Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 310
The play Cyclops by Euripides is a retelling and expansion upon the portion of the Odyssey in which Odysseus becomes trapped on the island of the Cyclops and must trick the beast so that he can save himself and his men. The story begins with a soliloquy from Silenus, a satyr who is trapped on the island of Polyphemus, the Cyclops. He explains that he and the other satyrs are all captives of Polyphemus, and they are in desperate need of help because they are slaves and cannot live as they are intended to—like frolicking beasts.
Odysseus arrives on the island, and he offers wine in exchange for food, which Silenus greedily accepts, in spite of the fact that the food belongs to Polyphemus. After Odysseus and his men are blamed for stealing the food, they are taken captive as well.
Unlike in the Odyssey, Odysseus attempts to reason with the Cyclops, and they have a spirited discussion about morality and social welfare. Odysseus argues for hospitality and care, while Polyphemus reasons that personal gain is the only thing of importance, and therefore he couldn’t care less about the plight of others. He says that personal gain is worthy of worship and that the satyrs and other individuals who are in need have simply failed and deserve no help.
After being locked up by Polyphemus, Odysseus formulates his escape plan: to get the giant drunk and blind him with a burning poker. Silenus gets the Cyclops drunk, but the satyrs are unwilling to go through with blinding him. Odysseus gets his men to help him complete the plan, and they escape on their own. In the process he reveals his identity to Polyphemus, whose father, Poseidon, then rages against Odysseus for the remainder of his journey home, which is the cause of his ongoing troubles in the Odyssey.