Character Analysis: Penelope
Penelope is a very strong character in the poem, having faced many challenges throughout. Her main role is to be equal with Odysseus. The ploy with the bed not only showcases Penelope's wisdom but also sheds light on why she could not bring herself to remarry and why Odysseus could not stay and build a new life with Calypso. Their love is immortal, just like the unmovable wedding bed.
Penelope has been waiting for 20 years for her husband to come back from the Trojan War. During his absence, she has been managing his estates. However, she has recently become a host to many suitors who want to marry her and possess everything Odysseus had. These suitors have been depleting Telemachus' inheritance as well. Despite the stress, anxiety, and confusion resulting from the chaos of a palace without its king, Penelope has kept her virtue and remained loyal.
Penelope's fidelity was never in question; she clearly misses her husband greatly. She often asks for songs that remind her of him. This highlights the role of women in Greek society. Telemachus, in Book 1, proves himself to be a real man by telling Penelope to go back to her room and sew, stating that public speech is a man's concern. Penelope devises a plan to get rid of the suitors, which would take 3 years, showing her loyalty and enduring love for her husband.
In Book 17, when Odysseus disguises himself as a beggar and asks the suitors for alms, Penelope doesn't recognize him but wants to talk to him, hoping he has information about her husband.
Women in Ancient Greece
Women during this time had very few rights compared to male citizens. They were expected to look after the children while men managed the household and made all decisions. Women were unable to own land, vote, or inherit.