Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Odyssey, Books 16 and 17

The Odyssey Father and Son

Why does Homer address Eumaeus? Example:

You answered him, Eumaeus, loyal swineherd, (68)
I don't recall this with any other character. Is it something special about Eumaeus? Is there a particular form that is fulfilled?

Telemachus meets Odysseus the stranger. Odysseus baits him a bit, saying if I were you, I'd kill all those suitors. And don't you have brothers? No brothers.
Zeus made our line a line of only sons.
Arcesius had only on son, Laertes,
and Laertes had only one son, Odysseus,
and I am Odysseus' only son. (131-133)
Athena reveals herself only to Odysseus, and strategizes with him. Now is a good time for a reveal of Odysseus...but only to Telemachus. Telemachus is doubtful the two alone could defeat the suitors.
These suitors are not just ten or twenty, they're far more--
you count them up for yourself now, take a moment... (275-276)
The numbers added up: 116, not counting the herald. Should one count the herald?

The plan:
  1. T, you go home.
  2. Swineherd leads O into the city as a beggar.
  3. No matter the abuse of O, T must endure it.
  4. Athena will say it is time. O will give T the nod
  5. T will round up all the deadly weapons and stow them away. If questioned he will say, "I stowed them away, clear of the smoke...."
  6. Keep out a pair of swords, a pair of spears and a pair of oxhide bucklers
  7. Athena will daze the suitors' wits
  8. let no one hear that Odysseus has come home. (334)
When the herald announces T's return, Antinous urges they kill him before he can accuse them of attempted ambush. Then they can divide up the riches. Amphinomus says no, wait for a sign from the gods. The herald Medon tells Penelope of the schemes. See? I don't think he should be included in the numbers of possible enemies.

Stranger at the Gates

Telemachus leaves the swineherd's hut. (Step 1, check) He pretends to be done with the beggar, and orders the swineherd to take him into town. (Step 2, check)

Penelope: the original damsel in dramatic distress.
bursting into tears as she flung her arms around her darling son
and kissed his face and kissed his shining eyes and sobbed,
"You're home, Telemachus!"--words flew from her heart--
"sweet light of my eyes! I never thought I'd see you again..." (37-41)
Telemachus' response: Don't fuss, Mother.

He goes to retrieve his guest, the seer, from Piraeus. Piraeus would give him the treasures from Menelaus, but T tells him to keep the stuff for now. If something should happen, he'd rather Piraeus had it.
But if I can bring down slaughter on that crew,
you send the gifts to my house--we'll share the joy. (87-88)
Should he say that? Isn't that too close to revealing the plan?

Penelope wants the full story.
"Of course, mother."
thoughtful Telemachus reassured her quickly,
"I will tell you the whole true story now... (114-116)
Not. The seer will say it though. He says all the signs say Odysseus is on his home soil. (Should he say that? Isn't that too close to revealing the plan?)

Meanwhile, on their way to the house, the goatherd taunts the swineherd and the beggar. Slightly higher on the pecking order, he thinks. Nearly there, the old dog knows Odysseus. Now the loyal old dog can die. Odysseus hides a tear. Eumaeus blames the lazy slaves for the dog's condition in the dung heap. You just can't do anything with a slave when the master's away. (353)

There seems to be something significant about the door.
Just in the doorway, just at the ashwood threshold,
there he settled down...
leaning against the cypress post a master joiner
planed smooth and hung with a plumb line years ago. (372-375)
Of course when Odysseus and the swineherd arrive, Antinous is stingy with the food not his own. Telemachus urges the suitors to be generous. (Step 3, check) Odysseus tells another tale of his life as the fictional man that is now a beggar. Antinous throws a stool at him. Odysseus says,
But if beggars have their gods and Furies too,
let Antinous meet his death before he meets his bride!" (524-525)
Odysseus is like a pesky gnat nipping at the bellicose suitor. He is toying with him.

Penelope would speak to the beggar for news of her husband, but the wily one tells the swineherd to tell her it's better to meet after sundown in private.

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