A Student Guide for Homer: The Odyssey by Jasper Griffin

By Jasper Griffin

This useful advisor to The Odyssey introduces scholars to a textual content which has been basic to literature for almost 3,000 years. offering a precis of the poem and reading its constitution, Jasper Griffin truly outlines the harmony, values and strategies of the poem, in addition to the explanations for its longstanding attraction. scholars will detect the fundamental topics of loyalty and betrayal, and may be guided during the narrative of Odysseus' adventures, as well as a important advisor to additional studying. First version Hb (1987): 0-521-32804-7 First variation Pb (1987): 0-521-31043-1

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Eumaeus brings Odysseus to the house. They meet the wicked goatherd Melanthius, who serves and supports the Suitors: he insults Odysseus. As they approach the house, the old dog Argus recognises his master and dies. Odysseus begs for food from the Suitors. Antinous, a leading Suitor, throws a footstool at him. Book 18 The boastful poltroon Irus, a professional beggar, insults Odysseus: in a boxing match Odysseus knocks him out. Penelope comes in to show herself to the Suitors and extract handsome presents from them.

But the episode does have a function in our Odyssey. This is Penelope’s first appearance to her husband, and he sees her not as tearful and miserable but as glamorous, irresistible, twisting the Suitors round her finger. This is her moment of glory, not as lachrymose grass widow or anxious mother but as triumphant beauty. The rather rough edges where it joins the main plot did not greatly worry the poet. Our Odyssey emerges from a long tradition. At moments in it we catch glimpses of other possibilities and other versions: sometimes earlier, like the first conception of Book Eleven; sometimes perhaps later, like the idea of sending the heroes off to Crete (and, perhaps, replacing some of Odysseus’ frankly supernatural or fairytale adventures with more conventional heroism, raiding Egypt); sometimes, for all we can tell, of the same age but a slightly different turn, like the two versions of the meeting of Odysseus and Penelope.

From that tremendous climax of remoteness the hero must somehow return. The decision that the Odyssey should be set ten years after the fall of Troy – the figure strongly recalling the ten years of war at Troy which have elapsed before the Iliad – meant that most of Odysseus’ adventures would have to be told retrospectively. It would be highly anti-climactic to narrate all that after the killing of the Suitors and the dissipating of tension, so a place needed to be found where the stories could be unpacked at leisure.

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