April 28, 2013
Thou Shalt Be Loyal: Double Standards and Expectations in The Odyssey
In Book V of The Odyssey we come face to face with Odysseus for the first time. He is stranded and held captive on an island with the nymph goddess, Calypso. After the gods have gathered at Mount Olympus it has been decided that Odysseus must leave the island and continue his journey. Chosen by his father Zeus, Hermes is sent to give Calypso the news. Upon hearing Hermes’ news Calypso becomes enraged and gives an emotional rant on the unfair double standards the gods often act upon. She gives many examples of the goddesses who have been misled by the gods due to their affairs with mortal men. Calypso begins her rant, “You unrivaled lords of jealousy-scandalized when goddesses sleep with mortals”(5.131-132). She speaks of “chaste Artemis”(5.135) and “Demeter the graceful one”(5.137). Both goddesses had lost their mortals to the will of the gods. Like the goddesses before her, Calypso must now say goodbye to her mortal. Though Calypso only references the double standards between the gods and goddesses. There are actually many moral ambiguities that plague male and female characters in the Odyssey for both mortals and gods. Characters like Penelope, Helen, and Clytemnestra are all mortal women that have been held up to this standard. And it is the male heroes and gods like Odysseus who have become praised for the low standards they have set for themselves. Throughout the Odyssey we see signs and blatant references to the fact that Odysseus has ben unfaithful to Penelope. The first one being on the island with the “lustrous Calypso” (5.129. It may be true that Odysseus was held captive on the island, but that does not mean he wasn’t once willing. Odysseus is presented as if he has lost his agency; “In the nights, true, he’d sleep with her in the arching cave- he had no choice” (5.170-171). However, Odysseus has been on the island with Calypso for some...
Cited: Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York: Penguin Books Ltd., 1996.
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