Author:
Lorina Quartarone Department of Modern & Classical Languages, The University of Saint Thomas, Saint Paul, MN, USA

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Abstract

By presenting Penelope's experiences and traits as parallel to those of Odysseus, the text of the Odyssey depicts her as heroic in her own right. This detailed analysis of Penelope's life in the palace on Ithaca – depicted as an Underworld-like realm of suspension – shows how similar her experiences, traits, actions and reactions are to her husband's; the text furnishes multiple similes and epithets that demonstrate these parallels. The suspension of progress on Ithaca during the suitors' presence, in addition to Penelope's and others' declarations that Odysseus is dead, instills the palace with an atmosphere of death; in effect, this represents Penelope's katabasis. When she converses with her “dead” husband, she learns in this nekyia – as Odysseus learns during his – what she needs to know to move forward. This article offers an in-depth look at the language, similes, and epithets that portray Penelope's life and experiences in the palace as well as her crucial encounter with Odysseus in book 19, where the suspension and liminality reach their peak.

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  • Amory, A.R. (1966). The Gates of Horn and Ivory. Yale Classical Studies, 20: 357.

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