The Pandareids and Pandora: Defining Penelope's Subjectivity in the Odyssey.
Early in Book 20 of the Odyssey, on the eve of the bow contest for her hand in marriage, Penelope wakes from sleep, cries until she is sated, and then prays to Artemis for death. She asks Artemis either to shoot her with an arrow at once or to send a storm wind that will snatch her up and cast her into the streams of Oceanus, just as the storm winds carried off the daughters of Pandareus (20.61-66). Penelope then elaborates on the Pandareids' story, describing how, after the gods killed their parents, a quartet of Olympian goddesses reared these orphaned sisters, gave them all the qualities of desirable womanhood, and then sought to arrange their marriages until Harpies snatched the maidens away and made them servants of the Erinyes (20.67-78). After offering this brief narrative as a paradigm, Penelope renews her earlier prayer, explaining that she would rather disappear or die than please a man inferior to Odysseus.
Penelope's prayer to replicate the Pandareids' demise has received only sparing critical attention, (1) but represents, as 1 will argue, an important avenue for interpreting Penelope's character and narrative role in the Odyssey. Since the 1980s, feminist scholars have been debating to what degree Penelope is presented as an autonomous and actantial subject. (2) Does she shrewdly influence the epic's plot to her own ends, or is she helplessly subordinated to male interests and constrained by patriarchal structures in an androcentric narrative? If she indeed has a hand in directing the plot, why does the (male) poet accord her this agency? (3) Central to any answer are the corollary and long-disputed questions of what Penelope is thinking and what she desires, and also the degree to which this interiority is (and is intended by the poet to be) coherent or knowable. When does she recognize Odysseus, how does she feel about his return, does she really hate the suitors, and can any of this be determined?
Penelope's invocation of the Pandareids offers a crucial opening into these questions regarding her subjectivity in three ways. First, the poet presents Penelope's prayer as a solitary outpouring in the privacy of her own room, directed at a goddess and with no acknowledged mortal listener or interlocuter. Thus her prayer seems like a genuine expression of her state of mind, offering the audience a view of what she is 'really' thinking and feeling. (4) By contrast, when Penelope is addressing other people or even conversing privately in a public space, where anyone might listen, scholars who emphasize her craftiness and capacity for deception have called into question the veracity of her statements. (5) Here, however, there is neither a suggestion that she is deliberately obfuscating her discourse nor an obvious rationale for doing so, although it is possible that the maidservants who accompanied her upstairs (19.600-603) are in the same room or within earshot. (6)
Second, the Pandareids are uniquely special to Penelope. This is the second time in the poem that Penelope has mentioned Pandareus's offspring in relation to herself: in Book 19, she had told the disguised Odysseus that she is like Pandareus's daughter Aedon, the nightingale, in her distressed nocturnal lamentation (19.515-524). Although Aedon's story seems distinct from that of her sisters in Book 20, (7) Penelope repeatedly chooses the Pandareids as her mythical alter-egos. In fact, they are the only extra-Odyssean women with whom Penelope explicitly identifies herself and they are the only mythical exempla that she invokes (McDonald 1997, 3-4). Moreover, the Pandareids appear nowhere else in the Odyssey except in the words of Penelope. Odysseus recounts meeting other mythical heroines in the Underworld (11.225-330), and the suitor Antinous compares Penelope favorably to Tyro, Alcmene, and Mycene (2.116-122), but neither mentions the Pandareids. The daughters of Pandareus are privileged paradigms who belong exclusively to Penelope and her discourse, and thus have particular significance for the interpretation of her character.
The third reason the Book 20 passage, along with the earlier Pandareid simile, represents a hermeneutic point of entry for understanding Penelope is its intertextuality. I use the term intertextuality broadly to describe the Odyssey's evocations of other traditional stories familiar to the poet and original audience, which may or may not have been fixed or known in specific, written texts. (8) Penelope's mention of the Pandareids in Books 19 and 20 are obviously intertextual moments in that she recalls myths external to the main story of the Odyssey and brings them to bear on her own narrative. (9) The Pandareids introduce new webs (or 'texts' (10)) of signification into the poem. The ways in which the Pandareids' own stories are similar to and different from Penelope's, her choice to bring up their example, the manner in which she does so (what she includes and what she leaves out), and the circumstances that inform her locutions can help us better to interpret Penelope and her positioning in the narrative.
In the first part of this paper, I explore the Book 20 Pandareid exemplum in relation to the Book 19 Pandareid simile and to Penelope's three conflicting roles as mother, wife, and bride. Following Olga Levianouk (2008 and 2011), I understand Penelope's self-comparison to the Pandareid Aedon in Book 19 as an indication of her indecision about how to act and her fear of unintentionally harming Telemachus if she remains in Odysseus's house, faithful to her husband. I argue that this desire to preserve her son's life and inheritance, combined with disbelief in Odysseus's future return, guides her ultimate resolution to remarry the next day. Just after she has decided in favor of her son's welfare, however, the Book 20 exemplum expresses Penelope's competing desire not to inhabit the position of suitor's bride--a role in which she has been cast by male actors, and which she has ambivalently accepted for her son's sake. Instead of remarriage, Penelope wishes to maintain her original tie to Odysseus, as her invocation of the Pandareids' fate articulates. Therefore, whereas the first Pandareid simile in Book 19 explains Penelope's choice to privilege her duty as Telemachus's mother above her loyalty to Odysseus, the second Pandareid exemplum in Book 20 expresses Penelope's unhappiness that devotion to the son means betraying the father's memory. Through this exemplum, the poet shows Penelope clinging hopelessly to her identity as wife or widow, in a gesture of resistance to the nuptial role she is being forced to play.
In the second part, I argue that the Book 20 Pandareid exemplum contains another layer of intertextuality--beyond the Pandareids' own myth--and should be read together not only with the Book 19 simile, but also with the famous passage in Book 18 when Athena beautifies Penelope and inspires her to appear before the suitors. I suggest that the Book 18 and 20 episodes, which are linked by Penelope's repeated prayer to Artemis for death, both evoke the Hesiodic myth of Pandora. (11) I argue that in Book 18 Athena constructs Penelope, without her knowledge and contrary to her intention, as a Pandora vis-a-vis the suitors. The Pandareids in the Book 20 exemplum recall for the audience both Pandora herself and Penelope's earlier positioning in that role. Since the Pandareids, as failed brides, never actually become Pandoras, Penelope's desire to repeat their experience confirms her agnoia of, and thus noncompliance with, the subversive seduction and remarriage plan of Athena and her co-conspirator Odysseus.
From the Pandareid exemplum in Book 20 emerges the portrait of a woman in a profound state of despair and aporia, at her wit's end, with no plotting left in her; she is at the mercy of others' plots and kept in the dark by her own husband. But we also see a woman with her own thoughts and desires, which diverge from other characters' constructions of her as an alluring bride or an insidious Pandora. In her prayer to be like the Pandareids, Penelope expresses a conscious wish to escape a coerced remarriage and to hold onto her identity as Odysseus's wife, or, as she believes, his widow. (12) Although her knowledge and agency are limited, Penelope does have her own subjectivity that resists colonization or interpellation by others. (13) Yet this very subjectivity is eminently faithful and profoundly normative, focused on Odysseus and his patriliny. Thus, her independent psychology--and the fame it generates--serves the poem's androcentrism and reinforces the validity of its patriarchal ideology.
II. The Pandareids: To Marry or Not to Marry
Penelope wakes in the night and prays to Artemis for death or for a fate like the Pandareids' at a crucial moment in the Odyssey's plot. Before she retired to bed, she had announced to the disguised Odysseus her intention to hold the contest of the bow the next day, to marry the victorious suitor, and so to depart from Odysseus's home (19.571-581). That is, after putting off the suitors for several years, Penelope has just made a definitive commitment to proceed with remarriage and created a specific, time-sensitive plan for doing so.
