Thetis and the Shield of Achilles – Reading the Iliad with Auden

Yamagata, Naoko (2021). Thetis and the Shield of Achilles – Reading the Iliad with Auden. In: Paprocki, M; Vos, G.P. and Wright, D.J. eds. The Staying Power of Thetis: Allusion, Interaction, and Reception from Homer to the 21st Century. De Gruyter, (In Press).

Abstract

W. H. Auden’s poem ‘The Shield of Achilles’ rewrites Hephaestus’ making of the shield for Achilles in Homer’s Iliad book 18. Auden seems to challenge us not only as to how to read his poem, but also as to how to read the shield of Achilles in the Iliad and the Iliad as a whole. Re-reading the Homeric shield of Achilles along with Auden’s poem this essay shows that the Iliadic shield appears to reflect more of the story of Thetis and Achilles than previously thought and that Auden’s shield of Achilles appears to echo many negative elements of the Iliad, suggesting that war was no more or less inhuman in Homer’s time than today. However, Auden’s poem also subtly hints at the episode of Achilles and Priam as the symbol of human hope and capacity for sympathy and reconciliation.

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