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What’s the Role of Phemius in the Odyssey?

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Phemius is a bard of Ithaca. He sings a sad song about the Trojan War to the suitors of Penelope. The role of Phemius in Homer’s Odyssey is to show the importance of oral storytelling and bards’ craft in the lives of Ancient Greeks.

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Phemius is a bard living in Ithaka, a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. He first appears in Homer’s Odyssey in Book 1. Phemius is forced to sing a song with his lyre to Penelope’s suitors, the wife of Odysseus. Against his will, Phemius sings a sad song about the Trojan War and Odysseus, who has gone away long ago and has not returned.

This song appears to be painful for Penelope. She is upset with her husband’s long absence. Therefore, she gets out of her room and asks Phemius to sing something less painful. However, her son, Telemachus, tells Phemius to continue singing. He considers himself to be the master of the house, so he has the right to decide.

Phemius appears in the Odyssey again in Book 22 when he begs Odysseus to spare his life. The bard tells Odysseus that he did not want to sing for the suitors. When Telemachus confirms it, Odysseus lets the bard live. However, the king commands Phemius to perform a joyful wedding song. It should be so loud as to drown out the sounds of the dying suitors.

Phemius is one of the two bards presented in Homer’s Odyssey. The other bard is Demodocus, who performs three narrative songs during the poem. The bards’ role is to show the importance of oral storytelling and bards’ craft in the life of Ancient Greek society. Homer shows how bards’ narratives resonate with the thoughts and feelings of their audience. Besides, bards’ stories are related to the larger narrative, making them a harmonious part of the plot.

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IvyPanda. "What's the Role of Phemius in the Odyssey?" December 1, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/q/whats-the-role-of-phemius-in-the-odyssey/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "What's the Role of Phemius in the Odyssey?" December 1, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/q/whats-the-role-of-phemius-in-the-odyssey/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'What's the Role of Phemius in the Odyssey'. 1 December.

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