(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

After the death of Hector and the fall of Troy, Andromache is given as a special prize to Neoptolemus, son of Achilles. As his slave and concubine, she bears a son, Molossus, thereby arousing the jealous wrath of Hermione, Neoptolemus’s barren wife. Fearing Hermione’s hatred and sensing her doom, Andromache seeks sanctuary in the sacred grounds of the temple of Thetis, after secretly sending her son to a neighbor for safekeeping.

Hermione appears at the temple and accuses Andromache of seeking to oust her, taunting her for bearing a son to Hector’s slayer and threatening her with death. Andromache protests that as an aging woman and a helpless slave she would be mad to compete with Hermione and that she herself gracefully accepted Hector’s illegitimate children rather than let herself be corrupted by jealousy. Hermione, unmoved by these arguments, leaves the temple, promising to find the bait that would lure Andromache from her sanctuary.

Hermione is true to her word, for soon afterward Menelaus arrives, leading Molossus by the hand. The Spartan king warns Andromache that he will kill the boy on the spot if she does not emerge and offer up her own life instead. Andromache argues with him, pointing out that murder will surely pollute his reputation and that Neoptolemus will never condone the death of his only son. Menelaus is adamant, however, and Andromache emerges from the sanctuary to learn that both she and her son are marked for slaughter. Before the order for execution can be carried out, the aged Peleus appears and, in response to Andromache’s supplication, commands that her bonds be loosened. Peleus, furious with...

(The entire section is 676 words.)