Circe: Homeric Parallel

In Book 10 of The Odyssey, Odysseus recounts his adventures with Aeolus and with the Lestrygonians and then describes his landing on Circe's island. Odysseus and his men are in a state of profound depression, "sick at heart, tasting our grief" (10:143; Fitzgerald, p. 181), as a result of the tantalizing view of Ithaca achieved with Aeolus's help and of the disastrous encounter with the Lestrygonians. They rest "cloaked in desolation / upon the waste sea beach" (10:179; Fitzgerald, p. 182), and Odysseus kills "a stag with noble antlers" (10:158; ; Fitzgerald, p. 182) on which they feast. Eventually Odysseus divides his crew into two platoons, one under his leadership, one led by Eurylochus. The leaders draw lots and the fate of exploring the island falls to Eurylochus. Eurylochus and his men discover Circe's hall, where all save Eurylochus are transformed into hogs by Circe's "foul magic" (10:247; Fitzgerald, p. 184). Eurylochus escapes to warn Odysseus, who then approaches Circe's hall alone. He is met by Hermes and accepts a magic herb, moly, to protect him from Circe's magic; Hermes also tells Odysseus that he must make Circe swear to release his men and to perform "no witches' tricks" (10:300; Fitzgerald, p. 186) lest he, too, be "unmanned" by her. Odysseus confronts Circe, whose magic fails, no match for his moly. Odysseus threatens her, and she swears that she will not harm him and that she will release his men. Not only does she keep her oath, but she also royally entertains Odysseus and his crew "until a year grew fat" (10:467; Fitzgerald, p. 191). Finally Odysseus's men urge him to "shake off this trance" (10:472; Fitzgerald, p. 191). He does, and Circe advises him to visit the underworld (Hades) to consult Tiresias. When Odysseus returns with Tiresias's prophecy, Circe helps him further with advice about the Sirens and Scylla and Charybdis.

(from Don Gifford with Robert J. Seidman, "Ulysses" Annotated: Notes for James Joyce's "Ulysses" [Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988], p. 452. The first numbers following quotes from The Odyssey [for example, 1:115] refer to book and line numbers in the Greek text; English translations, unless otherwise noted, are from The Odyssey, translated by Robert Fitzgerald [New York: Doubleday, 1961])