Morality’s Decisions: Cyrano de Bergerac’s Version of Honor
“The most important human endeavor is the striving for morality in our actions. Our inner balance and even our very existence depend on it. Only morality in our actions can give beauty and dignity to life.” – Albert Einstein
Distinguishing between right and wrong is a skill people learn over the span of their lifetime. Individuals who choose positively rewarded options allow themselves to live with a clear conscience. Those who choose to do negatively thought out options create a guilty conscience. In the play Cyrano de Bergerac, by Edmund Rostand, readers follow the story of a man who is deeply in love with a woman, however, the woman loves another man. As a result, the man agrees to help the other man “woo” the woman; these events, though somewhat slanted against Cyrano, portray the man as a heroic character. Through Cyrano’s decision to assist Christian, Rostand discusses moral principles and reveals adhering to values make one an honorable person.
Acknowledging one’s own beliefs creates a stronger self-drive to one’s moral values. Cyrano makes his first appearance in the theatre, where a citizen challenges his presence and claims Monfleury has a powerful patron and Cyrano does not. Cyrano declares he has no need for a patron and can protect himself with his sword. The citizen makes the mistake of telling Cyrano he was trying not to look at his nose, which Cyrano takes offense to. “My nose, sir, is enormous. Ignorant clod, cretinous moron a man ought to be proud, yes, proud, of having so proud an appendix of flesh and bone to crown his countenance, provided a great nose may be an index of a great soul-affable, kind, endowed with wit and liberality and courage and courtesy- like mine…” (Rostand, 28) This quote signifies that Cyrano acknowledges how his nose is a part of him. He sees his nose as a symbol of the values he stands by. For one to insult his nose is like insulting the characteristics that make him a principled being. Knowing what one believes in creates a stronger commitment to views.
Choosing actions based on value rather than personal gain takes great strength. During the siege of Arras, Roxane unexpectedly arrives and the climax unfolds. She tells Christian that she now loves him for his soul and not just his physical appearance. Christian, knowing Cyrano is his “soul,” tells Cyrano to reveal the truth to Roxane and allow her to choose between them. He then goes to into battle and is the first to be killed. Once Cyrano learns of Christian’s death, he no longer feels he can tell Roxane how he truly feels.“Something. Yes. Whatever it doesn’t matter now. Here’s something new to tell you. Christian- this I swear because it’s God’s own truth- was a great soul” (Rostand, 147). This quote reveals how Cyrano does not want to taint the memory Roxane has of Christian, and as a result he does not tell her the truth. Although honesty is one of his beliefs, he lies to Roxane and maintains the ideal man he and Christian have created.
Distinguishing between what is right and wrong is based on one’s own perspective. As Cyrano reads the letter, which was supposedly written by Christian aloud, Roxane realizes that it had been Cyrano writing the letters and it was stained with his tears. She recognizes the voice from years ago that was speaking to her from below the balcony. “His blood, though, stained by his blood” (Rostand 168) Cyrano is guilty about Christian’s death and continuously denies being in love with Roxane. He acknowledges Christian’s sacrifice and refuses to admit he has loved Roxane all these years. Cyrano admired Christian for his ability to expose his true emotions to Roxane although he could not necessarily express them himself. He believes he must remain loyal to Christian and his consistent denial of his love for Roxane serves as the evidence.
One’s virtues are depicted by taken actions. As Cyrano faces death in the final scene, he recognizes that he has lost everything. He has lost Christian, who he had considered a friend, and he has lost Roxane, whose love he had desired so much. The only thing that remains is his white plume, which represents his own personal virtues, such as his name, righteousness, and courage. “You take everything… Take them and welcome. But… there is one thing goes with me when tonight I enter my last lodging…See it there, a white plume over the battle – A diamond in the ash of the ultimate combustion – My panache” (Rostand, 174-175). Once Cyrano dies, he will be remembered for his righteousness. He recognizes this and says it is the one thing that has not been tainted throughout his entire life for he has followed through with his values. Over his lifetime Cyrano has portrayed his values through his actions and recognizes this despite the outcome of the events that took place.
In Cyrano’s mind, he must sacrifice his own happiness in order to live with himself. It takes great courage to watch the one he loves be with another. Rostand emphasizes the need of following moral values whether it is valuing honor over practicality. Putting others’ needs before his own and firmly abiding by what he believes in are the characteristics of a heroic character. To adhere to one’s beliefs even if the outcome is not as beneficial as being practical shows a dedication to the values one follows.
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