"Homer's Odyssey: Penelope and the case for early recognition" by John B. Vlahos
For over a thousand years, beginning with renewed interest in Homeric studies in ninth-century Constantinople, Homer's readers have been taught what has become the "standard interpretation," that Penelope does not recognize the beggar to be her husband until the so called "test of the bed" in book 23. This interpretation was accepted without question in the West for centuries until challenged for the first time, as far as we know, near the mid-twentieth century by A.M. Harmon of Yale University, who in 1939 presented a case for early recognition in an unpublished address delivered before the American Philological Association at Ann Arbor, Michigan (Post, 275, note 18). (1) Subsequently, Philip Whaley Harsh, in a revolutionary article published in the American Journal of Philology in 1950, suggested that Penelope suspects in book 19 that the beggar in her hall is in fact her husband, Odysseus, in disguise. Recognition prior to book 23, such as suggested by Harmon and Harsh, is commonly referred to as "early recognition." As Robert Fitzgerald points out in the postscript to his translation of the Odyssey, the standard interpretation of the role Penelope and Odysseus play in book 19 is that of lady and beggar, nothing more (1963, 503). I will attempt to show, however, that the standard interpretation is not necessarily what Homer intended; it diminishes the poet's genius and renders Penelope's failure of recognition inconsistent with the cunning and circumspection she displays throughout the poem.