ODYSSEUS AND THE CYCLOPS
12 narrators: N1 to N12
3 men, Odysseus’s followers
Cyclops (large child)
2 Cyclops neighbours
There once did live a clever king
Odysseus the sly
And here’s our tale of how he tricked
The monster with one eye
N1: This is the tale of Odysseus, the king of Ithaca, and the cleverest man in Greece. The Greeks had just won the war with Troy because of a brilliant idea Odysseus had. You might have heard of it – the Wooden Horse.
Odysseus enters, bows, leads men left to right across stage
N2: On his way back to Ithaca Odysseus had many adventures. This is the story of one of those adventures – Odysseus’s meeting with the Cyclops.
Stagehand moves ship across stage left to right as if blown by winds
N3: Odysseus’s ship had been blown off course by a storm. He landed on an island to see if the men living there were decent and god-fearing, or unfriendly and savage. As a gift they brought a jar of red wine.
Odysseus and men row back across to left of stage
N4: But little did Odysseus know this was the land of the Cyclops, an ancient race of giants.
Cyclops enters stage right, looking barbarous
They were violent and lived without laws, doing as they pleased. They were incredibly strong, and had just one big, ugly eye in the middle of their foreheads. Fortunately for Odysseus, they were also rather stupid.
Cyclops leaves stage right
N5: Odysseus and his men saw a cave. They entered and found cheese and milk there.
Men enter cave, see food. Men go to take food, Odysseus stops them
The men wanted to take the food. ‘No,’ said Odysseus. ‘Let us wait for the owner, and perhaps we will share a friendly cup of wine with him.’ Soon enough the Cyclops returned to his cave.
Cyclops enters left with sheep. Men hide under a table at right
N6: In terror Odysseus and his men hid in the corner of the cave, for they had not expected such a monstrous giant. The Cyclops rolled an enormous boulder to close the cave – a stone so big not even twenty wagons could pull it.
Cyclops closes cave with table
He then milked his sheep and drank the milk.
Cyclops milks sheep into wooden bowl, drinks it
N7: Then the Cyclops spotted the men cowering in the corner, to him no bigger than children.
‘Who are you, strangers?’ he said in a thundering voice. ‘Are you merchants? Or pirates come to steal my sheep?’
Odysseus comes out of corner
N8: Odysseus plucked up the courage to answer. ‘We are Greeks, sailing from Troy. Strong winds blew us to your lands, and we come seeking friendship. Perhaps you will treat us as your guests, as Zeus, god of guests, would wish it.’
N9: But the Cyclops answered angrily. ‘You must be a fool to expect friendship from a Cyclops. We are older and stronger than your gods, and care nothing for them.’
With that he picked up one of Odysseus’s men, battered his head on the ground, and made his supper of him.
Cyclops grabs a doll, batters head on ground then eats it
N10: Odysseus and his men could only watch in tears, praying to Zeus for help. The Cyclops lay down and went to sleep.
Men weep and pray. Cyclops sleeps on floor
Odysseus then thought to slay him with a thrust of his sword – but he realised he could not, for his men could never move the boulder, and they would all starve to death in the cave.
Odysseus goes to stab Cyclops with sword but doesn’t
N11: In the morning the Cyclops rose, and for his breakfast he grabbed another man and gobbled him.
Cyclops gets up, eats one more doll
Then he moved the stone and drove out his flocks, putting the boulder back as easily as if it were a pebble.
Cyclops opens cave, goes out driving sheep
N12: The men were trapped. But clever Odysseus came up with a plan. He found a branch from an olive tree, sharpened it with his sword, and hardened it in the fire.
Odysseus takes sharpens and hardens branch in fire, hides it
N1: At nightfall the Cyclops returned with his fleecy flocks. Again he milked the sheep. Then he seized another of Odysseus’s men and ate him.
Cyclops returns, milks sheep, eats another doll. Odysseus approaches with bowl and jar (for refilling bowl)
N2: Odysseus approached him with a bowl of wine.
‘Look, Cyclops,’ he said, ‘you have filled your belly with man flesh. To finish off your meal, why don’t you drink this bowl of delicious wine?’
Cyclops drinks it and likes it
N3: The Cyclops drank the wine. ‘Give me more,’ he said. ‘This wine is so tasty, little man, that I will give you a special favour, if you will tell me your name.’
Odysseus gave him three more bowlfuls of wine, and the Cyclops became quite drunk.
Odysseus gives him more wine, Cyclops gets drunk
N4: ‘Very well, Cyclops,’ said Odysseus, ‘I shall tell you my name.
It is Nobody. Now give me the favour you promised.’
‘This is my favour,’ said the Cyclops. ‘You, Nobody, shall be the last of all those men I shall eat.’
Then the Cyclops fell asleep on the floor.
Cyclops sleeps on floor
N5: Odysseus took the stake and put the end into the fire to get it red hot. His men seized hold, and they thrust it into the giant’s eye.
Odysseus heats stake in fire, men grab it, they stick near Cyclops’ eye. Cyclops roars in pain and swaps bloody eye on face
N6: The blood gushed and the eyeball was burned out. The Cyclops gave a hideous roar. He shouted to his Cyclops friends who lived in the nearby caverns.
Cyclops shouts to friends. They stand outside cave
They came and stood round the cave. ‘Who is threatening you?’ they asked. ‘Who is attacking you?’
N7: ‘It is Nobody,’ replied the Cyclops. ‘Nobody is threatening me – Nobody is attacking me.’
‘If nobody is attacking you,’ said his friends, ‘then this must be a punishment from Zeus. You must pray to your father Poseidon for help.’ They left him, and Odysseus laughed at how he had tricked the Cyclops.
Cyclops leave, Odysseus laughs
N8: The Cyclops groped for the boulder and pushed it from the doorway. Then he sat with his arms outstretched, hoping to catch the men running out.
Cyclops pushes door out and sits in entrance, arms out
But Odysseus had another plan. He tied his men underneath the sheep, then they all waited till dawn.
Odysseus ties men under sheep, then hangs on himself under another (actors hide behind sheep)
N9: At dawn the sheep left the cave with the men tied underneath and Odysseus clinging on with his hands. The Cyclops felt the backs of the sheep, but he did not realise that the men were tied under their bellies.
Sheep leave cave, with men underneath, Cyclops feels backs.
Outside the cave Odysseus untied his men.
Odysseus unties men and they run off stage with sheep.
N10: They ran to the ship, taking the sheep with them, and rowed away.
Stagehand moves ship across stage left to right.
Voice of Odysseus offstage
Odysseus, furious at the murder of his comrades, shouted to the Cyclops. ‘O Cyclops,’ he cried, ‘if anyone asks you who put your ugly eye out, tell them it was Odysseus, King of Ithaca and destroyer of Troy.’
N11: Enraged, the Cyclops spoke a prayer. ‘O Poseidon my father, let Odysseus return home only after many years and much misery, and after all his men have perished.’ Then he threw an enormous rock at the ship. It landed behind it and washed the ship away.
Cyclops prays to Poseidon, then throws a rock, which washes ship away (held by stagehand)
N12: Odysseus had escaped the Cyclops. But Poseidon heard his son’s prayer, for Odysseus did eventually lose all his men, and returned to Ithaca only after ten years of hardship.
Odysseus comes on, looking exhausted and miserable
So ends our play about the king,
Odysseus the sly
With clever words he tricked the beast
And poked him in the eye
All come on stage and bow