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Book 20

Book 20 – Prelude to the Crisis

Summary

·        Beggar Odysseus settles down to bed on the floor outside of Penelope's room, but has trouble falling asleep.

·        He sees some of the maids slipping out to go sleep with the Suitors. He's enraged at the maids' betrayal but stays silent.

·        Athene arrives and to give Odysseus a game-day speech, while Penelope cries upstairs.

·        She prays for death and then dreams that Odysseus comes back, but of course doesn't believe the good omen.

·        Odysseus wakes at dawn and, in a moment of angst, asks Zeus for a sign that he was meant to come home.

·        Zeus hears and sends a thunderclap through a perfectly clear sky.

·        A maid grinding barley hears the thunder clap and knows Zeus must be around and listening. She prays that all her hard work to feed the greedy Suitors will soon be over.

·        Oh, and that all the Suitors die.

·        This is convenient for Zeus, who gets to grant two prayers at once.

·        Telemachus checks up on beggar Odysseus and then orders the maids to prepare a feast, because today is a holiday.

·        Melanthius returns to taunt the beggar more.

·        Afterwards another man approaches the beggar—Philoetius, the resident cowherd. He greets the beggar warmly and notes his resemblance to Odysseus. We quickly see that he is ashamed and outraged at the Suitors' behaviour in his lord's house.

·        The beggar asks Eumaeus and Philoetius if they would fight on Odysseus's side against the Suitors should he return to Ithaca. They agree.

·        The Suitors temporarily drop all their plans of killing Telemachus and turn their minds to the real task at hand—eating breakfast

·        Telemachus seats the beggar opposite himself with his own share of food and a goblet of wine and challenges anyone to insult him.

·        For the most part, no one does, although there is some mild grumbling from Antinous.

·        We find out that the "holiday" is really a day of sacrifice to Apollo.

·        Athene, who apparently loves conflict, wants the Suitors to tease Odysseus so he'll get all worked into a rage.

·        Eventually, one suitor, Ctesippus, throws a cow's foot at the beggar. Odysseus ducks, but Telemachus rushes to the beggar's defence.

·        Yet another suitor, Agelaus, gets everyone back to the issue at hand: who's going to marry Penelope. He asks Telemachus to see reason: it's obvious that Odysseus isn't coming back, so Penelope needs to marry one of the Suitors.

·        Telemachus refuses and the Suitors laugh at him. Athene, who still wants to see some blood, makes his refusal seem especially hilarious to the Suitors so they laugh for a really long time.

·        Prophetic fugitive Theoclymenus, has a vision of the hall filled with dripping blood and shades of the dead. Then he tells everyone about it.

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