By LaRocque DuBose, Estelle DuBose
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Extra resources for Cyrano de Bergerac (Cliffs Notes)
What he wanted was a rich and beautiful mistress. De Guiche is the only character in the play that changes or develops, with the possible exception of Christian. In the last act, De Guiche has mellowed considerably, to the extent that he has developed respect for both Roxane and Cyrano. He has learned to respect their spiritual values, though he does not completely share them, and he has learned that worldly rewards are not everything. If Rostand had shown De Guiche undergoing a greater change than this, we would be very suspicious; if he had shown him not changed at all, we would be a little disappointed.
This is particularly illustrated in Roman de la Rose, in which the chevalier servant loved his lady from afar. He wrote poetry, he served her in every way possible, but he never touched her. The term romantic in English criticism most often refers to a treatment of a theme. Romantic treatments are sometimes sentimental, idealistic rather than realistic; Victorian literature is largely romantic, for example. The romantic attitude is quite different from the restrained neoclassical attitude. Reason, order, balance are earmarks of neoclassicism, while a wild, free exuberance is characteristic of romanticism.
Christian has to die, of course. Cyrano’s despair over an unrequited love can hold an audience’s attention for only a limited amount of time. And what sort of climax can the play have if the war ends with Cyrano, Christian, and Roxane all still alive? What sort of relationship would develop then between these three? Rostand very cleverly makes De Guiche, Roxane, and Christian show the noblest and most mature sides of their characters in this act, and at this moment we are especially sympathetic to Christian.