The Odyssey Major Work Data Sheet
Title/Author: The OdysseyBy: HomerDate of Publication/Genre: unknown; epic poem| Biographical information about the author: Next to nothing is known about Homer. He probably lived in the late eighth and early seventh centuries. He was blind and he also composed Iliad. | Historical information on the period of publication: The time was very influential to the story. During this time, all stories were passed on by word of mouth. People who were gifted with a silver tongue were held in high regard at that time. Songs were told almost as though they were singing them.
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Some people of high power would blind people that had a knack for telling so that the story teller would keep telling stories to them. Also, people didn’t have many explanations for things today, such as how the sun moved, why the weather changes, etc. , so a lot of people back then believed this. It was basically a religion to them. | Characteristics of the genre: An epic poem is a lengthy narrative poem that usually tells about a serious subject containing details of heroic deeds and events significant to a culture or nation. Plot Summary: Ten years have passed since the fall of Troy, and the Greek hero Odysseus still has not returned to his kingdom in Ithaca. A large and rowdy mob of suitors who have overrun Odysseus’s palace and pillaged his land continue to court his wife, Penelope. She has remained faithful to Odysseus. Prince Telemachus, Odysseus’s son, wants desperately to throw them out but does not have the confidence or experience to fight them. One of the suitors, Antinous, plans to assassinate the young prince, eliminating the only opposition to their dominion over the palace.
He plans to ambush him. Unknown to the suitors, Odysseus is still alive. The beautiful nymph Calypso, possessed by love for him, has imprisoned him on her island, Ogygia. He longs to return to his wife and son, but he has no ship or crew to help him escape. On Mount Olympus, Zeus sends Hermes to rescue Odysseus from Calypso while Poseidon was on a trip to Africa. Hermes persuades Calypso to let Odysseus build a ship and leave. The homesick hero sets sail, but when Poseidon, god of the sea, finds him sailing home when he had gotten back from Africa, he sends a storm to wreck Odysseus’s ship.
Poseidon has harbored a bitter grudge against Odysseus since the hero blinded his son, the Cyclops Polyphemus, earlier in his travels. Athena intervenes to save Odysseus from Poseidon’s wrath, and the beleaguered king lands at Scheria, home of the Phaeacians. Nausicaa, the Phaeacian princess, shows him to the royal palace, and Odysseus receives a warm welcome from the king and queen. When he identifies himself as Odysseus, his hosts, who have heard of his exploits at Troy, are stunned. They promise to give him safe passage to Ithaca, but first they beg to hear the story of his adventures.
His tale begins after the end of the Trojan War. On his way back home, he lands on the Island of the Lotus Eaters. The Lotus Eaters were not hostile and only offered the native lotus of the island to eat, but the plant made whoever ate lazy and want nothing to do but lie around and eat the lotus. Odysseus had gotten all of his men that had eaten the lotus and tied them down to the boat. He then called for the rest of his men to get back on the boat. Odysseus and his men then land on an island close to the island of the Cyclopes. He takes one ship and a crew of men to the island of the Cyclopes.
After they land, they find a cave, which Cyclopes live in. In the cave, there is an abundance of food and sheep. The crew members say that they should take the food and livestock and leave, but Odysseus wants to see the Cyclops. They wait for the Cyclops. When the Cyclops does come, he takes a giant boulder and blocks the entrance with it. Odysseus asks the Cyclops for gifts since they are his guests; it is common curtsey to give your guests gifts. The name of the Cyclops is Polyphemus. The Cyclops doesn’t agree and by the next day, he eats 6 of Odysseus’s crew.
Odysseus and his men can’t kill the Cyclops because they can’t move the boulder blocking the exit. Odysseus comes up with a plan. While the Cyclops is out grazing his sheep, blocking the entrance again when he and his sheep were out, Odysseus and his men make a spear. Once the Cyclops comes back, Odysseus gives him wine. The Cyclops asks Odysseus’s name and he says his name is Nobdy. Polyphemus then said that for the wine that he would eat Nobdy last. After more wine, Polyphemus falls asleep. Odysseus and his men then get out the spear that they had made earlier.
