(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Action centers around Andromache’s enslavement to Neoptolemus, murderer of her son by Hector. Andromache and Neoptolemus subsequently have a son whom Neoptolemus’ barren Spartan wife, Hermione, threatens to kill. Menelaus, Hermione’s father, lures Andromache from the altar of Thetis, where she has sought sanctuary, only to arrest and condemn her and her son to death. By implication, all Spartans practice sophistry and teachery.

Peleus, grandfather of Neoptolemus, enters to defend Neoptolemus’ interests. Old and frail as he is, he frightens Spartan Menelaus away with harsh words and threats of violence. Spartans are also cowards.

Hermione threatens suicide when deserted by her father but is stayed by Orestes, who confides his plot to have Neoptolemus murdered while the young man is in Delphi at Apollo’s sanctuary. This is sacrilege, though Neoptolemus himself is at Delphi to make amends for having cursed the god for allowing his father, Achilles, to die at Troy.

Peleus discovers the plot only after Neoptolemus’ death, but Thetis, his goddess-wife, appears to console him. Thetis will see to it that Peleus himself will die soon. Then they both can journey to Elysium, paradise of heroes, and watch the ghost of their son Achilles at its warrior’s play.

Clearly this is not a tragedy, and critics have offered varied and sometimes farfetched interpretations of the play. Friction between northern and southern...

(The entire section is 516 words.)