The Trojan Women

by Euripides

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

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.

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