Essential Passages by Character: Odysseus
Essential Passage 1: Book I
And Zeus said, “My child, what are you talking about? How can I forget Odysseus than whom there is no more capable man on earth, nor more liberal in his offerings to the immortal gods that live in heaven? Bear in mind, however, that Poseidon is still furious with Odysseus for having blinded an eye of Polyphemus king of the Cyclopes. Polyphemus is son to Poseidon by the nymph Thoosa, daughter to the sea-king Phorcys; therefore though he will not kill Odysseus outright, he torments him by preventing him from getting home. Still, let us lay our heads together and see how we can help him to return; Poseidon will then be pacified, for if we are all of a mind he can hardly stand out against us.”
The gods have gathered on Olympus to discuss events that have followed the Trojan War. Zeus laments the death of Agamemnon, who was killed by his wife Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus. The goddess Athena reminds Zeus that Odysseus is stranded on an island, imprisoned by Calypso, who is holding him until he should marry her. Athena chides Zeus that such a faithful follower as Odysseus should be forgotten by the god he worships. Zeus responds that he has not forgotten him. It would be impossible to forget Odysseus, who is wiser than all men and surpasses everyone in honoring the gods. However, the sea god Poseidon is enraged at Odysseus for blinding his son, Polyphemus the Cyclops. Zeus agrees that all the gods and goddesses should join together to come up with a plan to convince Poseidon to cease his rampage against Odysseus so that the hero can return home.
Essential Passage 2: Book XII
“Is there no way," said I, "of escaping Charybdis, and at the same time keeping Scylla off when she is trying to harm my men?"
“You dare devil," replied the goddess, "you are always wanting to fight somebody or something; you will not let yourself be beaten even by the immortals. For Scylla is not mortal; moreover she is savage, extreme, rude, cruel and invincible. There is no help for it; your best chance will be to get by her as fast as ever you can, for if you dawdle about her rock while you are putting on your armor, she may catch you with a second cast of her six heads, and snap up another half dozen of your men; so drive your ship past her at full speed, and roar out lustily to Crataiis who is Scylla's dam, bad luck to her; she will then stop her from making a second raid upon you."
Circe, on whose island Odysseus has been held, warns Odysseus of the dangers to come. She tells him to be careful of the Sirens, whose singing will tempt men to their deaths if they should listen to them. She warns him that his men must stop up their ears with wax. If Odysseus wants to hear the Sirens sing, he should tie himself to the mast so that he will not be tempted to jump overboard. She then advises him to beware of Scylla and Charybdis. The one is a monster who will swallow his men; the latter is a whirlpool that will swallow his ship. Odysseus asks if there is some way to fight Scylla and end the danger. Circe chides him for his pride and his recklessness, that he would dare even to fight against the gods. She warns him to do no such thing, but to sail as fast as possible between the two dangers and cry out to Scylla’s mother, who will not allow Scylla to go after the ship again.
Essential Passage 3: Book XVII
...There was a grove of water-loving poplars planted in a circle all round it, and the clear cold water came down to it from a rock high up, while above the fountain there was an altar to the nymphs, at which all wayfarers used to sacrifice. Here Melanthius son of Dolius overtook them as he was driving down some goats, the best in his flock, for the suitors' dinner, and there were two shepherds with him. When he...
(The entire section is 1682 words.)
Essential Passages by Theme: Temptation
Essential Passage 1: Book IV
“Menelaus, son of Atreus, and you my good friends, sons of honorable men (which is as Zeus wills, for he is the giver both of good and evil, and can do what he chooses), feast here as you will, and listen while I tell you a tale in season. I cannot indeed name every single one of the exploits of Odysseus, but I can say what he did when he was before Troy, and you Achaeans were in all sorts of difficulties. He covered himself with wounds and bruises, dressed himself all in rags, and entered the enemy's city looking like a menial or a beggar, and quite different from what he did when he was among his own people. In this disguise he entered the city of Troy, and no one said anything to him. I alone recognized him and began to question him, but he was too cunning for me. When, however, I had washed and anointed him and had given him clothes, and after I had sworn a solemn oath not to betray him to the Trojans till he had got safely back to his own camp and to the ships, he told me all that the Achaeans meant to do. He killed many Trojans and got much information before he reached the Argive camp, for all which things the Trojan women made lamentation, but for my own part I was glad, for my heart was beginning to yearn after my home, and I was unhappy about the wrong that Aphrodite had done me in taking me over there, away from my country, my girl, and my lawful wedded husband, who is indeed by no means deficient either in person or understanding.”
Telemachus, on the journey to find his father after twenty years, stops at the home of Menelaus and his wife, Helen, whose beauty started the Trojan War. Now reunited with her husband, and seemingly happy, she is nonetheless remorseful of the grief she caused. She tells Telemachus how she had helped his father after the war, when he entered Troy disguised as a beggar. After he secured Helen’s promise not to betray him, he warned her of all that the Greeks planned to do. Having killed many of the Trojans, Odysseus returned to the Greek camp with information. By this time, Helen was desirous of going home. Rather than blaming herself or Paris for their adultery, Helen blames the goddess of love, Aphrodite, whom she believed swept her away from her home and family in order to start a war between the Greeks and the Trojans.
Essential Passage 2: Book V
“Odysseus, noble son of Laertes, so you would start home to your own land at once? Good luck go with you, but if you could only know how much suffering is in store for you before you get back to your own country, you would stay where you are, keep house along with me, and let me make you immortal, no matter how anxious you may be to see this wife of yours, of whom you are thinking all the time day after day; yet I flatter myself that I am no whit less tall or well-looking than she is, for it is not to be expected that a mortal woman should compare in beauty with an immortal.”
“Goddess,” replied Odysseus, “do not be angry with me about this. I am quite aware that my wife Penelope is nothing like so tall or so beautiful as yourself. She is only a woman, whereas you are an immortal. Nevertheless, I want to get home, and can think of nothing else. If some god wrecks me when I am on the sea, I will bear it and make the best of it. I have had infinite trouble both by land and sea already, so let this go with the rest.”
Odysseus, imprisoned on Calypso’s island, has long resisted her advances, which she cannot understand. At last, she allows him to leave, though against her desires. She warns him that he will undergo many dangers and tragedies before he arrives home. Once again she asks him to stay. She offers him not only herself but the gift of immortality. She suggests that it is impossible that a mortal woman should be more beautiful than a goddess. Odysseus agrees that Penelope falls short in comparison with Calypso. Yet she is his wife, to whom he will be loyal, and he wants to go home. If it should be that the gods torment him on his journey home, he will accept it as their right. He has been patient with their toying with him thus far; he can submit a while longer, as long as he reaches home.
Essential Passage 3: Book XII
(The entire section is 1853 words.)