Compare and contrast the situation between Menelaus and Helen in Odyssey 4 and Odysseus and Penelope.

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noahvox2 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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In Odyssey 4, we find Menelaus and Helen back home at Sparta after the Trojan War, a conflict fought to recover Helen from her abductor, Paris/Alexander of Troy. Unlike faithful Penelope, who has managed to resist the Suitors, Helen was unable to resist Paris' charms:

I sighed at the blindness Aphrodite had dealt me, drawing me there from my own dear country, abandoning daughter and bridal chamber, and a husband lacking neither in wisdom nor looks.

After the Trojan War, however, Menelaus and Helen seem to be living a happily-ever-after existence. As Book 4 opens, we find them celebrating the marriages of their daughter Hermione and Menelaus' son by a slave woman.

The joy that Menelaus and Helen are seen experiencing in Odyssey 4 anticipates the joy that Odysseus and Penelope will enjoy at the end of this epic poem.

To experience their reunion, Odysseus will suffer through many trials and tribulations. Menelaus, too, as we learn in Odyssey 4, also underwent his share of wanderings as he was driven off course to Egypt. Like Odysseus in Odyssey 5, Menelaus was also aided by a mermaid-like goddess; just as Odysseus would go to the underworld to consult with the prophet Teiresias, Menelaus had to wrestle the prophetic Proteus to learn how to appease the gods and reach his native land again.

So, in Odyssey 4, we hear how Menelaus experienced his own miniature odyssey. The fact that he makes it home intact and now appears to be enjoying marital bliss with Helen foreshadows the joyful reunion of Odysseus and Penelope in the last books of the Odyssey.

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