The Odyssey Study Questions- ANSWERS
Book One (p. 77-92):
1. What do you see as the attitude of the Gods' towards men? They think men are foolish. They bring most pain and suffering upon themselves. 2. What do you see as the attitude of the Greeks towards hospitality? They take the role of hosts seriously. The Greeks had to open their home, be gracious, and share their food, and drink with their guests. 3. How would you characterize Telemachus at this point? What are his strengths? Telemachus is trying to be a good host and holds himself to a higher set of standards. He is disgusted by the behaviors of the suitors around his home. He cares about the values and morals of the Greeks. 4. What are his weaknesses?
He has allowed the suitors to overtake his father’s home. 5. How does Athena plan to affect Telemachus?
Athena poses as a man, Mentes (Odysseus’ friend) and enters Telemachus’ home. She tells Telemachus that Odysseus is still alive and that he must rid the home of the suitors. 6. What tragic homecoming story do we hear of? How does it relate to the situation in Ithaca? The Achaeans’ Journey Home from Troy. It is the story of Odysseus and his men. 7. Who is Phemius?
The bard- he tells stories and entertains.
8. How does Telemachus show strength with Penelope?
He confronts her when she is weeping over Odysseus. “I hold the reins of power in this house” (p. 89) 9. How does this relate to the visit of Athena?
Athena helps Telemachus to confront his mother and the suitors- something he would not have done on his own. Athena now sends him on a journey to find his father (Book Two). Book Two (p. 93-106):
1. What is the suitor's attitude towards Penelope's reluctance to choose one of them? The suitors think Penelope is toying with them. They want Telemachus to stand up to his mother and either make her choose a suitor or kick her out. 2. Why do they think it is their right to "demand" that she choose? They think they can demand Penelope choose because she has been leading them on for over three years. Penelope has been weaving a shroud for Laertes. She told the suitors she would choose from among them when she finished the shroud, but the men found out she has been unweaving it at night. 3. What are the two different interpretations of the omen? The omen: two eagles (Zeus’ animal) fly across the sky (p. 98). Interpretation 1: Halitherses says Zeus is saying Odysseus will return home shortly (p. 98). Interpretation 2: Eurymachus says they are just birds, but then offers his own prophecy: Telemachus will be hurt and Halitherses will be fined (p. 99). 4. How does Telemachus respond to the position put forward by Antinous? Antinous wants Telemachus to force his mother to choose and says that Telemachus should forget that he and his mother have been wronged and just feast with the suitors. Telemachus refuses on all accounts. Antinous says Telemachus will die on his journey. (p. 102-103)
*He lets his nurse (nursemaid) know he is leaving to go to Sparta, but doesn’t want to tell his mother till “ten or a dozen days have passed / or she misses me herself and learns I’m gone” because “she mustn’t mar her lovely face with tears” (p. 105). BOOK THREE SUMMARY
At Pylos, Telemachus and Mentor (Athena in disguise) witness an impressive religious ceremony in which dozens of bulls are sacrificed to Poseidon, the god of the sea. Although Telemachus has little experience with public speaking, Mentor gives him the encouragement that he needs to approach Nestor, the city’s king, and ask him about Odysseus. Nestor, however, has no information about the Greek hero. He recounts that after the fall of Troy a falling-out occurred between Agamemnon and Menelaus, the two Greek brothers who had led the expedition. Menelaus set sail for Greece immediately, while Agamemnon decided to wait a day and continue sacrificing on the shores of Troy. Nestor went with Menelaus, while Odysseus stayed with Agamemnon, and he has heard no news of Odysseus. He says that he can only pray that Athena will show Telemachus the kindness that she showed Odysseus. He adds that he has heard that suitors have taken over the prince’s house in Ithaca and that he hopes that Telemachus will achieve the renown in defense of his father that Orestes, son of Agamemnon, won in defense of his father. Telemachus then asks Nestor about Agamemnon’s fate. Nestor explains that Agamemnon returned from Troy to find that Aegisthus, a base coward who remained behind while the Greeks fought in Troy, had seduced and married his wife, Clytemnestra. With her approval, Aegisthus murdered Agamemnon. He would have then taken over Agamemnon’s kingdom had not Orestes, who was in exile in Athens, returned and killed Aegisthus and Clytemnestra. THIS IS THE STORY ZEUS WAS REFERRING TO IN BOOK 1. Nestor holds the courage of Orestes up as an example for Telemachus. He sends his own son Pisistratus along to accompany Telemachus to Sparta, and the two set out by land the next day. Athena, who reveals her divinity by shedding the form of Mentor and changing into an eagle before the entire court of Pylos, stays behind to protect Telemachus’s ship and its crew.