They had put it over the fire that Polyphemus had to toughen it. They then had stabbed Polyphemus in the eye with the spear. In agony, Polyphemus had shouted in agony to his fellow Cyclopes. He had told them that ‘Nobdy’ had tricked him. The other Cyclopes had left after hearing him say that. Afterward, for Odysseus and his men to get out of the cave, when Polyphemus had let his sheep out of the cave to graze, Odysseus had tied the sheep into bundles for him and his men to rid under as the sheep left the cave so that Polyphemus wouldn’t know that they eft. They then gathered up Polyphemus’s sheep and went to their boat. However, as they were paddling away from the island, Odysseus taunted Polyphemus. Polyphemus threw the top of a hill at them in rage. It barely missed, but the wave had almost put them right back at the shore. They paddled back out into open water. Odysseus was about to taunt Polyphemus again, and though the crew begged him not to, he taunted him again. His time he had told Polyphemus his real name, his father and where he comes from.
Polyphemus cursed Odysseus by praying to his father, Poseidon (this is the reason Poseidon hates Odysseus), to not allow Odysseus to be able to see his home again, and if he did, that it would be a long time from then with no companions. It would be so that if he ever made it home, it would be an unfamiliar place. Odysseus and his crew get back to their companions and they set off. They then landed on the island of Aeolia, ruled by Aeolus, the God of Wind. Aeolus helps Odysseus by sealing all of the bad winds into a sack so that there would only be a west wind to get Odysseus back home.
After days, Ithaca was in site. Odysseus fell asleep with Ithaca in site. However, the crew was curious about what was in the sack, thinking that Odysseus was keeping loot from them, so as Odysseus slept; the crew opened the sack, letting out all of the bad winds. They were sent all the way back to Aeolia, where Aeolus would not help them a second time. Their journey then lead them the land of the Laestrygonians, a race of carnivorous creature, that eat all of Odysseus’s men and ships expect for the ship he was on along with the crew on the ship.
Afterward, they land upon the island of Aeaea, ruled by the goddess Circe. Odysseus had sent a group of scouts to explore the area, but only one had come back. He had told Odysseus that Circe had turned the rest of the group into swine and that he had barely escaped. Odysseus goes to help his men. Hermes had given him a plant that would protect him from the spell of Circe. When Circe had tried to cast her spell on him, Odysseus threated to kill her with his sword. She surrendered and turned his men back to normal. Odysseus had stayed with Circe for 1 year as her lover.
As he left, Circe said that he must go to the Underworld to speak to the blind prophet, Tiresias and that Odysseus would have to go past the Sirens, where only he could hear their song. Then, they would pass Charybdis, a giant whirlpool, and the Scylla, many- headed beast; that they must go toward the Scylla and to not fight back. Odysseus went to the Underworld where Tiresias told Odysseus that he would return home, but he and his crew could not eat Helios’s cattle. After Odysseus talks with Tiresias, they go through what Circe said they would. When they had sailed, near the Scylla, Odysseus lost 6 men.
They then arrived at island of Thrinacia, ruled by Helios, the god of the sun. Odysseus told the men that they must keep going, but a member of the crew named Eurylochus complained on how much they have been through and demanded that they land. Odysseus agreed, but only after every crew member had sworn that they would not eat Helios’s cattle. They could not be able to leave the island for a month because of bad weather. The crew had tried to keep their promise. They had eaten all the food they had on the ship. They tried to sustain themselves by fishing.
One day, Odysseus had traveled to the other side of the island to pray to the gods, where they put Odysseus to sleep. Meanwhile, Eurylochus talks the crew into breaking their promise and eating Helios’s cattle reasoning that they would give the best parts of the meat as an offering and that when they returned home that they would build an expensive shrine in Helios’s honor. If Helios still didn’t forgive him, he reasoned that it would be better than dying of starvation. The crew kills the cattle and start cooking it Odysseus wakes up. He sees what the crew is doing. He is furious.
Lampetia, a demi-god and daughter of Helios, tells Helios that Odysseus’s men are beating his cattle. Helios is furious; he threatens Zeus saying that he must take vengeance on the men for him or he will take the sun down to the Underworld. Zeus reassures Helios that he will take out their last boat with a single thunderbolt. The cattle skin that the crew had skinned started to crawl like they were alive and the meat they were cooking mooed on the spit as omens. After 7 days of eating the cattle, they set out on a sunny day. As they were out at sea, Zeus had destroyed their final ship with a single thunderbolt.
