Female Ethics and Epic Rivalry: Helen in the Iliad and Penelope in the Odyssey
This paper shows how Penelope and the Iliadic Helen are constructed as similar, yet ethically antitypical heroines through an intertextual dialogue that manifests itself on structural, thematic, and linguistic levels. Whereas Helen is an unfaithful, sight-endowed female agent who weaves war and indiscriminate suffering, Penelope is a faithful, thoughtful wife who more passively preserves Odysseus' family and authority; each woman is key to her epic plot and ideology. I argue that their intertextuality contributes to the rivalry between the Odyssey and Iliad traditions and can be understood as a female counterpart to the competing heroisms of Odysseus and Achilles.
Lesser, Rachel H. 2019. “Female Ethics and Epic Rivalry: Helen in the Iliad and Penelope in the Odyssey.” American Journal of Philology 140(2): 189–226.
Required Publisher's Statement
This article is available through Project MUSE: https://muse.jhu.edu/article/726217