- Odyssey Lesson Plans

The English Teacher

The Odyssey

Lesson Plans


These lesson plans were designed to teach the Odyssey to 9th grade honors students. Teaching the Odyssey is an "Odyssey" in the work of teaching and requires dedication, determination, and some of the versatility one finds in Odysseus. A teacher should keep in mind that the Odyssey is comprised of twenty-four books or chapters. These "books" give students a view of a different culture and this vantage point enables them to get a new perspective on their own culture. For some reason students tend to be more open toward different cultures in the past than in the present. They tend to simply dismiss present cultures that are unlike theirs and are more inclined to question why "ancient" cultures acted as they did. Also, even though the Odyssey is "ancient" it presents universal human situations from many different viewpoints as Penelope and Telemakhos struggle to maintain their home and Odysseus struggles to return to it. Students also become involved as the suitors build up a lethal dose of cosmic and social bad "karma."

Completing the Odyssey helps build students' self-esteem although they may be intimidated by the task at the beginning. As with other challenging works, the teacher should begin gradually, helping the students to get used to the syntax and vocabulary of the Odyssey. Also most students need to be taught how to take notes. [I have had 11th graders who thought that notes were one or two sentences.] The careful taking of notes serves partially as a writing exercise and also a foundation for support of answers during essay tests. *They can use their notes on essay tests as long as the notes are in their own handwriting.

Along with taking notes, students also need to be taught how to use their notes to support their answers. [Many students think that the correct answer suffices for support, and that one support is fine... why worry about two or three items of support.??]

Parents of my honors students have supported this ambitious unit. One student stopped into my classroom to tell me that his dad considered the Odyssey the "greatest novel ever written." And in conferences with parents when I have commented on how hard I had worked their children, they responded with satisfaction that "they needed to learn how to work." [Reminder "hard work" does not equate with "suffering. You don't have to make your students suffer" to work hard.]

I have used the Robert Fitzgerald translation of the Odyssey as being one of the most appealing to students of this age. [I am aware that many scholars feel that the Fitzgerald translation is not the most accurate of the many translations available.]

Samples of assignments are included in these lesson plans. Not all of these assignments are used each time the Odyssey is taught. [Thanks to the use of word processors tests and lessons can be added to and modified each time the class is taught. Then an increasing variety of tests, discussion topics, and writing assignments are available for future classes.]

Teachers should be aware of the Internet as a teaching resource. In the process of teaching the Odyssey and in an effort to answer students' questions, I joined the Ageanet list. I presented my situation to the list and eight "experts" were willing to answer my students' questions off-list. I emailed each of them a list of the students' questions and included the students' first names. These scholars wrote back, addressing the students by name and with personal answers to their questions. I printed up their answers and handed them out to my classes. The students were impressed that they got personal answers and they also could see that the scholars had differing opinions on some of their questions. And I was better prepared to teach the Odyssey the next year. See some of the questions here.

From one of these scholars, Howard Clark, I learned to notice more completely the humor in the Odyssey. Some examples occur when Odysseus has only an olive branch between him and modesty when facing the princess Nausikaa, or when the minstrel of the Phaiakians defuses the conflict with the young men and Odysseus with the humorous tale of Ares and Aphrodite. [Be concerned about turning the Odyssey into a simple humor search since there are levels of humor that students might miss looking for simple jokes.}

From another of the Internet Odyssey advisers, Wes Callihan, I learned about the book Black Ships Before Troy, a fine "picture" book written by Rosemary Sutcliffe and illustrated by Alan Lee. I have used it and the book Myths and Their Meanings [Allyn and Bacon] for background notes in preparing students to study the Odyssey. The background notes include the Trojan War and events before it, such as the Wedding with the golden ring from the goddess of Discord, the birth of Paris and the prophecy concerning the doom he will bring on Troy. Also the notes include his choice in the contest over the ring, and his search for "the most beautiful woman in the world" and Helen's marriage and the pact of the Greek kings to defend that marriage.

Also we discuss the preparations for war, getting Odysseus and Akhilleus to join the army, and Agamemnon's sacrifice of his daughter.