BOOK FOUR SUMMARY
In Sparta, the king and queen, Menelaus and Helen (“THE FACE THAT LAUNCHED 1000 SHIPS”- THE ONE THE TROJAN WAR WAS OVER), are celebrating the separate marriages of their son and daughter. They happily greet Pisistratus and Telemachus, the latter of whom they soon recognize as the son of Odysseus because of the clear family resemblance. As they all feast, the king and queen recount with melancholy the many examples of Odysseus’s cunning at Troy. Helen recalls how Odysseus dressed as a beggar to infiltrate the city’s walls. Menelaus tells the famous story of the Trojan horse, Odysseus’s masterful gambit that allowed the Greeks to sneak into Troy and slaughter the Trojans. The following day, Menelaus recounts his own return from Troy. He says that, stranded in Egypt, he was forced to capture Proteus, the divine Old Man of the Sea. Proteus told him the way back to Sparta and then informed him of the fates of Agamemnon and Ajax, another Greek hero, who survived Troy only to perish back in Greece. Proteus also told him news of Odysseus—that he was still alive but was imprisoned by Calypso on her island. Buoyed by this report, Telemachus and Pisistratus return to Pylos to set sail for Ithaca. Meanwhile, the suitors at Odysseus’s house learn of Telemachus’s voyage and prepare to ambush him upon his return. The herald Medon overhears their plans and reports them to Penelope. She becomes distraught when she reflects that she may soon lose her son in addition to her husband, but Athena sends a phantom in the form of Penelope’s sister, Iphthime, to reassure her. Iphthime tells her not to worry, for the goddess will protect Telemachus.
Book Five (p. 152-167):
1. How long does Odysseus stay on Calypso's island?
He was with Calypso for seven years (she got him on his way home from Troy). 2. What is the source of Calypso's power over Odysseus?
She is an attractive goddess who is “lustrous” (p. 155, 157, 158). It is a sexual seductive power. 3. What do we learn of Calypso's feelings for Odysseus?
She loves Odysseus and saved him. She wants to keep him (p. 156). He does not want her “unwilling lover alongside lover all too willing…” (p. 157). 4. What will Calypso give Odysseus if he stays with her? Hermes comes from Zeus and demands Calypso release him. She offers Odysseus immortality if he stays with her (p. 158-159). 5. Calypso asks Odysseus to compare her with Penelope; does Odysseus respond satisfactorily? “[Penelope] falls short of you [Calypso], / your beauty, stature. She is mortal after all / and you, you never age or die…” (p. 159). REMEMBER, GODDESSES ARE ULTRA SENSITIVE. 6. How would you characterize the making of the raft, and the departure of Odysseus? Cut 20 trees and made his raft (more of a ship) with Calypso bringing him tools and showing him where things were. It took 4 days. On the 5th day, Calypso launched him from her island. On the 18th day, Poseidon noticed him “Outrageous!” (p. 161) and created chaos on the ocean. 7. For how many days does Odysseus swim?
Three days (p. 164).
8. Why does Zeus, despite his liking of Odysseus, allow Poseidon to make this journey such an ordeal? Poseidon is a god and angry. Zeus will not allow him to kill Odysseus, but take out his frustration. 9. Ino-Leucothea, in the guise of a seabird, gives him her veil. Why veil? She felt bad for him, “Ah poor man, / why is the god of earthquakes so dead set against you? ... Here, take this scarf [veil], / tie it around your waist--- it is immortal” (p. 163). To save him. He could tie it around himself without weighing himself down. 10. Why does Odysseus return Ino's veil to the sea?
He returned it to her as she was in the sea (he feared it at first thinking it might be a trick of another goddess) (p. 166). 11. After two days of swimming, note several phases of decision-making. Does Odysseus accomplish his rescue on his own? “If I clamber out, some big comber will hoist me, / dash me against that cliff… If I keep on swimming down the coast, trying to find a seabeach … another gale will snatch me up and hail me back…” (p. 165). He needed help from Athena and Ino. BOOK SIX SUMMARY
That night, Athena appears in a dream to the Phaeacian princess Nausicaa, disguised as her friend. She encourages the young princess to go to the river the next day to wash her clothes so that she will appear more fetching to the many men courting her. The next morning, Nausicaa goes to the river, and while she and her handmaidens are naked, playing ball as their clothes dry on the ground, Odysseus wakes in the forest and encounters them. Naked himself, he humbly yet winningly pleads for their assistance, never revealing his identity. Nausicaa leaves him alone to wash the dirt and brine from his body, and Athena makes him look especially handsome, so that when Nausicaa sees him again she begins to fall in love with him. Afraid of causing a scene if she walks into the city with a strange man at her side, Nausicaa gives Odysseus directions to the palace and advice on how to approach Arete, queen of the Phaeacians, when he meets her. With a prayer to Athena for hospitality from the Phaeacians, Odysseus sets out for the palace.
