Penelope pənĕl´əpē [key], in Greek mythology, wife of Odysseus and the mother of Telemachus. In Homer's Odyssey she is pictured as a chaste and faithful wife. When Odysseus was away, she was surrounded by suitors who tried to persuade her that he would never return. She agreed to choose another husband when she finished weaving her father-in-law's shroud, but this was never done, for she unraveled by night what she wove by day. At last her strategem was discovered, and the suitors were enraged. She promised to marry the man who could bend her husband's great bow. None of the suitors could do this but Odysseus, who had returned disguised as a beggar. With the aid of the strung bow, Odysseus slaughtered the suitors and then revealed himself to Penelope. In another legend, however, Penelope was not faithful to her husband, but slept with one or all of the suitors and was banished by Odysseus on his return.
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