The Surety of Peace

After a seven year war the Trojan way of life must be characterized by uncertainty. Will the men die in battle? Will their city be destroyed? Will they be able to drive the Greeks from their shore? Is Helen worth this war? Hector’s answer, is decidedly not.

The war with the Greeks infuses the lives of the Trojans with uncertainty that Hector believes can only be resolved with the end of the war. In Act II Sc. 2 Hector announces that he is worried about not knowing what will happen in the war, and argues “ …the wound of peace is surety,/ Surety secure;…” Hector is advocating for ending the war by returning Helen, so the Trojans can dictate the terms of the war’s end, which could invoke a very literal ‘surety’, as a security to ensure that agreements are met with the Greeks (OED 1a). The Trojans can use the return of Helen as a limited surety to have the Greeks leave their city and end the war.

Beyond the literal surety that Hector may be advocating, there are sureties of the state of peace that appear to be just as important to Hector. The state of war is a gamble of everything the Trojans have for a single woman; in this speech of Hector’s he is clear that he does not find the risk worth the reward. Hector is advocating peace in part to gain “security or certainty of contract, right or possession.” The possession that is directly in contention in this war is Helen, but the Trojans stand to lose far more than her if they continue to wage this war. The trojans stand to lose their physical city if they lose, as well as the lives of their soldiers as they continue fighting even if they ultimately win.

There is a more figurative lose that Hector could also be referring to. By attaching surety to the state of peace Hector also invokes the definition of “safety, security; freedom from danger” (OED 4a). If the Trojans return Helen, as Hector is advocating, then Troy would enjoy all aspects of this definition. Though Hector frames surety as an “injury” of peace, it would be the lack of further injury to those in Troy.

A war that last seven years must undoubtedly take a toll on the Trojans psychologically as well as physically; Hector alludes to this when he likens his mental state of worry to that of a “lady with no softer bowels.” The emotional surety offered by peace, “freedom from fear or anxiety; a feeling of safety or security,” is yet another benefit of returning Helen to Troy.

At risk in this speech is Hector’s status within his own society. In the dichotomy of war and peace there is honor and glory for men in fighting and dying in a battle peacetime does not offer the same opportunities for gaining glory. So Hector must begin his call for peace with assurances that it is not the result of failings in his own courage or abilities as a warrior. Advocating for ending the war could seen as unmanly, so perhaps this is why Hector argues against the loss of other Trojan lives but does not voice concern about his own life. A chief aspect of surety, that in one’s ownself (OED 5a), is not addressed by Hector; which is ironic as it is Hector’s life that is eventually lost to the war.

The “…wound of peace is surety,” according to Hector, and for him the wound of war is death. Troilus convinces Hector to continue in the war, and risk everything that the Trojans have, including, ultimately, Hector’s own life. Hector valued surety for his people, that peace could have provided, but instead found the absolute surety of death.