The Minotaur story – another impossible choice to make

You already learned the story of the Who is to blame? The woman, her husband, her lover, the stranger? 

Such stories cater ideally for the students’ need of discussion. Teenagers with their morality still forming enjoy heated debates over who is guilty, who should be spared or sacrificed in the name of justice, freedom … Even so implaussible stories as the one I present you now they are engaging and stirring the students’ motivation to speak. They may contain a grain of truth but definitely present sparks of genius.

Procedure is as with any written stimulus for discussion:

You may want to pre-teach structures for  expressing opinion, agreeing/ disagreeing. Make students read the story and ask to pair up in order to debate over the blame of the characters involved. If they cannot find the only one person responsible, encourage to make an ordered  list starting from the most  responsible to the least.

Facilitate and monitor, jotting down all the communication fails which will be dealt with  in follow-up stage. After the matter has been discussed in pairs, you may form bigger groups to confront students with other’s opinions.

Age: 13 and more

Level: Intermediate and more

Time: 20-30 minutes

The Minotaurminotaur

You are in ancient Athens before the time of Theseus. In order to ensure peace, every year a number of young people must be sent to the Labyrynth to be devoured by the Minotaur (a horrible creature with the body of a man and the head of a bull). All but one of them have been chosen and the last is to be one of five girls: which is the least worth saving?

The usual system of casting lots has been discarded in a favour of a decision by a committee of elders (your group). As a group select which girl is to be sent and be able to explain your decisions to the citizens of Athens. Use the notes below to help you reach your decision.

 Chloe – One of six brothers and sisters, family very influential, so children have so far escaped being sent. Chloe is very talented, has won several prizes for singing and, music. Engaged to be married to rich businessman who threatens to withdraw financial support form the government if Chloe is sent.

 Arete – Only child, mentally retarded, adored by parents. An incredibly cheerful, loving person. Occupies herself with simple sewing jobs.

 Charis – Orphan, rather a wild character, has lived on the streets, kept alive by charity and occasional thieving. Has recently come to live with a middle-class family, responding well to affection and teaching, shows signs of exceptional intellect.

 Thalia – One of five children, but her brother was sent last year. Thalia was very close to him and wants to be sent, hoping he may be alive, but her parents are naturally violently opposed to her going. Very popular, an excellent athlete.

 Euphro – Eldest of six brothers and sisters, the family is fairly well-off. Ugly, nobody likes her very much, as she is intolerant and given to unkind gossip. Mother often ill, so Euphro spends a lot of her time looking after much younger brothers and sisters.

Who is to blame? The woman, her husband, her lover, the stranger?

With this post I want to take your students to the land of a debate, discussion and moral dillema. Who is guilty? Whose fault is it? These are the questions likely to be asked. I am sure you know plenty of similar tales. Obviously not real life stories, they provoke thinking of various aspects of people’s  behaviour.

You may want to pre-teach structures for  expressing opinion, agreeing/ disagreeing. Make students read the story and ask to pair up in order to debate over the blame of the characters involved. If they cannot find the only one person responsible, encourage to make an ordered  list starting from the most  responsible to the least.

Facilitate and monitor, jotting down all the communication fails which will be dealt with  in follow-up stage. After the matter has been discussed in pairs, you may form bigger groups to confront students with other’s opinions. I am sure you know more of such debate topics. I would be over the moon if you shared them with me:-)

A young married woman, who was very lonely because her husband spent most of his time working, decided to take a lover. Her husband was on a busines trip so she agreed to spend a night in her lover’s house on the opposite bank of the river where she lived. To get back to her house before her husband returned, she left at dawn the next morning and in order to reach home, she had to cross a bridge.

Unfortunately there was a maniac on the bridge who threatened her, and refused to let her cross. She ran to a stranger to ask for help, but he refused to help her unless she gave him some money. She did not have any, and explained this to him, but the stranger refused to do anything unless he was paid in advance.

The woman decided to go to her lover for money, but he refused and asked to stay with him. She did not want to, so she went to see a childhood friend who lived near her lover. Her friend was a bachelor and had always declared his love for her, but she never accepted him. She decided to tell him whole story, and asked him for help. He refused to help her because he was dissapointed in the way she had behaved.

The woman went back to the bridge, and when the stranger still refused to help her, she decided to try to cross on her own.The maniac killed her.

  Which of these people has most responsibility for her death: the woman, her husband, her lover, the starnger, her childhood friend, or the maniac?