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Tragedies are often emotionally draining, whether they are classic or contemporary. The word itself implies heartbreak; a soldier lost at war or a ship wrecked at sea would be described as tragic. Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand is entertaining story. It differs from the works of Macbeth and Oedipus because it is not strikingly sad, yet the protagonist of Cyrano de Bergerac dies a sad death after a sad life. Everyone has flaws, and maybe those flaws take too much away from our lives, but the character of Cyrano has a striking flaw, his immense fear of rejection and general insecurity. Cyrano lets this flaw invade every relationship he has, all the decisions he makes. Cyrano de Bergerac is a flawed man in a contemporary tragedy.
Cyrano de Bergerac values many things, including literature and theater. One of the first appearances that he makes is in defense of his beloved theater, to get an actor he hates of the stage. Cyrano hates this actor personally, Montfleury. It isn’t explained why Cyrano is not concerned that other people may disagree with him, for hating on Montfleury or for ruining a show. As a reader, it’s obvious that this could not make Cyrano a popular man. However, it is later explained that Cyrano enjoys making enemies (or says he does). Cyrano says, “I love when others hate me,” (page 114). Although he seems to want people to decide they don’t like him, it is apparent that he is using this as a method of self-defense, because he is so insecure that he is trying to justify the amount of people that hate him. If you want people to hate you, when they do aren’t they just doing you a favor? No matter what, Cyrano is putting himself in a situation where he is the winner, but this is out of insecurity. He makes people hate him because he hates himself.
Cyrano spends the entire story secretly in love with Roxane. Roxane values him as a friend, and by the end relies on him every day. During the time in between, she falls in love with his writing to her. Even after Roxane’s lover, and the man he was pretending to write as, is dead, Cyrano doesn’t tell her how he feels or that he was the one she fell in love with. Cyrano spends fifteen years trying to stay close to Roxane even after he stops writing the letters. If Cyrano had ended up with Roxane, he wouldn’t have become the unhappy, lonely man that he died as. Cyrano’s downfall was because he held in this secret. He let himself be alone by not going for the woman he loved, and he let his loneliness make him even more cynical, and that ate him away. This was entirely because he was too insecure and afraid of rejection. When his best friend, Le Bret, suggests that he tell the women, for whom he has such passion, the truth, he rejects it. Cyrano says, “My old friend—look at me, and tell me how much hope remains for me with this protuberance!” (page 48). He specially blames his reasoning for keeping his love a secret on his insecurity of his nose, his tragic flaw.
Cyrano’s literal death is due to an “accident” that De Guiche alludes to in a conversation with Le Bret. De Guiche says, The other day at Court, such a one said to me: “This man Cyrano may die—accidentally,” (page ). Cyrano has already made it apparent that many people hate him, and apparently enough to lead to his death. Cyrano is already an impoverished, miserable man at this point because of combination of his choices with Roxane and with other people. Once again, this is because Cyrano is so insecure that he destroys his relationships with other people. Had it not been for his insecurities, his tragic flaw, he would not have had this eventual downfall and this sad death. He was killed because of the way he interacts with people, making them enemies, which he does out of insecurity.
Cyrano is a likable character that teaches a lesson of self love and bravery. It’s difficult to read such a tragic story and not believe that he is a tragic character, having lead a lonely life and having died a miserable death. Cyrano de Bergerac is a story about a man who is too insecure to make the right decisions and this leads to his downfall. This tragedy inspires self-reflection in the same way that tragedies like Macbeth strengthen morals and real tragic events inspire unity.
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