ODYSSEY: DISCUSSION QUESTIONS AND READING GUIDE
(n.b.: line references are to the Lattimore Translation)
1. What are the signs of the oral poet in the invocation?
What is meant by the phrase “in medias res”?
2. How is Odysseus characterized in the invocation?
What is meant by “polutropos”(=“man of many ways”)?
3. Compare the invocation of the Iliad ,1.1-7:
“Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus’ son Achilleus
and its devastation, which put pains thousandfold upon the Achaians,
hurled in their multitudes to the house of Hades strong souls
of heroes, but gave their bodies to be the delicate feasting
of dogs, of all birds, and the will of Zeus was accomplished
since that time when first there stood in division of conflict
Atreus’ son the lord of men and brilliant Achilleus.”
4. What is meant by “nostoi” (cf. Eng. nostalgia)? Discuss allusions to other traditions of
5. How is Odysseys characterized in lines 19-20?
What is implied by the name Kalypso? (kalupto=Gk, to hide, cover)
6. What god is blamed for the delay in Odysseus’ homecoming? Is an explanation for his
enmity given in this book ?
7. Who are the Aithiopians? How are they characterized?
8. What is the literary purpose of the first council of the gods?
9. The nostos of Agamemnon is mentioned several times throughout the Odyssey where it
serves as a paradigm (a model) for Odysseus’ possible return.
Discuss the literary purposes which this story might serve in this poem?
How does Homer’s version here (31-44) differ from that of Aeschylus (in the
What moral issues does Zeus raise in his telling of the return of
of Agamemnon (cf. l.7)?
10. How is the relationship between Athene (Athena) and Odysseus characterized? (44ff)
11. Discuss the characterization of Kalypso in ll.55 ff. She will serve in many ways as a
paradigm for all the women whom Odysseus encounters on his way home.
12. Discuss the conception of sacrifice and the relationship between men and gods that it
signifies as expressed in lines 60-67.
13. Who is the Cyclops? (68ff.)?
14. Plot the “ring composition” in ll.68-79.
15. What is the power relationship between Zeus and the other gods as expressed in ll.77-
16. .80-95: How does the oral poet reciting events sequentially (parataxis) treat the
problem of simultaneous action here?
17. What is the purpose of Hermes’ mission? Athene’s mission?
18. Discuss the literary role of the “Telemacheia” (Books 1-4) in the structure of the
Odyssey as a whole. What might be the point of devoting the four opening books of this
poem not to Odysseus but to Odysseus’ young son?
19. What is meant by “kleos” (translated as” good reputation” or “renown”), l.95? What is
its importance in the heroic world?
20. Analyze the themes of arrival/reception and appearance/reality in Athene’s visit to the
house of Odysseus (96ff)
What is the formal procedure for the arrival/reception of a guest/stranger to a house
(cf. entire passage113ff)
21. Describe our first glimpse of Telemachos (113). Cf. Od.5.81-82.
How is Telemachos characterized in his encounter with Mentes (Athene)?
22. How is the situation in Odysseus house described?
23. Analyze the formulaic passage, 136-143.
24. What do we learn about the role of the itinerant oral poet in Mycenaean society from the
25. Does Telemachos really believe that his father is dead? (160ff)
26. 170ff. The theme of lies and reality. Odysseus is a great liar and so is Mentes/Athene.
What is a “guest-friend”?
27. Who is Laertes and where is he?
28.1 95 ff. What does Mentes have to say about the fate of Odysseus? (This is the first of
many prophecies and omens in the book indicating that contrary to all appearances
Odysseus is still alive.)
29. Discuss Telemachos' response to the observations of Mentes:” My mother says indeed I
am his. I for my part do not know. Nobody really knows his own father. (215ff)” What is
Telemachos’ dilemma here?
30. 225ff. Discuss the significance of Mentes/Athena’s question in the context of this poem?
31. 236ff. Discuss the implications of Telemachos’ remarks for your understanding of “kleos”
in epic poetry.
32. 245ff. The first of many often contradictory descriptions of the relationships between the
suitors and Penelope. How is the situation described here? Is there any rationale for
33. 252ff. What does Mentes/Athene ‘s anecdote about Odysseus tell us about his character?
34. 270ff. What is Mentes/Athene’s advice to Telemachos? What is the purpose of all these
directions as far as Telemachos is concerned? How, in a sense, can the Telemacheia be read
as a “Bildungsroman” (a novel about the spiritual education through experience) of young
man, like Catcher in the Rye)?
How is Orestes (298) used as a paradigm for the boy Telemachus now on the brink of
35. 306ff. Why must Athene/Mentes here evade the gift exchange which is central to the
social code of Homeric society?
36. 325ff. What is the subject of Phemios’ song?
37. 328ff.First appearance of Penelope. Note formulaic elements; her habit of “frozen grief.”
Like Telemachos and (later) Odysseus she enters the poem weeping. What is her request of
the bard? What does Telemachos respond? What do we learn about the bardic creed from
38. 356ff. Telemachos’ first act of maturity is to tell his mother to mind her own business.
Discuss. Why is Penelope amazed?
39. 365ff. Describe Telemachos’ second declaration of maturity.
40. 383ff. Note differentiation in characterization of suitors. How is Antinoos characterized?
41. 385-98. What can you say about the political organization of Ithaka on the basis of this
passage? How does one become king in Ithaka? (n.b. oikos=translated as “household”)
42. 399ff. How is Eurymachos characterized in these lines?
43. 412ff. How does this response reveal the “new” Telemachos, in the process of growing
up and turning more like his own absent father?
44. 425ff. Who is Eurykleia (she will reappear throughout the poem and especially,
importantly in Bk 18)? Analyze ring composition in this passage. What do we learn about
concubinage in Homeric society from her story?
TERMS/NAMES FOR BOOK1
(n.b.:cf. Glossary in Latimore translation for full list; variant spellings and alternatives given
in parentheses; n.b.K=c in transliteration; os=us; ai=ae)
Aigisthos Aithiopians Akhaians Antinoos
Athene (Athena; Pallas) Atlas Atreides
bard Cyclops (Kyklops) Danaans
Eurykleia Eurymachos Hermes (Argeiphontes=Argos killer)
in medias res Ithaka Kalypso kleos
Klytaimestra (=Clytemnestra) Laertes Menelaos
Mentes muse Nestor nostoi Ogygia
oikos Orestes paratataxis/syntaxis Penelope
Phemes Poseidon Pylos ring composition Sparta
Telemacheia Telemachus Zeus
BOOK 2 ASSEMBLY AT ITHAKA.
