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The Untold Death of Laertes. Revaluating Odysseus’s Meeting with His Father

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Abstract This article discusses the narrative function and symbolism of the Laertes scene in the twenty-fourth book of the Odyssey. By pointing out the scene’s connections to other passages (the story of Penelope’s web, the first and second nekuia, the farewell to the Phaeaceans, the Argus scene, but also the twenty-fourth book of the Iliad) and by tackling some of the textual problems that it poses (the apparent cruelty of Odysseus’s lies to his father, the double layers of meaning in his fictions, the significance of the sêma of the trees), this article aims to point out how the Laertes scene is tightly woven into the larger thematic and symbolical tissue of the Odyssey. Odysseus’s reunion with his father is conclusive to the treatment of some important themes such as death and burial, reciprocal sense of love and duty and the succession of generations. It will be argued that the untold death of Laertes becomes paradigmatic for the fate Odysseus himself chooses, and for the way in which the epic as a whole deals with the problem of mortality.

Affiliations: 1: Universiteit Gent, Faculteit der Letteren Blandijnberg 2, 9000 Gent Belgium


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