(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Hector’s wife, Andromache, joyfully tells Cassandra, his sister, that there will be no Trojan war because Hector, as soon as he comes home, will assuage the feelings of the Greek ambassador. Cassandra, true to her reputation, claims that she knows destiny will provoke a war. She knows this not as a result of her ability to prophesy but because she always takes into account the stupidity and the folly of men. Since Andromache cannot understand destiny in the abstract, Cassandra offers her the picture of a tiger prowling at the palace gates and waiting for the moment to enter.

Hector, home from war, is delighted to hear that Andromache will soon bear a child that she expects to be a son. Andromache fears that the child will have the father’s love of battle, but Hector assures her that he and his soldiers return this time disabused of their former ideas of war as a glorious adventure. They are all ready for peace, and he intends to get from his father, Priam, permission to shut the gates of war permanently.

Cassandra brings the younger brother Paris to Hector to give his version of his abduction of Helen. He tells Hector that he happened to sail past Helen while she was bathing in the sea. While Menelaus was busy removing a crab from his toe, Paris casually took her into his ship and sailed on. He likes her because she—unlike Trojan women, who tend to cling—seems always to be at a distance, even while in his arms. This is not the first time Hector took Paris away from a woman, but Paris resists obeying Hector, promising instead to obey Priam, their father.

Cassandra realizes that destiny is already lurking like a tiger because Priam would rather give up his own daughters than let Helen leave the kingdom. Priam and all the other old men in Troy spend their days admiring Helen as she takes a daily walk around Troy, to be greeted by toothless shouts whenever she appears. To the old men Helen is a symbol; she is Beauty. Hecuba, Priam’s wife, suggests that the old men would do well to find a symbol among their own Trojan women, and not a blond one such as Helen, because blond beauty fades fast. The men, however, are intoxicated by Helen. The poet gets his inspiration from her. The mathematician finds all measurements related to Helen—the weight of her...

(The entire section is 935 words.)