Odysseus' Death

Fourth Part of the Odyssey in three acts by AUGUST BUNGERT.

This last part of the Tetralogy bears more decided indications of

Wagner's influence than the others do; and though strikingly beautiful

in many ways it fails to excite quite the same interest as the others,

because it reminds us too much of the Nibelungen Ring, especially of

Siegfried; nevertheless it deserves attention as the conclusion of the
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whole series and also on account of Bungert's adopting a later version

of the story of Odysseus, whom Bungert does not suffer to die

peacefully in his old age, but makes him fight as a hero to the very


The prelude opens in Kirke's gardens. The nymphs of the spring are

singing to her, while her son Telegonos, a youth of 15 is playing with

a lion. Kirke has often spoken to her son of his glorious father, whom

he never saw and now his curiosity is awakened, and he asks his mother,

why his father never comes home to her. Kirke now thinks that the time

is come when she should reveal the story of her love to her son. He

hears that his father is no god, but a human hero who after a short

time of bliss remembered his earthly wife Penelopeia, and

returned to her, leaving the goddess alone and broken

hearted.--Telegonos determines to go forth in search of the hero of

Troy and hopes to bring him back to his mother's arms. Kirke presents

him with the golden cup, from which Odysseus once drank the magic

draught of forgetfulness; she hopes to remind him thereby of their past

bliss and thus to win him back.

The first act takes place in Thesprotia. Odysseus has just returned

from a victory over the friends and relations of the insolent suitors

he had slain on his return home; he has conquered their country and is

now greeted with acclamations of joy by his warriors. Despoina, queen

of Thesprotia, and once Penelope's attendant has been made prisoner and

is to be put to death, but Telemachos, Odysseus' son fascinated by her

beauty, intercedes for her. Odysseus resolves to let the oracle of

Dodona decide her fate and Despoina is led back to the tent, but

manages on the way to whisper to Telemachos, that she will expect him

during the night.

Left alone, she intoxicates the guard by means of a sleeping-draught,

and so Telemachos enters the tent unobserved. At first she beguiles

him with a great show of tenderness. When he asks her from whence she

comes, she tells him, that she never knew father nor mother, but that

her nurse revealed to her that she is the daughter of Poseidon and of

Persephone. After her nurse's death she became a priestess in

Poseidon's temple, where she had seen Hyperion, with whom she had

fallen in love, and whom she had followed to Ithaka. There her

lover having fallen under the spell of Penelope's beauty like all the

others, and having met with an untimely death, Despoina had sworn

vengeance on the whole house of Odysseus and to this end had married

the barbarian king of Thesprotia. At this Telemachos turns

shudderingly away from this mysterious woman and she makes use of the

opportunity to take up his sword, with which she secretly and swiftly

stabs the guard, sleeping heavily outside the tent. Then she tries

again to gain ascendency over Telemachos, by assuring him of her love,

but though full of pity for the unhappy and beautiful woman he turns

from her and flies. A short time afterwards Odysseus enters to visit

his captive, she also tries her arts on him but in vain, Odysseus

hearing the shouts of his soldiers, leaves her, and all set out for


The next scene shows the grove of Dodona with Jupiter's temple, bearing

the inscription: Know thyself.

The priests sacrifice to the god singing: "Zeus (Jupiter) is, Zeus was,

Zeus will be." Odysseus brings costly offerings and the three

Peleiades appear, warning Odysseus not to slay Despoina, as vengeance

belongs to Zeus alone but in vain Odysseus insists that she must die.

Then the prophetesses grow wilder in their threats and the priests in

dark words predict to Odysseus an untimely death through his own son;

the sky becomes dark, the sacred spring bubbles and steams. Odysseus

goaded to madness by Telemachos' entreaties for the life of

Despoina the worst foe of his house, draws his sword upon his son. The

latter throws away his weapons and offers his bare breast to his

beloved father's stroke while the priests cry: "Woe to thee Odysseus!"

