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Where in the Odyssey does it say what Penelope looks like? Can you quote and page...

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jbo82 | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 3, 2009 at 5:22 AM via web

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Where in the Odyssey does it say what Penelope looks like? Can you quote and page number it for me?

I'm doing a project for English about Penelope, and I'm having trouble finding what she looks like. I need to quote the story where it describes her appearance, and have a page number for it. You won't be doing the project for me, don't worry. This is just a very small part of it that I MUST have. Please help me.

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troutmiller | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted January 4, 2009 at 12:47 AM (Answer #1)

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The only place where Penelope is described physically is in Book 17.  But there it is not very clear, either.  She is compared to Diana and Venus in the following line:  "Penelope came out of her room looking like Diana or Venus."  In other books, she is wearing a veil to hide her face (which is customary for women in this era) whenever she is seen in public with the suitors.  Homer never gives her any physical description that I can find, and I have searched EACH book of The Odyssey.   She is defined in this epic by her actions.  That is why she is the perfect wife for the hero.  She is clever, strong, and ever faithful to her long, lost husband.  You can perhaps go to book 18 where Athena puts Penelope into a deep sleep and then lavishes her in beauty so that she may mystify the suitors when she makes her appearance.

"Then the goddess shed grace and beauty over her that all the Achaeans might admire her. She washed her face with the ambrosial loveliness that Venus wears when she goes dancing with the Graces; she made her taller and of a more commanding figure, while as for her complexion it was whiter than sawn ivory."

You can do what you need to with that, but her actual appearance is never fully explained.  Again, Homer used actions and personalities to describe, not physical descriptions.  Perhaps you could discuss how her appearance is worsened by her crying--that is repeated a lot, too.

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