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MonkeyNotes-Cyrano De Bergerac by Edmond Rostand
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Historical Information

The historical figure of Cyrano was a seventeenth century poet and dramatist, who lived from 1619 to 1655, a period of great intellectual activity in Europe. Cyrano questioned certain basic assumptions of politics and religion of the time, which made him unpopular with the authorities. In his play Le Pedant Joue, he satirized dogmatic education, which was typical in the 17 th century; and his Roman historical play, The Death of Agrippina, was accused of violating the pieties held sacred by French society. His sense of humor further alienated him from the conventional aristocrats, who tended to fear him and hate him. It is clear that the real Cyrano, much like the one portrayed in the play, was an independent thinker in a conformist society.

Writing about Cyrano nearly 250 years after his death, Rostand tries to recreate the atmosphere of seventeenth century France before Louis XIV came to the throne. The real center of power in the reign of Louis XIII was Cardinal Richelieu, an able administrator and strategist. The year in which Rostand's play mainly takes place is 1640, a historic year in the French war against the Imperial Spanish troops. The siege of Arras in Flanders, where Act IV is enacted, was a particularly dramatic moment in the French campaign to liberate parts of the Netherlands. The French, who had initially besieged the town of Arras, were ironically besieged in their turn by the Spanish troops. Rostand has seized this historical episode for a climactic scene in his play because the historical Cyrano had participated in this battle in the regiment of Captain Carbon de Castel-Jaloux of the Gascon Cadets.


The play, Cyrano de Bergerac, also presents the literary and cultural life of the 17 th century, with references to Corneille, Moliére, and other lesser-known literary figures of the time. In addition, there are frequent references to the system of aristocratic patronage of the arts, which was prevalent in the 17 th century. The intellectual lectures organized by the "Precieuses" (bluestockings) of Paris are also referenced when Roxane attends one of them.

Count De Guiche is also a well-documented historical figure. He actually married Cardinal Richelieu's niece and led the French Guards as a Colonel in 1639. Then in 1641, he became Maréchal de France, as a reward for his services at the battle of Arras.

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