At times when I give the background notes, I put the major characters' names on pieces of typing paper and give them to students who stand at the front of the class and as I explain who each character is I also have them speak some small dialogue parts, such as the three goddesses asking Paris to choose who is the 'fairest.' This technique seems to make the notes clearer to the students, and gets them somewhat more involved. For instance, the king [student] who gets Helen is happy, but not when Paris runs off with her, etc. Then people [students] feel that Paris is 'guilty' but some say that there is the 'Aphrodite made me do it' defense, etc.

Depending on the time available I have also had a preparatory unit on the Olympian gods and the tales concerning them.

As the students read the Odyssey, I ask them to look for the following points of focus: Odysseus' character, qualities of a hero, the customs of the different peoples, didactic lessons, forms of government, anecdotes, weapons and other means of "contending," the role and place of women, anger and feuds, monsters, villains, supernatural influences, attitude toward the gods and religion, attitudes toward life and death

Beginning the Odyssey:

BK.1
Homer asks the Muse to "sing in him" and through him tell the story of Odysseus. Athena intervenes for Odysseus who is on Kalypso's island- with her father, Zeus, on Olympus. Athena gives Telemakhos his mission by taking the form of Mentes and counseling him to search for Odysseus, his father.

BK.2
Telemakhos calls an Assembly of Ithakans to protest the suitors' presence in his house and asks the Assembly's help. The Assembly rejects him and the suitors mock him there, and later at home. But Athena [as Mentor] & Telemakhos, get a ship and crew and Telemakhos gets supplies from his nurse Eurykleia, getting her pledge not to tell his mother.


First Assignment:

Write a journal entry from the view point of one of the following characters: Telemakhos, Penelope, Eurykleia [the nurse], Antinoos [a suitor]

Describe in detail the events that happen in the first two chapters of the Odyssey, up to the last lines of chapter two, "And the prow sheared through the night into the dawn," from this person's perspective and limited to the events that that character would know.

This means that you should spend some time visualizing the situation BEFORE you begin to write. You can use any of your notes, and you should put as many details as you can, that apply to your character, into the journal entry.

Write on one side of the sheet, in ink, and skip lines. Proofread your paper before you turn it in, and then read and remain quiet until everyone else is finished.


BK.3 They arrive in Nestor's kingdom seeking "news" during a feast and are welcomed. Telemakhos spends the night there, while Mentor/Athena stays with the crew. The next day a golden horned heifer is sacrificed and Nestor sends Telemakhos to Menelaos with one of his sons in a chariot.


Book three test:
1. What happens in this book?
2. How is Athena involved?
3. What did you learn about the customs and the people?

[NOTE: The tests should be kept to a simple level at this point. That is, deep analysis should not be expected yet. They are probably still having trouble with the syntax. The test below presupposes that Beowulf has been taught recently enough for them to be able to compare what they know of the two works.]

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The Odyssey (OdysTs1A.CP1) 1/97

*Remember to support your answers.
Write in ink, one side of the sheet on your own paper and staple this test sheet to the front.
Good luck.

1. Compare Beowulf's society with Telemakhos' society. What are the similarities? What are the differences?
2. At this point in your reading of The Odyssey, compare it with Beowulf. What are the similarities? What are the differences? Which do you prefer? Why?
3. At this point, how do Odysseus and Beowulf compare?
4. What is the background situation that gives rise to The Odyssey in the first place?


BK.4

They arrive at Menelaos' mansion during a double wedding [plot manipulation to show important aspect of their culture]. The young men are hospitably ushered in and are awed by the palace's Zeus-like appearance. Menelaos tells of his adventures returning from Troy, in Egypt, [a nymph tells him how to overcome Proteus who tells him that Odysseus is a captive of Kalypso.] Helen's role is mentioned. Odysseus sneaks into Troy, disguised as a beggar. [Looking back on it, did Athena give him this disguise?] Later, Menelaos and others were hiding in the horse with Helen outside, tempting them. Meanwhile, the suitors learn of Telemakhos' departure from Noemon and they plan, under Antinoos direction, to kill him, and Penelope mourns. Athena sends a 'vision' Ipthime [Penelope's sister] as comfort.

BK.5 Sweet Nymph and Open Sea

Athena intervenes again for Odysseus "help Odyssesus so right acting kings will know how to behave." Zeus replies "you're already taking care of the situation," but sends Hermes to order Kalypso to let Odysseus go. Kalypso does, in bitter resentment, but honestly helps Odysseus with materials for a raft, and food supplies. But Poseidon blasts him with a water storm that Ino/Leukothea and Athena save him from until he lies exhausted on the shore.


