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The Penelopiad

The Penelopiad Summary


Here you will find a The Penelopiad summary (Margaret Atwood's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.

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Last Updated: Monday 1 Jan, 2024

The Penelopiad Summary Overview

Voicing her story from beyond the grave, Penelope, the spouse of Odysseus, shares her perspective on the iconic events laid out in the Odyssey. Accompanied by her twelve handmaidens, who were executed by Odysseus and her son, Telemachus, she reveals her past. Born to King Icarius of Sparta and a half-nymph mother, her father attempted to drown her as an infant. She was rescued by ducks, and her father's reasons for attempting to take her life remain a mystery. Along with her mother's icy demeanor, she learned to be wary of others. Penelope and her handmaidens contrast their childhoods, highlighting their suffering compared to her privileged yet solitary upbringing. At fifteen, various men vie for her hand in marriage, and Odysseus, king of distant Ithaca, wins by cheating assisted by her uncle. After their wedding, they travel to Ithaca, where she finds herself isolated with no female companions. A year after giving birth to Telemachus, they learn of her cousin Helen's elopement with Paris, a Trojan prince. This prompts a war, which forces Odysseus to leave for battle. In his absence, several suitors arrive at the palace, seeking to marry Penelope for her wealth. To stall for time until Odysseus's return, Penelope keeps her suitors at bay by claiming to be weaving a funeral shroud for her father-in-law, Laertes, and will not choose a husband until it's finished. In secret, she and her twelve trusted maids unravel the shroud each night, ensuring no progress is made. The maids also mingle with the suitors, sharing disparaging remarks about Penelope and Telemachus. Although Penelope is uncomfortable with this arrangement, the information she gains is too valuable to abandon the plan. When the suitors discover her deception with the shroud, she vows to complete it and select a spouse. Not long after, Odysseus returns to Ithaca in disguise. Penelope recognizes him but pretends not to for his dignity. She organizes an archery contest amongst the suitors, fully aware that only Odysseus could string his bow. Asleep in her room, likely under the influence of a drug, Odysseus wins the contest, reveals his identity, and kills the suitors. He then orders his old nurse, Eurycleia, to identify the disloyal maids. Following the nurse's signs, Odysseus and Telemachus hang Penelope's twelve maids. Odysseus discloses his true identity to Penelope, who feigns surprise, before departing on another journey to purge himself of his deeds. In the afterlife, Penelope is unable to communicate with the handmaidens, who shun her. She often encounters Helen, whom she blames for the Trojan War, and the suitors, who hold her accountable for their demise. Each time Odysseus dies, Penelope reunites with him, but he continually opts to be reborn, haunted by the maids in both the underworld and the living world.

chapter 1

Penelope, narrating her tale from the Underworld, has gained some knowledge post-death, not all of which she finds desirable. Upon reaching the Underworld, each person is given a sack brimming with words they've said, heard, or were said about them. A large part of Penelope’s sack conveys words related to her husband. She observes that many, including herself, trusted Odysseus's account of events. These days, Penelope is viewed as the epitome of a devoted wife, used to shame less devout women. She has wanted to declare that her path shouldn't be followed. She's been quiet for quite some time. But now, with everyone else's chatter finally silenced, and her indifference towards societal judgment, she believes it's time to share her own narrative. Yet, lacking a physical form and hence a mouth to vocalize her tale, she knows she won't have an audience. Despite that, as always, she remains patient, determined to narrate her story till its conclusion.

chapter 2

The Twelve Maids recite a verse aimed at Odysseus, accusing him of their unjust murder and his mistreatment of other women on his journey. He was equipped with both weaponry and eloquence. He observed the Maids scrubbing off the Suitors' blood he had spilled, before he found delight in executing them.

