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What are the similarities & differences between old and new comedy?

Old and new comedies, by Plautus and Aristophanes, feature many similar aspects which transcended across over time. Such as your fantastical characters and general humor. Also they have much contrasting between them, like: how the narration was presented and the issues raised to overcome.

Fantastical characters of the time, were highly popular because of their controversial (yet funny) nature towards Greek society. For instance the plays ‘Pseudolus’ and ‘Swaggering Soldier’, by Plautus in new comedy, both feature strong and clever slave characters. Pseudolus very much contradicts your average slave at the time, with how he volleys commands like “Be silent, while I read the letter through.” towards his master. New comedies usually feature the slaves coming out on top in Greek society, this was done due to Plautus adapting old Greek plays (set in Greece), and using them to depict the inferiority of the Greeks; comically. Old comedies can relate to this, in plays like ‘Lysistrata’, where a strong female protagonist seizes and succeeds a plan of peace. This is fantastical to the likes of women being seen as lesser, or inferior, to men. In fact the whole play is about all women standing up against war, and them having the answer. The wool metaphor for instance, is a device explaining political opinions through a female character and put into context using the subject of weaving. This  fantastical element differentiates from most old comedies, since how the idea was presented was through all male actors with an all male audience; sending a possible political or society based message on how women were ignored.

Political messages are another differentiating element between old and new comedies. Old comedies commonly expressed such ideas, with Aristophanes (using humor) criticising Greek ruling because of their war orientated nature. New comedies on the other hand, kept things to the domestic side of life. This was likely due to stricter emperors at the time, who would of not allowed any art depicting criticism towards them. The ‘Swaggering Soldier’ is a comedy about (like ‘Pseudolus’) trying to obtain a damsel. Story lines like these, although pretty cliche, were appropriate and relatable to a Roman audience. Along with the change of subject, came the change in stage set up. New comedy usually using a typical set up of three houses or domestically situated buildings. Whilst with old comedies, and their political biscuit base, would use buildings like an Acropolis ( in ‘Lysistrata’).

Narrations in old and new comedies were rather contrasting also. ‘Lysistrata’ cleverly featured two choruses representing the masses of the division of men and women on the topic. Their songs form an argument between the division, adding to the play extra opinions and filling gaps. Whilst new comedies used a much more linear narration technique of having some begin the play with back story and context, visible in the ‘Swaggering Soldier’. Although this doesn’t feel as clever since the story seems almost irrelevant and unnecessary to how the rest of the plays goes.

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How does Aristophanes use visual humour in Lysistrata?

In the old comedy Lysistrata, by Aristophanes, we see a wide variety of visual humour; many of which is physical, and has the biggest impact when performed. Visual humour appears in the form of prop penises to foundling to funny scenes with physical actions. Traditionally performed by an all male cast, this peace play was rather controversial and unorthodox for its time, especially in since it was written 21 years into the Peloponnesian war.

The prop falices play a vital role in the plays humour, since after the women stop sleeping with their husbands: all the men find themselves with constant erected privates. This humour would therefore be escalated with the addition of the prop, and would be vastly more comical on stage. One scene where all the leaders of the land meet to discuss there problem, they each one by one exposes themselves on stage. Being funny in of it self, since it’s taking the mick out of political leaders, it is furthered by the fact we ironically see factions like the war mongering Spartans having to submit for peace, also having to face the same sexual problem. Masks were also always used in Greek plays, these would be emphasising and exaggerating the current emotion of the character. Comedies would take this to a new level, with the masks portraying particular funny faces.

Another brilliant, more musical, means of comedy is the chorus. This was made up of 24 people, being subdivided into two: one representing a mass of women for peace and the second representing men for war. The two choruses are also presented as contrasting elements, men being the fire of desire and women being water who must drench the men to resist their desire. On stage this could be acted rather funnily, with the climax of the men being doused in water. In another scene both the choruses oppose each other, with the women undressing as their reaction. This ends with both chorus’ naked and the women chasing the men’s leader back to their group. The physical humour here would be portrayed as being pretty funny, especially since people of the time would associate this with the politics of old men being stuck in their ways.

Aristophanes in Scene III, presents visual humour between the couple Myrrhine and Cinesias. Cinesias wishes Myrrhine to fix his week old erected problem. Myrrhine banters him for this via pretending she’s going to have sex with him; but instead continually gets cushions and other things, making a ceremony of the situation. Cinesias eventually has enough and exclaims: “All I need is a fuck!!” Cinesias’ problem not being fixed would be funny to the audience, especially with how Myrrhine addresses the problem, the humour would be built up till the climax.

