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Episode 11: Setting the Trap

Teaching activities

  • Starting points
  • Follow-up
  • Further activities
  • Setting the trap: What kind of traps do you know about? (Mouse traps, pit traps…) Traps rely on using trickery to catch something or someone. Why do you think this episode is called ‘Setting the Trap’? Think about how we left Odysseus at the close of the last episode. (He sat down among the shadows by the door and he brooded in silence.) What were his thoughts?

  • Penelope’s dream: We will hear Penelope tell the old beggar about a dream she has had. She thinks that her dream has a meaning and asks him to explain it. Describe her dream. (‘In my dream I kept a flock of white geese, I kept them in my husband’s hall, and every day I fed them with my own hands. And in my dream an eagle swooped down from the mountains, slaughtered all of the geese, sat on a rafter and sang.’) Ask for suggestions of what the dream could mean. Some interpretations may be literal but at this stage accept and note down any ideas. They can be discussed further after listening to the story.

  • Trials: In traditional tales and myths, the hero often has to undergo a trial to prove himself or to earn something. Can you think of any examples? Do you know of the Trials of Heracles? There will be an important trial in this episode.

  • The Dream: Discuss Odysseus’ interpretation. Was he seeking to reassure or prepare Penelope, or thinking of his own secret plan? Dreams can be explained in many ways. Listen carefully to Penelope’s words about dreams coming to us through two gates: gates of horn and gates of ivory. Think back to someone else who spoke of the gates of horn. (Tiresias in the land of the dead said that his vision came through a gate of horn — Episode 6 transcript p. 2 line 22.) The dream is an example of an extended metaphor. Ask the about parables, fables and proverbs they know where the story has a second meaning, and in which images and figurative language are perhaps used.

  • Penelope speaks: (Use the dramatic strategy of hot-seating Penelope to convey information about her character and the role of women in ancient Greece.) A teacher or authoritative adult should take on the role of Penelope. Consider wearing a piece of bright fabric as described in the story. Learners find out about Penelope through asking her questions. We have met goddesses before, but not mortal women. This is an opportunity to make them aware of the separation between men and women, and the nature of marriage. She is safe as long as her husband is known to be alive. She will have to move from the hall if she chooses a new husband. Odysseus saw his mother in the land of the dead, so Penelope could tell of her death. Perhaps the two women were a support to one another.

  • Secrets and Suspense: (By withholding information the storyteller creates a feeling of suspense.) Discuss the secrets that are being kept. Who knows what? (First only Athene knew of Odysseus and his disguise, then Telemachus, then Eumaeus and now Eurycleia — but it is kept from Penelope.) Now there are new secrets known to Odysseus and to us, but not to anyone else. (Penelope confides her dream and tells Odysseus of the trial that she plans in order to choose her new husband.) There is also a secret known only to Odysseus; his plan! In the past when Odysseus was telling his own story we knew of his thoughts and plans. This time we are not told, so we are left wondering.

  • Storyboard: The action in this episode takes place in the setting of Odysseus’ hall, in different parts of the building, with different groupings of characters. Look at the illustration [pdf] Odysseus is recognised by Eurycleia. Think of it as a frame from a film. Notice how the characters are positioned so that we can see what each is doing, as well as the scar on Odysseus’ leg. If you were filming this episode you would build it up as a storyboard of small pictures. (Explore narrative order and describe and sequence key incidents by making simple story boards.) Use separate sheets of blank paper (a sixth of an A4 sheet in size) and on each make a simple drawing of a frame. These can be rearranged and added to. When might you use close-ups? Include a reduced size copy of the above illustration.

Quiz — Special subject: Return from Troy: This activity results in using knowledge of the story to write questions for a quiz.

Set the task of writing and organising a quiz. Look back over the whole of Return from Troy. Collect together some factual statements and model ways in which a statement can be turned into a question (begin with a question word; statement followed by true/false, yes/no; multiple choice questions). Establish that open-ended questions will not work as you need closed questions for answers to be correct or incorrect. Consider different levels of difficulty to include everyone. Work from the recording, the transcript, the summaries and learners’ own notes and memories. They will need to check facts for accuracy.

(How will they share the task between them? How do they plan to record the questions and check for duplicate questions? What about rules for the quiz?)

Visual aids

Odysseus is recognised by Eurycleia

Based on an Attic red figure skyphos, attributed to the Penelope painter, 430 BC Museo Civico, Chiusi
Eurycleia had raised Odysseus since he was a child. In this scene Eurycleia recognises Odysseus, who is disguised as a beggar with a crutch and wine-skin over his shoulder, by the scar on his knee. The scar was caused by a wild boar when he was hunting with his father as a young man. The swineherd Eumaeus is also watching.

Suggested activities
See also teaching activities for Episode 11.

Line drawing of Eurycleia recognising Odysseus, who is disguised as an old man, as she washes his feet.