Character Analysis Telemachus


The secondary plot featuring Prince Telemachus, which scholars sometimes call the "Telemacheia," is an early example of a coming-of-age story. As the epic opens, Telemachus, about 21 years old, is on the brink of manhood, uncertain and insecure in his potential power, and in grave danger from the suitors who would prefer to see him dead.

Telemachus initially asserts himself by calling an assembly of Ithaca's leaders in order to protest the suitors' activities. Although he speaks well at the meeting and impresses some of the elders, the leading suitors (Antinous and Eurymachus) show no respect for either Telemachus or his mother, Queen Penelope, and little is accomplished. Athena senses danger and manages for the prince to visit two foreign kings who are old comrades of his father: Nestor of Pylos and Menelaus of Sparta.

During his travels, Telemachus grows as a man. Athena, disguised as Mentor, guides and instructs him. He learns how to behave among Greek leaders. Nestor reinforces in the prince a respect for loyalty and devotion. Menelaus encourages him with news that Odysseus may be alive and held captive by a goddess-nymph named Calypso. Athena keeps the prince alive by helping him avoid an ambush set up by the suitors on his return trip to Ithaca.

After he joins his father and is made an important part of the king's plot to overcome the suitors, a good deal of Telemachus' motivation is based on faith. He believes in the support of the gods, especially Athena; and he believes in this great man, his father, whom he has known only as a legend. Telemachus rarely wavers. At the showdown with the suitors in the great hall, he is shrewd enough to get his mother out of the line of fire and mature enough to be a real help to Odysseus. The prince stands against more than a hundred suitors with only his father and a couple of herdsmen on his side. He fights valiantly, earning his father's respect and trust.