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Laertes mental anguish has rendered him immobile and ineffective.
(Penelope:) ‘How I wish chaste Artemis would give me a death so soft, and now, so I would not go on in my heart grieving all my life, and longing for love of a husband excellent in every virtue, since he stood out among the Achaians.’ (18.202-205)
(Penelope:) 'But tell Autonoë and Hippodameia to come, so that they can stand at my side in the great hall. I will not go alone among men. I think that immodest.' (18.182-184)
Women can live up to their principles by being good hostesses, but most of their honorable actions seem to consist in not doing: not remarrying, not killing their husbands, not appearing in front of a crowd of men. Sounds pretty dull, if you ask us.
(Odysseus:) 'Of all creatures that breathe and walk on the earth there is nothing more helpless than a man is, of all that the earth fosters; for he thinks that he will never suffer misfortune in future days, while the gods grant him courage, and his knees have spring in them. But when the blessed gods bring sad days upon him, against his will he must suffer it with enduring spirit. For the mind in men upon earth goes according to the fortunes the Father of Gods and Men, day by day, bestows upon them.' (18.130-137)
Odysseus seems to make himself feel better by thinking that he just has to endure what the gods have designed for him. But seriously? Given what we know about the gods, this doesn't seem like a very comforting thought.