BOOK SEVEN SUMMARY
On his way to the palace of Alcinous, the king of the Phaeacians, Odysseus is stopped by a young girl who is Athena in disguise. She offers to guide him to the king’s house and shrouds him in a protective mist that keeps the Phaeacians, a kind but somewhat xenophobic people, from harassing him. She also advises him to direct his plea for help to Arete, the wise and strong queen who will know how to get him home. Once Athena has delivered Odysseus to the palace, she departs from Scheria to her beloved city of Athens. Odysseus finds the palace residents holding a festival in honor of Poseidon. He is struck by the splendor of the palace and the king’s opulence. As soon as he sees the queen, he throws himself at her feet, and the mist about him dissipates. At first, the king wonders if this wayward traveler might be a god, but without revealing his identity, Odysseus puts the king’s suspicions to rest by declaring that he is indeed a mortal. He then explains his predicament, and the king and queen gladly promise to see him off the next day in a Phaeacian ship. Later that evening, when the king and queen are alone with Odysseus, the wise Arete recognizes the clothes that he is wearing as ones that she herself had made for her daughter Nausicaa. Suspicious, she interrogates Odysseus further. While still withholding his name, Odysseus responds by recounting the story of his journey from Calypso’s island and his encounter with Nausicaa that morning, which involved her giving him a set of clothes to wear. To absolve the princess for not accompanying him to the palace, Odysseus claims that it was his idea to come alone. Alcinous is so impressed with his visitor that he offers Odysseus his daughter’s hand in marriage.
BOOK EIGHT SUMMARY
The next day, Alcinous calls an assembly of his Phaeacian counselors. Athena, back from Athens, ensures attendance by spreading word that the topic of discussion will be the godlike visitor who recently appeared on the island. At the assembly, Alcinous proposes providing a ship for his visitor so that the man can return to his homeland. The measure is approved, and Alcinous invites the counselors to his palace for a feast and celebration of games in honor of his guest. There, a blind bard named Demodocus sings of the quarrel between Odysseus and Achilles at Troy. Everyone listens with pleasure except Odysseus, who weeps at the painful memories that the story recalls. The king notices Odysseus’s grief and ends the feast so that the games can begin. The games include the standard lineup of boxing, wrestling, racing, and throwing of the discus. At one point, Odysseus is asked to participate. Still overcome by his many hardships, he declines. One of the young athletes, Broadsea, then insults him, which goads his pride to action. Odysseus easily wins the discus toss and then challenges the Phaeacian athletes to any other form of competition they choose. The discussion becomes heated, but Alcinous diffuses the situation by insisting that Odysseus join them in another feast, at which the Phaeacian youth entertain him and prove their preeminence in song and dance. Demodocus performs again, this time a light song about a tryst between Ares and Aphrodite. Afterward, Alcinous and each of the young Phaeacian men, including Broadsea, give Odysseus gifts to take with him on his journey home. At dinner that night, Odysseus asks Demodocus to sing of the Trojan horse and the sack of Troy, but as he listens to the accomplished minstrel he again breaks down. King Alcinous again notices and stops the music. He asks Odysseus at last to tell him who he is, where he is from, and where he is going.
Book Nine (p. 211-229):
1. Where do Odysseus and his men go first after they leave Troy? Ismarus- they raided the city, killed the men, and took the women. 2. Who are the Cicones?
The people of Ismarus. They bring an army against Odysseus and kill six men from each of his twelve ships. 3. Who are the lotus eaters?
They offer Odysseus’ men lotus flowers which make them uncaring about anything but eating more lotus flowers. 4. How does Polyphemus prevent Odysseus and his men from leaving his cave? He puts giant boulder in front of the mouth of the cave.
5. What does Polyphemus' diet consist of?
People, goats, cheese, milk.
6. Are the Cyclops in any way civilized?
7. What mistake does Odysseus makes as he sails away?
He tells Polyphemus his real name and taunts him.
Book Ten (p. 230-248):
1. After the attack from the Laestrygonians, how many ships are left out of the original twelve? One- only Odysseus’ ship.
2. What sort of character is Circe? What craft does she practice that Penelope also practices? She is immortal and a sensual woman. She is gifted in weaving like Penelope (remember her death shroud deal). 3. Why (aside from her magic) is she able to turn Odysseus' men into swine? How do they offend her? She drugged the men when they drank. She didn’t like their behavior. 4. Into what does Circe transform Odysseus' crew?
5. What does Hermes give to Odysseus?
Moly (a poisonous plant) to stop him from being changed by Circe’s wine potion; it is no longer poisonous because a god gave it to him. 6. What makes Odysseus give in to Circe's enticements? Is this typical of him? She is a beautiful immortal woman who promised to return his crew to their form. We know he stayed with Calypso, so it seems within character. 7. How long does Odysseus stay in Circe's palace?
8. Why does he want to leave?
He wants to go back to Ithaca and his wife.
