a) What did Telemachus learn about Odysseus at Menelaus’ palace?
Book 4 starts with Telemachus’ arrival at a Spartan Palace. This is where King and Queen, Menelaus and Helena, are to be found. The first mention of Odysseus recalls fro Helena, and she recalls Odysseus’ cunning ways of infiltrating the Trojan’s wall: being dressed as a beggar. Menelaus then goes onto explaining another smart heist of Odysseus’ on the shores of Troy, where Odysseus built up the Trojan horse. This, as the story goes, allowed the Greek’s to infiltrate Troy; since the Trojans found the horse, thinking it was a gift, and brought it into the city. The wooden sculpture then exploded into many enemy troops, leading to the victory of the Greeks, all due to Odysseus’ witty ways. The final mentioning of Odysseus comes from King Menelaus whom captured Proteus, when in Egypt, and Proteus told of Odysseus’ anticlimactic fate. This was of him still being alive and captured, leading a secluded life on Calypso’s island.
b) What impression of Antinous and the other suitors does Homer give in this passage? How vivid do you feel this impression is?
Antinous the ring leading Suitor, with his heart ‘seething with black passion’, is renown to be the worst of the suitors. We can already tell he practically commands the other Suitors, since he ‘made the rest leave their games and sit down together’, so Antinous could speak. The given passage from book 4, does capture a mostly negative and fury striking impression of Antinous. Such descriptions of Antinous giving ‘vent to his fury’ and ‘eyes were like points of flame’, are indicative of presenting a vivid image of his ‘black’ heart. He also uses words such as “Damnation”, in this translation, which is to condemn eternal hell upon someone. Brutal words such as this, does present a rather ruthless and insulting Antinous.
Further into his speech, he refers to Telemachus as a “young puppy”, possibly implying his young and wrongly excitable nature: which likely should be interpreted as an insult towards the prince. Antinous continues: “I hope Zeus clips his wings before he reaches manhood!”, this is also an insult towards Telemachus’ youth. Even going as far to comment he’s not a man. Also, the use of “Zeus” implies how he wishes upon Gods to do such dirty work for him. This would of likely been seen as a unjustifiable phrase for Antinous to speak, and how we continues to speak of people’s undeserving deaths. “a grim ending there’ll be to his sea-trip”, is a phrase Antinous uses whilst plotting Telemachus’ death. The use of “grim” also shows how he knows what he’s doing is bad of him, or possibly how he wants Telemachus’ death to be messy. This mind set vividly displays Antinous’ cruel nature, and the bad guy enemy of the protagonist (Odysseus). Ending his speech, ‘The others welcomed the scheme’ showing their loyalty to this cruel man, also portraying his influence over them. Overall, through the passage, the Suitors and Antinous vividly are all displayed as negative figures throughout: with murder on their mind.
c) ‘The suitors deserved their punishment’. Using this passage as a starting point, explain how far you agree with this statement.
Previously, from book 4, we do learn of the ‘swaggering’ suitor’s treacherous ways. Starting with Antinous wishing for, and plotting, for a “grim ending” for the “young puppy” (Telemachus) during his travels. And ‘The others welcomed the scheme’, showing their dire ruthless ways. Before Book 4, we do also learn of the Suitors taking advantage and ‘helping themselves to the good things’ that Odysseus home has to offer, devouring all that he has to offer. Not forgetting their disrespect to Xenia, when ‘ravaging’ the serving women and forcing a bard to play for them. It is clear the suitors show no respect for the laws of Xenia, especially since they show signs of disrespect towards Telemachus, the prince left to man the house. They talk and mock behind his back, for instance joking about Zeus clipping him before he “reaches manhood”. Also, it is obvious the Suitors are in the palace for the remarriage of Penelope: who clearly shows no want of remarriage. All these points do display a negative light of Antinous, and his sheep’s, and a possible reasoning for their deaths.
On the other hand, it is arguable that what the suitors are doing is expected of them. This is in the means that it is reasonable for them to have a go at trying to reclaim and bed a ring on Penelope’s finger. Also them helping themselves of the ‘good things’ is possibly inevitable: since it’s better than the not so nice things. The suitors also have throughout haven’t be violent to a great level, and have respected Xenia at some terms, bearing in mind they’ve been staying in Odysseus’ house for years on end. Also when it comes to the scenes of the killing, Antinous dies first. Surely since he was the ring leader, Odysseus could have held mercy to the rest? And possibly let them go. Not just the suitors, but Odysseus killed many more than just the suitors, in the suitor massacre: possibly showing the lack of justice Odysseus thought upon.
In total, the quote ‘The suitors deserved their punishment’ is overall truthful. It seems as though that the suitors did very much out stay their welcome, and very much disrespected the hospitality given to them: plus the hosts of the home (Penelope and Telemachus). This very much concludes that they did deserve the wrath of Odysseus, even if Antinous was the primary perpetrator.