SHOWS TELEMACHOS BEGINNING TO FUNCTION AS AN ADULT HEROIC MALE AS HE
INVITES A CONFLICT TO TEST THE SUITORS. IN BK. 15 HE GIVES REFUGE TO
THEOCLYMENOS, COMPLETING HIS ASSUMPTION OF FULL HEROIC STATUS. TELEMACHOS
IN THE TELEMACHEIA MUST MATURE IN PREPARATION TO GREET HIS ABSENT FATHER; HE
WILL ALSO UNDERGO PARALLEL ADVENTURES. WHEN HE IS “GROWN UP”, HE WILL BE
READY TO MEET HIS FATHER AS A MAN, BUT MUST PULL BACK WHEN ODYSSEUS RETURNS
(THE PROBLEM OF THE HERO’S SON). BOTH FATHER AND SON WEEP AT THE START OF THE
POEM AND ASSUME THEIR RIGHTFUL PLACE IN SOCIETY AT THE END.
THE SCENE IS ALSO A MICROCOSM OF ODYSSEUS’ RETURN IN ITS CHALLENGE TO
1. 1-5. Note the leisurely epic narrative which lingers on every detail paratactically.
2. 6ff. Discuss the protocol for summoning the assembly; the role of the herald; the
significance of the staff; the function of the assembly in Ithakan society; the significance of
the fact that there has not been an assembly since Odysseus’ departure; the The
significance of the assembly for Telemachos’ maturation.
3.15-24.Analyze ring composition.
4. 51-54.What marriage pattern is alluded to in these lines?
5. 58-84.Why can’t Telemachos simply chase the suitors out of his home? To what, if any,
recourse does he turn here? Does Telemachos seem more a man or a boy in this passage?
Note: Penelope is T’s problem: she balances 2 contradictory requirements of her
own: find a new husband while staying faithful to the old one.
6. 85ff. Analyze the arguments of Antinoos’ response. How is Penelope characterized here?
In what way does the passage suggest “like-mindedness” between Penelope and Odysseus?
7. 129ff. In ancient Greece every female needed a male, usually her closest mature male
relative, who was her kurios (legally responsible for her). Discuss the problem of Penelope’s
kurios implied in the debate between Antinoos and Telemachos. Why is it not so easy for
Telemachos simply to send his mother home to her own father?
8. 135. Note the implicit allusion to the story of Orestes and Klytaimestra.
9. 147ff. The omen of two eagles. Describe the omen and its interpretation by Halitherses.
What is the effect of this omen (like Athene/Mentes’ prophecy in Bk. 1) on the movement of
10. 177ff. Discuss the response of Eurymachos to Halitherses’ interpretation of the omen;
what is his advice to Telemachos?
11. 208ff. How does Telemachos justify his request for a ship and 20 men to the suitors?
12. 224ff. How does Mentor in his speech characterize Odysseus as a king? For what sector
of Ithakan society does Mentor reserve his harshest condemnation? How does Leokritos
respond? What does this exchange imply about the political situation in Ithaka?
13. 260ff. Discuss the theme of appearance and reality in the second appearance of Athene
(disguised as Mentor) to Telemachos? Discuss the derivation of the word “mentor” in
14. 270ff. How does the discussion of the father/son relationship relate to the proposed
voyage of Telemachos?
15. 296ff. Analyze the exchange between Antinoos and Telemachos in terms of Telemachos’
16. 321ff. What is the point of this overheard (by the audience) exchange between the
suitors regarding Telemachos’ plans? What does it add to the narrative?
17. 337ff. How does this scene between Eurykleia and Telemachos add to the parallelism
between son and father?
18. 371ff. Why does Telemachos swear Eurykleia to silence?
19. 382ff. In what further ways does Athene aid Telemachos? What disguises does she
assume in the final section of this book?
20. 418-34 Analyze the language and composition of these lines.
TERMS AND NAMES FOR BK 2 (only new terms are included)
Aegyptos Halitherses kurios Leokritos Mentor
THE SCENE AT PYLOS BEGINS AND ENDS WITH SACRIFICE. THE SCENE AT SPARTA (IN BK.
4) WILL BEGIN AND END WITH A DINNER PARTY. BOTH EPISODES EMPHASIZE THE
IMPORTANCE OF CORRECT SOCIAL BEHAVIOR (AMONG MEN (THE HOST/GUEST
RELATIONSHIP) AND BETWEEN MEN AND THE GODS(SACRIFICE). TELEMACHOS IS NOT
ONLY YOUNG, BUT IN A SENSE HE IS ALSO A “COUNTRY BUMPKIN;” IN HIS TRAVELS, LIKE
HIS FATHER, HE LEARNS ABOUT THE WORLD AND HOW TO FUNCTION IN IT. HE ACQUIRES
THE SOCIAL GRACES THAT ARE PART OF HIS ABILITY TO FUNCTION AS A MATURE HERO IN
HIS OWN RIGHT, BECOMING LIKE HIS FATHER WHILE AT THE SAME TIME GATHERING
INFORMATION ABOUT HIS FATHER.
THE SCENE WITH NESTOR. NESTOR KNOWS HOW TO ACT: THE ROUTINE, ORDER,
AND PRECISION OF NESTOR’S WORLD CONTRASTS WITH THE HAPHAZARD AND
IRREGULAR SOCIETY AT ODYSSEUS’ PALACE. NESTOR’S SON PEISISTRATOS, LIKE
ORESTES, FUNCTIONS AS A “ROLE MODEL” COMPANION FOR TELEMACHUS.
1. What is taking place at Pylos when Telemachos arrives? (cf. 3.430-75). How is this action
significant for the Telemacheia?
2. 12-28.What role does Athena/Mentor play in this exchange with Telemachos? How does
Telemachos feel about the upcoming encounter? What is Athena’s advice?
3.36ff. Who is Peisistratos? Describe his behavior to the strangers? Compare his demeanor
4. 51ff. Discuss the irony in Athene’s performance of prayer and libation to Poseidon.
5. 65-74. How does hospitality work at Pylos? Contextualize the scene within the host-guest
relationship and the arrival/reception theme.
6. Comment on the significance of the question in line 71 “strangers, who are you?” for the
theme of the poem.
7. 75-200. Relate the passage to the nostoi tradition.
8. What were the fates of Aias, Achilleus, Patroclos, Antilochos in the Trojan War?
9. 120-28. Discuss Nestor’s characterization of Odysseus. How does it prepare us for our
ultimate “meeting” with Odysseus (postponed for Bk 5)?
10. 130ff. Athene’s wrath in the nostos tradition. How does Nestor explain her wrath? What
problem does the tradition of Athene’s wrath raise for the narrative of the Odyssey and how
does the poet deal with this problem in the Odyssey?
11. 137-185. Describe and trace the dissension the Greek leaders as they were about to
set out for home? between Agamemnon and Menelaos?
What did Nestor do? Diomedes (son of Tydeus)? Menelaos?
Characterize Nestor’s speaking style?
12. 186ff. Discuss other references to the nostoi of the Myrmidons, Neoptolemus,
Philoctetes, Idomeneus, Agamemnon?
