CCSS

R.1, R.2, R.3, R.7, R.8, W.3, SL.1, L.5, L.6 

 

Hercules the Mighty

Hercules is the strongest man alive. But can strength alone make him a hero? 

A play based on the classic Greek myth 

Art by Allan Davey

Who is Hercules?
The story of Hercules is a myth. In ancient Greece, people used myths to explain the world around them. These stories were mostly about gods and heroes.

PROLOGUE

GC1: The strongest man who ever lived was born in ancient Greece. 

GC2: His name was Hercules.

GC3: Even as a baby, Hercules was stronger than 10 men. 

GC1: This made his father, Zeus, very proud. Zeus was the king of the gods.

GC2: But Zeus’ wife, Hera, was jealous. 

GC3: Hercules was not her son. He was half god, half human.

GC1: And she would do anything to destroy him.

SCENE 1

GC2: Zeus and Hera sit on their thrones on Mount Olympus.

GC3: Mount Olympus is where all the gods live. 

GC1: A servant runs in. 

Servant: Aaaahhhhh! Snakes!

Zeus: Where?

Servant: Slithering into baby Hercules’ crib! 

GC2: Hera has a sly smile on her face. 

GC3: They rush to the baby’s room. 

GC1: Hercules is smiling and holding a large dead snake in each hand.

Hercules: Goo-goo!

Servant: They were alive a moment ago!

Zeus: My powerful son must have squeezed them to death. He is destined for greatness.

Hera (to herself): I’ll have to get rid of that boy another way.

SCENE 2

GC2: Hercules keeps growing and growing. 

GC3: At age 10, he is taller than Zeus.   

GC1: One day, a servant rushes into the throne room. He is very upset. 

Servant: Aaaahhhhh! Lion!

Zeus: Where? 

Servant: In the hall! Hercules is playing with it like it’s a kitten!

Zeus: How sweet. I’m sure my boy can handle it.

Servant: I’m not worried about the boy. The rest of us fear for our lives!

Hera: My dear Zeus, Hercules is putting everyone in great danger. 

Zeus: But— 

Hera: Remember when he was picking apples? The whole tree came crashing down.

Zeus: He just doesn’t know his own strength.  

Hera: A palace is no place for him.

Zeus (sadly): All right, I will send him to live in the mountains.

SCENE 3

GC2: In the mountains, Hercules becomes known for his strength and bravery. 

GC3: He fights deadly wild animals and always wins. 

GC1: He returns to Mount Olympus. 

GC2: Zeus is happy to see him. Hera is not. 

Zeus: My son! I hear you defeat every beast you see.  

Hercules: People say I’m a hero. I want to be immortal like you.  

Zeus: Being a hero is about more than strength and fame. 

Hercules: What must I do? 

Hera: To be an immortal god, you must prove yourself.

Hercules: How? 

Hera: Go serve my cousin, King Eury, for 12 years.

GC3: Zeus doesn’t know it, but Hera has a nasty plan.

Art by Allan Davey

Hercules The Brave
When Hercules was young, people were afraid of his strength. So he was sent away to live in the mountains. This made him even stronger and braver.

SCENE 4

GC1: Hera rushes to King Eury’s palace. 

Hera: Eury, Hercules is coming! 

Eury: So? 

Hera: He has grown into a powerful young man. He could easily take over your kingdom.

Eury: Then we must destroy him. But how? 

Hera: He wants to be a hero. Tell him he must perform 12 labors—or  tasks—first. 

Eury: What labors?   

Hera: The most dangerous and deadly we can think of. 

Eury: Good idea! One of them is bound to kill him.

GC2: Hercules enters. He bows to the king. 

Hercules: King Eury, I have come to serve you. 

Eury: You must complete 12 labors. They will not be easy.  

Hercules: I am ready.

Eury: A lion is killing my people. Go destroy it. 

Hercules: That sounds easy. 

Eury: This lion is like no other. 

Hera: Its skin is so tough that no weapon can get through. 

Hercules: I will do it. 

GC3: Hercules leaves. 

Hera: Hercules is about to die! Let’s have a feast!

SCENE 5

GC1: Days later, Hercules returns. He’s wearing the lion’s heavy skin on his back. 

Eury: But . . . you . . . how? 

Hercules: I choked it to death with my bare hands.  