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What are the common features of the new comedy?

Early Greek and Roman plays used a reasonable amount of stock features, this can vary from certain common characters to certain themes being prevalent throughout a selection of plays. In new comedies, such as ‘The Swaggering Soldier’ and ‘Pseudolus’, we can clearly see and evaluate these features.

Archetypal characters are particulary common to crop up: such as a clever slave character. Pseudolus takes up the role of the clever slave and protagonist, in his play; and Platus uses certain traits for this character, that is apparent with other clever slave like characters. Such traits are being loyal to their masters, which is apparent right at the very beginning of ‘Pseudolus’; when Pseudolus acts as Calidorus’ “chief privy counsellor”. There’s also a comical essence about these slave characters, a sense of irony, since slaves like Pseudolus don’t seem to get bossed about. In fact, if anything, one may say Pseudolus controls his master. Platus furthers the comical edge on this idea, by making his clever slaves rather cocky or even insulting. Palaestrio (from ‘The Swaggering Soldier’) for instance, speaks “My master, let me tell you, is a man wrapped up in an elephant’s hide; he has no more intelligence than a stone” to Periplectomenus.

New comedy also involves a reasonable amount of deception and trickery, being crafted by these confident and clever slaves. One example would be Palaestrio’s ‘master plan’, in which to trick Pyrgopolynices that Philocomasium has a twin sister which was mistaken as the actual sister. Cunning plans like these, really talk to the audience on the basis of a reversal of class in society. These would not only elevate a more positive outlook on slaves, but also give the audience a laugh on the basis of it’s irony.  Dramatic irony was also another form of comedy used, which is evident towards the end of ‘Pseudolus’ when Ballio the pimp boasts to the audience; when they already know he’s lost.

Referring back to the feature of archetypal characters, Women as objects of desire are oftenly used. Both: ‘The Swaggering Soldier’ and ‘Pseudolus’ has these characters (Philocomasium and Phoenium), who are more oftenly than not being pursued in the name of love. This can also be the basis of another type of domestic like humour, like the view of women being unobtainable or not having a wife. It is also worth baring in mind, that this sort of situation wouldn’t of been uncommon for Greek or Roman audiences at the time; meaning the plays did relate to typical life at the time. Not forgetting to mention that Roman plays were all generally domestic based, with the sets including houses, or even brothels. Also the domestic nature of the plays meant that there were no political references involved; these all being more common features in new comedy.

Overall, it is clearly apparent that common features are shared among many classical plays; ultimately giving playwright’s from this era, their own sort of twist and ideas in their works.

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How does Plautus make this extract humorous? (P253-254)

Plautus’ writing, in ‘Pseudolus’, uses a mixture of comedy to create such a humorous play. One display of this, is Simia’s reply to Pseudolus encouraging Simia with a reward: “And if I don’t succeed, the executioner can treat me to a capital reception.” Plautus here makes the rather serious situation funny, with the talk of death; and Simia being aware of the consequences, making Pseudolus seem ignorant to Simia’s intelligence. There is also an essence of silly humor, such as when Simia comments on Ballio walking “sideways like a crab”. Funny descriptions and bantering of other character’s in the play, serves as a good platform for Plautus to make his plays comical. Once Simia encounters Ballio in the extract, he calls out to him: “You there! Billy-goat-beard…”, again bantering Ballio’s character. The funny interactions between other characters and Ballio, prove funny due to Ballio’s higher position, and how easily he is degraded by the other dudes.

Note to Cotter: Hey Sir, I don’t really understand how to access humor. Am I on the right track? Didn’t know what else/how to write about this

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To what extent do you think that the gods and goddesses of the Odyssey provide good role models for the mortals?

Throughout ‘The Odyssey’ there is constant intervention of the Gods. It is questionable whether or not they’re role models for the Greeks of the book, let alone being a good one: although there is some evidence of the gods behaving well.

 

Poseidon is a good example of a god who shows a lesser amount of good deeds. For instance he chooses to hold a grudge on Odysseus; this grudge leads to Poseidon’s repeated attempts of killing Odysseus when out on the seas. On one occasion he turns a ship to stone, only to sink and kill the crew: due to them helping Odysseus on his return to ‘sunny Ithaca’. This is a clear display of a god behaving badly. Although, in saying this, it is worth a mention that Odysseus did attack him son; the Cyclops Polyphemus. Therefore some may look at this act of revenge as worthy, and righteous in Greek society.

