Calypso’s ‘love’ towards Odysseus

Line 148 – 155

‘Calypso composed herself and went to Odysseus, Zeus’ message still ringing in her ears. She found him sitting where the breakers rolled in. His eyes were perpetually wet with tears now, his life draining away in homesickness. The nymph had long since ceased to please. He still slept with her at night in her cavern, an unwilling lover mated to her eager embrace.’

What really struck me from this passage is the theme of unwavering, albeit, one-sided love. It was palpable how much pain Calypso was feeling at the thought of letting Odysseus go. You can almost picture the heaviness in her heart as she was approaching him with the news that she will send him off. There are various ways of looking at Calypso’s relationship with Odysseus. Some may look upon her as a scorned woman who has to let go of the man that she truly loves. Others may view her as a kidnapper, a villain of sorts for keeping Odysseus at her grasp for so long. Some may argue that her love towards him was selfish – only catering towards her needs and desires. The concept of one-sided love is a very interesting theme to explore. When one thinks of love, they think of it as a consensual romantic relationship for both parties. So this begs the questions: Did Calypso truly love Odysseus if her love was rooted in selfishness? Could love ever exist between a captor and her captive?

The line ‘The nymph had long ceased to please’ screams out from the page. The nymph had initially pleased Odysseus, sexually and emotionally. She had the relationship that she desired from him, if even for a brief flickering moment. However, that soon began to get old for Odysseus – he longed for Penelope and Telemachus. Calypso’s allure and excitement began to pale in comparison to the old life that he longed for. Calypso picked up on Odysseus’s sadness as she saw him ‘his eyes perpetually wet with tears’. Despite his desire to leave, she still would have kept him, had it not been for Hermes arrival with Zeus’s message. What added to Calypso’s and Odysseus’s relationship of captor and captive in a sexual relationship, was the complexity of their mortal and immortal status. A truly consensual romantic relationship can not exist between a mortal and immortal, it is akin to a romantic relationship between an adult and a minor. Immortals have more power than mortals  – they are generally stronger, faster and wiser. The relationship between Odysseus and Calypso has made rethink relationships between mortals and immortals, as I do not believe that a union between the two could ever be considered to be consensual.

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1 Response to Calypso’s ‘love’ towards Odysseus

  1. Prof Kolb says:

    This post displays a great deal of sensitivity towards the character. I wonder if you might want to think about her speech to Odysseus, soon after this passage, as well (“You poor man. You can stop grieving now…”). In that speech, she exhibits sympathy for his plight, rather than focusing on her own, as she does in her speech to Hermes, earlier in the book. This passage focuses so much on Odysseus–yet, as you point out, this section of the Odyssey grants us access to Calypso’s desires and motivations, as well.

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