13. 193-209: Discuss the significance of the allusion to Orestes in these lines in terms of the
14. 210-224. Characterize the relationship between Athene and Odysseus and relate to the
problem of Athene’s wrath?
15. 225ff. Athene’s rebuke to Telemachos. How does she describe the role of the gods in
human life? the relationship of the gods to human mortality?
16. 247ff. Agamemnon, Aigisthos,and Klytaimestra. How are Klytaimestra’s actions
motivated in this version of the story? Significance for Penelope? Role of the “singer”?
17. 276-302. Describe the nostos of Menelaos. What delays his return?
18. 301-10. Does Homer explicitly mention Orestes’ matricide? Explain.
19. 337ff. What is the point of Nestor’s insistence that the guests sleep in his house rather
than on the ship? How does Athene/Mentor explain her refusal? How does Athene /Mentor
explain her imminent departure to Nestor?
20. 366-84. Disappearance of Athene/Mentor. Analyze Nestor’s response to the
transformation of his visitor. What does it tell you about Nestor?
21. 404-63. Leisurely and detailed description of the protocol of sacrifice. What does it tell
you about Nestor? What does it tell you about Homeric style?
22. Discuss the relationship between Nestor and his sons; implications for the situation in
Ithaka? literary significance in the poem?
23. 477 ad fin. Peisistratos replaces Mentor/Athene as companion to Telemachos. Why does
Athene leave at this point?
24. 491-97. Analyze the language and style of these lines as characteristic of the style of
TERMS AND NAMES FROM BK.3
Earthshaker(=Poseidon) Aias Achilleus Patroklos Antilochos Myrmidons,
Idomeneus Philoctetes Neoptolemos (son of Achilleus), Diomedes (son of Tydeus)
Peisistratos Nestor Pylos Priam
Agamemnon Orestes Aigisthos Klytaimestra (Clytemnestra)
BOOK 4 SPARTA
1. Book 4 is set in Sparta where Telemachos visits the home of Menelaos and Helen.
Contrast the settings of Sparta and Pylos; the mood in the two kindgoms; the reactions of
Telemachos in each social setting.
2. What is going on at the house of Menelaos when Telemachos and Peisistratos arrive?
Suggest the possible significance of the occasion within the context of the poem.
3. 42-75 Describe the reactions of Peisistratos and Telemachos to the house of Menelaos.
The implicit comparison with Ithaka.
4. 55ff. Note the fixed formulaic passage for breaking bread with strangers in this scene of
arrival/reception. What is the decorum for questioning strangers as outlined by Menelaos in
5.7 6 ff. How is Menelaos’ account of his nostos introduced?
6. 93ff. How does Menelaos feel about the events of Troy and the men who died there?
7. 105ff. How does the name of Odysseus get introduced into Menelaos’ conversation with
the strangers? Do you think that Menelaos recognized Telemachos as his father’s son? What
is Telemachos’ reaction to the mention of Odysseus name? What does Menelaos’ response to
the stranger’s tears tell the listener about Homeric notions of etiquette.
8. Outline the ring composition in ll.120-137. How is Helen described. Note the importance
of weaving for women (cf. Penelope).
9. 139ff. What does Helen’s reaction to the stranger tell the listener about her intelligence?
(Compare Menelaos’ response)
10. 163 ff. How is Odysseus characterized in his absence from the various perspectives of a
son(Telemachos), a friend(Menelaos), a woman (Helen)?
11. 186 ff. Why does Peisistratos join the orgy of weeping? What does his loss add to the
general perspective on the loss of a loved one?
12. 219ff. What does Helen do to “lighten things up”? What does this tell the listener about
13. 220-234. Outline the ring composition in these lines.
14. 235-89. What is the point of the anecdotes that first Helen and then Menelaos tell about
Odysseus? What do these anecdotes reveal about the tellers and the relationship between
15. 290-95. What is Telemachos’ response to the stories of Helen and Menelaos? What does
his response reveal about his maturity?
16. 331-40. Analyze the composition of the epic simile in these lines. What is its effect on
the narrative? on our attitude toward the suitors?
17. 351 ff. Menelaos’ Egyptian tale. Compare the traditional Egyptian tale of the
18. 410ff. What are the main characteristics of Proteus? By what trick and with whose help
does Menelaos outwit Proteus? How does the plight of Menelaos in this episode foreshadow
the plight of Odysseus in the great wanderings? How might Proteus serve in this context as
a paradigm for Odysseus himself?
N.B. Francis Bacon named protein after the mythical Proteus. Explain his choice of
Cf. the poet Richard Wilbur:” Let me now rejoice/In all impostures, take/the shape of
lion or leopard/Boar or watery snake..”
19. 472 ff. What instructions does Proteus give regarding Menelaos’ return?
20. 499 ff. What revelations does Proteus make to Menelaos regarding the nostos of Aias?
21. 512 ff. What information does Proteus add to our knowledge of the nostos of
Agamemnon? (Compare the role of the watchman in Aeschylus’ Agamemnon? account for
the different version of Agamemnon’s murder)
22. 555ff. What information does Proteus give Menelaos regarding the nostos of Odysseus?
To what extent does this add to Telemachos’ knowledge about his father’s fate? the
23. 561ff. What, according to Proteus, is to be the fate of Menelaos after death? How does
the epic tradition account for this special treatment of Menelaos?
24. 581. What might the formula “Egypt, the sky-fallen river” imply regarding the Bronze
Age Greek traditions of Egypt?
25. 585-219 Menelaos invites Telemachos to stay for 11 or 12 days and promises him
glorious gifts. Telemachos parries the invitation with a counter offer. Menelaos approves.
Discuss this scene of gift exchange and the way in which it exhibits Telemachos’ ever
26. 624. Analyze the way in which the oral poet handles the problem of simultaneity in the
scene shift from Sparta to Ithaka.
27. 630ff. What information does Noemon impart to the suitors?
28. What are Antinoos’ plans for Telemachos on his return voyage? In what way does the
new situation of Telemachos foreshadow Odysseus’ return?
29. 680ff. How does Penelope characterize the absent Odysseus to Medon? What perspective
do these lines add to our image of the absent hero?
30. 703ff. What is Penelope’s reaction to Medon’s news of the suitors’ plot? How does her
response reinforce the identification of father and son? What does she hope to achieve by
sending news of the plot to Laertes?
31. 742ff. What is Eurykleia’s advice to Penelope? How does she feel about Laertes?
32. 760ff. Analyze the traditional prayer format of do ut des in Penelope’s prayer to Athene.
33.790ff. Analyze the epic simile here. Odysseus too is compared to a lion (e.g.814). What
might be the effect of the “reverse simile” here?
34.795ff. Penelope’s dream. To what extent is the dream reassuring? To what extent does
the dream image leave Penelope in the dark?
