Characters

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 153

Christa Wolf's Cassandra has many characters. Some of the main characters are Cassandra, Priam, Hecuba, Aaneus, and Agamemnon.

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Cassandra is the narrator of this story. She is the daughter of Priam and is being held captive by the Greeks under King Agamemnon. Cassandra is a princess of Troy who believed that Troy would be defeated.

Priam is Cassandra's father and King of Troy. Priam does not believe his daughter's prophesy and forces her to prison. Priam is eventually overthrown.

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Latest answer posted June 24, 2015, 9:12 am (UTC)

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Hecuba is Priam's wife and Cassandra's mother.

Aaneus is Cassandra's lover. Aaneus disappears during the war while fighting for the Trojans.

Agamemnon is the Greek King of Argos. His wife, Helen, was abducted. This event causes Agamemnon to seek revenge against the people of Troy and results in the enslaving and killing of many people.

Other characters include Hector (Cassandra's brother), Achilles (a Greek warrior), Anchises (the father of Aaneus), and Panthous (a priestess).

Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 582

Cassandra

Cassandra, the story’s narrator, a princess of Troy in Anatolia, a seer, and a priestess of the god Apollo. According to myth, Apollo granted her the gift of prophecy so that she would agree to sleep with him; when she refused, he left her with the gift but added that no one would believe her prophecies. Captured by Mycenaean Greeks under King Agamemnon, Cassandra meditates about her life in the now-ruined citadel of Troy as well as about the terrible future her captors face. Cassandra proudly recalls having been the beloved favorite of King Priam of Troy. Painfully, however, she also recalls how he cast her into prison because she dared to prophesy Troy’s imminent doom. She dies rather than go with Aeneus to found a new society.

Priam

Priam (PRI-uhm), the proud king of Troy, who chooses not to heed the counsel of seers prophesying Troy’s downfall, the chief of whom is his own daughter Cassandra. Noble, wise in many ways, yet stubborn and unyielding, Priam hopes to stave off fate. With his overthrow, he becomes one more Trojan leader to endure defeat in war.

Hecuba

Hecuba (HEH-kyuh-buh), the wife of King Priam. Along with Cassandra and others in the inner court of Troy, Hecuba hates Troy’s arrogance while, at the same time, wishing for its success in battle against the Greeks. The bearer of many children, including Cassandra, Hector, Paris, and Troilus, she saves her youngest son from the wrath of the Mycenaeans by sending him abroad to Thrace, where he is subsequently murdered by the Thracian king. Wise to the world’s cruel and capricious ways because of the many tragedies she has endured, Hecuba is a thoroughgoing skeptic.

Aeneus

Aeneus (ah-NEE-uhs), a Trojan warrior and lover of Cassandra who, after having taught her about love, vanishes. Cassandra, still dazzled by the intensity of their brief tryst, sees his disappearance as one more legacy of the war between Troy and the Greeks. Aeneus is emblematic of the young heroes who died for a lost cause. He is the son of Anchises.

Hector

Hector, a son of Priam and Hecuba. He is a large, rather sluggish young man of few words, admired by his sister Cassandra for engaging in warfare though it goes against his torpid nature to do so. Hector’s misfortune is to be chased down and killed by the vengeful Greek warrior Achilles.

Anchises

Anchises (ahn-CHIH-zees), a Trojan shepherd. From his legendary union with Aphrodite came a son, Aeneus.

Agamemnon

Agamemnon (a-guh-MEHM-non), the great, powerful king of the Greek city-state Argos and leader of the Mycenaean forces in the Trojan War. Cruel, resourceful, and cunning, Agamemnon, cuckolded by Paris—who abducted his wife, Helen, to Troy—takes his revenge on the city, razing it and killing or enslaving all of its inhabitants. Among these captives is Cassandra, who, at the novel’s outset, is to be killed behind Mycenae’s Lion Gate.

Achilles

Achilles (ah-KIHL-leez), the most famed of the Greek warriors who sacked Troy. Achilles is proud to the point of being haughty, self-directed, and moody in the extreme. He is hated intensely by Cassandra. She particularly detests his brutal nature.

Panthous

Panthous (PAN-thews), a priest in Apollo’s service and Cassandra’s overseer in her role as priestess. Cassandra envisions Panthous as an envious and evil-minded man given to craftiness and outright treachery. Nevertheless, she admires some of his actions, such as putting an end to human sacrifices in Troy.

The Characters

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 533

Cassandra, the narrator, is a much more complex character in Christa Wolf’s novel than the mythical prophetess, loved by Apollo, who gave her the power of prophecy and cursed her when she resisted his advances. According to the myth, Apollo asked for a goodbye kiss but spat in her mouth. After that, no one believed her. Here, Cassandra has a dream of Apollo, a nightmare in which he forces his attentions on her in the form of a wolf. This has some mythical justification, since the god of light was sometimes called Apollo Lykeios, a rather obscure god of wolves and mice. The mythic variant works well in this context, since it suggests that ideal masculinity has a dark and malicious side which is little recognized. Cassandra’s experiences with her father, with the high priest of Apollo, and with some of her brothers (as well as Achilles and Agamemnon) contribute to her disillusionment with dominating males. By the end of the story, she withdraws from Aeneas, the hero-to-be, perhaps simply because she recognizes that power corrupts and heroes are prone to change.

She is complex in other ways, aside from her insight into male bravado. Much of her perfected wisdom is self-knowledge. She recognizes that she herself was part of the problem of a deteriorating Troy. She does not present herself as heroic or tragic, or even much concerned about others. She disdains marriage, wanting only to be a priestess—the sole “profession” open to a woman of her class. She resents the fact that her twin brother, Helenus, is made a priest first simply because he is a man, when she has a greater gift for the role. Her envy of her brother, however, does not make her any more compassionate toward her sister, Polyxena, who craves the attention that their father lavishes on Cassandra. As she grows older, Cassandra realizes that her sister’s development into a coquette, who would even flirt with the unattractive Achilles, can be traced to her loveless childhood and low self-image. Thus, Cassandra’s vehement refusal to cooperate with the plan to use Polyxena as live bait is prompted partly by feelings of guilt for having neglected her sister’s welfare.

Cassandra’s character becomes more compassionate with time. She begins to understand and empathize with other women through her friendship with her personal slave. Her slave introduces Cassandra to a group of women, both Trojan and Greek, who meet in a secret place in the mountains outside Troy. The only man who is often with these people is Anchises, Aeneas’ father. He seems to be a kind of spiritual father to those in misery. He carves figures of animals out of wood and gives them to his friends. The figures become a secret signal of friendship, designating where one may find shelter in need.

Agamemnon is a weak man, sexually impotent but dangerous. Such men must act in a belligerent fashion to bolster their masculinity. He is burdened by guilt for having sacrificed his daughter, Iphigenia, to get favorable winds for the voyage to Troy. He is vaguely drawn to Cassandra, not out of lust, but because she reminds him of his daughter.

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