Max Klinger: Penelope weaving a shroud for Laertes
Penelope was Ulysses’ faithful wife, who waited patiently for his return from the Trojan War during twenty long years. Meanwhile, she was forced to deal with a bunch of opportunistic suitors who came from different regions of Ithaca aiming to become the next king of the island.
This bothering party was constantly taking advantage of Ulysses’ palace’s supplies: they would slit animals that had been carefully breed by Ulysses’ servants, day in and day out squandering their own king’s fortune.
Moreover, they aspired that one of them would marry Penelope and therefore become king of Ithaca, implying their master was already dead. But that wasn’t Penelope’s opinion at all, nor was her son’s Telemachus belief.
Time passed by and the situation worsened: the palace was running out of supplies and the suitors had become more eager to marry Penelope. Nevertheless she had decided to put off any sort of marriage by plotting a curious strategy: she affirmed she would marry any of them after finishing weaving a shroud for her father-in-law Laertes. Before that, she shouldn’t be asked at all about this issue.
Suitors became impatient after many days of waiting because this shroud was never finished. Penelope persuaded them she was still weaving it, but she would unpick it every night without anyone knowing, while she would redo it at day time pretending she was continuing her task.
So that’s why Penelope unpicked the shroud she was weaving every night! She knew in her heart, and later, by the goddess Athena, that her husband was still a life and thus, she needn’t marry anyone else, just wait for the great day to come!
As far is the fate of the suitors is concerned, that’s another story…