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Hungry Swords

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

You know how you're always going around talking to your sword like it's a person who gets super hungry and a little cranky if it doesn't get its fill of blood and guts? Oh wait. You never do that? Well, Hector and Achilles do, so let's talk about it.

Check out how Hector speaks oh-so-lovingly to his sword after a long, hard day on the battlefield:

Now is my day's work done; I'll take good breath:
Rest, sword; thou hast thy fill of blood and death.

Oh, Hector. You sweet talker! Just kidding, Shmoopers. There's nothing sweet about this— Hector has just killed a soldier because he wanted the guy's armor. Did we mention that the guy was just trying to run away from him? Here's the point we're trying to make: when Hector tells us his sword has finally had its "fill of blood and death," we're reminded that he has been acting a little greedy and a little bloodthirsty on the battlefield.

Okay. Now compare that to the way Achilles talks about his sword after he stabs Hector in the guts just a few moments later:

My half-supp'd sword that frankly would have fed,
Pleas'd with this dainty bait, thus goes to bed.

Achilles has just killed Hector, but he brags that his sword's tummy isn't quite full from all the blood and guts it's "fed" on that day. Still, he admits that Hector was a tasty little snack, so his sword is kind of satisfied... for now. (Or, okay, maybe he's saying that it totes wasn't as much fun to kill Hector as he expected to be. Either way.)

Aside from being as cold-blooded as Samuel L. Jackson's famous "Ezekiel 25"  speech from Pulp Fiction, what's going on here? Well, Hector and Achilles are supposed to be noble warriors, but, when we hear them talk and act like this, we begin to question everything we think we know about our so-called epic heroes.

Plus, all this hungry sword talk shows us how warfare and appetite are linked. Check it out:

The Prologue describes the Greek war ships as bodies that "disgorge" (throw up) their cargo and soldiers on the shores of Troy (Prologue, 12-13). And later, Nestor compares warfare to a giant, gluttonous bird that eats up everything in sight when he says that "honor, loss of time, travail, expense, / Wounds, friends, and what else dear that is consumed / In hot digestion of this cormorant war (2.2.4-6).

Of course, bloodthirstiness isn't the only kind of dangerous appetite in this play. Check out what we have to say about "Love and Food."

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