 

It is renowned that many Gods, to pass into godhood, must perform a good deed. This therefore can be seen as an act of laying out blueprints for average people to strife for. Also Gods such as Zeus are supposed role models for kings: due to his status as a patriarch to the other gods. Athena on the other hand, although presented as a powerful goddess, is not technically performing a very good role model for females. Women, in Greek society, are usually held at home to perform domestic duties: and for Athena to be a role model to women would be outrageous due to her activities in helping and saving men such as Odysseus.

 

During the Odyssey, it is known that many gods do wish for people to respect Xenia. Even the gods do present their and follow their rules on Xenia: such as Calypso looking after Odysseus on her island. More examples follow with Zeus hosting the court on mountOlympus and Circe (eventually) showing Xenia to Odysseus and his crew. Even towards the end of the Odyssey, Odysseus gains the right to slaughter the Suitors (from the gods) since they disobeyed the laws of Xenia. This’d therefore set an example to future Suitors and guests, a lot like role modelling.

 

In many ways, it is clear that the Gods expect the mortals to act in a certain way. This is apparent during sacrifices, donations, libations and worshipping the gods. These would all be acts to gain the appreciation from the gods, and to avoid consequences (such as being sent to be tortured in the underworld). So in a way, these acts can be seen as a means for mortals to act for the gods.

 

Altogether, it seems as the gods do have tendencies to not act very godly. In fact this is debatable if gods should even act in a certain manner. (40mins) But overall, gods do seem to show aid towards the mortals (such as ino) and do perform a role model like position.

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Context Question Book 4

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.

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Context (Extract) Question Book 19

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)

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How appropriate is the epithet ‘Odysseus of the nimble-wits’?

Odysseus’ epithet, of having ‘nimble-wit’s’, implies his capability of thinking and understanding quickly; also his keen intelligence. These attributes are visible throughout ‘The Odyssey’ epic.

During the first four books of the story, before even Odysseus appears, there are brief mentions of the “great Odysseus” and his journeys. The first tale we learn of his journey, is his goal: the infiltration of Troy! We learn of Odysseus cunningness when conjuring up the idea of building the Trojan horse, to gain entry into the city. Not to mention his ways of manipulation, as Nestor exclaims. Also we gain the knowledge of Odysseus’ allegiance with the gods.

But his alliance with the Gods could also be taken as a counter; to the argument of his ‘nimble-wit’s’. This is due to the factor that it is possible that the Gods possibly helped him out, making him appear to have wits. Poseidon, God of the sea, also has taken a disliking to the man, therefore proving a lesser heroism to the character. Possibly also, the enraging he has done to anger Poseidon can be seen as not witty. .Nestor also mentions of Odysseus taking a different route back from Troy, which has obviously been proven to be the wrong direction: since he’s yet to of returned, unlike other comrades.

During his travels, we do have moments of Odysseus’ fabled nimble mind set. Such as quick thinking when encountering Polyphemus, here he has the sufficient intelligence to not tell where his boat is moored. He instead refers to his ship as being destroyed at sea. This then leads to the Cyclops believing him, and not taking further action on hunting down the ship. There is also the demonstration in the same book, when he refers to himself as nobody (oppose to telling the Cyclops his real name). Later, this reveals to be a vastly appropriate move by Odysseus: because when Polyphemus shouts for help, he exclaims that ‘nobody’ is causing him trouble. That ensures no other Cyclopes to come to his aid, (End of time) therefore proving cunningness on Odysseus’ behalf. And finally on the island, Odysseus wittingly escapes behind a goat. Further evidence is shown in the epic, when Odysseus pays a visit to the underworld. Oppose to spending a lot of time with his deceased mother, he pays extra attention to the Prophet he initially sought out; Tieresias. This therefore ensures he acquires the needed information; it could also be interpreted as an acknowledgment with his focus on the quest at hand. Much later into the book, book 12, we see vast improvements of Odysseus character. This is especially apparent when he communicates with his crew members not to eat the cattle of the sun, insuring to not disobey the gods. That act of course does prove development in his character, and his wits.

Although his nimble wits are very much apparent, Odysseus does trip up on occasions. On such occasions being displayed when we first hand witness Odysseus’ hopelessness on Calypso’s island. Here he proves he cannot get off the island without the gods help, and is consistently experiencing intercourse with Calypso: as if accepting his doom filled fate of being trapped on the island. Hubris is also an apparent trait for Odysseus, since he is so self indulged: he doesn’t listen to his crew mates all that much. One occasion proves almost their death, when Odysseus is enraging the Cyclops when retreating from its domain. Also a repeat on the Calypso incident, on Circe the Nymphs’ island, he also becomes a lustrous individual after his crew become pigs. Ultimately showing his ineptitude of continuing the journey home.

