Odysseus the Immortal - Part I by Erman Kaplama
CHARACTERS: (in order of appearance)
Penelope (Wife to Odysseus)
Dirce (Eurycleia's granddaughter, Penelope's maid and fiancée to
Old Man of Ithaca (Odysseus's servant)
Telemachus (Son to Odysseus)
Polybus (Son of Eurymachus and Melantho)
Oenops (Son of Leiodes)
Aegyptius (Son of Eurynomus and cousin of Antiphus)
Waiters in the tavern (silent)
Other men in the tavern (silent)
Necromancer in Ephyre
Priests in Delphi
Pythia (the Delphic Oracle)
Harmonia (Telemachus' bride) (silent)
Two Cephallonian Suspects (Therapon and Hegestratos)
Chorus of Young Ithacan Girls
The Interrogators &Executioners (three of the soldiers)
Scene I Odysseus and the Cyclops
(Miles Davis Dark Magus, Disc I, Moja Part I for about 5 minutes)
(Lights are off. Cinema screen representing the dream state comes down
just as the music begins. Odysseus is running on the rocks, rarely
looking back. The sky is perfectly clear and the sun is shining.
Odysseus is shot from several angles; the camera approaches, drawing
closer and closer, capturing Odysseus's expression as he grows tired
and as sweat runs down his face. After running for around 5 minutes,
he finds himself trapped on the edge of a steep precipice. He turns to
see Aeneas appear next to him, who whispers something in his ear.
Looking wildly around him, Odysseus teeters on the edge of the
precipice, planning to jump to escape the approaching Cyclops, who
does not actually appear on the screen. Odysseus, with an expression
of exhaustion and hopelessness, jumps off the cliff into the open sea.
The screen suddenly turns dark, then retracts back above the stage.
Odysseus and Penelope's bed is unearthed. It is surrounded by the
branches of a huge, ancient olive tree, which must be in the
background of the scene. The moving lift-stage must be placed at the
centre of the main stage. Odysseus, sweaty and scared, awakens from
the nightmare and screams. Penelope wakes up and tries to calm her
Scene II The Olive Tree
O this bed is burning!
Burning with hellish distress
My heart, it throbs wildly
Chasing living daylights
Out of my chest.
O this bed is soaking wet!
Watered by unholy sweat
Like an overflowing river in suffering
Fed by an unending season of rain,
Killing its surroundings with regret.
O this bed is as hard as stone!
My weakened muscles hurt to my bones
Like boulders on the face of a slope eroding,
Shaken by Poseidon's all-conquering will,
Scraping off their mountain in haste.
I dreamt the most nightmarish dream:
Following me was the angry, one-eyed Cyclops.
Above his ugly head was garish steam
On his shoulders carried granite rocks.
I climbed the highest hill in sight
Hopped from one rock to the next.
All I could think in that horror was flight
Until I reached the cliff and saw Aeneas.
He told me not to hesitate; he said to me, "Jump off!
Descend to where Oceanus hugs the mother of Gigantes."
I knew an arduous journey lies before me
For it is my fate to venture again with Hermes.
So I leapt into Poseidon's mighty embrace,
And into the hollow belly of the dark abyss.
Then suddenly felt a Titan's mighty arms
Carrying my feeble body to the realm of Hades.
O Odysseus! What are you saying?
Have you forgotten? Don't you already know?
This is not just a bed we sleep on.
This is the holy crown of the ancient olive tree,
The tree that framed our shield, our home
The nest of young Telemachus, of you and me.
This tree has witnessed tragedies abound
Its trunk's wrinkles are older than our history
Its roots reach ages underground
Striving downwards, yearning to be unfree.
For what is freedom to ancient tree roots?
There is nothing below Gaia that soothes
But layers of impenetrable rocks
Under which lies the fiery realm of Hephaestus.
So, if you say this bed is burning
Its roots have reached that fiery abyss
Passed all ages beneath; left them above
Must have contacted the realm of Hephaestus.
And if you say it is soaking wet
Then it must feel pain and cry for death,
For it is tired of life and cannot digest
The springs of Tethys that flow in wealth.
And if you say it is hard as stones
Then its roots must have been stiffened,
Wrapped in the crystal eerie zone
Far away from all-seeing Hyperion.
