THE FIRST ACT
A Performance at the Hotel de Bourgogne
The Hall of the Hotel de Bourgogne in 1640. A sort of Tennis Court, arranged and decorated for Theatrical productions.
The Hall is a long rectangle; we see it diagonally, in such a way that one side of it forms the back scene, which begins at the First Entrance on the Right and runs up to the Last Entrance on the Left, where it makes a right angle with the Stage which is seen obliquely.
This Stage is provided on either hand with benches placed along the wings. The curtain is formed by two lengths of Tapestry which can be drawn apart. Above a Harlequin cloak, the Royal Arms. Broad steps lead from the Stage down to the floor of the Hall. On either side of these steps, a place for the Musicians. A row of candles serving as footlights. Two tiers of Galleries along the side of the Hall; the upper one divided into boxes.
There are no seats upon the Floor, which is the actual stage of our theatre; but toward the back of the Hall, on the right, a few benches are arranged; and underneath a stairway on the extreme right, which leads up to the galleries, and of which only the lower portion is visible, there is a sort of Sideboard, decorated with little tapers, vases of flowers, bottles and glasses, plates of cake, et cetera.
Farther along, toward the centre of our stage is the Entrance to the Hall; a great double door which opens only slightly to admit the Audience. On one of the panels of this door, as also in other places about the Hall, and in particular just over the Sideboard, are Playbills in red, upon which we may read the title La Clorise.
As the Curtain Rises, the Hall is dimly lighted and still empty. The Chandeliers are lowered to the floor, in the middle of the Hall, ready for lighting.
(Sound of voices outside the door. Then a Cavalier enters abruptly.)
Halloa there!--Fifteen sols!
I enter free.
Soldier of the Household of the King!
(Turns to another Cavalier who has just entered)
I pay nothing.
(To the Second)
The play begins at two. Plenty of time--
And here's the whole floor empty. Shall we try
(They fence with the foils which they have brought)
--Pst! . . . Flanquin! . . .
(Already on stage)
(Showing games which he takes out of his doublet)
Cards. Dice. Come on.
(Sits on the floor)
Come on, old cock!
(Takes from his pocket a bit of candle, lights it, sets it on the floor)
I have stolen
A little of my master's fire.
(To a flower girl who comes forward)
Of you, to come before they light the hall!
(Puts his arm around her)
(Receives a thrust of the foil)
(Pursuing the girl)
THE FLOWER GIRL
(Pushing away from him)
They'll see us!--
(Draws her into a dark corner)
(Sits on the floor, together with several others who have brought packages of food)
When we come early, we have time to eat.
(Escorting his son, a boy of sixteen)
Sit here, my son.
Mark the Ace!
(Draws a bottle from under his cloak and sits down with the others)
Here's the spot
For a jolly old sot to suck his Burgundy--
Here--in the house of the Burgundians!
(To his son)
Would you not think you were in some den of vice?
(Points with his cane at the drunkard)
(In stepping back, one of the cavaliers trips him up)
(He falls between the lackeys)
(Behind him as he rises, still struggling with the Flower Girl)
(Draws his son quickly away)
Here!--And to think, my son, that in this hall
They play Rotrou!
Yes father--and Corneille!
(Dance in, holding hands and singing:)
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-lere . . .
You pages there--no nonsense!
(With wounded dignity)
Really! How could you?
(To the Second, the moment the Porter turns his back)
Pst!--a bit of string?
(Shows fishline with hook)
Yes--and a hook.
Up in the gallery,
And fish for wigs!
(Gathers around him several evil-looking young fellows)
Now then, you picaroons,
Perk up, and hear me mutter. Here's your bout--
Bustle around some cull, and bite his bung . . .
(Calls to other pages already in the gallery)
Hey! Brought your pea-shooters?
And our peas, too!
(Blows, and showers them with peas)
What is the play this afternoon?
Who wrote that?
