Inan epic poem, The Odyssey, by Homer, Odysseusstruggles to come back home while his wife, Penelope, faces barbarous suitorswho plague her house to court her for the marriage in order to claim the kingshipof Ithaca. With an absence of the man of the household and a son who is not oldenough to rule over the country and handle the domestic complications, Penelopeendeavors to keep the household orderly and civilized. In order to prevent furtherchaos in the household, Penelope maintains her role as the Queen of Ithaca andOdysseus’s wife through her loyalty and cunning. Fora woman who does not know whether her husband is alive or not, Penelope isextremely strong to keep hope and wait for Odysseus; thus, her unwavering loyalty to her husband keeps thehousehold stable.
She remains faithful in the absence of her husband,unlike Clytemnestra. Agamemnon’s wife, Clytemnestra,commits adultery when Agamemnon leaves to fight in the war of Trojan. She evenplots against her husband and kills him when he comes back home. Her course ofaction consequently leads to the collapse of Agamemnon’shousehold with the death of the man of the household and the disappearance ofthe heir to the throne. However, Penelope’s loyalty to Odysseus is neverquestioned. For example, when she sees a beggar transforming to Odysseus, shedecides to test him about the bedroom built around the olive tree branches,which is the information that only they know, in order to assure that the manin front of her is truly her husband. After hearing Penelope tells the maid tomove the bed, Odysseus becomes furious and retorts that the bed cannot be movedby anyone as he builds it with his own hand. Upon hearing that answer, whichconfirms that he is truly the man she has been waiting for 20 years, sheanswers, “In my heart of hearts I always cringe with fear/ some fraud might come,beguile me with his talk;/ the world is full with sorts,/ cunning one who plottheir own dark ends” (Homer, The Odyssey,23.
213-216). Her words demonstrate how she is so frightened by a thought of herbetraying Odysseus. She takes cautions in everything she does to guarantee thather household does not belong to any man other than Odysseus. The householddefines Penelope who she is and her rank in the house, and with itsdestruction, Penelope would lose her identity as Odysseus’s wife; hence, she protectsit by staying faithful. Penelope fulfills her role of Odysseus’s wife with hercourage to remain loyal and determination to keep the household in order.