chapter 3

Born in Sparta to King Icarius and a Naiad, Penelope was tossed into the sea as an infant for reasons she doesn't understand. She suspects her father heard a prophecy predicting she'd make his death shroud, and sought to prevent his demise by killing her. Yet, Penelope conjectures he misunderstood the prediction, since she wove his father-in-law's shroud instead of his. Despite this theory, Penelope questions its validity, wondering if it's merely a comfort mechanism. This early betrayal instilled in her a lasting distrust of others. After being cast adrift, Penelope was rescued by ducks and returned safely to shore. Interpreting this as a positive omen, her father warmly received her and affectionately nicknamed her 'duck.' However, the damage was done; Penelope never trusted her father again, and she was shown no love from her mother. Hence, she became fully self-reliant, realizing she could only rely on herself.

chapter 4

The narrative is taken over by the Maids who recount their upbringing. Unlike Penelope, they didn't have royal or divine births, but were offspring of slaves and commoners. Subjected to long working hours and maltreatment by the individuals their parents sold them to, they were also compelled to entertain visiting aristocrats intimately against their will. They found themselves assisting in wedding preparations, painfully aware that they wouldn't be part of such celebrations. Growing up, they mastered the art of drawing men's attention and found ways to manipulate their masters to their advantage.

chapter 5

Penelope describes the Underworld as predominantly dim with instances of brightness in the asphodel fields. Spirits can at times glimpse the world of the living when the fog lifts. Earlier, animal sacrifices could summon them to the living realm, prompting them to give deliberately ambiguous predictions to be summoned again. However, as millennia passed, spirits were reassigned to a more glamorous afterlife. They can still be summoned by wizards and can travel through television signals. Despite her fame, magicians seldom summon Penelope, much to her chagrin; they prefer her cousin Helen instead. This preference irks Penelope, given Helen's tarnished reputation. Helen's birth, according to legend, was a result of Zeus (in swan form) violating her mother - a story Penelope discredits. Even though Helen continues to be celebrated for her beauty, Penelope admits she was never known for her looks. She muses that, were she a wizard, she'd opt to summon a woman who ignited a war by stirring men's lust. She contemplates why Helen escaped punishment while others were penalized for lesser offenses.

chapter 6

During Penelope's era, marriages were pre-arranged, typically involving the elite who had assets to pass down. The bride's prospective husband was selected through a competition in her father's court. The victor would acquire riches via the marital union. Penelope calls these riches "trash", since they've now been lost to the sea, earth, or sit in palaces where copies are sold to visitors. The wealth remained with the bride's family. Penelope speculates that her father considered her a part of this wealth, a reason for keeping her near after almost drowning her. She questions again why he tried to kill her, pondering it could've been a sacrifice to Poseidon. When she was fifteen, Penelope observed the suitors racing for her hand in marriage. It was clear to her they were more interested in her dowry than her. She inquired about a sturdy man amongst the suitors, discovering his name was Odysseus. Although his simple kingdom made him an unlikely betrothed, he was renowned for his intelligence and cunning tricks. Helen arrived and mockingly said Odysseus would be a wonderful husband for Penelope. Penelope reflects on Helen's vanity, which eventually prompted her to abandon her husband Menelaus for the Trojan prince Paris. Odysseus secured his victory in the race by tampering with the other competitors’ drinks, thanks to Helen's father, and Penelope’s Uncle Tyndareus. There was a rumor that Odysseus helped arrange Helen's marriage to Menelaus in return for Tyndareus's assistance in winning Penelope. However, Penelope thinks Tyndareus, who shared his reign over Sparta with Icarius, intended to banish Penelope and her future sons in order to rule alone. After the race, Penelope wed Odysseus, and she remembers witnessing Helen's smug grin.

chapter 7

Penelope likens her marriage to Odysseus as being treated like a slab of meat. At her wedding, she was so nervous she couldn't eat, and everyone was focused on Helen. Penelope was secretly thankful for the distraction, allowing her to hide her anxiety about her impending marital duties. Her mother advised her to be adaptable like water, able to navigate obstacles. Following a ritualistic marital procession, Odysseus asked her to feign pain to convince the spectators outside their chamber to leave. Looking back, Penelope acknowledges his persuasive abilities. After consummating their marriage, Penelope saw a scar on Odysseus’s leg, which he attributed to a boar attack during a trip with his grandfather. Penelope questioned his story, suspecting his grandfather's involvement. She confesses that she may have been seeking a shared history of familial betrayal. She confided in Odysseus about her father's attempt to kill her. By morning, she was in love with him, and he appeared to reciprocate. Days later, he decided they would travel to Ithaca. Pop culture says that Penelope humbly covered her face when asked if she wanted to stay with her father, but in reality, she was laughing at the irony of her once murderous father pleading her to stay. Excitement filled her for her approaching journey.

