As You Read the Play

Act One 

Cyrano Site

Create a page on your class website devoted to your experience of reading, discussing and seeing Cyrano de Bergerac at CST. Don’t have one? Check out Kidblog, a free, safe and simple website for teachers to create class blogs. Start by posting images, words and audio or video clips connected to the play. Project your collective posts in class and discuss what you learned about​ the play that you didn’t know before. As you read the play, add to your blog with favorite quotes, predictions of how the play will develop and responses to classmates’ and teacher posts. (To the teacher: Here are some suggestions of discussions and activities that can engage students effectively through technology to be active readers.)

  • Character Diary. Choose one of the following characters to follow throughout the play: Cyrano, Christian, Roxane, Le Bret, de Guiche, Duenna or Ragueneau. Create diary entries from that character’s point of view. Keep track of what other characters say about you (as your chosen character) and how they appear to feel about you. What do you think about them? What are your actions? What do you want? Is it different from what you sayyou want? Use clues in the text to fill in the gap of your character’s backstory and action that takes place offstage. Incorporate quotations from the text whenever you can. Be creative! Try to get to the heart of your character, as opposed to simply observing him or her from the outside. (To the teacher: Build upon this activity with Characterization: An Actor’s Interpretation.) CONSIDER COMMON CORE ANCHOR STANDARDS W3, W6, RL6
  • Allusions. Rostand’s language is rich with allusions, particularly Cyrano’s lines. For example, when Cyrano confides in Le Bret his love to Roxane, he utters, “Argh. / I love Cleopatra. Have I Antony’s / Glamour and glow and glory? And if she’s / Hero, though I can swim, I’m no Leander. / No this Roxane needs a new Alexander, / And I’m the Great in only one respect. / Helen of Paris whom can she select / But Paris of Paris? I’m not he.” Find a passage that includes an allusion that is unfamiliar to you, and research it to discover its full historical, literary or mythological meaning. Explain how understanding the allusion clarifies the meaning of the passage. Share how the allusion may connect to bigger ideas of the play. CONSIDER COMMON CORE ANCHOR STANDARDS RL4, W6
  • Themes and Pop Music. At the end of each act, post a pop song that represents a major theme. Explain your choice, quoting lyrics from the song and providing textual evidence from the play. CONSIDER COMMON CORE ANCHOR STANDARDS RL2, W6, W8, SL5
  • Post-performance Reflection. After you see the performance, share your experience. How was seeing the play performed live different from reading it in class? Include what you thought about the theater space, costumes, set designs and the actors’ performances. Was anything different from what you expected? (To the teacher: extend this discussion using the activities titled, The Audience Experience and Drama Critic.) CONSIDER COMMON CORE ANCHOR STANDARDS W1, W6, SL3

As a class, discuss why you added a particular piece to the site. Also, look through other activities within this handbook and modify anything you wish to fit the Cyrano Site format.


Who is Cyrano?

Act 1 begins in 1640 with French cavalrymen and musketeers entering a large Parisian theater. There are many characters in this raucous opening scene. As a class, divide up roles from the beginning of the Act, up to the moment before Cyrano enters. Assign one person to read all stage directions aloud. Take a few moments to read your lines quietly. If you have any questions on pronunciation or meaning of a word, consult a neighbor, teacher or dictionary. Better yet, use a student studying French as an in-class expert! Before you begin reading the script out loud, start thinking about the title character,Cyrano, and look for clues that help you start to understand who he is and how others perceive him.

Now, read the drama aloud. Listen closely to the stage directions, which differ from script to script, based on the translator. Rather than simply reading your lines as a textbook, use your voice to become the character. These personalities are larger than life and exaggeration is encouraged. It’s okay if you don’t understand everything that is happening. The goals are: 1) to get a better sense of the scene by hearing it come to life, and 2) to learn about Cyrano from the clues in the text.

