Euripides presented his play the Trojan Women in March, 415 BC. It was the third in the set of four plays he presented in the dramatic competition of the Athenian City Dionysia. In 416 BC, Athens had conquered the Aegean island of Melos. The Athenians had killed all of its men and sold the women and children into slavery. Athens was also in the midst of sending out its disastrous naval expedition to Sicily. In response, Euripides wanted to write a play about the Trojan war that emphasized the position of its victims. Amazingly, his play won second prize in spite of its theme.
Diskin Clay’s edition of the Trojan Women has an excellent introduction, dealing with the historical and mythological background of the play. Two appendices (99 ff.) discuss some of the evidence for the plays presented with the Trojan Women and Gorgias’ In praise of Helen which Euripides likely thought of when he wrote the scene involving Helen, Menelaus and Hecuba. Use these resources if they are of help to you.
Because the Trojan Women deals with many issues, you do not need to write about the play as a whole. The play is built around three main episodes. Choose one of them as the focus for your paper of about 5 pages in length. The emphasis in all of these episodes is how Euripides shows us the personalities and sufferings of the people involved in order to deal with his main theme of war and what it does to the losers and especially the winners. As you examine an episode, it will be simplest to concentrate on how Euripides portrays the characters involved and work from that..
As with the first essay you should use MLA referencing.
1. Kassandra’s dance and “marriage” song. (ll. 235-510)
Kassandra is about to become the prize of Agamemnon. Although this is portrayed as a “marriage” to him, she is a prophetess who knows that she will die. How does she deal with this reality? Is she, like her mother Hecuba, far too focussed on revenge to be a sympathetic figure or is this understandable in someone who has been victimized and foresees her own death?
(Note: Hymen is a minor deity who oversees marriage.) 2. Andromache and the execution of her child Astyanax (ll. 568-798)
2. Andromache has always been a “good woman” by her society’s standards. Should she resist and thus become a “bad woman” like Helen who breaks social rules or is the advice she gets to accept her situation and adapt to it (l. 693) the best course?
3. Helen’s trial scene (ll. 860-1069)
Helen is shown to us as a poised, intelligent and extremely clever orator. Euripides portrays her as a female version of Odysseus. In contrast, Hecuba’s prosecution is an emotional invective. Who really makes the better case, Helen or Hecuba? Would Helen’s power over Menelaus let her survive anyhow?
4. Independent topic.
If you have an idea for an independent topic, let me or your TA know. We can let you know if it is workable for a short paper. If so, go right ahead. A comparison between any of the main female characters would work well if you are interested in a slightly larger topic.
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