The Complete Euripides: Volume I: Trojan Women and Other Plays [Critical ed.] 9780195388664, 9780195388671, 2010016762, 0195388666

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The Complete Euripides: Volume I: Trojan Women and Other Plays [Critical ed.]
 9780195388664, 9780195388671, 2010016762, 0195388666

Table of contents :
CONTENTS
ANDROMACHE
Introduction
Andromache
Notes
HECUBA
Introduction
On the Translation
Hecuba
Notes
TROJAN WOMEN
Introduction
On the Translation
Trojan Women
Notes
RHESOS
Introduction
Rhesos
Notes
GLOSSARY
A
B
C
D
E
G
H
I
K
L
M
N
O
P
R
S
T
Z
FOR FURTHER READING

Citation preview

GREEK TRAGEDY IN NEW TRANSLATIONS general editors Peter Burian and Alan Shapiro founding general editor William Arrowsmith former general editor Herbert Golder THE COMPLETE EURIPIDES, VOLUME I

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GREEK TRAGEDY IN NEW TRANSLATIONS

The Complete Euripides, Volume I

Trojan Women and Other Plays Edited by PETER BURIAN and ALAN SHAPIRO

1 2010

3 Oxford University Press, Inc., publishes works that further Oxford University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education. Oxford New York Auckland Cape Town Dar es Salaam Hong Kong Karachi Kuala Lumpur Madrid Melbourne Mexico City Nairobi New Delhi Shanghai Taipei Toronto With offices in Argentina Austria Brazil Chile Czech Republic France Greece Guatemala Hungary Italy Japan Poland Portugal Singapore South Korea Switzerland Thailand Turkey Ukraine Vietnam

Andromache Copyright q 2001 by Oxford University Press, Inc. Hecuba Copyright q 1991 by Janet Lembke and Kenneth J. Reckford Trojan Women Copyright q 2009 by Oxford University Press, Inc. Rhesos Copyright q 1978 by Richard Emil Braun Compilation Copyright q 2010 by Oxford University Press, Inc. Published by Oxford University Press, Inc. 198 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10016 www.oup.com Oxford is a registered trademark of Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of Oxford University Press. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Euripides. [Selections. English. 2010] Trojan women and other plays / [Euripides] ; edited by Peter Burian and Alan Shapiro. p. cm. — (The complete Euripides ; v. 1) (Greek tragedy in new translations) ISBN 978-0-19-538866-4; 978-0-19-538867-1 (pbk.) 1. Euripides—Translations into English. I. Burian, Peter, 1943– II. Shapiro, Alan, 1952– III. Title. PA3975.A2 2010a 882’.01—dc22 2010016762

9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Printed in the United States of America

EDITORS’ FOREWORD

‘‘The Greek Tragedy in New Translations is based on the conviction that poets like Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides can only be properly rendered by translators who are themselves poets. Scholars may, it is true, produce useful and perceptive versions. But our most urgent present need is for a re-creation of these plays—as though they had been written, freshly and greatly, by masters fully at home in the English of our own times.’’ With these words, the late William Arrowsmith announced the purpose of this series, and we intend to honor that purpose. As was true of most of the volumes that began to appear in the 1970s—first under Arrowsmith’s editorship, later in association with Herbert Golder—those for which we bear editorial responsibility are products of close collaborations between poets and scholars. We believe (as Arrowsmith did) that the skills of both are required for the difficult and delicate task of transplanting these magnificent specimens of another culture into the soil of our own place and time, to do justice both to their deep differences from our patterns of thought and expression and to their palpable closeness to our most intimate concerns. Above all, we are eager to offer contemporary readers dramatic poems that convey as vividly and directly as possible the splendor of language, the complexity of image and idea, and the intensity of emotion and originals. This entails, among much else, the recognition that the tragedies were meant for performance—as scripts for actors—to be sung and danced as well as spoken. It demands writing of inventiveness, clarity, musicality, and dramatic power. By such standards, we ask that these translations be judged.

