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Cyrano de Bergerac | Study Guide

Edmond Rostand

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Cyrano de Bergerac | Discussion Questions 11 - 20


In Act 2, Scene 6 of Cyrano de Bergerac, to what end does Rostand use characters' misconceptions?

Rostand uses misconceptions for a humorous and painful effect. When Roxane talks with Cyrano, she describes the man she is in love with. At first all of her descriptions seems to fit Cyrano. For example, Roxane loves a cadet who doesn't know that she loves him. Cyrano, therefore, believes that Roxane is talking about him. However, when Cyrano realizes his misconception, the effect is both funny and painful. The clue that makes Cyrano realize he has been deceiving himself is when Roxane says that the man she loves is handsome. When Cyrano hears this, he springs to his feet and exclaims, "Handsome!" His sudden surprise is funny, but also painful because the audience knows about Cyrano's insecurity about his appearance.

In Cyrano de Bergerac, how is the character of Cyrano de Bergerac similar to and different from the character of Don Quixote?

Both Cyrano and Don Quixote, fictional characters based on real people, are romantic idealists who will fight for their ideals no matter the odds. For example, Cyrano fights 100 men; Don Quixote fights numerous traders from Toledo. In addition, Cyrano and Don Quixote both value upholding noble ideas over practicality. Because Cyrano refuses to take de Guiche's offer of patronage, he remains poor. Don Quixote has no regard for such low concerns as obtaining wealth or luxury. Cyrano admits that he admires Don Quixote, saying, "I've great respect for that eccentric knight." However, Cyrano also has many differences from Don Quixote. First, Cyrano is a skilled swordsman who has killed many opponents. In contrast, although Don Quixote sees himself as an accomplished knight, he shows little skill at fighting. Another difference is that Don Quixote could be seen as an insane person who has delusions. For example, he fights against windmills, seeing them as giants. Although eccentric, Cyrano is not insane; he is a perceptive man who fully realizes who he is and what his place in society is.

In Act 2, Scenes 7 and 8 of Cyrano de Bergerac, what is Rostand's message about the fleeting quality of success in society?

Rostand seems to be saying that success in society, no matter how overwhelming, can be fleeting unless a person takes advantage of the popularity that comes with success. By defeating 100 men, Cyrano has achieved great success. Numerous people come to congratulate him, singing his praise. However, Cyrano knows this success is temporary. Yesterday people were booing him because he ordered an actor to leave the theater. Tomorrow, if Cyrano insults someone, he could easily become unpopular again. Cyrano not only accepts this situation, he also relishes it. In fact Le Bret criticizes Cyrano for making more enemies every day. However, Cyrano's temporary success does give him the opportunity at more lasting success in society. Word of the popularity of Cyrano's defeating 100 men has spread to de Guiche, who offers to support Cyrano and his writing. But Cyrano rejects this offer because he wants to keep his creative freedom. So for Rostand, a person can achieve lasting success, like de Guiche, only by compromising his or her values.

In Act 2, Scene 8 of Cyrano de Bergerac, how does Cyrano's defense of his independence relate to his unrequited love?

After Cyrano makes a long, impressive speech about why he values his independence, Le Bret tells him, "Why don't you just admit she doesn't love you?" Le Bret, therefore, seems to be implying that Cyrano's fierce independence is a cover-up for Roxane's not loving him. A person who is strongly independent has no need to rely on anyone else or be emotionally vulnerable. So after Cyrano learns that Roxane doesn't love him, he gives a fervent speech about maintaining his independence, thereby creating a barrier that protects him from the pain of his unrequited love. In fact he tries to increase this autonomy by making enemies.

According to Act 2, Scene 9 of Cyrano de Bergerac, how does Rostand challenge the idea that Christian is truly stupid?

Rostand presents Christian as not stupid but rather a person who has no confidence or skill in expressing romantic ideas verbally to women. When Christian insults Cyrano, he shows quite a bit of cleverness. Christian identifies sections in Cyrano's speech where he can insert an insult and does so effectively. Although Christian's insults are not as clever as Cyrano's insults of his own nose, they are much more creative than Valvert's insults. Cyrano himself notices Christian's intelligence when he says, "The way you went for me—that wasn't stupid, was it?" However Christian knows his limitations and realizes he could never woo Roxane in a clever manner. Although Christian is not stupid, he lacks creative brilliance. Filled with insecurity, Christian sees himself as stupid, saying, "I'm just so stupid, I could die of shame."

