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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 313

Here are two of the most important themes of Euripides's The Trojan Women:

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Fate and freedom: The play makes several references to "fate" and "destiny"; the people in the play almost seem like fatalists, because they believe that whatever is fated will come to pass. The character of Cassandra is most important for understanding this theme. Cassandra is a seer but, because she spurned Apollo, he cursed her so that no one would believe her prophecies. However, as we see in The Trojan Women (as well as in Homer's Iliad), her prophecies are true; she also makes a number of prophecies in the play which we know, because of Homer's Odyssey and other Greek legends, also come true. The women of Troy also feel helpless in the face of divine power: the Trojan war, from the outset, involved the gods, with one faction favoring the Trojans and the other the Greeks. This divine intervention adds to their fatalism; the women believe that they have no free will since they cannot control the gods. Further, they are also shown to lack freedom in a literal sense: in the aftermath of Troy's loss, all the women have been enslaved.

Death and honor: Both sides of the war share the ethos that dying in battle brings glory and that dying honorably is the best thing of all. Even though the Trojans lose, we are presented with the idea that they are luckier than the Greeks because they, at least, get to have their funeral rites performed in their homeland. Both Andromache and Hecuba embrace death and think that death is not much worse than living enslaved. Hecuba even attempts to take her own life via self-immolation, and Andromache declares that she wishes to die: her son is to be killed, her husband is dead, and she thinks that death will bring an end to her suffering.


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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 191

Revenge is also an important theme in The Trojan Women. As well as being portrayed as morally acceptable in itself, it has the formal sanction of the gods. When Aias the Less rapes Cassandra in the temple of Athena, he isn't just committing a serious crime; he's also committing sacrilege. By his wicked actions, he is profaning a sacred, holy place, a place specifically devoted to the worship of the great goddess. Enraged by this wanton act of violation, Athena immediately turns against the Greeks, persuading the sea-god Poseidon to help her sabotage their ships.

For her part, Cassandra vows a terrible revenge on the Greeks, not just for what happened to her but because of what the Greeks have done...

(The entire section contains 659 words.)

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Critical Essays