Summary and Analysis
Act II — Scenes 1-2
Act II takes place in the pastry shop owned by Ragueneau, who was introduced in Act I. Ragueneau's wife, Lise, has more business sense and less love of poetry than her husband-she has made sacks out of the poems his friends have left in payment for food. Two children make a small purchase, and Lise wraps their pastries in the pages of poetry. When his wife is not looking, Ragueneau calls the children back and trades them three more pastries for the poems.
These short scenes serve to establish the personalities of Ragueneau and his wife, Lise, as well as the fact that there is a conflict between them. Ragueneau seems to be almost a caricature of Cyrano — a man who loves the gallant gesture, the bravado of the soldier, and the sensitivity of the poet. Ragueneau reappears throughout the play as a friend and admirer of Cyrano, and since Act III will open with the tale of Ragueneau's own drama, Rostand very economically prepares us for that in these scenes.
Ragueneau is a "utility" character in the play. In Act I, he gives the audience various bits of important information; in Act II, he provides an appropriate setting for the occurrences that take place in that act; in Act IV, he serves in the capacity of coachman; and in Act V, he is the necessary old friend of Cyrano. How much more interesting it is for these to be combined into one character with a personality and history instead of being portrayed by a series of faceless actors. Moreover, the preparation for Ragueneau's tale gives the audience an opportunity to become accustomed to, and to enjoy, the setting of the little pastry shop — which, incidentally, Rostand envisioned as a very complicated and interesting set. If he had had any really important action take place at the very beginning of the act, it might well have failed to make the proper impression upon an audience absorbed in the scenery.