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Book 8

Course Hero’s video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Book 8 of Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey.

The Odyssey | Book 8 | Summary

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Summary

Alcinous calls his people to the meeting grounds, unknowingly aided by Athena, who helps rouse interest. He commands his citizens to find a ship and crew to help take Odysseus home to Ithaca, promising that once a crew is found they will hold a celebratory feast. During the celebration a bard named Demodocus tells the legend of a verbal battle between Agamemnon and Odysseus during the Trojan War. The memories stirred by the song cause Odysseus to weep, and, though he tries to hide it, the king notices and distracts the crowd by suggesting they begin an athletic competition. Odysseus is invited to take part in the competition, but he declines, blaming his weariness from traveling. One of the champions teases him, and Odysseus, angered, agrees to take part in the games to prove him wrong. Odysseus easily wins the competition, claiming he will defeat anyone who challenges him. After the competition and another song by Demodocus, the king calls upon his people to give Odysseus gifts for his voyage. Demodocus sings a final song about how the Achaeans and Odysseus defeated Troy due to Odysseus's courage. Odysseus weeps again at the story, which the watchful king once again notices, prompting him to ask Odysseus to reveal himself.

Analysis

Alcinous proves himself to be a keen observer, as he notices how Odysseus weeps at Demodocus's tales. Odysseus has been careful to guard his identity, but the taunting at the athletic competition stirs his need to prove his honor. It's likely that Alcinous has guessed Odysseus's identity by this point. This tension between reality and illusion is part of the deception theme that is woven through The Odyssey. The scenes with Demodocus give a glimpse into the role of the bard in ancient Greek society. These storytellers related the adventures of the gods and heroes, passing on Greek values—as well as providing considerable entertainment. Their position was considered important in a society in which many people couldn't read. The speculation that Homer was blind is based on this scene, particularly the fact that Demodocus is blind. Some scholars and historians have suggested that Homer put himself in his own tale, but this view is not widely accepted. There were many bards in Homer's time who played the role of storyteller for their audiences.

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