35. How does Book 4 end?
TERMS AND NAMES FROM BOOK 4
Eidothea Elysium foreshadowing Helen Hermione
Ikarios Iphthime Laertes Medon MegapenthesMenelaos
Noemon Proteus Son of Kronos (=Zeus)
BOOK 5: ODYSSEUS LEAVES OGYGIA
1. Compare the opening council of the gods in Book 5 with the council at the start of Book 1.
What characteristic of the Homeric narrative necessitates the “reopening” of this section of
the poem with another scene of the gods in council?
2. 43ff. How does Homer characterize the god Hermes in these lines.
3. 50-54. Analyze the epic simile here.
4. 56ff. How does the poet describe Kalypso? In what way is she presented as a “generic”
female, an archetype for the many women in the poem?
5. 82ff. Compare our first glimpse of Odysseus (what is he doing) with our earlier first
glimpse of Penelope in 1.337; with Telemachos in l.114.
6. 76ff. In what ways does the arrival/reception scene of Hermes to Kalypso conform to the
pattern of earlier scenes of hospitality in the poem?
7. 100ff. Where does the island of Ogygia seem to be located? Discuss symbolism or
implications for the plight of Odysseus? (Recall that one of Hermes’ traditional roles is
psychopompos or guide of the dead and that Kalypso’s name implies covering or oblivion)
8. 107ff. How does the poet handle the implicit contradiction between Athene as the
persecutor of the Greeks in the nostoi tradition and Athene as the patron and protector of
the returning Odysseus in this scene.
9. 120ff. Discuss the use of myth as an example or paradigm for behavior in Kalypso’s
response to Hermes’ message.
10. 150ff. Characterize the relationship between Odysseus and Kalypso according to this
11. 171ff. What can we learn about Odysseus’ nature from his response to Kalypso’s
promise to help him go home? How does Kalypso react to his response here?
12. 201ff. Paraphrase the arguments in Kalypso’s one last appeal to Odysseus to reconsider
and stay with her.
13. 214ff. Analyze Odysseus’ rejection of her offer. What does his response tell us about his
use of language?
14. On Ogygia, Odysseus has been living for seven years with a beautiful loving ageless
nymph who gives him everything he needs and plans to make him immortal. In leaving her
he chooses mortality over immortality? Why, in your opinion, does he insist on returning to
Ithaka. What does he gain/lose by his decision?
15. 225ff. Among other things, the Odyssey has been described as an “encyclopedia” of
moral and practical wisdom for its archaic Greek audience. Analyze the passage regarding
the construction of the raft in light of this characterization of the work.
16. 282ff. What is the cause of the storm at sea that nearly kills Odysseus?
17. 306ff. What is it about death at sea that makes it particularly threatening to the hero?
18. The sea storm is Odysseus particular test of heroism, the “aristeia” in which he displays
his supreme heroic qualities. What characteristic emerges from this scene as the supreme
arete (heroic virtue) of Odysseus?
19. 333ff. Who is Ino and how does she aid Odysseus? What is the reaction of Odysseus in
extremis to Ino’s advice and offer of help? Does he follow Ino’s advice? What does this
reaction tell us about Odysseus’ nature?
20. 365-370. Analyze the epic simile in these lines.
21.381ff. What is the role of Athene in this scene?
22. 394-399. Analyze the epic simile. Compare the simile used of Penelope in Bk.23.230ff.
What does the use of the same simile for the two characters say about their relationship?
Does Penelope undergo any process of testing analogous to Odysseus in the sea storm?
23. 400ff. How is Odysseus confronted with the choice between two evils here? What is his
response to this impossible situation?
24. 432ff. Analyze the simile; In what way might the simile be particularly appropriate to
the arete of Odysseus that is emphasized in the sea storm?
25. 465ff. Once on land Odysseus again calculates his options. What are they and how does
he make his decision.
26. 477ff. Note the wild olive. The olive is a symbol of regeneration. Cf. the reappearance of
an olive tree in 13.102-3 and again in Bk. 23.
27. 488ff.Analyze the simile. This book has more similes than any other in the Odyssey.
How might you explain this feature of the narrative?
TERMS AND NAMES FROM BOOK 5
Hermes (Argeiphontes) aristeia arête Ino (Leukothea)
Ogygia Kalypso Dawn (Eos) Orion Demeter
BOOKS 6,7,8: ODYSSEUS WITH THE PHAIAKIANS.
BOOK 6: ODYSSEUS WAKES UP AT SCHERIA TO THE SOUND OF NAUSICAA AND
FRIENDS PLAYING AFTER DOING THEIR “WEDDING” WASH. NAUSICAA GIVES ODYSSEUS
FOOD AND CLOTHES AND INSTRUCTS HIM IN HOW TO GET TO THE CITY (FOLK TALE THEME
OF PRINCESS SAVES STRANGER WHO IS A PRINCE IN DISGUISE. HE BEATS RIVALS AND
WINS THE PRINCESS AS WIFE. HERE THE TALE IS ADAPTED AND PARALLELS THE SAME
THEME IN THE REAL WORLD OF ITHAKA WHERE ODYSSEUS (A PRINCE IN DISGUISE)
WILL DEFEAT THE SUITORS FOR THE HAND OF PENELOPE.
BOOK 7:THE PALACE AND GARDEN OF ALKINOOS ARE DESCRIBED. ODYSSEUS IS
WELCOMED, OBLIQUELY PROPOSITIONED TO STAY, AND PROMISED A VOYAGE HOME.
BOOK 8: THE ASSEMBLY OF PHAIAKIANS AGREES TO SEND ODYSSEUS HOME.
FEASTING AND SONG IN THE PALACE. THE GAMES. ODYSSEUS, CHALLENGED AND TAUNTED
BY THE PHAIAKIAN EURYALOS, THROWS A ROCK FARTHER THAN ALL THE OTHERS AND
BOASTS OF HIS SKILLS IN ALL SPORTS EXCEPT RACING AND BOWMANSHIP. ALKINOOS
MODIFIES HIS EARLIER BOAST TO CLAIM SUPERIORITY FOR HIS PEOPLE IN DANCING,
RACING, AND SEAMANSHIP ONLY. SONG OF ARES AND APHRODITE. ODYSSEUS COLLECTS
GIFTS. ODYSSEUS BIDS FAREWELL TO NAUSIKAA. HE IS LADEN WITH RICH GIFTS AND
QUESTIONED ABOUT HIMSELF.
1. How does the Odyssey characterize the Phaiakians (relationship to gods, physical
landscape, social organization, cultural features)?
2. Discuss and trace the marriage theme in Books 6, 7,8.
3. What folktale motif underlies the encounter of Odysseus and Nausikaa?
4. Identify and discus the roles of Arête, Nausikaa and Athene in Books 6, 7,8. What mode
of male/female interaction, does each of these put into operation?
