Study Guide

The Odyssey Book 23

By Homer

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Book 23

  • Eurykleia goes to Penelope with the news that Odysseus is back.
  • Penelope doesn't believe her, thinking she's gone mad.
  • Seriously, did she not hear that battle going down?
  • Even when Eurykleia tells her that all the suitors are dead, Penelope thinks some strange hero has come to deliver her, not her husband.
  • Still, the stubborn woman finally comes down from her room and sees Odysseus. Now she can finally accept the fact that he's back.
  • Except not.
  • Telemachos begs her to just talk to the guy, but Penelope insists that if this were Odysseus, he would know their secret signs.
  • Odysseus smiles knowingly.
  • Because he's worried about facing repercussions for killing, oh, all the noblemen of the country, he orders that the household keep the slaughter of the suitors a secret from the rest of Ithaka.
  • He has a brilliant plan: they'll plan a dancing feast tonight so they can pretend that all the noise was just Penelope's wedding!
  • As Odysseus is cleaning himself up, Athene makes him more handsome to the eye. (Another goddess makeover.)
  • When Odysseus sits down beside Penelope that night, she tells him that he can sleep outside her room, on the bed that Odysseus carved years ago.
  • At this point Odysseus snaps, asking who dared move his bed. Apparently, he built the entire bedroom around a huge olive tree and carved the bed straight from the roots, so it totally can't be moved.
  • This is the secret that Penelope referenced earlier; she rushes into Odysseus' arms in tears and begs his forgiveness.
  • The two rejoice, make love, and exchange stories of the twenty long years.
  • Except we're betting there are certain bits Odysseus leaves out, such as sleeping with Circe, having sex with Kalypso for seven years, and that offer of marriage to Nausikaa.
  • Athene makes time go slower so that the couple can enjoy their night together and still get enough sleep. Nice to have a goddess on your side!
  • The following morning, Odysseus announces that he will visit his grieving father.
  • He orders the women to go upstairs and lock themselves up to stay safe from any potential avengers from town.
  • Odysseus takes Telemachos and his faithful herdsmen with him to see Laertes. Athene adds her protection by hiding them in…yes, you got it, a cloud shaped oddly like a group of traveling men.

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