The Odyssey (OdysTs2.Cp1) 2/94

Using your notes, describe and explain in detail the influence of women, mortal and immortal, in the first five books of the Odyssey.

Write on one side of the paper, in ink. Skip lines. Proofread your paper. You may take the entire period. *When you are done, read your reading book and remain quiet so the other students can do their best also.


BK.6 Princess at the River

Athena gives a dream/vision to Nausikaa, daughter of King Alkinoos, causing her to take her maids and wash clothes for her wedding day at a river by the coast. Odysseus awakes covered with dried brine and little else and flatters and requests Nausikaa for help. She aids him and directs him how to approach her parents for help home.

[Be aware of the challenges that face Odysseus in getting ashore and later avoiding uncouth men and hurting Nausikaa's reputation.]

BK.7 Gardens and Firelight

Odysseus goes into the palace and hugs the knees of Queen Arete [wife/niece] of the king, Alkinoos as Nausikaa counseled. He is given hospitality, food, bed, and assurance of safe, swift, transportation home.


[Test -->OdysTs2.Cp1]

NOTE: sometimes the reading and note taking drop behind the pace that it should take. It takes a very sensitive balance of quizzes, tests, discussions, etc. to keep a class on schedule and at the same time maintaining a positive attitude. At this point the class may be divided so that the front of the class discusses Bk VII and the back of class discusses Bk. VIII. *Having half of the class each discuss a book puts more pressure on students but does not put a "spotlight" on any one student.


BK.8 The Songs of the Harper

By means of Athena's help a crowd gathers at Alkinoos' palace for an Assembly and a pentathlon and dancing. Odysseus is challenged, and throws the discuss... is given gifts, bathed, and then is asked to tell his name and story.
NOTE: psychology of slaves... one becomes "half a man" on becoming a slave.

BK. 9 New Coasts and Poseidon's Son

[There are two most dramatic points in the book that can be termed climaxes. One occurs near the beginning of this book when Odysseus reveals his identity and states, "I am Laertes son, Odysseus...." and "we learn" that the man whose fame has gone to the "sky's rim" is right there in the assembly.]

Odysseus then begins recounting his adventures after the Trojan War. Odysseus and his men raid the Kikones and don't leave before they are driven off by a counter attack. Then they find a deceptive trap with the Lotus Eaters. Later, Odysseus wants to see the Kyklopes and is temporarily trapped in Polyphemos' cave. But Odysseus' wit overcomes the Kyklops with the "Nohbdy trick," but he is cursed for his actions and earns Poseidon's anger.


NOTE: At this time the may students start to lag in their reading and notes. These types of tests serve to keep the students diligently reading and taking notes without taking time out to write lengthy tests.

ODYSSEY- BOOK IX (OdysTs3.Cp1)

Alkinoos, king of the ______________, asks Odysseus his name and he says that he is ______________ son. And that he is formidable in _____________ in peace and war. As Odysseus and his men sailed from Troy, they came to the land of the ______________, which they raided. Then they went to the Land of the _________________ where Odysseus sent out ____________ men to investigate. They did/did not (circle which) return.... Next they found giant __________, one of which ate __________ of Odysseus' men in one meal. ______________ always spreads out her "finger tips of rose."

Three-Laertes-Two-Lotos Eaters-Phaiakians-Kikones-Kyklopes-Guile


BK. 10 The Grace of the Witch Odysseus and his men land on the island of Aiolos Hippotades, king of winds. Odysseus tells his tales for one month, then Aiolos gives him a good direct wind home and all the rest of the winds sewn in a bull hide. They sail nine days without any problems but in sight of land Odysseus finally sleeps. The covetous crew, seeking treasure in the bull hide bag open the bag and the freed winds drive them back to Aiolos who sends them away. They land among the Laistrygonians who eat a scout and attack and sink all ships but Odysseus' own.

Then they land on Aiaia, island of Kirke. Odysseus divides the men into two groups. One group goes to Kirke who turns them into swine. Odysseus goes to rescue them and Hermes intercedes with a plant [molu] that makes Odysseus invulnerable to Kirke's drugs. She is overcome, takes Odysseus to bed, restores his men, 'fattens' them up and after months, lets them go when Odysseus supplicates her, holding her knees. She tells him how to get home, saying he first should call up Teiresias in the Land of the Shades. As they're leaving the island, Elpenor, a 'young' man, falls and dies.


