Time: Ancient Greece about 1200 BC

Time: Ancient Greece about 1200 BC

Setting: The palace of Odysseus. Odysseus has been away for twenty years, first fighting in the Trojan War, then trying to get home to his wife, Penelope, and his son Telemachus. In his absence, the palace has been overrun by suitors hoping to marry Penelope and claim Odysseus' wealth. Odysseus has just returned disguised as a beggar, and has gotten into the palace. He slaughters the suitors and reveals himself as Odysseus. But Penelope is still not sure whether or not to trust him.

Scene: A large room with several massive columns in the center. The room is dark, lit only by the flames of a roaring fir on the UC wall. A door is cut into the wall LC. A fur is spread before the fire, and there are two chairs in the room. One is set before the fire, and the other against a column. It is in this chair that Odysseus sits.

PENELOPE: (appears in the doorway, pauses, then crosses silently to sit in the chair by the fire. There is silence for a while.)

TELEMACHUS: (enters excitedly through the door. Upon seeing the silence is sobered and stands in the corner. PENELOPE and ODYSSEUS give signs of noticing him, but neither one looks up.) Cruel mother, do you feel nothing for this man, my father? Will you not sit and converse with him? What other woman would remain so cold as to shun her lord – her husband! And he just returned after twenty years of wars and wandering. Your heart is unchanging flint!

PENELOPE: (looking at her hands, twisting her wedding ring.) I am stunned, my son. I cannot speak to him. I cannot question him. I cannot keep my eyes upon his face. (looking at TELEMACHUS) If he is really Odysseus, home at last, I shall know him better than you or anyone. (finally looking at ODYSSEUS) There are secret signs we know, we two.

ODYSSEUS: (does not look up, but smiles. Turns to TELEMACHUS. PENELOPE quickly looks down.) Peace, boy. Let your mother test me as she will. Before long she will know me as I am. Tatters, blood, dirt – all I am caked with now – make her doubt me still. But that is easily remedied. Telemachus! Philoteus, Eumaeus! (PHILOTEUS and EUMAEUS enter. THEY and TELEMACHUS gather around ODYSSEUS' chair.) We must bathe and dress anew. Only then will the tides of my ladylove's heart change.

(PENELOPE sits and listens quietly to this, not looking up. The four men stand and leave the room. ODYSSEUS is the last out the door, where he pauses and looks at PENELOPE. She quickly glances at him. They make eye contact, then she quickly looks away as he exits.)