Book 11 Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on April 28, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 649

As dawn breaks, the Achaians and Trojans arm for battle. Both sides fight fiercely, and the Achaians successfully break the Trojan line, forcing the enemy all the way back to the city walls. Then, however, the Trojans rally, and soon Agamemnon is hit in the arm with a spear. He...

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As dawn breaks, the Achaians and Trojans arm for battle. Both sides fight fiercely, and the Achaians successfully break the Trojan line, forcing the enemy all the way back to the city walls. Then, however, the Trojans rally, and soon Agamemnon is hit in the arm with a spear. He fights for a while but eventually gives in to his wound and leaves the field. Shortly thereafter, Antenor shoots Diomedes through the foot with an arrow and he, too, is out of the battle. Then Odysseus is stabbed through his shield, and he also retreats to the camp. Ajax continues fighting bravely, holding back the Trojans almost single-handedly.

Meanwhile, Achilles watches the action from the stern of his ship. He senses that the Achaians now sorely need him and that they will be brought to their knees to beg him to return to the battle. When he sees Nestor taking a wounded man from the battle, he sends Patroclus to him for news. Patroclus reaches Nestor and is informed of the day’s events. Nestor begs Patroclus to use his influence on Achilles to convince him to bring his fresh troops into the battle. He also suggests that if Achilles will not go, he could send Patroclus with the Myrmidon army. Nestor points out that if Patroclus wears Achilles’s great armor, the Trojans may mistake him for Achilles and retreat to the city.

Patroclus is moved by Nestor’s speech and sets off to return to Achilles. On the way he is met by Eurypylos, wounded in the thigh by an arrow. Eurypylos gives a grim account of the Achaian position and requests that Patroclus help him with his wound. Patroclus cannot refuse and stops to tend the wound.

Analysis

In very short succession, each of the strongest Achaian fighters is wounded and unable to fight. It has been argued that these events are a direct result of Achilles’s stubborn refusal to set aside his pride and accept Agamemnon’s generous offer of reconciliation. With or without these injuries, Achilles and his troops are sorely missed. Watching the action from the safety of his ship, Achilles does not decide to rush in and help his fellow warriors defend themselves. Instead, he distastefully revels in the Achaians’ distress. In his pride, he believes that this rout will lead them to come begging on their knees for his return.

Rather than show his interest in the events of the battle, Achilles sends Patroclus to obtain information. Patroclus is Achilles’s closest friend and companion, and he represents the human side of Achilles. While Achilles broods, Patroclus acts on his concern for the Achaians by approaching Nestor. Patroclus hears the dire news of the battle from Nestor, after which the wise old warrior offers yet another of his encouraging speeches. His goal is to convince Patroclus to use his influence with Achilles to have him change his mind and enter the battle. He also offers an alternate plan. If Achilles will not relent and go to war himself, perhaps he can send Patroclus dressed in his armor. The mere sight of the great armor may turn the tables for the Achaians. The importance of this plan is that Nestor is offering Achilles a way to help his fellow Achaians without losing face. Nestor wisely realizes that Achilles is held back only by his pride and that he actually has great affection for the Achaian warriors.

Patroclus is prevented from returning immediately to Achilles by Eurypylos. Even though Patroclus has urgent news to bring to his companion, he cannot ignore the plight of the wounded Eurypylos, who requests his aid. This episode dramatically underscores the generous and caring nature of Patroclus. Such behavior is in stark contrast to that of Achilles, who sits on the sidelines watching the Achaians fall, knowing all the while that his help could save many lives.

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Books 12 and 13 Summary and Analysis