5. Discuss the role of the bard and his song in Phaiakian society.
BOOK 9: ODYSSEUS REVEALS HIS IDENTITY, BEGINS THE STORIES OF HIS ADVENTURES
AFTER THE FALL OF TROY. THE BOOK PRESENTS THE ADVENTURES IN A 1ST PERSON
NARRATIVE OF PAST SUBJECTIVE EXPERIENCE PRIOR TO ODYSSEUS’ FULL RETURN. THESE
“GREAT WANDERINGS” ARE NARRATED BY ODYSSEUS HIMSELF AT THE BANQUET TABLE OF
ALKINOOS. ARE THEY LIES TOLD BY A LIAR? WHAT IS THE EFFECT ON THE LISTENER WHO
“OVERHEARS” THE EXCHANGE BETWEEN ODYSSEUS AND THE PHAIAKIANS?
ODYSSEUS’ DEFEAT OF THE CYCLOPS (N.B. PARALLELS BETWEEN THE CYCLOPS AND
PHAUAKIANS) REPRESENTS A VICTORY OF INTELLIGENCE OVER BRUTE FORCE-TECHNE VS.
BIA. IN POLYPHEMOS’ CAVE ODYSSEUS IS TREATED LIKE AN ANIMAL. HE IS LITERALLY
1. Order of adventures? Any discernible pattern to these adventures? Any common
denominator? (Kikonians, Lotus Eaters, Cyclops)
2. Comment on the relationship between Odysseus and his crew.
3. Discuss the social and political culture of the Cyclopes (105ff). Contrast and compare the
society of the Cyclopes and the Haitians.
4. Analyze the ring composition in lines 195-212.
5. Discuss the arrival/reception scene (host/guest relationship) of Odysseus and his men in
the cave of Polyphemos in light of previous scenes of arrival/reception (e.g. Mentes to
Telemachos; Telemachos to Nestor; Telemachos to Menelaos; Hermes to Kalypso; Odysseus
to Arete/Alkinoos). Perverted hospitality??
6. Note Odysseus as master of technology in ll. 319-28. Compare similes in 384-88, 391-94.
7. Discuss significance of Odysseus’ punning in his pseudonym of “Nobody.”
“I’m nobody. Are you nobody too?/Then there’s a pair of us, don’t tell./ How dreadful to be
somebody/How public, like a frog/ To tell your name/the livelong day/ To an admiring
8. Why does Odysseus, despite the warnings of his companions, announce his true name to
the Cyclops (500-505)? What does he gain and what does he lose by this act?
BOOK 10: ADVENTURES CONTINUED.
ISLAND OF AIOLOS: ODYSSEUS GIVEN BAG OF WINDS, APPROACHES ITHAKA; O FALLS
ASLEEP, AND HIS MEN OPEN THE BAG, MOTIVATED BY GREED. THE WINDS ESCAPE, AND
THEY ARE BLOWN BACK BY THE STORM TO AIOLOS. NO SECOND CHANCE.
LAISTRYGONES; KING ANTIPHATES IN THE LAND OF THE MIDNIGHT SUN, CANNIBALS,
MATRIARCH: THROW ROCKS ON ODYSSEUS’ MEN WHO FLEE. ONLY ODYSSEUS’ SHIP
CIRCE ON AIA; KIMMERIAN COAST WHERE NO SUN ENTERS.
1. Characterize the family of Aiolos. Discuss the relationship between Odysseus and his crew
on this adventure.
2 .Compare Odysseus’ encounter with the Laistrygones to his receptions at Phaiakia and at
the Cyclops’ cave.
3. How does Circe fit in with the other women in this poem? Analyze the encounter between
Odysseus and Circe? How long does Odysseus remain with Circe? Does Odysseus want to
leave? What does Circe tell Odysseus about the rest of his journey?
4. Describe Odysseus; preparations before his encounter with the Dead.
BOOK 11: NEKUIA, BOOK OF THE DEAD.
IN THE VERY CENTER OF THE BOOK. ODYSSEUS SPEAKS TO THE DEAD.
ELPENOR; INSTRUCTIONS OF TEIRESIAS. ODYSSEUS MEETS THE GHOST OF HIS MOTHER
ANTIKLEIA, HEROINES OF GREEK MYTH. MEETS AGAMEMNON, ACHILLEUS, AIAS. SEES
TITYOS, TANTALKS, HERACLES.
1.What is the prophecy of Teiresias to Odysseus in Book 11? What, in your opinion, could
this prophecy mean?
BOOK 12: RETURN TO AIA (CIRCE’S ISLAND); BURIAL OF ELPENOR; CIRCE REHEARSES
THE DANGERS TO COME ON THE VOYAGE (SIRENS; CLASHING ROCKS; SKYLLA;
CHARYBDIS; THRINAKIA WITH THE CATTLE OF HELIOS). ON THE ISLAND OF THE SUN,
ODYSSEUS’ COMPANIONS EAT OF THE FORBIDDEN CATTLE AND THEIR SHIPS ARE BLASTED
BY A THUNDERBOLT. ODYSSEUS DRIFTS ON A SPAR TO CHARYBDIS; MANAGES TO ESCAPE,
AND DRIFTS TO OGYGIA, KALYPSO’S ISLAND.
1. What is the lure of the Sirens? What do they sing to Odysseus? How do they fit into the
archetype of the female in this poem? (39-54, 165-200)
2. Skylla, too, is a female. How does she fit into the archetype of the female in the poem?
3. What warnings did Odysseus receive from Teiresias and Circe regarding the cattle of
Helios, the sun god? Why do Odysseus’ men disobey these warnings? Describe the portent
in lines 395-96. What is the fate of Odysseus’ crew? How does Odysseus escape?
BOOK 13:THE PHAIAKIANS MUCH IMPRESSED BY ODYSSEUS’ SONG RESPOND WITH
ANOTHER COLLECTION OF GIFTS, ANOTHER FEAST AND SONG BY DEMODOKOS. THE
PHAIAKIANS CONVEY THE SLEEPING ODYSSEUS WITH HIS POSSESSIONS HOME ON THEIR
MAGIC SHIP WHICH WILL BE TURNED TO STONE ON ITS RETURN TO SCHERIA; ODYSSEUS
STILL ASLEEP IS DEPOSITED ON ITHAKA. HE WAKES UP AND FAILS TO RECOGNIZE HIS
NATIVE LAND. HE IS MET BY ATHENE DISGUISED AS A SHEPARD , PLOTS HIS FUTURE
COURSE WITH HER, AND IS HIMSELF DISGUISED AS AN OLD BEGGAR.
ODYSSEUS’ FIRST ENCOUNTER IN ITHAKA (WITH ATHENE IN DISGUISE) AND
PLANS FOR WINNING BACK HIS HOME.
