Illustration of Odysseus tied to a ship's mast

The Odyssey

by Homer
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How had Penelope tricked the suitors in The Odyssey?

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While Odysseus is away, during the ten years after the war, men (suitors) have come to Ithaca to take over Odysseus’ house and kingdom.  They keep telling Penelope that Odysseus must be dead and that they will not leave until she marries one of them.  She believes, in her mind and heart, that her husband is still alive. Therefore, she refuses to marry another.  After a long time passes, they become so demanding that she comes up with a plan to make them wait: she tells them that her father-in-law, Laertes, is old and may die soon.  She wants to weave him a shroud for his body, for when he is buried.  She sets up a weaving loom in the middle of the courtyard.  Every day, the men eat, drink, and party (with Odysseus’ food and wine) while she sits weaving, where they can plainly see her.  However, at night, she undoes most of what she did during the day.  This goes on for three years.

When the suitors catch on to this, she has to come up with another plan. She tells the suitors that she'll marry the suitor who can string Odysseus' bow and shoot an arrow through 12 holes that are at the top of axes. However, she knows that only Odysseus himself can accomplish this feat. Again, she buys some time.

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