1) What has happened to Odysseus since his return to Ithaca?
Odysseus’ return to Ithaca occurs in Book 13, these events directly take off from after book 4. This therefore means the setting will be of back to suitor dominance, with the struggles of Penelope’s marriage possibly taking a dead end. When Odysseus first arrives back in Ithaca, he is shrouded in a mist: and is unsure of which lands he has arrived on. It quickly becomes apparent, when a Sheppard arrives, that it is in fact Ithaca. And the so called Sheppard turns out to be Athena, whom allows Odysseus the right to punish the suitors.
Odysseus now goes to seek refuge in Eumaeus’ hut, which provides Odysseus a place to sleep, eat and lends him a cloak. The following morning, Odysseus tests Eumaeus’ xenia, then they swap stories; with Telemachus making a return on the following, who is unsure of Odysseus (due to his disguise). But the weeping commences between the father and son, once Odysseus is reviled. Later, Odysseus and Eumaeus commence towards the palace: which then turns to bitterness between Odysseus and Antinous. Whilst Emaeus makes a swift return to his home, leaving Telemachus and Odysseus alone with the suitors. The attention in Book 18, turns to a fight between Odysseus and a beggar: which events in Odysseus winning, and being congratulated by the suitors, and leaving him to dine upon them. Which then leads onto Book 19.
2) What do we learn about the character of Odysseus from this extract?
The first notable attribute we learn of Odysseus within this extract, is his focus on the job. Whilst Telemachus is seized astonished by how a godly presence is “flaming fire” in his eye, Odysseus hastily redirects his attention back to the task at hand. “Quiet”, “Get a grip on yourself” quickly countering Telemachus’ ‘burst out’. We can learn here of Odysseus’ focus, and capability of keeping his son in order. Odysseus goes onto say “I’ll stay here behind to test the women, test your mother too.” This small command can very much be interpreted as a major attribute to Odysseus, and his wits. With that quote, we can see how Odysseus grips a situation, and will take command and control of it. Not to mention, this could be seen to briefly touch his worrys of people’s loyalty to him (and possibly his family) in Ithaca, which shows reputation to be meaningful to him.
Further into the extract, the suitor Melantho lashes out to Odysseus (questioning why the tramp still lurks the halls of the palace). ‘A killing glance, and the old trooper’ counters Melantho hastily, and goes into his beggar charade. This disguise is played so very convincingly, previously proven since he gained entry with it, that we can praise and learn how Odysseus can quickly master a new personality. During this encounter, Odysseus also touches upon his hubris when mentioning: how “Odysseus may-there’s still hope!” and even when he mentions his son, “Telemachus… like father, like son-thanks to god Apollo.” This hubris is used even when describing his son, which does imply of how high he thinks of himself. Even going to put himself above Telemachus.
Odysseus’ final encounter of the extract is with his wife, Penelope; who is unsure of the stranger’s true identity. Notably, here is the first time we see a genuine flirtatious side to Odysseus: this becomes apparent when he awes at her “no man on the face of the earth could find fault with you. Your fame, believe me, has reached vaulting skies.” Although this is his wife, we can consider it to be also how well he can treat women. He could possibly even be recalled as a ladies’ man. Here, he also cunningly keeps his identity a secret, even to his wife. Proving his dedication, and how much he can stay in his disguise’s character for the plan to occur and work out victorious in his favour.
3) Show how Odysseus and Penelope’s behaviour in this passage is typical of them or not.
Odysseus and Penelope’s encounter in book 19 of the epic, is the first notable time we seem them interact with each other. Although, due to the circumstances, Odysseus is in disguise. As I’ve previously mention, Odysseus is rather flirty: since he mentions how “no man on the face of the earth could find fault with you.” We can put this down to be very typical of them, since he is using his opportunity of first seeing her again: to admire her, and present this admiration to her. But, the conversation takes a change in pace: and more becomes mourning for Odysseus, and is convinced “that King Odysseus is no more,” which would be seen as lesser typical of them both to be talking about (which I very doubt they’d probably ever talk about…).
The flirtatious attitude Odysseus provides, can debatably be traced back to one of his godly sexual partners: Calypso. Maybe not so flirtatious, but he definitely compliments Calypso when comparing her to Penelope: “She falls far short of you, your beauty, stature.” This is very much like the scene in which he meets Penelope, and does present to us his smooth talking with female characters in the book. Later on in Odysseus’ adventure, he encounters the witch-goddess Circe in Aeaea, who becomes Odysseus’ lover whilst his men are turned to pigs at her hand. Circe here is also described by Odysseus to have ‘lovely braids’, and which he later goes to mount ‘Circe’s gorgeous bed…’ These act further shows how well Odysseus can get on with women, which does lead to the initial passage of Odysseus and Penelope being rather casual of them both.
Penelope’s mourning in the extract can also be familiarised with her previous depictions. In fact, when the reader first sees Penelope, she is bereaved and is very miserable by a song a bard is performing of suffering and loss. Notably, a lot of Penelope’s character and story revolves around death and remorse. Later in book 2, we learn of how the suitors will marry Penelope when she’s finished weaving a shroud for her deceased father-in-law. In which she’d carefully un-weave, to forever postpone her remarriage. Book 4 again presents her distraught nature, of when she hears about Telemachus’ plans of departure: she then starts to worry she’d lose her son in addition to her father. These factors all present a resemblance to her mourning when encountering the stranger, Odysseus, showing her general attitude and typical attitude of being wary of her husband’s supposed death.
(I wasn’t sure whether to provide an argument for both sides, since the question stated ‘or’. Nor could I think of sufficient things to counter it with anyways… =’s)