Balthasar Baro. What a play! . . .
(He takes the Boy's arm and leads him upstage)
(To his pupils)
Lace now, on those long sleeves, you cut it off--
(Gesture with thumb and finger, as if using scissors)
(To another, pointing upward toward the gallery)
Ah, Le Cid!--Yes, the first night, I sat there--
(Gesture as of picking a pocket)
(Coming down with his son)
Great actors we shall see to-day--
(Gesture of holding the pocket with left hand, and drawing out handkerchief with right)
(In the gallery)
Lights! Light the lights!
Bellerose, l'eapy, Beaupre, Jodelet--
(On the floor)
Here comes the orange girl.
THE ORANGE GIRL
Raspberry syrup, lemonade--
(Noise at the door)
A FALSETTO VOICE
What, the Marquis--on the floor?
(The Marquis enter in a little group.)
Only a few moments; they'll go and sit
On the stage presently.
(Seeing the hall half empty)
How now! We enter
Like trades people--no crowding, no disturbance!--
No treading on the toes of citizens?
Oh fie! Oh fie!
(He encounters two gentlemen who have already arrived)
(Looks around him.)
We are here before the candles.
Ah, be still!
You put me in a temper.
(Applauding the appearance of the lamplighter)
Ah! . . .
(A group gathers around the chandelier while he lights it. A few people have already taken their place in the gallery. Ligniere enters the hall, arm in arm with Christian de Neuvillette. Ligniere is a slightly disheveled figure, dissipated and yet distinguished looking. Christian, elegantly but rather unfashionably dressed, appears preoccupied and keeps looking up at the boxes.)
Still sober--at this hour?
May I present you?
Baron Christian de Neuvillette.
(Applauding as the lighted chandelier is hoisted into place)
(Aside to Brissaille, looking at Christian)
A fine head, is it not? The profile . . .
(Who has overheard)
(Presenting them to Christian)
Messieurs de Cuigy . . . de Brissaille . . .
(To the second)
He is not ill-looking; possibly a shade
Behind the fashion.
Monsieur is recently
From the Touraine.
Yes, I have been in Paris
Two or three weeks only. I join the Guards
(Watching the people who come into the boxes)
Look--Madame la Presidente
THE ORANGE GIRL
La . . . la . . .
(To Christian, calling his attention to the increasing crowd)
An audience to-day!
A brilliant one.
Oh yes, all our own people--the gay world!
(They name the ladies who enter the boxes elaborately dressed. Bows and smiles are exchanged.)
Madame de Guemene . . .
De Bois-Dauphin . . .
Whom we adore--
Madame de Chavigny . . .
Who plays with all our hearts--
Why, there's Corneille
Returned from Rouen!
(To his father)
Are the Academy
I see some of them . . . there's Boudu--
Ah, those great names,
Never to be forgotten!
Our Intellectuals! Barthenoide,
Urimedonte, Felixerie . . .
How exquisite their surnames are! Marquis,
You know them all?
I know them all, Marquis!
(Draws Christian aside)
My dear boy, I came here to serve you--Well,
But where's the lady? I'll be going.
A little longer! She is always here.
Please! I must find some way of meeting her.
I am dying of love! And you--you know
Everyone, the whole court and the whole town,
And put them all into your songs--at least
You can tell me her name!
THE FIRST VIOLIN
(Raps on his desk with his bow)
(Raises his bow)
THE ORANGE GIRL
Then she may be
One of those ?sthetes . . . Intellectuals,
You call them--How can I talk to a woman
In that style? I have no wit. This fine manner
Of speaking and of writing nowadays--
Not for me! I am a soldier--and afraid.
That's her box, on the right--the empty one.
(Starts for the door)
I am going.
Not I. There's a tavern
Not far away--and I am dying of thirst.
THE ORANGE GIRL
(Passes with her tray)
THE ORANGE GIRL
THE ORANGE GIRL
I'll stay a little.
