“Tell the Story” (page 651)
Muse – noun: The Greeks believed that there were nine Muses, daughters of Zeus, the chief god. The Muses inspired people to produce music, poetry, dance, and all the other arts.
Literary Focus: Epic
1. The Odyssey opens with a convention of epic poetry—the poet’s prayer to the Muse. What does the poet ask of the Muse?
2. After reading lines 1-32, what do you learn about the hero and about what is going to happen to him?
Calypso, the Sweet Nymph (pages 652-654)Mythology: Greek Gods
Upon completing this passage you will notice the goddess Calypso’s love for Odysseus and her very humanlike desire to take credit for the decision to release him. Unlike deities (divine being) in many other religions, Greek gods and goddesses often behave as capriciously (impulsively) as humans. They even display such unsavory qualities as possessiveness, jealousy, pride, anger, and vindictiveness. Such behavior plays an important part in the Odyssey, since it is the actions of the gods that keep Odysseus from returning home to Ithaca.
Adversity – noun: hardship; great misfortune.
Literary Focus: Homeric simile
1. In lines 41-47, what is Hermes’ flight compared to here?
2. What is being compared in lines 119-122?
Literary Focus: Sensory images
3. In lines 48-53, what do you see, hear, feel, and smell in this famous description of Calypso’s home?
4. In lines 33-66 there is a great deal of nature imagery. Jot down some of the images that help you see Hermes’ flight. What images describing Calypso’s island appeal to your senses of sight, hearing, and smell? How does the natural beauty of Calypso’s island compare with the reality of Odysseus’s situation?
Reading Skills: Monitoring your comprehension
5. After reading lines 1-70, why has Hermes traveled to Calypso’s island?
6. After reading lines 88-91 you learn that Zeus ordered Calypso to free Odysseus, but the nymph claims that the idea is her own. Why do you think she does this? What is your opinion of her deception?
7. According to Calypso, lines 101-118, what would Odysseus gain by staying with her? What does Odysseus’s response tell you about his feelings for his wife? How does Odysseus manages to say no to Calypso and still not offend her?
“I am Laertes’ Son…”
formidable – adj.: awe-inspiring by reason of excellence; strikingly impressive.
Reading Skills—Analyzing Character
- What impression of Odysseus do you get from his description of himself? (127-130)
2. What central idea of the poem does Odysseus express in this passage? (143-146)
Expressing an Opinion
- What do you think of the way Odysseus and his men behave toward the Cicones? Do armies behave like this in modern times?
- In lines 156-162 Odysseus, who considers himself a great leader, blames his unruly crew for the Cicones’ attack. Does their insubordination (disobedience) reflect unfavorably on Odysseus?
The tragic episode with the Cicones foreshadows an even greater tragedy on Thrinakia, where Odysseus’s men, once again disobeying him, slaughter the sun god’s cattle and bring about their own destruction.
“The Lotus Eaters”
mustered – v.: gathered; assembled
1. Why does Odysseus tie down the three men? What does this action tell you about him?
The Enchantress Circe
- What does the sailors’ opening of the bull’s-hide bag suggest about their relationship with Odysseus?
- Simile. Beginning on line 543, what comparison does Odysseus make to emphasize the strange gentleness of the wild beasts’ behavior?
- Circe, like Calypso, is first seen at her loom, singing and weaving. What inference could you make about women in ancient Greece from this fact?
The Land of the Dead
- Whom is Odysseus referring to when he uses the term sovereign Death?
- In lines 621-623, to which god is Teiresias referring?
- Remember Homer’s words at the beginning of the epic, in Book I, where the poet reveals how the story ends. According to this excerpt from Book I, do Odyssues’s men heed Teiresias’s warning, or does the seer’s prophecy come true?
- So far, everything Teiresias says has already been recounted by the poet in Book I. Does knowing in advance what happens lessen your enjoyment of the epic?
- In lines 618-658, what prophecy does Odysseus receive?
The Sirens; Scylla and Charybdis
- Using context clues, what is the meaning of the innocent in line 663?
- What context clues helped your figure out the meaning of the word innocent?
- From what you know of Odysseus, do you think he will take the risk of listening to the Siren’s song? (Lines 673-678)
- People sometimes use the expression caught between Scylla and Charybdis; this is an idiom. What does it mean? (Lines 695-702)
- Do you agree with Circe that it is better to sacrifice six men than to risk losing them all? Explain your opinion.
- In lines 712-716, Odysseus is warned to leave Helios’s cattle alone. Who else has warned Odysseus?
- Do you agree that it’s best to know about dangers you may face? Explain.
- According to Circe, what dangers lie ahead for Odysseus and his crew? List the dangers in order from least severe to most severe, and give your reasons for placing the threats in this order.
- Why does Odysseus put wax in his men’s ears?
- Is it necessary for great leaders like Odysseus to inspire their followers? Explain.
- What does Odysseus’s failure to remember Circe’s warning against using weapons reveal about his self-image?
- Lines 770-793. Think about what kind of leader Odysseus is. What does he tell his men, to reassure them? What does he decide not to tell them? Why?
- Lines 822-828. What things are being compared in this passage? What is the effect of this comparison?
“THE CATTLE OF THE SUN GOD”
- Since Odysseus is the captain, shouldn’t he have just ordered his men to bypass Thrinakia? Explain your response.
- What does Odysseus mean when he says that no man can avoid the eye of Helios?
- Who is the “Lord of Noon”?
- What does Eurylochus mean by this comment, “Better open your lungs to a big sea once for all than waste to skin and bones on a lonely island!”?
- In the Odyssey, Odysseus constantly takes credit when things go well. Now, when a tragedy occurs, he blames the gods for making him fall asleep. What does this reveal about his character?