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Cyrano de Bergerac | Study Guide

Edmond Rostand

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Cyrano de Bergerac | Discussion Questions 21 - 30


In Act 3, Scene 7 of Cyrano de Bergerac, how does Christian show he has a different view of romantic love from Cyrano?

During Act 3, Scene 7, Cyrano has been speaking beautifully about his passionate love for Roxane. Both Cyrano and Roxane have been caught up in the power of his romantic expression. Then Christian breaks the spell when he says he wants to kiss Roxane. For Christian all these lovely words are really secondary. They are just setting the stage for the most important element, namely having a sexual relationship with Roxane. For Cyrano, however, the words of love between himself and Roxane reflect the sharing of their souls. This sharing is the most important element of his relationship with her. Physical love may come as an extension of this spiritual love, but it does not replace it in importance. So Cyrano is stunned when Christian interrupts with his request to kiss Roxane.

In Act 3, Scene 10 of Cyrano de Bergerac, why does Cyrano refer to himself as "a beggar at love's banquet"?

Because of his ugly appearance, Cyrano sees himself as an outsider in regard to romantic relationships in society. For him these relationships involve a physically attractive man being attracted to a physically attractive woman, and vice versa. Cyrano feels he can only hope to vicariously pick up some of the joy of the physical love between two attractive people. Because of this, Cyrano sees himself as a beggar hoping to get some scraps of nourishment from the main feast, namely Christian's kissing Roxane. Cyrano says, "That kiss had something in it meant for me,/Since on his lips his mistress kissed by words."

In Act 3, Scene 11 of Cyrano de Bergerac, how does Roxane's deception about de Guiche's letter create dramatic irony?

Dramatic irony takes place when the audience has more awareness or knowledge than a character. Through her deception Roxane pretends that de Guiche wants her to marry Christian even though she doesn't love him. Roxane says, "Christian is not the one you love, I know." Roxane thinks she's being clever because she believes she does love Christian. However, the audience realizes that Roxane through her deception has really told the truth. Roxane does not love Christian but instead loves Cyrano. Therefore, by marrying Christian, Roxane is really thwarting herself in love. After she completes her deception, Roxane pretends to be in anguish about marrying a person she doesn't love. She says, "Ah, 'tis too cruel." Again the audience realizes that by marrying Christian, Roxane really is being cruel to herself.

In Act 3, Scene 13 of Cyrano de Bergerac, why might Rostand have Cyrano use the moon to deceive de Guiche?

Rostand has Cyrano use the moon to deceive de Guiche because Cyrano can weave an outlandish tale by tapping into a rich mythology. There are many myths about the moon, such as the man in the moon and the moon being made of cheese. Cyrano uses some of these references while spinning his fable. For example, Cyrano talks about the belief that an animal's marrow is drawn toward the waning moon as he describes a method of traveling to the moon. Later Cyrano draws on a belief about the moon that is actually true, namely the moon's effect on the tides. By weaving together these beliefs about the moon, Cyrano creates a tale that entrances de Guiche. The moon is an especially effective image to use, since Rostand connects this scene to another appearance of the moon in Act 5. In Act 3 the moon represents the influence of deception. In Act 5 it represents the truth.

In Act 4, Scene 3 of Cyrano de Bergerac, why does Rostand have Cyrano toss The Iliad to a starving cadet?

In Act 4, Scene 3 Rostand has Cyrano counter the cadets' complaints about starving by urging them to use their hunger to defeat the Spanish. For example, when a cadet says his stomach is as empty as a drum, Cyrano replies, "Good! We can beat the charge with it." So when a cadet says he dreams of devouring food, Cyrano gives him a book to devour. The book is The Iliad, which is an ancient Greek epic about the Greeks defeating the Trojans during the Trojan War. Therefore, Cyrano is telling the cadet to devour the spirit of courage and determination conveyed in The Iliad to help him defeat the Spanish.

In Act 4, Scene 3 of Cyrano de Bergerac, how does Rostand use the drum and flute to represent emotions?