Why does Penelope make this decision? And why now? Penelope's preceding words to her guest, in which she first compares herself to a Pandareid, suggest that she is acting out of concern for her son Telemachus. She begins by telling the disguised Odysseus how at night "sharp cares provoke [erethousin] me as I mourn" (19.51 7). As Levianouk (2011, 226-227) has observed, the verb erethd indicates a goading to action, and so here Penelope presents her cares as an impetus for moving forward. Penelope then elaborates upon the nature of these cares with the initial Pandareid simile (19.518-523). She says that she is like the nightingale Aedon, who pours forth a swiftly modulating cry, "mourning her dear son Itylus, whom once with the bronze she killed unwittingly, the son of her lord Zethus." In this version of the nightingale myth, Aedon kills her son by mistake, when she is actually trying to eliminate Niobe's eldest son, who is Itylus's cousin and rival. (14) Levianouk has convincingly argued that Penelope's self-comparison to Aedon is meant to indicate her fear that she, as the target of the suitors' wooing in Odysseus's palace, might unintentionally harm her son Telemachus, and also her mental agitation and indecision as she considers what action she should take. (15) Indeed, after comparing herself to Aedon, Penelope describes her dilemma concerning whether or not to remarry (19.524-529) and goes on to report how the now grown-up Telemachus is himself praying for her to leave their home in marriage, so that he will be rid of the suitors who are eating up his assets (19.533-534; cf. 19.159). Notwithstanding any tensions between mother and son, (16) Penelope has never failed to be lovingly concerned over Telemachus (4.716-741, 4.760-766, 16.421-423, 16.432-433, 17.38-43, 18.166-168). Penelope's speech in Book 19 indicates that her ultimate decision to remarry is based on her desire to preserve Telemachus's patrimony and also his life, against which the suitors have recently conspired (4.663-679, 16.371-386). (17)
Penelope's decision is informed by her clearly-expressed certainty that Odysseus is dead or permanently lost. (18) She has already firmly rejected the veracity of the stranger's news of Odysseus's imminent return (19.312-313). Moreover, after introducing the Pandareid simile, she recounts her own dream of Odysseus's revenge on the suitors, but then opines on the inscrutability and unreliability of dreams and expresses her belief that her dream's contents will not come to pass (19.560-569). (19) Although she wishes otherwise (19.309, 19.569), Penelope is convinced that Odysseus is not returning, and so she perceives remarriage as her only recourse given the danger threatening Telemachus's inheritance and wellbeing. She has embraced her identity as Telemachus's mother and, motivated by her desire for his safety, has chosen to act on his behalf.
Yet Penelope shows extreme ambivalence regarding her decision. Speaking to the stranger, she calls "accursed" (dusonumos) the impending day of her remarriage, when she will leave Odysseus's house (19.571). She remains attached to the place where she has lived for over twenty years, wistfully describing her marital home as "very lovely, filled with life's goods" (19.580). She goes to sleep "crying [klaien] for Odysseus" (19.603) and "cries" (klaie, klaiousa) again on awakening in the night (20.58-59).
Penelope's subsequent prayer to Artemis is at once the most profound expression of her ambivalence and the key for understanding her state of mind:
[phrase omitted] 65 [phrase omitted] 70 [phrase omitted] 75 [phrase omitted] 80 "Artemis, revered goddess, daughter of Zeus, if only you would take my life by shooting an arrow into my breast, now, at once; or soon may a storm wind snatch me up and go bearing me through the air's pathways and cast me in the streams of encircling Ocean! Just as when the storm winds caught up the daughters of Pandareus: the gods slew their parents, and they were left behind as orphans in the halls; but bright Aphrodite provided them with cheese, and sweet honey, and pleasant wine; and Hera gave to them surpassing all women beauty and wisdom, and holy Artemis bestowed on them stature, and Athena taught them to accomplish glorious handiwork; and then bright Aphrodite approached tall Olympus to request for the girls the attainment of blossoming marriage, to Zeus who delights in thunder, for he knows everything perfectly, what is allotted and not allotted for mortal men; but meanwhile the Harpies snatched up the girls and gave them to be attendants to the hateful Erinyes. Thus I wish that the gods who dwell on Olympus would make me disappear, or that fair-haired Artemis would shoot me, so that, with Odysseus in my sight, I might arrive even under the hateful earth and not delight the mind of a man in any way worse." (20)
Penelope's prayer itself is relatively straightforward: she wishes to die or disappear so that she does not have to marry a suitor. It reveals a powerful desire to avoid remarriage, a desire potentially in competition with her desire to protect Telemachus, since she has concluded that her son's welfare demands her remarriage. This prayer may be understood as an attempt to reconcile these opposing desires, since death or disappearance would cause her to evade an unwanted future and also remove the rationale behind the suitors' rapacious and dangerous presence in Odysseus's palace. This prayer also presupposes, like her plan for remarriage, Odysseus's non-return, as she clearly does not expect him to rescue her and she sees her own demise as the only avenue of escape. (21)
But why does Penelope not simply pray to Artemis for death? Why does she give the goddess a second option--having her snatched up by storm winds--and why does she introduce the Pandareid exemplum? In many ways, it makes sense that Penelope relates to the Pandareids and wishes for a similar end. (22) The gods killed the Pandareids' guardians--their parents--and Penelope also blames the gods for depriving her of her husband and guardian, Odysseus (18.256, 23.210-212). Penelope and the Pandareids are alike in being females endowed with many superior qualities, including beauty, wisdom, and skill at weaving. The daughters of Pandareus are on the verge of marriage, and Penelope is about to be remarried. But instead of marrying, the Pandareids are whisked off to serve chthonic deities, transported to an entirely new realm away from their former life, thus escaping the social conditions under which marriage takes place. (23) They provide an excellent model for evading marriage without actually dying, although their seizure by the Harpies is a symbolic death. They represent an alternative way of achieving Penelope's stated desire to avoid marrying a suitor.
Despite their paradigmatic suitability and likeness to Penelope, however, the Pandareids are in a rather different stage of life than the Ithacan queen, as W. E. McDonald (1997, 5) has observed. They are young virgins, about to enter sexual maturity for the first time through marriage; throughout they are referred to as kourai (daughters or girls). Penelope, on the other hand, is already married, at least thirty-five years of age, and with a grown son; she is, properly, a gune (wife or woman). When the disguised Odysseus addresses her in Book 19, he consistently calls her "respected wife of Odysseus, the son of Laertes" (gunai aidoie Laertiadeo Oduseos) or simply the vocative gunai, an acceptable address to a woman who is younger or of lower social status than the speaker, but one more commonly used by a husband to a wife and which implies Penelope's identity as his own wife. (24) Given who she is, it is somewhat incongruous that Penelope would choose to compare herself to virgin brides.
I suggest that Penelope's self-comparison to these kourai is her most explicit acknowledgment and repudiation of the bridal role that she is being forced to play by the suitors and Telemachus. The suitors hope to marry Penelope and thus would like to reconstitute her as a marriageable maiden. Not only do they arrive unsolicited to woo her and continue to do so for years on end, (23) but they also try to elide and erase her previous marriage and its resultant motherhood. The suitors address Penelope not as Odysseus's wife, but only as "daughter [koure] of Icarius" (16.435, 18.245, 18.285, 21.321). This nomenclature contributes to her construction as an unmarried female--whether virgin or widow--under the guardianship of her father, and one who is implicitly marriageable. (26) The suitors assert that Odysseus is dead (2.182-183, 2.333), and they try to kill the offspring of Penelope's marriage, Telemachus. Moreover, they negate both Odysseus and Telemachus by purposely eating up their livelihood (2.49-79, 2.123-128, 2.203-205), a metonymy for their lives. Penelope herself articulates the suitors' three-pronged approach to making her an eligible bride when she rebukes Antinous: "Now you eat up Odysseus's house without repayment, woo his wife, and kill his son" (16.31-32). (27)
Telemachus, meanwhile, has been complicit in repositioning his mother as unmarried and marriageable. In the Ithacan assembly he allows that the suitors have a right to woo his mother by suggesting that they should have gone straight to her father Icarius so that he could arrange his daughter's marriage (2.52-54). Telemachus says that he will not force his mother out of the house for fear of Icarius's retribution and his mother's Erinys, but admits that he might wish to send her away (2.130-137). Indeed, as we have seen, in Book 19 Penelope attests to the disguised Odysseus that Telemachus really wants her gone so that the suitors will leave too. She also says that her own parents strongly urge her to marry (19.158-159; cf. 15.16-18).
