The Trojan Women

Hector’s Shield Symbol Analysis

Hector’s Shield  Symbol Icon

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

The The Trojan Women quotes below all refer to the symbol of Hector’s Shield . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Cost of War Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the University of Chicago Press edition of The Trojan Women published in 2013.
Line 1060-1332 Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Hecuba (speaker), Astyanax, Hector
Related Symbols: Hector’s Shield
Page Number: 1188
Explanation and Analysis:
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Hector’s Shield Symbol Timeline in The Trojan Women

The timeline below shows where the symbol Hector’s Shield appears in The Trojan Women. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Line 1060-1332
The Cost of War Theme Icon
Duty, Obligation, and Integrity  Theme Icon
...enters from the city, accompanied by Greek soldiers. They carry Astyanax’s lifeless body on Hector’s shield. Talthybius tells Hecuba that the ships have been leaving. Neoptolemus left with Andromache, who was... (full context)
The Cost of War Theme Icon
Fate, Fortune, and the Gods Theme Icon
Duty, Obligation, and Integrity  Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
...“the epitaph of Greek shame.” Astyanax will inherit nothing from his father Hector but his shield, which is now his coffin. The Chorus comes from the tent to help Hecuba with... (full context)
The Cost of War Theme Icon
...she notes that he should have worn at his wedding. She lays him upon Hector’s shield, which symbolizes the many battles he could have fought and won.  Together the Chorus and... (full context)