38 pages 1 hour read



Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 422

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Literary Context: The Myth of Odysseus and the Cyclops

Euripides’s Cyclops is a reworking of a popular myth best known from Book 9 of Homer’s Odyssey, one of the earliest works of Greek literature. In the Odyssey, the hero Odysseus lands on the island of the Cyclops while sailing home from fighting in the Trojan War. Odysseus and a few men from his crew are captured by the savage Cyclops Polyphemus, a son of the sea god Poseidon, who traps them in his cave by rolling a gigantic boulder over the only entrance. Scorning Greek conventions of hospitality, Polyphemus kills Odysseus’s men two at a time and eats them raw. The clever Odysseus eventually devises a plan to escape, however. After introducing himself as Nemo (Greek for “nobody”), he presents Polyphemus with some of the wine he and his men have brought with them until Polyphemus is drunk. Then, while Polyphemus is asleep, Odysseus and his men drive a huge sharpened stake into his one eye, blinding him. Polyphemus calls on the other Cyclopes for help, but when they ask him what is wrong he is only able to respond that “Nobody” has blinded him, and the Cyclopes conclude that Polyphemus has merely had a bad dream.