The narrator (28) confirms Penelope's construction as a virgin bride by describing Penelope in ways similar to Nausicaa, the Odyssey's own archetypal parthenos who is ready for marriage. (29) Nausicaa is introduced in Book 6 as a girl still under the guardianship of her parents, who gains permission from her father Alcinous to go to the river to wash clothes with the tacit understanding that it is in preparation for her impending marriage (6.57-70). She is repeatedly referred to as koure (6.15, 6.20, 6.74, 6.48, etc.) and as "daughter of Alcinous" (6.17, 6.139, 6.213). Odysseus himself acknowledges her readiness for marriage when he imagines the happiness of her future husband (6.158-159) and wishes her a concordant marriage characterized by like-mindedness (6.180-185). Nausicaa is famously compared to the goddess Artemis, first by the narrator (6.102-109) and then by Odysseus (6.151-152). Likewise, not only do the suitors call Penelope koure, but the narrator twice describes her when she emerges from her bedchamber as "resembling Artemis or golden Aphrodite" (17.37 = 19.54). Finally, both Nausicaa and Penelope are accompanied in their movements by female attendants and are depicted in this way with a formulaic phrase (1.331, 6.84, 18.207, 19.601; cf. 6.18-19). (30)
While ultimately submitting to this Nausicaa-like subject position in her preparations to remarry, Penelope's invocation of the Pandareids highlights her unhappiness and desire to escape remarriage. (31) The Pandareids are failed brides who represent the dark alternative to successful marriage: premature death. (32) For a young woman, marriage was not the only fate: death could occur before marriage or as the result of marriage (e.g., death during childbirth). The Greek association of death and marriage may explain the practice of brides mourning the loss of their virginity, and the similarities between wedding rituals and funeral rituals. (33) Narrating the Pandareids' story, Penelope anticipates their fate and suggests the interchangeability of marriage and death when she describes Aphrodite requesting for the girls "the attainment of blossoming marriage" (telos thaleroio gamoio). The phrase plays on and recalls the predictable formula "the attainment of death" (telos thanatoio / thanatou), which appears elsewhere in the same metrical position (5.326, 17.476). (34)
While Artemis is the goddess who watches over the parthenos's transition to mature womanhood--in the Pandareid exemplum, she gives the girls "stature"--she is also the divinity who is responsible for the failure of this transition, and so it makes sense that Penelope should pray to her for escape from remarriage at any cost. (35) Earlier in the poem, Eumaeus recounts how Artemis killed the Phoenician slave woman who was corrupted by her illicit sexual relationship with a Phoenician trader (15.415-481). The slave woman, whom Eumaeus describes as "beautiful and tall and knowing splendid works" (15.418), possesses the qualities with which the Pandareids are also endowed, and was sailing towards her freedom (possibly a future marriage?) when she died. Her sudden and unexplained death parallels their mysterious abduction and in fact represents the alternative end that Penelope wishes for: to be felled by Artemis's arrow.
Since she is already a wife and not a virgin bride, however, Penelope associates the Pandareids' end with a post-mortem preservation--rather than destruction--of her marriage. Penelope conceives of their fate as a disappearance from one locale to another which keeps the self intact, even if it is transformed. (36) She says that she wishes to descend to the Underworld with Odysseus "in sight" (ossomene). She seems to regard death or disappearance as an opportunity for continuity, a way to maintain her tie to Odysseus as she avoids the physical and social displacement and obliteration of her core identity--perhaps even more profound than death--which a new marriage would bring.
The dream that Penelope recounts after her prayer to Artemis helps to elucidate the rationale for and meaning of her despairing wish. She says that she dreamt of Odysseus sleeping beside her, such as he was when he went away to war, and that it caused her heart to rejoice (20.88-89). She remarks on the dream vision's realism (20.90); her disillusionment on awakening must explain why she initially calls the dream "evil" (20.87). (37) Her lamentation and prayer to die or disappear come immediately after she has realized that the dream was but a dream. Penelope's pleasurable mental image of the youthful Odysseus as her husband and bedmate must be the vision that she wishes to carry with her as she journeys under the earth. Taken together, the dream and subsequent prayer indicate that Penelope's identity is bound up in her first marriage, and that she desperately wants to keep that identity. Penelope's vision of intimacy with an Odysseus from twenty years earlier suggests that what she longs for most, in fact, is to turn back time and reclaim their lost youth, when the couple were together, not apart, (38) yet this is impossible. She has also given up hope of Odysseus's return; otherwise she would not consider remarriage or pray for death. (39) In her appeal to Artemis, Penelope asks to be allowed to preserve and cherish her memory of their early days together, unperturbed by the demands of the suitors. (40)
This narrative sequence reveals that Penelope truly conceives of herself as Odysseus's widow, as opposed to a bride or even the wife of a living man. The most obvious manifestation of this self-identification is Penelope's near-constant lamentation for the lost Odysseus. (41) When she first enters the poem, she is described as "teary" and asks the bard Phemius to stop singing about the Achaeans' nostoi because of the grief it causes her, since she is always "longing for" (potheo) and "mindful of" (memnemene) Odysseus (1.336-145). (42) She continues bewailing, desiring, and calling her husband to mind until she actually holds him alive in her arms and then promptly disappears from the poem.
Penelope's lamentation should be taken seriously as a traditional enactment of mourning a dead intimate. Besides her actual crying, her discourse contains praise of the dead, contrasts between the past and the present, and death wishes that are all standard features of Greek lament speech. (43) Penelope consistently praises Odysseus's exceptional excellence and fame (1.344, 4.724-726, 16.426-430, 18.205, 19.14-16). She denies Eurymachus's and then the disguised Odysseus's praise of her present distinction by describing how the gods destroyed her beauty when Odysseus went to Troy, and how her fame would be greater if he had remained her companion (18.251-256 = 19.124-129). She also wishes twice to die, first in 18.202-203 and then when she invokes the Pandareids' fate in Book 20. (44) Penelope cannot complete this mourning process, however, because she lacks the closure of receiving Odysseus's corpse or at least knowing his fate and is not, therefore, in the position to give him funeral rites (cf. 1.289-291). She is a perpetual mourner and it is also for this reason that she compares herself to the paradigmatic eternal mourner, the nightingale, in the Pandareid simile of Book 19. (45) In this capacity she is inextricably tied to the deceased, somewhere between wife and widow, but far from bride. (46)
Penelope also demonstrates her persistent affiliation with Odysseus through her devotion to his father. By weaving a shroud for Laertes, she cares for her husband's family; her dutifulness, and the fact that this action is a trick delaying her remarriage (2.87-110, 19.137-156), demonstrate her overriding identification with her husband's household. In addition, weaving a shroud indicates her readiness for a funeral--whether that of Laertes or of Odysseus himself--rather than for a wedding. (47)
Connected, of course, to Penelope's identity as Odysseus's wife is her identity as Telemachus's mother. Yet Odysseus's absence and the pressure of the suitors' threatening presence has created a conflict for Penelope between maintaining her place as mistress of Odysseus's household and fulfilling her role as protective mother, which requires her to accept the new and abhorrent identity as bride of a suitor. Sarah Johnston (1994) argues that the Pandareids, when they are made servants to the Erinyes, become demonic spirits of the sort that the Greeks believed preyed upon infants, pregnant women, or those giving birth. Along these lines, Penelope's linking of the Pandareids with the Furies suggests that she harbors a subconscious desire to send an Erinys against her son for putting her in this unwanted position of bride, as Telemachus had feared (2.135-136).
Yet Penelope's prayer in Book 20 for a fate like the daughters of Pandareus is, primarily, a last desperate attempt to preserve her essential self while also acting in Telemachus's best interests. Through this fatalistic wish, she resists her construction as a virgin bride while still removing herself from Odysseus's house, reconciling the demands of widowhood and motherhood. Whereas her self-comparison to the Pandareid Aedon in Book 19 expressed her desire to save Telemachus (along with her sense of miserable liminality and uncertainty), here she communicates her concurrent desire to remain Odysseus's bereaved wife--a desire that for her son's sake can only be fulfilled at the cost of her own life. Failure as a bride--the Pandareids' paradigm--allows her to remain who she is, even if it is in the Underworld.
III. Pandora: Without Her Knowledge
Penelope's invocation of the Pandareids' fate sheds light on the queen's thoughts and intentions not only in Book 20, but also earlier in Book 18, when she appears before the suitors and incites their desire. Homer puts the two passages in dialogue by making Penelope's prayer to Artemis in Book 20 a repetition and elaboration of her earlier appeal to the same goddess in Book 18, immediately before her encounter with the suitors. In 18.202-205, Penelope wishes that Artemis would bring her a "gentle death" "now, at once" (autika nun). In 20.61-63, Penelope prays directly to Artemis, asking her to shoot her with an arrow--the means by which Artemis generally bestows a "gentle death"--"now, at once" (autika nun). This is an exact repetition of her earlier statement of urgency, and in the same emphatic line-opening metrical position. Penelope then, of course, goes on to offer the Pandareids' paradigm as a second option. In both cases, Penelope verbally expresses her devotion to Odysseus after her prayer to Artemis (18.204-205, 20.80-90), and both death wishes occur in parts of the poem exploring Penelope's imminent remarriage. The similarity of these prayers to Artemis and their narrative contexts encourage the audience to understand the Book 20 Pandareid exemplum in relation to the previous episode in Book 18.
I have already traced how the Pandareids in general represent Penelope herself in her unwanted construction as a bride, but the divine nurturance of the Pandareids also specifically recalls Athena's beautification of Penelope before she appears before the suitors in Book 18. Aphrodite sustains the Pandareids physically, Hera gives them wisdom and beauty, Artemis makes them tall, and Athena teaches them to weave (20.68-72). Together, these goddesses give the Pandareids all the qualities of desirable femininity, with the implicit purpose of preparing them for marriage, which Aphrodite then attempts to arrange. In Book 18, Athena similarly makes Penelope into the ideally attractive woman, giving her "ambrosial gifts [dora], so that the Achaean men would admire her" (18.191). She cleanses Penelope's face with an "ambrosial beauty" used by Aphrodite to anoint herself when she dances with the Graces--thus involving the gifts of other goddesses--and she makes Penelope taller and plumper and whiter than ivory (18.192-196). Athena has no need to make the queen wise or skilled at women's work, since Penelope's trick of the loom has demonstrated that she already possesses both of these traits.
