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Penelope

  • Date Submitted: 03/27/2012 10:14 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 31.8 
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To what extent do Penelope’s character and actions, as told by Homer, make her similar or different to other women in Greek mythology?

Although Homer’s epic poem “The Odyssey” revolves around the Greek hero Odysseus’ journey home from the Trojan War, illustrating patriarchal dominion in the divine and human realms, it further portrays the significant role of women in the determination of the fate of men. Penelope, Odysseus’ wife, mother of his son Telemachus and daughter of Icarius of Sparta is portrayed as a most enigmatic woman endowed with a soul of loyalty, wisdom and beauty. She is comparable to the likes of Clytemnestra, Calypso, Circe, Hera, Nausicaa, Arete, Aphrodite, Athena, Sirens, Scylla, Charybdis, Alkmene, Pandora, Helen and Anticlea. Back on the island of Ithaca, whilst mourning her separation from Odysseus, Penelope is threatened by over a hundred suitors swarming the palace to court her, feasting on and depleting the resources of King Odysseus and scheming to kill Telemachus.  

The intimate and familial love shared between Penelope and Odysseus left her grief-stricken in his twenty-year absence yet simultaneously it empowered her to remain steadfastly faithful. Her fidelity and unwillingness to remarry enables her to anchor the kingship of Ithaca as her status as queen would have established her future husband as king. (Penelope, Virtuous Wife of Odysseus, 1999)

Penelope’s devotion to Odysseus distinguishes her from her cousin Queen Clytemnestra who echoes her situation but is tempted into a love affair with Aegisthus, the son of Thyestes and Agamemnon’s cousin, ultimately killing Agamemnon upon his glorious return.   Exploiting her personal superiority over Agamemnon, she forces him to walk the purple carpet, a symbol of royalty, thereby making him commit hubris and exposing him to the citizens of Argos as an excessively proud king who is in disharmony with the divine powers and will inevitably be destroyed. Clytemnestra murders Agamemnon as he...

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