After the class enacts the scene leading up to Cyrano’s entrance, pause. On one side of the board, write anything that you heard or read that describes the character of Cyrano. On the other, write anything you learned about the play, including setting, characters, tone, etc. As a class, make predictions about what you think Cyrano will act like on stage. Discuss what you learn about the play from the first pages. Once you finish reading the first act, discuss your findings citing quotes from the text as evidence.

Guiding Questions:

  • Does Cyrano’s behavior match other characters’ descriptions of him?
  • Does the first act give any clues as to what might happen next?


The Nose and “Subtext”

Cyrano has a lengthy speech about his infamous nose in the middle of Act 1.


My nose, sir is enormous. Ignorant clod,
Cretinous moron, a man ought to be proud,
Yes, proud, of having so proud an appendix
Of flesh and bone to crown his countenance,
Provided a great nose may be an index
Of a great soul-affable, kind, endowed,
With wit and liberality and courage
And courtesy-like mine, you rat-brained dunce,
And not like yours, a cup of rancid porridge.
As for your wretched mug - all that it shows
Is lack of fire, spunk, spark, of genius, pride,
Lack of the lyrical and picturesque,
Of moral probity – in brief, of nose.
To fist such nothingness would be grotesque,
So take a boot instead of your backside.

-Cyrano de Bergerac (Burgess translation), Act One

Though comedic and extravagant, why does Cyrano make a show about his nose? As a reader and audience, we question Cyrano’s “subtext”—the underlying feelings beneath the words. In small groups, reread his monologue. Take turns reading the speech out loud with a different subtext each time beneath the words.  As Cyrano’s motivation and inner thoughts change, listen for how the delivery of the monologue alters as well.
Here are some suggestions:

  • Cyrano is insecure and overcompensating with humor.
  • Cyrano is so confident in his intelligence that he can laugh at superficial vanity.
  • Cyrano is a bully and wants to make others feel bad about themselves.
  • Cyrano wants to impress with his wit and intelligence.

In your small groups, discuss how the lines read differently depending on the subtext. Were there sections in each presentation that made the most sense? Return to the full group and share what you discovered. Allow a few volunteers to perform their text and see if the class can guess what varying subtexts were.

Extension Activity: Connect this to your personal life. Has there ever been a time when your own insecurity or self-confidence influenced how you’ve said something? (For example, your love for reading is suddenly “not cool” in an English class where everyone is talking about how much they hate having to read book after book. Or, you’re sitting at lunch when everyone else has a particular item of clothing or electronic gadget). Reflect on a time when your metaphorical “nose”  influenced your behavior and your ability to express yourself.

Guiding Questions:

  • Did one person’s interpretation seem to make the most sense? Or did they all work in one way or the other?
  • If you were an actor playing Cyrano in CST’s production, what kind of choices would you have to make about subtext?


Rhyme, Wit, and Sword Fighting

Upon entering the scene, Cyrano steals the show away from Montfleury with mockery and wit. When Valvert insults Cyrano’s demeanor and dress, Cyrano retorts with, “I’m one of those who wear their elegance Within.” As a class, watch this montage of Jose Ferrer’s, Gerard Depardieu’s and Steve Martin’s (Roxanne) film versions and adaptations. Get a glimpse of how the actors play up the humor of the nose jokes. Then, watch the fencing ballade from the 1950 film version starring Jose Ferrer as Cyrano. Afterwards, discuss the comedic techniques you observed.

Working in pairs, read the scene that follows through Cyrano’s rhyming ballade, ending, “The poem ends, and then I hit.” Reread the lines aloud, pantomiming the sword fight. Though Cyrano is doing most of the talking, both have weapons in hand. Play up the wit and comedy of this moment. Cyrano’s words become funnier based on his actions and Valvert’s reactions. Switch roles and act out a new interpretation of the same scene. Encourage volunteers to present to the class, who will become the patrons and workers of the theater, reacting to the show in front of them just as they do in the play. Compare the style of comedy in the scene to popular comedy seen today in movies and TV shows.

For those who may not be reading the text in class, use SparkNotes Classic Books online version. For this particular activity, retrieve the dialogue between Cyrano and Roxane in Act 1 here.