Finalising the argument, it is more so that the epithet: ‘Odysseus of the nimble-wits’ does appropriately fit his character. This is primarily due to the countless occasions where this is evident, oppose to the counter arguments which are on a lesser count. Also he acclaims the hero status, proving the gods do favour Odysseus. Surely this does prove to us his capability of being nimble witted, especially under the circumstances the Odyssey journey provides him with.

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Context Question Book 18

a) What has been happening in Odysseus palace that leads to these events?

Since Odysseus has left his palace, a long twenty years ago, too set sail for Troy: many events have occurred within his palace. From the start of the Odyssey, we’ve gained the knowledge that the ‘swaggering’ Suitors have become a bit too acquainted and comfortable in the palace. They’ve been described too be ‘ravaging’ the serving women, and feasting the days away consuming all of Odysseus’ food. Not only this, but the Suitors are obviously in the palace for one reason, to take Penelope’s (Odysseus’ Wife) hand in marriage. But her non inevitable spouse has yet too of been chosen out of the Suitors, luckily delaying time for Odysseus’ very much postponed return. Telemachus earlier on was persuaded by Athena to go and search for his father, which has now led to the Suitors plotting to kill Telemachus (due to his absences) . The book up to the point of the extract, displays a fight the Suitors have wagered on: between Odysseus (whom has finally returned from a bustling adventure) and a beggar. But the suitors have yet to find out that he is Odysseus!

b) What does this passage show us about Odysseus and how does it act as a foreshadowing of events to come?

Straight away in the extract we learn of Odysseus’ capabilities, or at least what he perceives of his strength, and he makes a mental decision of what to do; before starting the combat. “should he knock him senseless, leave him dead where he dropped or just stretch him out on the ground with a light jab?” We can take from this that Odysseus has both a blood thirsty side to him, and a more merciful side. After this quick insight of Odysseus’ thought trail, we see him put it to action: when he skilfully counters the beggar’s upcoming fist, Odysseus retaliates with a “hook below the ear”. Causing Odysseus’ ultimate victory; showing us the character’s great strength.

The extract also reveals a sharp tongue to Odysseus’ manner, when he exclaims to the Suitors: that they’re “loathsome fools” . This attitude shows us a rather frank nature to the character, one of which uses to the Suitors whom are at a very high class. We can learn from this that he can stand on his own two feet when needed so. He goes onto say “you’ll bring down something worse around your neck!” [Possibly implying a hanging rope], this could be seen as a form of threatening remark towards the Suitors: possibly even rude. But it is excusable due to the circumstances of Odysseus punching someone for their entertainment. Meaning that Odysseus may know his means of quarreling with other’s appropriately.

Finally there is the foreshadowing. Irus (the beggar whom Odysseus just thought) can be seen too represent the Suitors, who Odysseus will inevitably slaughter whilst being disguised himself: as a beggar.

c) Using this passage as a starting point, how is Odysseus’ power slowly revealed elsewhere in the epic?

During the passage, we do capture an essence of raw strength that Odysseus beholds: when fighting Irus. Before this extract took place, there was more development of his strength. Even from the begging of the epic, Telemachus mentions Odysseus being a hardy warrior: and our initially expectations do peak a bit of an anti climax when first introduced to his character. First we’ll see this robust individual a while back, before the time in the book when Telemachus mentions him, and he’s sobbing on the shores of Calypso’ island. At this point in time, it is un-evident if Odysseus has even made any attempt of escape: in fact he practically waits for the ‘lustrous’ goddess to grant his freedom. But after this, the development of his character clearly becomes apparent, we witness his building in strength as he tackles the waves and storms Poseidon spits at him. But Odysseus inevitably falls off to a watery doom, only just about being saved by other gods.

Another sequence, in which we have a display of Odysseus’ power, is in the caves of the Cyclops. Here, after ultimately being trapped in by the grotesque beast, Odysseus conjures up a cunning plan too over power the Cyclops; by thrusting a giant stake into its singular eye. This in theory would take a lot of strength and power to do so! Also there is the viable show of power when Odysseus suppliants king Alcinous, and a champion of the Phaeacians insults Odysseus’ physical ability! Only too find out that Odysseus hurls a discus much further; than this Phaeacian athlete. We can of course see here the entirety of Odysseus’ supreme strength and power.

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