ODYSSEY- BOOK X (OdysTs4.Cp1) 2/94

After leaving the Kyklopes, Odysseus landed on ____________ Island domain of ____________ _____________. He sewed up all the __________ winds in a __________ hide. When the sailors let the winds go, they were blown to the land of the _________________ who were _______________. Then they landed on _____________ Island where Odysseus' men were turned into ___________ by ______________. But with the help of the god, _________________, and a _____________ plant, they were restored. Finally Odysseus was told to sacrifice a black __________ and a black ___________.

Aiolia-Hermes-Aiaia-storms-Laistrygones-ram-bull-Aiolos Hippotades -molu-cannibals-ewe


NOTE: [to students] to perk up the reading, read as if you were one of the characters: Alkinoos' follower, Odysseus himself, one of the 'shades,' etc.

Consider Agamemnon's personal view of his death here. What might be Klytaimnestra's view? Why is her view never presented? Consider why this incident of Agamemnon's death is told and retold from many points of view, but never a woman's.


BK. 11 A Gathering of Shades

A metal sword keeps the gathering spirits [shades] away from the fresh blood of the sacrifice. Elpenor asks for proper burial. Odysseus doesn't talk to his mother's spirit until he gets instruction from Teiresias who warns him to avoid the cows of Helios and other dangers. [The shades need to taste the blood to speak.] He then talks to his mother, and various illustrious women.

-- Arete and Alkinoos speak [the reader may have forgotten that these dramatic events are not happening in the present and this interruption serves as a reminder to bring the reader back to the hall], and then Odysseus resumes his narrative.--

Agamemnon tells how his wife betrayed him and tells Odysseus to trust no women, and to test his wife, Penelope. [One should consider the effect of this advice on Odysseus and Penelope's later relationship.] Akhilleus and other men speak and Odysseus sees some infamous men punished. Odysseus flees from fear of a possible monster sent by Persephone. [Effective way to stop interviewing everyone in Greek history.]


ODYSSEY- BOOK XI (OdysTs11.Cp1) 4/95

Using details from Book XI discuss the following.
1. In what ways does book XI present events from men's points of view?
2. How are the 'shades' different than mortals?
3. What purpose does Teiresias serve in this book?
4. What else did you learn that is new and different?

-Also-
A Gathering of Shades BK. XI (OdysTs16.Cp1) 1/99

When Odysseus goes to the land of the Shades, he sees many different 'shades' or spirits of the dead. Describe his meeting with two of them which seem the most interesting to you.

'Explain' why you chose these two and what Odysseus learns from them? Give your opinion of what type of people they are and why you feel that way. Also explain for what overall 'didactic' purpose they might have been included in the book?

Write your answers on one side of the paper, in ink. Write enough to fully answer the questions for the chosen topics. Write in paragraph form.


BK.12 Sea Perils and Defeat

They stop at Kirke's island, Aiaia, to honor Elpenor. Kirke tells Odysseus how to pass the Seirenes, Skylla and Kharybdis. And then she warns him about Helios' cattle. They pass by the first three dangers losing six men, but insist at stopping at Helios' island and eat the cattle. As punishment they are drowned by Zeus in later storm at sea. Odysseus survives to be blown past Skylla and Kharybdis to Kalypso's island.


ODYSSEY- BOOK XII (OdysTs5.Cp1) 2/94

1.) In Book XII Odysseus says "deathly pity ran through me... far the worse I ever suffered/" when he saw what happened to six of his men. What happened to cause him to feel this? Give details
2.) When Eurylokhos talks Odysseus' men into landing on Helios' island, Odysseus says "I saw the power of destiny devising ill." What happens to cause him to say this? What does he mean by this statement?


BK.13 One More Strange Island

Alkinoos gives treasures and asks his lords to assist Odysseus [to pay them back with taxes on the common man]. They take him peacefully in the ship and leave him sleeping in Phorky's Cove in Ithaka. Athena appears as shepherd/prince, says it's Ithaka. Odysseus 'lies' and she delighting in Odysseus' undeviating guile reveals herself. They plot end of suitors and she changes Odysseus' appearance to a gross, old beggar.


Book XIII: Discussion and questions [Those who have read the assignment, sit in front: those that did not, sit in the back and finish the assignment during the discussion.]