For morning's freeze is the remnant of a cold night
And a cold winter's night follows a cloudless sunset.
O my poor Odysseus, peace is seldom won without a fight.
Alas, under the Ithacan skies we have more perils to face yet
For morning's freeze is the remnant of a cold night
And a cold winter's night follows a cloudless sunset
O my poor heart, love is seldom stronger than fright
And under hollow light we've many monsters to dread.
(As Penelope completes her speech, the moving lift-stage descends back
onto the main stage, and the olive tree in the background
Scene III Dirce in the Marketplace
(Ithaca's marketplace in the main square with several vendors
selling fruits, vegetables, bread, flowers, honey, wine, spices and
handmade household items)
What a beautiful day! How bluer are the blue skies!
How greener the trees and whiter the clouds!
How lovelier the fragrance of these colourful bundles of roses!
And how more pleasant the little birds' melodies sound!
Can you hear how much softer the soft wind caresses the olive leaves?
Can you see how the sea birds patrol the cliffs by the bay?
How gently the southern wind brushes the shiny bosom of the still
And how the white sails like giant seagulls to and fro sway!
Can a loaf of bread smell any fresher and look any crisper than this?
Look how shiny these olives are; how ripe and plump these oranges!
Look at these dark red grapes, grown with Demeter's all-caring
O how I love you Artemis, for my dear lover today proposed marriage!
How long have I waited for this day to come, this light to slip into
How I've longed for Polybus to finally find the courage
To ask me for my hand and slip a shining golden ring into my vein of
To make my desperate heart pound faster and quicker make my red blood
May this show inquisitive, evil eyes that I am not alone.
I belong to my crafty, handsome husband-to-be, the son of strong
Who will carry me over the threshold and lay me in bed in my
And protect, provide and look after his new bride and our innocent
Who says our fates are sealed and burdened with endless chores and
For life itself is amorous and optimistic, as joyful as an innocent
Or in the dance of a playful dolphin, surfing the waves ever-curling.
Isn't love an emotion lovers feel as if they were the first and
Wasn't it its blind enthusiasm that led River Nile to attempt the
vast desert crossing?
For life itself is unyielding and all-conquering, as seen in a grown
Or in a dense, wet, lush forest, all green, celebrating the coming of
Isn't survival a will all living possess, as they are the willing
puppets of nature?
Thus, I celebrate life, for it is colourful like the rainbow, and
always new, like the morning dew,
Always adamant, like a desert-dwelling camel, but refreshing, like a
cool gust of wind.
Rarely is it like rolling a giant rock on a hilltop, knowing it will
roll down again
But mostly as easy as collecting rosy grapes to make sweet juice and
So, what shall I cook today for Penelope, my patient and lovely
Yes, I will buy these strong-smelling onions and garlics, and some
And mix them with salt, black pepper and homemade golden olive oil.
Then I'll add mint and parsley from the garden and freshly grown
And to flavour the wine I will buy a fine-tasting bouquet of spices,
For my tasteful mistress loves taking cinnamon-wine with her dinner.
I will also serve a dessert made of chestnuts and the sweetest figs
Topped with broad beans, red pomegranates, beechnuts and dried
(Vendor silently hands these groceries to Dirce. Dirce gives him three
Scene IV Old Man and Dirce in the Hall
(An Old Man, Odysseus's servant, is sitting in the hall in
Odysseus's palace, polishing Odysseus's spears and bows. The Old
Man is a friend of Laertes and the most senior and respected servant
of the kingdom. He speaks of Odysseus's father and the birth of
Odysseus. Dirce, Penelope's maid, enters the hall, arms laden with
the fruit, vegetables and spices she bought for her mistress'
Here I am in the halls of my master's palace.
Here I willingly serve the greatest man in Ithaca,
A man with more stories and fame to his name
Than anyone who ever walked on the ample crust of Gaia.
I, the Old Man of Ithaca, have been the loyal servant of this house
Since the rise of the strong king of the swift-sailing Cephallonians,
Famous, courageous and wise son of Chalcomedusa and Arcesius
Laertes the Argonaut, the patient and resilient leader of Ionians.