9. Where must Odysseus go to learn his way home?
He must go to the Underworld and talk to Tiresias (the blind prophet- same one from Oedipus).
Book Eleven (p. 249-270):
1. What favor does Elpenor ask of Odysseus?
He wants Odysseus to give his body a proper burial- the one who fell off of the roof at Circe’s and died (p. 251). 2. What ritual does Odysseus perform in order to meet those in the Underworld? He gives libations (milk, honey, wine, water) and performs sacrifices (sheep). 3. What does Tiresias do in order to speak to Odysseus?
He had to drink the blood of the sacrifices.
4. What does Odysseus learn about his journey from Tiresias in Hades? He will get home, but if he touches the cattle of Helios, he will lose all his men and have a more treacherous trip home (p. 253). He will have to make amends to Poseidon at the end of his journey. 5. What does Odysseus learn from Anticleia? What does he try to do after she speaks to him? Why does he fail? Anticleia is his mother. She died of grief while he was gone. Penelope is still waiting for him. His father is still alive but is sad because Odysseus is still gone. He kept trying to hold/hug her, but she kept dissolving because she is only a soul. 6. What does Agamemnon tell Odysseus about how men should feel about women? Is it significant that earlier in the book we hear about celebrated women? He thinks women are shameful. They are manipulative and wily (p. 262- 263). 7. What is the reason for Ajax's anger at Odysseus?
Ajax refuses to talk to Odysseus. Ajax still holds a grudge over the fact that Odysseus won the armor of Achilles (during the Trojan War). 8. What is the Greek Underworld (Hades) like?
The souls come up out of Erebus. As Persephone brings him through the Underworld, he sees Minos judged the dead. Orion is in a field, Tityus is being tortured with two eagles eating his liver. He sees torment and suffering everywhere. 9. What do you make of Tantalus and Sisyphus?
They are being punished for eternity. Tantalus can’t eat or drink but is forever thirsty and hungry. Sisyphus is constantly pushing a boulder to the uphill and it rolls back down just as he is about to push it over the top. They are to suffer futility. Book Twelve (p. 271-285):
1. Why has Odysseus returned to Aeaea?
He needs to bury the body of Elpenor as he promised.
2. How does Circe help him?
She warns Odysseus of all the dangers that await them- the Sirens, Scylla, Charybdis, the cattle of the sun god and how to lose the fewest men. 3. What does the episode of the Sirens tell us about Odysseus' character? Homer's understanding of the power of music? He alone is to hear the Siren’s song. He is unique and stronger than the other men with whom he travels. Homer understands that music has power to seduce, tame, and incite. 4. What advice does Odysseus take that Circe gives him about Scylla and Charybdis? What does this tell us about leadership? He braves Scylla rather than Charybdis. If he took on the whirlpool, he would have lost his entire crew. He is willing, as a leader, to make hard choices. 5. Why are the cattle of Helios' island so tempting?
The men have not eaten fresh meat in a long time.
6. What warning does Odysseus give his men?
Do not eat the cattle of the sun god.
7. This is not the first time Odysseus' warnings are ignored. Whose fault is this? Opinion.
8. This is also not the first time Odysseus's orders are defied. Does this absolve him of responsibility? Opinion.
BOOK THIRTEEN SUMMARY
The account of his wanderings now finished, Odysseus looks forward to leaving Scheria. The next day, Alcinous loads his gifts on board the ship that will carry Odysseus to Ithaca. Odysseus sets sail as soon as the sun goes down. He sleeps the whole night, while the Phaeacian crew commands the ship. He remains asleep even when the ship lands the next morning. The crew gently carries him and his gifts to shore and then sails for home. When Poseidon spots Odysseus in Ithaca, he becomes enraged at the Phaeacians for assisting his nemesis. He complains to Zeus, who allows him to punish the Phaeacians. Just as their ship is pulling into harbor at Scheria, the prophecy mentioned at the end of Book 8 is fulfilled: the ship suddenly turns to stone and sinks to the bottom of the sea. The onlookers ashore immediately recognize the consummation of the prophecy and resolve to abandon their custom of helping wayward travelers. Back in Ithaca, Odysseus wakes to find a country that he doesn’t recognize, for Athena has shrouded it in mist to conceal its true form while she plans his next move. At first, he curses the Phaeacians, whom he thinks have duped him and left him in some unknown land. But Athena, disguised as a shepherd, meets him and tells him that he is indeed in Ithaca. With characteristic cunning, Odysseus acts to conceal his identity from her until she reveals hers. Delighted by Odysseus’s tricks, Athena announces that it is time for Odysseus to use his wits to punish the suitors. She tells him to hide out in the hut of his swineherd, Eumaeus. She informs him that Telemachus has gone in search of news of him and gives him the appearance of an old vagabond so that no one will recognize him.
