We all dream of our Odysseus…
Penelope was the wife of Odysseus, King of Ithaca, in the ancient epic Greek poem, “The Odyssey.” Odysseus is also referred to as Ulysses in Roman history. According to the story, while Odysseus was off fighting the 10-year Trojan War, Penelope remained at home, fighting off suitors. Everyone assumed her husband had been killed in the war.
One of the tricks that Penelope devised to keep the men away was to pretend to be weaving a burial shroud for Odysseus’s elderly father. She claimed that once she completed the shroud, she would choose a suitor. Every night she undid the weaving so that it would be impossible to finish. Until one night a servant woman, one of twelve, discovers what she has done and tells the suitors.
“On Odysseus’s return, disguised as an old beggar, he finds that Penelope has remained faithful… She is ambivalent, variously asking Artemis to kill her and, apparently, considering marrying one of the suitors. When the disguised Odysseus returns, she announces in her long interview with the disguised hero that whoever can string Odysseus’s rigid bow and shoot an arrow through twelve axe shafts may have her hand. “For the plot of the Odyssey, of course, her decision is the turning point, the move that makes possible the long-predicted triumph of the returning hero.” Read more at Wikipedia.
Penelope not only represents fidelity, but she embodies the qualities of a woman that most men desire: honesty, loyalty, respect and real love.
“There is debate as to whether she is aware that Odysseus is behind the disguise. Penelope and the suitors know that Odysseus (were he in fact present) would easily surpass all in any test of masculine skill. Since Odysseus seems to be the only person (perhaps excepting Telemachus) who can actually use the bow, it could merely have been another delaying tactic of Penelope’s.
When the contest of the bow begins, none of the suitors are able to string the bow, but Odysseus does, and wins the contest. Having done so, he proceeds to slaughter the suitors—beginning with Antinous whom he finds drinking from Odysseus’ cup—with help from Telemachus, Athena and two servants, Eumaeus the swineherd and Philoetius the cowherd. Odysseus has now revealed himself in all his glory (with a little makeover by Athena); yet Penelope cannot believe that her husband has really returned—she fears that it is perhaps some god in disguise, as in the story of Alcmene—and tests him by ordering her servant Euryclea to move the bed in their wedding-chamber. Odysseus protests that this cannot be done since he made the bed himself and knows that one of its legs is a living olive tree. Penelope finally accepts that he truly is her husband, a moment that highlights their homophrosýnē (like-mindedness).” More from Wikipedia