Divine Comedy-I: Inferno

Odysseus Across Time In Dante and Tennyson

"Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story

of that man skilled in all ways of contending,

the wanderer, harried for years on end,

after he plundered the stronghold

on the proud height of Troy.

He saw the townlands

and learned the minds of many distant men,

and weathered many bitter nights and days

in his deep heart at sea, while he fought only

to save his life, to bring his shipmates home." (Homer 1.1-10)

Odysseus/Ulysses is a classical figure who reappears historically in the poetry of numerous writers. Having recurred in the classic works of at least three poets-Homer's Odyssey, Dante's Inferno, and Alfred Lord Tennyson's "Ulysses"-he is clearly magnetic in his appeal to numerous cultures, regardless of the context. However, the contrasts between the Odysseus of ancient times, Medieval times, and the Victorian era communicate changing tensions within the context of the culture. Because Odysseus recurs so often in western history, it seems that he is a sort of gauge of the beliefs of the culture. In this paper I will explore the characteristics most thematic in Odysseus' character as he returns home in the Odyssey, as he burns in hell in Dante's Inferno, and as he exemplifies perseverance...

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