Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


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 (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 (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,...

(The entire section is 582 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

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....

(The entire section is 533 words.)