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The Portrayal of Women in the Odyssey

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Introduction

The Portrayal of Women within the Odyssey Women play an important role in the epic, The Odyssey, written by Homer. Set in a period subsequent to the Trojan War, the accounts of Odysseus and his trials and tribulations feature four main types of women: the goddess, the seductress, the witch and the good wife. Each of these portrays the role of women in a different way, some in complete contrast to the actual civilization of the period. Ancient Greece was very much a patriarchal society. Men were regarded as of higher status than women, and were seen as the stronger gender. Sports were reserved purely for men, as were literature, politics and philosophy. Typically, a woman was judged, not by her own achievements, but by the wealth and status of her father or husband. A woman would be forced to be married at a young age, keep the house for her husband and have children. Usually, ancient Greek women were not educated, although in Athens, women were taught to read, at school or at home, simple facts on mythology, religion and occasionally musical instruments and as with most other places in ancient Greece, they learnt the basics of the household; spinning, weaving, sewing, cooking and other household jobs. ...read more.

Middle

This is because when she keeps Odysseus captive on Ogygia, Odysseus has no power to do any different. However, it is Zeus' final decision that he should be released from her island, and Hermes, messenger to the gods, who tells her. These are both men making her do something she doesn't want to, but she has to obey them, which is a reflection of the ancient Greek traditions. Additionally, Calypso is also seen as the model hostess, offering her guest ambrosia, nectar and clothes. She does this with ease and pleasure, as she even offers Hermes these things before asking why he had come to see her. She is seen to be immoral by sleeping with a married man, yet to simultaneously have good manners, portraying the complexity of women which wasn't recognised in ancient Greek society. Also a seductress, but concurrently a witch, Circe is firstly portrayed as deceitful and cunning. She lures Odysseus' men into her house before turning them into pigs. Her trickery shows her to be independent and strong-minded, although she is then proven to be weaker than men when Odysseus arrives. Contrasted against his bravery in Book 10, Circe displays cowardice when confronted by Odysseus after he has eaten the 'drug of real virtue' from Hermes to protect him from the witches' black magic. ...read more.

Conclusion

This is the side of her which seems unlike that of the women of ancient Greece. However, parallel to the ancient Greek traditions of statuses between genders, Penelope is reprimanded by her own son. She is told to go to her room and stop making decisions because that was his concern as he was 'the man of t he house'. Without any confrontation, she resigned as returned to her room. This shows that Penelope is contrasted with the other women portrayed in The Odyssey, because she is comparable to the ancient Greek society, whereas Athena, Calypso, Circe and Nausicaa are dissimilar. In conclusion, women in The Odysseus are mostly portrayed as strong-willed and open-minded people with their own thoughts and opinions. Although some are immortal, and supposedly free of human emotion, they feel loss, anger and fear, and can make love to mortal men. Their strength of character is displayed with their ability and willingness to differentiate from the periodic stereotypes of women, although in the end, they almost always surrender to the ancient Greek patriarchal culture. If these charcters were to be placed in the ancient Greek society, I think that they would be discarded from the civilization, except for Penelope who would integrate into the culture with her conceded attitude towards the men around her. Alex Jones 11be ...read more.

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