38 pages 1 hour read



Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 422

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Symbols & Motifs

Animals and Nature

Animal and natural imagery is a recurrent motif in Euripides’s Cyclops. On the most obvious level, Silenus and the Chorus of satyrs are creatures that combine human and animal features: Satyrs were typically represented as having a human form with the tails, ears, and sometimes legs of a horse (or, in later representations, a goat). Moreover, the setting of the play, on the slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily, is an idyllic pastoral location. The Chorus sings of their work as the herders of the Cyclopes, describing the “green grass” (45) on which the livestock graze and

the water from the brook
Swirls through your troughs
Beside the cave
Where the small lambs bleat (46-48).

However, the satyrs take little comfort in the natural beauty of their surroundings: The Cyclops, who lives in this “state of nature” without government or laws, feeds on human flesh without scruple and flagrantly denies the gods. In the end, the animal and natural imagery of the play highlights the gulf between an uncivilized world that is beautiful but dangerous, and a civilized world (represented above all by Odysseus) that ultimately triumphs over it.