Homer's "Odysse"y, and what it tells us about greek culture and women

Essay by scrub1University, Bachelor'sA-, March 2003

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Homer's Odyssey provides, for the modern individual, an insight into to an unfamiliar universe. Amidst this fantasy world are elements of the real culture of ancient Greece. By examining this poem one can be clued into women's roles within the culture, which are exemplified by the character Penelope. The predicament, in which the Odysseus's wife is torn between remaining loyal to her missing husband or choosing another, is a portrayal of her distinct powers and significant responsibilities. The great beauty's overwhelming responsibility is to choose a suitor and her powers are what allow her to manipulate many situations to stay true to her husband.

Penelope's powers take form in her strength of character. Her intelligence, cunning and sharp wit enable her to outmaneuver the suitors in many instances. This builds up to the climax of her abilities when Penelope is able to trick her godlike husband in to revealing intimate details regarding the marital bed.

Now she can be assured it is truly Odysseus. Preceding the climax when she is introduced as a character, we learn of her agony over her the absence of her presumably dead husband, which shows her desire to remain loyal to the hero. It is this loyalty to her husband that forces the displays of power. This is first seen in Telemachos assembly on Ithaka. The suitors tell the tale of " another stratagem of her hearts devising" in which she promises to choose a suitor upon completion of a shroud for Laertes, to wear on his deathbed. Unbeknownst to the suitors she undid her day's work every evening. This was effective until after three years one of her maids revealed the plot. This trick is interesting for two reasons. Firstly she actually convinced them to agree to her plan because she spoke...