Guiding Questions:

  • Which comedic techniques did you observe in the clips? (To support this discussion, read Mary Christel’s article, Making the Unfamiliar Familiar through Film, on comedic technique terms and use in the play).
  • What kind of humor is expressed in Rostand’s language?
  • What comedic techniques does Cyrano employ through his word choice? How can you make the scene funnier with physical actions?
  • Does this style of comedy exist in pop culture entertainment today?


Translation Variations: The Duel

Below, you’ll find four different translations of the segment of Cyrano’s ballade-duel (the final lines from the activity above, “Rhyme, Wit, and Swordfighting”). Each translator offers his own take. You be the judge. Which one do you prefer?

In groups of four, read all the versions out loud, each person taking one translation. Discuss the similarities and the differences. Decide which version best conveys humor for an audience today. Does one seem more outdated than another?

Burgess, A. (1985):
I bare my head from crown to nape
And slowly, leisurely reveal
The fighting trim beneath my cape,
Then finally I strip my steel.
A thoroughbred from head to heel,
Disdainful of the rein or bit,
Tonight I draw a lyric wheel,
But, when the poem ends, I hit.


Thomas, G. & Guillemard, M. F (1998)
I gayly doff my beaver low,
And, freeing hand and heel,
My heavy mantle off I throw,
And I draw my polished steel;
Graceful as Phoebus, round I wheel,
Alert as Scaramouch,
A word in your ear, Sir Spark, I steal--
At the envoi's end, I touch!


Hall, G. (1937):
Of my broad felt made lighter,
I cast my mantle broad,
And stand, poet and fighter,
To do and to record.
I bow, I draw my sword.
En garde! with steel and wit
I play you at first abord,
At the last line, I hit I


Kline, A.S. (2003):
I throw my hat away, lightly,
I, slow as you like, discard
The heavy cloak that warms me,
And I draw my shining sword:
Elegant as Celadon,
Agile as Scaramouch,
I warn you now, dear Myrmidon,
at the envoi’s end, I touch!


Now, try your own hand at translation! In your group, take the passage below and explore online translation resources (Google, Reference, Babylon, And if you have a student studying French in your group, use their knowledge, as well. Discuss the results, the clarity, absurdity or comedy.


Je ne veux pas que vous pleuriez moins ce charmant,
Ce bon, ce beau Christian ; mais je veux seulement
Que lorsque le grand froid aura pris mes vertèbres,
Vous donniez un sens double a ces voiles funèbres,
Et que son deuil sur vous devienne un peu mon deuil.

-Cyrano de Bergerac (Rostand), Act Five

Compare your results to the Anthony Burgess translation that Chicago Shakespeare Theater will be using.


I would not ask that you mourn any the less
That good brave Christian blessed with handsomeness,
But, when the final cold sniffs at my heart
And licks my bones, perhaps you might impart
A double sense to your long obsequies,
And make those tears, which have been wholly his,
Mine too, just a little, mine, just a –

-Cyrano de Bergerac (Burgess translation), Act Five

Guiding Questions:

  • What changes as a result of the translator’s decisions?
  • How might the translator work in collaboration with director?
  • How might choice in translation affect an audience’s experience?


Character Relationship: Cyrano and Le Bret

Le Bret is one of the only characters who knows of Cyrano’s secret love for Roxane. Towards the end of the first act, Le Bret offers Cyrano advice. Following their friendship throughout the play, cite examples of the ways Le Bret supports the friendship and how Cyrano describes Le Bret’s personality. By the end of the play, compare and contrast what is important to the two characters, using a Venn diagram. Discuss how friends like Cyrano and Le Bret, though they share commonalities, can complement each other in their differences. Compose a free-write describing which kind of friend you have been more like in the past—Cyrano or Le Bret.

Guiding Questions:

  • What qualities of a friend does Le Bret exhibit in the play?
  • What does Cyrano think about friendship?
  • What descriptors does Cyrano use to describe Le Bret as a friend?
  • How can differences in character be a good thing in friendship?