chapter 8

The Maids engage in a musical performance. The initial Maid dreams of joy as a princess wedded to a gallant youngster. The chorus inspires her to embark on a sea as black as death, promising rescue if disaster strikes. The subsequent Maid talks about her laborious tasks, suppressing her sorrow to facilitate a better life for those she caters to. The last Maid pleads to the deities for a heroic husband to alter her existence, stressing that her life would otherwise be filled with strenuous labor and ultimately death. Melantho of the Pretty Cheeks gathers contributions and expresses gratitude to the spectators.

chapter 9

Throughout the trip to Ithaca, Penelope was unwell. She speculated if her childhood near-drowning incident made her fearful of the sea or if Poseidon was punishing her for surviving. She only brought Actoris, an aged maid, who passed away not long after reaching Ithaca. Penelope felt isolated, but she hid her sorrow from Odysseus. However, Odysseus was kind and caring, confessing that he sought to understand people's hearts to control his fate. Life in Ithaca was challenging, especially with Eurycleia, Odysseus's childhood nurse. She boasted about her status and guided Penelope in all tasks. Despite the difficulty, Penelope was thankful for someone showing her proper manners, as Odysseus's mother, Anticleia, enjoyed watching Penelope make mistakes. Eurycleia asserted her exclusive right to care for Odysseus, but Penelope appreciated her when their son, Telemachus, was born. Odysseus expressed joy at the birth of their son, comparing Helen who had not borne a son yet. Penelope questioned why Odysseus even mentioned Helen.

chapter 10

The Maids narrate about Telemachus' symbolic birth, comparing it to their own. Alluding to his nine-month journey across his mother's blood sea, they talk about him emerging from a dark cavern alone on his vessel while the Fates assess his life alongside women's lives. The Maids also embarked on the same perilous voyage from their mothers, sharing the same birth time as Telemachus. However, their birth conditions were far less favorable – they were unwanted, born like beasts, and lacked a father figure, unlike Telemachus who was a coveted prince birthed under desired circumstances. Although they grew up as children together, Telemachus saw the Maids as his property. While playing on Ithaca's shores, the Maids were ignorant of Telemachus' future identity. They question whether they would have ended his life had they known, as they could have easily outnumbered him and blamed his demise on the waves. The Maids ponder the feasibility of such an act, with only the Fates aware of the truth.

chapter 11

Penelope found herself frequently bored and lonesome in Ithaca, often pacifying herself through weaving or spending time in her shared bedroom with Odysseus. Their bed was built by Odysseus with an olive tree as one post, a secret only the two of them knew. In this space, they made love and conversed, with Odysseus sharing adventurous tales. He once told a story about Theseus and Peirithous kidnapping Helen as a child, leading to a war with Athens. However, Penelope had previously heard this tale from Helen herself, who enjoyed retelling the countless men who lost their lives because of her. Penelope often ponders whether Helen's vanity caused unnecessary suffering, but she understands that Helen was too driven for an ordinary existence. When their son Telemachus was just a year old, news arrived from Sparta that Helen had eloped with the handsome prince of Troy, Paris. Odysseus revealed to Penelope that night that he was obligated by oath to aid in the recovery of Helen and must therefore wage war against Troy. Penelope concealed her resentment towards Helen and feared life in Ithaca without Odysseus. Odysseus pretended to lose his sanity in an attempt to evade the oath, but when Menelaus, Agamemnon, and a man named Palamedes visited Ithaca, his act was exposed. Palamedes revealed Odysseus's deception by placing Telemachus in the path of the plow Odysseus was operating, forcing him to stop and proving his sanity. After being informed of a prophecy that Odysseus was crucial for victory, he left for war.

