“ someone really skilled H u m a n i t i e s
part 1: in 2 well-developed and well-detailed paragraphs, discuss one of the topics listed below.
- What do we learn about Odysseus’s character—good and/or bad—from his encounter with one or two of the following: Cyclops (Polyphemus), Aolios, Circe, his mother (Anticleia), Achilles, Sirens, Scylla, Calypso?
- What grade would you give Odysseus as a leader? Explain.
- Study the epic simile in Book XXI (lines 512-521) in which Odysseus is likened to a singer or “someone really skilled at playing the lyre.” What is the significance of this simile? Are there other places in the epic where Odysseus resembles an artist or artist figure?
- What is appropriate or fitting or useful that Odysseus’s disguise in Ithaca is a beggar?
Part 2: reply to or comment on these two posts. Each response should be detailed: a comment such as “good post” or “I don’t agree” is not developed; why is it good or why don’t you agree? Feel free to engage in dialogue with more students if you wish.
1. Odysseus, being the clever heroic figure that he is, disguised himself as a beggar as he arrived back to his home in Ithaca where he knew there would be a line of suitors waiting at his door to replace him in pursuits of his beautiful wife. Odysseus was clever in doing this, because he got to get a good head start on these suitors without them coming after him. He chose a beggar because this is the opposite of everything he normally portrays, so no one, including the suitors or his very own wife Penelope would see it coming. I thought it was appropriate and fitting for Odysseus to dress in this disguise because once again it showed his cleverness that helped him make it back to Ithaca alive, after years and years of trials that would have killed a man that didn’t have these traits.
2. Upon returning to Ithaca for the first time in 20 years of wandering, Athena decides to disguise Odysseus as a beggar with the explanation that he would not want anyone to know that the king had returned until he could see for himself what had been going on in his absence. While that explains why Odysseus needed a disguise, it doesn’t explain why she chose the form of a beggar. Odysseus has spent the last 20 years being tossed from island to island, from adventure to catastrophe, much of the time as a literal beggar. He was forced to live off of the charity and goodwill of the people that he came into contact with, receiving men, ships, food, and magical assistance. He lived, for the most part, by his wits and his skill as a story teller.
Coming ashore as a beggar was more fitting than returning as the conquering hero of Troy would have been. The Odysseus that left Troy was a proud warrior, the man that woke up on the beach in Ithaca was a humble, almost beaten man. His resigned, mournful reaction to waking up on a beach and not recognizing Ithaca conveys a sense that he accepts that the charity of the Gods is the only way that he is ever going to make it home.
After Athena lifts the mist and allows Odysseus to see that he is really home, the beggar’s disguise becomes a useful tool for him to enter his house and see who has stayed loyal to him, and who has been living off of his wealth. The beggar befriended by the swineherd can move anywhere without comment, allowing for stealthy reconnaissance.