Female Ambiguity

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Female Ambiguity:
Kirke from The Odyssey vs. Bianca from The Taming of the Shrew

Women are ambiguous characters throughout texts such as The Odyssey and The Taming of the Shrew. In these two stories, there are female characters that are deceitful and beguiling towards men. Kirke and Bianca are two comparable characters that display such behavior. I will explain how both characters display ambiguity by hiding their true nature behind actions that they wouldn't normally take; therefore these female characters are being deceitful to those who fall for their actions.

Kirkie displays her obscure behavior at the point of The Odyssey when some of Odysseus's crew is sent up to Kirke's hall. When the men lay eyes on her she is weaving on her loom. Kirke's weaving is a domesticated action to the crew of Odysseus' men who witness it. Before the men see her the carnivorous mammals at her entryway that seem to be under her spell intimidate them. Kirke's weaving alone is not what enticed the men to her, yet it was her singing which was described as beguiling, that made the men believe she was an angel. "Low she sang in her beguiling voice, while on her loom she wove ambrosial fabric sheer and bright, by that craft known to the goddesses of heaven." (Homer 171) This action of weaving and singing gains the trust of the weary men who then wish to approach her. The sirens also sing. Somehow with female singing men lose their rational thoughts and become hypnotized by the sound. Weaving is an action used at least by one other female character, Penelope that deceives a large group of men into thinking that the female is harmless and domestic. In this story all the females that sing use it as a lure of the men and it works every time, however the waving trick didn't work so well for Penelope and her secret of unraveling a shroud she would spend all day weaving was discovered. The crewmen in this part of the story see Kirke singing on the loom and it strikes their hearts and they seem to narrowly forget about the wolves and lions at her entrance only to see her young beautiful image as a fine woman. Polites, one of Odysseus' crewmen broke the silence held by the men to assure them that this womanly duty Kirkie performs makes her seem harmless and that they should not hide away from her. "'Dear friends, no need for stealth: here's a young weaver singing a pretty song to set the air a-tingle on these lawns and paven courts Goddess she is, or lady. Shall we greet her?' So reassured they all cried out together, and she came swiftly to the shining doors to call them in" (Homer 172) Kirke's mask of ambiguity by acting like a powerless domestic female only begins with the weaving for that is the kind of woman she wants them to believe she is. The rest of her intentions are not revealed until she tricks the men into drinking her wine and eating her food, and providing a meal for these men is another one of these domestic female actions. All but one man, Eurylokhos, fall for the seemingly harmless image of Kirkie as a beautiful well tamed woman. Because of their gluttony, Kirke turns the men quite literally into pigs that romp about the hall as frightened as can be. This is when the men realize that she gained control over the men by deceiving them. Odysseus tells his story of the night his men were turned into dirty pigs by Kirkie the goddess. "On thrones she seated them, and lounging chairs, while she prepared a meal of cheese and barley and amber honey mixed with Pramnian wine, adding her own vile pinch, to make them lose desire or thought of our dear father land. Scarce had they drunk when she flew after them with her long stick and shut them in a pigsty- bodies, voices, heads, and bristles, all swinish now, though minds were still unchanged." (Homer 172)

Making the men forget about their fatherland is Kirke's main intention. She wants control of the men, and to control them one must rid them of their identities by taking away what is...
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