What is Penelope's first reaction to Eurycleia's announcement that Odysseus really was home?

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noahvox2 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the twenty-third book of Homer's Odyssey, Penelope is told by her maidservant Eurycleia that the 108 suitors, who have been pestering her to marry one of them for the past few years, are now dead. Moreover, Penelope's long, lost husband Odysseus had killed them. Amusingly, Penelope had slept through the entire event; more than 100 men were killed in her living room and she slept through it all. 

Perhaps it is not surprising that when Penelope hears that five score men have been killed by her husband, who has been absent for twenty years, Penelope is incredulous:

"My dear nurse, the gods who can make fools of the wisest, and give insight to the simple-minded, have crazed you and led your wits astray, you who were always so sensible. Why do you mock me, whose heart is full of tears, with this mad tale?" (A.S. Kline translation)

Penelope continues: 

"If any other of my women had woken me to tell me this, I’d have sent her back there with a flea in her ear, but your old age spares you" (A.S. Kline translation).

Penelope remains skeptical as Eurycleia tells of how Odysseus managed to kill the suitors. Penelope concludes that

"this tale must be false. Surely one of the gods has killed the noble Suitors in anger" (A.S. Kline translation).

As readers of Odyssey 23 know, Penelope continues to be cautious throughout most of this book. Even a face-to-face encounter with Odysseus does not convince Penelope until he provides her with a secret piece of information to which only she and Odysseus were privy.

Read the study guide:
The Odyssey

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