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Act 1 Notes from Cyrano de Bergerac

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Cyrano de Bergerac Act 1

There is a theatre set up in the former indoor tennis court of the Hotel de Bourgogone. There is a poster on the wall announcing that tonight's play will be 'La Clorise'. Two Cavaliers barge in without paying and practice fencing in the audience pit. A few stagehands gamble while waiting for the show to start. A Guardsman approaches a Flower Girl and attempts to lure her away for a romantic rendezvous. A middle-class citizen enters with his son, and is disgusted by all the sin and debauchery on display in the theatre. A group of Pages enter, planning to shoot peas at the audience and steal wigs with fishing lines. While the citizen tells his son about the play and its author, a Cutpurse and his assistants work the growing crowd, stealing money and fine articles of clothing. Some minor nobleman enter, including Cuigy and Brissaile. They're disappointed that, in the small crowd, that no one has particularly noticed them: A lamplighter enters and lights the stage, signaling that the play is about to start.

Ligniere enters with Christian de Neuvillete. Cuigy notices them, and Ligniere makes introduction. The noblemen gossip quitely about Christian, wondering about his wardrobe and position. Christian has just moved to Paris from the country so that he can join the Royal Guard. The noblemen point out all the other famous or noteworthy people in the crowd, all of whom they're familiar with: "1st Marquis: Our adorable little poets have arrived. 2nd Marquis: My dear, do you know them intimately? 1st Marquis: Intimately? At least." Act 1, pg. 18. Ligniere says he's going to the bar next door for a drink. Christian won't let him leave - he needs Ligniere to tell him the name of a beautiful woman that he's only seen from afar at the theatre. He needs to know what he's getting into before he tries to approach her: "What if she turns out to be a prude - or an intellectual? I wouldn't dare speak to her, I don't have the brains. The way people speak and write nowadays makes my head hurt. I'm just an honest, simple, terrified soldier." Act 1, pg. 20. Ligniere is insistent upon leaving, until he discovers he can get liquor in the theatre.

Ragueneau enters, and is introduced to Christian as the 'Pastry chef to the arts', because of his habit of trading food for poems. He asks if Cyrano is at the show. Ligniere asks why that concerns him. Ragueneau explains that Cyrano has forbidden Montfleury, the lead actor, from appearing onstage for a month - and Montfleury is appearing tonight. The noblemen overhear the conversation, and one asks who Cyrano is, Cuigy replies "He's famous for his long - sword." Act 1, pg. 21. Cuigy calls Le Bret, another of Cyrano's friends, over. They struggle to describe him, then Ligniere asks Ragueneau to recite the poem he's written about Cyrano:

"Ragueneau: Cyrano de Bergerac, that specter, that paragon,
That terror of trifles from Norway to Aragon,
Both genius and monster, unique, unexplainable,
He has every quirk and every virtue obtainable.
His clothes? As outlandish as his personality-
Three huge plumes for his hat- 'To hell with frugality!'
Bizarrest of all the birds hatched out of Gascony-
Is your cause a lost one? You've only to ask and he
Will rush to defend you with wit and audacity,
With valour beyond mankind's normal capacity,
This dreamer whose vigour, whose kindness, whose verity
Are great as his nose - God forgive my temerity!-
But truly that nose is the glorious cross he bears,
Like some raging sardonic demon's emboss he wears.
I've heard strangers cry, 'Wait - and we'll see it taken off!'
But that man's nasal destiny cannot be shaken of!"
Act 1, pg. 22

Topic Tracking: Art and Poetry 1

Everyone agrees that Cyrano is a fierce fighter, and they pity anyone who might mock his nose. Everyone's attention goes to the balcony, as Roxane enters and sits in her private box. Ligniere identifies her to Christian as a cousin to Cyrano, who is refined, noble, and unmarried. Christian is disappointed to learn that she might be too refined for him. De Guiche enters and speaks with Roxane. Ligniere tells Christian that De Guiche is rich and powerful, and plans to marry Roxane to his best friend Valvert, who will overlook De Gauche making time with his wife. Christian walks toward the exit, planning to slap Valvert - challenge him to a duel. Ligniere warns Christian that Valvert is quite a swordsman, and tells him that Roxane is watching him, and he shouldn't do anything rash. While Christian looks up at Roxane, the Cutpurse approaches, ready to rob him. Ligniere leaves, headed for the bar.

