Directed by Michael Curtiz

Discussion Questions

Scene 1: Exit Visas
1. What determines whom Rick does and does not admit into his private gambling room?

2. Who is Ugarte? Does Rick despise Ugarte, as Ugarte claims? Why?

3. Why does Ugarte trust Rick with the exit visas?

4. How does this scene evoke our sympathy with Rick?

5. Why are the chess pieces so prominent in this scene?

Scene 2: The Plane to Lisbon

1. What is the political situation in Casablanca at the beginning of the film?

2. What brings Rick to Casablanca? Why does he settle there?

3. Is Rick's "wise foreign policy" moral? Is it even wise?

4. How does this scene hint that Rick's "foreign policy" will break down by the end of the film?

5. Why does Rick think that Laszlo will take only one exit visa, if necessary? Why does Renault disagree? What does this scene tell us about the character of Captain Renault?

6. What does the language of the theater (for example, "staging" Ugarte's arrest, "entertainment") contribute to our understanding of the political situation in Casablanca?

Scene 3: Major Strasser of the Third Reich

1. How does Rick answer Strasser's question about his nationality? Does his answer demonstrate that he is "a citizen of the world," as Renault claims? In what way does the film show this position to be untenable?

2. Rick contrasts his business-"running a saloon"-with the business of Strasser and Renault-the business of politics. And yet Renault calls Rick a "diplomatist," and observes that he has "a wise foreign policy." Does the distinction between politics and running a saloon hold up? And why does Rick refer to politics as a "business"?

Scene 4: As Time Goes By

1. Why does Ilsa request "As Time Goes By"? Does she understand what feelings it will provoke?

2. Why does Rick forbid the playing of this song?

3. What do we learn about the character of Sam, and therefore the character of Rick, from this scene?

Scene 5: Rick and Mrs. Laszlo
1. Why is Rick unable to listen to Ilsa? Is she right that he has changed?

2. Why does this conversation between Rick and Ilsa begin in the midst of a merchant trying hard to make a sale?

Scene 6: Ilsa and Richard

1. What are Ilsa's motives for trying to obtain the exit visas? How does she appeal to Rick?

2. What makes her break down and admit to Rick that she still loves him?

3. Is her choice one of love at any cost?

4. When she asks Rick to do the thinking for both of them, why does she add, "For all of us"?

5. Why does she wish she did not love Rick so much?

Scene 7: Victor Laszlo
1. What effect does this conversation with Laszlo have on Rick? How might it change his resolve to leave with Ilsa?

Scene 8: The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship
1. Why does Rick insist that Ilsa go with Victor? To what extent does his decision involve his love for her, and his love for the cause they once shared?

2. Does Ilsa belong on the plane with Victor, as Rick tells her? Does she agree or disagree with Rick's decision? To what extent is Renault correct that Rick invents a fairy tale?

3. Why does Renault decide not to arrest Rick, but to round up the usual suspects?

4. When does the "beautiful friendship" of Rick and Renault begin? Why are they friends?

5. Is Rick's statement to Ilsa that "the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world" confirmed or denied by the film itself? Are the problems of people separate from the problems of this crazy world?

Paper Topics
1. Compare Ilsa Lund and Katharine Clifton. To what extent does Casablanca agree with The English Patient that love seeks an earth without boundaries?

2. Compare Rick and Almasy. How similar are their views of politics? Are they similarly consumed by the love of a woman? What accounts for their differences?

3. Compare the friendships of Rick and Renault to that of Almasy and Madox. Does friendship, like love, transcend national boundaries?

4. Compare the marketplace scenes in The English Patient and Casablanca. Do they serve similar or dissimilar purposes in their respective films?

5. Referring to their work exploring the desert, Madox asks Almasy, "we didn't care about countries, did we? Brits, Arabs, Hungarians, Germans. It was something finer than that." Does Casablanca demonstrate a closer relation between what is fine or noble and political boundaries than does The English Patient? Explain.

6. Why does Rick and Ilsa's love not end tragically? What explains the difference between their love and that of Antony and Cleopatra? Is the love of the former, paradoxically, saved by politics?

7. Does love as portrayed in either The English Patient or Casablanca confirm Diotima's position that love desires what it loves to be one's forever?

Casablanca Reading

Guide to unit 6

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