These passages resemble not only each other, but also the myth of Pandora's creation, as we know it from Hesiod's Theogony and Works and Days. In Theogony 573-578, Athena dresses, girds, and adorns Pandora, and she "fits every sort of adornment on her skin" in the more extended account of Works and Days, where the Graces and Persuasion put golden necklaces on her as well (Op. 72-76). In that narrative, Zeus also bids "golden Aphrodite to pour around her head grace and difficult desire [pothos] and limb-devouring cares" (Op. 65-66), and names her "Pandora, because all those dwelling on Olympus gave her a gift [doron]" (Op. 818-822). Zeus creates Pandora, who is "like a modest parthenos" (Theog. 572), to be irresistible to men. Pandora's divine adornment for the purpose of attracting men parallels the adornment of both the Pandareids in Book 20 and Penelope in Book 18. (48)
Whereas the Pandareids' likeness to Pandora mostly stops here--I will return to this important point later--Penelope further resembles Pandora when she appears in the hall to devastating erotic effect and then receives gifts from the suitors (18.206-303). The suitors both admire and desire the beautified Penelope: "Their knees were loosened, and their hearts were bewitched by desire [eros], and they all prayed to lie in bed beside her" (18.212-213). Similarly, at the sight of Pandora in the Theogony, "amazement held immortal gods and mortal men" (588) and, in the Works and Days, Epimetheus cannot resist accepting her as a present from Zeus (85-89). In the Odyssey, after Eurymachus praises Penelope for surpassing other women in her good looks and wits (18.245-249), Penelope recounts Odysseus's parting words authorizing her to remarry in his continued absence, but criticizes the suitors for eating up Odysseus's wealth instead of providing bride gifts, as is the custom (18.257-280). In response to Penelope's mention of gifts, the suitors present her with precious clothing and jewelry (18.290-303). Like Penelope in this scene, Pandora is beautiful and seductive, and ultimately deprives men of their accumulated wealth. Hesiod compares Pandora and her female descendants to lazy drones that parasitically feed off the labor of the hard-working honey bees (Theog. 594-599). Pandora represents the wife who is acquired and sustained at great cost to the husband.
How are we to theorize these similarities between Hesiod's Pandora and Penelope in Book 18? A. S. Brown (1997, 44-46) has recognized the parallels between the two figures and understands it as evidence of common ground between Hesiodic and Homeric views of women, which she calls the "Pandora Complex." (49) Neil Forsyth (1979) argues that both passages are examples of an "allurement" epic type-scene. I would like to suggest, however, that the narrative presentation of Penelope here specifically alludes to the traditional myth of Pandora, which we know from Hesiod, and that the audience is meant to compare the two women and their functions. (50) The Odyssey episode seems to represent what neoanalysts call "motif transference," when specific motifs that fundamentally belong to one myth--and would be recognized as such by an audience--are incorporated into a different narrative. (51) The motifs imported into the Penelope scene that appear specific to Pandora are (1) divine creation of a seductive and deceptive human female (2) for the purpose of retribution against men who have committed a crime (3) by means of consuming their goods and negatively impacting their wellbeing. (32)
In Hesiod's accounts, Zeus designs Pandora from scratch as a malicious punishment for humankind's theft of fire (Theog. 570; Op. 57). She is a crafted object, fashioned from earth and water (Op. 61), with no attributes or subjectivity inherently her own until the gods give her form and personality. Her beautiful and charming exterior is a divine deception--an "unmanageable sheer trick" (Op. 83)--disguising the fact that she will deplete men's resources (Theog. 592-602) and unleash all sorts of hitherto unknown evils on humankind (Op. 90-103). The avaricious and destructive deceit that Pandora embodies is expressed in the "bitchy mind" (kuneon noon) and "thieving character" (epiklopon ethos) which Zeus commands Hermes to give her (Op. 67). (53)
On an ideological level, Pandora's story lays claim to its central motifs, since it is an etiological myth for women and their attendant evils. She is the ancestor of the "female race" (Theog. 590) (34) and, as the first woman, Pandora is both archetypal and prototypical, (55) predating other mythological women like Penelope. At the same time, these motifs do not seem at home in the Odyssey's larger portrayal of Penelope's character, since she is primarily presented as faithful to Odysseus's memory and nowhere else acts seductively. (36) Although Penelope is famous for her deceitful trick of Laertes' shroud, this is in the service of avoiding remarriage, rather than enticing the suitors into marriage in order to drain their wealth. Therefore Homer seems to be superimposing Pandora on his heroine when he depicts Penelope in Odyssey 18 as a divinely beautified bride who deceptively brings evil to her male suitors.
While some scholars see Penelope's appearance before the suitors as her own cunning ploy (57) and others as an indication that Penelope is sexually attracted to the suitors at some level, (58) the Pandora intertext, along with the textual evidence, supports the alternative interpretation of Penelope as a tool of divine manipulation. I follow those who believe we can best understand the queen's seductive extraction of gifts as the plan of Athena and contrary to Penelope's conscious intention. (59) The implicit allusion to Pandora helps the audience to recognize Athena's agency and to understand her plot to use Penelope as a weapon against the suitors by making her into a bride-cum-bane.
The narrator explicitly attributes Penelope's impulse to Athena and describes the goddess's purpose (18.158-162):
[phrase omitted] The glancing-eyed goddess Athena put it in the mind of Icarius's daughter, conscientious Penelope, to appear to the suitors, so that she might open up most the hearts of the suitors and become honored more by her husband and son than before.
Here the goddess gives Penelope the idea of showing herself to the suitors. We should take the purpose clause as an expression of Athena's plan rather than Penelope's, since Penelope does not know that the stranger is actually her husband, Odysseus. (60) Athena's intention that Penelope "open up" the suitors' hearts simultaneously suggests the stimulation of their erotic desire and the revelation (to Odysseus) of their lust and adulterous intentions (Byre 1988, 170-171). This will make her "honored more" in the eyes of Odysseus and Telemachus on two accounts. First, they (especially Odysseus, who is seeing Penelope again for the first time) will admire and desire her along with the suitors and the more so because of the competition presented by the suitors' desire, (61) and second, they will appreciate what they perceive to be Penelope's clever manipulation of the suitors to enrich their household and ensure the suitors' doom.
Although many scholars have suggested that Athena's intervention is just a standard case of double determination, when a god's intrusion literalizes and duplicates a character's own subjective mentality (62) this passage is actually quite different. Normally, a character proceeds without comment in accordance with the divine inspiration and does not seem troubled by the imposition of the new idea or feeling. (63) Here, by contrast, Penelope expresses profound confusion at her sudden impulse to appear before the suitors. She laughs "helplessly" (akhreion) (64) and tells her attendant Eurynome: "My heart wishes what it never did before at all, to appear to the suitors, even though I hate them" (18.163-165). She then apparently tries to find an explicable purpose for this strange desire, (65) stating that she wants to warn Telemachus against keeping company with the treacherous suitors (18.166-168).
Indeed, Penelope shows no interest in acting like an alluring Pandora, even as Athena enforces this role. When Eurynome suggests that Penelope wash and anoint herself, Penelope refuses, asserts that the gods destroyed her radiance when Odysseus left, and orders maids to accompany her to maintain her modesty (18.178-184). Athena must step in and put Penelope to sleep in order to beautify her without her consent (18.187-196). When Penelope wakes up, her first thought is to wish for death from Artemis, so that she will no longer waste her whole life lamenting and desiring Odysseus's exceptional and multiform excellence (18.201-205). This speech shows Penelope despairingly focused on her existing marriage and desiring to evade preparations for a new marriage, as in her later prayer for an end like the Pandareids'. It seems that she is not at all interested in enticing the suitors even though they are stricken with desire when she appears, thanks to Athena's ministrations. Moreover, Penelope does not address them when she first comes into the room, but fulfills her intention of chastising Telemachus for acquiescing to the suitors' outrageous behavior, which she pinpoints in this moment as their abuse of the stranger (18.215-225). (66)
Penelope only speaks to the suitors after Eurymachus has addressed her and offered his praise. Far from exploiting his admiration, the first thing Penelope does is to deny that she is still beautiful, repeating her earlier assertion to Eurynome that the gods destroyed her radiance when her husband went away. She also says that she would be more famous and more beautiful if Odysseus were part of her life, but that instead she is beset by grief (18.251-256); that is, she does not seduce a new husband, but rather expresses nostalgia for the marriage of her youth.
