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LEARNING GUIDE TO:

CYRANO DE BERGERAC

One of the Best! This movie is on TWM's list of the ten best movies to supplement classes in Drama, High School Level.

SUBJECTS — Drama/France; World/France;
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Romantic Relationships; Self-esteem;
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Respect.

Age:10+; MPAA Rating -- PG; Drama; 1990; 138 minutes; Color; Available from Amazon.com.



Description: This is a film adaptation of the classic play written in 1897 by Edmund Rostand. Cyrano de Bergerac is one of the most fascinating and contradictory literary characters of all time. He is both bombastic and timid; ugly and beautiful; brave and cowardly; poet and swordsman; however, he lacks the confidence to declare his love for Roxanne and thus begins a classic deception. He pens his feelings in letters under the name of Christian, a dashing but inarticulate recruit in his military unit. Unaware of the ruse, Roxanne grows to love Christian rather than the true author of the poetic writing.



Rationale for Using the Movie: Aside from the aesthetic experience of seeing fine film, the movie enables young people to work through a number of issues, including: whether the ugly and disfigured can still be loved by someone who is beautiful; the lack of self-esteem felt by people who are disfigured or who don't conform to society's conception of beauty; how braggarts are often trying to cover up psychological wounds; the negative consequences of assuming that someone or something is unattainable; and the differences between how people view themselves and how they are viewed by others.



Objectives/Student Outcomes Using this Learning Guide: Through the use of the worksheet assignment provided in this guide, teachers can clarify the several forms of irony, literary tools that are often difficult for students to grasp. Furthermore, the film can inspire projects that help students see the issues presented in the film as viable in modern times.



Possible Problems: None.









 






LEARNING GUIDE MENU


Rationale and Objectives
Possible Problems
Parenting Points

Using the Movie in Class:
      Introduction to the Movie
      Discussion Questions
      Assignments

SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIALS
IN A SEPARATE DOCUMENT


Helpful Background

Additional Discussion Questions:
      Subjects (Curriculum Topics)
      Social-Emotional Learning
      Moral-Ethical Emphasis
            (Character Counts)

Other Sections:
      Bridges to Reading
      Selected Awards & Cast



MOVIE WORKSHEETS: TWM offers the following movie worksheets to keep students' minds on the film and to focus their attention on the lessons to be learned from the movie. Teachers can modify the movie worksheets to fit the needs of each class. See also TWM's Movies as Literature Homework Project.





SUGGESTIONS FOR USING CYRANO DE BERGERAC IN THE CLASSROOM


Introduction to the Movie: XXXX.


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Discussion Questions:

After the film has been watched, engage the class in a discussion about the movie.

1.  Roxanne says at the end of the film that had she known the truth, she would have loved Cyrano. What is it that makes you either believe or disbelieve her claim that she could have gotten past Cyrano's looks had she known the truth? Suggested Response: Answers will vary. All opinions, well supported, are acceptable.

2.  For what reason do you believe that some people do not follow the dictate: "If you don't try you have no chance of winning and you automatically lose." Suggested Response: Answers will vary. Students may note that fear of rejection is sometimes stronger that any hope of reward.

3.  What if Cyrano had been a woman and Roxanne had been a man? Could a tragic figure be created out of a woman with a deformity on her face who loved a powerful and handsome man who was strongly attracted to some attribute that she had, such as being able to create beautiful paintings, being able to write poetry, being able to sing beautifully? Suggested Response: Answers will illuminate attitudes toward gender in our society and all answers, well presented, are acceptable.

4.  Irony is central to the appeal of "Cyrano de Bergerac." It starts at the core of the play and radiates outward in all directions. The underlying irony is that while Cyrano is ugly on the outside, on the inside he has many attributes that we admire: courage (in most areas), kindness, a championing the underdog, loyalty, and love of justice and beauty. Identify some other examples of irony in this story. Suggested Response: See instances set out in the worksheet below.

For additional discussion questions, click here.




Assignments:

Any of the discussion questions can serve as a writing prompt. Additional assignments include:

1.  After students have seen the film, distribute the following worksheet and ask students to complete each of the required prompts.

Irony in Cyrano DeBergerac

There are three different types of irony. Each relates to a difference between what is perceived or expected and what occurs. The different types of irony are described below:

(1) Situational irony occurs when there is a situation or event that occurs in which there is a difference between what happens and what we expect to happen or what we think should happen. Situational irony is often used in comedy and satire because, when skillfully used, it quickly exposes an unexpected point that leads to awareness.

On the internet, look up situational irony as a literary tool and write the example given:

(2) In a work of fiction, dramatic irony occurs when an author creates a contrast between the reality perceived by one or more of the characters and what is known by the audience or the reader. This happens when the audience/reader has greater knowledge about present or future circumstances than the characters in the story.

