The Relevance of The Odyssey Today Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey was written after his Iliad which told the tales of the Trojan War. This Odyssey told of the wanderings of a prominent warrior and ruler, Odysseus. Odysseus fought in the Trojan War and, after the Greeks claimed their victory at Troy, began his prolonged journey home. During his travels Odysseus faced many obstacles which he had to overcome. Through his wanderings, Odysseus had to prove his valor, intellect, and determination. Incorporated into The Odyssey are many current-day characteristics of man including a constant dependence on others, the presence of a greater vision, or lack there of, and the essence of a sensitive side behind courage and pride. At times throughout The Odyssey Odysseus didn’t think about the consequences of his actions and depended on guidance from the gods to help lead him in the right direction. Odysseus was quick to take action and occasionally made poor decisions that were bound to harm him. Odysseus was eager to fight, even if he had little chance of survival. His impulsiveness resulted in Athena coming down from Mount Olympus to warn him saying “Foolhardy man! Still bent on war and struggle! Will you not even yield to immortal gods? This is no mortal being, but an immortal woe, -dire, hard, and fierce, and not to be fought down. Courage is nothing; flight is best” (116). Odysseus didn’t know when to run and leave a situation and when to face and fight. He believed that his courage would pull him through to victory, even against a goddess. Without Athena’s wisdom, Odysseus was sure to meet his doom because there was no way that he could defeat the goddess Charybdis. Odysseus not only depended on immortals to get him out of a mess, but he also depended on them to boost his confidence when he struggled to overcome self-doubt. When Odysseus feared he would fail and began to doubt himself, the gods would come to his aid and encourage him. Athena reassured Odysseus throughout the epic poem saying “I am a god and will protect you to the end, through all your toils” (196). Odysseus became dependent on Athena’s encouragement and lacked self-reliance. He believed it was all right to doubt himself because he knew that Athena would always be there to brush the doubt away and encourage him on his journey home. Odysseus depended on mortals and immortals to boost his confidence and he sought their help, knowing that both would come to his aid because they pitied him. Odysseus’ journey home was to prove that he could do something on his own, but the mortals’ and immortals’ pity constantly helped him along his journey. Odysseus was aware that both men and gods would help him and he said “Oh hear me now, although before though didst not hear me, when I was wrecked, what time the great Land-shaker wrecked me. Grant that I come among the Phaecians welcomed and pitied by them” (61) and so Odysseus foreshadowed what was to come. He knew that when he reached the land of the Phaecians that they would feel sorry for him and would try to help him. He became so dependent on others help, that he forgot his own intellect and determination, and he ended up not making the journey on his own. Although Odysseus did depend on others much more than on his own intellect, valor, and determination, he did maintain a greater vision and didn’t let spontaneous yearning draw him away from his destiny. While Odysseus was in the underworld, he became acquainted with Tiresias who told him not to kill the Sun’s kine because it would bring him and his crew bad luck. Odysseus followed this advice and didn’t kill the kine. Unfortunately, his crew did kill the kine, which cost them their lives. After his crew killed the kine Odysseus recalled “Out of the ship my comrades fell and then like sea-fowl were borne by the side of the black ship along the waves; God cut them off from coming home” (121). Odysseus’ crew was killed because they overlooked the greater vision of making it home. They gave in to their hunger, and in doing so they brought death upon themselves. Odysseus didn’t give into the craving for the kine, and this self-discipline was what helped him survive. Odysseus didn’t let small yearnings draw him away from the greater vision, and he pursued the greater vision even when it would have been easy for him to disregard it and take another course. Odysseus was tested throughout his journey home even though he was a man of rank. The epithet “… long-tried royal Odysseus…” (62) proved that Odysseus was faced with many hard times, and that he was tested. Many obstacles sprouted up along Odysseus’ journey and it would have been easy for him to become discouraged by them and give up hope, but Odysseus pursued the greater vision. He continued to face the obstacles one by one, and his determination and longing to get home to prove that he could, helped him eventually return after twenty years of war and struggle. Odysseus could have easily given up hope on his long journey home, but the greater vision of seeing his wife Penelope and son Telemachus gave him a reason to continue on. Odysseus remembered through all his struggles that he had a family at home waiting for his return, and that is what kept him going through all his toils. Odysseus showed his love for Penelope when he said to the goddess Calypso “Full well I know that heedful Penelope, compared with you, is poor to look upon in height and beauty; for she is human, but you are an immortal, young forever. Yet even so, I wish- yes, every day I long- to travel home and see my day of coming” (49). For