Penelope, Ulysses' wife and faithful waiter: her role in Ulysses' epic

Penelope is a mainstay of Greek mythology, known for her unwavering devotion to her husband Ulysses during his long voyage after the Trojan War. In ancient history, she embodies marital fidelity in the face of adversity. The epic of Ulysses, often called the Odyssey, is a Homeric tale that stands as a monument of classical literature, and the character of Penelope plays a central role in this epic narrative. This article explores the dimension of Penelope's waiting time, her legendary fidelity, and the symbolism of her presence at the heart of the work.

The Epic of Ulysses and the Waiting Context of Penelope

The myth of Ulysses (Odyssey)

  • Summary of the Odyssey: The Odyssey is an epic journey fraught with pitfalls, where Ulysses must overcome supernatural trials and temptations to return to Ithaca to his wife Penelope.

  • Ulysses, the wandering hero: Known for his cunning and intelligence, Ulysses is the archetypal hero who braves the unknown, symbolizing the quest for discovery and a return to one's roots.

Penelope's waiting

  • The situation in Ithaca during Ulysses' absence: Odysseus' home is beset by suitors coveting Penelope's hand, hoping to take the place of the supposedly dead king.

  • Pretenders and the pressure on Penelope: Penelope is under constant pressure from pretenders who squander her possessions and threaten to overthrow the order of the kingdom.

Penelope's fidelity

  • Penelope's tricks to delay her remarriage: To ward off suitors, she promises to choose a husband after finishing weaving a web, which she secretly unravels every night.

  • The symbolism of her waiting** : Penelope's waiting represents perseverance and constancy, which became idealized feminine virtues in ancient culture and classical literature.

The Role of Penelope in the Epic

Penelope as a figure of the ideal wife

  • Vertues and attributes of Penelope: Penelope is seen as the paragon of virtue, patience, and wisdom, becoming a model of conduct throughout history.

  • Comparison with other female figures in mythology: She contrasts with other mythological figures through her unshakeable morality and her ability to maintain the integrity of her home.

The test of recognition

  • Ulysses' return and the test of the bow: To prove his true identity, Ulysses must bend his bow, a test that only he can accomplish.

  • Penelope's true recognition: Despite Odysseus' cunning, Penelope recognizes him thanks to her intelligence and insight, symbolizing the depth of their connection.

Penelope's Thematic and Symbolic Importance

Marriage and fidelity

  • The Odyssey's vision of marriage: The union of Odysseus and Penelope demonstrates an idealized vision of ancient marriage, based on mutual respect and fidelity.

  • Penelope as a pillar of social order in Ithaca**: Her resistance to suitors preserves the integrity of the throne and lineage, reflecting the importance of female roles in society.

Penelope and faithful expectation in culture

  • Literary and artistic representations of Penelope: Penelope appears in various works of art and literature, symbolizing fidelity and constancy across the ages.

  • Penelope's cultural impact over the centuries**: Her influence extends far beyond antiquity, with reverberations in modern culture, making her an emblem of endurance and emotional loyalty.


The saga of Penelope is more than just a story of waiting; it is a testimony to constancy and loyalty that transcend time and space. Its impact on the perception of Ulysses' epic is undeniable, and its resonances in contemporary values are still relevant today. It is through Penelope that we understand the true fabric of mythological heroines and the formidable cultural influence they continue to exert on our understanding of virtue, inner strength and marital fidelity.