NOTE FUNERAL SYMBOLISM AS PART OF PROCESS OF ODYSSEUS’ REBIRTH: SILENT
PROCESSION ON A BLACK SHIP, BEARING GOODS; THE “PHAROS” A LONG CLOAK OR
SHROUD WHICH COVERS ODYSSEUS ASLEEP; THE COMPARISON OF HIS SLEEP TO DEATH;
HIS CONFUSION ON WAKENING; HIS SLEEP LOCATED NEAR THE OLIVE TREE, SYMBOL OF
1. Analyze the simile in ll.28-35.
2. Discuss possible significance of Odysseus’ sleep “most like death” (80) on his voyage
from Phaiakia to Ithaka.
3, Note the olive tree and cave at the head of the harbor in Ithaka where the ship beaches
(102-124). Compare Odysseus arrival at Scheria, at the end of Book 5.
4. Describe and explain the fate of the Phaiakian ship on its return home? What could the
significance of this be for our understanding of the poem and of the character of Odysseus?
(125-187; cf. 8.555-72)
5. Back in Ithaka, Odysseus recognizes nothing, nor is he recognizable thanks to the
intervention of Athena. Discuss the significance of this scene in terms of the themes of
reality vs. unreality/ truth vs. lies.
6. Why does Odysseus lie to the disguised Athena (254-86)? What is Athena’s reaction to
his lie (287-311)? Analyze their conversation (312-52). What plan do they contrive so that
Odysseus can avoid the fate of Agamemnon? What do we learn about the character of
Odysseus from this scene?
7. Examine the parallel drawn between Odysseus and Telemachos (411-428).
8. What might Odysseus’ disguise on Ithaka imply about the relationship between
appearance and reality?
9. What mission removes Athene from Odysseus’ side at the end of Book 13?
BOOK 14. ODYSSEUS’ ENCOUNTER WITH THE SWINEHERD EUMAEUS. LYING TALES ABOUT
HIS IDENTITY. IN THE HUT OF THE SWINEHERD EUMAEUS, ODYSSEUS IS HOSPITABLY
RECEIVED. HE TESTS THE LOYALTY OF EUMAEUS AND FINDS IT IMPECCABLE. HE TELLS AN
ELABORATE LYING TALE INCLUDING THE NEWS THAT ODYSSEUS IS IN THESPROTIA;
EUMAEUS DOES NOT BELIEVE IT ANY MORE THAN TELEMACHOS AND PENELOPE LATER
WILL BELIEVE THEOCLYMENOS. AFTER SUPPER ODYSSEUS TELLS A STORY BY WHICH HE
GETS A WARM CLOAK FOR THE NIGHT.
1. This is the first arrival/reception scene with Odysseus back in Ithaka. How does the
swineherd greet the stranger? How does he speak of the “absent” Odysseus? What does the
disguised Odysseus learn about the situation in his household?
2. The swineherd Eumaeus thinks that Odysseus is dead (121-47). What does the
disguised Odysseus have to say about the return of Odysseus to Ithaka (148-65;321-23).
3. The disguised Odysseus responds to the question “who are you”(187ff.) with the longest
lie yet told in the poem? Analyze Odysseus’ story with an eye to its many parallels with the
4. How does the disguised Odysseus manage to get himself a cloak for the night and the
promise of a new mantle from Eumaeus (457-522)? What does this episode tell us about
BOOK 15: SPARTA. ATHENE IN A DREAM URGES TELEMACHOS TO GO BACK TO ITHAKA. HE
RETURNS TO PYLOS, WHERE HE DODGES THE HOSPITALITY OF OLD NESTOR, REJOINS HIS
CREW, TAKES IN THE SUPPLIANT THEOCLYMENOS, A FUGITIVE PROPHET (HIS FIRST
SOCIALLY MATURE ACT) AND BEGINS THE VOYAGE HOME. MEANWHILE, IN THE HUT OF
EUMAEUS ODYSSEUS HEARS HIS HOST’S LIFE HISTORY. NARRATIVE THEN RETURNS TO
TELEMACHOS WHO PASSES UNSCATHED THE AMBUSH OF THE SUITORS, LANDS IN ITHAKA,
AND RECEIVES A FAVORABLE OMEN.
1. Note the flashback to the end of book 4, Telemachos at the palace of Menelaos.
2. How are women characterized by Athene in ll.14ff? What directions does she give to
3. Note importance of “gift exchange” in host/guest relationship, ll.48-159. Note
Telemachos’ new maturity in this social situation.
4. Omen of eagle and goose (160ff) is the first of many portents of Odysseus’ return that
begin heaping up in this section. Helen interprets. What does it mean?
5. Why does Telemachos insist on bypassing the house of Nestor (193ff)?
6 .Who is Theoklymenos? What is his story? Note ring composition (224-56). Discuss the
significance of Telemachos’ reception of this suppliant.
7. How does Odysseus test Eumaios again (301ff.)? What does he learn about Laertes his
father? What does he learn about his mother Antikleia?
8. What does Eumaios’ story (380-484) tell us about the socio-political context of the
9. Note the omen in 525-538 and its interpretation by Theoklymenos.
TERMS: Eurymachos Laertes Theoklymenos Antikleia
BOOK 16: REUNION OF ODYSSEUS AND TELEMACHOS.
TELEMACHOS ARRIVES AT THE HUT OF EUMAIOS. EUMAIOS IS SENT OFF WITH A MESSAGE
TO PENELOPE. ODYSSEUS REVEALS HIS IDENTITY TO TELEMACHOS. THEY MAKE PLANS
FOR THE DESTRUCTION OF THE SUITORS. MEANWHILE, THE SUITORS, FOILED IN THEIR
FIRST EFFORT, CONSIDER FURTHER STEPS AGAINST TELEMACHOS. PENELOPE UPBRAIDS
THE SUITOR ANTINOOS AND IS CONSOLED BY THE HYPOCRITICAL EURYMACHOS.
EUMAIOS RETURNS TO HIS HUT AND ODYSSEUS RESUMES HIS DISGUISE.
1. Analyze the simile in ll.17-29 in light of its context.
2. How does Athene manage the scene of Odysseus revelation of himself to Telemachos?
How does Odysseus present himself to his son? What is the reaction of Telemachos to this
news? Analyze the simile in ll.213-19. (155ff).
3. Describe the plan of Odysseus for revenge against the suitors. What quality, above all, is
required of both Odysseus and Telemachos for this plan to succeed?
4. At their assembly, the suitors debate their next move(361-405). What are the
suggestions of Antinoos and Amphinomos? How is Eurymachos characterized (434-49)?
TERMS: Antinoos, Amphinomos, Eurymachos
BOOK 17: ODYSSEUS ARRIVES AT THE PALACE AND TESTS THE SUITORS BY BEGGING.
FIRST, TELEMACHOS RETURNS TO TOWN AND IS WELCOMED HOME BY PENELOPE.
