Question 3 Sample Answer.pdf

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University of Toronto St. George
Jonathan Tracy

Question 3 Sample Answer “I respect you, Demodocus, more than any man alive - surely the Muse has taught you, Zeus’s daughter, or god Apollo himself. How true to life, all too true... you sing the Achaeans’ fate, all they did and suffered, all they soldiered through, as if you were there yourself or heard from one who was. But come now, shift your ground. Sing of the wooden horse Epeus built with Athena’s help, the cunning trap that good Odysseus brought one day to the heights of Troy, filled with fighting men who laid the city waste. Sing that for me - true to life as it deserves - and I will tell the world at once how freely the Muse gave you the gods’ own gift of song.” This is a speech by Odysseus to the Phaeacian bard (aiodos) Demodocus. It occurs in Book 8 of the Odyssey, near the end of the festivities held by the king Alcinous in honour of this mysterious stranger’s arrival in Scheria; the ensuing song by Demodocus, along with Odysseus’ tearful reaction to that song, forms the immediate prelude to his dramatic unveiling of his identity at the start of Book 9 and to his subsequent narrative of his own adventures since the fall of Troy. This passage shows Odysseus taking decisive control of his own image among the Phaeacians. The first song by Demodocus featured Odysseus in a somewhat less flattering light, as one who quarrelled with Achilles (as Agamemnon does in the Iliad). Especially given the Phaeacians’ general dislike of strife and tension (they have moved far away from the violent Cyclops to avoid any conflict, and Alcinous shows his aversion to quarrels during his handling of the Broadsea incident), Odysseus (who is now paving the way for his self-revelation) will be keen not to let his hosts think of him as anything less than a perfect team player (as he is represented by Nestor during one of the latter’s speeches to Telemachus in Book 3). Odysseus now makes a significant change to the course of the day’s entertainment (“shift your ground”), just as he changes so many things in the world around him: the story proposed by him to Demodocus suggests collaboration rather than conflict, since it shows him working with the craftsman Epeus and the goddess Athena to accomplish the ruse of the Trojan Horse, instead of quarrelling with Achilles. The story also, of course, shows Odysseus at his most glorious, with his finest heroic achievement (at least before his triumphant return to Ithaca): the Trojan Horse showcases his cunning (Odysseus’ key heroic attribute, and one that he emphasizes again to the Phaeacians during his narrative of e.g. his escape from the Cyclops), and it also allows him to achieve the greatest feat of modern arms, namely the sack of Troy. The crafty Odysseus is thus presented as the one really responsible for Greek victory, rather than the valiant Achilles th
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