Carl A. Shaw, EURIPIDES: CYCLOPS, a Satyr Play

Carl A. Shaw, EURIPIDES: CYCLOPS, a Satyr Play, Bloomsbury, London 2018, p. 176 pages, 978-1474245791 GBP 85.00

When reading or speaking about drama in Ancient Greece we always think about tragedy or comedy but in fact almost never about satyr plays. That is the reason why I think Bloomsbury Companions to Greek and Roman Tragedy must feel really satisfied by including this volume into its collection.

The book opens with a list of figures - some of them surprising and unique even if they are not printed in colour - together with a quite short preface, some notes for the reader and finally a list of abbreviations.

Then four chapters follow.  The first one has to do with the play itself in the context of satyr drama; history and functions of the genre are briefly examined. It closes with a few words about the date and the text of the play.

I have really enjoyed the second one, (p.47-63), devoted to a detailed analyse of the full play; plot and performance.  Shaw explains in detail how  Cyclops is made of a prologue (1-40) a parodos followed by four episodes and three stasima or choral interludes; the role of Polyphemus and Odysseus to be both underlined. The author explores in detail both characters, mentioning very properly too the old satyr Silenus following his behaviour and his looking on and away from the stage (p.47-48).

The third one focuses on themes, issues and functions.  Shaw declares in a very restrictive way that Euripides incorporates a number of relevant contemporary issues in the Cyclops. I am not so sure if I could agree with the connections made between Odysseus and his friends and the Athenians and the expedition in Sicily as firmly as Shaw does. Anyway this conclusion is presented after quite a lot of allusions to contemporary religion, performance, philosophy and history, in my opinion the most original and interesting part of the book.

Trying to fix Cyclops in its literary context, Carl Shaw moves from kômos –songs to some Euripidean plays such as Helen, Andromeda (lost) and Iphigenia among the Taurians, reaching Sophoclean Philoctetes and even Aristophanes´ Thesmophoriazusae. Along this way he passes through the Homeric Odyssey and the Hymn to Dionysus. He still has time enough to mention in detail Epicharmus´ and Aristias´ Cyclops together with Cratinus´ Odysseis and Callias´Cyclopes, even if they all are either fragmentary or definitively lost plays

As usual some notes together with a list of books - 90% written in English - and an index come at the end of the book.

This is, no doubt, an excellent publication. If a suggestion from me could be written, I would encourage the author to think  about the meaning of the play nowadays.  Does the Cyclops still exist?  What about his behaviour? Is there any message for contemporary people? Do those characters exist in our contemporary world? Who is really right, Odysseus, or Polyphemus? What about barbarism and xenophobia in the contemporary world? I am afraid if Cyclops were to be performed all over Europe now that means that he is still alive and maybe he still has something to say.

 José Luis Navarro