Hera (quietly): Rats! Let’s try another. 

Eury: Now you must destroy the Hydra. 

Hera: It’s a monster with poison breath coming out of its nine heads. 

Eury: And if you cut off one head, two grow back!

GC2: Hercules dashes off. 

Hera: He’s doomed!

GC3: But Hercules succeeds again. 

Hera: Impossible!

Hercules: What’s next?

SCENE 6

GC1: Again and again, Eury and Hera send Hercules off to meet his death. 

GC2: Again and again, he uses his strength and intelligence to survive.

GC3: Hercules becomes even more famous. 

GC1: Crowds welcome him back to Eury’s palace. 

Fans 1 and 2: Hercules! Hercules!

Fan 1: Is it true you defeated the monster with three bodies and one pair of legs? 

Hercules: I shot one arrow through all three of his heads. 

Fan 2: What about the wild pig with tusks as sharp as swords?

Hercules: I outsmarted it. I chased it until it was too tired to go on.

Fan 1: And what about the giant birds with jagged metal wings?

Hercules: I got rid of those too.

Fan 2: You have saved us from so many beasts!

Fan 1: How many labors do you have left? 

Hercules: Just one. 

GC2: Eury and Hera are watching from a window. 

Hera: This is our last chance, Eury. 

Eury: Let’s send him to kidnap Cerberus (SUR-bur-us), the dog that guards the Underworld. 

Hera: Ooooh, yes! That dog has three heads with razor-sharp teeth.  

Eury: And a deadly snake for a tail. 

Hera (smiling): Plus, no mortal has ever returned from the land of the dead.

SCENE 7

GC3: Hercules travels to the Underworld through a long, dark cave. 

GC1: He arrives at the River Styx. 

Hercules: I need to cross the river. 

Ferryman: Only the dead can cross.  

GC2: Hercules picks up the ferryman with one hand. 

Hercules (calmly): I said I need to cross the river.

Ferryman (scared): OK! Fine! I’ll take you. 

GC3: Once across, Hercules finds Hades, the king of the Underworld. 

GC1: Next to him is Cerberus. The dog’s three heads are growling. 

Hercules: Hades, I need to borrow your dog. I will return him. 

Hades: If you can capture him without weapons, you can take him. 

GC2: Hercules takes a step toward the dog. 

GC3: The dog bares its teeth. 

Hades (grinning): Be careful. He has been known to bite. 

GC1: Hercules leaps and wraps his massive arms around all three of the dog’s necks. 

GC2: Cerberus howls as Hercules wrestles him to the ground.

SCENE 8

GC3: Hercules enters Eury’s palace carrying Cerberus. 

Hercules: I’m back. 

Eury: Aaaahhhhh! Get that hellhound out of here!

GC1: Hercules sends the dog back to the Underworld. 

Eury: I hate to say it, but your 12 labors are complete.

GC2: There is a flash of light. 

GC3: Hercules floats up to Mount Olympus. 

GC1: He kneels before Zeus.

Zeus: My son, you are a true hero. You have a strong body, strong mind, and strong heart.  

GC2: Hercules smiles. 

Zeus: You are now a god for the ages. 

Hercules: Thank you, Father!

GC3: Hercules went on to perform many great deeds.

GC1: To this day, he is the most famous Greek hero. 

GC2: And when something is so hard it seems impossible—

GC3: —we call it a herculean task in his honor. 

Art by Allan Davey

The Final task  Hercules was sent to the Underworld. He had to kidnap Cerberus, an evil three-headed dog.

ACTIVITY: 
Making an Inference

You’ve just read “Hercules the Mighty” Now it’s time to try this activity.

TipAn inference is something that isn’t stated but can be figured out from clues in the text.

What to do: Imagine that you are Hera. You feel guilty about the way you treated Hercules, so you tell Zeus what you did. He has some questions. Make inferences to answer each question with at least one complete sentence.

How exactly did those snakes get into Hercules’ room when he was a baby? 

You told Eury that Hercules could easily take over his kingdom. Why?

No weapon could pierce the lion’s skin, but Hercules still found a way to kill it. What does that tell you about Hercules?

How did you feel when Hercules returned from the Underworld carrying Cerberus? 

How do you think the people of Eury’s kingdom would have felt if Hercules had died during one of his tasks?

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