BOOK FOURTEEN SUMMARY
Odysseus finds Eumaeus outside his hut. Although Eumaeus doesn’t recognize the withered traveler as his master, he invites him inside. There Odysseus has a hearty meal of pork and listens as Eumaeus heaps praise upon the memory of his former master, whom he fears is lost for good, and scorn upon the behavior of his new masters, the vile suitors. Odysseus predicts that Eumaeus will see his master again quite soon, but Eumaeus will hear none of it—he has encountered too many vagabonds looking for a handout from Penelope in return for fabricated news of Odysseus. Still, Eumaeus takes a liking to his guest. He puts him up for the night and even lets him borrow a cloak to keep out the cold. When Eumaeus asks Odysseus about his origins, Odysseus lies that he is from Crete. He fought with Odysseus at Troy and made it home safely, he claims, but a trip that he made later to Egypt went awry, and he was reduced to poverty. It was during this trip, he says, that he heard that Odysseus was still alive.
BOOK FIFTEEN SUMMARY
Athena travels to Sparta, where she finds Telemachus and Pisistratus, Nestor’s son. She tells Telemachus he must hurry home to Ithaca before the suitors succeed in winning his mother’s hand. She also warns him of the ambush that they have set and explains how to avoid it. Finally, she instructs him to head first for the home of the swineherd Eumaeus, who will convey the news of his safe return to Penelope. The next day, Telemachus announces his departure and accepts gifts from Menelaus and Helen. As Telemachus pulls away from the palace in his chariot, an eagle carrying a goose stolen from a pen swoops down beside him. Helen interprets the incident as an omen that Odysseus is about to swoop down on his home and exact revenge on the suitors. Once at Pylos, Telemachus has Pisistratus drop him off at his ship, insisting that he has no time to spare to visit Nestor again. The ship is about to set off when Theoclymenus, a famous prophet’s descendant who is fleeing prosecution for a crime of manslaughter that he committed in Argos, approaches Telemachus and asks to come aboard. Telemachus welcomes him and offers him hospitality when they get to Ithaca. In the hut of Eumaeus, Odysseus tests the limit of his hospitality by offering to leave in the morning, a false gesture that he hopes will prompt Eumaeus to offer to let him stay longer. He urges the old man not to go out of his way and says that he will earn his keep working for the suitors, but Eumaeus will have none of it. To get mixed up with those suitors, he warns, would be suicide. Odysseus and the swineherd then swap stories. Eumaeus explains how he first came to Ithaca: the son of a king, he was stolen from his house by Phoenician pirates with the help of a maid that his father employed. The pirates took him all over the seas until Laertes, Odysseus’s father, bought him in Ithaca. There, Laertes’ wife brought him up alongside her own daughter, the youngest born. The next morning, Telemachus reaches the shores of Ithaca. He disembarks while the crew heads to the city by ship. He entrusts Theoclymenus to a loyal crewman, Piraeus. As they part, they see a hawk fly by carrying a dove in its talons, which Theoclymenus interprets as a favorable sign of the strength of Odysseus’s house and line.
Book Sixteen (p. 338-353):
1. How does Eumaeus greet Telemachus?
He wept and sobbed. He greeted him as he would his own son. (p. 339) 2. What errand is Eumaeus sent on?
He is to tell Penelope that Telemachus has returned and to have her housekeeper tell Odysseus’ father (Laertes) that he is home (p. 343). 3. Why does Odysseus reveal his identity to Telemachus?
Athena urged him on so the two could plot the demise of the suitors (p. 343-344). 4. How does Odysseus' look when he reveals himself to his son? p. 344- He is tall, handsome, black hair, etc. He is heroic looking (godlike). 5. How does Telemachus react when Odysseus identifies himself? At first he does not believe it is him. “No, you’re not Odysseus! Not my father!” (p. 344). 6. What are the three major points of strategy in the plan which Odysseus tells to Telemachus? a. Odysseus will pretend to be a beggar as he enters the hall with the suitors. Telemachus will hide all the weapons except for 2 swords, 2 spears, and 2 oxhide bucklers for Odysseus and Telemachus. b. Athena & Zeus will daze the suitors.
c. Odysseus and Telemachus will kill all the suitors (and possibly Penelope if she has not been faithful). 7. What does Antinous try to get the suitors to do?
He wants them to plot to kill Telemachus (p. 350).
8. Who offers a different perspective?
Amphinomus says that it’s not right to kill the descendants of kings, but if Zeus wants it, then he will do it, but not before. 9. How does Penelope learn of what the suitors are thinking? The herald Medon told her what transpired (p. 351).
10. How does Penelope react to this information?
She confronts Antinous (p. 351).
11. Which of the suitors attempts to reassure her?
Eurymachus tells her no one will try to hurt her son.