THEOCLYMENOS PROPHECIES THAT ODYSSEUS HAS ALREADY REACHED ITHAKA. EUMAIOS
AND ODYSSEUS GO TO TOWN. ODYSSEUS’ ENCOUNTER WITH THE EVIL GOATHERD
MELANTHIOS. EUMAIOS ENTERS THE PALACE SOON AFTER ODYSSEUS. BOTH ARE
INSULTED BY ANTINOOS. PENELOPE ASKS FOR AN INTERVIEW WITH THE BEGGAR.
1.Why is Penelope left “speechless” by Telemachos’ response to her welcome? (line 36-57)
2.What is the substance of Theoklymenos’ prophecy? How does Penelope react to it? (149-
3. Contrast the goatherd Melanthios’ treatment of the disguised Odysseus with that of
Eumaios, the swineherd. How does Odysseus react to his mistreatment? (211-90)
4. Identify Argos. How does he symbolize the situation of Odysseus? (290-327)
5. Why does the disguised Odysseus beg from the suitors? Analyze the response of
Antinoos, Odysseus’ lying manipulation of him; Odysseus’ and the others’ reactions to his
6. Why does Penelope summon the stranger for an interview (505-540)?
7. Telemachos’ sneeze. What does it portend? (541--47)
8. What does the disguised Odysseus’ response to Penelope’s invitation say about his self-
TERMS: Medon, Melanthios, Argos
BOOK 18: IROS THE BEGGAR TAUNTS ODYSSEUS TO A CONTEST AND IS FELLED WITH ONE
BLOW. ODYSSEUS TRIES TO WARN AMPHINOMOS. PENELOPE APPEARS AND ELICITS GIFTS
FROM THE SUITORS. MELANTHO INSULTS ODYSSEUS AND EURYMACHOS THROWS AT
STOOL AT HIM.
GRADUALLY IN BOOKS 17 AND 18 ODYSSEUS MOVES FROM A SCORNED BEGGAR TO
AN ENIGMATIC FIGURE OF AWE; THE MORE THE SUITORS ABUSE HIM, THE MORE HIS
MORAL STATURE IS ENHANCED. THE SUITORS BECOME AFRAID OF HIM AND BY BOOK 21
THEY ARE QUITE CERTAIN THAT HE CAN STRING THE BOW WHICH THEY CANNOT. THE
MOVEMENT IS ANALOGOUS TO THE RISE OF ODYSSEUS’ STATURE ON PHAIAKIA IN BOOKS
7 AND 8.
1. Compare the encounter between Odysseus and Iros (18.1- 107)to the conflict between
Odysseus and Euryalos in Phaiakia (8.140-234,400-406). How does the fate of Iros
foreshadow the fate of the suitors?
2. What might be the effect of Odysseus’ warning to Amphinomos on the listener’s reception
of the bloody slaughter to follow (124-157)?
3. Penelope gets the idea of showing herself to the suitors and Athene makes her beautiful.
Analyze her revelation to the suitors (250ff). What is she doing in this scene? What effect
does it have on the narrative? How does the disguised Odysseus react to her actions?
4. What is the point of the scene between Odysseus and the serving woman Melantho (304-
5. How do the suitors react to the verbal duel between Eurymachos and Odysseus(346-
TERMS: Iros, Amphinomos, Melantho, Eurymachos
BOOK 19. EVENING OF THE SAME DAY. ODYSSEUS AND TELEMACHUS REMOVE ALL ARMS
FROM THE HALL. ODYSSEUS AND PENELOPE CONVERSE. EURYKLEIA RECOGNIZES
ODYSSEUS BY THE SCAR AS SHE WASHES THE DISGUISED BEGGAR’S FEET. STORY OF THE
BOAR HUNT. PENELOPE TELLS ODYSSEUS OF HER DREAM AND PROPOSES TRIAL OF THE
BOW. ODYSSEUS (STILL DISGUISED) ENCOURAGES HER TO SET THE CONTEST.
THE INTERPRETATION OF THIS SCENE TURNS ON HOW WE TAKE THE POET’S
REMARK THAT ATHENE DISTRACTED PENELOPE’S ATTENTION WHILE THE INCIDENT WITH
EURYKLEIA OCCURRED. IF ATHENE IS AN OUTSIDE FORCE, THEN PENELOPE KNOWS
NOTHING. IF ATHENE IS AN EXPRESSION/PROJECTION OF PENELOPE’S NATURAL WIT,
THEN PRUDENT PENELOPE DECIDED THAT IT WAS PRUDENT FOR HER NOT TO KNOW THE
IDENTITY OF THE BEGGAR (BUT HOW THEN DO WE EXPLAIN THE RECOGNITION SCENE IN
BOOK 23?) AND THE REST OF THE CONVERSATION BETWEEN HER AND ODYSSEUS IS
FASCINATING DOUBLE TALK. THE BOAR HUNT DIGRESSION ILLUSTRATES ODYSSEUS AS A
CHILD OF WOE WHO LIVES UP TO THE MEANING OF HIS OWN NAME: ODUSSEIN=TO
INFLICT AND ENDURE PAIN. THUS HE MAKES HIMSELF FELT AND HE EXPERIENCES
HIMSELF: WE SUFFER ALONE AND WE LEARN WHO WE ARE THROUGH SUFFERING.
IN THE CONVERSATION BETWEEN PENELOPE AND THE DISGUISED ODYSSEUS, THE
THEMES OF REUNION AND REVENGE MERGE.
1. Analyze the conversation between Penelope and the disguised Odysseus (100ff). What do
they tell each other about themselves? What lie does Odysseus tell Penelope(165ff)? How
does she react to his story? How does Odysseus react to her tears? How does she test the
disguised Odysseus? How does she react to his certain proofs? How does Penelope react to
his oath of Odysseus’ imminent return (300ff)?
Are these two playing clever games or does Penelope not recognize her husband in the
2. Analyze the ring composition in lines 392-467.
3. Carefully analyze the dialogue between Penelope and the disguised Odysseus,ll. 508-599.
What motivates Penelope to set the contest of the bow?
BOOK 20: PENELOPE AND ODYSSEUS SLEEP APART, STRANGELY DISTURBED AND EXCITED.
PREPARATION FOR FESTIVAL OF APOLLO THE ARCHER GOD. ODYSSEUS IS SUBJECTED TO
FURTHER INSULTS. THE SEER THEOKLYMENOS DEPARTS, WARNING OF IMMINENT
DISASTER. THEOKLYMENOS IS THE ONLY EXAMPLE OF ECSTATIC PROPHECY IN HOMER.
HIS PROPHECY IS HORRIFIC, NOT AT ALL LIKE READING BIRD PORTENTS.
1. Note emphasis on Odysseus’ virtue of self control in ll.9-24.
2. Note homely simile, ll.25-30.
3. Note Odysseus, ever suspicious, even of Athena, 30-54.
4. Penelope no longer able to find oblivion in sleep is disturbed by the stranger, and
wakened from her apathy attempts to retreat to her earlier less painful period (65-91).
