The Odyssey



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"Odysseus’ Diplomacy" by Rebecca Glazer

In Homer’s The Odyssey, the protagonist, Odysseus, finds himself in need of the help of
the princess Nausikaa. Despite being “streaked with brine,” nude, and hungry, Odysseus
manages to overcome his appearance and win Nausikaa’s help though his use of diplomacy in
being courteous, evoking her pity, and offering her a reward (103). Through his display of
diplomacy, he proves his credibility and shows Nausikaa that he is not going to harm her if she
extends her assistance to him.

Odysseus shows Nausikaa that he is worthy of her help by being courteous and polite to
her. He begins his appeal for her help with the term, “Mistress,” demonstrating that he has
respect for her as a superior figure (103). He also refers to her as “My lady,” much as the servant
Medôn refers to Penélopê, conveying that he is reliant upon her approval or dismissal of his
supplication, and will assist her for little in return (104, 73). By being civil and gracious towards
the princess, he wins her ear to pose his request.

After winning Nausikaa’s ear, Odysseus then goes on to evoke her pity. He says, “My
case is desperate,” showing that he is in trouble and is not too proud to admit it (104). He tells
her that he is “stranded…with more blows yet to suffer,” to show Nausikaa that by helping him,
she will be easing the burden he still has to endure (104). Odysseus recounts the pain he has
suffered and the plight he has experienced in order to gain Nausikaa’s sympathy and engage her
desire to assist him.

Odysseus lastly offers Nausikaa a reward for her compliance with his entreaty. He only
asks for a little, acknowledging that he doesn’t expect her to give him much, then offers to her
what he calls, “The best thing in the world” (104). Odysseus tells Nausikaa that if she does him
the small courtesy of giving him a rag and directions to town, the gods will reward her with “her
desire: a home, a husband, and harmonious converse with him” (104). Odysseus offers her an
incentive in the hope that she will aid him, if not for his speech, then for the reward.

To gain the accommodation of the Guest Law in his quest for home, Odysseus must first
overcome his startling appearance, which he accomplishes through his diplomacy. He first wins
Nausikaa’s ear by being polite and courteous, then goes on to evoke her pity through the telling
of his dangerous journey, before offering her a grand reward in return for her small assistance.
Odysseus knows what will exact Nausikaa’s help, and cleverly concocts his plea with those
elements of courtesy, pitiableness, and incentive. In the endeavor to win the princess’s help, he
uses his eloquence of speech and diplomacy to get the courtesy of the Guest Law extended to

"The Effective Rhetoric of Odysseus" by Cory Broad

In the epic The Odyssey, when an exhausted Odysseus washes up on the island of Skhería, he appears naked, “streaked with brine, and swollen” (103). As Odysseus approaches Nausikaa and her group of maids, his appearance “[terrifies] them, so that they [flee]” (103). Only Nausikaa stays in place. The Trojan War hero, Odysseus, must convince Nausikaa to take him in so he can eventually get back to Ithaka, to his home, family, and kingdom. Odysseus’s speech to Nausikaa attempts to prove that he is worthy of the Guest Law or, in other words, of her help. Odysseus succeeds in overcoming his uncivilized appearance in his speech to Nausikaa by complimenting her intellect and appearance while avoiding flirtation, by establishing himself as an accomplished and respectable man, and by explaining the direness of his situation.

First, Odysseus effectively flatters Nausikaa, prevailing over his frightening appearance while carefully evading lasciviousness. He begins his speech by inquiring “are you divine or mortal?” (103) Although Odysseus may legitimately want to know whether Nausikaa is a goddess, he also suggests she appears as beautiful as a goddess. Odysseus even goes as far as to say he never “laid eyes on equal beauty in man or woman” (103). Moreover, Odysseus compliments Nausikaa in a manner that avoids creepiness and flirtation, something necessary for a naked man who just jumped out of an olive bush in front of a young girl. In his praise, Odysseus suggests his adulthood by referencing “what happiness must send the warm tears to [her parent’s] eyes” when Nausikaa goes dancing (103). He additionally proclaims Nausikaa “most near to Artemis,” a chaste goddess, suggesting he does not desire her sexually (103). By likening her to the smart, strong goddess, Odysseus ensures he compliments her as a well-rounded person and not just for her looks. Odysseus also wishes Nausikaa “harmonious converse” with the man she marries, hinting that he believes she is intellectually capable and that he values intellect as well as attractiveness (104).

In addition, Odysseus explains his high rank in society to Nausikaa to disprove misassumptions that she might have made from his disheveled appearance. Odysseus tells Nausikaa she reminds him of Artemis “in [her] grace and presence,” displaying his knowledge and respect for the gods (103). Also, Odysseus demonstrates himself as a man who deserves and has received respect by sharing with Nausikaa that he “had troops under [him]” (104). Although Odysseus must prove himself worthy of Nausikaa’s aid, he never mentions he is Odysseus, the Ithakan king and Trojan War hero. Odysseus does not desire to demand help by proclaiming his name. Rather, he wants to establish a rapport with Nausikaa so she will take him in.

Furthermore, Odysseus convincingly explains to Nausikaa how his lowly appearance came to be and that his “case is desperate” (104). Telling Nausikaa of his “twenty days … in the winedark sea, on the ever-lunging swell, under gale winds” freeing himself of Kalypso, Odysseus recounts his turmoil (104). He clarifies how “the terror of Storm” washed him up on Skhería’s shore (104). He even suggests that he has “more blows yet to suffer” (104). He proceeds to beg Nausikaa, “Mistress, do me a kindness,” and he notifies her that she is his only hope because he “[knows] no others” (104). Odysseus then humbly asks to be directed to the town and for a rag to use as clothing. By asking for so little, Odysseus indicates he does not want to greedily take advantage of Nausikaa, and even the smallest of her aid would prevent some of his fundamental despair. He recognizes that by requesting only a little he may get a bit more in return.

Through his persuasive language and with flattery, reputation building, and an explanation of his serious situation, Odysseus conquers his strikingly unsettling appearance and enlists the aid of Nausikaa. Following Odysseus’s speech, Nausikaa provides Odysseus with directions about how she will help him, and she assures Odysseus “you may wake up soon at home rejoicing” (108).

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