Penelope next explains that she is ready to consider a "hateful [re]marriage" only because Odysseus directed her to do so if Telemachus reached maturity in his absence (18.257-273). (67) Odysseus's original instruction, as well as Penelope's adherence to it, are presumably for Telemachus's benefit, so that he can inherit his patrimony, putting an end to Penelope's regency, while also dispensing with her suitors as consumers of his wealth and rivals to his throne. As I have already shown, Telemachus's welfare is in fact the reason that Penelope ultimate chooses to go ahead with remarriage in Book 19.
Penelope finally expresses her distress at the suitors' disregard of custom, which prescribes that suitors offer bride wealth rather than eat up their host's goods (18.274-280), but she never actually solicits gifts, a point rarely acknowledged by scholars. (68) The suitors evidently interpret her words as a coy request for gifts, which they immediately produce, but we might as easily understand her intention to be a further public critique of the suitors' bad behavior.
The disguised Odysseus reacts to Penelope's appearance and words with approval, just as Athena had planned. Indeed, he seems to discern and approve Athena's plot (even if he credits it to Penelope's own cunning), interpreting Penelope very much as a Pandora figure. After Penelope's speech, Odysseus "rejoiced because she elicited gifts from them, and charmed their heart with honeyed words, but her mind had other intentions" (18.281-283). The explanation for his delight should be taken, I think, as a subjective expression of Odysseus's focalization, of how he perceives Penelope, rather than as an objective statement about what Penelope is doing and thinking. (69) Odysseus imagines that Penelope is cleverly tricking the evil suitors out of their wealth, (70) attributing to her the characteristics that also define Pandora.
Athena's plot and Odysseus's pleased apprehension of it can be viewed as responses to the suitors' attempt, discussed in the previous section, to frame Penelope as an eligible bride who will contribute to their wealth and status. Athena, working as Odysseus's partisan, remakes Penelope into the kind of deceptive bride who actually does just the opposite: a Pandora. Athena thus manipulates the suitors' construct of Penelope to Odysseus's advantage, using her nuptial status as a means and way of revenge against the imposters. (71) Penelope arrogates the suitors' treasures to herself and is the lure who keeps them enthralled in Odysseus's palace to their own detriment. In addition, her appearance exposes their transgressive wooing to Odysseus, goading his violent revenge and providing it with a moral justification. (72) Pandora, whose attractive exterior disguises her bad interior and who hides food and babies in her belly, corresponds to Prometheus's tricks of hiding the inedible bones beneath the luscious fat in Zeus's sacrificial portion and of concealing fire in a reed (Vernant 1988, 193-197). Pandora is thus a perfectly-suited punishment for Prometheus's crimes and an apt vehicle of divine revenge against human transgression. Likewise, Penelope-as-Pandora is an especially appropriate retribution for the suitors' offence of consuming Odysseus's livelihood, since she metaphorically consumes their excess riches and eventually causes the loss of their very lives. (73) In taking their gifts, she also partially replenishes the lost wealth of Odysseus's household, since these gifts will remain with her in the palace after Odysseus's triumphant return.
As the Odyssey reaches its denouement, Odysseus and Athena continue to interpellate Penelope as a Pandora who entraps the suitors. In Book 19, Penelope announces to the disguised Odysseus that she will marry the man who can string Odysseus's bow and shoot an arrow through twelve axes (19.572-579). Given her continual loving remembrances of Odysseus, she presumably chooses this particular method of determining a new husband in order to marry the man who most closely approximates Odysseus's excellence. (74) Odysseus and Athena, however, immediately coopt Penelope's bow contest into their Pandora-plot. The disguised Odysseus urges Penelope to go ahead with the contest because, as he says, Odysseus will arrive before the suitors can string and shoot the bow (19.584-587). Odysseus, in other words, supports Penelope's way of choosing a new husband because he intends to twist its purpose and use the competition as an avenue for revenge against the suitors. (75) When the moment is right, Athena acts as Odysseus's co-conspirator, inspiring Penelope to initiate the bow contest, which will be "the beginning of the slaughter" (21.1-4). Daniel Levine (1983, 175-176) reads this intrusion by Athena--which puts into effect the contest that Penelope had already conceived--as evidence that Athena's earlier manipulation of Penelope in Book 18 also manifests Penelope's own mental process (both passages are introduced by the same two-line formula). But I prefer to see this later instance, although it does follow a more normal pattern of double determination, as a continuance of Athena's plotting. Athena consistently manages Penelope for the suitors' disadvantage and for Odysseus's benefit.
How, then, does the plot to turn Penelope into a Pandora relate to the Pandareid exemplum in Book 20? The Pandareids, besides being mythical virgin brides themselves, again evoke the archetypal and perilous bride Pandora for an audience primed by Penelope's earlier appearance to detect this intertextuality. The Pandareid exemplum has already created a narrative moment when the audience is asked to think about mythical brides outside of the Odyssey's story. As discussed above, the Pandareids' upbringing echoes the divine creation of Pandora, and Penelope's second prayer to Artemis for death links the Pandareids in Book 20 to her appearance as Pandora in Book 18.
Along with these narrative signposts marking intertextuality and the latent presence of Pandora, the Pandareids suggest Pandora simply by the similar sounds of their patronymic and her name. It is worth noting, in fact, that in the Book 20 exemplum Pandareus's daughters are identified only in relation to their suggestive father, although the scholia (ad 19.518 and 20.66) record two daughters with the names of Cleothera and Merope, in addition to Aedon of the first exemplum (19.518-523). This phonetic resonance might be especially activated if listeners already have Penelope's construction as a Pandora in mind. In addition, the Pandareids' fate, like Pandora's, seems to be determined by Zeus, who "knows everything perfectly, what is allotted and not allotted for mortal men" (20.75-76).
Yet the Pandareids' story departs from Pandora's in their fate, for instead of marrying, the Pandareids are whisked off to the Underworld. They never have the opportunity to consume their husbands' wealth or unleash evils into the world. The destruction that they might bring about for men is neutralized, even if their role as servants to the Erinyes may suggest an enduring power to hurt the living, especially mothers and children. Their demise revises the Pandora myth by offering a very different ending; that is, the Pandareids are really anti-Pandoras, since they never realize their marriages.
Homer here confirms Penelope's agnoia of Athena and Odysseus's plotting. She has an aversion to becoming a bride of any kind and does not recognize her own potential to trick and entrap the suitors. Although the Pandareids in their similarity to Pandora remind the audience of their possible roles as baneful brides, and of Penelope's own construction along those lines in Book 18, Penelope's wish to replicate their premature demise shows that she does not in fact have Pandora's paradigm in mind.
Penelope's version of the Pandareids' story, moreover, omits certain details of the myth provided by the Odyssey scholia (ad 19.518 and 20.66) which would have made the Pandareids more similar to Pandora. Penelope does not explain that the death of the Pandareids' parents and their own untimely journey to the Underworld were Zeus's punishment for their father Pandareus's involvement in the theft of Zeus's golden dog, made by Hephaestus, from his temenos on Crete. She also does not include the detail that Zeus afflicted the Pandareids with a disease called "dog." These additional elements show Zeus punishing male characters for theft through inflicting doggishness on young women, motifs also at the core of the Pandora myth. Penelope, however, describes the Pandareids as beautiful brides who are snatched away for no apparent reason; her Pandareids have nothing to do with retribution against men's transgressions or with the negative qualities of dogs.
The Pandareid exemplum confirms Penelope's ignorance of Athena's Pandora plot and indicates that she is not, as some scholars have suggested, a clever, if subtle collaborator in the suitors' destruction or Odysseus's triumphant homecoming. Rather, this exemplum emphasizes her hopelessness and desire to escape remarriage, even if it means losing her life. It shows her looking backwards instead of forwards, at the mercy of others' manipulations (with and without her cognizance), and unable to find a way out.
Penelope is not, however, voiceless, mindless, or simple, a mere object of masculine desire and control. In addition to elucidating her lack of knowledge and agency, (76) the Pandareids in Book 20--along with Aedon in Book 19--reveal Penelope's otherwise elusive desires, concerns, and internal conflicts. Homer gives Penelope these women as privileged and exclusive signifiers of her complex and autonomous mental life. They highlight her negotiating competing identities as mother and wife, grappling with opposing desires to save her son and to remain in Odysseus's house as his mourning widow, and wishing to evade her construction as a bride. Penelope's positive invocation of the Pandareids' fate helps to confirm her psychological independence from the external male-oriented forces--of both 'bad' and 'good' characters--that would determine her identity and function. Although her actions are constrained by circumstances and directed by Athena, Penelope exhibits a consistent subjectivity that is all her own. (7)'
IV. Penelope's Famous Normativity
Why does the poet give Penelope such a sophisticated and independent inner life? How 'feminist' might the Odyssey be? Although Penelope is not in collusion with Odysseus, in the sense of actively plotting for his successful return, she is portrayed as eminently faithful to his memory. Her repeated prayers to Artemis for death reveal her wish to avoid engaging with the suitors and her desire for her lost husband and her former life with him. Moreover, when Penelope does prepare to leave this first marriage and adult home against her personal preference, it is to guarantee that Odysseus's son will survive and succeed to his father's social place and material possessions. Thus she is willing to sacrifice her own happiness in a choice that not only preserves the son whom she loves but also upholds patriarchal structures of lineage and inheritance. Leaving Odysseus's house, then, is the ultimate act of fidelity to her husband, (78) since it perpetuates his seed, his accomplishments, and his reputation--the best preservation a man can hope for after death.