5. Note portent, in ll.102-119 and the prayer of the serving woman which locates Odysseus’
revenge under a wider scope of justice than touches all humanity.
6. Philoitios, an oxherd and new character enters and converses with the disguised
Odysseus. What is the point of Odysseus response to his question in ll. 217-234?
7. Note omen and its interpretation by Amphinomos, 240-246.
8. What is the reaction of the suitors to Telemachos’ new assertiveness, 257-275.
9. What is the point of the outrage of Ktesippos vs. Odysseus, 284-319?
10. Note the surrealistic portent in 345-357.
11. Again, note justification of Odysseus’ revenge, 394.
TERMS: Eurykleia, Eumaios, Melanthios, Philoitios, Ktesippos.
BOOK 21: PRELUDE TO CRISIS. THE BOW IS PRODUCED. PENELOPE WILL MARRY
WHOEVER CAN STRING IT AND SHOOT THROUGH THE AXES. THE CONTEST IS EQUIVALENT
TO A BRIDAL CONTEST. SUITORS FAIL TO STRING IT. ODYSSEUS REVEALS SELF TO
EUMAIOS AND PHILOITIOS. ASKS FOR BOW. SUITORS OBJECT BUT TELEMACHOS ORDERS
EUMAIOS TO GIVE THE BOW TO THE DISGUISED ODYSSEUS. HE STRINGS IT WITH EASE
AND SHOOTS THE ARROW THROUGH THE AXES.
1. Note ring composition, 15-41.
2. Why does Penelope weep in ll.55-57.
3. What could be the significance of Telemachos’ first failed attempt to string his father’s
4. Comment on Penelope’s intervention on behalf of the stranger (311-342). Does this mean
than she knows his identity?
5. Note final portent in 413.
BOOK 22: ODYSSEUS SHOOTS THE BRAGGART ANTINOOS AND REVEALS HIMSELF. WILY
EURYMACHOS ATTEMPTS UNSUCCESSFULLY TO APPEASE HIM, BUT IS SECOND TO PERISH.
SUITORS ARE ROUTED, THEN RALLY WHEN GIVEN ARMS BY MELANTHIOS. ATHENE AS
MENTOR APPEARS TO ENCOURAGE ODYSSEUS. SUITORS ARE ALL KILLED. PHEMIOS, THE
BARD, AND MEDON, THE HERALD, ARE SPARED. EURYKLEIA SUMMONED AND GLOATS. SHE
SENDS FOR THE DISLOYAL MAIDS WHO ARE FORCED TO CARRY OUT THE BODIES OF THE
SUITORS, THEIR LOVERS, AND THEN ARE THEMSELVES HANGED. RITUAL PURIFICATION
WITH SULPHER. ODYSSEUS SENDS FOR PENELOPE.
1. Note epic simile in lines 297-309.
2. Why does Odysseus spare the bard Phemios and herald Medon, 330-377?
3. Note epic simile 381-89.
4.Compare Odysseus explanation for the destruction of the suitors (413-417) with Zeus’
remarks in Book 1 (32-43).
BOOK 23: REUNION SCENE OF ODYSSEUS AND PENELOPE. PENELOPE TESTS ODYSSEUS
UNTIL HE BREAKS ON THE SECRET OF THE BED. THE PAIR GO TO BED TOGETHER AND
ODYSSEUS TELLS PENELOPE OF HIS ADVENTURES (N.B. HE OMITS NAUSIKAA). AT DAWN
ODYSSEUS PREPARES TO LEAVE FOR HIS FATHER’S FARM IN THE COUNTRY WHERE HE
WILL PLAN HOW TO DEAL WITH THE INJURED FAMILIES OF THE SLAIN SUITORS.
1.Try to explain Penelope’s reaction to the reappearance of Odysseus?
Ho w does she react to the news from Eurykleia (1-84)?
How does she react to the sight of Odysseus (85-95)?
How does she react to the words of Telemachos (96-116)?
How does she react to Odysseus’ words and restored appearance (153-170)?
How does she explain her own reactions (205-230)
Note reverse simile in 233-39 recalling Od.5.394-98.
2. Note resurfacing of wedding theme, 129-152.
3. If you were telling this story, where (in this book) might you put the ending?
BOOK 24: SOULS OF THE SUITORS ARE CONDUCTED TO HADES. SUITORS’ FAMILIES FIGHT
ODYSSEUS. DESCRIPTION OF ACHILLES’ FUNERAL. AGAMEMNON CONTRASTS PENELOPE
WITH CLYTEMNESTRA (FOR THE LAST TIME). MEANWHILE ODYSSEUS VISITS LAERTES,
TESTS HIM, THEN REVEALS HIMSELF. AT AN ASSEMBLY IN ITHAKA, RELATIVES OF THE
DEAD SUITORS PREVAIL AND WAR DECLARED. EUPEITHES, FATHER OF ANTINOOS, LEADS
THE ITHAKANS AGAINST ODYSSEUS’ PART. COUNCIL IN HEAVEN. EUPEITHES IS KILLED BY
LAERTES. FATHER, SON AND GRANDSON FIGHT SIDE BY SIDE. ITHAKANS ROUTED.
ATHENA, DEUS EX MACHINA, RESTORES PEACE.
NOTE 5 SCENES IN THIS BOOK:
1. UNDERWORLD:ACHILLES, AGAMEMNON, AND SUITORS
2. LAERTES AND ODYSSEUS’ REUNION
3. COUNCIL IN ITHAKA OF THE SUITORS’ FAMILY
4. ASSEMBLY OF GODS
5. FIGHTING AND RECONCILIATION IN ITHAKA
How, in your opinion, does this book tie together the themes of the Odyssey? Or doesn’t it?
Perhaps the poet should have stopped at Book 23?
1. Note Hermes in his role of psychopomp, guide of the dead to the underworld.(1.1)
2. Achilles and Agamemnon make their peace in the Underworld (in an allusion to the theme
of the Iliad) (15-34).
3. Description of Achilles funeral. Achilles vindicated at last; he had a better death, one that
fit him and vindicated his heroism in contrast with the miserable end of Agamemnon who
made such a fuss over kleos in life (36-94).
4. What is the relevance of this 2nd nekuia scene in the underworld to the story of the
5. Note final version of the story of the Odyssey as told by the slain suitor Amphimedon to
Agamemnon (125-191) in a recap of Odyssey Books 13-24.
6. Note final praise of Penelope, this time in the mouth of Agamemnon, finalizing the
parallels/and contrasts between Penelope and Clytemnestra (191-202).
7. Analyze Odysseus’ approach to reunion with his father (205-350) in this final
arrival/reception scene of the poem.
8. What positions do the parents of the suitors take in the final assembly scene of the poem
9. Note the final assembly of the gods (472-486) paralleling the opening assembly in Book
10. How is the conflict in Ithaka finally resolved?