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Homer's epic poem The Odyssey was often read in allegorical terms during later periods in history, especially in the Christian Renaissance and middle ages. Odysseus was often perceived as the virtuous man who is willing to struggle for virtuous goals in spite of all hardships. Likewise, Penelope was often perceived as the virtuous woman and virtuous wife who was loyal to her husband despite all temptations. In this respect, she was often contrasted with the adulterous Helen, whose disloyalty to her husband unleashed the Trojan War that is the main subject of The Iliad. The destruction of the suitors at the end of The Odyssey was often read allegorically as the inevitable destruction of vice by virtue. Sir Philip Sidney, in his sonnet sequence Astrophil and Stella, alludes frequently to The Odyssey and clearly read the poem allegorically in Christian terms.
Renaissance Christians admired the kind of marital love expressed, for instance, in the following passage from The Odyssey, which describes the reunion of Penelope and Odysseus:
Her words stirred his heart to a greater longing for tears: and he wept, clasping his beloved, loyal wife in his arms. As welcome as the sight of land to the few surviving sailors, who swim to shore escaping the grey breakers, when their solid vessel driven over the sea by wind and towering waves has been shattered by Poseidon, who, saved from drowning, are overjoyed when their brine-caked bodies touch the land: welcome as that was the sight of her husband, as Penelope gazed at him, never unwinding her white arms from round his neck. (Anthony Kline translation)
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