The Odyssey, unlike the Iliad, contains numerous references. They are mostly concerned with ancient practice. Allusions assist in character evaluation and action. The tale of the bow, Odysseus’ mother, and other characters in the Underworld, the Quest for the Golden Fleece, and “sovereign Death and pale Persephone” are all examples of allusions.
The bow is the first example. It is a metaphor for Odysseus’s distinct heroic character and moral complexity. It links him to Herakles’ negative and good qualities. It also serves as an instrument through which Odysseus demonstrates his political and domestic power. In the contest to string the bow, Odysseus establishes his legitimacy. On rivals and suitors for Penelope, he wins a convincing victory.
When Odysseus visits the Underworld and meets his mother, he does so in order to learn how to deceive her. In this passage, Odysseus tells his mother, “From that day [he] set sail with King Agamemnon bound for Troy, I have suffered endless hardship.”
As a result, he recalls one of the major instigators of the epic battle. Indeed, as is well chronicled in The Odyssey, many heroes including Odysseus went through a difficult trial during the Trojan War.
Furthermore, Odysseus comes upon “the mother of Oedipus,” lovely Epicaste, in the Underworld. She murdered her husband and slept with her son. The tragedy of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex is associated with this scene. Epicaste, the queen of Thebes’ king, receives a prophecy. When he becomes an adult, she claims that her son will murder his father and marry her.
At the end of his life, Oedipus unintentionally kills his father during a quarrel in the market square. He then marries his mother without realizing it. Odysseus also encounters Alcmena, Amphitryon’s wife, in the Underworld. She “caused Heracles to be born.” Additionally, he sees Megara, the spouse of “the brave Heracles.”
Furthermore, in Book 10, Hermes is called the “Slayer of Argus.” It suggests a narrative of how Hermes killed a multi-eyed monster known as Argus. He was assigned the responsibility of protecting a woman named Io.
In Book 11, Homer refers to “sovereign Death and pale Persephone.” Hades, the god of death who is demanding, and Persephone, goddess of fertility who rules over the Underworld are referenced. This allusion also implies the gravity of the situation.
Odysseus meets the spirits of many famous dead men and women from Greek mythology in Book 11. Eriphyle, for example, is a character who sold her husband’s life for money. “Eriphyle, who sold her own husband’s life for gold,” says Odysseus as he surveys “her.”
This episode alludes to Amphiaraus’ tale. Polyneices seduced his wife Eriphyle with a necklace made of heavenly materials. He coerced her spouse into participating in a battle that he knew would result only in death.
The epic poem The Poem of Hercules recounts the adventures of Heracles in great detail. Odysseus sees Heracles while he is at sea. “I served a man far beneath me, and was set difficult tasks,” says the hero.
Finally, Book 12 contains an allusion to Aeetes’ Golden Fleece quest when it reads, “Only one ocean-going boat has passed between them, the renowned Argo fleeing from Aeetes.” These phrases characterize this period: “The only ocean-going vessel that has sailed between them was the famed Argo fleeing from Aeetes.”
The Odyssey alludes to The Iliad in nearly every instance, tying the playwright’s two main works together. The Iliad depicts the battle of Troy, Odysseus’ war at home, and his difficulties there.
In order to lead the audience to further heights, the Odyssey, considered its sequel, must reference the previous work. However, this isn’t her only function; allusions are also used in order to characterize certain characters and their characteristics in the play, for example as a bow by Odysseus.
Penelope’s hand is one of the allusions in The Odyssey that provides a detailed insight into who Odysseus was and how strong he was. This story follows Odysseus as he strings his bow and shoots an arrow towards 12 axes, a feat no one else could accomplish.
The idealized Odysseus, as a war hero and archery master, is shown strung with the bow. The tale of the bow symbolizes Odysseus, who was able to string the bow and display his superiority and abilities only Odysseus possessed.
The bow also provides the audience an idea of Odysseus’ past life, suggesting his days before the war. It reflects Odysseus’ political power over Ithaca and his right to rule as king, which Ithacans back up with their ruler.
Odysseus’ journey is brought full circle by the bubble: mastery of the bow takes him to the battle of Troy, from which he is sent back to Ithaca, but it is also what restores him to royalty.
His trip to the Underworld was worthwhile since he learned about the risks of going to war and how to avoid them from Tiresias and his mother, Anticlea. She informed him about happenings in Ithaca, which strengthened his desire to return and compete for the kingdom.
The description of Odysseus’ journey to Ithaca is compared to real-life travel. He leaves the realm of the living and travels towards Hades, guided by Circe. To obtain knowledge on a safe trip home, he is told to seek out Teiresias the blind prophet.
To do so, Odysseus must call the prophet by murdering sheep and filling a pit with their blood. All souls have an insatiable appetite for blood; therefore, until Tiresias appears before him, Odysseus must combat each and every one of them wanting to drink the stuff.
The Greek name “Persephone” is derived from the term “pale,” which implies that she is pale like her mother, Demeter. The connection between Hades and his wife, the heavenly ruler of the Underworld, Persephone may be seen in their names.
It describes Hades as a demanding and self-absorbed god, whereas it refers to Persephone as a goddess of fertility. It also describes Odysseus’s vital mission on behalf of Teiresias (transmitting information).
In his journey down north, Odysseus defied local customs and neglected both god and goddess. The allusions in the underworld may be seen when Odysseus talks to his mother about his “endless trials from the day he first set sail with King Agamemnon until now.”
The first line refers to Odysseus’ experience in the Trojan War, specifically how he has never forgotten one of the key instigators of the war—a heated debate about a major war recounted in The Iliad and where Odysseus fought for ten years.
Odysseus’ remark, “Alcmena who was Amphitryon’s wife,” provides another allusion. She slept with Zeus and melded with him in love, producing Heracles, the strong will, and the lionheartedness.
This refers to the tale of Hercules, in which Zeus appeared before Alcmena as her spouse and had sex with her to give birth to Hercules, son of Zeus and one of the most famous demigods.
Finally, the constant emphasis on “magnanimous Creon’s daughter married to Heracles, the hero who was never daunted” demonstrates how deplorable it is. Hera drove Hercules insane so that he murdered his wife and children as retaliation for Zeus’ affair with Alcmena. After being restored to his senses, Hercules departed on a mission to atone for his terrible deeds.