Then the unhappy father coming to his senses seizes Despoina and drags

her away, while the water quakes from the earth and the Peleiades tear

their hair in wild despair.--

The prelude to the second act takes place in the grotto of the nymphs

at Ithaka, where Telegonos has landed with his companions after a hard

fight with the inhabitants of the island. Resting beside a spring he

sees the reflection of his own image in it, and he begins to dream

about his father and to long for his mother. This song, and the whole

scene, with the water fairies emerging from the waves to look at the

young hero remind very much of the scene between Siegfried and the

Rhine-daughters.--The curtain falls and the first scene of the second

act opens with the triumphant return of Odysseus to his palace.

He has conquered all his enemies and is joyously greeted by his people.

Eumaeos however meets him with the bad news that during his master's

absence a new enemy had appeared and had ravaged the country.--

Odysseus vows that he will drive the enemy off. He turns lovingly to

his faithful Queen and assures her that he will now lay down the sword

for the spade and will labour to insure peace and happiness to all

those countries that are now his own. He is however not without

forebodings of evil remembering the prophesy: "When once thou

exchangest the sword for the spade, then will the close of thy day be


Despoina's entrance interrupts this happy meeting. The she-devil dares

to attack even Penelope's virtue, she goads Odysseus to fury, so that

he is about to stab her. But when she tears open her dress, mockingly

presenting her bosom to his sword, he turns from her ordering the

guards to take her away and to put her to death on the following


The next scene again shows Telegonos sleeping. Despoina awakes him.

She has escaped from prison and, disguised as a young warrior has

hastened hither to warn Telegonos. He receives her warnings with

laughter for fear is unknown to him. When he calls his lions she

faints with fright. Trying to revive her he opens her coat of mail and

takes off her helmet and thus perceives that she is a woman. At this

discovery his heart is suddenly inflamed with love for Despoina who is

also madly in love with Telegonos. A passionnate love scene follows,

ending by Telegonos telling her, that he is searching for his father

Odysseus. She offers to show him the way, and armed with a sword she

places herself with Telegonos at the head of his soldiers.--

In the third act Odysseus appears alone, stunned and terrified by his

enemy's striking resemblance to Kirke. Wearied to death he lies down

on a mossy bank and falls asleep. In his dream the three Fates

appear before him; they have woven the web of his life which is

approaching its end; Klotho lowers the distaff, Lachesis breaks the

thread and the balance in Atropos' hand sinks. Odysseus awakening

finds himself face to face with Telemachos, who once more throws

himself in his father's arms, having thrown down his sword, and proving

his love and faith in every way. Odysseus, at last persuaded of his

affection returns his embrace. Hearing that Despoina is leading the

enemy to battle he bids Telemachos to take her captive alive or dead,

on which the son hastens away at once. Odysseus about to join his

warriors is hindered by Telegonos, who attacks him. The unhappy father

only defends himself feebly, quite unable to slay the radiant young

hero. Suddenly the news reaches him, that the enemy headed by Despoina

is gaining ground. Telegonos hearing her shouts is about to join her

when Odysseus bars his way with those words: "Dos't know with whom thou

fightest? I am Odysseus."--Alas, Telegonos cannot believe that this

old and evidently decrepit man should be the famous hero; he reviles

him, pressing him hard. When his companions' shouts of victory reach

his ears he throws down his lance, and attacks Odysseus with his

sword.--This is observed by Despoina, who has come up unobserved and

picking up Telegonos' lance she with it stabs Odysseus in the back.

The hero falls, and Telegonos full of joy is about to embrace Despoina,

when she pushes him back and pointing to the dying man says:

"There lies thy father! Odysseus behold thy son!" Telegonos staggers

back but as he is forced to recognize the awful truth he rushes upon

the murderess with his drawn sword. Despoina however is too quick for

him and stabs herself with her own dagger.--

In deep sorrow Telegonos kneels beside his father who embraces him

tenderly. Thus they are found by Penelope and Telemachos. Only now

does Odysseus confess the truth about his love for Kirke to his

faithful wife, whom he had wanted to save from pain by withholding the

knowledge of his infidelity. After a touching farewell Odysseus joins

the hands of the two brothers and blessing his family and his people he

dies erect, like the hero he has always been.