Book 17 Notes from The Odyssey

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The Odyssey Book 17

When dawn rises Telemachus puts on his sandals and is eager to go to the city. He tells Eumaius that he must go to town to show his mother in person that he is all right ... Then he tells him that the beggar should be led to town. Odysseus agrees with him and tells him that the old rags he is wearing might be his death but in the town he might find some merciful people. Telemachus is seen by Eurykleia first who runs up to him. Then Penelope sees him and exclaims:

"Back with me!
Telemakhos, more sweet to me than sunlight!
I thought I should not see you again, ever,
after you took the ship that night to Pylos-
against my will, with not a word! You went
for news of your dear father. Tell me now
of everything you saw!"
Book 17, lines 51-7

He tells his mother to bathe and pray as he goes to retrieve Theoklymenos. He avoids the suitors as he leaves and runs into Theoklymenos being led to his house by one of the sailors. Telemachus tells the sailor to watch his gifts from Menelaus until the whole affair is over. He leads Theoklymenos to his mother who still wants to know if there is any news about Odysseus. He tells her that Nestor knew nothing but Menelaus told him that Odysseus was trapped on the island of Calypso. This upsets Penelope but Theoklymenos interrupts swearing that Odysseus is on the island planning to get revenge on the suitors. She tells him that if this were true she would give him many gifts. The suitors are competing with the javelin and then they go inside for a feast. While this continues, the swineherd is leading Odysseus into the town. Eumaius tells him that he wishes he wouldn't go beg but Odysseus asks him for a walking stick. They travel to the city over a spring and through some poplars when they cross the path of Melanthios who taunts them:

"Here comes one scurvy type leading another!
God pairs them off together, every time.
Swineherd, where are you taking your new pig,
that stinking beggar there, licker of pots?
How many doorposts has he rubbed his back on
whining for garbage, where a noble guest
would rate a cauldron or a sword."
Book 17, lines 278-84

Odysseus has to stifle his anger as Melanthios kicks him in the hip. Eumaius is outrages by this behavior and he pleads for Odysseus to stay away from the town. Melanthios taunts him more and tells him that Odysseus died at sea and that the suitors are going to kill Telemachus. He leaves them and they come to the hall of Odysseus where the minstrel Phemius is singing. Odysseus turns to Eumaius and says, "here is the beautiful place- who could mistake it?/ here is Odysseus' hall: no hall like this!" Book 17, lines 340-1. Eumaius advises him that it is not safe for a beggar to go in there and Odysseus thinks that Eumaius should go in first.

While Eumaius speaks, an old dog who was trained by Odysseus as a puppy and is laying on a dung pile perks up his ears and tried to move but was too weak. Odysseus tells Eumaius that it is a wonder such a fine dog is neglected Eumaius tells him that servants are lazy without a master to tend to them. The dog, named Argos, dies after they leave. Telemachus sees the pair entering the hall and calls Eumaius over to eat. Odysseus enters the doorway later and Telemachus gives the beggar two handfuls of meat and bread. Odysseus blesses Telemachus and Athena whispers in his ear that he should go around and beg from thee suitors to see what kind of men they are. Some give to him well and some do not. Melanthios tells the queen that he saw Eumaius leading the beggar to the house... Antinous lashes out asking him why he brought a beggar there. Eumaius tells him that he is a hard man and is interrupted by Telemachus who says that Antinous just wants to cause trouble. Telemachus then turns to Antinous and tells him that he is in no place to throw people out. Antinous yells back that he gave his footstool to the beggar, a good gift and others only gave him bread. Odysseus speaks to Antinous and tells him that he should give more than the rest of them because he is more lordly. Then Odysseus begins to tell his false tale and Antinous exclaims at his annoyance. He tells Odysseus that he has gotten enough from everyone else because they are generous with someone else's food. Odysseus retorts:

"A pity you have more looks than heart.
You'd grudge a pinch of salt from your own larder
to your own handy man. You sit here, fat
on others' meat, and cannot bring yourself
to rummage out a crust of bread for me!"
Book 17, lines 594-9

Antinous is enraged and he bounces the stool off Odysseus' shoulder, Odysseus shakes his head and stays calm then speaks to the crowd. He says that Antinous hit him for being hungry and he wishes him to die before his wedding day. Antinous tell him to be quiet and eat or be beaten. Others rebuke Antinous for assaulting a guest. Telemachus sits still and gets more angry as Penelope curses under her breath. She tells her maid, Eurynome that Antinous is the worst of the lot and then asks her maid to go to Eumaius and have the beggar brought to her for questioning. Eumaius tells her the beggar is enchanting but warns her that he bears false news of Odysseus. Penelope tells him to lead the beggar to her so she can have a diversion from the suitors' behavior. Eumaius has the beggar follow him with the promise of a cloak and tunic. Odysseus says that the crowd of suitors worries him because they are so violent. He tells Eumaius to have the queen wait until sundown and then he will come. When Penelope asks why Eumaius has returned alone he explains that the beggar thinks it wiser if they not be seen together by the suitors. Penelope thinks this is wise and Eumaius rejoins Telemachus. He tells him that he has to leave to go attend to the swine. The suitors drink and dance into the evening.

Topic Tracking: Disguise and Deceit 9
Topic Tracking: Guests and Hosts 12

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