Act Two 

Character Relationship: Cyrano and Roxane

In Act Two, Roxane has asked to see Cyrano at Ragueneau’s pastry shop. Cyrano waits in anxious anticipation of the possibility of a mutual confession of love. It soon becomes clear they are not on the same page. In pairs, read and reread the scene in various ways to reveal the “subtext,” or the inner feelings beneath the words.
For those who may not be reading the text in class, use SparkNotes Classic Books online version. For this particular activity, retrieve the dialogue between Cyrano and Roxane in Act 2 here.

  • Back to Back: Stand back to back with the text in front of you. Speak the verse starting with Roxane’s line, “To when my wish was always your command,” and continue up until the Duenna enters. Listen closely to what your partner says.
  • Whispered Reading: This time, read the passage again (same roles) whispering—and make sure that your partner can hear all the words. Whispering facilitates close listening as well as an emotional connection to the language.
  • Full Volume Reading: Standing about ten steps apart, read the passage again at “full” volume, sending your voice to one another.

After you and your partner read through the scene with these variations, share the discoveries you’ve made about the characters at this moment in the play.
With your new understanding of the character dynamics, examine the portion of the scene when Cyrano says “Ah,” nearly ten times in a row.

  • In groups of four, replace “Ah” with the thought Cyrano has in his head but does not say aloud. Those thoughts are “subtext,” the inner feelings beneath the words. If reading Roxane, write her inner thoughts as she’s speaking her lines.
  • In your group of four, decide on one person to read inner voice (or subtext) Cyrano and one person to read outer voice Cyrano, that is the lines as written in the text. Likewise, do the same with Roxane—inner voice Roxane and outer voice Roxane. Outer voice Cyrano and Roxane read lines seated, while inner voice Cyrano and Roxane stand behind your outer voice double. Inner voice Cyrano and Roxane speak subtext lines immediately following outer voice lines from the text. What is the effect? What do you learn?
  • Back in your original pairs, read the entire passage again out loud, keeping the inner voices in mind. How does the delivery of the lines change?

As a class, discuss the different choices for subtext you made. How did your understanding of the scene change from hearing the inner voices of each of the characters? Discuss Roxane’s requests following her confession of loving Christian and how Cyrano should respond.

Extension Activity: When you reach Act 5, return to the scaffolding of this activity—back to back, whispered reading, full volume reading. Begin when Cyrano asks to read “Christian’s” final letter that Roxane wears around her neck: “His letter. Didn’t you say that, one day. / You’d let me read it?” Continue up until the moment Le Bret and Ragueneau enter. Both scenes contain “subtext” and revelations. Compare and contrast the two scenes and their importance to the overarching plot.

Guiding Questions:

  • Are there moments when whispering feels instinctively right?
  • Are there moments when this elevated volume “fits” the meaning?
  • What does Cyrano think Roxane is implying?
  • When does he realize he is wrong?
  • What do you learn about Cyrano from replacing “Ah” with his inner thoughts?
  • How do you expect Cyrano to react to Roxane’s proposal that follows?


Gascony National Identity and Music

Throughout the play, it is clear that Cyrano and his fellow Gascon cadets have enormous pride in their regional identity. Cyrano sings the Gascony Cadet March in Act Two, which is then repeated in Act Four:


We are the Gascony cadets—
Captain Henri Le Bret our chief—
Braggers of brags, layers of bets,
We are the Gascony cadets.
Barons who score mere baronets,
Our lines are long and tempers brief—
We are the Gascony cadets,
With Henri Le Bret as our chief.
We’re lithe as cats or marmosets,
But never cherish the belief
We can be stroked like household pets
Or fed on what a lapdog gets.
Our hats are fopped up with aigrettes
Because the fabric’s come to grief.
We are the Gascony cadets.
We scorn the scented handkerchief,
We dance no jigs or minuets.
We cook their enemies on brochettes,
With blood as their aperitif.
We are the Gascony cadets…
- Cyrano de Bergerac (Burgess translation), Act Two

Reflect on what you learn about the members of the Gascon cadets from their song, a fraternal march. Think about a group to which you belong and for which you feel pride: a sports team, a drama club, student council, a faith group, a neighborhood, your extended family, a community organization… Write a song for your group. As you see above, Cyrano wrote the march in rhyme. Challenge yourself to do the same!

