The Cyclops | Study Guide

Euripides

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Course Hero. "The Cyclops Study Guide." December 6, 2019. Accessed January 27, 2022. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Cyclops/.

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The Cyclops | Plot Summary

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Summary

Odysseus Comes to Mount Aetna

The play takes place at the foot of Mount Aetna, a volcano on the island of Sicily. The area is home to a race of murderous one-eyed monsters called the Cyclopes.

One powerful Cyclops has captured a group of satyrs—half-man half-beast followers of the wine god Dionysus—and their father, the old satyr Silenus. The satyrs are forced to tend to the Cyclops's flocks of sheep. The group of satyrs also functions as the Chorus in the play, and the Chorus Leader is a satyr as well. Silenus and the Chorus long for the dancing, drinking, and celebration they once enjoyed in Dionysus's home.

Greek soldier Odysseus and his shipmates, lost at sea, arrive at Mount Aetna on their way home from Troy. They recently defeated the Trojans in a 10-year war. Now they're hoping to acquire fresh supplies of food and drink. Silenus greets Odysseus, whom he knows by reputation, and warns him he's arrived in a dangerous region. The Cyclopes roam freely and obey no laws. They don't obey the Greek custom of extending hospitality to strangers. Instead the monsters kill and devour visitors.

Cyclops Eats His Guests

Silenus offers Odysseus milk, cheese, and sheep from the Cyclops's flocks. In return Odysseus gives Silenus strong wine. Soon, however, the Cyclops arrives and sees that some of his sheep are missing. Silenus fakes a head injury and tells the Cyclops the visitors beat him and stole the flocks.

Odysseus interrupts to tell the truth. He urges the Cyclops to treat his guests respectfully and not slaughter them, warning the gods may punish him for wickedness. Unfazed, the Cyclops brags he doesn't need the gods' protection. He drags Odysseus and his shipmates into his cave, followed by Silenus.

When Odysseus comes out of the cave he describes a gruesome scene to the Chorus—the Cyclops cooked and ate several of his men. Luckily Odysseus has a plan to defeat the Cyclops and rescue the satyrs from captivity. He gave the Cyclops some wine. Once the Cyclops gets drunk and falls asleep Odysseus will shove a lit olive branch into the monster's eye, blinding him. Excited about the scheme, the Leader and the Chorus members volunteer to help.

Odysseus Takes Revenge

The Cyclops, now drunk and friendly, comes out of the cave ready to celebrate. He's joined by an inebriated Silenus who has been stealing gulps of wine all along. Odysseus encourages the Cyclops to finish the wine by himself. When the Cyclops asks Odysseus's name the warrior introduces himself as "Noman."

After fighting with Silenus over the remaining wine, the Cyclops jokingly equates Silenus with Ganymede, the Greek god Zeus's male lover. Then he drags Silenus into the cave to sexually assault him.

Odysseus realizes it will soon be time to use the olive branch, since the fire is lit. However, when he asks for the Chorus members' aid blinding the Cyclops they claim they've gone lame. The Leader, who is afraid of the Cyclops, also refuses to help. Odysseus denounces them as cowards and does the deed himself.

Soon the blinded Cyclops stumbles from the cave roaring in pain. He claims "Noman" blinded him. If no one blinded him, the Leader remarks, he can't be blind. Odysseus and his crew members sneak back onto their ship.

Before he leaves, Odysseus introduces himself proudly as the one who defeated the Cyclops. Then the Cyclops recalls an oracle or prophecy saying a man named Odysseus would blind him. The oracle also said Odysseus would be doomed to wander for years at sea as punishment. Dismissing the Cyclops's prediction, Odysseus leaves with his shipmates and the freed satyrs.

The Cyclops Plot Diagram

Climax123456789Rising ActionFalling ActionResolutionIntroduction

Introduction

1 Silenus and the satyrs are imprisoned on Mount Aetna.

Rising Action

2 Odysseus arrives and gives Silenus wine.

3 The Cyclops cooks and eats members of Odysseus's crew.

4 Odysseus reveals his plan to defeat the Cyclops.

5 The Leader and the Chorus agree to help Odysseus.

6 The drunken Cyclops carries Silenus into his cave.

Climax

7 Acting alone, Odysseus blinds the Cyclops with a firebrand.

Falling Action

8 Odysseus tells the Cyclops his name and escapes.

Resolution

9 The Cyclops recalls the oracle predicting his fate.

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