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Cyrano de Bergerac | Study Guide

Edmond Rostand

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Cyrano de Bergerac | Discussion Questions 41 - 50


In Cyrano de Bergerac, how does the character of Cyrano develop?

The basic personality of Cyrano remains the same, making him a static character. He is a romantic idealist, who will fiercely defend his ideals no matter the odds. Because he feels shame and insecurity about his large nose, he will fight anyone who insults it. In addition, in matters of romance he fears that women will reject him and mock him because of his ugly appearance. Cyrano shows the most change in his relationship with Roxane. Cyrano has always loved Roxane. However, early in the play he writes love letters for Christian to help him woo Roxane. These letters are beautifully written but do not contain Cyrano's deep passion for Roxane. Eventually, though, Cyrano exposes his soul to Roxane through the letters he writes for Christian. Cyrano knows he is writing these letters not for Christian but rather for himself. Nevertheless, Cyrano develops sympathy and respect for Christian, despite his stupidity. Because of this, even after Christian's death, Cyrano still tries to maintain the deception that Christian wrote the letters.

In Cyrano de Bergerac, how is Cyrano similar to and different from Christian?

Cyrano and Christian are both brave fighting men who take pride in upholding their honor. In this way they both have inner beauty. However these characters have many differences. First, Christian is handsome and Cyrano is ugly. Second, Cyrano is clever and witty and knows how to use these qualities to romance a woman. In contrast, Christian is dull when it comes to verbal wit. He gets tongue-tied when he tries to express his love to a woman. Third, Christian is more honest than Cyrano. Because of this, Christian never feels comfortable about deceiving Roxane. Cyrano, however, created the plan to deceive Roxane and pushed Christian to accept this plan.

In Cyrano de Bergerac, how does the character of Christian develop?

Christian changes mainly through his relationship with Roxane. Early in the play Christian is portrayed as a handsome, brave young man who is dimwitted when it comes to expressing himself in a romantic way to women. Christian realizes this; he has no illusions about himself. However, after Christian lets Cyrano write love letters to Roxane for him, he deceives himself into thinking that he will be able to speak in a poetic way to Roxane. Christian soon realizes his self-deception. Christian also deceives himself into believing that Roxane loves him. When Christian learns that Roxane really loves Cyrano, he is devastated. He becomes a shell of a man who has allowed himself to be used as an external prop that houses Cyrano's soul. Feeling worthless, Christian most likely commits a form of suicide by putting himself in the front of a battle, making him a tragic hero.

In Cyrano de Bergerac, how is Roxane similar to and different from de Guiche?

Roxane and de Guiche both have outer beauty. They both are capable of deceiving others for their own ends. For example, Roxane deceives de Guiche in order to marry Christian. De Guiche tries to deceive society by attempting to set up a mock marriage between Roxane and Valvert, who will allow de Guiche to have an affair with his wife. In addition both Roxane and de Guiche have pride. Roxane is proud of her intellect and her involvement with the précieuses. De Guiche is proud of his high rank and social superiority over others. As for their differences, Roxane has compassion for others, which she shows by bringing food for the cadets. De Guiche shows no compassion for anyone. In addition, Roxane is more intelligent than de Guiche. She is well read and appreciates fine poetry. De Guiche does have cunning, which he uses to achieve his goals. Although de Guiche is not stupid, he also is not very smart. For instance he allows himself to be swept up by Cyrano's outlandish fable about traveling from the moon.

In Act 3, Scene 7 of Cyrano de Bergerac, to what end does Rostand use sensory detail in the dialogue between Cyrano and Roxane when Cyrano pretends to be Christian?

Rostand uses the following sensory details in the dialogue: Sight: "let the stars work their magic, melt away our artificial manners;" "sheaves at your feet;" "your hair was my sunlight;" "patches of blonde light;" "this is my soul in the darkness" Sound: "the bell keeps ringing and ringing and saying your name;" "sound of your laughter;" "I'd freed you to laugh;" "such silence" Smell: "the scents, the air" Touch: "the breeze;" "the cool of the evening;" "I feel it, don't try to hide it" By using extremely vivid sensory imagery, Rostand demonstrates the depth of Cyrano's passion for Roxane. Cyrano has stepped in to speak to Roxane, posing as Christian under the cover of night. As he speaks, it is clear that the deep feelings he expresses are actually his own.

In Cyrano de Bergerac, what are three plot twists found in Act 3, and why does Rostand incorporate them?