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This series is also distinguished by its recognition of the need of nonspecialist readers for a critical introduction informed by the best recent scholarship, but written clearly and without condescension. Each play is followed by notes designed not only to elucidate obscure references but also to mediate the conventions of the Athenian stage as well as those features of the Greek text that might otherwise go unnoticed. The notes are supplemented by a glossary of mythical and geographical terms that should make it possible to read the play without turning elsewhere for basic information. Stage directions are sufficiently ample to aid readers in imagining the action as they read. Our fondest hope, of course, is that these versions will be staged not only in the minds of their readers but also in the theaters to which, after so many centuries, they still belong. a note on the series format

A series such as this requires a consistent format. Different translators, with individual voices and approaches to the material at hand, cannot be expected to develop a single coherent style for each of the three tragedians, much less make clear to modern readers that, despite the differences among the tragedians themselves, the plays share many conventions and a generic, or period, style. But they can at least share a common format and provide similar forms of guidance to the reader. 1. Spelling of Greek names

Orthography is one area of difference among the translations that requires a brief explanation. Historically, it has been common practice to use Latinized forms of Greek names when bringing them into English. Thus, for example, Oedipus (not Oidipous) and Clytemnestra (not Klutaimestra) are customary in English. Recently, however, many translators have moved toward more precise transliteration, which has the advantage of presenting the names as both Greek and new, instead of Roman and neoclassical importations into English. In the case of so familiar a name as Oedipus, however, transliteration risks the appearance of pedantry or affectation. And in any case, perfect consistency cannot be expected in such matters. Readers will feel the same discomfort with ‘‘Athenai’’ as the chief city of Greece as they would with ‘‘Platon’’ as the author of The Republic. vi

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The earlier volumes in this series adopted as a rule a ‘‘mixed’’ orthography in accordance with the considerations outlined above. The most familiar names retain their Latinate forms, while the rest are transliterated; -os rather than Latin -us is adopted for the termination of masculine names, and Greek diphthongs (as in Iphigeneia for Latin Iphigenia) are retained. Some of the later volumes continue this practice, but where translators have preferred to use a more consistent practice of transliteration or Latinization, we have honored their wishes. 2. Stage directions

The ancient manuscripts of the Greek plays do not supply stage directions (though the ancient commentators often provide information relevant to staging, delivery, ‘‘blocking,’’ etc.). Hence stage directions must be inferred from words and situations and our knowledge of Greek theatrical conventions. At best this is a ticklish and uncertain procedure. But it is surely preferable that good stage directions should be provided by the translator than that readers should be left to their own devices in visualizing action, gesture, and spectacle. Ancient tragedy was austere and ‘‘distanced’’ by means of masks, which means that the reader must not expect the detailed intimacy (‘‘He shrugs and turns wearily away,’’ ‘‘She speaks with deliberate slowness, as though to emphasize the point,’’ etc.) that characterizes stage directions in modern naturalistic drama. 3. Numbering of lines

For the convenience of the reader who may wish to check the translation against the original, or vice versa, the lines have been numbered according to both the Greek and English texts. The lines of the translation have been numbered in multiples of ten, and these numbers have been set in the right-hand margin. The (inclusive) Greek numeration will be found bracketed at the top of the page. The Notes that follow the text have been keyed to both numerations, the line numbers of the translation in bold, followed by the Greek lines in regular type, and the same convention is used for all references to specific passages (of the translated plays only) in both the Notes and the Introduction. Readers will doubtless note that in many plays the English lines outnumber the Greek, but they should not therefore conclude that the translator has been unduly prolix. In most cases the reason vii

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is simply that the translator has adopted the free-flowing norms of modern Anglo-American prosody, with its brief-breath-andemphasis-determined lines, and its habit of indicating cadence and caesuras by line length and setting rather than by conventional punctuation. Even where translators have preferred to cast dialogue in more regular five-beat or six-beat lines, the greater compactness of Greek diction is likely to result in a substantial disparity in Greek and English numerations. about the translations

The translations in this series were written over a period of roughly forty years. No attempt has been made to update references to the scholarly literature in the Introductions and Notes, but each volume offers a brief For Further Reading list that will provide some initial orientation to contemporary critical thinking about the tragedies it contains. this volume

The dramas in this volume have at least two things in common: all are tied to the saga of Troy, and all have regularly been treated as ‘‘problem plays’’ in one way or another. Rhesos is the only extant Greek tragedy based directly on an episode from the Iliad, and in the view of the majority of scholars today it is not by Euripides at all, but rather the work of an anonymous fourth-century playwright. Andromache moves on from the plight of its ostensible heroine to intertwine, in a surprising concatenation of events, the fates of three other personages caught up in the aftermath of the Trojan War. Hecuba stays focused on the captive Trojan queen, but after presenting her as a helpless victim, abruptly recasts her as a relentless agent of revenge. Trojan Women, the best known of these dramas, seems by contrast to provide no reversal at all but only a succession of disasters for Hecuba, her family, and the captive women of the fallen city. Whatever their problems, however, all of these plays, allowed to speak for themselves in such sympathetic translations as we offer here, provide a rich range of intellectual and emotional satisfactions. In Andromache, first performed around 425 b.c.e., Hector’s widow has been enslaved and brought to Thessaly as the concubine of Neoptolemus, son of the great Achilles. Because Andromache

