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Cyrano de Bergerac | Study Guide

Edmond Rostand

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Cyrano de Bergerac | Discussion Questions 1 - 10


In Act 1, Scene 1 of Cyrano de Bergerac, how does Rostand introduce the theme of deception?

Rostand introduces the theme of deception through many of the minor characters. By doing this the author shows that many people have secret motives that they choose not to reveal to the public. For example, the guard wants to have a secret love affair with the flower girl and so flirts with her. Instead of doing their jobs, the pages really want to play tricks on the wealthier members of the audience by fishing for their wigs. The audience even includes a man who tries to pick the pockets of some of the attendees. Some noblemen such as the marquises attend the theater not to see the play, but rather to be admired by others. The setting of a play—a place for a false story or a place of pretense—provides the perfect backdrop for such actions.

In Act 1, Scene 2 of Cyrano de Bergerac, how does beauty affect characters in different ways?

Outer beauty affects many of the characters. For example, Christian and the marquises are impressed by the beauty of Roxane. In fact Christian declares he is in love with her, even though he has never spoken to her. The marquises are strongly influenced by the outer beauty of fashion. They look down on Christian because he's not wearing stylish clothes. In contrast Ragueneau is strongly influenced by the inner beauty of poetry and plays. He declares, "Verse! I adore it, sir!" He has a similar passion for the theater. Ragueneau shows a flair for poetry himself when he describes Cyrano with his "three-plumed hat and six skirts to his doublet."

In Act 1, Scene 3 of Cyrano de Bergerac, for what purpose does Rostand have Cardinal Richelieu attend the theater?

Rostand has Cardinal Richelieu attend the theater because he wants the full range of French society to be present, from the top to the bottom. In this way the author is presenting a microcosm of this society. Richelieu represents the top of society; he is the most powerful man in France. Below him Rostand shows various noblemen such as the marquises. Next come members of the wealthy bourgeoisie. Below them are the common people, including the guard and doorman. The pickpocket represents the criminal element, which is the lowest level of society. In addition, Rostand wants to show the influence of powerful men like Richelieu. For example, when the pages find out that Richelieu is present, they immediately stop their pranks. Other audience members also seem to be in awe of the cardinal. Later other powerful men, such as de Guiche, wield considerable power.

In Act 1, Scene 4 of Cyrano de Bergerac, how does Rostand use the sword as a symbol?

Rostand uses the sword to represent Cyrano's pride and courage in defending truth and beauty. Cyrano believes that Montfleury is a bad actor, even though most people at the theater disagree with him. However, this disagreement does not faze Cyrano. In fact he challenges audience members to a duel, saying, "You blush to look upon my naked blade." Later Cyrano uses his sword to fight a duel as he composes a poem. His sword defends the truth of Cyrano's inner beauty. When Cyrano completes the poem, he uses his sword to impale Valvert, thereby providing the final emphasis on the truth, namely that his inner beauty is far superior to Valvert's.

In Act 1, Scene 4 of Cyrano de Bergerac, how and why does Rostand use figurative language when Cyrano insults his own nose?

When Cyrano insults his own nose, Rostand has him use figurative language to make the insult more descriptive and to use exaggeration for a humorous effect. For example, when Cyrano compares his nose to a peninsula he uses hyperbole or exaggeration. Cyrano's nose is not as large as a peninsula, but the exaggeration is funny because it implies that his nose is very large. The author uses this technique throughout the speech. Cyrano compares his nose to a chimney, a parasol, a conch-shell, and a monument. In addition, by comparing various functions of his nose to other actions, Cyrano uses metaphor to humorous effect. For example, Cyrano compares his sneezing to a rash wind or having a nosebleed to creating the Red Sea.

In Act 1, Scene 4 of Cyrano de Bergerac, what does Cyrano's payment for the canceled play reveal about his character?

Cyrano's payment for the canceled play reveals that he has a strong sense of justice. Even though he hates the acting of Montfleury and orders him to leave, Cyrano knows that the theater owner Bellerose is trying to make a living. Cyrano has no desire to be unfair to the owner, so he pays him. By this action Cyrano reveals that he values standing up for his ideals far more than practicality. Cyrano has used all his money to pay the theater owner. As a result Cyrano is so poor that he can't even buy his dinner. But this result seems to matter little to Cyrano because he has stood up courageously for his ideals. Finally Cyrano's gesture of casually handing a bag of coins to the theater owner shows his flair for the dramatic. When Le Bret criticizes Cyrano for this behavior, Cyrano replies, "But what a gesture!"

In Act 1, Scene 5 of Cyrano de Bergerac, why does Cyrano say that he feels alone?

Cyrano feels alone for two main reasons: his ugly appearance and his ideals. Because he is unattractive, Cyrano feels like an outcast in society. Many people view him as a deformed aberration. As a result he cannot immerse himself in the flow of society or fit in like most people. Like most outcasts Cyrano feels alone or separated from others. Cyrano staunchly defends his ideals, despite the opposition. As the play shows, few people have the courage to do this. Act 1 offers a strong example of his courage: Cyrano kicks out Montfleury, even though most people want the actor to stay. There are probably other people in the audience who think Montfleury is a bad actor, but they do not have the courage to say so. Therefore, Cyrano's defense of his ideals separates him from others.

In Act 1, Scene 7 of Cyrano de Bergerac, how does Rostand convey the theme of pride?

Cyrano demonstrates his pride through his eagerness to fight the 100 men. He is proud of upholding an ideal, namely defending a man who is about to be attacked by a gang, and he shows pride in his skill as a swordsman. He insists that he will fight this battle alone without the help of anyone. A crowd of people plan to follow Cyrano as he confronts the gang, but he repeatedly demands that no one help him in his fight. Cyrano says, "You can watch, but mind you keep your distance." Cyrano knows fighting 100 men is an amazing feat that will showcase his skill with a sword.

In Act 2, Scene 1 of Cyrano de Bergerac, how does Rostand show the similarity between Cyrano and Ragueneau?

Cyrano and Ragueneau are similar because they are both hopeless idealists. Cyrano has shown that he loves to fight for his ideals, especially against strong odds. He does this when he fights 100 men. Ragueneau's ideal is poetry; he aspires to be a poet even though he has little talent. His wife, Lise, despises his passion for poetry and his poet friends. But like Cyrano's upholding his ideals, nothing dissuades Ragueneau from pursuing his ideal. Because of this, Cyrano understands why Ragueneau lets the poets eat his pastries for free: to have a captive audience for his poetry recitations. For both Cyrano and Ragueneau, practicality has little influence when it comes to following one's dream.

In Act 2, Scene 6 of Cyrano de Bergerac, how does Rostand use foreshadowing in the relationship between Cyrano and Roxane?

Rostand uses foreshadowing when Roxane says to Cyrano, "Oh, I do love you." Roxane says this because she appreciates Cyrano's willingness to protect Christian, even though doing so could be difficult. As a new cadet who is not a Gascon, Christian will be the brunt of jokes and perhaps challenges to duels from the other cadets, who are all from Gascony. By promising to protect Christian, Cyrano takes on a large responsibility. Roxane senses the beauty of Cyrano's soul for taking this responsibility and so says that she loves him. Later in the play, Roxane will fall in love with Cyrano's soul, even though she doesn't realize it until too late. Also in this scene, when Cyrano and Roxane reminisce about playing together as children, they are foreshadowing the eventual closeness of their relationship.

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