In 416 b.c.e., the Athenian empire, at war against Sparta, captured the neutral island of Melos in the Aegean Sea. Punishing the Melians for their resistance, the Athenians killed all the men who remained on the island and reduced the women and children to slavery. This act of unprovoked aggression turned Euripides against the Athenian cause in the Peloponnesian War, a cause that he had earlier supported. For example, his negative depiction of the Corinthians in the Medea, written during the first year of the war, may be traced in large part to the alliance that existed between Corinth and Sparta. Fifteen years later, however, Euripides has shifted from seeing the Spartans and their allies as the enemy to seeing war itself as the enemy.
The structure of The Trojan Women is episodic. That is to say, it does not so much tell a continuous story as depict a series of individual and discrete scenes. The sum total of the episodes is not a plot, as in standard narrative tragedy, but an impression. The impression that Euripides sought to convey in The Trojan Women is that war is unspeakably horrible. The author attempted in the various scenes of this tragedy to depict the suffering that war causes even for those innocents who do not fight in it, innocents such as women, children, and the elderly.
Unity is provided in the drama by the continual presence of Hecuba. In her person are represented...
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