Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 3

Homers Odyssey

Scope: This lecture discusses the Odyssey, which shares most of the characteristics of an epic with the Iliad. Among its thematic concerns, it shares with the Iliad the heros need to win personal fame and make a name for himself; Odysseuss confrontation with the Cyclops is analyzed to demonstrate this theme. The lecture then treats the many times Odysseus is tempted to gi e up and to settle for a long !ut anonymous life "culminating with Calypsos offer of immortality# and shows that in important ways Achilles and Odysseus make the same heroic choice. This poem, howe er, is set in peace time, and we conclude !y discussing some of the ways in which this is reflected$ in the emphasis on domestic e ents, the nonheroic opponents Odysseus confronts on his %ourney home, the ariety of skills he needs in this different am!ience, and the importance of powerful and interesting women in the poem.

I. &odern scholarship suggests that the Odyssey was written a!out a generation after the Iliad !ut !y a different poet who knew the Iliad ery well and patterned this poem on the earlier one. A. It is written in '( !ooks, is a!out larger)than)life characters and e ents, is written in the grand style which uses epic similes, features the same supernatural machinery as the Iliad, and !egins in medias res. B. It features a hero who more than anything else wants to make a name for himself and achie e enduring fame. 1. This is the primary moti ation for the warriors at Troy. 2. *ometimes it in ol es sacrificing the good of ones community or family. II. The episode with the Cyclops illustrates this motif of honor in the poem. A. Odysseus does not ha e to confront the Cyclops, !ut he does. +espite the loss of si, of his !est men, Odysseus adds to his reputation and glory. B. Once he has escaped, Odysseus makes sure that the Cyclops knows who it was who !ested and !linded him, e en at the risk of getting himself or more of his crew killed !y the one) eyed giant. C. As in the Iliad, in this poem one has to e,pose oneself to risk in order to !ecome some!ody, a hero with a name that reaches to the ends of the world. III. The motif is underscored !y the kinds of temptations Odysseus resists on his way home, all of which encourage him to lay down his arms and li e a long, happy, and anonymous life. A. The -otus).aters, Circe, the *irens, and the /haiakians all make this offer to Odysseus. B. &ost nota!ly, Calypso offers him immortality !ut at the cost of reputation, fame, and !eing remem!ered. Odysseus turns down all of them. 1. Achilles in the Iliad had the same choice$ stay home and li e a long !ut undistinguished life, or go to Troy and die young !ut !e remem!ered fore er. 0e goes to Troy; Odysseus makes the same choice. 2. 1y the time of the Odyssey, Achilles has rethought his decision, as he tells Odysseus, who isits him in 0ades. 3. Odysseus, howe er, still persists, risking his life in order to win the kind of honor that outli es and thus defeats death. 4. Odysseus constantly chooses the difficult and dangerous way to keep on adding to his name2to !e a mortal hero rather than an anonymous immortal.

IV. The Odyssey is different in many ways from the Iliad as well. A. The poem is set in peacetime and has an entirely different am!ience from the great war poem on which it is modeled. B. A third of this poem deals with hospitality and feasts and sacrifices. Odysseus in a way is fighting to get !ack home to this kind of life. C. Odysseuss antagonists are giants, monsters, witches, and nymphs, who o!ser e none of the rules of heroic fighting and therefore ha e to !e opposed with wit and guile rather than the straightforward fair fighting of the Iliad. D. Odysseuss triumphant return home is no heroic ictory, since2appallingly outnum!ered 2he is forced to kill in cold !lood 345 suitors for his wife /enelope. 1. 0ence his heroic epithet, which translates as 6wily7 or 6many)faceted,7 as opposed to the heroic epithets of the heroes of the Tro%an 8ar "e.g., Achilles !eing descri!ed as 6swift)footed7#. 2. 0ence Odysseuss a!ility to tell stories and lie when in a tight spot, as opposed to the hatred of the heroes of the Tro%an 8ar for a man 6who says one thing !ut hides another in his heart.7 E. The differences !etween the heroic world of the Iliad and the peacetime world of the Odyssey are illustrated in Odysseuss meeting with Aias9A%a, in 0ades. 1. Aias, a hero from the heroic world of the Tro%an 8ar, turns his !ack on Odysseus and walks away, refusing to acknowledge someone who has sur i ed !y compromising the heroic code. 2. The distance from the heroic world is also reflected in Odysseuss fre:uent disguises and the sometimes deflating epic similes applied to him !y the poet. F. 8omen characters play a far more important part in this poem than they do in the Iliad; they are not depicted as sla e women. 1. 0elen, Circe, Calypso, and /enelope are formida!le women who easily control men and whose power is challenged only !y Odysseus "who sometimes needs di ine help to do so#. 2. 0elen in *parta, isited !y Telemachus, is mar elously in charge of her household; Circe changes men into swine; and Calypso captures Odysseus and keeps him with her until forced to release him !y ;eus. 3. /enelopes !eauty, wit, and intelligence ha e turned 345 suitors into metaphorical swine; in the poems penultimate scene, she tricks the great trickster Odysseus into losing his temper, making her the only character in the poem e er a!le to do so. 4. 8e hope that Odysseus and /enelope will spend the rest of their li es as e:uals2a hope that this peacetime poem makes possi!le in a way the Iliad cannot. V. The impact of the Odyssey and the Iliad on the su!se:uent history of literature is incalcula!le. A. 1oth Achilles and Odysseus !e:ueathed an idea of personal heroism that ne er disappears. B. 8e will encounter Achilles again in <reek tragedy and the works of *hakespeare, <oethe, =aulkner, and Ache!e. C. 8e will meet Odysseus again in the Chinese no el &onkey and many of the tales from Chaucer and the 3443 >ights. Essential Reading: 0omer, Odyssey. Supplementa ! Reading: &. I. =inley, The 8orld of Odysseus. ?asper <riffin, 0omer "/ast &asters#.