Penelope was the wife of Odysseus, the king of Ithaca. She bore him a son, Telemachus. During Odysseus' twenty-year absence, she was left alone to raise their son. Eventually, suitors appeared to win her hand and become king of Ithaca. These suitors did not follow the laws of hospitality, and lived off Odysseus' great wealth. Penelope kept them at bay for three years, by saying that she would marry when she finished the burial shroud for her father-in-law Laertes, who oddly was still alive.
Eventually, her ruse was discovered and she was forced to finish the shroud. At last, as Telemachus was passing into manhood, she finally decided to marry. At that same time, Odysseus finally returned from his adventures and killed all of the suitors.