The Odyssey – Women

In The Odyssey by Homer, there were many great women that had conflicting personalities and adverse motives, but also they were alike. With these oppositions they helped Odysseus to get back home to Ithaca, whether they wanted to or not. These women from the novel that have opposing qualities, yet help Odysseus get home and finish off the suitors, are Penelopeia and Clytemnestra, Circe and Calypso, and Eurycleia and Melantho. Clytemnestra is a disloyal wife and a cruel woman, while Penelopeia is a devoted spouse and a wonderful lady.

When King Agamemnon goes away to fight at Troy, his wife, Clytemnestra, has an affair. When he returns, she kills him, not even letting him see his son after ten long years. Poseidon did not drown me in the sea, no enemy struck me down on dry land; but Aigisthos plotted my death with my accursed wife(132). Meanwhile, when Odysseus goes to Troy, his wife Penelopeia is loyal for twenty years. Clytemnestra also kills all of Agamemnons friends and followers, while Penelopeia had rude suitors in her house and she never once harmed them for the three years that they ate her out of house and home.

The one thing that the two women has in common was that they are both very witty and smart; Clytemnestra for planning the massacres and Penelopeia for the weaving of the shroud. I used to weave the web in the daytime, but in the night I unravelled it by torchlight. For three years I kept up the pretence, and they believed it(216). With their conflicting personalities the women did help Odysseus to return. When Agamemnon told Odysseus Clytemnestras tale in the Underworld, it makes him think about what his wife is doing and it gives him an extra push to get home.

In Penelopeias case, Odysseus hopes that she would remain faithful and he wants to get home to his loyal wife. Both women have many conflicting personality traits, but their actions give Odysseus a reason to hurry up in his homecoming. Although Circe and Calypso are both goddesses and both keep Odysseus in their homes, their personalities are different yet they both help Odysseus to arrive home faster. Circe is rude and means harm to Odysseus and his men when they first arrive, but Calypso welcomes Odysseus with open arms.

Though she has cruel intentions when they arrive, Circe didnt force Odysseus to stay at all and he stays on his own will. Calypso, though, keeps him prisoner on her island and would not release him till the other gods force her to. The one thing they have in common was that they both fall in love with Odysseus and want him to stay with them. Even though Circe wants Odysseus to stay, she said, I would not have you remain in my house unwillingly. (122). Now after she says this, she tells Odysseus to seek the blind prophet Teiresias help in the Underworld.

Without the prophets help it would have taken Odysseus a lot longer to reach his home, Ithaca. So Circe helps Odysseus get home faster, willingly. In Calypsos case she does not want Odysseus to leave. If you knew the troubles you will have before you get to Ithaca, you would stay where you are and keep this house with me, and be immortal(66). Calypso tells Odysseus that if he stays with her, that she will make him immortal, but he refuses. She helps him build a raft and supplies him with food for his journey, making his journey easier.

Both goddesses treat Odysseus differently and in result to their actions they help him get home faster. Eurycleia and Melantho are both maidservants in the home of Odysseus, but they are both very different and help Odysseus make his decision to kill the suitors at the end of the novel. Eurycleia is not a renegade for she did not tell anyone that Odysseus was home. Melantho is a traitor for she tells the suitors about the unweaving of the shroud every night. Eurycleia is very kind and thoughtful and she is very quick to agree to wash the strangers feet.

But Im willing to do what my lady bids me. I will wash thy feet indeed, for my ladys sake aye, and thy own sake too(220). When Melantho sets eyes on Odysseus, she is quick to judge him by his outer appearance and is very rude to him. Going to make yourself a nuisance all night, rolling about the house and ogling the women? Get out of this, you creature, and be thankful for you dinner(214). Eurycleia is also very civil with the suitors even thought she really hates them being in the house, but Melantho is quite cozy with the suitors and is on their side when it comes to them marrying Penelopeia.

Eurycleia had raised Odysseus since he was a child and she taught him what was wrong and what was right. I believe that this knowledge she passes on to him, was a factor in his decision making of the death of the suitors. Melantho shows Odysseus how cruel men can be and she makes him aware of all the traitors within the household. With these two opposite influences of the women he decides to kill all the suitors and the disloyal maidservants. There were many women in The Odyssey who helped Odysseus make it back to Ithaca and end the tribulation in his household, but these were the most important ones.

Without their influences and their different approaches on dealing with him, he might not have handled the situation like he did, or even worse, he might have never made it home. The women play a strong role in The Odyssey and they deserve recognition. Women in this time are a lot like the women in ancient Greece; they have more freedom and play a more predominate role in society. In this novel, I believe that the women play the most important roles and that they change the course of the story.