BOOK XIX – PENELOPE AND THE BEGGAR
Odysseus and Telemachus gather together all the weapons in the palace and
secure them under lock and key.
Odysseus waits in the hall for Penelope and receives further abuse from an
insolent maid, but when Penelope arrives she chastises the girl.
Penelope and Odysseus talk and she reveals her deep-seated sorrow over the
loss of her husband. She has engaged in many tricks to repel the suitors, but time is now crucial and she will soon have to make a decision.
The beggar tells his story and of his acquaintance with ‘Odysseus’.
His tale strikes Penelope as being genuine and he convinces Penelope that her husband is still alive and will arrive home soon.
Penelope orders her servants to attend the beggar, and she assigns the aged
nurse Eurycleia to look after Odysseus.
As she washes him, she recognizes an old scar and knows that it is her
master. Odysseus warns her to keep his identity a secret.
Penelope returns to the beggar with a plan that may satisfy the suitors.
She proposes that she will marry anyone who can string Odysseus’ bow, and then fire an arrow through a straight line of twelve axes.
Odysseus agrees that this is a good plan, and he is sure that her husband
will return and complete the challenge.