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A Study on Book Eight of the Odyssey

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  • 『オデュッセイア』第8巻の問題

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The Book Eight of the Odyssey is characterised by an emphasis on contrivance, the use of the motif of the inferior's victory, and the seeking after the identity of Odysseus. The narrative techniques used in this text have an important influence on the presentation of the characters and on the structure of the text. It is the aim of this essay to look at the ways in which the subject is represented, and also, at how these narrative devices work within the texts. Demodokos' three songs take the structure of a story-within-a-story. By this device of embedding, Demodokos' songs make a focuse on the basic themes of the whole epic, and especially, relate to the central thematic 'problem' of the Odyssey, namely, Odysseus' identification and his troubled journey home. The discussion will concentrate on this function of thematic dualism and convergence in Book 8, but has wider implications in that it relates to a leitmotif of the Odyssey as a whole. In the first section of this essay, the discussion is centred on contrivance ; how it works through all the three songs of Demodokos. A quarrel about the means of taking Troy in the first song (brave spirit against contrivance) would naturally call to mind the wooden horse. So, the first and third songs are manifestly interrelated -representing the commencement and fulfillment of Odysseus' use of contrivance Hephaistos' contrivance in the second song is devised in a domestic setting. The magical bonds of Hephaistos significantly recall the special bed of Odysseus : both are devices around the support of the bed (ερμις, Od. 8.273 ; 23.198). I also suggest that the adultery of Ares and Aphrodite functions as a kind of paradeigma, and this use of an archetypal scenario is paralleled in the story of Klytaimestra and Aigisthos. The next section of this essay discusses on the motif of the inferior's victory. Hephaistos eventually triumphs over the physically superior Ares in the second song of Demodokos : this is a clear picture of the success story of the handicapped person who overcomes his adverse circumstances by craft. This story should be read as strongly allusive - prefiguring Odysseus' final victory, using the narrative device of the story-within-a-story. I suggest, therefore, that the song of Ares and Aphrodite's love has special signiflcance not only for its relevance to the Oresteia theme, but also to the dominant theme of victory against adversity. Odysseus' identity is studied in the third section. His identify is revealed by a gradual process through the three songs and the scene of the sport game. The detailed description of Odysseus' reaction after Demodokos' first song brings Alkinoos' puzzlement that, "he might be an Iliadic hero, but if so, Achaian or Trojan?" In terms of establishing Odysseus' Identity, the quarrel between Odysseus and Euryalos forms an essential part of the book. Odysseus' victory in the discus throw (186-98) has a two-fold effect : (1) it proves his noble birth ; (2) Odysseus' rejoice after the victory induces his boast that results in his explicit self-revelation that he is one of the Achaian heroes (οτε τοξαζοιμεθ 'Αχαιοι, 220). Demodokos' choice for his second song centres on adultery and revenge, giving a sign that the stranger might be interested in the avenging of adultery through contrivance by a husband. In the third song. Demodokos shifts his theme slightly from that requested by Odysseus, in order to sing the accounts which are otherwise unknown to Odysseus. Through such hinting" and implying by Demodokos' songs, Odysseus finally has to reveal his name in the beginning of Book 9 (9.19). Toward this climax of the revelation, all the events of Book 8 are orchestrated to produce the gradually intensified tension around the identity of the stranger. Demodokos' three songs and the sport scene of Book 8 are thus connected and relevant to the wider themes of the epic. The praise awarded to the song of Demodokos (λιην κατα κοσμον, 489) is, by implication, itself applicable to the condensed and subtle example of the use of embedding : Demodokos' song is praised inside the whole epic, which itself deserves to be praised as λιην κατα κοσμον.



    CLASSICAL STUDIES 20 1-25, 2004-07-01



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