Penelope one of the most important characters Homer presents to us in his book of the Odyssey. She was the daughter of Icarius and Polycaste and is in a role in the work in which he is forced to wait for her husband, the main character of the book, Odysseus. Stopping us to analyze this character, we can see that the figure of Penelope represents different values. Penelope also presents a series of contradictory characteristics which I would like to focus attention. You can say that Penelope is the perfect representation of patience, loyalty and fidelity because without knowing the true whereabouts of her husband she blindly trusts his return, and along the work we can see how rejected suitors presented in its door. Here we can also see one of its main features, the cunning. And not only that, pride in her home and family, and features such as hospitality make her one of the most complete characters with Odysseus. Penelope knows how to act in such a way that inadvertently marry any of the suitors, an idea how to deceive them, keep them in your door, and take advantage in some way all these gifts and favors that made him. The loom of the lord Laertes, is one of the representations of Penelope intelligence. She tells her suitors that when you finish this loom knitting, she will choose who he wants to marry. Carefully every night she undid everything she wove in the morning. With this trick was tricking her suitors three years. ‘’ She said to us: ‘My lords, my Suitors, though Odysseus is dead and you are eager for me to marry, have patience till I complete this work, I do not want it wasted, this shroud for noble Laertes, ready for when pitiless death’s cruel end overtakes him: since I fear some Achaean woman of this land would blame me, if he who won great wealth lay there without a shroud’’ (B.II) We can see Penelope as a strong woman, she is the queen of Ithaca and knows the responsibility that entails, if she married another man, this would become the king of Ithaca. She is able to take her house and her family by herself, demonstrating great courage and strength. I could say it's in their own way, the other heroine of the Odyssey. In the work by comparing the story of Penelope and Odysseus with the story of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon see the obvious differences between the characters. Penelope and Clytemnestra were in the same situation, but react in completely opposite ways. While Clytemnestra betrays Agamemnon having being unfaithful and finally killing him, Penelope is faithful to her husband, waiting for him not knowing if he will return. This highlights even more the characteristics of Penelope, making it look like a strong and sensible woman. ’’…most pitiful was the voice I heard of Priam’s daughter Kassandra, killed by treacherous Klytaimestra over me; but I lifted my hands and with them beat on the ground as I died upon the sword, but the sluttish woman turned away from me and was so hard that her hands would not press shut my eyes and mouth though I was going to Hades’. So there is nothing more deadly or more vile than a woman who stores her mind with acts that are of such sort, as this one did when she thought of this act of dishonor, and plotted the murder of her lawful husband. See, I had been thinking that I would be welcome to my children and thralls of my household when I came home, but she with thoughts surpassingly grisly splashed the shame on herself and the rest of her sex, on women still to come, even on the one whose acts are virtuous.’’ (11.421-434) The contradiction that we can find in the behavior of Penelope is precisely how she keeps her suitors waiting for her, but this is part of one of its main characteristics, which is the intelligence to handle the situation alone. While continuing to be faithful and loyal to Odysseus, get to take advantage of the suitors. If we focus on the position of women in society of ancient Greece, Penelope is represented as an ideal woman, example of charity, generosity, cunning and intelligence. Penelope takes an unprecedented role for this time, even though this behavior so we could get to find normal in our society. Homer represents Penelope as a heroine of Greek society. Makes her everything a Greek woman should do, keep fidelity and loyalty to her husband, but this is 20 years without returning home. She's at home, as a woman, but also we can see a man talking and arguing with them, something for which a Greek woman is not ready. This raises the idea that Penelope is partly oppressed by Greek customs but this is contradicted by his acting and bringing the situation, because she believes in the love she feels for Odysseus and that he will eventually return. A woman in Greek society should not be allowed to play such positions, Odysseus could have given power to someone who was not Penelope, but it is she who is in charge of the kingdom. With that Homer shows us his vision of the ideal woman Greek. Another sign of cunning and intelligence of Penelope is when she thinks about testing the arc. As Chris Emilyn-Jones says in The Reunion of Penelope and Odysseus led by the intuition that the beggar was really Odysseus invents arc test, knowing that the only one who could use it was him. Penelope had the intuition that the beggar was Odysseus by his dreams and the attraction they felt for him. The only thing that can make us doubt this situation is, why she gives up and wants to get married at that time? Why happened when Odysseus is there? Alex Sisti in his article Penelope's Role in the odyssey shows us a comparison with Calypso, Arete makes Cerce and through this comparison Penelope is represented as a woman and ideal lover: ‘’However, in the Odyssey, most women fall into one of two categories in regards to their personalities and relationships with men: they were either loyal wives (Arete) or alluring seductresses (Calypso, Cerce). What makes Penelope special is that she possesses characteristics of both an ideal wife and an ideal lover’’. According Sisti, the idea of perfect love is took from the sentiment between Odysseus and Penelope, the union that exists between both makes this love a perfect love and the perfect union ‘’ The unity of Their personalities, according to Odysseus, means they have a perfect love, their minds and hearts are unified’’. And one more time, as I have said before, Alex Sisti shows us strong the idea of Penelope’s ability to handle her situation with the suitors: ‘’Penelope's entrapment of her suitors despite constantly rejecting and spurning them shows that she has what it takes to steal a man's heart. And important distinction, though, between the queen and other seductresses is that Penelope does not do this consciously.’’
We can compare Penelope with Mary Bloom, its equivalent in the Ulysses written by James Joyce. Molly would be the opposite figure of Penelope; her life is marked by a succession of lovers who sometimes come to occupy her bed. She confesses his precocity in the final monologue of this work. On the other hand you can not criticize this attitude, because it conveys a message of naturalness and Molly's character tries to get on with life despite having in his mind to her husband
Finally, we can say that Penelope was a great woman, and an example of ideal woman in Greek society, that's how Homer wanted to show it to us. Their loyalty, their faith in the return of her husband, her loyalty, and of course his cunning and skill to handle the suitors who had at home and manage a kingdom which was to take over.
James Joyce. Ulysses (1922)
Alex Sisti. Penelope’s Role in the Odyssey. (2004)
Chris Emilyn-Jones. The reunion of Penelope and Odysseus. (1984) -------------------------------------------------
Alejandra Crespín Algañaraz .El monólogo de Molly en el “Ulises” de James Joyce. (2009) -------------------------------------------------
Joseph Heuring, The psychology of Penelope.
Homer, The odyssey. (VIII a. C)