Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Hecuba (HEH-kyew-buh), the queen of Troy. Aged and broken by the fall of the city, she is the epitome of all the misfortune resulting from the defeat of the Trojans and the destruction of the city. She is first revealed prostrate before the tents of the captive Trojan women, with the city in the background. Her opening lyrics tell of the pathos of her situation and introduce the impression of hopelessness and the theme of the inevitable doom that war brings. The Greek herald enters with the news that each of the women has been assigned to a different master. Hecuba asks first about her children, Cassandra and Polyxena; then, when she finds that she has been given to Odysseus, she rouses herself to an outburst of rebellious anger. Cassandra appears and recalls the prophecy that Hecuba will die in Troy. After Cassandra is led away, Andromache, who appears with news of the sacrifice of Polyxena, tries to console Hecuba with the idea that Polyxena is fortunate in death, but Hecuba, in reproach and consolation, points out to Andromache and the younger women of the Chorus the hope of life. Her attempts to console those younger than herself, here and elsewhere, are her most endearing feature. The other important aspect of her character, the desire for vengeance against Helen, who has caused her sorrow, is shown in her reply to Helen’s plea to Menelaus. Hecuba’s reply is vigorous: She points to Helen’s own responsibility for her actions and ends with a plea to Menelaus to kill Helen and vindicate Greek womanhood. Hecuba’s last action is the preparation of the body of Astyanax, the young son of Andromache and Hector killed by the Greeks out of fear, for burial. Her lament over the body is profoundly moving. At the end of the play, she is restrained from throwing herself into the ruins of the burning city.


Cassandra (kuh-SAN-druh), the daughter of Hecuba, a prophetess chosen by Agamemnon as a concubine. When she first appears, wild-eyed and waving a torch above her head,...

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