30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2000
I've been around theater for quite a while, and I was lucky enough to be in this play twice, once as Cyrano. I've done Shakespeare, O'Neill, Chekhov...and I've never been in a play that comes close to this in terms of dramatic force.
The fashion in French theater at the time it was written was simple domestic drama: husbands and wives and their various conflicts. This play exploded on the scene and there was extremely strong public reaction. (I think there may even have been riots.)
For modern American audiences, I must confess, it's a pretty long haul. Even with some judicious cutting, it's tough to get the thing down close to three hours. But what a ride! Poetry, fight scenes, comedy, tears...it's just incredible.
In all the plays I've done, I've never done one that comes so close to, literally, the meaning of life. Why are we here? What makes human beings act the way they do? Why do people try things that are clearly impossible? It's all in there.
I knew someone in college who gave this paperback edition to everyone he knew as a gift, because it spoke so strongly to him.
Looking back on it now, I'm amazed that I was able to memorize all the text, because I'm convinced that this is the longest role in Western theater...longer than Hamlet, I think.
Hooker's translation has been called the greatest translation of poetry ever, and while I'm not a poetry student, I can agree. Squishing the 6-foot French lines into 5-foot English lines and still retaining the dramatic flow must have been a daunting task.
Anyway, it's the greatest play I have ever seen, read or performed.
27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on April 20, 2008
Cyrano de Bergerac by Rostand is my favourite play. The French original is a gem in almost every respect. It is wonderfully well written in Alexandrine (a difficult form of verse). Rostand's romantic masterpiece shines not only as a play, but as poetry.
This particular translation (unattributed) is pedestrian. It is accurate, but tin-eared. It is not the Brian Hooker translation. I state that because I wound up buying it in the belief that it was the Hooker translation and was consequently much disappointed.
For any literary work originally written in another language (this, Don Quixote, All Quiet on the Western Front), it is important to pay attention to who is responsible for the translation. Some translators are awful. Some are mediocre (such as whoever did this one). And some are wonderful (Brian Hooker).
For those who are not as enamored of Brian Hooker's work as I am, the Anthony Burgess translation is also quite good.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on June 14, 2008
I currently own four different translations of Cyrano de Bergerac with another two more on the way. I am truly surprised to see how many new translations are being turned out of this wonderful classic. By far, three of the greatest are Brian Hooker's, Anthony Burgess' and Lowell Blair's. But I wanted to see what was new in the world of Cyrano. Penguin Books is known for its quality and I have seldom been let down.
In this case, I felt let down and disappointed. Carol Clark's translation just doesn't seem to have the feel for the character of Cyrano that so many of us have come to know and love. Though she is one of the few who ends the play with the word "panache'," her translation has too many spots that just don't feel the "white plume of freedom" Cyrano spoke of in rebellion to the the elite who wore their beauty, grace and flair on the outside and those who sucked up to them. Also, Carol Clark takes liberty in changing meaning in certain key places that I particularly did not care for at all. Perhaps her only true innovation is the proper gender tense he uses with regard to his sword which he regards as a "she" as in the original French. She gets too many things wrong to be commended for translating a Cyrano that will endure. I believe it is a novelty.
Let me emphasize that this is not a "bad" rendering "per se"; I feel strongly that it is just not a good rendering. It's merely AVERAGE, mediocre but as Cyrano believed in striving to be the best in everything, perhaps Carol Clark should have taken a page out of his book? I don't believe it will be any more understandable or accessable to today's reader than older translations and the reader will be losing out on so much with this rendering. I feel strongly that the Clark translation plays fast and loose in certain key areas even though she may make up for it in others. Thus she receives an "okay" three stars but I was sorely tempted to give her two.
If you are looking for a brand-new translation and are willing to let go of preconceptions, Carol Clark's Cyrano may be for you. BUT if you are new to Cyrano de Bergerac and want a truer and more faithful version to Edmond Rostand's orginal play, character and the language, I would strongly recommend avoiding this one and purchasing one of the following: any edition by Brian Hooker (his translation was behind the 1950 Jose Ferrer Academy Award winning performance of Cyrana), Lowell Blair (I've become more fond of this one with each reading) or finding one of the Anthony Burgess editions (Gerard Depardieu's Cyrano movie's English sub-titles as well as countless plays have used this edition). These three are all 5 star translations. Christopher Fry's rhyming couplet Cyrano by Oxford is good (4 star) but not up to the standard of the three authors I have listed as alternatives to Clark.
