In which of the two epics are the female characters more carefully described and more relevant to the narratives? [The Odyssey and The Aeneid]

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Lui James

In which of the two epics are the female characters more carefully described and more relevant to the narratives?

In Ancient Greece, the role of women was considered minimal. They were thought to be inferior to men, and very rarely had a say, or played a strong part in society. However, in both the Odyssey and the Aeneid, they have vital roles.

They have strong impacts upon the men, other characters and the story.

First, I’d like to analyse Calypso because of her strong effect on the narrative, and her independent character. She is a Sea-Nymph who is strong, charming and beautiful enough to hold Odysseus captive for a seven year romp on her island, isolated from the rest of the world. As the etymology of ‘Calypso’ suggests, Odysseus is being hidden and eclipsed from his real self. On Calypso’s island, he cannot be his true, heroic self. She’s able to keep him entrapped and tempted for so long that he starts to give up on getting home, but she’s still unable to persuade him to marry her, despite an offer of immortality. She achieves enough to prove that she is not only very strong but she’s also dangerous; she has managed to entice such a strong and heroic character for so long, and had Hermes not turned up to save the day, who knows for how long she could’ve been in control of him. Much longer, and she would’ve probably been Odysseus’s absolute puppet master. Calypso is important to the narrative because she’s the first person we see in contact with Odysseus. She helps to give us our first impression of him. This impression shows Odysseus to be heroic in his longing to get home. Calypso is a divine character, and she is described as such; when the Giant-killer arrives at her home, she is “singing with her beautiful voice”, but when Hermes tells her she is to let Odysseus leave, her personality quickly changes, and she becomes very upset at the prospect. Her divine beauty and her passionate temper make it clear why Odysseus hasn’t yet left her island and so for these reasons, she does have a relevance to the plot, even though she doesn’t play any further part.

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In the Aeneid, Dido seems to be the strongest mortal woman. She doesn’t typify the average woman of the ancient world. She has coped with the death of her husband, and she managed to lead her people to found a new city, Carthage. When Aeneas arrives, the city is coming along beautifully, and everybody respects their female leader. She is seen as the female version of the heroic main character Aeneas, because she’s ‘attractive in all senses’, she’s leading her people to a better life, and she too is a refugee, just like him. Therefore she could at first only ...

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