1. What is the relationship between Athena and Odysseus. [Admires his cunning and deception.]
2. What do we learn about the relationship between the gods? [Zeus/Poseidon] [Poseidon/Athena]
3. Why do the gods need each other? Do the gods need each other?
4. If Odysseus is viewed as ultimate Greek, what qualities are held in esteem by the Greeks?


BK.14 Hospitality in the Forest

Odysseus, disguised as a beggar, goes through the forest to the swineherd, Eumaios, who protects him from the four wolf-like dogs, and takes him in very hospitably, sharing what he has, telling about Odysseus' holdings, the suitors' parasitism and his own loyalty to a man probably dead. Odysseus tells him "fabrications" about his past and "tales of Odysseus" which Eumaios will not accept [having hoped too long]. [Comments on this book for teachers. Be sensitive about where the class is at this point of the book. That is, where are they in their notes, and their morale. A difficult test here might hurt their later progress. And this book takes careful reading which some may not have done, but will do again later if they are not discouraged at this point.

Also many students are confused at the frequent use of the phrase "And --- O my swineherd! --- you replied, Eumaios." There are various theories as to why this past tense comment is found in a present tense narrative. A simple theory that I feel fits is that at one time Homer was going to have this segment of the story in past tense as Odysseus, the swineherd and others with them were looking back on what they did... after the main story is concluded. And that Homer decided to change to the more dramatic present tense, [having just used past tense with the tales to the Phaiakians] and that these "O my swineherd" lines are left over from a previous version that some copy clerk did not drop out... lacking the ease of modern day word processors.


Book XIV:

[Half of the class answers the questions orally, of those that read-]
1. What details did you learn, that you recognize now, as familiar parts of the culture? [Hospitality, gifts to the gods, story telling, gifts, kill pigs, respect master,]
2. What details are different from our culture?
[won't give gifts, don't take in dirty beggars, won't give pigs, don't want life's story, fat of pig-cholesterol,]
3. How does Odysseus remain true to his character? What is his character? What has shown that? [disguises, real good story, good liar, manipulates to get cloak, won't take any gifts from swineherd,]
4. What do we learn about the swineherd? [cares for family, cares about animals, wants Odysseus back, still respects and loyal to Odysseus,]
5. What does Odysseus learn about Ithaka, his kingdom, his family?[Penelope crying, Telemakhos left, greedy suitors, suitors using up his resources,]
6. In Odysseus 'tale,' what things are made up? What things have elements of truth to them? [Ithaka? Krete? Cloak?]


BK.15 How They Came to Ithaka

Athena "lies" to Telemakhos who is away from home- i.e. His mother may be inconstant and therefore his possessions [his inheritance] are in danger and he should hurry home. She gives directions so he can avoid the suitors' ambush. He's given gifts from Menelaos and Helen, and Helen also interprets a 'sign' [eagle with a white goose] in his favor. As Telemakhos' ship is leaving, he gives refuge to a seer, Theoklymenos, who later interprets "the sign" of a hawk with a dove in Odysseus' favor.

Also Odysseus learns [or the reader learns] that Eumaios is a prince kidnaped into slavery by Eumaios' father's maid, who was a noble child kidnaped and sold into slavery herself. Telemakhos goes off secretly to the swineherd to meet with Odysseus as Athena is orchestrating.


Book XV:
*half the class discusses
1. What things seem familiar here? What things seem new?
2. What might Theoklymenos bring to the story? [*the class had trouble following his story.][ Student opinions: might join suitors, a fighting man for Telemakhos, speak mind, goodbyes?, "kissing up"?] What do we learn about the culture from his life?
3. What do we learn about Eumaios? Are there any surprises? Is there anything that seems familiar? Do we know anything about his past that he doesn't know? [*The class had difficulty understanding his small life story too.]
4. How do signs influence the course of the story? [Helen interprets one, Theoklymenos interprets one, both favorable to the house of Odysseus.]
5. Do women benefit from having Athena as a powerful goddess? How might they benefit? [Some students say- no effect, women wimpy, women frail-Eumaios slave "seduced."]
6. How honest is Athena? Does she select motives to motivate, rather than facts? [lie, disguises, trick to benefit, lies to get what she wants, tells the truth if it serves her.