Guiding Questions:

  • What characteristics of the Gascon cadets do we learn from their march?
  • What are the qualities of your group that make it special?
  • How does the pride you feel for your group help you understand Cyrano’s Gascony pride and sense of camaraderie?


Scene Acting: Cyrano and Christian

Cyrano and Christian interact for the first time at the end of Act 2 at the pastry shop. Divide up into pairs to act out different points of the same scene and discover how they go from skeptical strangers to a formidable team.

  • Cyrano tells the story of what happened at Porte de Nesle. Christian interrupts the story with “Nose,” repeatedly. (To the teacher: you may add a third person in this scene to take any of the short lines from cadets and Le Bret. Otherwise, just skip over those lines with two people.)
  • After the cadets leave assuming Cyrano will have Christian’s head through the point that Christian admits “If only I had the words—“and Cyrano responds, “I have the words. All I lack is looks.”
  • Continuing the scene where Cyrano convinces Christian to “borrow” his wit up to the point the cadets return.

For those who may not be reading the text in class, use SparkNotes Classic Books online version. For this particular activity, retrieve the dialogue between Cyrano and Roxane in Act 2 here.

Present the scenes in sequence. Discuss the choices Cyrano makes and how you predict their new collaboration will set the action of the plot in motion.
Guiding Questions:

  • Why does Christian repeat “nose” so many times?
  • Why does Cyrano decide to befriend Christian?
  • Why does Christian go along with Cyrano’s plan?
  • Will they be able to sustain their plan throughout the play?



Act Three 

Directing Comedy: The Balcony Scene

The balcony scene in Act 3 is a quintessentially comedic moment in Cyrano. Working in groups of four, select one person to take on the role of director while the others play the parts of Cyrano, Christian and Roxane. Christian refuses to assume Cyrano’s poetic voice: “I’m tired, yes tired / Of borrowing your lines…” Upon Roxane’s arrival, however, Christian panics and pleads for Cyrano’s help. The director should get the actors on their feet—use a sturdy chair for Roxane’s balcony, if available—and give notes on where to build in comedic moments.

For those who may not be reading the text in class, use SparkNotes Classic Books online version. For this particular activity, retrieve the dialogue between Cyrano and Roxane in Act 2 here.

Here are some suggestions for the director:

  • Encourage actors to develop character through physicality and voice. (Refer to the Characterization through Movement activity if students find this challenging).
  • Find as many opportunities as possible to add physical humor. Roxane being unable to see Cyrano or Christian from her balcony affords opportunities for arguing, confusion and mishap.
  • If there is a particular comedic style you like and think will work in the scene, give it a shot! Think Three Stooges, Adam Sandler movies, Eddie Murphy, Lucille Ball, Looney Tunes, etc.
  •  Take note of ideas and suggestions that come to your mind as you watch.
  • Lead with a collaborative spirit. Encourage your actors to contribute ideas as well.

After groups present, discuss what the class found especially funny in each interpretation. Discuss the style of comedy found within the scene and other parts of the play.

Teacher Tip: If you want to feel more grounded in how other actors have found comedy in acting choices and blocking of the scene, watch clips from the2007 Broadway production and the 1987 film adaptation, Roxanne. You may also show the clips to students, but it will be best to wait until after they have explored the scene themselves.

Guiding Questions:

  • How obvious is the scene’s comedy just from reading it?
  • What humor are you discovering as you put the scene up on its feet?
  • How is this comedy different or similar to the comedy seen in popular movies today?
  • Is there a play you have read or seen that had a similar style of comedy?


