The Trojan Women

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The dramatic setting is the city of Troy, just captured by the Greeks after a bitter, ten-year war. With the exception of Talthybius, the Greek herald, and Menelaus, the Greek husband of Helen, all the mortal characters in the play are Trojan women, prisoners of war who face cruel servitude in Greece.

The tragedy is noted not for suspense-filled, dramatic scenes but for passages of powerful lyric lamentation. The pathetic solo song of Hecuba, queen of Troy, leads into an elaborate passage sung by both the queen and the chorus of Trojan women. This lyric tone intensifies in later scenes, with the solo songs of Hecuba’s daughter Cassandra, the duet between Hecuba and her daughter-in-law Andromache, and a final song between the queen and the chorus sung as their city burns to the ground.

Neither the audience nor the Trojan women are offered any moral solace in this play. The criminal Greeks are not punished. Rather, the play focuses on the sufferings of the innocent victims of war. Andromache, widow of Hector, is forced to become mistress of the son of her husband’s slayer. Her infant son, Astyanax, is cruelly hurled to his death from the walls of Troy. Cassandra, who is chosen to become the mistress of Agamemnon, leader of the Greek expedition, offers the women their only legitimate hope for vengeance, but, ironically, she is not believed. The Trojans interpret Cassandra’s true prediction of Agamemnon’s impending death as a sign of...

(The entire section is 551 words.)