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The Iliad

 

by Homer
 
Book XXIV of Homer's " The Iliad", features three women,
three laments, and three roles. These women are Hector's
wife, Andromache, his mother, Hecuba, and his sister,
Helen. Priam travels to the Greek camp, escorted by Hermes,
offering a ransom to Achilles who murdered Hector, avenging
Hector's killing of Patroclus. Upon Priam's return with the
body, each woman expresses her sorrow for the commander of
the Trojan forces.
 
The first woman to exhibit her anguish is Andromache,
Hector's wife, who "held in her lap between her hands the
head of Hector," (lines 336-337) as she spoke. Although she
grieves for the death of Hector, most of her lament was
directed towards her youngest son, Astyanax. She explains
in lines 356-357 to her son the situation they are faced
with: "He was no moderate man in war, your father, and that
is why they mourn him through the city." But before she is
concluded, Andromache shifts her pity onto herself,
claiming that she will miss Hector more than his parents:
"You gave your parents grief and pain but left me
loneliest, and heartbroken" (lines 358-359).
 
As Andromache's voice breaks, Hector's mother, Hecuba
chimes in. She tries to make sense of her son's murder,
referring to her other sons who Achilles captured but sold
them overseas, sparing their lives. Hecuba realizes that
Hector killed Patroclus, but does not see vengeance as a
justification for her son's murder in lines 374-377: "He
trussed and dragged you many times round the barrow of his
friend, Patroclus, whom you killed -- though not by this
could that friend live again." However, Hecuba was
satisfied that "the immortal gods . . . have cared for
[Hector] in death" (lines 367-368).
 
Hecuba sobs again, giving way to the final lament, made by
Hector's sister, Helen. She recalls that Hector is her
"dearest bother by far," (line 383) referring to his
kindness and gentleness (line 394): "Never did I have an
evil word or gesture from you" (lines 388-389). She feels
sorrow not only for Hector but for herself as well, weeping
that no one is left to befriend her (line 397). Following
Hecuba's eulogy, a moan comes from the people (line 399).
This is significant because after the first two women
spoke, only the women sobbed. 

Hector's body is finally returned to Troy as Andromache,
Hecuba, and Helen mourn for him. Though they share their
grief for the son of King Priam, each woman expresses her
lament in a different way. This, however, should be
expected because as each one played a different role in his
life, so should each look differently upon his death.
 

 




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