On the internet, look up dramatic irony and write an example given:

(3) An ironic statement is one in which there is a significant difference between what is said and what is meant. It occurs when the speaker doesn't intend to convey the literal meaning of the words used, but instead means something quite different. Often the meaning is the opposite of the literal meaning of the words.

Look up the use of irony in statements and create an example of your own that shows you understand this form of irony:

Irony is central to the appeal of "Cyrano de Bergerac." It starts at the core of the play and radiates outward in all directions. The underlying irony is that while Cyrano is ugly on the outside, on the inside he has many attributes that we admire: courage, kindness, a championing the underdog, loyalty, and love of justice and beauty. This is situational irony.

The following provides a list of many of the ironies used in Cyrano de Bergerac. Read each one of them and then determine which of the forms of irony is being used. Write the form under the example and write a sentence or two justifying your choice.

Other examples of irony in this play are as follows:

  • Christian, in contrast to Cyrano, looks beautiful but when he opens his mouth what comes out is far from beautiful.
  • Roxanne is attracted to Christian for his looks but comes to really love him because of the beautiful words and images written by Cyrano, a physically unattractive person.
  • Cyrano is fearless in most situations and is accounted by those who know him to be afraid of nothing, but in regards to the most important thing in his life, his love for Roxanne, his abject fear of rejection prevents him from acting to attain his goal.
  • Cyrano claims at the end of his life that he will be remembered for his "panache" ("dash, flamboyance, distinctive and stylish elegance"). But Cyrano is a man with a deformity in the middle of his face who is so afraid of rejection by a young girl (Roxanne) that he misses the main chance for happiness in his life.
  • Cyrano insists that everyone else appear to ignore his nose but thereby keeps the consciousness of it in everyone's mind, nor can he forget it for a moment.
  • Cyrano makes strenuous efforts to make up for his deformity and ugliness by his devotion to poetry, his skill at fencing, and his championship of the underdog. Yet he didn't even try for something that meant more to him than anything else, i.e. Roxanne.
  • At the end of the story, Cyrano tells the truth and discovers that Roxanne loves him.
  • Cyrano dies from an accidental blow to the head instead of in battle.
  • Cyrano is powerful yet victimized, in a sense, by ugliness. He victimizes others whom he perceives as weak.
  • Roxanne continues to mourn Christian despite the fact that the true love of her life visits her often in the nunnery.
2.  Write an opinion essay in which you discuss whether the devaluation of Christian, due to his lack of literary skills, is similar to the offence of devaluing Cyrano because of his lack of physical beauty.

3.  Prepare a project for presentation to the class as a whole in which you look at media images of beauty in society and how these images have changed over time. Be prepared to suggest who or what is responsible for creating these images of beauty which are, with the pervasiveness of mass media, before us at all times. Show images of beauty in both males and females.

4.  Prepare a project for presentation to the class as a whole in which you look at concepts of beauty in different cultures.

See additional Assignments for use with any Film that is a Work of Fiction.



 

For French or English Language Arts classes, distribute TWM's Film Study Worksheet. Teachers can modify the worksheet to fit the needs of each class. Ask students to fill out the worksheet as they watch the film or at the film's end.





Click here for TWM's lesson plans to introduce cinematic and theatrical technique.







Select questions that are appropriate for your students.










Are you concerned that time will be wasted if you are absent from class? Worry no more  .  .  .   Check out TeachWithMovies' Set-Up-the-Sub.







Parenting Points: Should your child be reading Cyrano de Bergerac in either a French or English class, you may want to show this film. It is an excellent adaptation that vividly communicates the tragic aspects of the story. Afterwards, if your child is 14 years of age or older, you may suggest that your child watch the delightful Steve Martin comedy, Roxanne, which echoes the storyline and theme but ends on a happy Hollywood note. Thus, your child will see that, although written long ago, the ideas in the play still have relevance. .







Reminder to Teachers: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing any film.

Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.













BUILDING VOCABULARY: panache (1. dash, flamboyance, distinctive and stylish elegance; 2. a bunch of feathers or a plume, as on a helmet), irony.






MOVIES ON RELATED TOPICS: For adults, see the delightful modern retelling of this tale by Steve Martin in "Roxane."



OTHER LESSON PLANS: See the Glenco Literature Library Study Guide for Cyrano de Bergerac. Reading in the Dark, by John Golden (2001 National Council of Teachers of English) shows how to use the movie in class.



Acknowledgments: Thanks to Rebecca Curtis, an English Professor at Santa Monica College, for reviewing this Learning Guide.

Last updated August 4, 2010.






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