Summary: Book 19
At night when the suitors retire, Telemachus and Odysseus remove the arms as Athena lights up the room for them. Telemachus tells Eurycleia that they are storing the arms to keep them from being damaged. After the arms have been suitably disposed off, Telemachus retires and Odysseus is joined by Penelope. She has come from the women’s quarters to question her visitor. The queen knows that he has claimed to have met Odysseus and she tests his honesty by asking him to describe her husband. Odysseus gives such a true description of himself that Penelope is reduced to tears. He then feigns a story of how he met Odysseus and eventually came to Ithaca. In many ways, this story is similar to the one told to Athena and Eumaeus in Books 13 and 14, respectively, though it is identical to neither. The beggar assures Penelope that Odysseus is alive and freely traveling the seas. He had a long ordeal but will be back within a month. The queen offers the beggar a bed to sleep in but he says he is used to sleeping on the floor. After great persuasion, he allows Eurycleia to wash his feet. As she is putting his feet in a basin of water, she notices a scar on one of the feet of beggar. She immediately remembers it as the scar that Odysseus got while hunting a boar with his grandfather Autolycus. Eurycleia throws her arms around Odysseus, but he silences her while Athena keeps the queen distracted so that the secret is not out.
Before Penelope retires, she describes to Odysseus a dream that she has had in which an eagle swoops down upon her 20 pet geese and kills them all. The eagle then perches on her roof and, in a human voice, says that he is her husband Odysseus who has just put her suitors to death. The queen then declares that she is confused what this dream means. Odysseus tries to explain it to her but Penelope says she is going to choose a new husband nevertheless. Penelope will marry the first man who can shoot an arrow through the holes of twelve axes set in a line.
Summary: Book 20
Penelope and Odysseus were so tense that they could not sleep that night. Odysseus is concerned that it will be next to impossible for him and Telemachus to conquer so many suitors. But Athena reassures him that their task will be accomplished with the help of gods. Penelope, on the other hand, is tormented by the loss of her husband and the thought of remarrying. She prays whole night that Artemis kills her and solves this vexing issue. Penelope's distress wakes up Odyesseus and he asks Zeus for a good omen. Zeus does him a favor with a clap of thunder, and, at once, a maid in an adjacent room is heard cursing the suitors. Next day, Odysseus and Telemachus meet, in succession, the swineherd Eumaeus, the foul Melanthius, and Philoetius, a kindly and loyal herdsman who has not yet given up hope of Odysseus’ return.
The suitors enter the palace, once again plotting Telemachus’s death. When a portent of doom appears in the form of an eagle carrying a dove in its talons, Amphinomus convinces the suitors to drop the plan. Athena keeps the suitors in disarray all through the dinner to stop Odysseus’ anger from losing its edge. Ctesippus, a wealthy and arrogant suitor, throws a cow’s hoof at Odysseus. Telemachus threatens to kill him with his sword. The suitors laugh at this, failing to notice that they and the walls of the room are covered in blood. Their faces have assumed a foreign and ghostly look, which Theoclymenus interprets as portents of imminent doom.