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Edmond Rostand

Edmond Rostand Edmond Rostand[1†]

Edmond Eugène Alexis Rostand (April 1, 1868 – December 2, 1918) was a French poet and dramatist[1†]. He is associated with neo-romanticism and is best known for his 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac[1†]. Rostand’s romantic plays contrasted with the naturalistic theatre popular during the late nineteenth century[1†]. Another of Rostand’s works, Les Romanesques (1894), was adapted to the 1960 musical comedy The Fantasticks[1†].

Rostand was born in Marseille, France, into a wealthy and cultured Provençal family[1†]. His father was an economist, a poet who translated and edited the works of Catullus[1†], and a member of the Marseille Academy and the Institut de France[1†]. Rostand studied literature, history, and philosophy at the Collège Stanislas in Paris, France[1†].

Rostand’s name is indissolubly linked with that of his most popular and enduring play, Cyrano de Bergerac[1†][2†]. First performed in Paris in 1897, with the famous actor Constant Coquelin playing the lead, Cyrano made a great impression in France and all over Europe and the United States[1†][2†].

Early Years and Education

Edmond Eugène Alexis Rostand was born on April 1, 1868, in Marseille, France[1†][3†]. He was born into a wealthy and cultured Provençal family[1†][2†][1†]. His father was an economist and a poet who translated and edited the works of Catullus[1†], and a member of the Marseille Academy and the Institut de France[1†]. His uncle, Alexis, was a composer, and his aunt, Victoria, was a poet[1†][3†].

Rostand studied literature, history, and philosophy at the Collège Stanislas in Paris, France[1†][3†]. Despite studying law at the Collège Stanislas, he spent a lot of his time writing plays[1†][4†]. This early exposure to literature and philosophy would later influence his writing style and themes.

At twenty years old, Rostand’s first play, a one-act comedy titled “Le Gant Rouge”, was performed at the Cluny Theatre[1†]. However, it went almost unnoticed[1†]. Despite this initial setback, Rostand continued to write and develop his craft.

In 1890, Rostand married the poet Rosemonde Gérard[1†][4†]. The same year, he published his first volume of poetry, "Les Musardises"[1†][4†]. This period marked the beginning of Rostand’s career as a dramatist and poet.

Career Development and Achievements

Edmond Rostand’s career began when he was just twenty years old. His first play, a one-act comedy titled “Le Gant Rouge”, was performed at the Cluny Theatre[1†]. Despite the play going almost unnoticed[1†], Rostand continued to write and develop his craft.

In 1890, the same year he married the poet Rosemonde Gérard[1†], Rostand published his first volume of poetry, "Les Musardises"[1†]. This marked the beginning of his career as a dramatist[1†].

Rostand’s name is indissolubly linked with that of his most popular and enduring play, "Cyrano de Bergerac"[1†][2†][1†]. First performed in Paris in 1897, with the famous actor Constant Coquelin playing the lead, “Cyrano de Bergerac” made a great impression in France and all over Europe and the United States[1†][2†][1†]. The plot revolves around the emotional problems of Cyrano, who, despite his many gifts, feels that no woman can ever love him because he has an enormous nose[1†][2†].

Rostand wrote a good deal for the theatre, but the only other play of his that is still remembered is “L’Aiglon” (1900)[1†][2†]. This highly emotional patriotic tragedy in six acts centres on the Duke of Reichstadt, who never ruled but died of tuberculosis as a virtual prisoner in Austria[1†][2†]. Rostand always took pains to write fine parts for his stars, and “L’Aiglon” afforded Sarah Bernhardt one of her greatest triumphs[1†][2†].

Rostand was elected to the French Academy at the age of thirty-three, the youngest member at that time[1†][5†]. After the production of “Chantecler”, he was raised to Commander of the Legion of Honor and received a "Grand Diploma"[1†][5†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Edmond Rostand’s literary career was marked by a series of notable works that have left an indelible mark on French literature and drama[1†][2†]. Here are some of his main works:

Rostand’s works are characterized by their stirring and colorful historical settings, dazzling versification, skillful blend of comedy and pathos, and fast-moving plots[1†][2†]. His plays made a great impression not only in France but also all over Europe and the United States[1†][2†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Edmond Rostand’s works, particularly his plays, are characterized by their stirring and colorful historical settings, dazzling versification, skillful blend of comedy and pathos, and fast-moving plots[8†][9†]. Despite his real flair for dramatic situations, it is the wit and lyricism of his verse that raise his best plays above the level of ordinary melodrama[8†][9†].

Rostand’s first major work, “Les Romanesques”, is a delightful fancy that has been called mock-heroic comedy[8†]. The mock element is so blended and subordinated to the idyllic and fanciful that the latter is the lasting impression[8†]. It is inspired by Shakespeare, whose “Romeo and Juliet” is quoted in the opening verses[8†].