Odysseus was the only one that survived. He then lands on the island of Calypso, bringing the story full circle. The Phaeacians return Odysseus to Ithaca, though the ship that took Odysseus home was turned to stone on the return trip by Poseidon because they got Odysseus home. Athena meets Odysseus and tells him about the suitors. He seeks out the hut of his faithful swineherd, Eumaeus. Though Athena has disguised Odysseus as a beggar, Eumaeus warmly receives and nourishes him in the hut. He soon encounters Telemachus, who has returned despite the suitors’ ambush, and reveals to him his true identity.
Telemachus does not believe Odysseus at first saying that was a god since Athena had turned him around to what he looked like 20 years ago, but he soon believes him and Odysseus tells Telemachus to count the suitors to see if they can take them on themselves. When Odysseus arrives at the palace the next day, still disguised as a beggar, he endures abuse and insults from the suitors. The only person who recognizes him is his old nurse, Eurycleia, but she swears not to disclose his secret. Odysseus goes around asking for scraps of food from the suitors and they all give him some, except for one suitor named Antonius.
Odysseus says how Antonius will not give him a little of his abundant food that is not even his. In rage, Antonius throws a chair at Odysseus. One suitor says that Antonius shouldn’t be so rude since gods sometimes come in disguise to test peoples’ manners and he doesn’t know if it might be a god in disguise. Penelope, Odysseus’s wife, hears the noise and knows that it is Antonius. She is interested in the beggar thinking that he might know something, of Odysseus. She asks one of her servants to bring the beggar to her. Meanwhile, another beggar attempts to bully Odysseus.
Antonius mocking arranges a boxing match. Odysseus wins the match. Telemachus tells all the suitors to get out. Surprised that Telemachus ordered them, they left. Telemachus and Odysseus get rid of all the weapons in the halls. Odysseus then goes to Penelope. She asks the beggar (Odysseus) where he came from. He didn’t answer saying he didn’t want to have to bring up bad memories. She tells him how she had tried to keep the suitors at bay all the years. She had told the suitors that she understood that Odysseus was dead, but she had to make a burial shroud for him; once she finished it, she would pick a suitor.
By day she would weave the shroud and by night, she would unweave it once again. She was able to keep the suitors at bay for about 3 years by doing this, but one night a suitor caught her tearing up the shroud, so being kept from tearing the shroud up again, she had finished the shroud. She has gotten tried. It has taken her all she has to keep them down for so long. The next day, she comes out to meet the suitors with a servant carrying a quiver of arrows and more carrying 12 axe heads. She tells the suitors that whoever can be able to string Odysseus’s old hunting bow and shot an arrow through all 12 axe head, she will marry.
All the suitors try to do it, but they fail. Odysseus steps outside with two servants named Eumaeus and Philoetius, and tells them that he is Odysseus. Odysseus, still as the beggar, asks to try. Telemachus gets all of the women to leave the room and Philoetius locks all the gates to the hallways. Odysseus strings the bow and shoots the arrow through all 12 of the arrow heads. Odysseus puts on the quiver and Telemachus also gets ready for battle. Odysseus shot an arrow through Antonius’s throat. The suitors were in an uproar, thinking that the shot was unintentional. Odysseus tells the suitors that he is Odysseus.
The suitors are terrified. A suitor tries to sway Odysseus saying that Antonius was the leader and that they would pay him back, but Odysseus refused. A suitor, named Eurymachus, told the other to attack, but then Odysseus killed him with an arrow. Telemachus killed another suitor; then he got spears and arrows as Odysseus was running out of arrows. The servants armed themselves as well. Athena also came to help. They killed all the suitors. The old nurse told Penelope that Odysseus had returned and the suitors were dead, but Penelope was still not convinced. Athena had turned Odysseus back to his original self.
Penelope went to Odysseus. They sat next to each other, not talking. Telemachus told his mother how cruel she had to be to not even talk to her husband when he has come back after so long. She tells him how she has to make sure that it is really Odysseus and some imposter, like a god trying to trick her. Penelope told the maid to move the bed outside of Odysseus’s and her room for him to sleep in. Odysseus was furious since he had made the bed himself, using a tree as one of the bed posts, thinking that someone may have messed with it. Penelope was overwhelmed with joy, now knowing it was really Odysseus.
