To Capture or be Captured

Andromache in Captivity depicts Hector’s wife at the public well in shame to be seen after her husband’s death and her capture. The Neoclassical composition and style creates drama in the scene as well as the drapery displayed on the figures. She is singled out in the middle, with most of the figures looking at her. Additionally even the orthogonal lines direct straight towards her. Andromache is dressed in all black and covered head to toe while the other figures show more skin and appear to be in lighter colored robes. These details draw the viewer’s attention to her and make it impossible for her to hide.

Her role as a captive mirrors the fear Victorians had of foreign invasion on their women. There are many examples of this in our readings. For example in the Woman in White Laura is captured by Fosco, the main foreign character in the novel. Laura is helpless and eventually ends up in the Asylum, shamed and afraid, similarly to how Andromache felt.

Andromache in Captivity therefore conveys the fear and threat that foreigners represented to European men and their women. Therefore there is a shift to colonize and conquer their lands. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland could be a commentary on this. Alice falls down the rabbit hole into a strange land, however, she has no issues making herself comfortable and inserting herself into whatever situation or conversation she wishes.

The push and pull between fear and desire to conquer the foreign lands appears in many different examples whether it be in literature or art. Nevertheless, it exposes the Victorians and how they viewed society and the world around them.

Andromache in Captivity

3 thoughts on “To Capture or be Captured”

  1. There may even be more to say about how gender works in “Andromache in Captivity.” It was brilliant how you noted the ways in which shame works through this piece. Moreover, it may also be interesting to investigate the implications of Hector’s wife feeling this shame. What might it mean that the general public, the structure of the piece, and the very audience “make[s] it impossible for her to hide”? It seems that this work has a twofold message. While it repeats xenophobic messages and implicitly argues for Victorian dominance, it also seems to place the blame on Hector’s wife. She takes the fault for her condition perhaps in addition to/in place of (it’s hard to say which) her capturers.

  2. I think the Andromache’s story could almost be a parable for Victorians, a warning about the “evil foreigner” that the Brits feared so much. The end of “The Iliad” and later works written after it, describe the destruction of Troy, the brutal murders of all of the men, and the capture and enslavement of all of the woman, including Andromache. This would be a prevalent fear of Victorian Britain, so this Andromache illustrates the isolation, the fear, and the despair that they imagined resulting from foreign invasion.

  3. I really enjoyed the way in which you spoke about the art piece, as well as the notions of captivity. Furthermore, the piece you have referenced is similar to another known as the “Greek Captive”, that we also viewed in the Trout Gallery. In the above, as you have stated, the threat to woman because of man is very apparent, as well as in the piece I have referenced. Feelings of fear and uneasiness ultimately are shown within “Andromache in Captivity”, as well as the “Greek Captive”, showing how notions of hysteria, fear, and captivity all go hand in hand during the Victorian era.

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