This analysis of Penelope's psychology illustrates just how very normative her subjectivity is. Although her self-image differs from other characters' conceptions of who she is and what role she ought to play in no way undermines the patriarchal and androcentric (and, particularly, Odysseus-centric) ideology of the poem, which prescribes the rule and privileged importance of men along with the loyal subordination of women. (79) Rather, Penelope is the perfect model of the faithful and conscientious (periphron) wife and mother, and the realistic, rounded depiction of her inner life makes her personality as such all the more compelling for the poem's audience. This subjectivity, combined with her lack of agency, means that neither Penelope's character nor the Odyssey's narrative can be conceived as 'feminist' in the liberal and Western conception of that term.
The narrative's representation of Penelope as an independent thinker, instead of being subversive, is yet another strategy for subtly affirming a social structure built around male supremacy, and a narrative focused on Odysseus's welfare. Lillian Doherty (1995) has shown how the Odyssey may seduce a female reader into enjoying and approving its narrative "by offering ostensibly privileged subject positions with which she can identify" (25). These enticing female characters--either internal narrators themselves or respected internal audience members--actually possess little power or authority, whereas male characters, and especially Odysseus, have the upper hand and are the centers of attention. Likewise, Penelope's psychological autonomy, which the second Pandareid exemplum clarifies, is a narrative lure that can distract from the fact that she willingly puts Telemachus's interests and Odysseus's (the maintenance of his patriliny) above her own. In fact, the presentation of Penelope's internal resistance to external pressures further validates norms of female fidelity by showing how pursuit of these norms is the authentic desire and essential core of her subjectivity. When we look inside Penelope's own mind, we find an ideal adherent to the poem's ideology of sex and gender, which makes that ideology even more powerful.
In addition, Penelope's mental state at the beginning of Book 20, when she prays to Artemis for death or disappearance, corresponds to Odysseus's and reinforces his narrative dominance. Immediately before Penelope wakes up in despair and in ignorance of Odysseus's imminent revenge on the suitors, Homer presents Odysseus himself in a moment of worry and agnoia. He lies restlessly, wondering how and if he could possibly kill all of the suitors alone and then escape retribution (20.28-43). Thus Penelope's hopelessness, despite the independence of her thoughts, mirrors Odysseus's doubt in the dark of the night. This narrative sequence has the effect of partially assimilating Penelope's subjectivity to Odysseus's. Here Homer makes even Penelope's invocation of the Pandareids--her own proprietary mythical heroines--into an instance of the widely-acknowledged "like-mindedness" (homophrosune) between the king and queen of Ithaca. (80) Their shared nocturnal despondency is followed by the dawning of the new day, which is marked by hopeful omens and all but elides the couple's different concerns and expectations by bringing happy resolution and long-awaited reunion.
In Book 24 of the Odyssey, the ghost of Agamemnon, after learning of Penelope's loom trick and Odysseus's successful return and revenge, praises Penelope's wits and her remembrance of Odysseus, asserting: "The fame [kleos] of her excellence will never perish" (24.195-196). If we accept the interpretation of Penelope's thoughts and actions that I have offered here, then Penelope's kleos is very much her (exceptional) loyalty to husband and son. (81) The Pandareid exemplum in Book 20 serves to enhance this kleos by revealing that Penelope's subjectivity is committed to and indeed founded upon fidelity. (82)
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Wohl, V. 1993. "Standing by the Stathmos: The Creation of Sexual Ideology in the Odyssey." Arethusa 26: 19-50.
Zeitlin, F. 1995. "Figuring Fidelity in Homer's Odyssey." In Cohen 1995, 1 17-152.
(1.) The Book 20 Pandareid exemplum is mentioned in passing in most studies of Penelope, but I know of only three articles that take it as a major subject: Johnston 1994, McDonald 1997, and Levianouk 2008. In addition, Felson (1994, 34-37) analyzes the passage at some length, while Russo et al. (1992), Rutherford (1992), and de Jong (2001) provide useful references and insights in their commentaries.
(2.) Important contributions to this debate include Marquardt 1985; Murnaghan 1986, 1987, 1994, 1995; Roisman 1987; Suzuki 1989; Winkler 1990; Katz 1991; Wohl 1993; Felson 1994; Doherty 1995; Foley 1995; Holmberg 1995; Schein 1995; Zeitlin 1995; Clayton 2004.
(3.) Murnaghan (1994, 81) poses this important question and then offers a compelling answer with which I largely agree. This paper complements her conclusion.
(4.) I do not mean to suggest that Penelope is a real person, but rather I view her as a fictional construction by the Odyssey poet (hereafter Homer), who reshaped traditional myth according to his own creative vision.
(5.) Winkler (1990, 147), for example, suggests that Penelope invents the story, which she tells to the suitors in 1 8.257-273, of Odysseus's parting injunction that she remarry when Telemachus reaches maturity. Winkler (1990, 148-151) also emphasizes the presence of the maids as a limiting factor in the forthrightness of Penelope and Odysseus's discourse in Book 19; cf. Murnaghan 1986, 105 and Zeitlin 1995, 138.
(6.) Cf. Od. 6.15-19, where Nausicaa's two maids sleep near her, on either side of the doorposts.
(7.) Aedon is married to Zethus and, after unwittingly killing their son Itylus, becomes a nightingale. The Pandareids of Book 20, however, are whisked away and given to the Erinyes before their marriages. The scholia to both passages name three daughters of Pandareus--Aedon, Cleothera, and Merope--and some scholiasts distinguish between Aedon, who married Zethus, and the parthenoi Cleothera and Merope, who were taken by the storm winds.
(8.) Cf. Pucci 1987, Tsagalis 2008, Burgess 2009, Ormand 2014.
(9.) McDonald (1997, 5) also identifies the Pandareids as "intertextual insertions into the main narrative." See Burgess 2009, 67-68 on mythical paradigms as a type of epic intertextuality.
(10.) Cf. Nagy 1996, 64-67 on the metaphorical uses of weaving and sewing to describe the singing of epic.
(11.) These may be counted among the many passages in both the Odyssey and the Iliad that share thematic material--and sometimes also specific verbal formulations--with Hesiod's poetry. In Book 19 alone of the Odyssey, Rutherford (1992) observes two instances (19.109-14, 19.203) that recall passages from Hesiod's Works and Days and Theogony, respectively. Likewise, West (2011 and 2012, 226 note 3) identifies numerous Hesiodic citations in the Iliad and Muellner (1996) has even suggested that the Iliad as a whole may be understood as a thematic sequel to Hesiod's Theogony. On the basis of Homer's apparent adaptation of Hesiodic themes and language, West (2012) has contended that Hesiod's poetry predates Homer's epics. Yet Janko (1982 and 2012) has convincingly argued the opposite based on statistical analysis of linguistic archaisms in early Greek epic. My own argument for allusion to Pandora in these passages does not rely on the priority of Hesiod's texts to Homer's, but assumes that the storv of Pandora was a traditional myth known to Homer and his audience, which comes down to us as part of the Hesiodic oeuvre. It is, of course, incumbent upon the scholar of intertextuality in oral epic to prove that apparent similarities of language or motif between two narratives (or narrative traditions) do not simply reflect shared formulaic language, epic type-scenes, or traditional themes, but rather denote a poetic dialogue. I make such an argument below.
(12.) This is not to deny that the poet obliquely suggests unconscious desire for attention from the suitors (Van Nortwick 1979) along with anger at Odysseus for his twenty-year abandonment (McDonald 1997 and Anhalt 2001, 154-158) and, later, for his deception on his return (Roisman 1987). The traces of these unconscious or subconscious feelings support the poem's assumption that females are always potentially unfaithful and dangerous to their marital household; cf. Murnaghan 1987, 121-127 and Wohl 1993. Penelope's conscious suppression of these feelings, however, further promotes the kleos of her normative fidelity.
(13.) Following Althusser 1971, I use "interpellation" to describe how external forces shape the subject.
(14.) Rutherford 1992, 192 and Levianouk 2008, 7-8 and 2011, 215-216.
