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RAFTing Cyrano’s Eulogy
Imagine it is just days after the end of the story. Cyrano has spoken his last words and breathed his last breath. Working on your own, craft a eulogy to be delivered at Cyrano’s memorial service from the point of view of Roxane, de Guiche, Le Bret, Ragueneau or Mother Margurite. (To the teacher: Assign characters to your class, dividing them evenly so there are the same number of students assigned to each character).
Use this RAFT to guide your writing!
- R (role/who is writing): Roxane, de Guiche, Le Bret, Ragueneau, or Mother Margurite. How would each character memorialize Cyrano at his funeral? Stay true to the character as you have gotten to know him or her from reading the play.
- A (audience/for whom you are writing): Cyrano’s Gascon friends and family in mourning.
- F (format you are writing in): a eulogy—a brief but heartfelt speech to honor someone. For an optional challenge, replicate Rostand’s style of language. How can you incorporate rhyme, allusion, imagery, humor and hyperbole into your eulogy?
- T (topic/content): memorializing and celebrating Cyrano’s legacy. What vivid depictions and memorable stories of Cyrano’s life would your chosen character include?
Choose volunteers to deliver the eulogy in front of the class.
Extension Activity Choral Montage: Use the eulogies as a jumping-off point for a collaborative work of art, a choral poem. You will actively engage in the process of close reading, marking text, peer editing and revising through a multi-part process.
- Pair up with someone who wrote from another character’s perspective. In your pair, read one another’s eulogies. Select the strongest phrase, word or single sentence that to you captures the character’s voice, mood and tone. Underline your choice, and then pass the letter back to its author.
- Now, in groups of ten (two of each character) work together to create a poem from your ten contributions. You may also choose to include any part of Cyrano’s final passage below. Work on your feet, rehearsing your poem out loud. Edit as much as you need in order to create the most powerful spoken poem you can. You can repeat words; you can decide to say some in unison. Be sure to incorporate all ten contributions, along with any words or phrases from Cyrano’s monologue.
There is one thing goes with me when tonight
I enter my last lodging, sweeping the bright
Stars from the blue threshold with my salute.
A thing unstained, unsullied by the brute
Broken nails of the world, by death, by doom
Unfingered – See it there, a white plume
Over the battle – A diamond in the ash
Of the ultimate combustion—My panache.
- Cyrano de Bergerac (Burgess translation), Act Five
- Each group takes a turn presenting its poem montage to the class. Standing in a line (in the sequence you speak the words), recite your poem.
- After reading, the rest of the class now becomes the editors of the living poem, asking the group to make whatever revisions they feel will help strengthen the writing. As the class suggests revisions, recite the new drafts until everyone (or nearly everyone…) agrees that the poem is in its final form.
- Repeat with the remaining groups’ poems.
Come back together as a class and discuss any new insights discovered through the choral montages.
- What is your character’s opinion of Cyrano by the end of the play?
- What stories of Cyrano’s life might your character want to include in the eulogy?
- What words or phrases strike you most? Why?
- What new discoveries did you make while working with your choral poem group?
- What did you learn from watching and editing the other groups’ poems?
- How can you apply the poem montage revision process to future writing?
CONSIDER COMMON CORE ANCHOR STANDARDS L3, RL6, SL1, SL3, W3, W5
Themes and Big Picture Ideas
Reflect on one of the themes from the play below, using your personal experience to write an essay:
- Sacrifice and Honor: Cyrano sacrifices his own happiness in the name of honor. How do you define honor? Share a moment when you put your own need or desire aside to preserve the honor of a friend or family member.
- Beauty and Love: Roxane, though swept off her feet by Christian’s good looks, falls deeply in love with the soul of the person who has written her love letters—Cyrano. Has external beauty ever played a role in accepting and including, or excluding, someone in a friend group? Describe an instance when superficial beauty created conflict in accepting another.
