Cyrano de Bergerac

Literary Hero / Writer

Born: 1619
Died: 28 July 1655 (brain injury)
Birthplace: Paris, France
Best known as: Long-nosed literary hero

Name at birth: Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac

De Bergerac was a real person but is still better known as the hero of Edmond Rostand's 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac. Rostand depicts Cyrano as a brilliant and charming soldier whose love life is hampered by his extra-large nose. Eventually Cyrano provides a handsome fellow soldier, Christian, with the words to woo Roxane, the beauty they both love. In real life de Bergerac was at first a soldier (and like his literary counterpart, an expert swordsman and duellist). Later he became a student of the philosopher Pierre Gassendi and then the author of fiction and political satire. His whimsical stories of travel to the moon and the sun made him a forerunner of sci-fi authors like Jules Verne, H.G. Wells and Arthur C. Clarke.

Extra credit: De Bergerac died after being hit in the head by a falling beam; it's unclear if the incident was an accident or an assassination attempt, but in Rostand's play the incident is dramatized as an attack by Cyrano's enemies... The big-nosed hero has been played in the movies by Jose Ferrer (who won an Oscar for his 1950 film Cyrano de Bergerac), Gerard Depardieu (Cyrano de Bergerac, 1990) and many others... Steve Martin played the Cyrano-like character C.D. Bales, courting Daryl Hannah in the 1987 comedy Roxanne.

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