chapter 12

Over the subsequent decade, Penelope stayed in Ithaca, eventually learning about Troy's downfall, a triumph credited to Odysseus's cunning strategy involving a horse filled with soldiers. Yet, no word came of Odysseus's own return. Stories circulated about Odysseus and his crew's memory loss, battles with a Cyclops, and encounters with a goddess who transformed his crew into pigs. The bards ensured Penelope only heard the most dignified tales of Odysseus’s adventures, hinting that his prolonged absence was due to some divine intervention. Following Anticleia's death and Laertes's decline into senility, Penelope assumed control of the court, intending to amplify Odysseus’s estate wealth in anticipation of his grateful recognition on his return. Despite her active role, she felt a deep loneliness due to Odysseus's absence. Speculation grew about her next step if Odysseus was declared dead. However, the circulating tales about Odysseus fueled her hope of his survival until the stories ceased.

chapter 13

Adorned in sailor outfits, the Maids render a tune narrating Odysseus's trip home from the Trojan War. His initial halt is at Lotus, where his crew forgets their journey and war until Odysseus forces them back to their ship. They encounter the Cyclops, who is blinded by Odysseus's tactics. The Maids suggest that Poseidon made Odysseus's voyage arduous as a curse. They cheer to Odysseus's health in every chorus. Their song further brings up Odysseus's encounter with the man-eating Laestrygonians, and his year-long stay on the island of the enchantress Circe. Proceeding with his venture, Odysseus visits the Isle of the Dead and confers with the prophet Teiresias. Afterward, he escapes the enchanting song of the Sirens, the whirlpool of Charybdis, and the serpentine monster Scylla. His crew revolts, but they meet their end after devouring the cattle of the Sun god, Helios. His journey takes him next to the island of the goddess Calypso. Here, he spends seven years in an illicit relationship with her. He eventually flees on a raft, landing on a beach. He is found by Nausicaa's maids, who are doing laundry, and to them, he recounts the tale of his adventure.

chapter 14

Penelope encounters Antinous, the first suitor Odysseus killed, in the fields of Asphodel. He presents himself as a corpse, an arrow through his neck symbolizing his love for her, which he later removes at her request. When questioned about their reckless behavior, Antinous confesses their desire for the kingdom's wealth and their plan to expedite her death for a younger, prettier bride. Amused, Penelope directs him to reinsert the arrow, now taking pleasure in the sight. As the suitors began to fill the palace during Odysseus's absence, Penelope, despite knowing their insincere flattery, appreciated the attention. The maids relayed the suitors' often disrespectful comments about her. Unable to control or oust the suitors, Penelope remembered her mother's wise counsel - to be like water navigating an obstacle. She appeared receptive to their advances while maintaining that she needed confirmation of Odysseus's death before choosing a suitor.

chapter 15

As time passed, Penelope felt increasing pressure including from Telemachus, who seemed to think she was squandering his heritage. Convinced that Odysseus wasn't dead, since he hadn't communicated from the Underworld, Penelope devised a scheme she would later attribute to Athena to prevent accusations of arrogance. She began weaving a funeral shroud for her father-in-law, Laertes, stating she would choose a new spouse once the shroud was complete. She worked on the shroud all day, only to dismantle the day's work at night. She chose twelve young maids to aid her, and they grew close while unravelling the weave each night. However, one of them revealed Penelope's scheme. She harbors no resentment, although the maids still steer clear of her in the Underworld. Penelope had tasked the maids with spying on the Suitors, which unfortunately led to their mistreatment. Despite such behaviour being normal in palaces, it was seen as theft in the absence of a male authority. Penelope had no power to intervene. She offered consolation to the maids, urging them to feign affection for the Suitors and report back their plans. She instructed them to denigrate her, Odysseus, and Telemachus to seem allied with the Suitors. When the Suitors found out about Penelope's ruse, they were livid, especially because they'd been deceived by a woman. Penelope assured them she would finish the shroud as quickly as possible.