BOOK SEVENTEEN SUMMARY
Telemachus leaves Odysseus at Eumaeus’s hut and heads to his palace, where he receives a tearful welcome from Penelope and the nurse Eurycleia. In the palace hall he meets Theoclymenus and Piraeus. He tells Piraeus not to bring his gifts from Menelaus to the palace; he fears that the suitors will steal them if they kill him. When he sits down to eat with Penelope, Telemachus tells her what little news he received of Odysseus in Pylos and Sparta, but he doesn’t reveal that he has seen Odysseus with his own eyes in Eumaeus’s hut. Theoclymenus then speaks up and swears that Odysseus is in Ithaca at this very moment. Meanwhile, Eumaeus and Odysseus set out toward town in Telemachus’s footsteps. On the way they meet Melanthius, a base subordinate of the suitors, who heaps scorn on Eumaeus and kicks his beggar companion. Odysseus receives a similar welcome at the palace. The suitors give him food with great reluctance, and Antinous goes out of his way to insult him. When Odysseus answers insult with insult, Antinous gives him a blow with a stool that disgusts even the other suitors. Report of this cruelty reaches Penelope, who asks to have the beggar brought to her so that she can question him about Odysseus. Odysseus, however, doesn’t want the suitors to see him heading toward the queen’s room. Eumaeus announces that he must return to his hut and hogs, leaving Odysseus alone with Telemachus and the suitors.
BOOK EIGHTEEN SUMMARY
Another beggar, Arnaeus (nicknamed Irus), saunters into the palace. For a beggar, he is rather brash: he insults Odysseus and challenges him to a boxing match. He thinks that he will make quick work of the old man, but Athena gives Odysseus extra strength and stature. Irus soon regrets challenging the old man and tries to escape, but by now the suitors have taken notice and are egging on the fight for the sake of their own entertainment. It ends quickly as Odysseus floors Irus and stops just short of killing him. The suitors congratulate Odysseus. One in particular, the moderate Amphinomus, toasts him and gives him food. Odysseus, fully aware of the bloodshed to come and overcome by pity for Amphinomus, pulls the man aside. He predicts to Amphinomus that Odysseus will soon be home and gives him a thinly veiled warning to abandon the palace and return to his own land. But Amphinomus doesn’t depart, despite being “fraught with grave forebodings,” for Athena has bound him to death at the hands of Telemachus (18.176). Athena now puts it into Penelope’s head to make an appearance before her suitors. The goddess gives her extra stature and beauty to inflame their hearts. When Penelope speaks to the suitors, she leads them on by telling them that Odysseus had instructed her to take a new husband if he should fail to return before Telemachus began growing facial hair. She then tricks them, to the silent delight of Odysseus, into bringing her gifts by claiming that any suitor worth his salt would try to win her hand by giving things to her instead of taking what’s rightfully hers. The suitors shower her with presents, and, as they celebrate, Odysseus instructs the maidservants to go to Penelope. The maidservant Melantho, Melanthius’s sister, insults him as an inferior being and a drunk; Odysseus then scares them off with threats. Hoping to make Odysseus even more angry at the suitors, Athena now inspires Eurymachus to insult him. When Odysseus responds with insults of his own, Eurymachus throws a stool at him but misses, hitting a servant instead. Just as a riot is about to break out, Telemachus steps in and diffuses the situation, to the consternation of the suitors.
Book Nineteen (p. 390-409):
1. What ruse does Odysseus tell Telemachus to carry out at the beginning of the book? Telemachus is to tell the suitors he is putting the weapons away for safe keeping and so that they will not hurt each other when they are drunk. 2. What does the stranger ask Penelope not to ask him? Why? Does she ask him anyway? He says, “don’t, please, search out my birth, my land, / or you’ll fill my heart to overflowing even more / as I bring back the past” (p. 394). The stranger is Odysseus and he doesn’t want to reveal himself yet. She wants to test his honesty. 3. Where does Odysseus tell Penelope he is from? Does this story have anything in common with the story he tells Eumaeus? He says he is from Crete. It parallels (many of the same strokes) the stories he has told in the past (he has to keep his lies in order). 4. How does Penelope react to what she hears of Odysseus? How does Odysseus react to her reaction? She is moved and upset. She weeps and says she believes he knew Odysseus. He reassures her. He is happy that she misses him and has been loyal to him. 5. What prediction does Odysseus give to Penelope?
Odysseus will return within the month. “True, this very month- just as the old moon dies / and the new moon rises into life- Odysseus will return!” (p. 400). 6. How did Odysseus obtain the scar that Eurycleia recognizes?
(On his foot) He got it while hunting boar with his grandfather Autolycus. 7. What does Odysseus say to Eurycleia?