“Cyrano de Bergerac”, Rostand’s most famous work, has proved to be a perennial favorite on the world stage and has been translated into languages as disparate as Turkish, Russian, Hebrew, and Japanese[8†][9†]. The play’s success was greeted with wild enthusiasm, and the ovation on opening night lasted almost an hour, making the twenty-nine-year-old author famous overnight[8†][9†].

However, most of Rostand’s plays are marred by sentimentality and have not been much revived since his death[8†][9†]. His style was anachronistic in his own day, a reaction against what was perceived as the pessimism of the realistic theater[8†][9†].

Despite this, Rostand’s impact on French drama is undeniable. His works represent the final, very belated example of Romantic drama in France[8†][9†]. His plays made a great impression not only in France but also all over Europe and the United States[8†][9†].

Personal Life

Edmond Rostand was married to the poet and playwright Rosemonde-Étienette Gérard[1†][3†]. She, in 1890, published Les Pipeaux: a volume of verse commended by the Academy[1†]. The couple had two sons, Jean and Maurice[1†][3†]. Their first son, Maurice, became an author[1†][3†]. Their second son, Jean, became a biologist and philosopher[1†][3†].

Rostand passed away on 2 December, 1918 after a bout of influenza[1†][10†]. Besides his son, Jean Rostand, he was survived by his wife, Rosemonde Gerard (1871-1953), a grand-daughter of Count Etienne Gerard (1773-1852), a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars[1†][10†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Edmond Rostand, with his neo-romantic plays, provided a final, very belated example of Romantic drama in France[2†][1†]. His works, particularly Cyrano de Bergerac, made a great impression not only in France but all over Europe and the United States[2†][1†]. The plot of Cyrano de Bergerac, revolving around the emotional problems of Cyrano, who, despite his many gifts, feels that no woman can ever love him because he has an enormous nose, provided welcome relief from the grim dramas that emerged from the naturalist and Symbolist movements[2†].

Rostand’s other play that is still remembered is L’Aiglon (1900), a highly emotional patriotic tragedy in six acts that centres on the Duke of Reichstadt, who never ruled but died of tuberculosis as a virtual prisoner in Austria[2†]. This play afforded Sarah Bernhardt one of her greatest triumphs[2†].

Rostand is credited with briefly reviving the popularity of romance and heroism on a turn-of-the-century French stage dominated by realism[2†][11†]. With Cyrano, Rostand not only won the hearts of the French people and restored the theatre to its erstwhile glory, but he also revitalized French national pride and wiped out the humiliation suffered at the hands of the Prussians some twenty-seven years earlier[2†][12†].

Rostand was never robust, and his health was one reason that he retired to the country[2†][5†]. He died in Paris on December 2, 1918[2†][5†]. He left one drama, La Derniere Nuit de Don Juan, with an unfinished prologue, which further illustrated his idea of the unattainable ideal being more desirable than the real or practical[2†][5†].

Key Information

Edmond Rostand was a French poet and dramatist, best known for his play “Cyrano de Bergerac” and his association with neo-romanticism[1†][2†][1†]. His works contrasted with the naturalistic theatre popular during the late nineteenth century[1†]. Rostand’s other notable works include “Les Romanesques”, which was adapted into the long-running American musical “The Fantasticks”, and "L’Aiglon"[1†][2†][1†].

Rostand was a member of L’Académie française and a commander of the Légion d’honneur[1†][10†]. His contributions to French literature and drama have left a lasting legacy[1†][2†][1†].

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - Edmond Rostand [website] - link
  2. Britannica - Edmond Rostand: French dramatist [website] - link
  3. SunSigns - Edmond Rostand Biography, Life, Interesting Facts [website] - link
  4. Britannica Kids - Edmond Rostand [website] - link
  5. CliffsNotes - Cyrano de Bergerac - Edmond Rostand Biography [website] - link
  6. Bachelorandmaster - Edmond Rostand - Biography and Works [website] - link
  7. Oxford Academic - French Studies - Man Who Was Cyrano: A Life of Edmond Rostand, Creator of Cyrano de Bergerac [website] - link
  8. JSTOR - EDMOND ROSTAND: A Review and Estimate of His Work [website] - link
  9. eNotes - Edmond Rostand Analysis [website] - link
  10. IMDb - Edmond Rostand - Biography [website] - link
  11. Encyclopedia.com - Rostand, Edmond [website] - link
  12. Project MUSE - Johns Hopkins University Press - The Man who was Cyrano: A Life of Edmond Rostand, Creator of "Cyrano de Bergerac" (review) [website] - link
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