chapter 16

Penelope's sorrows heightened as she awaited Odysseus's homecoming. Her son, Telemachus, became an adult and assumed control over her and the Suitors. Unbeknownst to Penelope, Telemachus embarked on a journey to seek information about his father. She was informed by a Maid that the Suitors had dispatched a boat to assassinate Telemachus. However, Penelope was already aware of this plan through a herald named Medon and had to feign shock and distress. Eurycleia admitted to assisting Telemachus, explaining they didn't want to cause Penelope unnecessary stress. One night, Penelope had a disturbing dream about Odysseus being attacked by the Cyclops, encountering the Sirens, and sleeping with a goddess who morphed into Helen. This nightmare rattled Penelope awake, making her wish it was just a bad dream and not a forewarning. Upon falling back asleep, she dreamed of her sister, Iphthime, reassuring her that Telemachus was safe. She questioned Iphthime on Odysseus's fate, but received no response, and reflects on the gods' fondness for human suffering.

chapter 17

The Maids find solace in sleep, their only reprieve from daily tasks and the relentless pursuit of men. Their dreams are filled with images of sailing in boats, adorned in exquisite gowns, and finding comfort in the arms of men they adore. Their dream days are characterized by endless celebrations, songs, merriment, and an absence of grief. However, these fantasies dissipate upon waking, forcing them back into reality where they must labor and comply with the whims of any man who demands it.

chapter 18

The narrative continues as Penelope addresses Telemachus's adventurous return home from skipping the Suitors' trap. She criticizes his reckless decision but he stands his ground, asserting his maturity and invoking his father's legacy. He rebukes the women for their lack of reason and emotional instability. After further admonishment from Penelope, Telemachus cleanses himself and joins his friends, Piraeus and Theoclymenus, for a meal. At the table, Penelope observes Eurycleia's indulgence towards Telemachus. She probes the men about Odysseus's whereabouts and learns from Telemachus about their visit to Menelaus and Helen. He reveals Odysseus's location on an island, enslaved by a goddess who demands his affection nightly. As Telemachus sings Helen's praises, Penelope slyly hints at her aging, to which he agrees, describing her as tired and aged. Penelope, aware of Telemachus's dishonesty, appreciates it nonetheless.

chapter 19

Odysseus comes back to Ithaca pretending to be a beggar to avoid being murdered by the Suitors. Penelope is aware of his true identity, but keeps it a secret to ensure his safety and to maintain his dignity. She is also aware that their son, Telemachus, is in on this. Despite understanding his disguise, she doesn't inform her Maids, resulting in them hurling insults at him. In a private meeting with the beggar later that evening, she weeps while expressing her longing for her husband, knowing Odysseus would value this. She then comes up with a plan to hold a shooting contest using Odysseus’s bow. Penelope shares a dream with the beggar about an eagle killing her cherished flock of geese. Odysseus jumps to the interpretation that the eagle represents him and the geese symbolize the Suitors, dismissing the emotional connection Penelope had with the geese. However, in Penelope's view, the geese symbolized her Maids. She goes on to recount a tale famously sung in songs. She instructs Eurycleia to wash the beggar’s feet and the moment Eurycleia identifies his scar, she expresses her joy audibly. The songs suggest that Penelope was oblivious of this event, due to Athena's distraction, but she was, in fact, concealing her laughter.

chapter 20

Penelope addresses long-standing rumors alleging she had relations with the Suitors. The rumors have their roots in the fact that Anticleia, when speaking with Odysseus on the Island of the Dead, never brought up the Suitors, which would have forced her to divulge Penelope's supposed unfaithfulness. Penelope, however, is of the opinion that Anticleia might have propagated a false claim out of dislike for her. Additionally, the fact that Penelope never disciplined her Maids has led rumormongers to believe she was guilty of the same misconduct. Despite this, Penelope firmly believes that if Odysseus had been privy to these rumors during his lifetime, he would have severely dealt with those spreading such tales.

