Hector’s shield, which once protected him in battle, is repurposed after the war as a coffin for his young son Astyanax. As an instrument of war, the shield symbolizes Hector’s masculine power and strength as a warrior. However, when repurposed to hold the body of a dead child, it becomes a symbol of the steep cost of violent conflict. Its use as a coffin reflects the price paid by the man who wielded it, but also by all those he cared about and fought to protect. The shield, in both cases, acts as a defensive object, but in battle it defended Hector against physical, tangible blows, whereas in death it combines with the funeral rites administered by Hecuba to guarantee young Astyanax safe passage to the afterlife.
Hector’s Shield Quotes in The Trojan Women
What would the poet say,
what words might he inscribe upon your monument?
“Here lies a little child the Argives killed, because
they were afraid of him.” That? The epitaph of Greek shame.
You will not win your father’s heritage, except
for this, which is your coffin now: the brazen shield.
O shield, that guarded the strong shape of Hector’s arm:
the bravest man of all, who wore you once, is dead.
How sweet the impression of his body on your sling,
and at the true circle of your rim the stain of sweat
where in the grind of his many combats Hector leaned
his chin against you, and the drops fell from his brow!
Take up your work now; bring from what is left some fair
coverings to wrap this poor dead child. The gods will not
allow us much. But let him have what we can give.
That mortal is a fool who, prospering, thinks his life
has any strong foundation; since our fortune’s course
of action is the reeling way a madman takes,
and no one person is ever happy all the time.