TITLE: – ULYSSES AND THE CYCLOPS
I. About the Author
Charles Lamb was the youngest son of John Lamb and Elizabeth Field, born in 1775 at Crown Office Row, London, where his father was clerk to Samuel Salt, a Bencher (senior member of the Inns of Court) of the Inner Temple. He had an older brother, John (1763– 1821), and a sister, Mary (1764–1847). He was educated at Christ’s Hospital in Newgate Street, where he was a contemporary of Coleridge, as recalled in his essay, ‘Christ’s Hospital Five and Thirty Years Ago’. Lamb spent vacations at Blakesware, a country house in Hertfordshire, where his grandmother was housekeeper. It was here that he met his first love, Ann Simmons, but her rejection of him in 1795 was such a shock that it precipitated a fit of insanity. By now he had begun a long career with the East India Company (1792–1825), which kept him in his office for nine hours a day, six days a week. He was always to regret not having gone to university, but he suffered from a stutter that made it impossible for him to pursue a career in the church (the usual destiny for men of his class and background). Instead, his ‘university’ would be his beloved London, where he was surrounded by his favourite things: old books, theatre, drink and good conversation.
IV. Question & Answers
1. Who was Cyclops?
Ans: – The Cyclops was giant shepherds who lived on the steep heads of mountains in caves.
2. Pick any 5 details to show that they were not civilized.
Ans: – The Cyclops neither sowed nor ploughed, but the earth untilled produced for them rich wheat and barley and grapes. They had neither bread nor wine, nor did they know the arts of cultivation, not cared to know them. They lived each man to himself, without laws or government or anything like a state or kingdom. Their dwellings were in caves on the steep heads of mountains, every man’s household governed by his own caprice or not governed at all. They did not have any ships or boats, no trade or commerce or wish to visit other shores.
3. Why did Ulysses and his men enter the habitation of the Cyclop?
Ans: – Ulysses, with Chosen party of twelve followers, landed, to explore what sort of men dwelt there, whether hospitable or friendly to strangers or altogether wild and savage.
4. How strong was the Greek wine?
Ans: – The Greek wine was so strong that no one ever drank it without an infusion of twenty parts of water to one wine, yet the fragrance of it even then so delicious, that it would have vexed a man who smelled it to abstain from tasting it; but whoever tasted it, it was able to raise his courage to the height of heroic deeds.
5. How did Ulysses introduce himself and his group to the Cyclop?
Ans: – Ulysses said that they came neither for plunder, nor business, but were Grecians, who had lost their way, returning from Troy. He added that they acknowledged him to be mightier than them, and hence prostrated themselves humbly before his feet.
6. What horrid response did the Cyclop give to Ulysses; request for hospitality?
Ans: – The cyclops replied nothing, but gripping two of the nearest of Ulysses’ followers as if they had been no more than children, he dashed their brains out against the earth, and tore in pieces their limbs, and devoured them, yet warm and trembling, making a lion’s meal of them lapping the blood.
7. What prevented Ulysses from attacking the Cyclop with his sword?
Ans: – When the Cyclop slept among his goats, Ulysses wanted to draw his sword and thrust it with all his might into the bosom of the sleeping monster; but wiser thought restrained him because he realized that he would need Polyphemus alive as only he could have removed the mass of stone which he had placed to guard the entrance.
8. How did Ulysses prove that “manly wisdom excels brutish force’?
Ans: – Ulysses hatched a plot to incapacitate the Cyclop and escape from the cave alive. He chose a stake from among the wood which the Cyclop had piled up for firing, in length and thickness like a mast, which he sharpened, and hardened in the fire; and selected four men, and instructed them what they should do with his stake and made them perfect in their parts.
9. What ‘gift’ does the Cyclop offer Ulysses in return for the wine?
Ans: – The Cyclop took the wine and drank it, and vehemently enjoyed the taste of wine, which was new to him, and swilled gain at the flagon, and entreated for more; and prayed Ulysses to tell him his name, that he might bestow a gift upon the man who had given him such brave liquor. When Ulysses says that this name is Noman, the Cyclop promises Ulysses that he will eat him after he has eaten all of Ulysses’ friends.
10. How do the brave Greeks blinded the Cyclop?
Ans: – Ulysses waited for some time while the Cyclop lay insensible; and heartening up his men, they placed the sharp end of the stake in the fire till it was heated red-hot; and the four men with difficulty bored the sharp end of the huge stake, which they heated red-hot, right into the single eye of the drunken cannibal.
11. Why didn’t the fellow Cyclops help Polyphemus when he cried out for help?
Ans: – When the fellow Cyclops came flocking from all parts to inquire what trouped Polyphemus, Polyphemus answered from within the cave that Noman had hurt him and Noman was with him in the cave. The other Cyclops thought that Polyphemus was alone in the cave ‘and no one had hurt him but he himself. So they went away, thinking that some disease troubled him.
12. How did Ulysses help his men escape from the cave?
Ans: – Ulysses made knots of osier twigs upon which the Cyclop, commonly slept, with which he tied the fattest and fleeciest of the rams together, three in a rank; and under the middle ram he tied a man. Thus the man could escape from the cave along with the ram which was moving towards its accustomed pasture.
13. How did Ulysses himself escape from the cave?
Ans: – Ulysses wrapped himself fast with both his hand in the rich wool of a ram, the fairest of the flock. As the sheep passed the doorway of the cave, the Cyclop who was sitting there at the threshold, felt the back of those fleecy wools, without realizing that they carried his enemies under them. When the last ram came with Ulysses under it, the Cyclop stopped the ram and felt it, and had his hand once in the hair of Ulysses, but did not recognize it.
14. How did Ulysses introduce himself to the Cyclop at the end of the story?
Ans: – Ulysses introduced himself as ‘Ulysses, son of Laertes; he was called the King of Ithaca and a waster of cities’.