Analysis Of The Poem ' The Odyssey ' Essay

Analysis Of The Poem ' The Odyssey ' Essay

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In Ancient Greece, the role of rhapsodes was the delivery of epic poems - long, narrative poems concerning heroic deeds and events significant to a culture or nation - to the population in oral tradition. The rhapsode’s recitation went beyond storytelling. Principally, they were performers whose delivery and accuracy were key components of their profession. One aid in the accuracy of a performance was the format of the poetry itself. Homer’s epic work, The Odyssey, is written in dactylic hexameter - a metrical pattern in which a line is broken into six feet (Struck). Using this format, rhapsodes often used epithets - words or phrases attributed to a person or thing to describe an actual or attributed quality - as convenient devices in meeting the metric pattern. Simultaneously, the syllabic format of epithets in dactylic hexameter - one long syllable followed by two short syllables - allowed rhapsodes to easily improvise when exact recollection failed (Struck). When used in repetition, epithets emphasized especially relevant qualities in characters or things. Epithets were an integral part of the Odyssey in relation to the oral tradition, since both their use and repetition aided rhapsode and audience in recognizing allusions, as well as internalizing and recalling significant aspects in their respective subjects.

In Book IX: In The One-Eyed Giant’s Cave, of The Odyssey, an epithet is immediately used in the introduction of Odysseus - a “great teller of tales,” who begins to recall his journey (Homer, 136). Already, he has been distinguished as the sole narrator of the remainder of his and his crew’s travels. In addition, the mention of Odysseus’ skill for storytelling is supported further in the next major epithet, in which ...


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...nd death. Polyphemus is a lawless brute.

In juxtaposition of the horror of the previous night, the following morning is brought on through two epithets:
“When young Dawn with her rose-red fingers shone once more
the monster re-lit his fire and milked his handsome ewes,
each in order, putting a suckling underneath each dam,
and as soon as he’d briskly finished all his chores
he snatched up two more men and fixed his meal.” (Homer, 146).
The arrival of young Dawn and, more pervasively, her rose-red fingers is a frequent epithet and symbol in The Odyssey. Dawn brings the potential for improvement, prosperity, and perhaps most importantly: the hope which fuels Odysseus and his crew’s desire to go home. In this instance, the arrival of morning allows Odysseus the opportunity to formulate a way of avenging not just two, but six men lost to the monstrosity of the Cyclops.

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