like the loser from Act I, Cyrano befriends Christian and gives him the love letter that he had written to Roxane already. They decide to combine Christian's beauty with Cyrano's mind to create the perfect suitor for Roxane.

Act III: The balcony scene, which is much more comedic than romantic. Christian decides that he's learned an awful lot from Cyrano and that he's ready to talk to Roxane like a big boy. Cyrano tries to tell him, but he just doesn't listen. You see, Roxane is "une précieuse" so when she says "talk to me of love" she wants a very philosophical answer - a debate, like Plato would have had. These "précieuses" must have thought they were pretty smart, talking about love in philosophical ways, but Roxane doesn't even realize that Christian is an idiot and that it's actually Cyrano who starts talking after Christian makes a complete fool of himself. But, eventually, Cyrano saves the day for Christian and not only does he secure him a kiss, but he gets him married! This guy named De Guiche was coming to see Roxane, so she decided that she had to marry Christian tout de suite! But, De Guiche got there while they were getting married, so Cyrano pretended to have just fallen from the moon and told him fantastic tales about how to get to the moon until the two inside were married. My favorite was when he was asking where he had landed, guessing Algeria because De Guiche was wearing a black mask, then when he said it was just a mask, Cyrano guessed Venice. Finally, De Guiche said: "A lady is waiting for me" so Cyrano responds: "I am therefore in Paris!" It was cute. The interesting part was that the real Cyrano de Bergerac actually wrote a book about people on the moon. It was one of the earliest works of science fiction! I bet he was Jules Verne's inspiration!

Look at the time! It's past midnight. I guess I'll finish this tomorrow, unless I actually have something interesting to say about my day.

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