chapter 21

Melantho of the Pretty Cheeks initiates discussion about Penelope's alleged affairs with the Suitors, which she supposedly concealed through her mourning. Melantho encourages the audience to examine the truth. Two Maids reenact Penelope and Eurycleia conversing about identifying Odysseus in disguise. Penelope fears Odysseus's wrath for her infidelity, despite him having dalliances of his own. Eurycleia counters that Penelope's relations with the Suitors give Odysseus grounds to execute her. Penelope instructs a Suitor to hide while she pretends to mourn. She queries Eurycleia about the Maids privy to her indiscretions. Eurycleia reveals the Twelve Maids know and must be silenced to prevent them from informing Odysseus. Penelope instructs Eurycleia to convince Odysseus that the Maids are fraudulent and slept with the Suitors themselves. Eurycleia proposes murdering the Maids to ensure their silence, to which Penelope agrees, hoping to uphold her reputation as the perfect wife. The chorus then performs, instructing the audience to “blame it on the maids.”

chapter 22

In the asphodel fields, Penelope encounters Helen, trailed by a horde of male spirits. Helen invites Penelope to bathe with her. Penelope counters that as spirits, they don't require bathing. Helen asserts her love for bathing is spiritual, as it offers solace after the chaos of men battling for her. She cheekily mentions that Penelope was never burdened with divine beauty. When questioned about disrobing her spirit robe, Helen suggests that while Penelope might maintain her modesty, Helen lacks such a virtue. Upon Penelope's remark about the male spirits, Helen indicates she owes them one for dying for her. She inquires about the number of men Odysseus slew for Penelope, subtly highlighting it's nowhere near the tally of men lost for Helen. Helen hopes it made Penelope feel more beautiful before walking away with her male entourage.

chapter 23

Penelope missed the contest and the subsequent slaughter of the Suitors due to a deep sleep, likely induced by Eurycleia to prevent her intervention. In a recounting, Eurycleia reveals that Odysseus, disguised as a beggar, observed the Suitors' futile attempts to string his bow before doing it himself. After winning, he revealed his identity and, with Telemachus's assistance, murdered the Suitors. He then commanded Eurycleia to expose the disloyal Maids who were compelled to clean the crime scene before being gruesomely executed by Telemachus. Additionally, a deceitful goatherd who had armed and fed the Suitors was brutally mutilated, and his remains fed to dogs. In a gleeful retelling of these horrific events, Eurycleia discloses that the punished Maids were those who had behaved impolitely. Penelope, however, knew these Maids were victims of rape and their youthful beauty had led to their undoing. She mourns their loss, blaming herself and vowing to pray for their souls in secret to avoid Odysseus's suspicion. She also believes Eurycleia might know of her secret pact with the Maids, and resents being left out. However, an opportunity to confront Eurycleia never arises in the Underworld, as she is constantly preoccupied with the care of numerous dead infants.

chapter 24

The Maids delve into an examination of the symbolism behind the number twelve, relating it to twelve moons and twelve months. They infer that they were followers of Artemis, the lunar goddess, subjected to ritualistic sacrifices in which they were forced to sleep with the Suitors. When discussion arises about thirteen lunar months, the Maids respond that Penelope was the thirteenth, embodying Artemis herself. They argue that their violation and subsequent deaths symbolize the fall of a female-centric lunar belief system to a patriarchal regime. By marrying Penelope, the figurehead of this moon-cult, Odysseus secured his dominance. The Maids argue that in a pre-patriarchal society, the victor of the archery competition would have reigned as king for a year before being executed and mutilated to promote crop fertility. But Odysseus eluded this fate by inflicting the ritual on the goatherd instead, hanging the Maids. They declare they won't go on, and suggest it's less distressing to consider them symbolic rather than real figures.

