The Odyssey

by: Homer

Circe

Mix in the magic work of love—
we’ll breed deep trust between us.

Circe is an expert in drugs and potions. When she invites Odysseus to sleep with her, her language suggests that she sees sex as a kind of potion, a “magic work” that involves mixing two ingredients. Her offer to “breed deep trust” between her and Odysseus sounds like a promise, but it also carries a threat. It suggests that once they have slept together, Odysseus will “trust” her whether or not he should.

At the same time her handmaids bustled through the halls,
Four in all who perform the goddess’ household tasks.

Of the many domestic spaces which Odysseus passes through, none is more luxurious than Circe’s. While most of the poem’s domestic spaces provide comfort and security, however, Circe’s home is dangerous. The luxuries she offers are a seduction which threaten to derail Odysseus’s journey. Circe’s house is an exclusively feminine space. There is no space here for the masculine values which are Odysseus’s best guide.

So she enticed
and won our battle-hardened spirits over.

Here, Odysseus suggests that the luxuries of Circe’s home appealed directly to the need for comfort he felt as a result of his experiences in the Trojan War. This line suggests Circe symbolizes is the temptation to indulgence. Just as some of Odysseus’s men choose to forget what they have suffered on the isle of the Lotus eaters, Odysseus temporarily succumbs to the temptation to drown his grief, trauma and longing in sensual pleasure.