trojan women

The Trojan Women

The Trojan Women (in Τρωάδες, Trōades) is a tragedy by the Greek playwright Euripides. Produced during the Peloponnesian War, it is often considered a commentary on the capture of the Aegean island of Melos and the subsequent slaughter and subjugation of its populace by the Athenians earlier in 415 BC (see Milos), the same year the play premiered. 415 BC was also the year of the scandalous desecration of the hermai and the Athenians' second expedition to Sicily, events which may also have influenced the author.

The Trojan Women was the third tragedy of a trilogy of dealing with the Trojan War. The first tragedy, Alexandros, was about the recognition of the Trojan prince Paris who had been abandoned in infancy by his parents and rediscovered in adulthood. The second tragedy, Palamedes, dealt with Greek mistreatment of their fellow Greek Palamedes. This trilogy was presented at the Dionysia along with the comedic satyr play Sisyphos. The plots of this trilogy were not connected in the way that Aeschylus' Oresteia was connected. Such connected trilogies were not favored by Euripides.

Euripides did not win the drama competition at the Dionysia festival with this trilogy in 415 BC, and was beaten by the playwright Xenocles.

The four Trojan women of the play are the same that appear in the final chapter of the Iliad lamenting over the corpse of Hector. Taking place near the same time is Hecuba, another play by Euripides.


Euripides' play follows the fates of the women of Troy after their city has been sacked, their husbands killed, and as their remaining families are about to be taken away as slaves. However, it begins first with the gods Athena and Poseidon discussing ways to punish the Greek armies because they condoned Ajax the Lesser for dragging Cassandra away from Athena's temple. (From some ancient Greek paintings many people believe Cassandra was raped by Ajax the Lesser, but it does not say that in this story.) What follows shows how much the Trojan women have suffered as their grief is compounded when the Greeks dole out additional deaths and divide their shares of women.

The Greek herald Talthybius arrives to tell the dethroned queen Hecuba what will befall her and her children. Hecuba will be taken away with the Greek general Odysseus, and her daughter Cassandra is slated to become the conquering general Agamemnon's concubine. Cassandra, who has been driven partially mad due to a curse by which she can see the future but will never be believed when she warns others, is morbidly delighted by this news: she sees that when they arrive in Argos, her new master's embittered wife Clytemnestra will kill both her and her new master. However, because of the curse, no one understands this response, and Cassandra is carried off.

The widowed princess Andromache arrives, and Hecuba learns from her that her youngest daughter, Polyxena, has been killed as a sacrifice at the tomb of the Greek warrior Achilles.

Andromache's lot is to be the concubine of Achilles' son Neoptolemus, and more horrible news for the royal family is yet to come: Talthybius reluctantly informs her that her baby son, Astyanax, has been condemned to die. The Greek leaders are afraid that the boy will grow up to avenge his father Hector, and rather than take this chance, they plan to throw him off from the battlements of Troy to his death.

Helen, though not one of the Trojan women, is supposed to suffer greatly as well: Menelaus arrives to take her back to Greece with him where a death sentence awaits her. Helen begs her husband to spare her life and he remains resolved to kill her, but the audience watching the play knows that in the Odyssey, Telemachus will learn how Helen's legendary beauty wins her a reprieve.

In the end, Talthybius returns carrying with him the body of little Astyanax on Hector's shield. Andromache's wish had been to bury her child herself, performing the proper rituals according to Trojan ways, but her ship had already departed. Talthybius gives the corpse to Hecuba, who prepares the body of her grandson for burial before they are finally taken off with Odysseus.

Throughout the play, many of the Trojan women lament the loss of the land that reared them. Hecuba in particular lets it be known that Troy had been her home for her entire life, only to see herself as an old grandmother watching the burning of Troy, the death of her husband, her children, and her grandchildren before she will be taken as a slave to Odysseus.

Treatment of the play in modern times

Jean-Paul Sartre wrote a version that remains largely faithful to the original text. It adds veiled references to European imperialism in Asia and minor emphasis on common existentialist themes. The Israeli playwright Hanoch Levin also wrote his own version of the play, adding more disturbing scenes and scatological details.

Las Troyanas, a 1963 Mexican film directed by awarded Mexican director Sergio Véjar, adapted by writer Miguel Angel Garibay and Sergio Véjar himself, remaining faithful to text and setting. Features Ofelia Guilmainas "Hecuba" with photography in black and white by Agustín Jimenez.

Greek director Michael Cacoyannis used Euripides' play (in the famous Edith Hamilton translation) as the basis for his 1971 film The Trojan Women (IMDB profile). The movie starred American actress Katharine Hepburn as "Hecuba", British actors Vanessa Redgrave and Brian Blessed as "Andromache" and "Talthybius", French-Canadian actress Geneviève Bujold as "Cassandra", Greek actress Irene Papas as "Helen", and Patrick Magee, an actor born in Northern Ireland, as "Menelaus".

Another movie based on the play came out in 2004, directed by Brad Mays.

A musical version of The Trojan Women was produced for the youth theatre at the studio of the Thorndike Theatre in Leatherhead in 1983, directed by Stanley Morris and with original music and lyrics by Maurice Chernick.

Trojan Women: The Musical is a modern take on the play, set in the 1920s. It was written by Gareth Hides and Gavin Thatcher, with additional music by Nick Jeavons. The musical was first performed at King Edward VI College, Stourbridge and was revived almost a year later at the Tettenhall Towers Theatre.

Charles Mee adapted The Trojan Women to have a more modern, updated outlook on war. He included original interviews with Holocaust and Hiroshima survivors. His play is called The Trojan Women 2.0.

The Trojan Women, directed by Antonis Antypas and with music by Eleni Karaindrou, premiered at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus on August 31 and September 1, 2001.

The Trojan Women was performed at Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 1999 with then unknown actor Orlando Bloom as "Menelaus". Bloom later went on to star as "Paris" in the 2004 movie Troy.

The Women of Troy, directed by Katie Mitchell, was performed at the National Theatre in London in 2007-8.

The Trojan Women, directed by Marti Maraden, is being performed at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario, Canada from May 14 to October 5, 2008 with Canadian actress Martha Henry as "Hecuba".


Translator Year Style Full text
Edward P. Coleridge 1891 Prose
Gilbert Murray 1911 Verse
Edith Hamilton 1937 Verse
Richmond Lattimore 1947 Verse
I. K. Raubitschek and A. E. Raubitschek 1954 Prose
Philip Vellacott 1954 Prose and verse
Unknown translator - Prose
Nicholas Rudall 1999 Prose
David Kovacs 1999 Prose
James Morewood 2000 Prose

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