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Book 18 Notes from The Odyssey

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The Odyssey Book 18

Another local beggar comes into the room and tries to move Odysseus. Odysseus frowns and tells him that there is room for both of them. The beggar, named Irus, gets angry and says "Listen to him! the swine can talk your arm off,/ like an old oven woman! With two punches/ I'd knock him snoring,..."Book 18, lines 30-2. Antinous laughs at the challenge and points it out to everyone and tells them that whoever wins may sit and dine with them. Odysseus says he has no business fighting but he will do it because he is hungry. Telemachus tells him that he doesn't have to worry about a foul blow from one of the suitors because he will watch out for him. Athena gives Odysseus extra strength and bulk so that when he takes his ragged shirt off everyone is stunned at the beggar's physique. When Irus panics, Antinous mocks him and tells him that he will be sold as a slave if he doesn't fight. Odysseus wonders to himself how badly he should wound the man and decides just to hurt him a little. They fight and with the first hit Odysseus breaks Irus' jaw.

The suitors are very entertained and Antinous gives Odysseus blood pudding. Amphinomos gives him wine and Odysseus tells him that his hands are clean and that no man should break the law of the land and should stop before there is vengeance. Amphinomus is startled and wants to leave but Athena stops him. Penelope reenters the room prompted by Athena who wants her to show how beautiful she is to her husband (Penelope does not know this). She addresses her hand-maiden Eurynome and tells her she wishes to be seen among the suitors. Eurynome tells her to bathe so that she will not look as if she has been weeping. Penelope agrees and asks for her hand-maidens to come with her so she is not alone among the men. She falls asleep for awhile and the gods make her more attractive.

She wakes and gets ready and goes into the hall. She approaches Telemachus and chastises him for letting the beggars be shamefully treated. He tells her that he has no control over the suitors. Eurymachus interrupts and tells her that such a beauty will bring a hundred more suitors the next day. She tells him that her beauty was lost when her husband went to Troy. She recounts that Odysseus told her that she should take a new husband if he was not back by the time Telemachus had a beard. She tells them that this is soon but their behavior is inappropriate. Odysseus laughs at the way she toys with them and Antinous responds that it is only fair for her to accept their gifts. All the suitors present her with gifts and she takes them to her chambers. The suitors party into the night and Odysseus tells the maidens that he will tend the fires so that they can tend Penelope all night. Some of them laugh at the beggar. Melanthius' sister Melantho ridicules the beggar and Melanthius tells his sister he is going to tell Telemachus how she is behaving and then calls her a slut. The girls are dumbfounded and they go away as he wishes. Athena wants Odysseus to be ridiculed more so Eurymachus baits him and says:

"Friend, you have a mind to work,
do you? Could I hire you to clear stones
from wasteland for me- you'll be paid enough-
collecting boundary walls and planting trees?
I'll give you a bread ration every day,
a cloak to wrap in, sandals for your feet.
Oh no: you learned your dodges long ago-
no honest sweat. You'd rather tramp the country
begging, to keep your hoggish belly full."
Book 18, lines 443-51

Odysseus replies with a challenge that if they should complete with plows or weapons he would win when Odysseus returns. Eurymachus yells at him and takes a stool to throw at him but Odysseus hides by Amphinomos. The stool hits a wine steward and spills the wine. Telemachus advises that they go home to their beds and many of the suitors glare at him. Amphinomus holds them back and says that they should have one more drink and return home. They mix the wine and then leave to go to bed.

Topic Tracking: Disguise and Deceit 10

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