Act Four 

Writing Love Letters

In Act 4, Cyrano, Christian and the other Gascons are on the battleground near Arras, north of Paris. Write one of the many letters that Cyrano, as Christian, pens to Roxane. Look to Cyrano’s language as he describes Roxane to Le Bret in Act 1, “She’s a mortal danger without knowing it, undreamed-of-in-her-own-dreams exquisite…” Notice the use of rhyming couplets, classical allusions, embellishment of her features, and hyperbole. Challenge yourself to incorporate similar wooing techniques. Also, read the letter Cyrano recites by memory in Act 5 to Roxane, “Goodbye, Roxane. For this is the last time I shall be able to write…” Remember, Cyrano claims to have written twice a day for weeks so he will not have to catch her up on events. Instead, think about the value of a letter in an era before phones, e-mail and instant communication. Use rich poetic language. Write a second version of the same letter in a modern format, keeping texts, social media, and other media in mind. Reflect on the differences between the “art” of courtship today versus the 1600s.

Guiding Questions:

  • What was the value of a letter in courtship in the 1640s?
  • In your opinion, how is courtship different today?


Roxane: A Debate

Roxane has stolen the hearts of both the conventionally handsome Christian and the witty and flamboyant Cyrano. Both express insecurities about their worthiness of her love. By Act 4, we know it is Cyrano’s mind she admires from the words he has written her in copious letters. But are Roxane and Cyrano compatible based on shared values?

As a class, debate whether Roxane and Cyrano are well-suited from what you have read up to this point. Start by making a list of commonalities they share and ways they differ before choosing a side. When stating claims for or against the match, be sure to include textual evidence to support your assertions. Use the art of persuasion to sway others in the class to your side. Conclude the debate with final statements for both sides, summarizing and synthesizing the most important points. Take a vote at the end to decide.

Guiding Questions:

  • What do we know about Roxane?
  • What commonalities do Roxane and Cyrano share?
  • How do their values differ?
  • What is more important to Roxane: intelligence or beauty?


The Definition of a Soul

Roxane proclaims in Act 4 that it is Christian’s soul she loves and admires. Find moments throughout the play when characters talk about the soul. Collect and list as many quotes as you can from the play where Roxane and others define what a soul is and what makes a soul beautiful. Cite your quotes, including character, act and page number.

Examples include:

Roxane: “But the soul, the spirit—?” / Cyrano: “You mean the petty rhymes / Wrung from what petty spirits call the soul.” (Act 3)

Roxane: “Let us savour our / Souls conjoined in our lips.” (Act 3)

Roxane: “Your soul arose / In perfume to my window, the true you / Made itself known in a voice, but then that voice / Sang to me every day.” (Act 4)

Roxane: “I see / That first, fair specious image now no more.” / Christian: “I don’t like this one bit—“ / Roxane: “Now I love a soul—“ / Christian: “I’d rather be loved as people usually are / With a bit of body as well—“ (Act 4)

Afterwards, define “soul” as it has been used in Cyrano de Bergerac. Is it different from how you might define the word? Write a paragraph on how Rostand’s definition compares to your own, including differences and similarities.

Guiding Questions:

  • Does Rostand have any contradictions in his definition of a soul throughout the play? Or is he consistent?
  • How does the definition of soul determine Roxane’s love?
  • How does Cyrano react to Roxane’s profession of love to Christian’s soul?



Act Five 

Imagery Collage

Act Five begins with the nuns singing a song, which contains imagery from nature. “Around comes the autumn, / The swallows are leaving, / The year is unweaving / Its garment of red.” As you continue to read through the end of the play, maintain a catalog of images, metaphors and personification, citing quotes from the text. Draw or print pictures that appear the most—or hold the most importance in your mind—and create a collage of those images. Hang them around the room for classmates to view and discuss how the images connect to the themes of the act and the play as a whole. Consider how lighting and scenic designers may use Rostand’s imagery in their design process.