Many god-like heroes lie at the bottom of this house; it has many
Arcecius, the son of Cephalus, the brave spur of the illustrious
That gave Ithaca its golden era with Laertes, Odysseus and Telemachus
Thanks to the she-bear Cephalus mated in Same, on a small fertile
O strong-willed Cephalus, the broadest of all Ithacan roots that
The robust constitution of his family, his people, his islands and
The lover of rosy-fingered Eos with golden arms that let Hyperion
Its fiery shade on Oceanus to awake the children of Ceto, still
The god-like Arcesius fathered Laertes, branching out from this
He taught him the skills of a good leader, spear-making and
Left him the sublime Ionian Islands and the neighbouring lands to the
Thus little prince Laertes became the greatest and wisest Ithacan
Laertes, the second in the sublime son-bearing line, was a moderate
He always knew better than anyone else that the human soul possesses a
And that it is not better for people to get all that their precious
Thus guided the patient Laertes his people, imparting to them wisdom,
He married Anticleia, the daughter of fair Amphithea and Autolycus the
Son of trickster Hermes, the youngest of the first Olympians, the
Autolycus, the cunning wolf, can steal one's sheep while playing the
He even tricked crafty Sisyphus and made him pay for his bad behaviour
It was he who witnessed the birth of clever Odysseus and gave him his
And with it fame others envy and grieve, but he himself enjoys.
Generously were passed to him all his father's skills he practises
with no shame.
Thus acquired the resourceful Odysseus the art of trickery, his most
With this very toy he ravaged Troy, the most beautiful citadel of
With iron resolution he led the Achaeans down towards Trojans on Mount
It was he, Ajax and Achilles, who volunteered to battle Hector the
Then, after a decade of distress, he slipped into the citadel in the
famed wooden horse.
His guile was so ample that he, with his comrades, voyaged across the
Ocean of Troubles.
This is how, after the death of his men, he escaped the firm clutch of
the godless Cyclops
And how his ship slipped away from brutal Laestrygonians and other
It was his quick wit helped him avoid the giant cannibals, against all
And he, with the help of Hermes, managed to resist the famous tricks
of cunning Circe
After she, without mercy, fed his men drugged food that turned them
all to swine.
Making her swear by Zeus she would spare his manhood and let his men
If he would share her bed and in her palace feast on lavish sums of
meat and wine.
He is the second mortal after Heracles to visit the underworld, where
Like an abandoned ship collapsing into the abyss, and return to the
And he is the first to go through the narrow strait between Scylla and
Where the six-headed monster dragged the boat and grabbed six of his
He even survived Zeus's spiralling terror that killed his entire
crew without mercy.
Nymph Calypso liked Odysseus's cunning ways and asked him to stay in
So he remained concealed on that distant island for seven years,
Until he recovered from Calypso's spell and built a raft to drift
At last he arrived in Ithaca after twenty long years of sorrow.
In sly disguise ventured forth from the hidden harbour to the hut of
Dressed and mannered as a wise wandering beggar met and mobilised his
Then, together with his godlike son, the king killed one-by-one all of
the insolent Suitors.
His loving mother died of woe when he was still at war, a time before
Poor Anticleia, the holy fameless mother of the chosen child, the
At least she met her son in the land of the death after her living
days were over
She told him about Laertes, who led the life of a slave, sleeping in a
hovel on the floor.
O how Laertes grieved Odysseus during his absence, covered in earth
I know this well, for I visited him each day to witness him speak to
How sad and exhausted he was of life when he watched his trees begin
Thus endured the old master lonely days, sowing new life, but hopeless
Sadly my old master Laertes now lies hidden, embraced by Gaia's
Following that ill-fated grim sickness that gripped his exhausted old
Two years after the arrival of his beloved son he waited for so long
Alas the legendary patient king drew his final agonising breath.
Many times Poseidon the Earth Shaker made this land tremble
But never quite as hard as on the day of Laertes' burial.
Many homes were razed to Ithaca's rocky ground,
Thus began, after Odysseus' return, the decade of trouble.
The quake at daybreak came along with giant waves swirled deep and
For Poseidon, angered, thrusts his trident deep in Gaia's broken
Moves titanic rocks deep beneath the water under constant pressure and
Thus came the colossal flood to swallow all fishermen and villages
Four years after Poseidon's wrath hit the deadly repugnant plague
That burned the victims' foreheads and filled their eyes with pus
The disease marked weakened bodies with painful spots turned auburn
And killed half the people here upon this unlucky island.
