Time,fate, and amor, love, are making life a misery for the ageing, loving, suffering human being.
For twenty years, Penelope has been waiting for her beloved Odysseus to finally return from the war against Troy. All those around her no longer believe that this will happen, yet Penelope remains steadfast in her love.
After 20years of war and the despairing search for the lost Arcadia of his erstwhile home, Odysseus has finally reached his native shores. A youth reveals himself to him as the Goddess Minerva, and advises him not to make himself known for the time being. Odysseus heeds her advice. His loyal shepherd Eumaeus also fails to recognise the aged hero, but is nevertheless pleased when told by him that Odysseus will soon return home. Only to his son Telemachus does Odysseus reveal his identity.
Penelope's servant Melanto is enjoying the pleasures of young love together with Eurymachus, and urges Penelope to begin a new life at the side of a new husband. Yet Penelope stubbornly refuses her suitors, Pisandro, Amphinomus, and Antinous. The message delivered by Eumaeus that Odysseus will soon be returning creates panic among the suitors. Eumaeus leads the as yet unrecognised Odysseus to Penelope's court. The suitors, and above all the gluttonous parasite Irus, insult the unknown old man. To everyone's astonishment, Odysseus defeats the boastful Irus in a short fight. In order to put an end to the overbearing attentions of her suitors, Penelope gives orders for Odysseus's bow to be brought to her. The person who shoots the best with it will win Penelope's hand in marriage. However, not one of the suitors can manage even to draw the bow. Odysseus draws the bow with ease and kills all three suitors.
Irus bemoans the loss of his three benefactors. The servant Eurycleia has recognised Odysseus and torments herself with the question as to whether or not she should reveal his identity to Penelope. Penelope still does not recognise her longed-for husband, marked as he is by war and hardships. The coming-together of these two estranged spouses becomes a final test of love.