He says he will kill all of the maids in the house, but Eurycleia says she will tell him who is guilty and who is innocent. 8. What is the dream which Penelope describes to Odysseus? How does he interpret it? An eagle kills all of her 20 geese. It then speaks “Courage, daughter of Famous King Icarus! / This is no dream but a happy waking vision, / real as day, that will come true for you. / These geese were your suitors… ” (p. 407-409). Odysseus says it is a prophecy of the future- that Odysseus has basically told her through her dream what will happen. 9. How does the stranger affect Penelope? Why is she favorably disposed toward the stranger? She trusts him (because she can connect with him).
10. How does Penelope plan to test the suitors to see which one she will marry? She will marry the one who can string Odysseus’ bow and shoot an arrow through 12 axes set in a line (think the aspects of a hero- they have a special weapon only they can wield).
BOOK TWENTY SUMMARY
Penelope and Odysseus both have trouble sleeping that night. Odysseus worries that he and Telemachus will never be able to conquer so many suitors, but Athena reassures him that through the gods all things are possible. Tormented by the loss of her husband and her commitment to remarry, Penelope wakes and prays for Artemis to kill her. Her distress wakes Odysseus, who asks Zeus for a good omen. Zeus responds with a clap of thunder, and, at once, a maid in an adjacent room is heard cursing the suitors. As the palace springs to life the next day, Odysseus and Telemachus meet, in succession, the swineherd Eumaeus, the foul Melanthius, and Philoetius, a kindly and loyal herdsman who says that he has not yet given up hope of Odysseus’s return. The suitors enter, once again plotting Telemachus’s murder. Amphinomus convinces them to call it off, however, when a portent of doom appears in the form of an eagle carrying a dove in its talons. But Athena keeps the suitors antagonistic all through dinner to prevent Odysseus’s anger from losing its edge. Ctesippus, a wealthy and arrogant suitor, throws a cow’s hoof at Odysseus, in response to which Telemachus threatens to run him through with his sword. The suitors laugh and laugh, failing to notice that they and the walls of the room are covered in blood and that their faces have assumed a foreign, ghostly look—all of which Theoclymenus interprets as portents of inescapable doom.
Book Twenty-One (p. 424-438):
1. What must the stringer of the bow do with his shot?
Shoot the arrow through 12 axes in a line (almost impossible) with one arrow. 2. In what way do Telemachus' words after "giving up" show him to be a worthy son? He could have strung the bow, and is doing this on purpose to entice the suitors to the challenge, but in the process makes himself look weak- something he is willing to do for his father. 3. What is Antinous' and Eurymachus' reaction to the challenge? Antinous yells at the servants for crying. He then admits it will be a difficult challenge to overcome (which he hopes to do). Eurymachus considers it a disgrace if they cannot string the bow. 4. Melanthius is ordered to do what in order to make the bow easier to bend? Get a fire going and grease. They will “Heat and limber the bow and rub it with grease” to make it easier to bend (p. 430). 5. How does Odysseus prove his identity to the cowherd and the swineherd? He showed them the scar on his foot.
6. What is the purpose of the "biography" of the bow?
It shows us that his bow is special (only he can wield it). “His well-sprung bow was there, / and quivers, too, with lots of painful arrows, / gifts he had received from Iphitus, his friend, / son of Eurytus, a man like the immortals, / when they'd met in Lacedaemon, in Messene, / at the home of wise Ortilochus. Odysseus / had gone there to collect a debt the people owed— / Messenian men had run off with three hundred sheep / and seized the shepherds, too, leaving Ithaca / in their ships with many oars. Because of this, / Odysseus, who was just a boy, had been sent / a long way by his father and other senior men, / part of an embassy. Iphitus was searching / for twelve mares he'd lost and sturdy mules, as well, / still on the teat. Later on these animals / led him to a fatal destiny, the day he met / the mortal Hercules, Zeus' great-hearted son, / who knew all there was to know about great exploits. / Hercules slaughtered him, although he was a guest / in his own home—a cruel man who didn't care / about the anger of the gods or the dining table / he'd set before him. After their meal, he killed him / and kept the strong-hoofed mares with him at home / for his own use. While Iphitus was enquiring / about these horses, he got to meet Odysseus / and gave him the bow. In earlier days, this weapon had been used by mighty Eurytus, and when he died, / he'd left it for his son in his high-roofed home. / Odysseus had given him a keen-edged sword / and a powerful spear, as well. This was the start / of their close friendship. But they never bonded / as mutual dinner guests—before that happened / Zeus' son had murdered Iphitus, son of Eurytus, / a man like the immortals, who gave Odysseus / that bow of his. Lord Odysseus never took it / whenever he went off to war in his black ships. / It lay there in his home as a memorial / to a dear friend. He carried it in his own land.” 7. Penelope's taking the bow from its hiding place is one of the most moving moments in this part of the poem – why? This is the first time we really see Penelope weep openly for Odysseus. She sobs and believes that he is never coming home. “She then sat down, placed the bow case on her knees,/ and wept aloud, as she took out her husband's bow.”