Rostand uses the drum to represent the determination of the fighting spirit of Cyrano and the cadets. For example, Cyrano urges a cadet to use his empty stomach as a drum for a charge. So Cyrano is telling the cadet to use the pain of his oppression to make him even more determined to fight. Later Cyrano shows the cadets' determination to fight by playing a drum roll. Even though the cadets are starving and crying from listening to a sentimental tune, they snap to attention ready to fight when they hear the roll. In contrast, Rostand uses the flute to represent beauty and sentimental emotions. Cyrano has an old man play a pretty, sentimental melody on a flute. When they hear this, the cadets think of home and momentarily forget about being hungry. The flute thus represents a beautiful world apart from the ugliness of the war.

In Act 4, Scene 4 of Cyrano de Bergerac, how does Rostand use situational irony with the white sash?

Situational irony happens when an event or action occurs that differs sharply from what is expected to happen. During Cyrano's and de Guiche's talk about the white sash, the audience expects Cyrano to embarrass de Guiche. De Guiche boasts about discarding his white sash, thereby making him less of a target in battle. In response Cyrano says he would wear the sash to inspire the troops, even though doing so would make him a target. Cyrano proves that he means what he says by producing the sash, which was thought to be lost. The audience thinks Cyrano has once again humbled his opponent with his cleverness and courage. However, the situation takes an unexpected turn when de Guiche grabs the sash and uses it to signal where the enemy should attack. The audience expected the white sash to be used as a victory for Cyrano, but de Guiche unexpectedly uses it against him.

In Act 4, Scene 4 in Cyrano de Bergerac, what does de Guiche's use of a double agent say about his personality?

De Guiche's use of a double agent shows that he is a calculating person who does not hesitate to use underhanded means to achieve his goals. In this way de Guiche is a pragmatist. Noble ideals mean nothing to him; success no matter how it is achieved means everything to him. Cyrano refers to the double agent as a villain. De Guiche agrees with Cyrano but then adds that the agent is a useful villain. De Guiche says, "My double agent came to give me warning and let me choose where the attack would be." As a result de Guiche chooses that the attack be directed at the cadets to get his revenge on Cyrano. So the double agent reflects the two sides of de Guiche's personality. One side wants the cadets to slow down the Spanish attack enough to achieve victory for France. The other side wants to complete a personal vendetta.

How does Rostand convey the theme of deception in Act 4, Scenes 5 and 6 of Cyrano de Bergerac?

In Act 4, Scenes 5 and 6 Rostand conveys the theme of deception mainly through Roxane and Ragueneau. Roxane has managed to take a carriage through enemy lines by telling the Spanish that she is going to see her lover. Being gallant souls, the Spanish let her through. So far this part of the story is true. Roxane is going to visit Christian. However, what Roxane doesn't tell the Spanish is that she and Ragueneau are smuggling in food for the hungry cadets. The cushions are stuffed with ortolans; the lamps are each a tiny larder, and the coachman's whip is a sausage. Through this example, Rostand shows one of the few deceptions in the play that has a positive outcome. Most of the other deceptions eventually work against the people who practice them. The deception of the smuggled food, however, prevents the soldiers from starving to death. Rostand seems to be saying that under certain circumstances deception is justified.

In Cyrano de Bergerac, why might Rostand have Cyrano delay revealing to Christian that he has written a letter or two each day to Roxane during the siege of Arras?

Rostand has Cyrano delay in telling Christian about writing a letter or more each day to Roxane for two reasons. First, by doing this the author emphasizes Cyrano's guilt about writing the letters. Cyrano knows he is supposed to be writing the letters for Christian's benefit; in reality Cyrano is doing it for himself. He is expressing his own passion for Roxane. Second, Rostand delays this revelation to create a more dramatic climax in Act 4. If Christian knew all along that Cyrano was writing so many letters, he would have realized that Cyrano has loved Roxane for quite a while. He would suspect that Roxane really loves Cyrano and not him. So when Christian learns that Roxane loves the soul of the person who wrote the letters, Christian would not be so shocked. As a result, the climax of Act 4 would have been significantly diminished.

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