Comparison of Homer’s Odyssey and Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

As we can see In The Odyssey by Homer and in Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare even though men are supposed to be the ones in control it seems that these authors wanted the women to be also empowered rather than the just the men. Penelope and Juliet play significant roles and help guide the plot. Both the epic and playwright are about two lovers who are separated and everything is against their odds but in the end they are reunited either through death or life. We start to see that the women must take charge in order to try to be with their lover again even though they live in a world controlled by men. Even though Both The Odyssey and Romeo and Juliet authors live in time periods where women play a insignificant role compared to the men. They choose to make women have a greater if not the same role as the men.

Odysseus was forced into joining the Trojan war and was also lost at sea for 10 years because he offended Poseidon and was forced to wander from place to place searching for a way home. Penelope, Odysseus’s wife, finds herself playing the role as the head of the household while staying faithful to her husband. The suitors have been eager to marry Penelope since the day Odysseus was heard of being lost at sea. Even though all of these suitors have been very tempting for Penelope, she stays faithful and keeps them at bay by using her gifts given to her by the gods, one of them being trickery.

As the years go on Penelope starts to grow sorrowful for her husband and yearns for him to come home “ I am already sorrowful, constantly grieving for my husband, remembering him, and then renowned in Argo’s and throughout our Hellas (Homer 1.342-344).’ As she longs for Odysseus’ return, Penelope must also keep Telemachus from doubting his father will return and that Odysseus is his father. ‘My mother says that Odysseus is my father. I don’t know this myself. (Homer 1.232-233).’ By Telemachus wanting to know more about his father he ends up on a journey to figure out where his father is and if he is still alive. This then leaves Penelope alone at home with the suitors with no man in the house. But Penelope stays loyal to her husband while Telemachus is on his journey.

Juliet’s family, the Capulets, are in a long lasting feud with the Montague’s. This especially became a problem when she met Romeo, a Montague at the ball and fell in love instantly. Juliet expresses this by saying “my only love springs from my only. hate!” (Shakespeare I.V.153) Since her love is on the wrong side of the family feud it is forbidden, Juliet and Romeo must meet in secret to express their love to each other.

Another problem that gets in the way of Juliet is Count Paris, he is in love with Juliet and wants to marry her. Capulet won’t give consent to Paris unless Juliet allows him too. We see Capulet explain this when he says “My will to her consent is but a part. An she agree, within her scope of choice Lies my consent and fair according voice.” (Shakespeare I.ii.17-19). But as the play goes on we find Tybalt is insulted by Romeo’s presence at the ball and challenges Romeo to a duel. In the end of the duel Tybalt is killed and the prince sentences Romeo as banished from Verona. This makes Juliet heartbroken.

But when Juliet’s father sees Juliet so upset and sad he is assuming she is sad because of the death of Tybalt, her cousin. He decides that to make her feel better he should surprise her with a happy event, such as her wedding to Paris. Capulet’s idea has become a problem for Juliet who is married to Romeo because now she only has two options, that is to marry Paris and forget about Romeo or ‘kill herself’. As we keep reading she decides to remain faithful to Romeo and ‘kills’ herself.

Looking at both female characters we can start to see similarities that both Juliet and Penelope share. Each of these women love their husband very much and had to watch as they were forced to leave their home. The Capulets hate the Montegues, thus meaning that Juliet is not allowed to marry Romeo. Yet they get married but Romeo becomes banished because he killed Tybalt. Juliet had to make a choice to either marry Paris or kill herself “and with this knife I’ll help it presently”(Shakespeare IV.I.57) . But the friar has another plan in mind and instead Juliet fakes her death to be with Romeo.

Romeo hears Juliet died he goes to her grave and hills himself, when Juliet awakens she finds her lover dead and then she kills herself to be reunited with him. This is similar to The Odyssey and to Penelope and Odysseus because Penelope hates the suitors who are occupying her house. Odysseus can’t come home because Poseidon will not allow him too because Odysseus offended him. The suitors are pressuring her to marry one of them and Penelope just wants Artemis to “ shoot an arrow into my breast and take my life”(Homer 20.311.67). Odysseus comes home and kills the suitors and Odysseus and Penelope finally reunite.

Even though they both have a lot of similarities they also have their differences. Juliet was younger and was still figuring out love and Romeo was just swooning over his last girl when he saw Juliet and fell in love. By seeing this if another more attractive girl was to come along he most likely would move onto her so it wasn’t true love as friar Lawrence states “ Is Rosaline that thou didst love so dear, so soon forsaken? Young men’s love then lies not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes.”(Shakespeare II.3.71-73) Penelope and Odysseus had real love, Penelope waited 20 years for Odysseus to come home so did Odysseus. Juliet couldn’t wait for Romeo or hold off the wedding with Paris and Penelope held it off since the day Odysseus was lost at sea for over ten years. Juliet’s lover was banished and Penelope’s lover was lost at sea.

Penelope and Juliet are both strong important characters that help set the plot. Both characters share similarities such as both have lovers who are separated from them and they must take charge in order to be with them. They also have differences such as Penelope waited and held off the wedding for 10 until Odysseus came home while Juliet couldn’t wait and hold off the wedding and rushed to be with Romeo causing her love to end up killing himself. As we can tell both authors give empowerment to women even though they aren’t supposed have power.

Works cited

  1. Homer, and Stanley Lombardo. Odyssey. Hackett Pub. Co.,2000.
  2. Shakespeare, William, eat al. The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. Washington Square
  3. Press Published by Pocket Books, 1992.