Penelope, Loyal Wife of Lord Odysseus While Penelope is not the principal character in Homer’s TheOdyssey, Odysseus’ perception of her is optimal. The relationship between them is not based onloyalty, we, the audience, have the privilege to understand his genuine feelings towards her. Throughout Odysseus’ journey, Homer assures us that he loves Penelope regardless of the fact that he has his episodes of infidelity. Homer also insinuates that Odysseus, although maybe not immediately, acknowledges the sacrifices that she makes for him.
He also elaborates that Penelope is dedicated to Odysseus by constantly reminding us of how she refuses to give up on her marriage and settle with one of the many suitors that plague her estate. Penelope proved herself to be a strong individual in The Odyssey. For years during Odysseus’ absence from his kingdom, unable to return home, there were men who contended against one another hoping that they would be able to take Odysseus’ place on his throne.
However, Penelope continued to wait for her husband to come home regardless of how unlikely it was that Odysseus would reclaim his title of king, all while allowing the possible replacements to believe that they have a chance as Antinous describes to Odysseus and Penelope’s only son: “ So high and mighty, Telemachus—such unbridled rage! Well now, fling your accusations at us? Think to pin the blame on us? You think again. It’s not the suitors here who deserve the blame, it’s your own dear mother, the matchless queen of cunning.
Look here. For three years now, getting on to four, she’s played it fast and loose with all our hearts, building each man’s hopes– dangling promises, dropping hints to each– but all the while with something else in mind. (Book 2: 90-100) This suggests that women of the society in Ancient Greece would be devoted and dependent on their husbands, but were also given options to pave their own paths. If tragedy were to strike, women would be able to do what they wanted to, in terms of choosing a new husband.
Throughout the epic poem, Penelope can be viewed as either active or passive—active, in the sense that she is content with being independent and not allowing the suitors to sway her mind towards choosing them, and passive, because she allows the same suitors to eat away at her possessions and also that she remains submissive as a loyal wife. However, the only constant that is guaranteed is that she does love and is loyal to Odysseus, as she reveals to a stranger, oblivious to the fact that it is her husband, in fact, in disguise: “ No, no, stranger,” wise Penelope demurred, “ whatever form and feature I Had, what praise I’d won, he deathless gods destroyed that day the Achaeans sailed away to Troy, my husband in their ships, Odysseus—if he could return to tend my life the renown I had would only grow in glory. Now my life is torment . . . look at the griefs some god has loosed against me! All the nobles who rule the islands round about, Dulichion, Same, and wooded Zacynthus too, and all who lord it in sunny Ithaca itself– they court me against my will, they lay waste my house. So I pay no heed to strangers, suppliants at my door, not even heralds out on their public errands here– I yearn for Odysseus, always, my heart pines away. Book 19: 138-51) It was also made clear to the suitors, even though they were being led on, that they understood that Penelope had no interest in substituting Odysseus, as explained by one of the murdered suitors: “ Famous Atrides! ” Amphimedon’s ghost called back. “ Lord of men, Agamemnon, I remember it all, your majesty, as you say, and I will tell you, start to finish now, the story of our death, the brutal end contrived to take us off. We were courting the wife of Odysseus, gone so long. She neither spurned nor embraced a marriage she despised, no, she simply planned our death, our black doom!
This was her latest masterpiece of guile: she set up a great loom in the royal halls and she began to wave, and the weaving finespun, the yarns endless, and she would lead us on: ‘ Young men, my suitors, now that King Odysseus is no more, go slowly, keen as you are to marry me, until I can finish off this web . . . so my weaving won’t all fray and come to nothing. This is a shroud for old lord Laertes, for that day when the deadly fate that lays us out at last will take him down. I dread the shame my countrywomen would heap upon me, yes, if a man of such wealth should lie in state without a shroud for cover. Her very words, and despite our pride and passion we believed her. So by day she’d weave at her great and growing web– by night, by the light of torches set beside her, she would unravel all she’d done. Three whole years she deceived us blind, seduced us with this scheme . . . (Book 24: 130-57) While Penelope can be deemed mischievous by those whom she had deceived, the result was that she was truly faithful to her husband, despite the amount of time she had to wait for him and aside from his lack of fidelity towards her. Works Cited Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York, 1996