Song of Achilles

The Song of Achilles

“Tis certain, greatness, once I fall out with fortune,
Must fall out with men too.”

    Achilles in Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida (III.iii.75-6)

In one version, I think it was RSC, they played up the homoerotic nature of the relationship between Patroclus and his demigod (maybe) lover, Achilles. Opening passages of the book made me think about those two, on stage. Achingly beautiful figures of divinely feminine masculinity. Warriors, no doubt, but also lovers.

“Gods and mortals never mixed happily in our stories.” Page 49.

Good mythology. Achilles was half–god, on his mom’s side.

“I am a centaur, and a teacher of men. My name is Chiron.” Page 65.

Along came a Centaur.

“There is no law that gods must be fair, Achilles,” Chiron said. Page 73.

True, that. Or in the vernacular? “True dat.”

Personally, I’ve always felt an affinity for the half–man, half–god changeling.

“YEARS PASSED AND A SOLDIER, ONE OF AJAX’S, BEGAN TO complain about the war’s length. At first he was ignored; the man was hideously ugly and known to be a scoundrel. But he grew eloquent. Four years, he said, and nothing to show for it.” Page 216.

Always interesting as I kept hearing an echo of the old RSC version of Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida, just as an anecdotal background noise. Same source, different interpretation, and yet, images from that on stage? With bronzed, toned, ripped, and cut actors in tunics, pretending to be Patroclus — the lover to Achilles?

“Lechery lechery! Still wars and lechery. Nothing else holds fashion.”
Thersites in Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida

I tend to conflate Shakespeare with Homer in its various iterations.

The novel — The Song of Achilles — is a retelling of the Trojan War with, as the title would imply, an emphasis on the story of the Greek hero, Achilles. Beautiful, poetic at times, just well done.

Spoiler alert: doesn’t end well for the heroes. In part, too, it’s a love story — as the narrator is Achilles’ childhood friend and eventually lover, Patroclus. Myth? Love story?

The Song of Achilles – Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles: A Novel


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