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Book 4 Notes from The Odyssey

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The Odyssey Book 4

The travelers journey to the house of Menelaus who is holding a double wedding for his daughter to Achilles' son and another's daughter to his son. When Telemachus and Peisistratos arrive, they are immediately announced to Menelaus, but the herald asks if they should invite them in. Menelaus is indignant with this question as he tells the herald, because he would never have made it home if it were not for the charity of other hosts. After being led into the hall, Telemachus and Peisistratos are cleansed by hand-maidens and fed. When they are ready, Menelaus welcomes them and asks to hear their names. They sit down at the feast, but Telemachus does not stay silent. He speaks to Peisistratos:

"My dear friend, can you believe you eyes?-
The murmuring hall, how luminous it is
with bronze gold, amber, silver, and ivory!
This is the way the court of Zeus must be,
inside, upon Olympos. What wonder!"
Book 4, lines 77-81

Menelaus tells him that mortals cannot rival Zeus and describes how hard it was to get such wealth through seven years wandering and war. He tells them he would gladly have only a third of the wealth to have his friends back. He says next that Odysseus went through more than anyone else. Telemachus is affected by this and he begins to weep. Helen tells Menelaus that the guests have not yet introduced themselves but she is sure that one is Telemachus, the son of Odysseus. Menelaus says he also sees the likeness. Peisistratos speaks and confirms their suspicions also explaining that they were sent by Nestor because Telemachus was seeking news of his father. He also describes Telemachus' plight with the suitors. Menelaus exclaims "His son, in my house! How I loved the man,/ And how he fought through hardship for my sake!" Book 3, lines 181-2. Then he says that he would have done anything for Odysseus, surmising that the gods must have been jealous to smite Odysseus. Grief rises in everyone and they all weep. Peisistratos tells them that they should not weep because it will be dawn soon and that he lost a brother at Troy. Menelaus responds that he speaks sensibly and is much like his father in the way he reasons. Menelaus has everyone cleanse themselves and they go back to eating.

Helen decides she will drug them so that they will sleep and forget their sorrow. She puts as potion into the wine as it is served and then recounts a deed of Odysseus. In Troy he had disguised himself as a beggar.. Helen had discovered his identity but promised not to reveal him to the Trojans. He told her about the dying Akhaians and made her want to return to Greece. Menelaus says that he has never seen another man like Odysseus and recounts how Odysseus stopped men from crying out inside the wooden horse. Telemachus speaks out and says that all of his cleverness did not save Odysseus from destruction. Helen calls the maid to make the beds and they all go to sleep. When dawn comes again Menelaus goes to Telemachus and asks him why he came. Telemachus tells him that he seeks news of his father and he relays the news of the suitors. This enrages Menelaus."If only that Odysseus met the suitors,/ they'd have their consummation, a cold bed!" Book 4, lines 371-72

Menelaus recounts his own journey and tells how he was becalmed for twenty days. His plight distressed Eidothea, a nymph who came to him and asks him why he lets his people waste away. He asked her how to get home and she told him that if he captured her father Proteus by surprise, he would help him leave. She told him there is a certain cave where seals sleep that Proteus goes to at dawn. Menelaus and two chosen men were to go there and hide among the seals and grab Proteus by surprise. They were to hold on no matter what form he changed into. When he stopped changing, then Menelaus could ask him which god was angry with them, then they could sacrifice to that god. Menelaus and his men snuck into the cave before dawn and grabbed Proteus when he came to look over the seals. He changed into animals and trees and tried to frighten them, but they did not let go. Menelaus asked him "Which of the immortals chained me here?" Book 4, line 502. Proteus told him that he did not sacrifice to Zeus and the other gods upon his departure and advises that they needed return to the Nile and make a sacrifice. Menelaus told him he would do this but asked him about his comrades. Proteus answered that one is alive at sea and the other, Ajax is dead. Proteus also told him about the death of Agamemnon. Menelaus recounts to Telemachus:

"Before the end my heart was broken down.
I slumped on the trampled sand and cried aloud,
caring no more for life or the light of day,
and rolled there weeping, till my tears were spent."
Book 4, lines 574-77

Proteus told him not to mourn but to hasten home. First he had to make sacrifices. Menelaus asked one more question of Odysseus and Proteus told him that Odysseus was weeping on the island of Calypso. Soon after, Proteus departed and in the morning Menelaus carried out a funeral for Agamemnon. They returned home. Menelaus tells Telemachus that he should stay with him for eleven or twelve days and then he may return home with handsome gifts. Telemachus responds that he must not be kept because his sailors are waiting idly in Pylos and his affairs are proceeding without him in Ithaca. Menelaus is pleased with this and gives him a mixing bowl made by Hephaistos.

Meanwhile in Ithaca, the suitors are having a javelin competition and Noemen, the man who lent the boat to Mentor (Athena), asks Antinous when Telemachus will return. The suitors are surprised because they didn't think he would really leave. Noemen tells them that he gave the boat because it is right to help a good prince. After he leaves, Antinous blazes with anger and says that he wants to pursue Telemachus and make sure that he doesn't return. Medon, the crier, rushes to Penelope and tells her that her son has left. She laments that her son is in danger, "Why has my child left me?.../ Why did he go? Must he, too, be forgotten?" Book 4, lines 758-61. Medon tells her that a god made him leave and Penelope says that the winds have blown her son away. She asks for someone to be sent to inform Laertes to ask for help. Eurykleia admits that she took part in Telemachus' departure and she tells Penelope to pray to Athena who will help her son. She advises that old Laertes should be spared the news. Meanwhile the suitors prepare to leave. Penelope falls to sleep and Athena sends her a dream. The dream speaks:

"Sleepest thou sorrowing Penelope?
The gods whose life is ease no longer suffer thee
to pine and weep, then; he returns unharmed,
thy little one, no way hath he offended."
Book 4, lines 857-60

Penelope asks the dream why she has come and laments her fate again. The dream tells her not to fear because Athena pities her. Penelope asks what has become of Odysseus and the dream says she cannot speak of him. The suitors leave in search of Telemachus.

Topic Tracking: Guests and Hosts 3
Topic Tracking: Journeys 3

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