(To the Girl)
Let me see
(He sits down by the sideboard. The Girl pours out wine for him.)
(In the crowd about the door, upon the entrance of a spruce little man, rather fat, with a beaming smile)
Poet and pastry-cook--a character!
(Dressed like a confectioner in his Sunday clothes, advances quickly to Ligniere)
Sir, have you seen Monsieur de Cyrano?
(Presents him to Christian)
Permit me . . . Ragueneau, confectioner,
The chief support of modern poetry.
Oh--too much honor!
Patron of the Arts--
M?cenas! Yes, you are--
The poets gather round my hearth.
Himself a poet--
So they say--
It is true that for an ode--
You give a tart--
And for a triolet you give--
Bread and milk! And you love the theatre?
I adore it!
Well, pastry pays for all.
Your place to-day now--Come, between ourselves,
What did it cost you?
Four pies; fourteen cakes.
But--Cyrano not here? Astonishing!
Yes, I hear
That hippopotamus assumes the role
Of Phedon. What is that to Cyrano?
Have you not heard? Monsieur de Bergerac
So hates Montfleury, he has forbidden him
For three weeks to appear upon the stage.
(Who is, by this time, at his fourth glass)
(Strolls over to them)
Is what I came to see.
Who is he?
Oh, he is the lad with the long sword.
Sufficiently; he is in the Guards.
(Points to a gentleman who comes and goes about the hall as though seeking for someone)
His friend Le Bret can tell you more.
(Calls to him)
(Le Bret comes down to them)
Looking for Bergerac?
Yes. And for trouble.
Is he not an extraordinary man?
The best friend and the bravest soul alive!
Such a remarkable appearance, too!
Truly, I should not look to find his portrait
By the grave hand of Philippe de Champagne.
He might have been a model for Callot--
One of those wild swashbucklers in a masque--
Hat with three plumes, and doublet with six points--
His cloak behind him over his long sword
Cocked, like the tail of strutting Chanticleer--
Prouder than all the swaggering Tamburlaines
Hatched out of Gascony. And to complete
This Punchinello figure--such a nose!--
My lords, there is no such nose as that nose--
You cannot look upon it without crying: "Oh, no,
Impossible! Exaggerated!" Then
You smile, and say: "Of course--I might have known;
Presently he will take it off." But that
Monsieur de Bergerac will never do.
He keeps it--and God help the man who smiles!
His sword is one half of the shears of Fate!
He will not come.
Will he not? Sir, I'll lay you
A pullet ^ la Ragueneau!
(Murmurs of admiration; Roxane has just appeared in her box. She sits at the front of the box, and her Duenna takes a seat toward the rear. Christian, busy paying the Orange Girl, does not see her at first.)
(With little excited cries)
Oh! Oh! Sweet sirs, look yonder! Is she not
Bloom of the peach--
Blush of the strawberry--
So fresh--so cool,
That our hearts, grown all warm with loving her,
May catch their death of cold!
(Looks up, sees Roxane, and seizes Ligniere by the arm.)
There! Quick--up there--
In the box! Look!--
(Sipping his wine, and speaking between sips)
Madeleine Robin, called Roxane . . . refined . . .
Intellectual . . .
Unmarried . . .
No title . . . rich enough . . . an orphan . . . cousin
To Cyrano . . . of whom we spoke just now . . .
(At this point, a very distinguished looking gentleman, the Cordon Bleu around his neck, enters the box, and stands a moment talking with Roxane.)
And the man? . . .
(Beginning to feel his wine a little; cocks his eye at them.)
Oho! That man? . . . Comte de Guiche . . .
In love with her . . . married himself, however,
To the niece of the Cardinal--Richelieu . . .
Wishes Roxane, therefore, to marry one
Excerpted from Cyrano De Bergerac by Edmond Rostand. Copyright © 1950 by Edmond Rostand. Excerpted by permission of Bantam Classics, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.