(15.) Levianouk 2008, 6-15 and 201 1, 213-225. Although this message appears to be Penelope's conscious intention in that it derives from the version of the nightingale myth that she tells, the Pandareid simile may also encode darker unconscious desires in Penelope for revenge against Odysseus, Telemachus, and/or the suitors in its evocation of the Procne/Philomela/Tereus myth, as McDonald (1997, 16-21) and Anhalt (2001, 149-158) argue.
(16.) Cf. Marquardt 1985, 38-39 and Felson 1994, 67-91.
(17.) Cf. Emlyn-Jones 1984, 11-12; Rutherford 1992, 31; Foley 1995, 101-102; Scodel 2001, 319-323.
(18.) Penelope does not overtly articulate any belief that Odysseus will return or suspicion that the strange guest is actually Odysseus--just the opposite. Despite this, several scholars argue that Penelope has secretlv recognized Odysseus or suspects his presence, and that she speaks to him in code and sets the contest of the bow with the expectation, or at least hope, of his triumphant return: Harsh 1950, 17; Winkler 1990, 154-155; Levianouk 2008, 24; cf. Amory 1963, 104-106, who posits a subconscious recognition.
(19.) See Amory 1966 for detailed analysis of Penelope's mention of the gates of horn and ivory. Cf. Emlyn-Jones 1984, 3-5 on Penelope's consistent skepticism regarding dreams and omens of Odysseus's return.
(20.) Greek quotations are from Thomas W. Allen's 1922 Oxford Classical Text. All translations are mine.
(21.) If, however, Penelope expects Odysseus's return in the nick of time, her death-wish does not make much sense, pace Harsh 1950, 18 and Levianouk 2008, 25-26, who attempt to explain it on the basis that Penelope still fears the suitors will kill Odysseus. Amory's (1963, 106-107) suggestion that Penelope temporarily suppresses or retreats from her "subconscious" recognition relies on stereotyped ideas of female irrationality and incoherence, and does no justice to the way that Penelope has been kept in the dark by Odysseus, as the critiques of Murnaghan (1987, 138-139) and Katz (1991, 109) have shown.
(22.) The parallels between Penelope and the Pandareids are laid out in Rutherford 1992, 210; Danek 1998, 394; de Jong 2001, 489; Levianouk 2008, 26-27.
(23.) See Vermeule 1979, 248 note 33.
(24.) Harsh 1950, 12 and Ahl and Roisman 1996, 225. In Odysseus's parting words to Penelope, as quoted by the queen in 18.259-270, he also addresses her as gunai.
(25.) Cf. Od. 2.50, where Telemachus declares in the Ithacan assembly: "The suitors have been assaulting my mother although she is not willing" ([phrase omitted]).
(26.) Higbie 1995, 130 and Due 2002, 49-55.
(27.) The suitors' plot to kill Telemachus is not only symbolic of their desire to erase Penelope's previous marriage, nor is it simply a reaction to Telemachus's bold threats against them. While some of the suitors may be satisfied to have Penelope and her dowry follow them to their own homes, leaving Telemachus to inherit his father's position and property (cf. 20.335-337), Antinous and probably others are courting Penelope in order to take Odysseus's place as king of Ithaca, with all the wealth and power it entails (1.165, 16.384-386, 22.50-53). This is a scenario that casts Penelope as a Clytemnestra figure, and against which Agamemnon's shade warns Odysseus in 1 1.405-456; cf. Katz 1991, 27-53 and Brown 1997, 43. Practically, the suitors must eliminate Telemachus, Odysseus's heir, to claim the throne and avoid retribution, like that visited upon Aegisthus and Clytemnestra by Orestes. For nuanced discussion of the suitors' intentions, see Scodel 2001, esp. 311-312.
(28.) I make the standard narratological distinction between the narrator--a fictional character--and the poet (author).
(29.) Cf. Wohl 1993, 29. Van Nortwick (1979) compares Nausicaa and Penelope to make a rather different claim about Penelope's sexual awakening.
(30.) Cf. Nagler 1974, 64-86 on the "attendance motif" and its relation to female chastity.
(31.) Nausicaa's attitude towards potential suitors and the denouement of her story are further predictive of Penelope's subjectivity and plot. Penelope's desire not to marry the suitors parallels Nausicaa's disdain of her local Phaeacian suitors (Austin 1975, 201-202). Nausicaa is interested in marrying Odysseus instead or someone like him (6.242-245); likewise, Penelope remains true to Odysseus's memory. Nausicaa, despite her readiness for marriage, does not marry in the Odyssey's narrative, and Penelope similarly avoids remarriage in the end. Nausicaa cannot marry Odysseus for the same reason that Penelope will not marry the suitors: Odysseus and Penelope are already married to each other.
(32.) See Alexiou 1974, 155 on the Greek antithesis between marriage and death.
(33.) For comparison of wedding and funeral rituals, see Alexiou 1974, 120; Redfield 1982; Rehm 1994, 1 1-42; Tsagalis 2004, 82-85.
(34.) Russo et al. (1992, 113) make the connection between these two phrases.
(35.) Cf. Levianouk 2008, 27.
(36.) See Nagy 1979, 192-210 on how divine abduction of mortals by gusts of wind can result in preservation, death, or sex, and on the interrelation of these outcomes; cf. McDonald 1997, 13.
(37.) Emlyn-Jones 1984, 5; de Jong 2001, 489-90; Levianouk 2008, 28; cf. McDonald 1997, 13-16.
(38.) Russo (1982, 13) correctly interprets Penelope's dream as the fulfillment of a wish, in accordance with the Freudian conception of dreams. He traces her dream's content to her conversion with the disguised Odysseus just before she went to bed, in which Odysseus describes himself as he was twenty years earlier; cf. Suzuki 1987, 75-89 on Penelope's resistance to the passage of time and to recognizing an aged and changed Odysseus, and Murnaghan 1987, 15-17 on Odysseus's ultimate rejuvenation and transcendence of the limits of mortality in his homecoming.
(39.) Contra Levianouk 2008, 27-28, who argues that Penelope is praying to Artemis implicitly for a renewal of her marriage to Odysseus.
(40.) Felson (1994, 35-36) argues that in this passage Penelope fantasizes about reunion with Odysseus in the Underworld, in a Bride of Death scenario; cf. McDonald 1997, 13-14 for a similar interpretation. Penelope, however, does not imagine reconnecting with Odysseus after death, and I do not see evidence that she regards death as a kind of marriage, even a remarriage to Odysseus. In her prayer, as I have argued, she wishes for death instead of marriage and rejects the identity of bride. Death is a way to stay herself, a self that is defined by her continuing relationship with Odysseus, which she preserves through her memory of him and which is manifested in her status as Ithacan queen and mother of Telemachus. In Penelope's mind, Odysseus himself is irrevocably lost.
(41.) Murnaghan (1994, 90-94) describes Penelope's allegiance to Odysseus as "an essential fact of her character" and identifies pervasive mourning as Penelope's defining subjective state. This endless mourning enacts her socially-impossible characterization as "the faithful wife of someone who no longer exists."
(42.) On Penelope's remembering as a key aspect of her fidelity to Odysseus and as a source of kleos, see Mueller 2007.
(43.) For typical features of Greek laments, see Alexiou 1974, 165-183 and Tsagalis 2004, 32-45.
(44.) Katz (1991, 149) argues that Penelope's prayer to Artemis for death is "ambiguous, since the wish to maintain virginity forever and the sorrow at its impending loss is a regular prelude to marriage for women in archaic poetry." But Penelope is not a virgin and she mourns the loss of her husband, not her virginity. I think that Penelope's death wishes reflect her status as mourning wife rather than prospective bride; cf. Seaford 1994, 34-35 who admits both scenarios.
(45.) Levianouk (201 1, 223) observes: "Like Penelope, the nightingale is above all a figure of lament, and a further point of contact is established between them by their shared tendency to cry, or sing, at night." See also Seaford 1994, 56 who recognizes the nightingale as a symbol of liminality, which he connects with Penelope's indecision about remarriage as well as her inability to complete Odysseus's death ritual.
(46.) Katz (1991, 150) makes the important observation, however, that Penelope attempts to distance herself mentally from Odysseus as she unhappily prepares for remarriage to a suitor. Penelope appends the qualification "if he ever existed" to a remembrance of Odysseus (19.315) and suggests that the memory of her former life as Odysseus's wife will be dream-like after her remarriage (19.579-581 = 21.77-79). I would add to Katz's observations that before Penelope takes each step towards remarriage, she first "takes satisfaction of tearful lamentation" (tarphe poludakrutoio gooio, 19.251 = 21.57), that is, she fulfills her "desire for lamentation" (himeros gooio, 19.249) for the time being, at least. After Odysseus and Penelope have been reunited they eventually replace their "desire for lamentation" (23.231)--perhaps never to be satisfied because of their lost youth and Odysseus's future travels--with the pleasures of sex and storytelling (23.300, 23.308).
