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Trojan Women


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AT: The Women of Troy A: Euripides Pf: 415 bc, Athens Tr: 1780 G: Greek trag. in verse S: Outside the walls of Troy, just after its capture by the Greeks C: 3m, 5f, extras, chorus (f)In the Prologue, Athene and the sea god Poseidon agree that they will subject the Greeks to violent storms and hardship on their journey home to Greece. After ten long years of the Trojan War, the Greeks are finally victorious and are disposing of the captive women of Troy. Their cruel orders are announced by a herald: the young prophetess Cassandra will become Agamemnon's slave-girl. Andromache, widow of the Trojan hero Hector, will have to go with Neoptolemus. The former queen of Troy Hecabe is to be enslaved to Odysseus. Cassandra prophesies how the Greeks will suffer, how Agamemnon will be killed, and how Odysseus will also have to endure hardship. Worse than the humiliation to which Andromache is to be subjected, news now comes that her little son Astyanax will have to be killed. When Menelaus arrives, Hecabe pleads with him to take revenge on his errant wife Helen for causing the war. Helen defends herself, and Menelaus weakens, claiming that she will be punished in Sparta after their return. The mangled body of little Astyanax is brought on, and, against the background of the flames destroying Troy, the mourning women are led away.

AT: The Women of Troy A: Euripides Pf: 415 bc, Athens Tr: 1780 G: Greek trag. in verse S: Outside the walls of Troy, just after its capture by the Greeks C: 3m, 5f, extras, chorus (f)

As in Aeschylus' Persians, Euripides takes the bold step of focusing on the suffering of those defeated at the hands of the Greeks. It may seem unjust that in the Prologue the gods determine that the Greeks shall have to suffer, but in the course of the play the inhuman behaviour of the victorious Greek army shows that they deserve everything that the gods have preordained. Euripides was also warning his contemporary Athenians: the previous year they had dealt brutally with the citizens of Melos, massacring all its adult men and enslaving its women and children. Here, in a series of powerfully dramatic episodes, the group of desolate, powerless women gain in moral stature what they cannot achieve in actual power. Because its theme of the sufferings caused by war has resonated down the centuries, Trojan Women is, together with Medea, one of the most frequently performed of Euripides' plays and has reappeared in later versions, notably by Seneca (1st c. ad) and by Franz Werfel (1916), in which Hecabe must endure the ultimate loss of freedom by being restrained from committing suicide in the flames of Troy. In 1965 Sartre adapted Euripides' play as a comment on France's colonial war in Algeria.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Euripides (c. 485—406 bc) Greek dramatist


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