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

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.

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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.


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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...

(The entire section contains 1063 words.)

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