Author Snapshot: Edward Rostand
You might not be familiar with Rostand as an author, yet if I said “Cyrano de Bergerac” I imagine a glimmer of recognition would spark. Cyrano or “I nose a hero with a flare for the ridiculous when I see one.” The guy on the left is thought to be the real Cyrano (really, there was a real Cyrano de Bergerac) and the actor on the right is Jose Ferrer, who presented an entertaining version in the 1950’s adaptation:
When I inherited the AP English Literature program I had a gamut of material to select from to build my own signature curriculum. Although most literature programs focus on Shakespeare’s plays, I veer towards presenting breadth, along with my depth, and toss in Cyrano de Bergerac as a study in the comedic hero. And what a hero! We romp and frolic through this play reading scenes, discussing deeper moments, celebrating epiphanies, and watching clips. We end the unit with a French feast of bread, cheese, fruit, Martinelli’s, and chocolate while we watch Megamind. You did know Megamind is thinly veiled Cyrano, didn’t you? There’s even a Roxanne!
Wait–you aren’t quite familiar with Cyrano, beyond knowing he was the guy with the big nose? Okay, quick recap:
In old time France, think Musketeers, Cyrano is a dashing soldier known for his flair (flare is nostril, of course) with his wit and sword. A fighting poet, making him a bit of a paradox. He has a major crush on his high society cousin Roxane (that’s when marrying your cousin didn’t weird people out). She doesn’t know this and thinks fondly of Cyrano as the brother she never had, putting him in that awkward friend zone, or brother/cousin zone. She confides she is in love with the new guy, who has great hair, face, etc, but she doesn’t know his name. You know what’s coming, don’t you? It turns out the mysterious new guy in town, Christian, also has a crush on her.
Jumping right into the action: Roxane extracts a promise from Cyrano to watch out for Christian since he will now be in Cyrano’s regiment. Cyrano takes the watchful friend idea a little too far by helping Christian woo Roxane through some amazing letters he writes under the guise of Christian. Roxane ends up falling in love with the letters (which is really Cyrano) and begins to become bored with Christian’s feeble attempts to woo her on his own. “I love you. I want to kiss your neck” doesn’t work for her.
As the plot unfolds, there is a villain by the name of Le Guiche, a war, a quick marriage, a revelation, secrets, and an unhappy/happy ending–depends on your point of view.
This play is a favorite and is responsible for introducing the word panache, which originally meant the feather(decoration) on the person’s hat , but has come to mean a person’s style or manner of expression.
Steve Martin introduced his own version of Cyrano as Roxanne, which is an 80’s comedy worth checking out.
Rostand also wrote a play about Chanticleer, the rooster who believed the sun needed his crowing in order to rise everyday. This was made into a clever little animated film called Rock-a-Doodle.
No matter the version you encounter, you will not forget Cyrano, a comedic hero worth getting to nose, umm, know.
A long-time and favorite play! Of course the actual Miles Standish story mimics Cyrano’s wooing Roxanne.
I did see the Steve Martin version. I do recall it being fairly well done, but then my memory is somewhat foggy. I have no idea what Megamind is. Will have to Google it. Cheers!
Steve Martin did a clever update–his nose speech is part of our AP study. Megamind is an animation with Tina Fey, Brad Pitt, and Will Ferrell as character voices. Cartoons for grown-ups–lots of inside humor the kiddies don’t get until they are in college.
I’ve never read the original novel. Does it still work without the volunteer fireman gags?
BTW: If you study any other Steve Martin films I’m going to sign up for your class next semester.
There’s a bakery scene which suffices. No Steve Martins on the horizon so you will have to be a long distant vicarious learner
Drat. But didn’t Shakespeare write Planes, Trains and Automobiles?
I think you’re thinking of Stages, Rages, and Playing Around.
What a fun post! Thanks for the chuckles! 😛
How wonderful that you chose Cyrano as part of your curriculum! In France (where I’m from) it’s a staple in our school programs.
It’s a favorite with the students. It captures the agony of unrequited love with the perfect blend of tragic comedy. Kevin Kline rendered a marvelous version of Cyrano. Have you seen it?
I don’t think I have… I’m trying to remember… The one engrained in my memory is the one with Depardieu.
He was made for the part! I show my students the last scene of the movie–it’s difficult not to get all weepy as he staggers off pontificating about his panache.
You are the coolest teacher!
Can I use this as an endorsement?
Haha, of course!