Penelope had not let anyone see their bed, so only Odysseus and she knew that. Once that was resolved, Odysseus had told the servants to put some light music on, get the women to adorn themselves, as though Penelope had chosen one of the suitors, since they had to hide that they killed the suitors for the time being and no one would suspect anything. The next day, Odysseus was reunited with father, Lartes, as news of the dead suitors passed through town. Family of the suitors went to get the bodies. Antonius’s father rallied the family member to avenge the death of their sons and brothers.
As the battle begins however, Athena appears and calls the island to peace. | Describe author’s style: Homer had told this story many times, each one having its own variations. He had told his songs with a certain rhyme, almost singing the story. He also repeats certain words or phrases throughout the story to be able remember everything. | Examples that demonstrate the style(s): The reason that it doesn’t seem very smooth in English because the story was originally in another language, so it isn’t as rhythmic. In the story, Homer constantly refers to Zeus as ‘Zeus, son of Kronos’ and other phrases. Memorable Quotes| Quote(s)| Significance/explanation(s):| 1. ‘Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns driven time and again off course, once he had plundered the hallowed heights of Troy. Many cities of men he saw and learned their minds, many pains he suffered, heartsick on the open sea, fighting to save his life and bring his comrades home. But he could not save them from disaster, hard as he strove-the recklessness of their own ways destroyed them all, the blind fools, they devoured the cattle of the Sun and the Sun god blotted out the day of their return.
Launch out on his story, Muse, daughter of Zeus, start from where you will-sing for our time too. ’2. ‘So then,royal son of Laertes, Odysseus, man of exploits,still eager to leave at once and hurry backto your own home, your beloved native land? Good luck to you, even so. Farewell! But if you only knew, down deep, what painsare fated to fill your cup before you reach that shore,you’d stay right here, preside in our house with meand be immortal. Much as you long to see your wife,the one you pine for all your days . . . ’| 1. With these words the Odyssey begins. The poet asks for inspiration from the Muse and imagines her singing through him.
An ancient epic poem states at the outset, in capsule form, the subject of the work to follow, and this epic is no exception. 2. Calypso makes this final plea to Odysseus in Book 5, begging him to stay with her, and her temptation trumps all those Odysseus has seen before. She not only promises to save him from having to face future woes but to give him what no other human character in the Odyssey has: immortality. But Odysseus is not interested. All he wants is his home and wife, even though he admits in ensuing lines that Penelope cannot match Calypso in beauty. Calypso’s plea embodies the tension in Odysseus’s journey.
He wants to see his wife and home again, but he also presumably wants all the tempting things Calypso has to offer. That she asks him one last time whether he wants to leave suggests (even if the question is just rhetorical) that she knows her offer is tempting, but the fact that Odysseus can refuse it and embrace all the “pains” she foretells shows how compelling his homecoming really is. | Characters| Name| Role in the story| Significance| Adjectives| Odysseus| Main character, protagonist| Odysseus has the defining character traits of a Homeric leader: strength, courage, nobility, a thirst for glory, and confidence in his authority.
His most distinguishing trait, however, is his sharp intellect. Odysseus’s quick thinking helps him out of some very tough situations, as when he escapes from the cave of the Cyclops in Book 9, or when he hides his slaughter of the suitors by having his minstrel strike up a wedding tune in Book 23. He is also a convincing, articulate speaker and can win over or manipulate his audience with ease. Like other Homeric heroes, Odysseus longs to win kleos (“glory” won through great deeds), but he also wishes to complete his nostos (“homecoming”). He enjoys his luxurious life with Calypso in an exotic land, but only to a point.
Eventually, he wants to return home, even though he admits that his wife cannot compare with Calypso. He thinks of home throughout the time he spends with the Phaeacians and also while on Circe’s island. Sometimes his glory-seeking gets in the way of his home-seeking, however. He waits too long in the cave of Polyphemus, enjoying the free milk and cheese he finds, and is trapped there when the Cyclops returns. Homeric characters are generally static. Though they may be very complex and realistic, they do not change over the course of the work as characters in modern novels and stories do. Odysseus and especially Telemachus break this rule.
