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Sebastià Serra
The Revenge of the Gods

Humans beware! The fiery-tempered gods and goddesses of Greek mythology don’t hold back.   

By Spencer Kayden, based on the myth of Echo and Narcissus

Learning Objective: As students read a play adaptation of a classic Greek myth, they will learn about traits of mythology and identify the lesson the myth teaches.   

Guided Reading Level: T
DRA Level: 50
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Genre

Some myths explain something, and some teach a lesson. This one does both! Look for that as you read.

Scene One

S1: In the countryside of ancient Greece, a group of young people is playing games.

Krotos: The next challenge is to try to move this giant rock.

Echo: Speaking of rocks, I heard there is a horrible sea monster that lives behind a giant rock in the sea and—

Nomia: Not now, Echo. We’re having a contest.

Echo: I was just trying to share some of my wonderful knowledge.

Aristos (teasing gently): You mean some of your wonderful gossip.

Echo: Fine, go back to your games.

Delia: Who’s going first?

Krotos: I will.

S2: Krotos heaves all his weight against the huge rock.

Crowd: Come on! You can do it!

S3: Zeus hears the teens shouting excitedly.

S1: He peeks at them through the trees.

Crowd: Keep trying! Puuuush!

Krotos: It’s . . . too . . . huge.

Echo: Speaking of huge, I heard that when Hercules was chasing a huge, man-eating lion—

Zeus (to himself): I’m supposed to be on Mount Olympus, but I can’t resist having a bit of fun.

S2: Zeus transforms himself into an old man. He stoops his back and hobbles up to the group.

Zeus (in a creaky voice): I’m just an old, old man come to see what you kids are doing.

Nomia: It’s a contest to see who can move this big rock.

Zeus: Mind if I try?

S3: The kids look at each other with raised eyebrows.

Echo: Sure! But be careful. We don’t want you to hurt your back or knees or shoulders or arms. I heard there was an old woman who—

Nomia: Echo! Quiet!

S1: Zeus wraps his wrinkly, gray arms around it.

Aristos (snickering): This should be good.

Echo: That’s not nice, Aristos. We should always respect our elders because they are older than we are and—

S2: Zeus easily lifts the boulder and spins it above his head.

Crowd: Gasp!

Delia: Amazing!

Aristos: How did you do that?

S3: Zeus turns back into his godly form.

Crowd: Double gasp! It’s Zeus!

Zeus (smiling): Never doubt the power of old age.

S1: A voice rings out from across the forest.

Hera: Zeus! Where are you? Zeuuuuuuusss!

S2: Zeus quickly turns to Echo.

Zeus: Could you do me a favor?

Echo: Anything for you! 

Zeus: Hera needs some cheering up. Go find her, and tell her some of your wonderful stories.

Echo: I’d be happy to!

Zeus: And . . . no need to tell her I sent you.     

S3: Echo goes skipping down the path.

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Scene Two

S1: Echo finds Hera stomping through the trees.

Echo: Hera! Oh, Hera!

Hera: What is it?

Echo: Did you hear about Perseus?

S2: Hera stops walking.

Hera: What about him?

Echo: Well, I heard that his grandfather heard a long time ago about how any future grandson he had would grow up and kill him.

Hera: How unfortunate.

Echo: I know! So when his grandson Perseus was born, he put the baby in a box and sent him far across the sea.

Hera (rolling her eyes): What a nice grandpa.

Echo: I know, right?

Hera: Then what happened?

Echo: Well, many years later, Perseus accidentally killed his grandfather while he was throwing a discus.

Hera: You can’t escape fate, I suppose.

Echo: I have another story for you.

Hera: Not right now, I must find Zeus. And when I catch him goofing off, he’s going to be in big trouble. 

Echo: Oh, I think he’s—

S3: Hera shouts.

Hera: Zeuuuus! Where are you? 

S1: Hera comes upon the group of teens.

Hera: I’m looking for Zeus. Have you seen him?

S2: They all look at each other wide-eyed.

Hera: He was down here showing off again, wasn’t he?

Aristos: Well . . .

Echo: Speaking of showing off, I heard that—

S3: Hera turns to Echo.

Hera: It’s your fault!

Echo: But I was just—

Hera: If you hadn’t found me and talked and talked and talked, I could have caught Zeus.

Echo: I was just trying to—

Hera: You always have to have the last word, don’t you?

Echo: No, it’s just that—

S1: Hera’s eyes flash with anger.

Echo: Wha . . . What are you going to do?  

Hera: From now on, you will always have the last word, but never the first.

S2: Hera waves her hands above her head and points at Echo.

Hera: I bring upon you a curse! You can no longer speak, except to repeat the last words spoken by others.

S3: Echo talks, but all that comes out is . . .

Echo: Spoken by others.

S1: Echo gasps in horror.

Hera: That’s what happens when you have a big mouth.

Echo: Big mouth.

S2: Distraught, Echo runs into the forest. 

Scene Three

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S3: Echo’s friends are in the forest looking for her.

Nomia: Echo?

Delia: Where are you?

S1: They come upon a boy with silky black hair and bright golden eyes.

