The Strong Penelope of The Odyssey
"My lady, there is no man in the wide world who could find fault with you. For your fame has reached broad heaven itself, like that of some illustrious king."(Page 289,Book 19)
In Homer's epic, The Odyssey, Odysseus is an epic hero with an epic wife, Penelope. Penelope is also the Queen of Ithaca, a vital role indeed. Penelope's love and devotion towards Odysseus is proven when she waits nineteen years for her husband to return from the wine dark sea, rather than losing faith and marrying another man. Penelope's character is strong and solid, and her personality remains consistent throughout Homer's Odyssey.
Since there are so few mortal women featured in The Odyssey, Penelope can be seen as an ideal figure to represent all noblewomen in the Greek world. Although women were seen as possessions they could still be highly respected and influential in society. This is shown very effectively in this quote by Antinous as he speaks about Penelope, "Her skill in fine handicraft, her excellent brain, and the genius she has for getting her way, In that respect, I grant she has no equal, not even in story" (Page 20,Book 2). (Perhaps the most powerful example of influence by a woman is Helen of Sparta who is said in myth to be the direct cause of the Trojan War). Penelope is also shown to have been very sought after, by the band of suitors that inhabit Odysseus's palace in Ithaca while he is away. All the while Odysseus is away; suitors are constantly trying to force Penelope to choose one of them as her new husband.
Penelope is also important because she (along with Telemachus) is the main reason for Odysseus to return home. Odysseus shows his great love and determination when goddess Calypso offers him immortality (Book 5) on the condition that he remains on Ogygia as her husband. At Odysseus's first opportunity he builds a raft and sails away, leaving the lonely Calypso behind. When he reaches Phaeacia, he is then offered the hand of King Alcinous daughter, Nausicaa, who must have been beautiful because Odysseus had mistaken her for the goddess Artemis on first site. Instead Odysseus wished to return to Penelope.
Penelope has a very complex and interesting character. For example her determination to wait and to mislead the suitors for so long shows that she had great intelligence and perseverance. Penelope's wit is acknowledged in this quote from Antinous "For all the Achean beauties of former times, none had at her command such wits as she."(Page 20, Book 2). Penelope's wit is also shown in her scheme to mislead the suitors by saying that they must wait for her to weave a shroud for Odysseus's father Laertes. She told them this for three years until an unfaithful maid of Penelope's, Melantho, exposed to the suitors that Penelope was unraveling the shroud by night.
Even when Penelope was then forced to finish the shroud and then choose a new husband, she continued to delay the suitor's advances by...