(47.) Seaford (1994, 56-57) reads the weaving of Laertes's shroud as "the best available substitute for the death ritual which, because Odysseus may yet live, cannot be held." Laplanche (1999, 251-254) understands Penelope's nightly unweaving as a metaphor for her process of mourning Odysseus, as her unraveling of her attachment to her lost husband, so that she is ready and able to form a new attachment. In this model, Penelope's trick is the necessary delay that allows her to complete her mourning over Odysseus and come to terms with remarriage. But I do not see evidence that she has significantly progressed in her mourning or that she actually wants remarriage.
(48.) Rutherford (1992, 211 ad 20.70-72) notes this connection between the Pandareids and Pandora without comment. For scholarly approaches to the similarity between Penelope in Book 18 and Pandora, see below.
(49.) Felson (1994, 155 note 36) also gestures toward a connection between Penelope's adornment and Pandora.
(50.) We might detect an ancient awareness of this Pandora intertext in the variants of the Penelope myth that have Penelope as the mother of Pan, impregnated by all the suitors; see Gantz 1993, 713 and Fredricksmeyer 1997, 494-495.
(51.) Burgess (2009, 62-71 and 2012) provides clear explanation and examples of "motif transference" within the Trojan War epic tradition.
(52.) Whereas all these elements seem to belong properly to Pandora, as I will argue, and also apply to Penelope in Book 18, some or all are absent in the other instantiations of the "allurement" type-scene identified by Forsyth 1979, 109. For example, Nausicaa in Odyssey 6 bathes and anoints herself without divine involvement; her allurement of Odysseus is unplanned and with no retributive or malign purpose; finally, Odysseus acquires wealth from their interaction rather than the opposite. Hera's deceptive seduction of Zeus in Iliad 14 is another instance of Forysth's type-scene, and Levine (1983, 174-175) traces the extensive similarities between this Iliad episode and Penelope's appearance in Odyssey 18. Yet there is a crucial difference that marks Hera's departure from the motif that Pandora and Penelope share: Hera is a goddess and consciously adorns herself for seduction, but as I will discuss below, Pandora and Penelope are mortal women adorned without their control by divinity.
(53.) Graver (1995) has shown how the dog insult expresses the idea of excessive and indiscriminate material or sexual appetite; thus Pandora's "bitchy mind" is almost a synonym for her "thieving character," and both represent how she literally and metaphorically eats away male resources. See also Franco 2014 for a convincing anthropological explanation of why the Greeks associated the dog specifically with these behaviors, and esp. pp. 121-159 for a rationalization of the persistent Greek connection between dogs and women, as evidenced in the myth of Pandora.
(54.) Cf. Loraux 1993, 72-88.
(55.) Cf. Brown 1997, 28-29.
(56.) Thus Analysts have regarded this passage as evidence of multiple authorship. See Van Nortwick 1979, 269 and 273 and Byre 1988, 160-161 for bibliography.
(57.) Levine 1983; Winkler 1990, 147; Brown 1997, 46.
(58.) E.g., Van Nortwick 1979; cf. Murnaghan 1987, 131.
(59.) Holscher 1996; Emlyn-Jones 1984, 10-12; Murnaghan 1995, 70-71; Holmberg 1995, 1 15-117. On the indeterminism of Penelope's motivations in this scene, Katz 1991, 80-92; Felson 1994, 28-29; Danek 1998, 347-355.
(60.) Cf. Byre 1988, 159-160 and Danek 1998, 347.
(61.) Holscher 1996, 136 and Zeitlin 1995, 141.
(62.) E.g., Van Nortwick 1979, 272; Levine 1983, 175-176; Felson 1994, 28; cf. Dodds 1951, 1-18; Whitman 1958, 223; Amory 1963, 1 12.
(63.) For example, in Il. 1.55, the narrator describes, with the same formula ([phrase omitted]), how Hera inspired Achilles to call an assembly of the Achaeans. In this case, Achilles seems perfectly at home with the idea and even begins the assembly with a lucid speech explaining exactly why he had brought the Achaeans together.
(64.) The adverb akhreion appears only twice in Homeric epic, here and in Il. 2.269, and its meaning is uncertain. I think that "helplessly" or "confusedly" makes the most sense in both of its contexts. For other possible translations, Levine 1983, 172; Bvre 1988, 162-163; Katz 1991, 89.
(65.) Byre 1988, 163 who postulates that this desire is "repulsive" to Penelope.
(66.) Thus, following Byre 1988, 163-164, I see no real inconsistency between Penelope's earlier statement to Eurynome of her intended speech to Telemachus and what she actually says, although other scholars (e.g., Fenik 1974, 115-119) regard this as evidence of her conniving ways.
(67.) I see no reason to understand Odysseus's parting injuction as a made-up story, as Winkler (1990, 147) suggests. In the eyes of the suitors and Telemachus (as has been made clear in Books 1-2), Penelope does not need Odysseus's sanction to embark on a new marriage, and she could just as easily have said that she herself was finally ready to choose a new husband.
(68.) An exception is Danek 1998, 349 whose analysis of this scene agrees with my own in many respects.
(69.) Cf. Holmberg 1995, 116-117. Instead of acknowledging Odysseus's focalization, scholarly debate has generally focused on what the phrase "but her mind had other intentions" could mean about Penelope's actual interiority; cf. Russo et al. 1992, 67 ad loc.
(70.) Cf. Murnaghan 1986, 109 and 1 987, 132. I do not think that Odysseus doubts the sincerity of Penelope's plan to remarry (contra Danek 1998, 349), but I see him as confident in the knowledge that this marriage will not take place. He is thus able to appreciate how she exploits (to his mind) the conventions of wooing to accumulate greater wealth. This is what is meant, I believe, when he imagines that "her mind had other intentions." She could easily have promised herself to one suitor at this point and received bride wealth only from him at the occasion of their marriage, but instead she brilliantly extracts gifts from all the suitors without actually moving forward with her remarriage.
(71.) Cf. Scodel 2001, 320-321.
(72.) Byre 1988, 169-171. Brown (1997, 45-46) notes that the suitors' gifting of Penelope herself is the action of would-be adulterers, not legitimate suitors. Normally, bride wealth would pass from prospective husband to father or male guardian, not to the bride. Here the suitors are trying to seduce Penelope herself with gifts of jewelry instead of participating in a sanctioned transaction between men.
(73.) Cf. Brown 1997, 46.
(74.) Felson 1994, 16-17. This ploy to find a substitute-Odysseus may also reflect her true desire to remain in her home as queen, a desire that she willingly gives up for Telemachus's sake. As she tells the beggar, she consciously plans to follow her new husband to his home (instead of setting him up as her consort in Ithaca, in the Clytemnestra mode).
(75.) See Murnaghan 1986, 109 and 1987, 133 on how Penelope is unaware that she is tricking the suitors with the bow contest, and Holmberg 1995, 117 and 120 on Odysseus "usurping Penelope's action" in this way.
(76.) My reading supports the conclusion that Penelope lacks agency, for which Murnaghan (1986, 1987, 1995) and Holmberg (1995) have convincingly argued.
(77.) I use "subjectivity" to describe an autonomous interiority, and my definition does not rely on the subject's ability to influence plot in accordance with her desires. Therefore I recognized Penelope's subjectivity, whereas Holmberg (1995) does not. She concludes: "The Odyssey... consistently asserts an ideology that denies the female a position as a positive, active participant in the creation of her narrative plot, or, in other words, denies female subjectivity" (104).
(78.) Similarly, Foley (1995, 103) concludes that "Penelope's acceptance of the less palatable choice in Book 19 demonstrates... a greater moral fidelity to her spouse."
(79.) Wohl (1993) provides an excellent account of this ideology and Penelope's sustaining place within it.
(80.) Cf., e.g., Schein 1995, 22 on Odysseus and Penelope's homophrosune. Schein later qualifies their degree of like-mindedness, observing: "The poem shows a Penelope with a mind of her own, not merely one in harmony with her husband's" (25). Penelope's invocation of the Pandareids, however, reveals a Penelope with a mind of her own and one in harmony with her husband's.
(81.) Cf. Wohl 1993, 45. Contra Katz 1991, who finds Penelope's psychology and actions ambiguous and indeterminate, and thus concludes that her kleos is not confined to a univocal praise of her fidelity, but is instead problematically multiform.
(82.) An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Philological Association in Chicago in 2014. For their helpful comments and encouragement at various stages of this paper's composition, I would like to thank Richard Martin, Seth Schein, Christopher Faraone, Lillian Doherty, Mark Griffith, Leslie Kurke, and the editor and anonymous reader for Helios.
[Please note: Some non-Latin characters were omitted from this article]
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|Author:||Lesser, Rachel H.|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2017|
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