Nomia: Can we ask you a question?

Narcissus: I already know what it is, and the answer is “Sometimes, but I’m used to it.”

Delia: Um . . . what?

Narcissus: You were going to ask me if it’s hard being so handsome, right?

Nomia: Uh, nooooo. We were going to ask if you’ve seen our friend Echo.

Narcissus: What does she look like?

Delia: She has dark, curly hair and a sweet round face.

Narcissus: She sounds simply awful.

Nomia: You know who’s simply awful? You!

Delia: You’re so full of yourself!

Narcissus: You would be too if you looked like me. (sigh) No one is ever my equal in beauty. It’s a terrible burden.

S2: Nomia and Delia roll their eyes and leave. Narcissus wanders through the forest.

S3: From behind a bush, Echo sees Narcissus and her heart starts to pound. She’s never seen anyone so good-looking.

S1: Narcissus stops and looks around.

Narcissus: Oh dear, I think I am lost. (calling out) Is anyone here?

Echo: Here!

Narcissus: Oh, good. Where are you?

Echo: Where are you?

Narcissus: I’m right here! 

Echo: Right here.

S2: Echo stays hidden.

Narcissus: Come out.

Echo: Come out.

Narcissus: I want to talk to you.

Echo: Talk to you!

S3: Echo gathers her courage, leaps out, and runs toward Narcissus with open arms.

Narcissus: What are you doing? Don’t think you’re my friend!

Echo: You’re my friend!

Narcissus: You are like everyone else. You love me, but I could never love you.

Echo: Love you!

Narcissus: You are not worthy of me!

S1: Narcissus turns and leaves, leaving Echo in tears.

S2: She goes to hide inside a cave. 

Scene Four

S3: On Mount Olympus, two goddesses are looking down at Earth.

Nemesis: That Narcissus is quite full of himself.

Aphrodite: Perhaps he is waiting for his one true love.

Nemesis: You are the goddess of love, so you would say that.

Aphrodite: And what would you say?

Nemesis: I’m the goddess of revenge, and I say Narcissus needs to be taught a lesson.

Aphrodite: What lesson?

Nemesis: So many people have fallen in love with him, but he has rejected them all. It’s time he felt rejection himself.

Aphrodite: What do you have in mind?

Nemesis: You’ll see.

S1: They continue watching as Narcissus walks up a path and comes to a pond.

S2: He crouches down and leans forward to take a sip of water but stops suddenly when he sees his own reflection.

Narcissus: Who is this beautiful creature I see with such silky black hair and shining golden eyes? You have captured my heart.

S3: Echo hears him from her cave nearby.

Echo: My heart.

Narcissus: Tell me, what is your name?

Echo: What is your name?

Narcissus: I’m Narcissus. I know we would be so happy together. May I hold your hand?

Echo: Hold your hand.

S1: Narcissus reaches his hand into the water, but it ripples and the reflection disappears.

Narcissus: Where did you go?

S2: When the water calms, the reflection comes back.

Narcissus: You are teasing! Don’t leave me again.

Echo: Leave me again.

S3: One more time Narcissus plunges his arms into the water.

Narcissus: You’re gone again! Come back!

S1: The reflection reappears.

Narcissus: I promise I will never leave your side.

S2: On Mount Olympus, Aphrodite looks at Nemesis with horror.

Aphrodite: You made him fall in love with his own reflection?

S3: Nemesis grins.

Nemesis: That’s right.

Aphrodite: That is so cruel.

Nemesis: Now he will know what it’s like to love someone who doesn’t love him back.

S1: Days, weeks, months go by, and Narcissus stays by the pond staring into the water, forgetting to eat.

Narcissus: My love, you have grown thin. You are fading away.

Echo: Fading away.

S2: He takes a fig and drops it into the water. The reflection vanishes.

Narcissus: This is torture! Why don’t you love me? Why? Why? 

S3: Echo quietly weeps as she repeats Narcissus’ cries.

Echo: Why? Why?

S1: Inside her cave, Echo withers away until nothing is left but her ever-repeating voice.

S2: Narcissus, with a broken heart, fades away into nothing.

S3: In the spot where his body had been, a flower sprouts.

S1: It has flecks of gold in the center. It is called a narcissus. 

This play was originally published in the December 2019 / January 2020 issue.  


Activities (9)
Quizzes (1)
Answer Key (1)
Activities (9) Download All Activities
Quizzes (1)
Answer Key (1)

More About the Story

Skills

Genre, vocabulary, fluency, character, author’s craft, tone, evaluating, plot, theme, critical thinking, opinion writing   

Complexity Factors

Levels of Meaning

Based on the Greek myth of Echo and Narcissus, the play raises questions about how and why people should be punished. 

Structure

The play is chronological and has four scenes.

Language

The play contains some challenging academic vocabulary, such as distraught and burden, as well as rhetorical questions and other figures of speech.

Knowledge Demands 

Other Greek myths are mentioned in the play; familiarity with these will boost readers’ understanding and enjoyment. 