a weak man, it would have been easy to give up faith, but Odysseus, being the strong man that he was, continued homeward in spite of the many hindrances. The incessant longing to see his family again and his perpetual determination were what gave Odysseus the strength to return home. Odysseus pursued the greater vision and even being the war-loving man that he was, had a sensitive side behind his courage and pride. The sensitive side that Odysseus possessed was only seen by the people whom he loved dearly, and only to these people did he show his true feelings of love and despair. After twenty years of absence from his family, Odysseus saw his son and he “kissed his son and down his cheeks upon the ground let fall a tear, which always hitherto he sternly had suppressed” (167). Odysseus missed his family the whole time he was gone, but didn’t show his feelings of love and sadness on his journey. When he finally reached home and received the unforgotten love of his son, Odysseus felt he could finally show the love he had in return for Telemachus. Odysseus showed his sensitivity to the people he loved and the greater occurrences in life rather than sorrow over minor misfortunes. Inevitable changes occurred over the twenty-year period that Odysseus was gone and it was these changes, and the missed time with his family, that caused him to grieve. Odysseus missed the years when his dog was young, and when he returned he saw that “Here lay the dog, this Argos, full of fleas. Yet even now, seeing Odysseus near, he wagged his tail and dropped both ears, but toward him he had not strength to move. Odysseus turned aside and wiped away a tear, swiftly concealing from Eumaeus what he did” (167). Odysseus sorrowed because when he left, Argos was swift and strong, like he was, but when he returned, Odysseus realized that he had been neglected, and was sick and dying. Argos recognized Odysseus when no one else could, and his loyalty was what touched Odysseus’ heart and let his love shine through. While they could have grown old together, they didn’t because of the long separation. It was the realization of how much he’d missed in life that made him sad. Odysseus sorrowed over the major occurrences in life, but only revealed his sensitivity to those who confided their sensitivity in him. Before showing his true feelings, Odysseus had to feel comfortable with the person. These people knew that he wasn’t the courageous, war-loving hero that he was made out to be, but still took him seriously. Odysseus revealed himself to Penelope and he “began to weep, holding his loved and faithful wife. As when the welcome land appears to swimmers, whose sturdy ship Poseidon wrecked at sea, confounded by the winds and solid waters; a few escape the sea and swim ashore; swift salt forms crusts at their flesh; they climb the welcome land, and are escaped from danger; so welcome to her gazing eyes appeared her husband” (226). Odysseus showed his sensitivity because Penelope showed hers. He felt comfortable showing this side because he knew that she wouldn’t laugh at him, but would be understanding because she felt the same as he did; they both longed for each other. The Odyssey involved many current-day characteristics of man including a dependence on others, the existence of a greater vision, or lack of it, and asensitive side found behind courage and pride. Today people still face these problems and must work to overcome them. Man must learn to survive on his own determination and strengths instead of others. Man must also learn to see a greater vision and look at the big picture rather than the moment. Lastly, man must decide with whom he wants to share his feelings of fear, love, and despair so he can experience a greater fulfillment in life.
Comparing Development of the King in Richard II, Richard III, Henry IV, Henry V
Shakespeare’s Development of the King in Richard II, Richard III, Henry IV, Henry V
Shakespeare’s plays beginning with Richard II and concluding with Henry V presents an interesting look at the role of a king. England’s search for “the mirror of all Christian kings” provided the opportunity to explore the many facets of kingship showing the strengths and weaknesses of both the position and the men who filled that position. Through careful examination, Shakespeare develops the “king” as a physical, emotional, and psychological being. By presenting the strengths and weaknesses of these characteristics, Shakespeare presents a unified look at the concept of “kingship” and demonstrates that failure to achieve proper balance in “the king versus the man” struggle, leads to the ongoing bloodshed examined in this tetralogy and the next.
Richard II demonstrates the extreme of the conceit of divine right. He abuses his power and position caring only for the regal image he projects. His desire is for the physical, majestic appearance accompanied by the power and wealth of royalty. Richard desires to “look” the part which he succeeds in doing. In Richard II III.iii, York says of Richard in line 68, “Yet looks he like a king!” Richard does not care if he truly is a king with regard to responsibility for his subjects. He has interpreted divine right to be an agreement from God to him with no obligations to the subjects over whom he has dominion. This is exemplified in his attitude toward his ailing uncle, John of Gaunt, when he says to his friends, “Come, gentlemen, let’s all go visit him. Pray God we may make haste and come too late (RII I.iv.63-64).” Richard’s only interest is in the estates Gaunt’s …
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