Set in ancient Greece, The Odyssey is about the hero Odysseus' long-awaited
return from the Trojan War to his homeland, Ithaca, after ten years of
wandering. The current action of The Odyssey occupies the last six weeks of
the ten years, and the narrative includes many places - Olympus, Ithaca, Pylos,
Pherae, Sparta, Ogygia, and Scheria. In Books 9-12, Odysseus narrates the
story of his travels in the years after the fall of Troy, and this narrative
includes other far-flung places, such as the island of the Cyclops. The main
action of the poem takes place in Ithaca, after a disguised Odysseus reaches
there in Book 13. In Books 13 to 24, Odysseus is slowly reunited with his
family and takes revenge on the suitors that have been wooing his wife and
wasting his property.
Odysseus - the protagonist and hero of the poem. Odysseus is the King of
Ithaca, a small, rugged island on the western coast of Greece. He takes part in
the Trojan War on the side of Agamemnon. Of all the heroes who return from
the war, his homeward voyage is the longest and most perilous. Although
Odysseus is in many ways a typical Homeric hero, he is not perfect, and his
very human flaws play an important role in the work.
Penelope - the "much-enduring" wife of Odysseus and the patient mother of
Telemachus. If travel is Odysseus' test, staying home is Penelope's. She keeps
home and family intact until Odysseus can return to claim his rights. The
suffering she undergoes and the tricks that she employs to keep her suitors at
bay bear testimony to her power of endurance and love for her son and
Telemachus - Odysseus' son. A mere child when his father left for the Trojan
War, Telemachus is, at the beginning of The Odyssey, an inexperienced,
unhappy, and helpless young man. His travels in search of his father help him
to mature, and, on Odysseus' return, he fulfills his duties, as the son of a hero
Athene - the goddess of wisdom and the daughter of Zeus. She is Odysseus'
champion amongst the gods, and she aids him and Telemachus throughout the
poem, displaying great tact, intelligence, and cleverness in all her endeavors.
Nestor - the King of Pylos. He had fought on the side of Agamemnon in the
Trojan War. When Telemachus sails off to find news of Odysseus, he first
visits Nestor at Pylos. Nestor contributes very little to Telemachus' knowledge
of his father, though he is generous and helpful.
Menelaus - the King of Sparta. The Trojan War was fought to rescue his wife,
Helen, who was abducted by Paris. In The Odyssey, both husband and wife are
back at Sparta. An old friend of Odysseus, Menelaus welcomes Telemachus
into his home.
Helen - the wife of Menelaus and the cause of the Trojan War. Helen's
portrayal is more striking than that of Menelaus. She is back with Menelaus at
Sparta, happy and at peace, having learned from...