chapter 25

Penelope, upon encountering Odysseus after the tragic killing of the Suitors and Maids, feigns disbelief of the beggar's identity. This act was a tit-for-tat for the long wait she had endured and a mask for her true feelings about his violent actions. Despite her son Telemachus's rebuke for her cold reception, she maintained the pretense, hinting at her reluctance to entrust her home and love easily to anyone. Subsequently, after Odysseus had washed up, Penelope instructed Eurycleia to place the bed outside, causing Odysseus to snap, thinking someone had damaged the firmly rooted bedpost. This was the moment Penelope 'recognized' him, bursting into tears and tightly embracing him. Back in their shared bed, they traded stories - his adventurous journey and her duping of the Suitors, intermingled with confessions of mutual longing. Reflecting on their shared knack for deception, Penelope now considers both of them expert and brazen liars. Following this, Odysseus departs to cleanse himself of the Suitors' blood and to appease Poseidon, another tale Penelope finds suspiciously plausible.

chapter 26

Odysseus's defense lawyer states that the Suitors deserved to die because they were consuming his food, harassing his wife Penelope, and plotting to kill his son Telemachus. He refutes the prosecution's viewpoint that killing was an extreme response by stating that had Odysseus not acted, the Suitors would have killed him. The judge concurs, instructing the women at the back to unbind their necks and sit. The Maids protest, reminding the court that Odysseus also murdered them. However, the judge claims this is a new accusation, and Odysseus's attorney argues that since the Maids were his slaves, his actions were legitimate. When asked about the Maids' actions, the attorney reveals that they had engaged in sexual relations with the Suitors without approval. The judge counters this by referring to the Odyssey, saying that the Suitors raped the Maids. The lawyer responds with uncertainty about the truth, given the events happened thousands of years ago. Next, Penelope is called for testimony. She states she was asleep but the Maids informed her of the rape. Amid questioning about the Maids' behavior, Penelope becomes emotional. She asserts that she treated the Maids as daughters and that Odysseus was furious because the Suitors raped them without his consent. The judge argues that Odysseus was absent and the Maids would have been forced into sexual acts with the Suitors regardless. He dismisses the case to prevent staining Odysseus's esteemed image. The Maids vociferously demand justice and invoke the Angry Ones. The Furies materialize and the Maids request their intervention against Odysseus. The defense attorney appeals to Athena for Odysseus's protection and to whisk him away in a cloud. The judge calls for calm amidst the unfolding chaos.

chapter 27

Penelope leverages the eyes of a trance-induced person to explore the world of the living. She is shocked to see how even after so much time, the living continue to disturb the deceased. Despite finding the living petty, Penelope does not stop her visits as she is continually seeking Odysseus. She expounds on the concept of reincarnation and how it sometimes fails to erase memories from past lives. Helen has also journeyed to the living world, updating Penelope about the modern world, causing chaos in men's lives, and crumbling empires. In an attempt to humble Helen, Penelope reveals that many now think Helen was a myth and the Trojan War was about trade routes, not her. Helen responds by suggesting Penelope curb her envy and proposes a Las Vegas trip. She reminds Penelope that she will always be a dull, loyal wife. Penelope realizes she would prefer the challenges of one life over the pursuit of new trials in another. In the meantime, Odysseus, who has been reborn multiple times, sporadically visits Penelope, expressing his happiness to be back home. However, his lives usually end poorly. Seeing the Maids in the periphery, he vanishes. Despite Penelope's plea for the Maids to let him be, they insist that he hasn't garnered their pardon.

chapter 28

The Maids taunt Odysseus, referring to him as "Mr. Master of Illusion" and "Mr. Sleight of Hand." They see themselves as nameless and stigmatized. They remind Odysseus of their services to him, such as providing him with water and baths. Despite this, he executed them, feeling righteous in doing away with what he deemed unclean. The Maids express their resentment towards him for not giving them a decent burial and seeking their pardon. They warn him that they will forever haunt him, in life or death. They assure him they can see past his disguises and will always shadow his steps. The Maids question the motive behind their murder, suggesting it was sheer malice. They end by reminding him once more that they are inescapable.

chapter 29

The final melody of the Maids describes their previous state of being anonymous and silent, and wrongfully accused. Currently, they shadow Odysseus, calling out to him, and then transform into owls, taking to the skies.

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