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Sur scènes et sur écrans

1993 - Dekalb County

Atlanta - Georgia Shakespeare Festival

Si quelqu'un veut bien traduire et résumer ces notes du metteur en scène Karen Robinson...

Poet ...Musician ...Philosopher ...Physician ...Swordsman...Swashbuckling Braggart ...Arrogant ...Brilliant ...witty ...Foolish ...Kind . . ....Quarrelsome ...Irascible...Gallant ...Courteous ...Rude ... Elegant ...Learned ...Brave

Cursed with a "gross protuberance""that marches on before [him] by a quarter of an hour ..."

... So in love and so alone ...

Here lies Hercule-Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac ....

The list goes on. So many words have been used to describe Cyrano de Bergerac, the mind boggles. The profusion of epithets is testimony to the richness of this truly amazing and inspiring character. He is, perhaps, one of the most outstanding romantic heroes of all time. And therein lies the pertinence of this play for a contemporary audience: we desperately need heroes. In this age of cynicism, ethnic cleansing, powerbroking, materialism, compromise, and pettiness, we need idealized figures of greatness on the stage to remind us of the full range of human potential. A study in contradictions, Cyrano shows us that a human being can be both grotesque and sublime?the duality that Victor Hugo called for in his 1827 Preface to Cromwell, the play that launched the Romantic movement in France:

Drama will take a decisive step when it will like nature, mesh in its creations the grotesque and the sublime, the beastly and the divine.

Cyrano's oversized nose is the most concrete symbol of his grotesqueness, and his gift for lyric poetry is but one expression of the sublime in his nature, but there is so much more. He lives every single moment to the fullest, with a passion and a fervor that is, at times, overwhelming. He constantly pursues those standards of excellence, those ideals of freedom, independence, and integrity that we all admire. Rejecting outer "adornments" and appearances, he strives to maintain the elegance and integrity of the inner man. He is obsessed with greatness, greatness of soul, but that is not enough; he must demonstrate that extra quality which makes him a hero extraordinaire, his "panache".* Panache is an integral part of Cyrano's self-image; it is the immortal essence of his soul, and he takes it with him when he dies:

There is one thing that goes with me when tonight I enter my final lodging, . . . A thing unstained, umsullied by the brute Broken nails of the world, by death, by doomUnfingered - See it there, a white plume Over the battle?A diamond in the ash Of the ultimate combustion?My panache.

Yet, Cyrano has plenty of foibles, and it is those foibles which pull at our heart strings. He may stand above the crowd; he may be a mighty man with a mighty soul who can single-handedly fend off a hundred foes, but deep inside, he is as vulnerable and insecure and frightened as anyone else. When he is dying, he recognizes "All my old enemies?Falsehood, Compromise, Prejudice, Cowardice ", but there is a new one, perhaps his nemesis:

Are you there too, Stupidity? You above all, I knew would get me in the end.

When he says this, one wonders what he means by "Stupidity." Does he mean all those times in his life when he acted foolishly, all those times when he deliberately made enemies of those he despised? Or does he mean those moments when he chose, whether it was because of pride or fear of being ridiculed, not to risk telling Roxane of his love for her? There are any number of possibilities. What is essential here, is his moment of recognition. In this moment we see him recognizing and confronting, openly, those weaknesses, many of which we have recognized in him, in ourselves? and perhaps, just before he dies, he has a heightened perception of what it means to be a human being. In The Idea of a Theater, Francis Fergusson wrote that three qualities a tragic hero possesses are passion, purpose and perception. Cyrano possesses all three.

A few words about the love story which propels the play forward. As an example, perhaps the epitome, of French romanticism, Cyrano de Bergerac places the pursuit of Love at its center. The power of Love is para~nount. And this is where the play is not Cyrano's story alone. Roxane, Christian and even the "swinish" Comte de Guiche are transformed in some way by the power of Love. Roxane reams that true love moves beyond the external realms of physical beauty, that it means a connection with the "soul" of another human being; Christian relinquishes his hold on Roxane when he realizes she needs a deeper love than the love he is able to give her; and the Comte de Guiche remains on the field of battle to fight side by side with his fellow Gascons, because of his love for Roxane.

*And last but by no means least, a word about 'panache.' It is one of those elusive words that is nigh impossible to translate into English, and thus we retain the French word in our vocabulary. It is an essential element in Cyrano's character which moves him into the realm of the extraordinary.

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»  Georgia Shakespeare Festival

Publié le 05 / 05 / 2005.


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