Vengeance In The Odyssey

The Odyssey is an epic poem attributed to Homer. The protagonist, Odysseus, spends much of the poem pursuing his vengeance against those who attacked his home and killed his wife’s relatives ( The Odyssey, Bk I). The wrath of Achilles is a central theme in The Iliad; however, The Odyssey takes on a decidedly different tone. The difference between The Odyssey and The Iliad can be seen through their representation of the hero’s anger/wrath.

In The Iliad, there is no question that Achilles is angry at King Agamemnon, while Odysseus does not seek out revenge for any one person in particular; he simply wants retribution for what he has lost ( The Odyssey, Bk I). The epic poem The Odyssey follows Odysseus’ ten-year journey from Troy back to his home at Ithaca, where he finds an array of problems. The suitors have been courting his wife for two decades in hopes that she will pick one of them to be her next husband. However, when Odysseus returns home in disguise, the suitors learn of his identity and plot to kill him.

They know there is no chance they can defeat Odysseus himself in a fair fight, so they wait until he is asleep to strike ( The Odyssey, Bk II). The vengeful Penelope sends these men away with their lives; however, one by one they are killed by Odysseus throughout The Odyssey. The suitors are the only characters who die in The Odyssey; nobody else is killed by Odysseus. The epic poem The Odyssey has a much different tone than The Iliad because not one character’s death can be attributed to what they did to anger Odysseus.

This is one difference between The Odyssey and The Iliad: in The Iliad, Homer focuses on Achilles’ unyielding wrathful nature while The Odyssey presents the theme of vengeance without hatred towards any specific person ( The Odyssey, Bk II). The theme of revenge that gives way for many deaths depicted in The Odyssey starts with Homer’s portrayal of Agamemnon, Achilles, and Odysseus. The story of Agamemnon is told in The Iliad. Homer displays how selfish Agamemnon is when he says that if the war is to continue he will never return home ( The Iliad, Bk I).

This statement causes Achilles to become enraged because his honor has been questioned. The most notable example of this excessive anger is when Achilles lashes out on Hector during their fight in The Iliad. The rage felt by Achilles after seeing the dead body of Patroclus caused him to kill many Trojans including killing King Priam’s son Paris ( The Life of Homer ). The rage depicted by Achilles shows how vengeance can lead to death; everyone who was killed by The Wrath of Achilles was killed because The Wrath of Agamemnon caused The Wrath of Achilles.

Achilles’ wrathful anger is the most important theme in The Iliad. Homer describes The Wrath of Achilles as an excessive reason for leaving behind his life and responsibilities ( The Iliad, Bk XVIII). The word ‘wrath’ itself implies that something is wrong; however, this definition does not apply to The Wrath of Achilles, which is depicted as absolute perfection. The wrath shown by Achilles throughout The Iliad is what makes him the greatest warrior saw on Earth ( Homer’s Life ). This aspect can be compared to Odysseus. Homer depicts Odysseus as a man who is on the brink of rage but keeps his composure.

The most notable example of Odysseus withholding his anger is when he steers clear from murdering The suitors after they have killed many members of his household ( The Odyssey, Bk XXII). The comparison between The Wrath of Achilles and The Wrath of Odysseus can be made because both characters can calm their anger to achieve their goals. The fictional character King Agamemnon is similar to real-life historical figures like Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin ( Homer’s Life ). Their absolute hatred led to death which then caused society as a whole to suffer; everyone who died in The Iliad died because of these three flawed kings.

The second theme is vengeance. The Odyssey is filled with many different examples of emotions that show how Homer uses The Odyssey to convey a message about revenge. The first example of this occurs when The Odyssey begins and The Wrath of Odysseus is revealed. The men on the ship that The Wrath of Odysseus captured explain why they are going to Odysseus’ homeland: “We head for home, but as we cross the open sea there is another landfall I hope we make – Cythera – where our one-time mistress Circe lives”(The Odyssey, Bk I).

This quote shows how these men thought it was okay to sail past their intended destination and land on Cicer Island because Circe wanted them to ( Homer’s The Odyssey, Bk I). The Wrath of Odysseus only shows itself when The Wrath of Agamemnon and The Wrath of Achilles appeared ( The Odyssey, Bk XXIV). The character shows everyone that The Wrath of Odysseus is not worth fearing because he withholds his anger until it is necessary. The Odyssey’s theme of vengeance occurs again in the beginning before the story even truly begins.

Melanthius tells The suitors: “Here’s another chance for you, to string and shoot at him as much as ever you like; but I’d say it would be wiser not to do so – there’s no knowing what may happen. Let this stranger alone, and don’t you get provoked with him. The man who has come here is no joke, as he soon will prove” ( The Odyssey, Bk I). Melanthius tells The suitors not to mess with The Wrath of Odysseus because The Wrath of Odysseus could lash out if they attempt to kill his son Telemachus ( Homer’s The Odyssey, Bk I).

This quote shows how The Suitors were killed because The Wrath of Odysseus became unleashed; it also reveals that many people should fear The wrathful anger of The Wrath of Odysseus. The final example in The Odyssey about vengeance occurs when Eumaeus explains why he does not like killing animals: “I’m not fond of killing sheep myself; it’s the gods I blame for this. The god has cursed me with an angry, restless heart. If I can’t settle down to some steady work by day or night if I can’t stay in one place long enough to get myself a wife.

That’s why I’m no good at farm work; too many other things are always turning up” ( The Odyssey, Bk XIV). The quote shows how The Wrath of Odysseus is different from The Wrath of Agamemnon, Achilles, or The Suitors because they have never tried to control their anger. This quote also implies that The Wrath of Odysseus is once again calm and because he will only unleash The Wrath of Odysseus if The Suitors continue to threaten the lives of The people he loves, The Wrath of Odysseus is not something that The suitors should be fearful nor will it ever control them.

The two themes in Homer’s The Odyssey are The Theme of Vengeance and The Theme of Self-Control. The first theme is The Theme of Vengeance because The Wrath of Agamemnon, Achilles, King Agamemnon, King Menelaus, and The Suitors all share one similar trait: they reveal their innermost feelings by showing how angry each character truly was ( Homer’s Life ).

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