Odysseus (oh-DIHS-ews), the crafty king of Ithaca. On his way home from the sack of Troy, he lands at Etna, in Sicily, the home of the Cyclops. Seeking food, he is captured by the Cyclops Polyphemus but manages to escape by blinding the giant after giving him wine. The story is taken from book 9 of Homer’s The Odyssey, but Euripides has changed both some details of the original story and the character of Odysseus. Odysseus and his men do not escape by clinging to a ram’s belly, nor does the Cyclops block the entrance to his cave with a boulder. The change in the character of Odysseus is more important. He is the son not of Laertes, but of Sisyphus, the famous sinner of Corinth, a cheat and a thief. Odysseus becomes in the play a representative of civilized brutality. His speech for mercy before the Cyclops is filled with sophistry, and the sympathy that he arouses at the beginning of the play, when he is weak and oppressed, is reversed by the brutality of his blinding of the Cyclops who, drunk, becomes a decadent but rather likable buffoon.
The Cyclops (SI-klops), called Polyphemus (pol-ih-FEE-muhs), the son of Poseidon. The one-eyed giant of the Homeric legend, he is the exponent of egoism and immoral application of might and right. To Odysseus’ argument that the Cyclops should spare him and...
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