Act 3 contains the following plot twists: Christian believes he can speak for himself when he woos Roxane. However, his attempt ends in disaster, thereby causing Cyrano to help Christian win her back. As a result Cyrano replaces Christian in the balcony scenes. Roxane changes the content of de Guiche's letter to enable her to marry Christian. This marriage leads to the last plot twist in Act 3. When de Guiche realizes that Roxane has married Christian, he changes his promise to Roxane to keep Cyrano's cadets in Paris. Instead he sends the cadets into the war, thereby risking the life of Christian. Because of this plot twist, Roxane shows her love for Christian by going through enemy lines; Christian realizes that Roxane really loves Cyrano; and Christian gets killed. Each of the plot twists adds to the theme of deception; in each instance, the twist is based on a character's instigating deception or a deception failing. These twists serve to advance the action of the play and also add suspense.

In Act 5 of Cyrano de Bergerac, how does Rostand use backstory?

In Act 5 Rostand uses backstory to fill in Cyrano's recent past and more distant past. Roxane says that Cyrano visits her each week and gives the news while she embroiders. Soon after this Le Bret reveals that Cyrano is a lonely person who lives in poverty. Le Bret says, "Each day he pulls his belt a little tighter." Then Ragueneau says that someone has dropped a log on Cyrano's head, thereby seriously wounding him. Finally Cyrano talks about how he never received affection from a woman. Cyrano says, "My mother found it hard to look at me." Other women have often mocked him.

In Cyrano de Bergerac, why might Rostand have Cyrano's fight against 100 men happen offstage?

Rostand might have had Cyrano's fight against 100 men happen off stage for the following reasons. A huge fight scene could disrupt the flow of the plot. Rostand wants the audience to focus on the developing story with Cyrano, Roxane, and Christian. Such a fight scene could be a distraction from what the author wants to convey. The audience has already seen Cyrano's skill as a swordsman. Showing him fight 100 men could be seen as repetitious. By having the fight off stage, Rostand allows the audience to imagine what the fight was like. The praise Cyrano receives about the fight only adds to the audience's imaginings about it. The audience can identify with the characters on stage who have not seen the fight and are listening to people recount the skirmish. Staging a fight involving 100 men and onlookers would require a separate set and many costumes and props. Rostand probably figured that such a scene would not be worth all the time, effort, and money needed to pull it off.

In Cyrano de Bergerac, how does Rostand show the development of the play through the sets used for Acts 3, 4, and 5?

In Act 3 Rostand uses a set that shows a lovely square in the old Marais, which includes charming, quaint buildings, such as Roxane's house. Such a setting is perfect for the romantic scenes between Roxane and Cyrano. The set used for Act 4 provides a sharp contrast to the one used for Act 3. Act 4 takes place on a battlefield at the siege of Arras. Instead of having charming surroundings, Rostand emphasizes the fierceness and ugliness of the scene: "a vista of flat countryside covered in siege works." This setting works well as a backdrop for the conflict that develops between Cyrano and Christian. The set also emphasizes how the deception of Roxane, which seemed to lead to a romantic marriage, has really led to tragedy. Act 5 uses a set that shows a peaceful garden in a convent during the fall. The autumnal tone of the set is used to convey the decaying and death of Cyrano and the mourning of Roxane. The tragedy at the end of Act 4 continues to have an effect on Cyrano and Roxane. She mourns someone she doesn't love. Cyrano becomes a lonely man who still maintains his deception of Roxane. Finally Roxane realizes the deception, but it is too late. Cyrano soon dies, and Roxane is grief-stricken a second time for her lost love. All of this happens with dead leaves littering the ground as night descends.

How is Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand similar to and different from The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas?

Cyrano de Bergerac and The Three Musketeers both take place in 17th-century France. Because of this the social systems and culture described in each work are similar. Cardinal Richelieu is the most powerful man in France. Many noblemen have significant influence. Men often have duels to prove their honor. In addition there are many romantic intrigues. In The Three Musketeers the wife of Louis XIV is having an affair with the Duke of Buckingham. In Cyrano de Bergerac de Guiche wants to set up a sham marriage between Roxane and Valvert, which will allow him to have an extramarital affair with Roxane. The musketeers play a central role in The Three Musketeers. In Cyrano de Bergerac they play a peripheral role. However a character from The Three Musketeers, d'Artagnan, makes an appearance in Cyrano de Bergerac. In addition both The Three Musketeers and Cyrano de Bergerac have romance and adventure. But in Cyrano de Bergerac the romance plays a central role and adventure takes a secondary place. The roles are reversed for The Three Musketeers. The tragic love between Cyrano and Roxane is developed more than the tragic love between d'Artagnan and Constance. And Cyrano de Bergerac focuses on the main character of Cyrano. In The Three Musketeers d'Artagnan is the main character, but there are also many other characters that are given extensive coverage. So The Three Musketeers is more of a sprawling epic than Cyrano de Bergerac. Both Cyrano de Bergerac and The Three Musketeers explore the themes of pride and deception. However,The Three Musketeers deals more with the theme of loyalty, while Cyrano de Bergerac focuses on the theme of beauty.

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