Ayn Rand once said that the “top three plays” in world literature are “Cyrano de Bergerac, Cyrano de Bergerac and Cyrano de Bergerac.” Though not part of the original 1993 Great Plays course, Leonard Peikoff delivered this lecture a year later for inclusion in this series, analyzing Rostand’s masterpiece and covering such issues as: the historical Cyrano de Bergerac; the moving story of the play’s opening night in 1897; the “problem of the nose” — the great care Rostand had to take in presenting Cyrano’s view of his large nose to properly establish the plot situation; why Cyrano’s decision at the climax of the play is the only one possible to him given the play’s theme; and the profound philosophical clash underlying Cyrano de Bergerac.
Spoiler alert: The lesson assumes students have read the play.
Recommended translation: Cyrano de Bergerac, trans. Brian Hooker. Bantam Classics reissue. Bantam, 2004.