Step-by-Step Lesson Plan

1. Preparing to Read

Preview Text Features and Vocabulary (20 minutes)

  • Tell students they are about to read a play based on a Greek myth, and ask them what they know about this genre, or type of story. As a class, look at the illustration on pages 20-21. Discuss who each god or goddess is, using the Character Box as a guide. Ask: How does the picture of each one suggest what he or she rules over?
  • Point out Mt. Olympus in the background. Explain that this is where the gods and goddesses of Greek mythology lived.
  • Have a student read aloud the title and subtitle. Ask: What does this tell you about the gods? Do you think they always do what’s best for humans? (Make sure students know that revenge means an act of getting even with someone.)
  • Have students read the Up Close box and the writing prompt. Tell them to keep these in mind as they read.
  • Point out the light blue bursts in the play. They’ll help students understand how certain words in English are related to this myth!
  • Distribute the vocabulary Skill Builder to introduce new words. Highlighted words: gossip, transforms, discus, fate, distraught, burden

2. Reading the Play

Assign parts and read the play aloud as a class. After reading, discuss the close-reading and critical-thinking questions.

Close-Reading Questions (20 minutes)

  • What do you learn about Echo in the first scene? (character) You learn that Echo is very talkative and likes to gossip. Every time another character speaks, Echo responds chattily with news about an unrelated event.
  • In Scene 2, Echo summarizes the myth of Perseus for Hera. Why do you think the author worked another myth into the story? (author’s craft) She probably did this to introduce readers to another Greek myth and to keep Echo’s stories relevant to the time—and for fun! (You can also explain that the retelling introduces another important idea in Greek mythology: You can’t escape fate.)
  • When Hera says, “What a nice grandpa,” does she really mean it? Explain. (tone) No, she doesn’t. She is being sarcastic, or saying the opposite of what she means.
  • What can you infer about Hera’s character from Scenes 1 and 2? (character) Hera has a stormy personality. She first appears angrily looking for her mischievous husband, Zeus. When she concludes that Echo was trying to distract her, she responds with a cruel punishment.
  • Who do you think is more to blame for Hera’s punishing Echo: Hera or Echo? (evaluating) Answers will vary, but students will likely say that Hera is to blame. Echo wasn’t distracting Hera on purpose; she was doing what Zeus asked.
  • Reread Narcissus’ first two lines in Scene 3. What do they tell you about him? (character) The lines show that although Narcissus is handsome, he’s vain and arrogant. He thinks everyone admires his beauty as much as he admires it himself.
  • At the end of Scene 3, why does Narcissus reject Echo? How does Echo respond? (plot) Narcissus thinks Echo isn’t good enough for him. Heartbroken, she goes to hide in a cave.
  • Nemesis is the goddess of revenge. Why does she want to get revenge on Narcissus? What happens as a result? (plot) Nemesis wants Narcissus to feel the rejection he has made others feel. As a result, she makes him fall in love with his reflection, which cannot love him back because it’s just an image. Narcissus suffers, withers away, and dies.
  • This myth explains where two things in nature come from. What are they? (genre) It explains where echoes and narcissus flowers come from. They are what’s left of these two characters.

Critical-Thinking Question

  • Think about what happens to Narcissus. What lesson do you think this myth is meant to teach? (genre/theme) It is meant to teach people not to be vain like Narcissus, who is so caught up in his own beauty that he can’t love anyone else.
  • Both Echo and Narcissus fall in love with Narcissus based on his good looks. What does this tell you about the value placed on appearance in the myth? How much value do you think is placed on appearance today? (critical thinking) In the myth, the characters place much value on appearance. Echo falls in love with Narcissus just by looking at him; she doesn’t know anything else about him, and she continues to long for him even after he’s been unkind to her. Nemesis comes up with her punishment for Narcissus knowing how important appearance is to him and others. Answers will vary about the value of appearance today.
  • Notes in the play tell you the meaning of the words nemesis and narcissist. Write a one-paragraph story using both words. Include details that support the meanings of the words. (vocabulary) Answers will vary.

3. Skill Building

Featured Skill: Genre

  • Distribute the genre Skill Builder. Have students complete it independently or in small groups. Come together as a class to discuss it.
  • Ask students to respond to the writing prompt
Differentiate and Customize
For Struggling Readers

Some lines in the play require students to understand the tone with which they are said, which might be difficult for struggling readers. To aid with fluency and comprehension, read the play aloud in a small group, pausing to make sure students understand when characters are being funny, dramatic, or sarcastic.

For Advanced Readers

In Scene 2, Echo tells Hera about Perseus. Have students learn more about that myth, starting with the Storyworks version, The Snake-Haired Monster, from Oct./Nov. 2018. It ends before Perseus kills his grandfather, however.

For ELL Students

On page 23, Delia tells Narcissus, “You’re so full of yourself.” On page 24, Nemesis says Narcissus is “full of himself.” Make sure students understand the expression’s meaning: Narcissus thinks very highly of himself, believing he’s better than others.

Make a Connection

The Eruption of Mt. Vesuvius,” the paired-text feature in this issue, also deals with ancient times. Direct students to the end of the first paragraph on page 17, which explains how people believed that gods and goddesses controlled everything. Have a discussion about how this play supports that idea.