The Trojan Women

by Euripides

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Euripides's The Trojan Women is set during the aftermath of the Trojan War, as described in Homer's Iliad (several centuries before Euripides) and alluded to in many other literary texts since. The primary characters are, thus, the characters of ancient Greek myth, the wives and daughters of the Trojan king and princes:

Hecuba: The queen of Troy, wife of King Priam. The events of the decade-long war have left her in a physically fragile state, and she spends the play talking about past incidents as well as lamenting the present.

Cassandra: The daughter of Hecuba and Priam, cursed with the gift of prophecies that are destined never to be believed. She is not psychologically stable and has been enslaved by the Achaean general Menelaus.

Andromache: The wife of Prince Hector, daughter-in-law of Hecuba and Priam. Her husband was killed by the Achaean warrior Achilles. The Achaeans decide to kill her son, Astyanax, by hurling him from the Trojan battlements.

Helen of Troy: The "face that launched a thousand ships," understood by many as the cause of the Trojan War. She was earlier Helen of Sparta and married to the Spartan king Menelaus. The Trojan prince Paris visited Sparta and she eloped with him to Troy, thus launching the Trojan war. Both Andromache and Hecuba blame her for the war, and Hecuba refers to her as the "hateful wife of Menelaus." She sits with the enslaved Trojan women.

Some of the men involved in the Trojan war also make an appearance:

Menelaus: The former husband of Helen, prince of Sparta, brother to the great Greek general Agamemnon.

Talthybius: A Greek herald.

The Trojan war started because of a quarrel between gods, and there were two factions of gods, some supporting the Achaeans and some supporting the Trojans. There are also two gods in The Trojan Women:

Poseidon: God of the seas, brother to Zeus.

Athena: Goddess of wisdom and warfare, Zeus's daughter, and supporter of the Achaean league.

Finally, as is characteristic in Greek plays of this time, there is a Chorus.

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