A Narratological Commentary on the Odyssey

By Irene J. F. De Jong | Go to book overview

BOOK EIGHTEEN

Book 18 continues the thirty-ninth and longest day of the Odyssey : Odysseus boxes with the beggar Irus (1–157), Penelope appears before the Suitors and Odysseus (158–303), and 'the beggar' is again harassed by servants and Suitors (304–428). After that the Suitors go home to sleep and the stage is free for 'the beggar' and the queen to meet. Thus the three scenes are primarily a retardation †, postponing the direct confrontation between Odysseus and Penelope; cf. 17.492–606n. At the same time, they contain an important development of the plot: Penelope's announcement that she will remarry, which will lead to her decision to organize the contest of the bow, which will offer Odysseus the–unexpected–means of carrying out his revenge; cf. 158–303n.

1–158 The 'Irus' scene belongs to a series of violent incidents between 'the beggar' and the Suitors or servants; cf. 17.360–506n. It also recalls 8.131–233, when Odysseus was challenged by Phaeacian youths to participate in their athletic contests and, despite his age and exhaustion, defeated them; the opposition 'young'–'old' plays an important role in this confrontation, too (cf. 10, 21, 27, 31, and 52–3). Irus, who is younger than 'the beggar', is typically the champion of the young Suitors.

The scene is one of the burlesque parts of the Odyssey, comparable to the song of Ares and Aphrodite (8.266–366):1 the Suitors enjoy the boxing contest as a form of entertainment, while the narratees may notice the parody of a typical battle-scene (the opponents exchange threatening speeches before their fight: 9–33; prepare themselves: 66–7; receive help from a god: 69–70; the defeated party 'bites the dust': 98a= Il. 16.469a; and

____________________
1
Seidensticker (1982: 62–4).

-437-

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A Narratological Commentary on the Odyssey
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Glossary xi
  • Commentary 1
  • Book One 3
  • Book Two 44
  • Book Three 68
  • Book Four 89
  • Book Five 123
  • Book Six 149
  • Book Seven 170
  • Book Eight 190
  • Book Nine 221
  • Book Ten 250
  • Book Eleven 271
  • Book Twelve 296
  • Book Thirteen 313
  • Book Fourteen 340
  • Book Fifteen 362
  • Book Sixteen 385
  • Book Seventeen 407
  • Book Eighteen 437
  • Book Nineteen 458
  • Book Twenty 483
  • Book Twenty-One 504
  • Book Twenty-Two 524
  • Book Twenty-Three 545
  • Book Twenty-Four 565
  • Appendix A - The Fabula of the Odyssey 587
  • Appendix B - The Continuity of Time Principle and the 'Interlace' Technique 589
  • Appendix C - The Piecemeal Distribution of the Nostoi of Odysseus, Agamemnon, and Menelaus 591
  • Appendix D - 'storm' Scenes in the Odyssey 594
  • Appendix E - The Recurrent Elements of Odysseus' Lying Tales 596
  • Appendix F - The 'storeroom' Type-Scene 598
  • Bibliography 599
  • Index of Greek Words 622
  • Index of Subjects 624
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