In conclusion, I would say this: Will I read this play more than once? Perhaps, but only for comparison to the other better translations of Cyrano I have but never for enjoyment as I do with my other versions. A newcomer to Cyrano might enjoy this rendering and fall in love with the character but I personally don't see how; the translator has robbed Cyrano of much of his inner panache' and the other characters of their own unique qualities. I do not believe this translation has any staying power and will quickly be swept aside for the familiar and better translations that have been around longer, having already stood the test of time. For while the authors I have cited as alternatives may have different styles, they all tap into Cyrano's inner panache', his white plume of freedom, flair and independence whereas Clark's version seems to me to be just revision for revisionist sake without any vision or pathos or the wit that has set Cyrano apart since 1897.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2011
This is one of my favorite plays. There's humor, action, and romance. The banter and jokes always make me laugh. The character Cyrano has some fun wordplay -- being a dramatic, wordy, poet and fighter.
The story centers around Cyrano and his secret love for Roxanne. Despite his poetic nature, Cyrano has an abnormally large nose and believes he is unlovable. Cyrano helps another man, Christian, woo Roxanne. The story continues, but I wouldn't want to ruin it for a new reader.
I highly suggest this to anyone that enjoys a good romantic story. It's also a good read for anyone that likes 1800's-early 1900's literature.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 1999
I love this play! It has wit, comedy, adventure, danger and intellectual swordplay. But most importantly, it has a character(Cyrano) who values his life and principles above all else. Read it now! Also, if you enjoyed Cyrano as much as I did, check out "The Lost Sonnets of Cyrano de Bergerac" by James Carcioppolo. I read it hoping for more of Cyrano's spirit and love of life; I was not disapointed!
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2000
Cyrano is, and has been for many years, my favorite play. I've read two translations and am planning to read a third soon. In Cyrano, Rostand has created a character I and many others can empathize with. If you're reading Cyrano for the first time, I would reccommend Bair's translation, as it has been rendered into more modern English. However, Hooker's translation often captures the beauty and poetry of the language, whereas Bair is more prosaic. I highly reccommend reading this book, and if you can see it performed somewhere, you're in for a real treat. "Philosopher, scientist, poet, swordsman, musician, aerial traveler, maker of sharp retorts, and lover. . ." I hope that you enjoy making Cyrano's acquaintance as much as I have!
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 12, 2000
Lowell Bair's translation of "Cyrano de Bergerac" is done by discrding the rhyme and meter of the original for a simpler prose translation. Even the duel ballade of Act I and the Gascon Cadets' introductory triolet are reworked into blank verse. Bair makes the play accessible and provides a fresh, delightful version. My only criticism is that he has thrown out the baby with the bathwater, diluting the poetry of the original in the process. Still, most readers will find it an enjoyable read, and Cyrano scholars like myself will appreciate the usefulness of his approach.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on November 20, 2001
My rating is for the play; I've only glanced at the English translation. I'm not too sure if this play should really be called "An heroic comedy", I find it more to be a tragedy. A play of tragic unrequited love, sacrifice, courage and charm, with some amusing moments, for instance when members of the aristocracy and others are made to look foolish compared to the wit and heart of Cyrano, or the scene where Christian and Cyrano meet for the first time.
Cyrano was a real French poet of the 17th century. A bit of knowledge about his time helps to appreciate the play...for instance, one of the reasons why Christian feels unable to speak to Roxanne with his own words is because she was part of that fashionable trend amongst certain ladies of society called "les precieuses" (ridiculed by Moliere) characterized by an overblown admiration of fancy talk, excessive romantic sensibility, and intellectual posturing. Christian, a man of perhaps more basic passions and few words with women, but in no way a dummy (see his wit when meeting Cyrano), rightly felt inhibited before the precious Roxanne.
