Today in Literary History – March 6, 1619 – the real Cyrano de Bergerac, novelist and playwright, is born

Cyrano de Bergerac, the French novelist and playwright, was born on March 6, 1619 as Savinien I de Cyrano de Bergerac.

Today, he’s best known as the hero of Edmund Rostand’s fictionalized 1897 play about him. In his time Cyrano was a noted playwright who also wrote fantastical novels about trips to the sun and moon which are still read today and are considered to be pioneering works of science fiction. (Oh, and yes, he did have a very large nose.)

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Little is known about Cyrano’s origins. He is believed to have been born is Gascony, the son of a minor nobleman. It is known that at the age of 19 he joined the French army and fought, like his fictional counterpart, in the siege of Arras. He appears to have been wounded in battle and is known to have been a swashbuckling officer who fought in several duels.

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He then went to Paris to study mathematics. This is when he wrote two imaginative tales — Comical History of the States and Empires of the Moon and States and Empires of the Sun. The novels describe Cyrano’s trips to the sun and moon in a rocket ship propelled by firecrackers. They provide imaginative adventures and witty satire on current events.

He later produced tragic plays which were popular with Parisian audiences. Despite his noble birth Cyrano lived a bohemian life in Paris. He is generally believed to have been gay and to have had a love affair with the poet Charles Coypeau d’Assoucy which turned sour. Both men published several barbed pamphlets attacking the other.

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Jose Ferar as Cyrano

Cyrano died at the age of 36 under mysterious circumstances. There is some evidence that his family forced him into a sanitarium due to evidence of madness. Others believe that he died from wounds in an assassination attempt. In Rostand’s play Cyrano dies after being struck by a falling beam and some researches think that his death came from a simple accident.

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