The Penelopiad


Margaret Atwood

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The Penelopiad Characters


Penelope is the daughter of King Icarius, the mother of Telemachus, Odysseus’s wife, and the first-person narrator of the majority of the novel. Penelope, although not a beauty, is known for her… read analysis of Penelope


Odysseus is Penelope's husband, Telemachus's father, King of Ithaca, and the hero of the Greek myth of the Odyssey, upon which The Penelopiad is based. Odysseus is described as short-legged, barrel-chested, and… read analysis of Odysseus


Helen is Penelope's cousin, Menelaus's wife, and Paris's lover. She is considered to be the most attractive woman in the Greek world and she uses her divine beauty to her advantage. Penelope… read analysis of Helen


Eurycleia is Odysseus's former nurse and a servant in his household. Eurycleia is entirely devoted to Odysseus and always thinks she knows what's best for him. This annoys Penelope, who finds Eurycleia controlling… read analysis of Eurycleia


Telemachus is Odysseus and Penelope’s only son and the Prince of Ithaca. Born only one year before Odysseus left for Troy, Telemachus knows of his father mostly through the stories his mother tells him… read analysis of Telemachus
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The Suitors

The Suitors are the swarms of men who come to beg for Penelope’s hand in marriage after Odysseus’s departure. The Suitors are generally much younger than Penelope. They profess to be in love… read analysis of The Suitors

The Twelve Maids

The Twelve Maids are Penelope’s twelve most trusted servants, whom she raised since they were children. Throughout the novel, the Maids, acting as a Greek Chorus, give their own perspective on the events of… read analysis of The Twelve Maids

King Icarius of Sparta

Icarius is Penelope’s father and a King of Sparta. According to stories that Penelope heard growing up, Icarius tried to kill Penelope when she was a baby by throwing her into the searead analysis of King Icarius of Sparta

Penelope’s Mother (The Naiad)

Penelope’s mother is a Naiad (a Water Nymph, or kind of minor goddess), wife of King Icarius of Sparta, and a Queen of Sparta. Characterized as neglectful and cold, Penelope’s mother shows little… read analysis of Penelope’s Mother (The Naiad)


Menelaus is Helen's husband, Odysseus's friend and ally, and a King of Sparta. Rich, loud, and not especially good looking, Menelaus is a powerful ruler who won Helen's hand in a contest. When… read analysis of Menelaus


Laertes is Odysseus’s father, Anticleia’s husband, and Penelope’s father-in-law. Laertes is faithful to his wife Anticleia because he is afraid of her. Laertes lets Odysseus rule the island and, after his disappearance… read analysis of Laertes

Uncle Tyndareous

Uncle Tyndareous is Penelope’s uncle, Helen’s father, and King Icarius’s brother. He and Icarius share the throne of Sparta. Tyndareous is characterized as mean, selfish, and conniving. Penelope believes that Tyndareous helped… read analysis of Uncle Tyndareous

Melantho of the Pretty Cheeks

Melantho of the Pretty Cheeks is one of the Twelve Maids and a particular favorite of Penelope’s. She often has a speaking role in the Maids’ poems, plays, and songs. When Penelope told the… read analysis of Melantho of the Pretty Cheeks


Palamedes is a man faithful to Menelaus who goes with him to press Odysseus into joining them in a war against the Trojans. Palamedes is the one who places Telemachus in front of Odyssey’s cart… read analysis of Palamedes

The Fates

The Fates are mysteries figures in Greek mythology that decide the destiny and lifespans of mortal humans. They are three old women who spin thread, measuring it out to determine the length of people’s… read analysis of The Fates
Minor Characters
Autolycus is Odysseus’s grandfather and supposedly a son of the god Hermes. He is known for being a skilled liar, cheater, and storyteller. Autolycus may have tried to get Odysseus killed by a boar in order to keep from having to hand over Odysseus’s inheritance to him.
Anticleia is Odysseus’s mother and Penelope’s mother-in-law. Anticleia is harsh towards Penelope, often criticizing her and commenting negatively on her youth. Anticleia dies after Odysseus’s disappearance, leaving Penelope to manage the estate alone.
Actoris is one of Penelope’s maids and a gift from her father, Icarius. Penelope brings Actoris with her to Ithaca from Sparta. Actoris is unhappy in Ithaca and greatly misses her friends at home. Actoris, who is middle-aged, dies soon after arriving on the island.
Theseus and Peirithous
Theseus and Peirithous are Greek heroes who abducted Helen when she was twelve, intending to marry her when she was old enough. According to Helen, the two men were in complete awe of her beauty. Helen’s brothers went to war with Athens in order to get Helen back.
Paris is a Trojan prince and Helen's lover. He is supposedly extremely handsome. After secretly wooing each other during a feast in Paris's honor at Menelaus's palace, Paris and Helen ran away together, inciting the Trojan War.
Agamemnon is Menelaus's brother, who goes with him to press Odysseus into joining them in a war against the Trojans.
Teiresias is a blind prophet who Odysseus supposedly meets during his journeys. According to Odysseus, Teiresias gave him advice on his journey home when he went to see him in the underworld, and told him that Poseidon had a vendetta against him since he killed the Cyclops.
Antinous is one of Penelope’s Suitors that Odysseus kills with an arrow. Antinous turns into a corpse every time he sees Penelope in the fields of Asphodel, clearly still angry about the circumstances of his death.
Medon is a herald who tells Penelope about Telemachus secretly leaving to find Odysseus after Penelope has already learned of his departure from her Maids.
Iphthime is Penelope’s sister, who appears to her in a dream to tell her that Telemachus will return home safely.
According to rumors, Sisyphus is Odysseus’s real father. Sisyphus is known for being an extremely tricky man who cheated death several times.
Piraeus and Theoclymenus
Piraeus and Theoclymenus are friends that Telemachus makes during his trip to find Odysseus. They eat dinner with Telemachus at Ithaca when they return.
Poseidon is the Greek god of the sea. He has a vendetta against Odysseus, and according to the stories, he prevents Odysseus from reaching home.
Athene is the Greek goddess of wisdom. She helps Odysseus in his endeavors.
Hermes is a Greek god and messenger who is associated with thievery and trickery. Odysseus is supposedly descended from Hermes.
Zeus is the leader and most powerful of the Greek gods, and supposedly the real father of Helen.
Artemis is the Greek goddess of the hunt and of virginity.
Pan is the Greek god that, according to some rumors, Penelope gave birth to after sleeping with every single one of the Suitors.