Suggested Answers to Discussion Questions for
Learning Guide to CYRANO DE BERGERAC
2. Define the literary device of irony and describe three ironic situations in this play.
See Section on Irony in the Helpful Background section.
3. At the end of the play, just before Cyrano died, he said of himself, “… [H]e will be remembered for … what? His heart? Courage? No, of course not. Nothing half so commonplace: For his panache.” What did Cyrano mean by “panache?” Why is Cyrano’s devotion to “panache” an instance of irony on at least two levels?
We can think of several. First, Cyrano’s nose was kind of his panache, it stuck out from his head as a panache would stick out from a helmet. Second, a person with panache is not generally thought of as being afraid to declare his love to a woman. Third, a panache is made of feathers, a thing of light and airy beauty; Cyrano was far from that.
4. In this film, Cyrano, who is put forward as a man who can do almost anything, is a man without requited love. Is this another example of irony? Why?
Yes. Cyrano can do anything but the thing he needs to do the most, pursue his love interest with Roxane.
5. What is ironic about the differences between Cyrano and Christian?
Cyrano is ugly to look at but beautiful to listen to. Christian is just the opposite.
6. Henrik Ibsen, the great Norwegian playwright, is reported to have said: “If you put a pistol on stage in Act I, you must use it by the end of Act V?” That is true of this play. What is the “pistol” in “Cyrano de Bergerac?”
The fact that Cyrano was hated and resented by many others. At the end of the play, they have killed him. Another way of putting this is that Cyrano was unable to restrain his sarcasm and kept insulting and assaulting people. This is the gun. Inevitably, those insulted would strike back.
7. What qualities of Cyrano do you admire and what qualities would you leave behind?
There is no one correct answer to this question. He was courageous (in most areas), kind, a champion of the underdog, loyal, and a lover of justice and beauty. One can admire his skill as a poet, swordsman and soldier. One might not admire his snobbishness and insensitivity; his tendency to resort to violence, his obsession with his nose, and his cowardice in the face of Roxane.
8. Many people believe that bullies are, like Cyrano, covering up some insecurity or sense of vulnerability. This is incorrect. Psychological studies find that most bullies “see themselves quite positively” and are unaware of what others actually think of them. What makes most bullies starts in early childhood. They have ingrained patterns of using aggression and hostility in their relationships with other people. A feeling of insecurity is only one of many things that can trigger a hostile or violent response from a bully. In fact, no trigger is necessary for a bully to be hostile or aggressive. To solve conflicts and get along in life, bullies rely on aggression and the fear and power that their aggression creates. They have difficulty relating to people on other levels. Marano, H.E., Big Bad Bully Psychology Today. Why do many people think that bullies are covering up for feelings of insecurity and vulnerability?
The idea that bullying behavior arises from feelings of insecurity comes from the efforts of normal people to understand what makes a bully. When most people think about this question they use the context of their own, more normal personalities. For them, covering feelings of insecurity by lashing out at others is a natural, if dysfunctional, response. However, bullies don’t see the world that way. For them, aggression, violence and hostility in human relations are the norm. See also TWM’s Snippet Lesson Plan to the Psychology of Bullies Using “17 Again”.
Social-Emotional Learning Discussion Questions
1. Cyrano gave the impression of being a proud man with a lot of self-esteem. But did he really have self-esteem?
No. He couldn’t get over his nose.
2. Cyrano insisted that everyone else appear to ignore the size of his nose and yet, in his heart, he believed that everyone thought it to be his most remarkable characteristic. (Certainly, he himself never forgot about it except perhaps when he was caught up in reciting poetry or out-fencing those he wanted to humiliate.) What does this fact tell us about Cyrano’s character?
There are many ways to express an answer. Good answers will refer, in one way or another, to his low self-esteem.
3. What if Cyrano had been a woman? Could a tragic figure be created out of a woman with a deformity on her face? What does this tell us about our society and our own reactions to men and women?
We don’t know the answer to this question but it will provide some excellent class discussions. Note that there are differences between the answer for Cyrano’s time and for the 1950s in the U.S. and for the present day in the U.S.
4. The opinion leaders in our society value physical fitness and a figure for a woman that is without extra weight but has large breasts and small hips. In other centuries plump women were considered the ideal beauties. In other cultures in our own time, for example in Brazil, women with small breasts and large hips are considered more attractive than women with large breasts and small hips. What does this tell you about beauty?
That the ideal body type or shape of face is, in many ways, like a fad. It changes for no reason. This play tells us that beauty is skin deep. Cyrano was, in many ways, a more interesting and beautiful person than Christian.
5. All that Cyrano had to do in order to find the love he desired so much was to declare himself to Roxane and woo her with his words. Compared to many of Cyrano’s other accomplishments, could this have been easily done? What does this tell you about how to live your own life?
Cyrano needed to take a risk. His fear immobilized him. Someone once said that our fears are all lies. While this may go a little too far, it is true for many, if not most of our fears.
6. Cyrano was a courageous soldier and fighter, a man of action who took incredible risks. Yet he was afraid to take action in the one area that would have made him happy? Why was this?
One can be courageous in some areas and paralyzed by fear in others.
7. Why couldn’t Roxane have signaled to Cyrano that she was in love with him?
The answer is that she should have.
Moral-Ethical Emphasis Discussion Questions (Character Counts)
Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.
(Treat others with respect; follow the Golden Rule; Be tolerant of differences; Use good manners, not bad language; Be considerate of the feelings of others; Don’t threaten, hit or hurt anyone; Deal peacefully with anger, insults, and disagreements)
1. Did Cyrano obey this Pillar in any way?
Not really. He was not tolerant nor was he considerate of the feelings of others. Nor did he deal peacefully with anger, insults or disagreements. He certainly threatened, hit and hurt.
2. What action did Cyrano demand of others that he was incapable of? Why?
He demanded that people respect him as a person when he was incapable of respecting himself and showed little respect for others. He simply couldn’t get over the size of his nose.