In the theatre hall of the Hotel de Burgundy, awaiting the night’s play, Christian, a young but somewhat doltish soldier, anxiously looks for the beautiful Roxane to appear in her box. Christian is passionately in love with Roxane; however, he fears he will never have the courage to speak with her. Others in the audience are awaiting the arrival of Cyrano de Bergerac because the actor Montfleury, Cyrano’s enemy and one of Roxane’s suitors, is to star in the play, and Cyrano had threatened him with bodily injury if he appeared.
Finally Roxane arrives, the play begins, and Montfleury comes onto the stage. Suddenly a powerful voice orders him to leave, the noble Cyrano appears, and the performance is halted. Valvert, another of Roxane’s suitors, insults Cyrano, by pointing out his large nose, and Cyrano, sensitive about what he knows is a disfiguring feature, challenges Valvert to a duel. Cyrano, to show his contempt for his adversary, composes a poem while he is sparring, and with the last line draws blood.
Cyrano confesses to a friend that he is in love with his cousin—Roxane--despite the fact that he could never hope to win her because of his ugliness. At this point, Roxane’s chaperone interrupts to give Cyrano a note from Roxane, who wants to see him. Cyrano is overcome with joy.
The next morning, while waiting for Roxane, Cyrano composes a love letter to Roxane, which he leaves unsigned because he intends to deliver it in person. However, when Roxane appears, she confesses she loves Christian and asks Cyrano to protect him in battle. Cyrano sadly consents to do her bidding.
Christian joins the famed Gascony Guards, and he and Cyrano become friends. He confesses his love for Roxane and begs Cyrano’s help in winning her by composing tender, graceful messages. Although his heart is broken, Cyrano gallantly agrees and gives Christian the letter he had written earlier. This begins the deception wherein Cyrano writes beautiful letters and speeches, and Roxane falls in love with Christian’s borrowed eloquence.
Eventually, Christian decides he wants to speak for himself. Under Roxane’s balcony one evening, he tries, but must ask the aid of Cyrano, who is lurking in the shadows. Cyrano, hidden, tells Christian what to say, and Roxane is delighted over the sweet words she thinks are Christian’s. However, a monk interrupts bearing a letter from Comte de Guiche, who wants Roxane as his mistress and who is commander of the cadets. The letter says that he is sending the cadets into battle, but he is remaining behind for one night to see Roxane. Roxane pretends the letter directs the monk to marry her to Christian immediately, which he does. The marriage is not consummated, however, because the cadets leave for the front.
During the following battle, Cyrano risks his life to carry letters to Roxane, and she never suspects the author of these messages is not Christian. Later, Roxane joins her husband on the battlefield and confesses that his letters had brought her to his side. Realizing that Roxane is really in love with the nobility and tenderness of Cyrano’s letters, Christian begs Cyrano to tell Roxane the truth. But Christian is killed in battle shortly afterward, and Cyrano swears never to reveal the secret.
Fifteen years pass; and Roxane, grieving for Christian, is retired to a convent, carrying his last letter next to her heart. Each week Cyrano visits Roxane, but one day he comes late, concealing under his hat a mortal wound inflicted by an enemy. Cyrano asks to read aloud Christian’s last letter; as he does so, Roxane realizes that it is too dark for Cyrano to see the words, that he knew the contents of the letter by heart, and that he must have written it; she also recognizes his voice as the one she had heard under her balcony on her wedding night. She also realizes that for fifteen years she has unknowingly loved the soul of Cyrano, not Christian. Roxane confesses her love for Cyrano, who dies knowing that, at last, she is aware of his love and that she shares it with him.