In Act 2, Scene 10 of Cyrano de Bergerac, how is Cyrano's and Christian's deception of Roxane similar to the creation of the monster in Frankenstein?

Like Victor Frankenstein creating the monster, Cyrano and Christian are attempting to create a character of their dreams by combining parts of people. For Cyrano and Christian this creature will hopefully be something beautiful that will satisfy their desires. The creature will use Christian's physical being but will speak Cyrano's words of love to Roxane. Cyrano says, "Together we can make the perfect man." Victor Frankenstein hopes the being he creates will satisfy his desires as well. However, for Victor, Cyrano, and Christian, their plans go terribly wrong and end in tragedy. Victor creates a monster that terrorizes people. Cyrano and Christian create a being with Christian's good looks and Cyrano's soul. The creature wins Roxane's love. But when Christian realizes Roxane really loves the soul and not his attractiveness, he knows she loves Cyrano and not him. As a result he commits of form of suicide by going to the front of a battle. Roxane ends up mourning a man she doesn't love.

In Act 3, Scene 1 of Cyrano de Bergerac, why might Rostand have Cyrano criticize Christian's love letters?

Rostand has Cyrano criticize Christian's love letters for two reasons. First, by doing this Cyrano removes any suspicion that he wrote these letters. Roxane won't think that Cyrano is criticizing his own writing. Second, Cyrano really wants Roxane to praise these letters because by doing this she will be praising Cyrano's writing even though she doesn't know it. To accomplish this Cyrano criticizes the letters. He knows Roxane will provide examples of how beautifully written they are to prove to Cyrano that a man can be both handsome and clever. Therefore, Cyrano indirectly receives the praise he desires. In fact Roxane ends up calling Christian a genius. Cyrano is secretly pleased by this because Roxane is unknowingly calling him a genius.

In Act 3, Scene 5 of Cyrano de Bergerac, why might Roxane not suspect that Christian has been deceiving her?

Even though Christian suddenly speaks to Roxane in a dull manner about love, she does not suspect he has been deceiving her because she wants her dream to be true. She is attracted to Christian's outer beauty and so wants him to have inner beauty as well. So when Christian appears to be dull witted, Roxane prefers to hold on to her dream and think he is having a bad day. Roxane tells Christian, "Go home and try to get your wits together." In addition Roxane is a proud woman who does not like to admit she is wrong. Previously Roxane told Cyrano that a man as handsome as Christian must have inner beauty. To suspect that Christian is deceiving her means she must admit the possibility of being wrong about outer beauty always being paired with inner beauty.

In Act 3 and Act 5 of Cyrano de Bergerac, how does Rostand use darkness in relation to Roxane and Cyrano?

In Act 3 Rostand uses darkness as a means for Cyrano to speak directly to Roxane and thereby reveal his passion for her. Cyrano uses darkness as a veil to hide behind. In the glare of day, Cyrano would be too insecure to speak to Roxane about his love for her. He sees the darkness as an opportunity to directly expose his soul to Roxane. Cyrano says, "Let's just enjoy this unexpected chance to talk together quietly, unseen." In contrast, in Act 5 Rostand uses darkness to expose Cyrano's love for Roxane. When Cyrano reads Christian's love letter in the dark, Roxane realizes that Cyrano cannot see the words. So she knows Cyrano must have written the letter and all the other love letters that Christian supposedly wrote. In this way Roxane realizes that Cyrano loves her.

In Act 3, Scene 7 of Cyrano de Bergerac, why might Rostand have Cyrano say he will no longer use wit when talking to Roxane?

Rostand has Cyrano say he will no longer use wit when talking to Roxane because the author wants to mark a difference in Cyrano's words of love for her. Before Act 3, Scene 7, Cyrano has been writing lovely letters via his surrogate Christian to Roxane. But Cyrano's main purpose in writing these letters is to convince Roxane of Christian's wit and cleverness. So the letters have a certain artifice to them. However, in Act 3, Scene 7, Cyrano discards any artifice as he speaks directly to Roxane of his love for her. Cyrano says, "Each word that comes to me. I'll throw them all in sheaves at your feet, no time to make a bouquet."

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