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Penelope in the Odyssey: Quotes & Weaving

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  • 0:00 Who is Penelope?
  • 1:00 Penelope's Clever Schemes
  • 2:12 Quotes
  • 3:03 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ashley Kannan

Ashley has taught history, literature, and political science and has a Master's Degree in Education

Penelope is one of the most important characters in 'The Odyssey'. Homer idealizes her as the perfect wife and one who sets the standard for loyalty. Learn how Penelope used her intelligence to remain loyal to Odysseus while he was away for two decades.

Who Is Penelope?

Penelope is an essential character in The Odyssey by Homer. She is the wife of Odysseus and represents a force of strength and survival that parallels anything her husband might have displayed on the battlefield.

Penelope is the daughter of Icarius and Periboea, and the mother to Telemachus, the son of Odysseus, who is just born as his father leaves for the Trojan War. Throughout the war and Odysseus' struggle to return back to Ithaca, Penelope displays intense loyalty to both her love for him and their marriage. This is demonstrated when Penelope has to fend off the 108 suitors who come to compete for her hand in the belief that Odysseus is dead or missing. She knows that Telemachus has neither the physical or mental skills to save her and kill the suitors. Penelope recognizes that her options are limited, but she uses her great sense of intelligence to create obstacles to keep these suitors at bay and to honor the love she holds for her husband.

Penelope's Clever Schemes

One technique that Penelope uses to fight off her suitors is weaving a shroud. Penelope tells her suitors that she will marry one of them when she finishes a weaving, a burial shroud for Laertes, Odysseus's father. As she weaves the shroud during the day, at night, away from the eyes of the suitors, Penelope undoes the weaving that she had done that day. It is this dance of survival that Penelope carries out with the suitors, and it buys her three years of time, until a maid reveals her secret.

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