Early in his adventures, Odysseus’s love of glory prompts him to reveal his identity to the Cyclops and bring Poseidon’s wrath down on him. By the end of the epic, he seems much more willing to temper pride with patience. Disguised as a beggar, he does not immediately react to the abuse he receives from the suitors. Instead, he endures it until the traps he has set and the loyalties he has secured put him in a position from which he can strike back effectively. | Brave, strong, cunning| Telemachus| Odysseus’s son| Just an infant when his father left for Troy, Telemachus is still maturing when the Odyssey begins.
He is wholly devoted to his mother and to maintaining his father’s estate, but he does not know how to protect them from the suitors. After all, it has only been a few years since he first realized what the suitors’ intentions were. Telemachus never fully matches his father’s talents, at least not by the Odyssey’s conclusion. He has a stout heart and an active mind, and sometimes even a bit of a temper, but he never schemes with the same skill or speaks with quite the same fluency as Odysseus. Brave, clever, smart| Penelope| Odysseus’s wife| Though she has not seen Odysseus in twenty years, and despite pressure the suitors place on her to remarry, Penelope never loses faith in her husband. Her cares make her somewhat flighty and excitable, however. For this reason, Odysseus, Telemachus, and Athena often prefer to leave her in the dark about matters rather than upset her. Athena must distract her, for instance, so that she does not discover Odysseus’s identity when Eurycleia is washing him. Athena often comes to her in dreams to reassure or comfort her, for Penelope would otherwise spend her nights weeping in her bed.
Though her love for Odysseus is unyielding, she responds to the suitors with some indecision. She never refuses to remarry outright. Instead, she puts off her decision and leads them on with promises that she will choose a new husband as soon as certain things happen. Her astute delaying tactics reveal her sly and artful side. The notion of not remarrying until she completes a burial shroud that she will never complete cleverly buys her time. Similarly, some commentators claim that her decision to marry whomever wins the archery contest of Book 21 results from her awareness that only her husband can win it.
Some even claim that she recognizes her husband before she admits it to him in Book 23. | Smart, loyal, hopeful| Athena| Goddess of Wisdom and helps Odysseus| As goddess of wisdom and battle, Athena naturally has a soft spot for the brave and wily Odysseus. She helps him out of many tough situations, including his shipwreck in Book 5 and the mismatched battle of Book 22. She does not merely impart sense and safety to her passive charge, however. She takes an interest in Odysseus for the talents he already has and actively demonstrates.
Although she reassures Odysseus during the battle with the suitors, she does not become fully involved, preferring instead to watch Odysseus fight and prevail on his own. | Confident, practical, clever| Setting:| Significance of the opening scene:| Odysseus’s wanderings cover the Aegean and surrounding seas and eventually end in Ithaca, in northwestern Greece during the 12th century B. C. , around 20 years pass in the book| The narrator of the Odyssey invokes the Muse, asking for inspiration as he prepares to tell the story of Odysseus. | Symbol(s):| Significance of the ending/closing scene:|
Food- They represent lack of discipline or submission to temptation, as when Odysseus tarries in the cave of the Cyclops, when his men slaughter the Sun’s flocks, or when they eat the fruit of the lotus. The suitors, moreover, are constantly eating. symbols of temptation (Circe, the lotus, the Sirens’ song, the cattle of the Sun)The Wedding Bed- The wedding bed symbolizes the constancy of Penelope and Odysseus’s marriage. Only a single maidservant has ever seen the bed, and it is where the happy couple spends its first night in each other’s arms since Odysseus’s departure for Troy twenty years earlier.
The symbolism is heightened by the trick that Penelope uses to test Odysseus, which revolves around the immovability of their bed-a metaphor for the unshakable foundation of their love. | Like any ending, the scene is to give closure to the story. It ties up what the family members of the suitors would say to their relatives being slaughtered, what the result of the battle was between the family members and Odysseus and his men and how it was resolved. | Possible Themes| * The power of cunning over strength * the pitfalls of temptation * the tension between goals and obstacles * the misery of separation * maturation as a journey|