Summary and Analysis Act III: Scene 8



Cephise begs Andromache to accept Pyrrhus' offer, which will protect Astyanax and restore her to noble rank; even Hector would approve such a marriage. But Andromache is still haunted by the memory of Pyrrhus as she first saw him, covered with the blood of her family and her people, fighting his way across the bodies of her brothers while the cries of the dying rang around him. No, rather than accept him as husband, she would prefer to be his final victim.

Very well, says Cephise, let us go to see your son die — and then Andromache remembers: Her last joy, the image of Hector, the child Hector left to her care the day he went out to die at the hands of Achilles, is too precious to be allowed to die too. He is guiltless; if he dies, it will be because of his mother's hatred for her master, not for any crime of his own. She cannot bear to see him slain; Cephise must go and speak to Pyrrhus and tell him. . . what? She cannot yet face a promise of marriage. In her dilemma, she decides to go to the tomb of Hector and seek counsel from his spirit.


The last scene relentlessly pursues the same theme. Pyrrhus' ultimatum, however, has given it a new, equally painful form. It is now the enemy within that Andromache must fight, her love for her husband coupled with her aversion for Pyrrhus. Lest this struggle seem anticlimactic, Racine has recreated the horror of Pyrrhus' conquest of Troy. To yield to her suitor is not merely to forget her husband, it is to betray him, to surrender to his assassin and the enemy of her whole family.

Here poetry and drama are successfully wedded. The scenes of carnage that Racine evokes have an independent validity and could be anthologized without any introduction. At the same time they remain completely pertinent. They serve to emphasize Andromache's agony of indecision.

An observation must be made about the role of the confidant. While it is essentially the same as in Phaedra, it does present an interesting nuance. In both plays, the role is strictly subservient to the main characters. In Phaedra, however, Racine allows Oenone a certain amount of individuality. This individuality is absent in Andromache. The confidants are practically abstractions — arguments, objections, instigators — in other words, mere plot devices.