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Historical Context in Cyrano de Bergerac

Historical Context Examples in Cyrano de Bergerac:

Act I - Scene I

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"sols..."   (Act I - Scene I)

The word "sol" refers to French coins used during the Middle Ages. Twenty of these coins equaled one livre tournois, a form of currency used during the same period.

"I'm a soldier in the King's Cavalry..."   (Act I - Scene I)

Many actors and playwrights opposed the practice of allowing soldiers and royal officials to gain free admission to the theater since their pay was based on ticket sales. During the 17th century, playwright Molière successfully encouraged Louis XIV to end this practice.

"Rotrou..."   (Act I - Scene I)

Jean Rotrou (1609–1650) was a French playwright who worked under the patronage of Cardinal Richelieu.

"Corneille..."   (Act I - Scene I)

Pierre Corneille (1606–1684) was a French playwright most renowned for his classical tragedies, especially his 1637 play Le Cid.

"the ‘Cid..."   (Act I - Scene I)

Corneille's 1637 play El Cid centered on the eponymous El Cid (1043–1099), a legendary Spanish military leader during the 11th century.

"Tomorrow I join the Guards, in the Cadets..."   (Act I - Scene II)

During the 17th century, a French cadet was a soldier who hoped to gain experience in order to become an officer. Between 1618 and 1648, France was involved in the Thirty Years War in which Frances and its allies fought against the Holy Roman Empire.

"the Academy..."   (Act I - Scene II)

Here, Burgher's son refers to the French Academy. Founded in 1635, the Academy is a society for intellectuals and writers. Edmond Rostand, the French dramatist who wrote Cyrano de Bergerac, was inducted to the society in 1901.

"Armand de Richelieu..."   (Act I - Scene II)

Armand Jean du Plessis (1585–1642), commonly known as Cardinal Richelieu was a statesman and nobleman during the right of King Louis XIII. He was appointed bishop in 1607 and Foreign Secretary in 1616. A lifelong fan of arts, he established the French Academy in 1635.

"Sick Spaniard..."   (Act I - Scene III)

The phrase "sick Spaniard" is a derogatory term de Guiche uses to talk about the Spanish. During this era, France and Spain were in conflict as they fought for control over Flanders.

"Thespis..."   (Act I - Scene IV)

Thespis of Icaria was a Greek poet who lived during the sixth century BCE. He is believed to be the first actor and the inventor of Greek tragedy. The word "thespian," meaning actor, derives from this Greek poet's name.

"Aristophanes’ hippocampelephantocamelos..."   (Act I - Scene IV)

Aristophanes was a Greek comic and satirical playwright during the fourth century BCE. Attributed to Aristophanes, the word "hippocampelephantocamelos" refers to an imaginary beast which combines the characteristics of seahorses, elephants, and camels.

"D'Artagnan..."   (Act I - Scene IV)

Charles de Batz-Castelmore d'Artagnan (1611–1673) was a French soldier under King Louis XIV, immortalized in Alexandre Dumas The Three Musketeers. Readers should note how Cyrano de Bergerac satirizes and pays homage to Dumas's novel.

"Do I look like a Caesar fit to woo Cleopatra..."   (Act I - Scene V)

Julius Caesar (101 BCE–44 BCE) was a military general who ruled the Roman Empire. His lover, Cleopatra (69 BCE–30 BCE), was the Queen of Egypt.

"Scipio..."   (Act I - Scene VII)

Scipio refers to Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus (236 BCE–183 BCE), a Roman general during the second Punic War noted for conquering North Africa.

"Malherbe..."   (Act II - Scene I)

François de Malherbe (1555–1628) was a French poet and critic. In his criticisms, he advocated for strict poetical rule.

"Monsieur Benserade..."   (Act II - Scene V)

Isaac de Benserade (1613–1691) was a French poet and playwright.

"Saint Amant..."   (Act II - Scene V)

Marc-Antoine de Gerard de Saint-Amant (1594–1661) was a French poet.

"Chapelain..."   (Act II - Scene V)

Jean Chapelain (1595–1674) was also a French poet. Chapelain and Saint-Amant belonged to the French Academy.

"one of d'Urfe's heroes..."   (Act II - Scene VI)

The phrase "d'Urfe's heroes" refers to the novels of French author Honoré d'Urfé (1567–1625). Heroes in d'Urfé’s stories were considered ideal models of knights.

"Agrippine..."   (Act II - Scene VII)

In 1654, Cyrano de Bergerac wrote the play La Mort d'Agrippine.

"I climb alone..."   (Act II - Scene VIII)

Cyrano abhors the idea of patronage. He refuses aid and he hopes to remain free of patronage, which many artists and poets sought from wealthy aristocrats. Both the fictional and real Cyrano disliked this system, although in reality, Cyrano did have to accept patronage from the Duke of Arpajon in order to continue practicing his craft.

"The Tender Passion..."   (Act III - Scene I)

Throughout 17th century France, noblewomen would throw "salons," a gathering in homes where writers, philosophers, and intellectuals read and discussed the latest literature. The woman Roxane's character is based, Madeleine Robineau, frequently attended these events.

"Gassendi..."   (Act III - Scene I)

Pierre Gassendi (1592–1655) was a French scientist, philosopher, and mathematician who likely taught Cyrano de Bergerac.

"Arras..."   (Act III - Scene II)

Arras, part of the Spanish Netherlands, was captured by the French during a 1640 siege. In reality, Cyrano de Bergerac and Baron de Neuvillette were both involved in the siege, and de Neuvillette died. Following the siege, the city fell into the hands of the French and remains a French city today.

"in a book..."   (Act III - Scene XI)

Rostand incorporates a real fact from Cyrano de Bergerac's life. De Bergerac wrote several stories about voyaging to the moon, which Rostand touches on frequently in the play with mentions of space travel.

"I didn't copy Regiomontanus’ eagle! Nor did I make a version of Archytas’ pigeon!..."   (Act III - Scene XI)

Johannes Muller (1436–1476), or "Regiomontanus," was a German astronomer and mathematician who supposedly invented a mechanical eagle that could fly. Archytas (428 BCE–347 BCE) was a Greek philosopher and astronomer who supposedly built an artificial flying bird.

"Cardinal Infante of Spain..."   (Act IV - Scene I)

Cardinal Infante Ferdinand (1610–1641) was the Prince of Spain, Cardinal of the Holy Catholic Church, and Governor of the Spanish Netherlands.

"The prime minister in Paris..."   (Act IV - Scene III)

Here, the cadet references Cardinal Richelieu, who was King Louis XIII's Chief Minister, and is often referred to as the first Prime Minister. King Louis was a poor leader who allowed Richelieu to advise him. Eventually, Richelieu ruled the kingdom.

"Descartes..."   (Act IV - Scene III)

René Descartes (1596–1650) was a French philosopher and mathematician. Considered the father of modern philosophy, Descartes famously stated “I think, therefore I am.”

"scarf..."   (Act IV - Scene IV)

During the Battle of Ivry (1590), King Henry IV of France (1553–1610) refused to retreat even though he was greatly outnumbered by the enemy. He told his soldiers to follow his white scarf. In the play, the white scarf represents honor and bravery. While de Guiche throws it aside, Cyrano attempts to retrieve it.

"Titian..."   (Act V - Scene V)

Tiziano Vecellio (1488–1576) was an Italian painter famous for his vivid and colorful paintings.

"John of Austria..."   (Act V - Scene V)

John of Austria (1629–1679) was a Spanish general who was defeated by the French in 1658.

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