Despite all the calamities our poor city has endured
Willingly I live here still in this all-too-legendary ancient gallery
Where my master rightly slayed the insolent Suitors.
I here sit patiently every morning and polish thoroughly
The famous spear, shield, bow and arrows of Odysseus.
(Enter Dirce with the groceries.)
Dirce: (Talking to herself on the right side of the stage opposite
the Old Man while entering the hall.)
I can feel my grandmother Eurycleia roaming these now-lonely halls,
The illustrious granddaughter of Peisenor and daughter of Ops.
That famous woman was the real old mistress of this house.
For the old master, patient Laertes, always treated her as his real
She served him lovingly as though immune to bitter strife
And oversaw everything from welcoming guests to sustaining life.
Above all, it was her spirit Odysseus suckled for years
A small baby his unfortunate mother could not feed.
An infant must attach to life after his cord is cut.
Thus ensures mother Gaia her extensions' health by tying the knot
Between the wellspring and the offspring, long after they part.
Thus bestowed Eurycleia on Odysseus her extraordinary strong
That helped him become a resilient combatant and an ingenious leader,
And this is how he could inspire the Achaean army, dressed as a
Only she recognized Odysseus returned to Ithaca in disguise
As she undressed him to wash him was surprised by his ancient scar.
She kept it secret and sent out the unfaithful maids, causing their
O how I wish loyal Eurycleia were here to see my blissful days of
To see me like a delicate swan in a white wedding gown
And watch me glitter brighter than any star before dawn.
I wish she could be here to see my little baby and help me raise him,
To bestow on him the same confidence through tender gaze so loving.
She would knit him woollen chlamyses as she did for her own
Old Man: (interrupting Dirce's monologue.)
Dirce, my daughter, I heard a rumour
Tell me: is it true you are pregnant?
For I of all people shall listen to you
And can help you to set things in order.
For wisdom is required in hard times like these,
Young girls like you need guidance to maintain peace
In soul, in body, within the walls that surround us
Come now, let me help you to face the frantic Furies.
(Dirce puts the groceries on a table.)
Father, I respect you more than any who live in this house
But honestly, I do not know what you are talking about
For if one day I am in need of beneficent counsel
I would seek it from you; of that you needn't doubt.
O, lovely and innocent Dirce, with your fine tresses,
You of all people need not lie to my wrinkled face
For anyone can see in your eyes that unseemly distress
For none of us saw you in a white wedding dress.
I could not be more confident of your pregnancy.
Look how your cheeks have become red like plump apples!
How your body has swollen and your blood thickened!
How your limbs are bloated and your hips more ample!
Remember, a liar's candle only lights until the sun is bright
For all-seeing Helios espies every dark secret in the hide.
If I tell you the truth will you leave me be?
Or will you continue to torment me with more questions?
If you promise to stop, I will tell you what you want to hear.
Yes, my girl, I do promise you, I will disturb you no more
With this interrogation if you give me an honest answer.
O unyielding stubborn father, yes, I am expecting a child
With my fiancée Poly (bus, the son of ill-fated Eurymachus.)
(Enter Penelope. Dirce's speech is interrupted by Penelope's hasty
entrance. The Old Man fails to hear Dirce's speech in parenthesis)
Dirce, my girl, I have searched for you all morning!
Have you again been wandering the streets by the bay?
Now, without further ado, get one of the strongest slaves
And run at once to the farmhouse next to the Cephallonian graves
And choose one fleshy pig and one plump sheep with thick fleece.
Grab them tight, bring them back and place them in the middle of the
Then prepare them for sacrifice at the ancient hearth in the hall of
For we urgently need to win the grace of Poseidon: the Tamer of
Before he brings further disaster on this house and the rest of
By gathering dark forces and shaking our sacred mountains.
(Dirce and the slave obey Penelope's order and hastily leave to
fetch the animals from the farm.)
