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The Shield of Achilles Summary & Analysis
by W. H. Auden

“The Shield of Achilles” is one of W. H. Auden best-known poems and appears in his 1955 collection of the same name. The poem reimagines a scene from the ancient Greek epic The Iliad in which the goddess Thetis watches Hephaestos (god of blacksmiths and metalworking, among other things) craft armor for her son, Achilles (of Trojan War fame). Thetis expects Hephaestos to forge a beautiful shield filled with romantic ornamentation that glorifies war and battle, as is the case in the original myth. In the poem, however, Thetis finds only images of bleak desolation and horror upon the shield. Written in the decade after World War II, the poem contains references to the events and technologies of 20th-century conflicts and explores the relationship between war and modern society. The collection in which it was published earned Auden a National Book Award.

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