- Insecurities and Otherness: Cyrano’s feelings for Roxane heighten his insecurities about his appearance and self-worth. In the play, Cyrano’s sense of otherness manifests as an exaggeration of physical difference. Share a time you experienced a feeling of inadequacy because you were different. How did it impact your ability to express your true feelings?
- Panache / Refusal to Conform: Cyrano’s final word in the play, “panache,” literally signifies the white plume atop a hat, indicating military status. Metaphorically, “panache” symbolizes a great deal more—Cyrano’s inner confidence, brashness, flamboyance, and courage. Cyrano stayed true to himself and refused to conform to societal expectations. Describe a time you stayed true to yourself in the face of social pressures.
Extension Activity: Connect your chosen theme to a young adult book you have read. Make a graphic organizer to compare and contrast the characters, plot, conflict and resolution of the novel with that of Cyrano de Bergerac.
- What big idea from the play resonates most closely with you?
- What young adult novels grapple with similar themes?
- What are the most relevant themes from the play in modern society?
CONSIDER COMMON CORE ANCHOR STANDARDS W2, RL2, RL9
The Story in Thirty Lines
In small groups, try to perform the entirety of Cyrano de Bergerac in thirty lines! Look through the script to choose the most important lines, making sure to illustrate all aspects of the plot. What lines will you use? What scenes must be included to move the story along? What actions will you use to help your audience understand what’s going on? Perform your thirty-line play for the class. Be creative! Dramatize the story as an opera, a sock puppet theater, a hip-hop performance, or a country song. Are there any lines that all the groups kept? What do these choices tell you about the play?
- What are some strategies you can use to select lines?
- What becomes clearer in the plot when selecting only thirty lines to tell the entire story?
- How can you use this concept for future use in reading?
CONSIDER COMMON CORE ANCHOR STANDARDS L3, RL3, SL1, SL2, W4
Your Mythological Self
It is true that the historical Cyrano had a large nose, but it was not nearly as exaggerated as it is in the play. There are other historical figures whose identities have similarly become more legend than fact. Think about Robin Hood, King Arthur, St. Valentine, even Al Capone! In the play, Cyrano’s nose—a physical feature, his triple-plumed hat, his eloquent rhymes, his cunning way with the sword, his sacrifices for honor, his undying devotion to Roxane—all these make him a hero of mythological proportions. More than 250 years separate the historical Cyrano from the play’s first performance. Imagine it is 250 years from now. Who would you become in legendary proportions? Make a visual representation of the heroic mythological version of yourself. Focus on a great talent you have (or wish to cultivate in the future) and how you would hope to be remembered hundreds of years from today.
- What are the most important qualities in a hero?
- What images come to mind when you think of a mythological character?
- What roles does myth or legend play?
CONSIDER COMMON CORE ANCHOR STANDARDS SL2, SL5
Adapting Cyrano to Film (contributed by Mary T. Christel)
Since there have been few modern-day adaptations of Cyrano de Bergerac, try your hand at creating a “pitch” or “film treatment” for a possible adaptation. A treatment summarizes a film’s plot in no more than a single page (standard length of a professional treatment). Include the basic premise: setting, characters, inciting incident, conflict, complications, turning point and resolution (including character names that create links to Cyrano de Bergerac but would be appropriate to the new context). Check out this five-point plot breakdown for Roxanne, the 1987 film adaptation. Use descriptive language to reveal how the premise is comedic or tragi-comedic (if your adaptation retains the pathos of Rostand’s resolution). This treatment could include suggestions for casting and well as details about the target audience (or demographics) that the film would address.
Extension Activity: Before seeing the CST production, create a one-to-two minute movie trailer to bring your film treatment to life.
- Who is your target audience?
- What artistic license will you take?
- What are the most important themes you want to include in your adaptation?
- How far will you stray from the original plot line?
CONSIDER COMMON CORE ANCHOR STANDARDS R7, SL2, SL5, SL6, W4, W6
—Julie Strassel, a student at DePaul University, edited and developed these activities as an intern with CST’s Education Department.