Penelope, fair daughter, I see you look troubled and anxious;
Tell me what bothers you so, what makes you issue urgent
I know times are a challenge and Ithacans lack good fortune,
But despite the disasters we've suffered, this is the time to remain
Please know I will always be here to serve and protect my good
O the astute and caring father of all noble Ithacans that need
Our house and our people will always need wise sages like you
For a flock without a shepherd descends into chaos;
Sheep run loose, lose their way and stray over the ancient mountains.
Take good care of my lost husband, my once wise and brave Odysseus
For he is not himself recently, and does not sleep in peace.
Poseidon bothers him with nightmares of most horrible sort
So he suffers, wears an elaborate mask to hide silent, a fox in
He is burdened by guilt, for he brought back to Ithaca Poseidon's
That very guilt tells him it was he who took innocent lives during
those great disasters:
The uprooting earthquake, all-swallowing waves and merciless plague
Reduced famous Ithaca to one busy harbour and a few half-ruined
O my loyal and sensible queen! I will do all you say with no further
I will make sure my good king regains his clear vision and wisdom,
That his shining eyes again see with clarity, and discern every
That his ears hear the words of his guardian spirits and espy good
advice from friends,
That he recovers his keen intuitions to timely deal with each imminent
But I will first talk to his good son, clever, patient Telemachus the
For he now keenly handles all government affairs, like his grandfather
And my courageous king would always hear out and take heed of his
son's soft voice.
He will wholeheartedly listen to him with delight and follow his
(Penelope moves back to stand behind a hearth set up at centre stage.
Dirce and the slave bring a pig and a plump sheep onto centre stage
and start a fire at the hearth in front of Penelope. Penelope gestures
to the slave to place the pig on the hearth. He does so, and lets the
O Hestia, the purest virgin, the daughter of cruel Cronus and Rhea the
The protector of pious families from the distant Crete to the
The first and last child of the ever-curling dragon that hurls at us
It is your pure grace that binds our lawful people and our city-states
Here we place on your ever-living hearth at the very heart of our
Our tastiest pig, fed in the richest uphill ranches of the
Please accept our humble sacrifice and let this hearth burn tenfold
And purify our house from this uncanny blight.
Purify our hearts too; refresh our thick blood to run like a broad
To make our gaze fresh for the upcoming wedding of my handsome son
Impart upon us your eternal vigour; we more than ever need your
(Penelope now gestures for the slave to place the sheep on the hearth.
He does so.)
O Poseidon, mighty son of Cronus, the shaker of all lands and creator
The maintainer of calm seas when pleased with the sacrifices of
The cruel father of all chaotic currents when angered by erring
Your supreme potence keeps our ships safe and our blessings
Here we gather around our blazing hearth and prepare for you a humble
Our plumpest sheep, grazed on Ithaca's sea-girt, stunning, verdant
Please accept our sacrifice and sincere pardon with the kindness of a
And put on your graceful face once again, before our beautiful land
falls into ruin.
Please do not let Odysseus lose his mind, suffering his menacing
Let him forget his misdeeds and deliver him from his delirium
For he has been your genuine follower; you are the focus of all his
And he always honours you by pouring libation before each glass of
wine he drinks.
Please ease your wrathful sentence on our afflicted city and the
That you have exacted through the earthquake, waves and plague.
We have all learned from our foolish mistakes some clumsy, some
Come bless again this god-loving island you created in Amphitrite's
Please let us celebrate and enjoy my good son's long-awaited
With beautiful Harmonia, the lovely younger daughter of Helen and
For all this wretched family needs now are love, tranquillity and
Come and allow our humble people to enjoy the rest of their life in
(The sacrifices burn out as Penelope concludes her speech.)
(Exeunt Penelope, Dirce and the other servants.)
O I can feel the damned Furies creeping inside this white palace!
I can tell by the way the fire at the hearth repeatedly flickers
That bad omens now dominate this unguarded, famous house.
O those ugly monsters already attacked Ithaca and defeated us
Using not their wit, not their strength, but their sheer numbers.
So many lives have already been lost to those senseless creatures.
What can I do to make sure my master is not consumed
By these deep-dwelling, biting, sucking fiends of dark Hades?
How can I stop the incoming swell of disasters and bad dreams?
Shall I speak to Odysseus myself, or ask Telemachus to inquire?
Why does he let dark forces take over his strong nature?
I think I should hence visit Telemachus and send him to his father.
(Exeunt Old Man.)
[End of Extract]