Topic Tracking: Love 1

Le Bret and Ragueneau have failed to find Cyrano in the theatre. Maybe he hasn't come, after all. The two noblemen fawn falsely over De Guiche, who ignores them. Christian hears Valvert's name, and reaches for a glove to challenge him with - instead, he catches the Cutpurse about to rob him. The Cutpurse begs for his freedom, and tells Christian that someone has plotted to kill Ligniere in an ambush - one hundred men are waiting for him on his way home from the bar. Christian runs off to look for Ligniere.

The audience all takes their seats, anxious for the show to begin. The middle class citizen has his wig snatched by the Pages with their fishing line. As the play begins, everyone quiets down and behaves. Montfleury walks on stage and begins his performance. From the audience, a Voice is heard: "Swine! Did I not forbid you to appear?!" Act 1, pg. 27 Everyone in the audience is confused for a moment, except for Cuigy and Le Bret, who know what is about to happen. That Audience insists that Montfleury continues, and he does, nervously. The Voice continues to loudly threaten Montfleury as its owner strides through the crowd and climbs onto a chair, revealing himself to be Cyrano - huge nose and all. Montfleury looks to his friend, the minor noblemen, for help, but Cyrano shuts them up with a threat.

Cyrano continues to mock Montfleury's acting ability. The Audience demands that Montfleury continue acting, and tries to boo and shove Cyrano off the stage. Cyrano spins, his hand on his sword, and everyone backs away from him. The audience sings mockingly, trying to convince Cyrano to leave the stage. They yell insults, and Cyrano insults them back. Finally, when they won't shut up, Cyrano challenges everyone in the audience to a fight - anyone that wishes to challenge him can up onto the stage and fight him. The audience shuts up fast. Cyrano sits calmly on his chair, and gives Montfleury until the count of three claps to leave the stage. Montfleury protests, then disappears on the third clap. The Audience demands that the comedian Jodelet come out. As he does, a Young Man approaches Cyrano, and asks why he hates Montfleury so much. Cyrano replies that he has two reasons: First, because Montfleury is a bad actor. The second is a secret.

Topic Tracking: Art and Poetry 2

The Lead Actor asks Cyrano what they're supposed to do now that the show is cancelled. Cyrano gives him a purse full of gold so that they can return the audience its money, and still make a profit for the evening. An Irritable Fan suggests that Cyrano is in great trouble, because Montfleury has a powerful Patron, and Cyrano has no one to protect him. Cyrano replies that he needs nothing but his sword. The Irritable Fan continues pestering Cyrano, until Cyrano accuses the Fan of staring at his nose. The Fan tries to deny it, but Cyrano presses the issue, refusing to let it go, until:

Topic Tracking: Honor 1

"Cyrano: My nose is Gargantuan! You little Pig-snout, you tiny Monkey-Nostrils, you virtually invisible Pekinese-Puss, don't you realize that a nose like mine is both sceptre and orb, a monument to me superiority? A great nose is the banner of a great man, a generous heart, a towering spirit, an expansive soul - such as I unmistakably am, and such as you dare not to dream of being, with your bilious weasel's eyes and no nose to keep them apart! With your face as lacking in all distinction - as lacking, I say, in interest, as lacking in pride, in imagination, in honesty, in lyricism - in a word, as lacking in nose as that other offensively bland expanse at the opposite end of your cringing spine - which I now remove from my sight by stringent application of my boot!" Act 1, pg. 34

Topic Tracking: Honor 2

Bored with Cyrano's antics, De Guiche and his crowd of minor noblemen walk down from the platform. Trying to impress De Guiche, Valvert decides that he's going to humiliate Cyrano. Valvert tries to do this by calling Cyrano's nose large. Cyrano is unimpressed, and humiliates Valvert by offering many more effective insults that he could have used. He then dismisses Valvert as being pathetic and witless, and dares him to come up with an original insult. Valvert is petrified, and De Guiche tries to drag him away. Valvert attempts to insult Cyrano, by pointing out his lack of fancy dress. Cyrano replies that all of his virtues are on the inside, and outer trappings mean nothing to him: "My wit is more polished than your moustache. The truth which I speak strikes more sparks from men's hearts than your spurs do from the cobblestones." Act 1, pg. 36

