Study Guide

Analysis Pages

Cyrano de Bergerac Biography

Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac (seer-ah-noh duh behr-zhuh-rahk) was born in Paris in 1619. His father was a lawyer. He was educated in Paris and joined the French army after the end of his studies. Factual information about his life is not extensive, but it appears that a battle injury put an end to his military career. He apparently studied under the free-thinking philosopher Pierre Gassendi, and this transformed Cyrano de Bergerac into an atheist. He died in 1655. The cause of his death is not clear; legend has it that he may have been killed.{$S[A]Bergerac, Cyrano de;Cyrano de Bergerac}{$S[A]Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac;Cyrano de Bergerac}

He wrote only two plays. His farce, Le Pédant joué (the pedant outwitted), and his tragedy, La Mort d’Agrippine (the death of Agrippina), enjoyed only modest success, and they have fallen into justly deserved oblivion. He owes his fame to just one work: his novel Comical History of the States and Empires of the Moon, published posthumously in 1656 in a highly censured version. Henri Lebret systematically eliminated from Cyrano’s manuscript all religious and social criticism. The sequel, Comical History of the States and Empires of the Sun, was published in 1662. As published, the two parts were extremely boring and frequently incoherent. Readers thought that Cyrano de Bergerac was a very poor writer, and they only remembered his praise of people with large noses in his Comical History of the States and Empires of the Moon. Cyrano was almost completely forgotten until the performance in 1897 of Edmond Rostand’s incredibly popular drama Cyrano de Bergerac. Rostand presented his title character as a sentimental but sad lover. Cyrano’s speech in praise of large noses became immensely popular and has been parodied numerous times in many different languages.

In the early twentieth century, manuscripts of Cyrano’s Comical History of the States and Empires of the Moon were discovered in libraries in Paris and Munich, and this novel was finally published in 1921 as Cyrano de Bergerac had actually written it. No manuscript has ever been found for his Comical History of the States and Empires of the Sun, and its inferiority to its predecessor is obvious, but readers should remember that the published version of this sequel does not represent Cyrano’s intentions. Scholars have wisely discussed his Comical History of the States and Empires of the Moon only in editions based on the Paris and Munich manuscripts.

In this novel, Dyrcona (an anagram for “Cyrano de”) travels to the moon from Quebec City and encounters a utopian society in which all the injustices in European society have disappeared. On the moon, complete religious tolerance exists, and the inhabitants of the moon simply pray to the almighty and do not attempt to enter into theological disputes. Dyrcona assures the reader that he met several major characters from the Old Testament, and he presents them in such an unfavorable light that it is not surprising that Lebret eliminated Cyrano’s rather offensive comments. Cyrano presents a completely mechanistic view of the universe that is incompatible with a belief in God. He argues that there is no reason to believe that God created the universe because of his conviction that there is a purely logical explanation for everything that exists. Cyrano ridiculed key religious tenets, such as the Christian belief...

(The entire page is 859 words.)

Owl Eyes subscribers get unlimited access to our expert annotations, analyses, and study guides on your favorite texts. Master the classics for less than $5/month!

🔒Become a member to unlock this study guide »