top-rated free essay

the portrayal of women in the Odyssey

By Looi-Zhang Oct 02, 2013 897 Words
WOMEN IN THE ODYSSEY
Although women in ancient Greece are often portrayed as meek and weak, this is not the case in Homer’s epic; The Odyssey. Instead, women in the Odyssey are often described as either cunning, intelligent, sexually alluring, or powerful, dangerous and fatal. Some of the most typical female characters are Athena, Circes and Penelope, where Athena is a powerful goddess and a skilled warrior, Circes is a cunning witch who tricked Odysseus’ men into drinking her potion and turning into swine, and Penelope, the extremely clever, yet loyal wife of Odysseus who outsmarted the suitors for 20 years. Most of these female characters fall under the category of “femme Fatale”, Latin for fatal-woman, which perfectly portrays their powerfulness and how lethal they are. The most important immortal character in the Odyssey would undoubtedly be Athena, who is the daughter of Zeus, and the goddess of wisdom, battle, and other feminie arts such as weaving and farming. In homer’s epic, she plays the role of the guardian of Odysseus and Telemachus, saving Odysseus and helping him through many difficult situations, including his shipwreck caused by Poseidon (homer 5) and the encouraging him through the one-sided battle with the suitors (Homer 22). She does not merely impart sense and safety to her passive charge, however. She takes an interest in Odysseus for the talents he already has and actively demonstrates. She also often helps Telemachus—as when she sends him off to Pylos and Sparta to earn a name for himself. But she has the most affection for Odysseus. Athena is practical, clever and a master of disguises, and a great warrior, for an example of Athena being a master of disguises, she, on several occasions, transformed herself into either an old man or a “forgotten” friend of Odysseus’ father (Homer 17). Athena is one of the most typical femme fatale portrayed in ancient Greek literature due to the skills she possess which are potentially lethal Another important immortal character in the Odyssey is the witch-goddess Circes, who turned Odysseus' men into a herd of pigs in Book X. Circes is described as sexually alluring and cunning, but deep inside we feel her pain, her frustration, and her love for Odysseus. Circes luring Odysseus’ men into her palace and sharing with them potions she brew laced with her magical, yet wicked herbs which turned them into pigs is an example of her cunningness. But we also feel how she is extremely sexually alluring through the fact that she manages to go to bed with Odysseus straight after she tried to turn him into an animal or to kill him. We can feel her love for Odysseus through quotes by Hermes the messenger –“…she’ll never plot some new intrigue to harm you, once you lie there naked” (Homer 10). Overall, Circes is in many ways similar to Athena as a character, such as they are both clever, cunning, and they are both typical femme fatales. But we learn that Circes is more emotional on the inside and is not as strong emotional as Athena. Nonetheless, Circes is still exceptionally dangerous compared to other women in ancient Greek literature. Among the mortal women featured in the Homer’s epic, the odyssey, including Helen, Arête and Nausicaa, the most famous and unique character is Penelope, Odysseus’ wife. Her first appearance was made in book 4. For years she had waited for Odysseus to return to Ithaca, but after 20 long years, there was still no light before her. Penelope on the surface is seen as weak, meek and emotional, but in reality she is extremely clever, yet loyal-- "... she has been deluding the wits of a whole nation. Hopes for all, promises for every man by special messenger- and what she means are quite different." (Homer 24). For example, throughout the epic, Penelope is described to have held off all the suitors for quite some time by making excuses, including that she had to weave a burial shroud for Laertes, weaving day by day, and then at night she pulled her work apart. Her clever wits put the suitors at bay until they discovered her plan, another example of Penelope’s cleverness is when Odysseus, after coming home to Ithaca and slaying all the suitors queuing for Penelope, talked to her for the first time in 20 years. But Penelope, incredibly, keeps calm and asked him to prove that he is Odysseus by asking him to move their wedding bed, which only they know, is unmovable. She also shows royalty throughout the story by remaining loyal to Odysseus, fending off the suitors for 20 years. Penelope was portrayed as an incredible, strong woman by Homer in his Epic a way that was never heard of in other ancient Greek literary works. In conclusion, women in Homers the Odyssey are by no means at all weak, on the contrary some are cunning, some are powerful, but intelligence is one character they all have in common – not just the three I mentioned above, but almost all female characters through the epic possess intelligence as a quality, including Arete, Queen of Phaeacia, Nausicaa, princess of Phaeacia, Sirens, the sexually alluring nymph. Helen, Calypso and Eurycleias, etc. It is distinctively different the way Homer portrayed women in his The Odyssey compared to any other ancient Greek literary works or contemporary works due to the qualities he gave to them.

Cite This Document

Related Documents

  • Portrayal of Women in The Odyssey

    ...In Homer's Odyssey, the women are portrayed in many different ways, some are said to be wise while others are cruel, but many are treated differently from the opposite gender. One of the women in the story, Penelope, was portrayed as very wise but because of her gender she was expected to obey many of the men. Similarly to Penelope, Arete, queen...

    Read More
  • Women Portrayal

    ...literature and film, women have been portrayed in endless ways. Women have been depicted as being helpless, ruthless, motherly, or weak among many others. The most common portrayal of women, in my opinion, is that we are either objects of desire or subservient to the more "superior" gender, that is, men. In Ridley Scott's Blade Runner and Theres...

    Read More
  • Women Portrayal

    ...In Jean-Pierre Vernant’s, The Universe, The Gods, and Men, women are primarily portrayed as seductresses. These women create problems for Odysseus in Homer’s story, The Odyssey. Some examples of this would be through women like Calypso, who held men against their will, Circe, a dangerous woman who practiced sorcery and the Sirens, who lure m...

    Read More
  • Women In The Odyssey

    ...Exploring the Role of Women in Ancient Greece Through Homer In The Odyssey, Homer creates characters that embody many aspects of human nature to reflect his observations about his world and society. Many of the characters have personalities that define them to be heroic, or borderline evil. Throughout Odysseus’ return home from Troy, he meets...

    Read More
  • Women in The Odyssey

    ...In Greek Mythology, women were either very fierce or very weak. Women were usually defined by wits, beauty, or bad deeds. In The Odyssey women were not in the background. On the contrary, women were powerful. They charmed and controlled men, provided wisdom, and took care of them. The Odyssey appears to be strongly female based. Penelope is t...

    Read More
  • Portrayal of Women

    ...of in the movies. Women in these movies often are viewed as prizes to men, independent or reliant on others, and have changed from background characters to lead roles films. Women are often viewed as trophies for men to quarrel over and to be won over by a male role. In Spartacus, Varinia, a love interest to Spartacus is taken by Cassius and ...

    Read More
  • Women in The Odyssey

    ... If Godly Odysseus Can’t Handle Women, How Can I? ENG201 – 0 World Literary Masterpieces I Dr. Elizabeth S. Oldman October 10, 2013 Conflict is the cornerstone for every tale, epic and anecdote, and has been even before written word. Without conflict, in essence, ther...

    Read More
  • Women of the Odyssey

    ...The Women of the Odyssey Many people regard Homer's epics as war stories—stories about men; those people often overlook the important roles that women play in the Odyssey. While there are not many female characters in the Odyssey, the few that there are, play pivotal roles in the story and one can gain a lot of insight by analyzing how those...

    Read More

Discover the Best Free Essays on StudyMode

Conquer writer's block once and for all.

High Quality Essays

Our library contains thousands of carefully selected free research papers and essays.

Popular Topics

No matter the topic you're researching, chances are we have it covered.