Valvert insults Cyrano's mother and calls him a freak. Cyrano challenges Valvert to a duel, and Valvert accepts, spitting and calling Cyrano a 'poet'. Cyrano agrees, and announces that he will compose a ballad during the duel, and as the ballad ends, he will kill Valvert. As they begin to duel, Cyrano matches his fighting to the poem he speaks:

"Cyrano: Thus I toss my poor hat aside,
And shrug off my threadbare cape,
The crowd's eyes are open wide
And many a mouth is agape,
As I take my sword by the nape
And draw out its form so fine
From which there is no escape,
For tonight, Valvert - you are mine!
Too bad that you chose to deride
This vicious old Bergerac ape
(My teeth are as hard as my hide),
Yet when you are dead I will drape
Your corpse with the finest of crepe,
So that all know your taste was 'divine,'
Though you should have avoided a scrape
With the master - for now, you are mine!
I must find now a sharp rhyme for 'pride'-
You're panting, you're red as a grape!
Is that ardor or terror inside?
What began as a lark, as a jape,
Now concludes with a rout, with a rape,
With your virginal courage supine,
As a puddle on honour's landscape-
Turn around, little girl - you are mine!
Final Chorus:
It's a shame, sir, to alter a shape
As refined, as expensive as thine,
But, to spare you life's endless red tape,
I will edit you - There you are mine!"
Act 1, pg. 38-9

Topic Tracking: Honor 3
Topic Tracking: Art and Poetry 3

Cyrano stabs Valvert, who falls away, and is caught by his entourage. Everyone applauds Cyrano's performance. Even D'Artagnan approaches and congratulates Cyrano on his swordplay. As the theatre begins to clear out, Le Bret and Cyrano step aside. Cyrano refuses a meal, explaining to Le Bret that he can't afford to eat. The purse he threw to the actors was his entire month's allowance. "Le Bret: To Pay off a pack of actors - what silliness! Cyrano: Ah, but what style!" Act 1, pg. 40 A Buffet Attendant offers Cyrano free food, in appreciation of his performance. Cyrano accepts only a grape, half a macaroon, and some water - and the lady's hand, which he kisses. Le Bret scolds Cyrano for being so outrageous, for devoting his life to impressing fools and making enemies. Cyrano announces that he's finally decided on some direction in his life - he's going to become the most admirable and admired of men. Le Bret asks why Cyrano actually hates Montfleury. Cyrano tells him that Montfleury has a habit of eyeing the women in the gallery lecherously, and he made the mistake of looking at the object of Cyrano's affections, the beautiful Roxane, who he idolizes and loves from afar. Le Bret suggests that Cyrano just tell Roxane how he feels, Cyrano says that he would like to, but he believes that he's too ugly for any woman to love, especially Roxane.

Topic Tracking: Love 2

Roxane's Chaperone enters, and asks if Cyrano might be free to meet with Roxane tomorrow in private. Cyrano is flustered and doesn't know how to respond - he suggests that they meet in Ragueneau's bakery shop. The Chaperone agrees, and sets the meeting for Seven AM, then leaves. Cyrano is ecstatic, he wants to prove his vigor and virtue before his meeting with Roxane, but he doesn't know how to do it. Just then, Cuigy, Brissaile, and some military men drag a drunk Ligniere into the theatre. Ligniere tells Cyrano about the ambush, and asks if he can sleep at Cyrano's house. Cyrano announces that he will go along with Ligniere to protect him. "Cuigy: But - one hundred- Cyrano: I know. I outnumber them, but I shall go gently with them at first." Act 1, pg. 45 Le Bret is skeptical, but Cyrano ignores him, reminding everyone that he wants no help - even if there are a thousand men waiting for Ligniere. The actors and musicians are so impressed that they follow Cyrano out onto the street, excited by the spectacle about to unfold before them. Quitely, Cyrano explains the situation to the Soubrette, Georgette: "Does it seem strange: a hundred cutthroats against one poor poet? It is not strange. It is a minimal defense, mademoiselle- (Drawing his sword; quietly.) -when that poet is a friend of Cyrano de Bergerac." Act 1, pg. 47

Topic Tracking: Love 3

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