"Cyrano" was written at the end of the 19th century, is neo-romantic in style and one of the last French plays to be written in verse rather than prose. The charming, witty and poetic ryhme of its verse, which fully develops each of the characters in keeping with the play's romantic theme, is what makes it so wonderful. It is like a poem. In translation the play therefore loses much of its grace and beauty.
The play has been filmed a few times. Skip the Steve Martin "Roxanne" movie (very loosely based on the play) and see the real thing: "Cyrano de Bergerac" directed by J.P. Rappeneau with G. Depardieu in the leading role. Both the film and Depardieu are absolutely fantastic and very true to the play. The lines in the film follow (excepting one or two pages) the original lines of the play.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The scene that has made Edmond Rostand's verse drama in five acts, "Cyrano De Bergerac," a classic drama is the balcony scene, where Cyrano is feeding the inarticulate Christian the lines with which to woo the lovely Roxanne. Finally Cyrano pretends to be Christian and speaks to Roxanne directly, while hiding in the shadows. Cyrano loves Roxanne as well, but would never dare to speak to her in his own name, and the great irony is that he knows his words have won her heart, but for another man.
The scene resonates because the vast majority of young men have experienced the pangs of love for a woman who would not give them the time of day. The reason for such slights might not be a large nose, but as long as it is something that is beyond our control, we can feel an affinity with Cyrano. What makes his plight more tragic than our own is because he is both witty and romantic, using words like a rapier to best his enemies one moment and then uttering verbal bouquets that would surely win the heart of any maiden at whom they were directed. Still, the Fates conspire against Cyrano, for when Christian finally realizes that it is Cyrano's words that have won Roxane's heart for him and tries to make things right, the young man's death cements the parts they have chosen to play in this tragic love triangle. After the paradigmatic love triangle of Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot, that of Christian, Roxane, and Cyrano must rank second.
Yet in the end I find that the tragedy of "Cyrano de Bergerac" is not his alone, for there is a sense in which Roxanne's loss is even greater. For me, the key line in the play belongs to her, when in the final scene Cyrano is finally allowed to read the last letter that Christian wrote to his beloved, a letter written by Cyrano himself. The words are burned into his soul and it is when she realizes that it is too dark for him to read the words and he is reciting them, that the truth becomes clear to her. "I never loved but one man in my life," she laments, "and I have lost him twice." There is something to be said for a play that can be accurately reduced to a single line. Furthermore, in terms of romantic tragedy, the emotional impact of the ending is comparable to Shakespeare's "Romeo & Juliet," a comparison already warranted by the fact the plays have the two most famous balcony scenes in drama.
Rostand wrote "Cyrano" for the great French actor, Constant Coquelin, who specifically requested the final death scene. The play premiered on December 28, 1897, at the Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin, Paris. The fact "Cyrano" was effectively commissioned for a particular actor might explain why the playwright was able to take the French soldier, satirist, and dramatist, whose life had been the basis of many romantic but unsubstantiated legends into the central character of his drama. The historical Cyrano (1619-1655) is of interest for writing some of the first works of what we would consider science fiction, "Voyage dans la lune" (1657) and "L'historie des etats et empires du soleil" (1662). He was also considered a student of Pierre Gassendi, the writer of philosophical romances and a virile lover, so Rostand's characterization is rather suspect. But it is also one of the most memorable creation of 19th-century drama (along with Henrik Ibsen's Clara from "A Doll's House").
"Cyrano de Bergerac" represents one of the final examples of Romantic drama in France, but ironically the heroic comedy is the best known of all such works today. The only other one of Rostand's plays that has proven to be of interest is "L'Aiglon" ("The Eaglet"), a 1900 tragedy is six acts that tells the story of the Duke of Reichstadt, the son of Napoleon, who lived and died the virtual prisoner of Austria (Sarah Bernhardt played the title run in the first production). But clearly it is "Cyrano" that has made Rostand's name almost as memorable as that of his great dramatic creation.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 2008
This play is a wonderful work but I ended up originally buying a copy translated by Lowell Bair that was just awful.
The movie starring Jose Ferrer (academy award best actor 1950) used the Brian Hooker translation that preserved the poetry and impact of the original French. You will not be disappointed if purchase the Hooker Translation.