In the Iliad it is the tenth year of the Trojan War. The Greek allies have laid siege to the city of Troy, but the leaders of the Greek factions are beginning to turn on one another. When Agamemnon, the king of Mycenae, angers Achilles, leader of the Myrmidons, the gods begin to intervene more directly in the conflict, and the war becomes even more dangerous for the heroes of Greece and Troy.
In the Odyssey, Odysseus has been away from Ithaca, the Greek city-state under his rule, for ten years while fighting in the Trojan War. After the fall of Troy, Odysseus begins the long journey home to his wife and son; however, his journey is plagued by misfortune as the gods feud over his fate, leaving the Ithacans to believe that he has died.
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Episodes of the story of Odysseus' protracted wanderings from fallen Troy to his island home of Ithaca are pungently interspersed with a commentary by the blind singer Billy Blue. Proteus, the Old Man of the Sea, the giant Cyclops, Circe and her revellers, ghosts, and mermaids are among the cast. With its vast sweep and richly figurative language, The Odyssey confirms that Derek Walcott is as compelling a playwright as he is a poet.