Week 4: Identity and Signs

Question: Some notable Alexandrian scholars believed that the second half of book 23 and all of book 24 represent a spurious addition to a poem that originally ended at 23.297. Though most modern scholars no longer ascribe to this view, what do you think? How do the last book and a half of the Odyssey change the poem? What would be lost—or gained—by its removal?

My answer to this question is:

My question regarding this is: is The Odyssey in its entirety a story? If it is then certain criteria apply as well as readers’ expectations to closure. I don’t believe The Odyssey is a story at all. It is a collection of bits of myths and bits of unfinished stories. In which case it becomes cyclical – you can enter The Odyssey at any point and continue from there, which maybe is why Homer started his account with the absence of the main character, since Odysseus, however much emphasis we assign to him, is not the real element of The Odyssey

  1. Book One: Athena Visits Ithaca
  2. Book Two: Telemachus Prepares for his Voyage
  3. Book Three: Telemachus Visits Nestor in Pylos
  4. Book Four: Telemachus Visits Menelaus in Sparta
  5. Book Five: Odysseus Leaves Calypso’s Island and Reaches Phaeacia
  6. Book Six: Odysseus and Nausicaa
  7. Book Seven: Odysseus at the Court of Alcinous in Phaeacia
  8. Book Eight: Odysseus is Entertained in Phaeacia
  9. Book Nine: Ismarus, the Lotus Eaters, and the Cyclops
  10. Book Ten: Aeolus, the Laestrygonians, and Circe
  11. Book Eleven: Odysseus Meets the Shades of the Dead
  12. Book Twelve: The Sirens, Scylla and Charybdis, The Cattle of the Sun
  13. Book Thirteen: Odysseus Leaves Phaeacia and Reaches Ithaca
  14. Book Fourteen: Odysseus Meets Eumaeus
  15. Book Fifteen: Telemachus Returns to Ithaca
  16. Book Sixteen: Odysseus Reveals Himself to Telemachus
  17. Book Seventeen: Odysseus Goes to the Palace as a Beggar
  18. Book Eighteen: Odysseus and Irus the Beggar
  19. Book Nineteen: Eurycleia Recognizes Odysseus
  20. Book Twenty: Odysseus Prepares for his Revenge
  21. Book Twenty-One: The Contest With Odysseus’ Bow
  22. Book Twenty-Two: The Killing of the Suitors
  23. Book Twenty-Three: Odysseus and Penelope
  24. Book Twenty-Four: Zeus and Athena End the Fighting

Odysseus’ return home and meeting and overcoming the suitors.

Key characters:  Eumaeus, Telemachus, Penelope,

Video 4.2:  Signs and Codes

  1. Book Seventeen: Odysseus Goes to the Palace as a Beggar
  2. Book Eighteen: Odysseus and Irus the Beggar
  3. Book Nineteen: Eurycleia Recognizes Odysseus

In antiquity messages from the gods were built into the world, purposefully sending us messages.  Strange coincidences.  They talk to us through behaviours of animals, storms, screeches of birds, window passing messages, etc.  Direct visions and dreams.  Not intuitive knowing but knowing through signs.

No xenia from the suitors, throw a bone or horn at O

Signs show up in the story.  The body of Odysseus is a kind of sign.  A great person should have a perfect phys.  but he is a beggar, Melanthius page 361, kicks O.  No one notices.  There are signs that O is not really a beggar, wink of A and thigh muscles of O.

Theo gives a potentious statement to P.  Book 17, statement if only O would come back, the sneeze is a divine sign of T.  zeus thunderbolt, book 18 a strong speech from Ody to the suitors, he is angry.  The suitors ignore the signs and keep on drinking.

Most imp in book 19.  Penelope’s dream in book 19.  In book 18 she is in her room and gets a visit from someone, she puts her clothes on and mades a speech to the suitors, they should bring gifts.  She says O called me that as soon my son grew a beard, it would be ok to take a new suitor.  That is a lie – she is lying why?  O hears the lie and says on page 384, glows with joy….. etc.  but all the while with something else in mind.

