Breaking The Rules in Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac
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Cyrano de Bergerac, written by Edmond Rostand, is a play about a poetic swordsman with a bad temper, an attitude, and a hideously long nose. As one reads along in this drama, one will find that the people are different in the way they speak, dress, and socialize. With the characters in this book living in 17th century France, it is not a wonder that their customs are far removed from ours today. Cyrano de Bergerac has three cultural themes: attitude, social ranking, and dress.
The attitude of this play is very interesting. Looking closely, one notices that most of the characters in Cyrano de Bergerac are very formal in the way they address others. They always seem to keep their opinions to themselves, or if they do share it, they do so in a very inoffensive way. Cyrano, however, is very loud and obnoxious. He likes attention and he wants to be the superior. He doesn’t care if other people think he is rude or boastful as long as they are afraid of him. In Cyrano’s first appearance, he frightened an actor off a stage. In Act One, a man asks Cyrano, “Why do you make so many enemies?” (24). The man starts naming some of them, and after a few, Cyrano replies, “Enough. I’m overjoyed.” Cyrano’s attitude, it seems, is quite different than that of his peers.
Social ranking was extremely important during the 17th century. The musketeers, officers, tradesmen, and managers were highly respected. The poor, pickpockets, and common folk were not. Cyrano was egotistical and poor, which made some people despise him. He was also a poet and a swordsman, which made others intrigued by him. The ladies thought of him as a hero and a gentleman. The men were simply afraid of him. Obviously, Cyrano evoked mixed opinions.
Style of dress was a significant factor in Cyrano de Bergerac. Men wore frills, ribbons, lace, and gloves. Women wore dresses with petticoats and jewels. Cyrano was a poor man, therefore, he didn’t have the fancy attire like the other men. In Act One, he claimed that he clothed himself in independence and security, and that what shining gems he owned, he wore inside (20).