Book Twenty-Two (p. 439-454):
1. What is Antinous doing when Odysseus shoots him? Why is he the first victim? He shoots him just as he’s about to drink.
2. How do the other suitors appeal to Odysseus?
At first they turn on him (the stranger) and tell him he will be punished for killing a man of Ithaca. Once Odysseus reveals himself, they say he has gotten his revenge- Antinous was the one who spurred them on. They offer to repay him for all they have taken, eaten, and destroyed. (p. 440-441) 3. How does Eurymachus react to Mentor?
4. How much does Athena help Odysseus, and how much is the victory his? She gives him guidance and makes the suitors (most of) miss when they are throwing spears at Odysseus and Telemachus. Arguments can be made that he would not have won without her guidance and interference. 5. Who tests the strength and courage of Odysseus and Telemachus? Athena. “Athena spoke. But she did not give him the strength / to win that fight decisively. She was still testing / the power and resolution of Odysseus / and his splendid son. So she flew up to the roof / inside the smoky hall, and sat there, taking on / the appearance of a swallow.” 6. The dead suitors are compared to what kind of creatures? Bodies= dead fish
Bodies= ox lion (Odysseus) has “devoured”
7. Which appendages does Melanthius lose? Where do they end up? (Remember Antinous' threats to send Irus to Echetus in the beginning of Book 18; and a similar threat to Odysseus in Book 21) They “lopped (cut off) his nose and ears with a ruthless knife, / tore his genitals out for the dogs to eat raw / and in manic fury hacked off hands and feet” (p. 454). BOOK TWENTY-THREE SUMMARY
Eurycleia goes upstairs to call Penelope, who has slept through the entire fight. Penelope doesn’t believe anything that Eurycleia says, and she remains in disbelief even when she comes downstairs and sees her husband with her own eyes. Telemachus rebukes her for not greeting Odysseus more lovingly after his long absence, but Odysseus has other problems to worry about. He has just killed all of the noble young men of Ithaca—their parents will surely be greatly distressed. He decides that he and his family will need to lay low at their farm for a while. In the meantime, a minstrel strikes up a happy song so that no passers-by will suspect what has taken place in the palace. Penelope remains wary, afraid that a god is playing a trick on her. She orders Eurycleia to move her bridal bed, and Odysseus suddenly flares up at her that their bed is immovable, explaining how it is built from the trunk of an olive tree around which the house had been constructed. Hearing him recount these details, she knows that this man must be her husband. They get reacquainted and, afterward, Odysseus gives his wife a brief account of his wanderings. He also tells her about the trip that he must make to fulfill the prophecy of Tiresias in Book 11. The next day, he leaves with Telemachus for Laertes’ orchard. He gives Penelope instructions not to leave her room or receive any visitors. Athena cloaks Odysseus and Telemachus in darkness so that no one will see them as they walk through the town.
BOOK TWENTY-FOUR SUMMARY
The scene changes abruptly. Hermes leads the souls of the suitors, crying like bats, into Hades. Agamemnon and Achilles argue over who had the better death. Agamemnon describes Achilles’ funeral in detail. They see the suitors coming in and ask how so many noble young men met their end. The suitor Amphimedon, whom Agamemnon knew in life, gives a brief account of their ruin, pinning most of the blame on Penelope and her indecision. Agamemnon contrasts the constancy of Penelope with the treachery of Clytemnestra. Back in Ithaca, Odysseus travels to Laertes’ farm. He sends his servants into the house so that he can be alone with his father in the gardens. Odysseus finds that Laertes has aged prematurely out of grief for his son and wife. He doesn’t recognize Odysseus, and Odysseus doesn’t immediately reveal himself, pretending instead that he is someone who once knew and befriended Odysseus. But when Laertes begins to cry at the memory of Odysseus, Odysseus throws his arms around Laertes and kisses him. He proves his identity with the scar and with his memories of the fruit trees that Laertes gave him when he was a little boy. He tells Laertes how he has avenged himself upon the suitors. Laertes and Odysseus have lunch together. Dolius, the father of Melanthius and Melantho, joins them. While they eat, the goddess Rumor flies through the city spreading the news of the massacre at the palace. The parents of the suitors hold an assembly at which they assess how to respond. Halitherses, the elder prophet, argues that the suitors merely got what they deserved for their wickedness, but Eupithes, Antinous’s father, encourages the parents to seek revenge on Odysseus. Their small army tracks Odysseus to Laertes’ house, but Athena, disguised again as Mentor, decides to put a stop to the violence. Antinous’s father is the only one killed, felled by one of Laertes’ spears. Athena makes the Ithacans forget the massacre of their children and recognize Odysseus as king. Peace is thus restored. *All summaries from SparkNotes.com