Overview

Cyclops


Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

A: Euripides Pf:c. 420–406 bc, Athens? Tr: 1782 G: Greek satyr play in verse S: Before the cave of Cyclops, after the Trojan War C: 3m, extras, chorus (m)Silenus and his band of satyrs have been shipwrecked on the cliffs of Etna and are now enslaved by Polyphemus, the Cyclops. The satyrs dance on with a flock of sheep. At this point a Greek ship lands, from which disembark Odysseus and his companions. Bribing Silenus with wine, they slaughter some of the sheep, but before the feasting can begin, the hideous one-eyed Cyclops returns. Silenus pretends that the sheep were taken from him by force, and the Cyclops, disregarding the rules of hospitality, drives Odysseus and his men into his cave, where he intends to kill and eat them. Odysseus escapes and tells how, after the Cyclops had begun to devour his sailors, he has been plying the monster with wine. Once he is in a drunken stupor, Odysseus drives a red-hot stake into his solitary eye. As the Cyclops stumbles about blindly, Odysseus' men make their escape and set sail for home with the freed satyrs.

A: Euripides Pf:c. 420–406 bc, Athens? Tr: 1782 G: Greek satyr play in verse S: Before the cave of Cyclops, after the Trojan War C: 3m, extras, chorus (m)

This is the only extant satyr play, conventionally the final piece added to the end of the performance of three serious plays. The satyr play, which always had a male chorus of dancers who leapt around wearing phalluses, offered a rough mixture of humour, violence, and frequently bawdiness, partly as a link to the origins of the drama in Dionysian ritual and partly as a relief from the tension created by the preceding tragedies. Cyclops is based on Book 11 of Homer's Odyssey, although here various details have been altered, presumably for ease of staging (all the violent action takes place offstage, the huge stone blocking the cave is not mentioned, and Odysseus' men do not resort to the device of hiding under the Cyclops' sheep in order to escape). Long dismissed as an unworthy product of Greek theatre, the predilection of our own age for black comedy makes a piece like Cyclops acceptably entertaining.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


Reference entries

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.