Posts Tagged by Odyssey
|August 31, 2017||By Gregory Nagy listed under Homer commentary|
2017.08.31 | By Gregory Nagy
Before the Odyssey comes to an end, the Singer of Tales reaches back to what seems to be the beginning of the Iliad. It is as if the second epic, the Odyssey, could now restart before it ends by reaching back into the first epic, the Iliad. Still, there will be no restart here. The plot of that first epic had started with a grand feud between Achilles and Agamemnon, but the plot of the second epic will now come to an end with a resolution of that feud. The feuding is over, so that the two main characters of the Iliad can now take time to review not only what happened in the Iliad but also, beyond the Iliad, how the two of them died, each his own way. Since they are now dead, they have to speak ghost to ghost, but that is not enough for Agamemnon. He must also speak with the new ghosts, the suitors, who will now give him a retrospective on the Odyssey. This way, Agamemnon can compare the story of his own life with the stories of both Odysseus and Achilles. And the comparison must be most depressing for him. But the Odyssey does not end with the sad thoughts of Agamemnon. Odysseus still has to reconnect with his own ancestors, and so there needs to be a final recognition scene between the son and his father Laertes. But even after this reconnection of the generations is finally achieved, the story is still not done. The feuding that has been triggered by the killing of the suitors must end; otherwise, the story cannot end.
|August 23, 2017||By Gregory Nagy listed under Homer commentary|
2017.08.23 | By Gregory Nagy
After the killing of the suitors, Eurykleia rushes to the bedroom of Penelope, waking her up. The queen has slept through it all—the first good night’s sleep she has had in the longest time, she admits. Eurykleia goes on to tell Penelope that Odysseus has really returned and has killed the suitors, but the patient wife will need one more test, to make it perfectly certain that she has recovered her husband. The sēma ‘sign’ of the royal bed that once was theirs and will be theirs once again can now seal their perfect mutual understanding.
|August 18, 2017||By Gregory Nagy listed under Homer commentary|
2017.08.17 | By Gregory Nagy
At the end of Rhapsody 21, Odysseus has already passed, in rapid succession, two of three successive tests that needed to be endured by the true king of Ithaca. That is, he has already performed a stringing of his mighty bow and has already won an ultimate contest in archery by executing a perfect shot with the very first arrow that he shoots from the bow. But now, at the beginning of Rhapsody 22, the third test awaits Odysseus. He must now kill the suitors, and the successive killings that follow will ultimately eliminate all the would-be husbands of Penelope. In the end, Odysseus will be the only Achaean left standing. And he has by now been revealed as the only true husband, the only true king. So, he has become the best of the Achaeans in the Homeric Odyssey. But a question remains. Now that all the suitors have been killed, what will happen to the other characters in the Odyssey who had turned against the king in the course of his lengthy absence? Here is where things get really ugly. The extreme cruelty of the retribution that awaits these characters, as we see it narrated here in Odyssey 22, presents the modern reader with moral problems that cannot be evaded.
|August 10, 2017||By Gregory Nagy listed under Homer commentary|
2017.08.10 | By Gregory Nagy
Toward the end of Rhapsody 21, Odysseus will pass an all-important test set by Penelope: he will string his famous bow—which none of the suitors could string, no matter how hard they tried—and he will shoot an arrow straight through all the holes of twelve axe-heads lined up in a row for this one-time occasion, designed to be viewed as the contest to end all contests in the skills of archery. This contest will determine, once and for all, who is really eligible, among all the Achaeans, to be recognized as the husband of the queen. But the winning of this ultimate contest by Odysseus is not enough: the king must now kill, with the same bow, all the would-be husbands of the queen. So, once Odysseus passes the test set by Penelope, as narrated toward the end of Rhapsody 21, the killing of the rival Achaeans can begin in Rhapsody 22. And the overall occasion for both the passing of Penelope’s test and the killing of the suitors is the beginning of a grand festival celebrating the god Apollo and the arrival of spring.
|August 3, 2017||By Gregory Nagy listed under Homer commentary|
2017.08.03 | By Gregory Nagy
Rhapsody 20 reveals the darkest thoughts of Penelope. There she is, lying awake in bed, unable to fall asleep, and now she starts to think the unthinkable, tearfully spilling her private thoughts by praying to Artemis: I want to die in the worst way, she confides to the goddess, so why don’t you shoot me with your arrows, putting me out of my misery? Or maybe my death should be even worse? Penelope is now haunted by horror stories about unfortunate girls who thought they were getting married but who instead became servants to infernal Furies. She cries for them and she cries for herself, thinking of a dream she had about sleeping with Odysseus, who was looking the way he had looked twenty years ago. Her crying carries over till daybreak, and her laments are overheard from not that far away by Odysseus, who is having his own dark thoughts about the vengeance he so passionately desires.
|July 24, 2017||By Gregory Nagy listed under Homer commentary|
2017.07.24 | By Gregory Nagy
Rhapsody 19 is best known for a scene where Odysseus is recognized by his old nurse Eurykleia. She notices a tell-tale scar on his leg—the result of a wound that marks the moment in his youth when he was gored in a boar hunt. This scar can be seen as a sēma or ‘sign’ of the hero’s identity.