Double Standard for Women of Homer's Odyssey

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Double Standard for Women of the Odyssey

Odysseus plans to tiptoe back into his hall through various schemes, one of which is to become beneficial and amiable to the maidservants. With this motivation, he offers to guard the hearth so that the fire won’t dwindle, but the response he receives is more than unwelcoming. Melantho, a beneficiary of Penelope, spurns him saying:

You must be crazy, punch drunk, you old goat.

Instead of going out to find a smithy—or a tavern bench—you stay

putting your oar in, amid all our men.

Numbskull not to be scared! The wine you drank

has clogged your brain, or are you always this way,

boasting like a fool? Or have you lost

your mind because you beat that tramp, that Iros?

Look out, or someone better may get up

and give you a good knocking about the ears

to send you out all bloody. (18.405-15).

Unexpectedly and unconventional for his character, Odysseus says: “One minute: let me tell Telemakhos how you talk in hall, you slut; he’ll cut your arms and legs off” (18.416-20). “This hard shot took the women’s breath away and drove them quaking to their rooms, as though knives were behind: they felt he spoke the truth” (18.421-23).

From the perspective of Melantho, her reason to believe the hungry bellied pariah, Odysseus, seems unclear. There seems to be a lapse in her reasoning. Since the old beggar’s arrival at Odysseus’ estate, Telemakhos—not ever publicly acknowledging the hunched-over man's entry—appears to wholly neglect him. Intimidated by the suitors’ death threats and revealing Odysseus’ identity, the only way out for Telemakhos, ...

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... Athens," 5-16.

Diana Buitron-Oliver and Beth Cohen, "Between Skylla and Penelope: Female Characters of the Odyssey in Archaic and Classical Greek Art," pp. 29-58.

"Female Representations and Interpreting the Odyssey," by Seth Schein, pp. 17-27.

Griffin, Jasper. Homer on Life and Death, 1980, Clarendon Press.

Richard Brilliant, "Kirke's Men: Swine and Sweethearts," pp. 165-73.

Helene Foley, "Penelope as Moral Agent," in Beth Cohen, ed., The Distaff Side (Oxford 1995), pp. 93-115.

"The Odyssey, History, and Women," by A. J. Graham, pp. 3-16

Lillian Doherty, Siren Songs: Gender, Audiences, and Narrators in the Odyssey (Ann Arbor 1995), esp. chapter 1.

Marilyn Arthur Katz, Penelope's Renown: Meaning and Indeterminacy in the Odyssey (Princeton 1991).

Nancy Felson-Rubin, Regarding Penelope: From Courtship to Poetics (Princeton 1994).
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