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ODYSSEY- BOOK XV (OdysTs12.Cp1) 3/96

Using details from Book XV discuss the following.
1. What part does Athena play in this book?
2. Who is Theoklymenos? What part does he play in the book?
3. What does Odysseus learn about Eumaios' childhood?
4. What 'signs' [supernatural] are given in this book?


BK.16 Father and Son

While Odysseus and Eumaios wait, Telemakhos arrives' having gotten off the ship before it reaches home port, and is humbly received by Eumaios. Telemakhos explains his difficult situation to the beggar [Odysseus] and Odysseus can judge the poise and maturity of his son. Athena tells Odysseus to reveal his identity to his son. She changes his appearance back; father and son meet at last! They plan and plot while the swineherd and another messenger from the ship tell Penelope that Telemakhos is alive. The suitors plot Telemakhos' death again, even though "Heaven" might have helped him, and Penelope condemns them. Eumaios returns home, and Odysseus is "turned into" a beggar again.


Discussion or test questions:
1. What is the significance of the watchdogs?
2. How does Eumaios act toward the young prince, Telemakhos? How do you feel about Eumaios' actions?
3. How does Telemakhos show hospitality to strangers?
4. Is there any foreshadowing here?
5. How does Telemakhos explain the situation from his point of view? How is it different from Odysseus' point of view?
6. When Athena changes Odysseus back, why does Telemakhos doubt?
7. Why does Odysseus want to know of the good girls and those who shame his house? What does he mean?
8. What are Odysseus' plans to take back his house? Why does he plan so carefully? What is the danger to Telemakhos? What is the situation of the suitors?
9. Why does Penelope rebuke Antinoos? What do we learn about Antinoos and his father? [Odysseus gave his father refuge.] She knows of plot against Telemakhos.
10. What do we learn of the suitors? [Some for/some against killing Telemakhos.] Why are some for, some against killing Telemakhos?
11. Which of the suitors is most annoying, aggressive, ill-acting? [Most choose Antinoos but some choose another suitor]


BK.17 The Beggar at the Mansion [P. 309-331] Telemakhos goes into town and also reports to Penelope. Odysseus is taken down to his own mansion by Eumaios. On the way, Melanthios mocks him and as he arrives, his old dog, Argos, recognizes him, and dies. Telemakhos gives him food and he begs among the suitors who all give him something except Antinoos who hits him with a thrown stool. When Penelope tells Eumaios to bring him to her, Odysseus says he will wait until nightfall, with the suitors gone, to avoid possible harm.


Book XVII - Beggar at the Mansion

What do you understand about the book- that someone who just picked up the book and read only this book would not understand?

1. What is the relationship now between Telemakhos and Penelope? How did the relationship change? Why?
2. How does the existence of the 'beggar' [Odysseus], show how the swineherd, Melanthios, and other characters value the behavior esteemed by the Greek culture?
3. How does this book foreshadow Odysseus' revenge and the gods' punishment?


BK.18 Blows and a Queen's Beauty [p. 335-350]

A scavenger bully, Arnaios [nickname Iros], comes in and challenges Odysseus to a fight, and Odysseus subsequently breaks his jaw and sets him out against the wall. Odysseus warns Amphinomos to leave, but Athena 'bound' him to his doom. Athena gets Penelope to show off all the 'beauty' which she has given Penelope to gather 'freewill' bride gifts from the suitors, which will add to Odysseus' fortune. Odysseus is shamed by serving girls [particularly Melantho] and suitors, and the suitors leave.


Discussion of Book XVIII:

In this book how does Homer show that he understands human nature?
Student comments:
1. Advantage of disguise
2. People talk big- Iros
3. Odysseus tempted to beat Iros
4. Iros vs underdog?
5. Servant girls slept around
6. Make fun of beggars

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ODYSSEY- BOOK XVIII [and before] (OdysTs6.Cp1) 3/94

1. Describe all the reasons the suitors are deserving of punishment according to the Greek culture.
2. Describe Odysseus as a person at this point: his abilities, his temperament: disposition/frame of mind, emotions, thoughts, and so forth. Support with details.
3. How does Homer cause us to sympathize with Odysseus and have antagonism toward the suitors?

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Another test:

Note: Answer two questions from each book.

ODYSSEY- BOOK XVI-XVIII (OdysTs9.Cp1) 4/95

Bk. XVI
1. Why does Odysseus want to know of the good girls and those who shame his house? What does he mean?
2. Why does Penelope rebuke Antinoos? What do we learn about Antinoos and his father?
3. Which of the suitors is most annoying, aggressive, ill-acting?

