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Book 23 Notes from The Odyssey

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The Odyssey Book 23

The nurse goes upstairs excited by the news and she wakes Penelope telling her that her husband has returned. Penelope tells her not to play tricks on her and Eurykleia is surprised that Penelope would joke about such a thing. She tells her that the old beggar was Odysseus and he killed all the suitors. Penelope asks her how this is possible and Eurykleia replies:

"I did not see it,
I knew nothing; only I heard the groans
of men dying. We sat still in the inner rooms
holding our breath, and marvelling, shut in,
until Telemakhos came to the door and called me-
your own dear son, sent this time by his father!"
Book 23, lines 41-6

She tells her that the corpses were piled up at the gate and that the house has been cleansed. Penelope warns her not to lose herself in happiness because it was the gods who struck down the suitors and Odysseus hasn't come. Eurykleia tells her that she saw his scar the night before and knew it was him, but Penelope still thinks they are being tricked by the immortals. She goes downstairs unsure what she will find and sees a man leaning against a pillar at whom she gazes for a while. Telemachus calls to her and asks her why she is being so cruel and avoiding her husband. Penelope tells him that she is stunned but will seek secret signs. Odysseus smiles and tells Telemachus to be at peace because they might be in trouble for killing citizens. Telemachus tries to say that it doesn't matter because they can stand together. Odysseus thinks that everyone should dress well and they should act like there is a feast so that no one will hear of the deaths for the time being. They do this and everyone in the town thinks that Penelope has finally gotten married. Meanwhile Odysseus was being bathed by Eurynome. He goes to his wife and tells her that the immortals have made her hard. He asks for Eurykleia to make him a bed on the floor.

Penelope remains aloof because she still isn't sure it is him and she tells Eurykleia to make the bed outside her bedroom. He raged that his olive bed, their secret pact, had been moved from the bedroom. When she hears him describe how he built it she burst into tears and ran to him asking him not to rage at her. She asks him to forgive her because she had to be on guard for so many years. He begins to weep and would have wept until dawn if Athena did not slow the night. Odysseus tells his wife that there is one more trial foretold by Tiresias. She asks him what the trial is and he at first says he wants to sleep but explains that he must go to a land where they have never heard of the sea and sacrifice to Poseidon. At this place a man will mistake his oar for a winnowing fan. They stop talking and have sex after the maids have left the room. Telemachus quiets the dancing downstairs:

"The royal pair mingled in love again
and afterward lay revelling in stories:
hers of the siege her beauty stood at home
from arrogant suitors, crowding on her sight,
and how they fed their courtships on his cattle
oxen and fat sheep, and drank up rivers
of wine out of the vats. Odysseus told
of what hard blows he had dealt to others
and of what blows he had taken-all that story."
Book 23, lines 337-46

He recounts his journeys from island to island and his lost men as well as the nymphs who loved him. While they talk and sleep Athena takes care of everything else. When they wake, Odysseus tells her that their life has started again. He tells her to watch over the house because he is going to go see his father. He is worried that word will reach the town that all the suitors are dead. He goes off with his son and the herdsmen.

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