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Artemis-Like Penelope, Part 2.2

This is a series on Penelope, who rocks and everyone should know more about. The breakdown is based on my reading (in ancient Greek, thank you very much) of the Odyssey and with some help from Jenny Strauss Clay, Nancy Felson-Rubin, and Sheila Murnaghan. Read Goddess-Like Penelope and Hera-Like Penelope below.

Artemis, the Virgin Goddess of the Hunt, is directly, and somewhat confusingly, compared to Penelope. Artemis, most frequently described as hagnê, pure, is alternatively depicted as possessing a particularly lofty stature and as being incredibly deadly, most especially to women . This isn’t surprising, since she is often understood to represent the time in the life of a parthenos, or virgin, directly before marriage: a time as desirable as it is off-limits.

In the quotation I mention Part 1, Artemis offers her “lofty stature” to the daughters of Pandareos but ultimately the daughters died. Penelope actually prays to be destroyed her like them. Felson-Rubin calls this plot-type the Bride of Death but I would combine it with Tease because of the parthenos, or virgin, aspect of the Goddess and what that means. It is worth pointing out that, ultimately, Penelope cannot ask Artemis for the marriage that a virgin girl would be looking forward to. Her husband’s big house and her grown son Telemachus are constant reminders that the only gift Artemis can give to Penelope is the violent one. Death can keep her from “not only an unwanted marriage, but betrayal and infidelity as well” (Felson-Rubin, 181).

If Penelope is like Artemis in the Odyssey, it must be in her longing for Death.


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