She is lying with something else in mind.

Book 19 – amazing book, O and P come together finally and he is in the inner chamber.  P has to be careful not to let the maids know anything. They are both circumspect.  Could he come back now or not.  Let’s wash your feet.  I want to hear some more.  Euriclea raised O and she will wash.  Scar near inner thigh.  Which E would know as she looked after him.

Scars remain of a past story. Two pages of details about this scar.  O gets his name from his maternal grandfather. They go to seek a boar – it is a dangerous creature, he gets his scar here. Painfulness dwells in the name.  He earns his  name.

the scar

Euriclea and Odysseus and the scar

4.3       Penelope talks to the suitors,  it’s time to stop, you can marry me if you can put an arrow through the axe heads.  Why is Penelope lying about what Odysseus said before he left.  O page 381 glows with joy at her trickery.  O hears from P a lie that talks about sth that he asked her to do.  She is lying with sth else in mind – If you are really O youwill know this is a lie, there is another message here – listen you beggar!

You will have to compete for me with the axe trick.  She must know that the beggar is Odysseus otherwise why would she take such a chance with her future.

There is nothing private about the talk between O and P as there are many maids and servants who might tip off the suitors.  P asks O his identity and some of the things she has done to keep the suitors at bey.  He gives his name as Ithon, and has seen Odysseus.  Your husband O is on his way home….. (How come P takes a lowly beggar into her inner sanctum?).  P says she will test O, and asks about his clothes and he answers her.  She quizzes him on intimate details, even after he reveals himself there are more tests.  P is being very cautious.

Close of Book 20 more back and forth.  P listens to what is going on.

Penelope’s Dream: 

She tells them about an eagle who comes to her house and commits carnage.  The eagle says I am Odysseus, here to set all to rights.  She then says to the stranger I want you to be the interpreter of my dream. The eagle has interpreted the dream, she aks O to be the eagle as well as the inter.

Why does she ask O to be the eagle?  it’s very strange – ivory and horn, a chair inlaid with ivory Odysseus looks at her with eyes of horn – associations that are very subtle – Homer is making a suggestion that she is really telling a story to test Ody.  Let’s see what you make of my dream … Maybe she made up the dream, false dreams = ivory chair.

Book 20 – more signs : 4.6, The Bow. He has to get into the inner place of his house, the suitors are between him and his rightful place.  The bow and arrow.  P has set up things so that he can have a chance with the bow.  Who will earn a place with her?  No one is and they all fail.  O is the only one who can string a bow and also fire it perfectly.

Antinous, is boasting and Odysseus kills him, it all gets very gruesome and violent.

The killing of Antinous

Odysseus kills Antinous

Eurimachus also gets killed next.  From then on O kills them all.  Someone is left, pardoned by Penelope

Liades comes up and gets hold of O’s knees.  This puts you under the protection of Zeus.  O does not heed xenia he takes his weapon and kills Liades.

He punishes the maids, they have to clean up the dead and then they are killed. Joy as warm as that of shipwrecked sailors feel is the feelings of Penelope.  Key people trade places.  Eumaeus is compared to a father.  The two of them share their reunion.  Odysseus has it all back and he needs to tell her his story.  He retells the entire Odyssey.

Book 24, is a story that can’t end.  Was this added on later?  The story continues where the suitors go down to the underworld, they account to Aga what happened to them.  He is thrilled for his friend.  Odysses visits his father, Laertes, and O tests his father, lying etc.  what was that about?  He is a trickster with his father.

The townspeople are upset about their relatives and are ready for battle,  Odysseus has his father at his side, ready to do battle, Athene comes again.  Athene settles things.  The suitors relatives slink away.  Odysseus is now stable, he has to go to take the oar and he will build a temple for Poseidon, to make peace.  He has more adventures ahead of him.