What effect does the song sung by the harper Demodocus have upon Odysseus?Demodocus sings again later in the book - with what effect on Odysseus? Is the latter's response different from what we...

What effect does the song sung by the harper Demodocus have upon Odysseus?

Demodocus sings again later in the book - with what effect on Odysseus? Is the latter's response different from what we would expect of modern-day "heroes"?

Expert Answers
favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When Odysseus arrives in Phaeacia, the king calls Demodocus, the blind bard, to come and perform for them. "[The] Muse inspired the bard / to sing the famous deed of fighting heroes— / the song whose fame had reached the skies those days: / The Strife Between Odysseus and Achilles . . . " As Demodocus sings, Odysseus clutches the cape given him by Alcinous, the king, drawing it over his head so that he can bury his face and cry. He feels ashamed to weep so grievously and publicly. When Demodocus stops, Odysseus unveils himself, wiping away his tears, but when the bard begins again, Odysseus pulls the cape over this face and resumes weeping. Only Alcinous observes his response to the song.  

Later, servants are dispatched to fetch Demodocus to the king, and he sings again. This time, the affair between Ares and Aphrodite, as well as the reaction of Hephaestus, Aphrodite's husband, is the subject of his song. The narrator tells us that "Odysseus relished every note . . ." Alcinous bids two individuals to dance, and Odysseus is very impressed by their skill.  

Later still, Odysseus bids Demodocus to sing about the end of the Trojan War and "the cunning trap that / good Odysseus brought one day to the heights of Troy, / filled with fighting men who laid the city waste": the Trojan Horse. Demodocus obliges, and Odysseus "melted into tears." The narrator even says that he weeps as a woman weeps when her husband dies in battle. Odysseus's tears are "tears of heartbreak now." Again, only Alcinous sees this, and he bids Demodocus stop signing for now.

This is, I think, different from what many would expect from modern-day heroes. For some unfortunate reason, many equate tears with weakness, especially in men, and so Odysseus's tears might surprise modern readers for that reason.

laurniko eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Odysseus weeps when Demodocus sings his songs about the Trojan War. 

When the blind bard Demodocus entertains the court of Alcinous, the assemblage enjoys the tales he tells and appreciates his beautiful singing. Unfortunately, the subject of the first and third performance is Odysseus himself during his time in Troy. The tales bring up hard memories for him and he's overwhelmed. In response, he covers his face with his cloak and weeps.

The second song Demodocus sings is about Ares and Aphrodite, which doesn't affect Odysseus. He enjoys it with everyone else.

Odysseus's weeping eventually leads to Alcinous telling Demodocus to stop singing; Alcinous realizes that Odysseus is not who he says. He asks Odysseus to reveal his identity and Odysseus does.

Weeping is not a trait commonly associated with modern heroes. This is because crying is often seen as weakness, rather than a simple emotional response to a situation. When a modern hero cries, it's more likely to be a single tear over a fallen friend or international tragedy—not copious tears, hidden in a cloak, over the retelling of past battles. However, Odysseus's reaction to Demodocus's songs doesn't make him less of a hero. Instead, it highlights how harsh the Trojan Wars were and how profoundly they affected Odysseus. 

thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Demodocus the blind bard sings the story of Troy in front of an audience including Odysseus. Because the story brings back painful memories for Odysseus, this leads to Odysseus crying at the recollection. Odysseus’ response leads eventually to his identity being revealed.

While reading this episode, it is important to consider how Demodocus serves for the guests much the same function that Homer serves for the audience of epic, of recalling to its Greek audience the other epics they have heard on the topic of the Trojan war and evoking emotion not simply from the single episode recounted, but from the losses of both the war and the tragedies of the returns.

coolstrike4 | Student

Demodacus sings about the trojan war that happened some years ago, and he talks about Achilles. Since Achilles was Odysseus's comrade, Odysseus started to weep about his pains. The pain within him just bursted out in tears when he heard Demodacus's song. King Alcinous saw this, and then invited everyone to compete in contests. After the contests, Demodacus started to sing about troy again, and Odysseus wept some more, which the King saw again, and demanded his identity