The dramatic structure of the “Odyssey” has always been admired. The entrance of the hero is postponed in order to develop the situation and introduce his lovable, if somewhat futile, son Telemachus, together with some characters made familiar by the “Iliad”: Nestor, Helen, and Menelaus. We are then transported to Calypso’s Isle, there to find Odysseus chafing under restraint. There ensue the departure, the anger of Poseidon, the wreck, and the rescue in the land of the Phæacians. The scene shifts to the brilliant court of their king, Alcinous, before whom Odysseus recounts the wonderful adventures which preceded his arrival at Calypso’s island. In Phæacia Odysseus meets Nausicaa, the fairest and most radiant girlish figure in Greek literature. Nothing will better illustrate the difference between Homer and Virgil than a comparison of Nausicaa’s words of parting with the violent outpourings of Dido’s spirit when Æneas leaves her.〖See “Æneid,” in H. C., xiii, 163ff.〗 This part of the “Odyssey” is also highly interesting and important for the way in which the bard Demodocus represents the traditions and methods of the heroic lay.

The second half of the story begins when the Phæacians carry Odysseus home. Disguised as a beggar, he meets with a series of encounters which give full play to the dramatic devices of recognition and irony, so skillfully practiced later on the Greek stage. He discloses himself to Telemachus. Then his old dog Argos recognizes him, in a scene full of pathos. Finally, after a supreme trial of strength and skill, and the slaughter of the suitors, the husband makes himself known to his wife, and then to his aged father. Faults of repetition there are in plenty; but they only show with what fondness the epic poets loved to linger on the story, and how eager their audiences were to have the tale prolonged.

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