The Odyssey Irony Quotes

With a dark glance
wily Odysseus shot back, "Indecent talk, my friend.
You, you’re a reckless fool – I see that. So,
the gods don’t hand out all their gifts at once,
not build and brains and flowing speech to all.
One man may fail to impress us with his looks
but a god can crown his words with beauty, charm,
and men look on with delight when he speaks out.
Never faltering, filled with winning self-control,
he shines forth at assembly grounds and people gaze
at him like a god when he walks through the streets.
Another man may look like a deathless one on high
but there’s not a bit of grace to crown his words.
Just like you, my fine, handsome friend. Not even
a god could improve those lovely looks of yours
but the mind inside is worthless."

– Homer

The Odyssey, Book 8, lines 190-205. Broadsea’s taunts about Odysseus’ lack of athleticism sparks Odysseus’ ire. The Greek hero’s pride is injured and he gives back as good as he gets. He talks about the power of intellect and eloquence, placing a high value on these. A man with unimpressive looks may be gifted with words, he tells the Phaeacian athlete. The same man can display charm and beauty and self-control, being seen by others as a god (simile), Odysseus says. He tells Broadsea distainfully that while his lovely looks could not be improved upon, his mind inside is worth nothing. When Odysseus remarks that the gods don’t hand out the gifts of build and brains and eloquence to everyone at once, his words are somewhat ironic. For he is one man who embodies all these gifts: he is highly intelligent, athletic, a proven warrior, an excellent leader and physically attractive.

"Look!" he sneered, "one scum nosing another scum along,
dirt finds dirt by the will of the gods, it never fails!
Wretched pig-boy, where do you take your filthy swine,
this sickening beggar who licks the pots at feasts?
Hanging round the doorposts, rubbing his back,
scavenging after scraps,
no hero’s swords and cauldrons, not for him.
Hand him over to me – I’ll teach him to work a farm,
muck out my stalls, pitch feed to the young goats,
whey to drink will put some muscle on his hams!
Oh no, he’s learned his lazy ways too well,
he’s got no itch to stick to good hard work,
he’d rather go scrounging round the countryside,
begging for crusts to stuff his greedy gut!
Let me tell you – so help me it’s the truth –
if he sets foot in King Odysseus’ royal palace,
salvos of footstools flung at his head by all the lords
will crack his ribs as he runs the line of fire through the house!"

– Homer

The Odyssey, Book 17, lines 236-253. As Odysseus-the-beggar and Eumaeus walk into town, Odysseus’ disloyal goatherd Melanthius, who serves and cooks for the suitors, hurls insults at them. Melanthius is the antithesus of loyal swineherd Eumaeus. He berates Eumaeus for keeping company with a sickening beggar who licks pots at feasts and scavenges after scraps. No hero’s sword or cauldron for this man, he says with heavy irony. Melanthius doesn’t realize that he is speaking of the famous warrior Odysseus who has received many gifts and carried a hero’s sword. It is Melanthius, a man of little means and servant, who will never receive a sword or cauldron. There is also irony in the goatherd accusing Odysseus-the-beggar of having a "greedy gut." For the ones most guilty of greed are those that Melanthius serves – the suitors!
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