Guiding Questions:

  • What does the imagery seem to foreshadow?
  • What is an example of personification?
  • How do the images and colors evoke mood?


Charting a Character’s Development: de Guiche

Throughout the play, de Guiche acts as a contrast to Cyrano’s character. When he signals the enemy with his white scarf on the battlefield, de Guiche displays utmost cowardice. Shortly thereafter, however, he has a moment of redemption.
Working in small groups, create a timeline of de Guiche’s actions from the beginning of the play through Act 5. Delegate tasks among the group: action digger-upper, dueling quote hunters, and timeline designer. Follow the arc of his character as he develops from a problematic patrician in Act 1 to a sympathetic participant in the action of Act 5. Include quotes in your timeline, making sure to cite act and page numbers from the edition you are reading.

Once your timeline is complete, prepare a short essay, working independently, and argue whether de Guiche is worthy of the reader’s, or audience’s, sympathy and forgiveness at the end of the play.

Now, you are ready to put de Guiche on the “hotseat.” “Hotseating” a character gives you a chance to both ask questions and hear responses about his/her choices in the play. A volunteer sits in the “hotseat,” and the class asks a variety of questions. If you are de Guiche, sitting in the “hotseat,” respond in character and draw on evidence from the play to support your answers. If you are “hotseating” de Guiche, refer to your timeline. Is there a specific action or choice de Guiche made that you question? Ask questions that challenge the motivation behind his decisions.
Guiding Questions:

  • How do de Guiche’s actions propel conflict?
  • What motivates de Guiche’s actions?
  • Why do you think Rostand chose for de Guiche to change?
  • Does de Guiche redeem himself fully by the end of the play?
  • From putting de Guiche on the “hotseat,” how do you better understand the motivation beneath his choices and actions?


Interactive Reading: Cyrano’s Final Monologue

Explore Cyrano’s final monologue with “jump-in reading,” an interactive and playful way to read closely and mark text. Synthesize your thoughts with a free write. Scaffold with “pointing,” which leads to the creation of a “found poem” and a new interpretation of the passage.


Let him come, then.
He shall find me on my feet –
My sword in my hand.
There he is, looking at me, grinning
At my nose. Who is he
To grin, that noseless one?
What’s that you say – useless, useless?
You have it wrong, you empty brain pan.
You see, a man
Fights for far more than the mere
Hope of winning. Better, far better
To know that the fight is totally
Irreparably incorrigibly in vain.
A hundred against – no a thousand.
And I recognize every one, every one of you.
All my old enemies – Falsehood, Compromise,
Prejudice, Cowardice. You ask for my
Surrender? Ah no, never, no never. Are
You there too, Stupidity?
You above all others perhaps were predestined
To get me in the end. But no, I’ll
Fight on, fight on, fight –
You take everything – the rose and the laurel too.
Take them and welcome. But, in spite of you,
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

Part One: Jump-in Reading

  • Read Cyrano’s final monologue aloud as a class, switching readers at each punctuation mark. While listening, mark at least one line or phrase that stands out for you.
  • As a class, reread the speech—this time switching readers randomly without assignment or seating order. You can choose to jump in for the length of text you wish to read. Anyone can volunteer to jump in when the previous reader stops. Proceed until the passage has been read a second time.
  • Return again to the text. Take a few minutes to mark any lines, phrases, or individual words that stand out after this second reading.
  • Choose one word, phrase or line and free write about why it stands out to you.

Part Two: Pointing (Sheridan Blau, 2003)

  • Pick a line or phrase from the same passage to read out loud—a line that is compelling, interesting, fun, etc. No one “owns” a single line or phrase, and there is no prescribed order in which lines are to be spoken. Begin reading chosen lines and phrases, listening closely to one another to avoid speaking on top of one another. The same line can be read again and again, creating a choral effect in a type of “found poem.”
  • Write your own interpretation of the speech based on the lines that were recited, and share with the class.


Julie Strassel, a student at DePaul University, edited and developed these activities as an intern with CST’s Education Department. 



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