The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus

Written by:

Margaret Atwood

Cast Size:
22

Roles For:

  • Men: 4
  • Women: 18

Genre:

Adaptation
Drama
Musical/Opera

Themes:

Feminism
Greek Play
Mythology

Length:

90 min.

Year Written:

2007

Synopsis:

“In Homer’s account in The Odyssey, Penelope—wife of Odysseus and cousin of the beautiful Helen of Troy—is portrayed as the quintessential faithful wife, her story a salutary lesson through the ages. In The Penelopiad, left alone for twenty years when Odysseus goes off to fight in the Trojan War after the abduction of Helen, Penelope manages, in the face of scandalous rumors, to maintain the kingdom of Ithaca, bring up her wayward son, and keep over a hundred suitors at bay, simultaneously.

When Odysseus finally comes home after enduring hardships, overcoming monsters, and sleeping with goddesses, he kills her suitors and—curiously—twelve of her maids. In a splendid contemporary twist to the ancient story, Margaret Atwood has chosen to give the telling of it to Penelope and to her twelve hanged maids, asking: ‘What led to the hanging of the maids, and what was Penelope really up to?’ In Atwood’s dazzling, playful retelling, the story becomes as wise and compassionate as it is haunting, and as wildly entertaining as it is disturbing. With wit and verve, drawing on the story-telling and poetic talent for which she herself is renowned, she gives Penelope new life and reality—and sets out to provide an answer to an ancient mystery.” (From the Publisher’s Website)

Characters:

PENELOPE / ODYSSEUS / TELEMACHUS / HELON OF TROY / MENELAUS / PENELOPE’S NAIAD MOTHER / KING ICARIUS OF SPARTA / ORACLE / EURYCLEIA / LAERTES, KING OF ITHACA / ANTICLEIA, QUEEN OF ITHACA / ANTINOUS / APPOLONIUS

The Maids: MELANTHO / TANIS / KERTHIA / IOLE / CELANDINE / KLYTIE / SELENE / ZOE / ALECTO / CHLORIS / PHASIANA / NARCISSA

First Produced:

Royal Shakespeare Company in association with Canada's National Arts Centre at The Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, July 2007.

Resources:

The Penelopiad is available through Kindle Editions.

Find an excerpt from the novel at Penguin Random House.

Browse the playwright’s website here.

To view more plays like this, click here.