Bk. XVII
4. What is the relationship now between Telemakhos and Penelope? How did the relationship change? Why?
5. How does the existence of the 'beggar' [Odysseus], show how the swineherd, Melanthios, and other characters value the behavior esteemed by the Greek culture?
6. How does this book foreshadow Odysseus' revenge and the gods' punishment?

Bk. XVIII
7. Describe all the reasons the suitors are deserving of punishment according to the Greek culture.
8. Describe Odysseus as a person at this point: his abilities, his temperament: disposition/frame of mind, emotions, thoughts, and so forth. Support with details.
9. How does Homer cause us to sympathize with Odysseus and feel antagonism toward the suitors?


BK.19 Recognition and a Dream p. 353-372

Odysseus tells Telemakhos to put away the weapons [so the suitors can't use them] and Telemakhos tells the nurse to lock away the women. Athena 'lights up' the hall. Melantho, a maid, again shames Odysseus. Penelope questions Odysseus to her satisfaction and has the old nurse bathe him when he rejects the young women. The nurse recognizes him by his hunting scar and is ordered silent. Penelope tells Odysseus her dream of an eagle killing 20 fat geese. He tells her Odysseus will come so go ahead and set up the contest with Odysseus' bow.

Bk. 20 Signs and a Vision p. 375-387

Odysseus lies awake at night in his doorway fuming at 'his' maids going off to sleep with the suitors and worries about success. Athena comforts him and puts him to sleep. Penelope longs for death rather than marry a 'coward.' Odysseus prays to Zeus for a sign and is answered by thunder and a servant's prayer for death to the suitors. In the hall Odysseus is further shamed; Telemakhos speaks bravely; Theoklymenos foretells death to the suitors who laugh and push for marriage to Penelope. [Relationship of servants-power structure in Greek household- herder, servants, head servant.]


Possible assignments:
1) Alphabet 'quiz'-Students go from A to Z telling a significant name or word beginning with a letter of the alphabet, A-Z from the Odyssey. This "quiz" is a change of pace and the students by now know so much that they enjoy their knowledge and the "game."

2) Visualization writing- lights dim, walking to Odysseus' mansion, and through the main room- sounds, sights, smells.


BK.21 The Test of the Bow p. 391-405

Penelope gets Odysseus' bow for the test and weeps as she remembers him. Penelope announces a contest to string the bow and shoot an arrow through twelve axe heads. Eumaios misses Odysseus, his old master, and Antinoos censures his feelings. Telemakhos almost strings the bow but stops at a sign from Odysseus. The suitors fail one by one until it remains for Eurymakhos and Antinoos. [Odysseus enlists help from the swineherd and the cowherd after revealing his identity to them supported by the hunting scar.] Eurymakhos fails the test. Then the beggar [Odysseus] checks the bow over, and shoots cleanly through the axe heads. Then Telemakhos goes for spear and sword.


ODYSSEY- BOOK XIX-XX (OdysTs10.Cp1) 4/95

Using details from Books XIX and XX discuss the following.

1. What is the role of females and males in this culture- how do they view themselves and each other?
2. Explain how the supernatural plays a large part in the story here.
3. What else did you learn that is not covered by the first two questions?

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Other types of assignments:

1. Divide into pairs A-1, B-2, etc. In one class period go through Bk. XXII and find the metaphors and similes- list in number form, 1, 2, etc. Explain how the metaphor or simile -works- what compares to what. Also give line numbers. *nostrils like pipes/ for blood, line 18.

[Read one paper from the pair- the shortest assignment to insure that the pairs work together and write the same thing.]

2. *Draw a six section cartoon strip from The Odyssey showing one or more didactic principles.


BK.22 Death in the Great Hall p. 409-425

Death begins with an arrow shot by Odysseus through Antinoos' throat. [The second great climax after Odysseus announces his identity to the Phaiakians] The remaining suitors threaten and then try to bargain with Odysseus. He wants their deaths, and they attack. He kills many of them with his arrows while Telemakhos gets them [including swineherd and cowherd] weapons. Melanthios smuggles weapons to the suitors, but is caught by the two herders and is suspended painfully from a beam. Athena gives a little encouragement [as Mentor], then turns the suitors' spears, and finally panics the remainder. Deaths of various suitors specified; false visionary, Leodes, killed; the minstrel, Phemios, and the herald, Medon, are spared. Eurykleia tells Odysseus of twelve 'bad' girls who are forced to carry out the bodies, clean the hall, and then are hung by Telemakhos like doves or larks. Melanthios is brutally killed and Odysseus purifies the hall with brimstone and sends for his loyal followers who remain.

