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Helen of TroyBeauty, Myth, Devastation$
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Ruby Blondell

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199731602

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199731602.001.0001

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Happily Ever After? The Odyssey

Happily Ever After? The Odyssey

(p.73) 4 Happily Ever After? The Odyssey
Helen of Troy

Ruby Blondell

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines Helen of Troy in Homer’s Odyssey. Despite her redomestication after the Trojan War, the Odyssey’s Spartan scenes are replete with hints of the threat that Helen continues to pose to masculine control. She is not only unusually assertive and outspoken for a Homeric woman, but comes much closer to divinity than her counterpart in the Iliad. Among other things, she is endowed with a drug that erases negative emotions and a magical ability to mimick other women’s voices, both of which symbolize the power of her erotic beauty and especially of her voice. This supernatural dimension aligns her with "dread goddesses" like Circe and Calypso, whom the hero, Odysseus, must learn to resist in order return to his wife, the virtuous, self-controlled Penelope. Penelope is the opposite of Helen, whose marriage to Menelaus serves as a negative foil to the hero’s own. Yet even she has a beauty and manipulative skill that put her under the suspicion that hangs over all women.

Keywords:   beauty, “dread goddesses”, Helen of Troy, Homer, Odysseus, Odyssey, Penelope, Trojan War

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