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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 284

Euripides's TheTrojan Women begins with the aftermath of the devastating decade-long Trojan war between the Trojans, led by Priam, and the Greeks, led by Agamemnon. The eponymous Trojan women have been enslaved by the victorious Greek forces, while most of the Trojan heroes have been killed and others have...

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Euripides's The Trojan Women begins with the aftermath of the devastating decade-long Trojan war between the Trojans, led by Priam, and the Greeks, led by Agamemnon. The eponymous Trojan women have been enslaved by the victorious Greek forces, while most of the Trojan heroes have been killed and others have been taken hostage.

The play, rather than following a straightforward narrative, unfolds by focusing on the most important Trojan women. Queen Hecuba mourns the present and relives the past through various vignettes. She is to become Odysseus's slave and unsuccessfully tries to commit suicide in the fire of Troy. Andromache, wife of Hector, is to become the slave of Neoptolemus, the son of Achilles. Even worse, her young son Astyanax is to be killed by being thrown from the battlements of Troy. Helen, the reason why the war started, sits with the other enslaved Trojan women, all of whom hate her. Hecuba doesn't even refer to her as Paris's wife. Menelaus, when he finally sees her, can barely bring himself to say her name and says his only interest in her is to take her back to Sparta and try her publicly as an example. Helen tries to blame everyone but herself for the fate of Troy, and part of the play is taken up with an impassioned debate between Helen and Hecuba. The last "Trojan woman" whose fate is discussed is Cassandra. Cassandra, daughter of Hecuba and Priam, was cursed with the power of making prophecies that no one would believe. Agamemnon plans to marry her, and she says that his marrying her will result in utter disaster for him. She also successfully (if we consider Homer's Odyssey) foretells the fate of Odysseus.

Summary

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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 779

On the second morning after the fall of Troy and the massacre of all its male inhabitants, Poseidon appears to lament the ruins and vows vengeance against the Greeks. To his surprise, Pallas Athena, the goddess who aided the Greeks, joins him in plotting a disastrous homeward voyage for the victors who despoiled her temple in Troy. They withdraw as Hecuba rises from among the sleeping Trojan women to mourn the burning city and her dead sons and husband. The chorus join her in chanting an anguished lament.

Talthybius, the herald of the Greeks, arrives to announce that Agamemnon chose Cassandra to be his concubine and that the other royal women of Troy were assigned by lot—Polyxena to the tomb of Achilles, Andromache to Achilles’ son Neoptolemus, and Hecuba herself to Odysseus, king of Ithaca and conceiver of the wooden horse that led to the fall of the city. Amid the cries of the grieving women, Cassandra appears, bearing a flaming torch in each hand. The chorus is convinced that she is mad as she dances and prays to Hymen, god of marriage, that Agamemnon take her soon to Argos as his bride, for there she will cause his death and the ruin of his entire family. As for Odysseus, she foretells that he will suffer for ten more years on the seas before reaching his homeland. As Talthybius leads her off, he observes that Agamemnon himself must be mad to fall in love with the insane Cassandra.

Hecuba, broken with grief, collapses to the ground. From the city comes a Greek-drawn chariot loaded with the spoils of war and bearing Andromache and her infant son Astyanax. Cursing Helen, the cause of all their woe, Andromache calls upon the dead Hector to come to her and announces enviously that Polyxena was just killed upon the tomb of Achilles as a gift to the dead hero. Drawing upon her last remaining strength, Hecuba tries to comfort the distraught Andromache and urges that instead of mourning for Hector she win the love of Neoptolemus so that her son might grow to adulthood and perhaps redeem Troy. At this point, the reluctant herald Talthybius announces the Greeks’ order that the son of so distinguished a warrior as Hector must not be permitted to reach adulthood but must be killed at once by being hurled from the battlements of Troy. As Talthybius leads away Andromache and her son, a fresh lament and cursing of Helen goes up from the grieving women of Troy.

Suddenly King Menelaus comes striding in the sunlight with his retinue to demand that his faithless wife Helen be dragged to him by her blood-reeking hair. Hecuba pleads with him to slay Helen at once, lest her beauty and feminine wiles soften his will, but Menelaus remains determined to take her back to Greece, where the relatives of those who died for her sake might have the pleasure of stoning her to death. Helen approaches, calm and dignified. Her plea for the right to speak being supported by Hecuba, she argues that she is not responsible for the fall of Troy. The first blame must be attributed to Priam and Hecuba, who refused to kill the infant Paris as the oracle commanded; the second to Aphrodite, who bewitched her into submitting to Paris; the third to Deiphobus and the Trojan guards who prevented her from escaping to the Greeks after she came to her senses. Goaded on by the chorus of Trojan women, Hecuba jeers at these claims, insisting that the gods would not be so foolish as Helen would have them believe, that her own lust drove her into Paris’s arms, and that she could always have escaped Troy and her own shame by way of suicide. Helen, falling to her knees, pleads with Menelaus not to kill her. Hecuba also kneels to beg Helen’s immediate death and to warn Menelaus against taking her aboard his ship. Menelaus compromises: Helen will return to Greece on another ship and there pay for her shameful life. As Menelaus leads her away, the chorus wails that Zeus forsakes them.

Talthybius then returns, bearing the crushed body of Astyanax on Hector’s shield. He tells Hecuba that Andromache, as she was being led aboard Neoptolemus’s ship, begged that the infant be given proper burial. The performance of that rite was more than Hecuba could bear, and she was restrained by force from throwing herself into the flames of the city. As the captive women are led to the Greek ships, the great crash of Troy’s collapsing walls is heard, and the city is engulfed in smoke and darkness.

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