BK.23 The Trunk of the Olive Tree p. 429-441

The nurse, Eurykleia, goes upstairs and wakes Penelope with the good news of Odysseus' return and victory over all the suitors. She can't believe or accept. First she thinks the nurse is kidding, then mad, then fooled by the gods. She goes down and stares at Odysseus, stunned. He washes up. She tests him with the story of the bed being moved. His anger and knowledge that the bed is an intact olive tree trunk convinces her that it is really her husband at last. They have a tearful, joyful, touching reunion, making love and telling their tales, and finally sleeping. And Athena keeps Dawn back so the night is long enough. In the morning Odysseus has to 'take off' with his three men to avoid revenge from the town for all the dead 'citizens.' He is also planning to replenish his suitor-depleted flocks with raids and gifts. [What is the cultural logic here?]


*Write a dialogue between a student and Odysseus where the student asks Odysseus who is 'skilled in all ways of contending' for advice on how to solve 2 or 3 problems in his/her life. [not too personal]

There can be a -short- paragraph of background to set up the dialogue. The length should be at least 1 page typed. [This assignment is enjoyable to read.]


BK.24 Warriors, Farewell p. 445-462

Hermes conducts the suitors' spirits to the underworld where Agamemnon is telling Akhilleus how fortunate that he was to have died in glory [in battle] and not in shame as he did, being murdered by his wife. When Agamemnon learns from the suitors that Odysseus killed them all, he rejoices that Odysseus is fortunate that Penelope has been true, and even the gods will sing her story.

Odysseus takes his small group to Laertes and there after "testing" him, reveals himself to his father. They all feast, including Dolios and the other servants, and then the townspeople Assemble. Eupeithes wants to avenge his son, Antinoos' death. Halitherses says, you brought it on yourselves, and I warned you. [ p.23 when Zeus' pair of eagles attack the suitors at the first Assembly, which Telemakhos called]. Eupeithes leads and enraged mob of as many as he can gather, to attack Odysseus. Odysseus and his small force go out to fight and Eupeithes is killed by a spear cast [by Laertes?] aided by Athena. The mob flees; Athena calls off Odysseus from vigorous pursuit and she, in the form of Mentor, mediates a lasting settlement/agreement.


Alternative assignments:

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GROUP QUESTION/ANSWER CHARACTER [4/24/95] IDENTIFICATION DIRECTIONS: TO BE USED WITH [OdyTs11.Cp1]

1.) 5 Rows, 5 teams 20 minutes [approx.] *limit to one period. Have the students stay in their groups until everyone is done so that they don't learn the other's choices.

2.) Make a sheet of ten names, the most obscure possible.

3.) Use the question sheet numbered 1-10. Add the identification for each character under the name. Include the page that the information is found on.

4.) You will draw some other team's questions.

5.) For each character that you successfully identify on the new sheet, your row will receive one point.

6.) For each character on original sheet that another row cannot identify, you will receive point.

7.) The top two rows will receive A's, the next two, B's, and the last one, a C.

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As an alternative writing assignment somewhere, write Odysseus' rules for survival.
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Another alternate assignment is a character panel. Six students take the identities of six characters: Odysseus, Swineherd, Helen, Penelope, Athena, Antinoos and sit in the front of the class as a panel. They answer questions from the class as if they were the characters.

* The students may volunteer for their parts, or they might draw names of characters, etc. The teacher can put these names on slips to draw for a panel. Make the other strips blank so that each student draws a folded strip of paper. Then they unfold it to see whether they have a character.

NOTE: This panel can also be used with characters from different books meeting each other, or with mythological characters. The main caution is to make certain that the students who take the characters' identities are familiar with them.

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One year an exceptional class did outstanding group work by creating a directory of characters in the Odyssey. Each group worked on a directory. In other years the they were not able to work that steadily in groups.
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I also thought to have groups do "Book summaries" of perhaps 20-25 words per chapter. But it proved to difficult for the time available.


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