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has given Neoptolemus a son, his barren wife, Hermione, attempts to destroy her in a fit of jealousy, rage, and fear. Hermione is the daughter of Menelaus and Helen, and her father comes to her aid, but the sudden appearance of old Peleus, Achilles’ father, puts a stop to the machinations and rescues Andromache, who disappears little more than halfway through the drama. At this point an almost bewildering succession of events takes the plot in unexpected directions: Hermione herself is rescued after the failure of her murderous scheme when Orestes arrives unannounced. She had been promised to him long ago by Menelaus, and he now takes her away from the wreckage of her marriage to Neoptolemus, whose murder at Delphi he tells us he has already engineered. In the final scene, Peleus returns to hear the Messenger’s account of his grandson’s ambush and murder in the shrine of Apollo and lead the Chorus in lament. The drama ends with Thetis, his divine consort, appearing ex machina to provide consolation and predict a happier future: Andromache will marry Helenus, king of the Molossians, and her son by Neoptolemus will grow up to rule Molossia and found a new royal line there. Peleus himself will become a god, dwelling with Thetis beneath the sea, and reuniting with Achilles on the Isle of the Blessed. Evidently, there is not a single central figure here, or even a stable pair of antagonists. Of all Euripides’ surviving plays, this is the one most open to the charge of being ‘‘episodic’’ by violating the Aristotelean principle that events should follow one another by probability or necessity. Needless to say, many critics have been at pains to discover in a single character or theme that can be said to give the drama unity, and others to refute each such proposal. Some even held that the play was not intended for performance in Athens, but rather as a piece of propaganda to win favor of the Molossians during the early stages of the Peloponnesian War. There is no need, however, to resort to so extreme a hypothesis in order to appreciate the momentum and power of this drama. Nor is it necessary to insist on an artificial unifying theme, beyond pointing out that the way in which everything that happens is (as P. T. Stevens, the author of a fine commentary on the play, put it) ‘‘the result of one unhappy war.’’ If, as the Introduction to the translation in this volume rightly concludes, ‘‘the play does, in the end, produce a sense of unity as well as of rightness and therefore of inevitability,’’ it may

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paradoxically be due to the quite un-Aristotelean but very effective way in which it gains its expressive force from surprise, discontinuity, and deliberate disruption. And its credentials as a tragedy are not in question. To quote the Introduction once more, ‘‘At the end of Andromache Thetis sets all right, but leaves Neoptolemus dead, leaves Hermione, Menelaus, and Orestes as we saw them. And, of course, the realities that Euripides has pointed out to his audience are all in place, including the rituals of war and man’s inhumanity. Despite the superficially cheerful conclusion, the view of life that Euripides presents in Andromache, as in all his work, is fundamentally tragic.’’ Hecuba, which also dates from around 425, is by contrast with Andromache quite linear in its development. The drama is set on the coast of Thrace, where the Greek fleet has stopped on its journey home from Troy. A ghost (one of very few in extant Greek tragedy) speaks the prologue: Hecuba’s son Polydorus, his bones still unburied. He had been sent to Thrace for safety with a great store of gold against the day that Troy might be destroyed, and he was killed by his erstwhile host, King Polymestor, for that gold after Troy’s fall. Next comes Hecuba, still unaware of Polydorus’ death, but burdened by her already enormous load of suffering and loss, her thoughts turned to children she thinks remain to her. She will not leave the stage again until the play ends, and in its course she will endure the sacrifice of her daughter, Polyxena, and learn of the murder of Polydorus. Her cup of bitterness runs over, and in a long exchange with Agamemnon, the supreme commander of the Greeks, she wins acquiescence to a plan of revenge upon her son’s killer. The revenge itself is of enormous brutality, involving the killing of Polymestor’s own sons and his blinding, recounted in detail by the king. Prior to his execution, he is brought on stage to confront Hecuba’s wrath—and to prophesy (as heroes about to die are able to do) Hecuba’s coming transformation into a dog, her tomb to be known as ‘‘Bitch’s Rock’’ (1369 / 1273), and the deaths of Cassandra and Agamemnon. The ghost of the prologue sets in motion a revenge drama, though are we not sure until later that it will be such. We must first endure, like Hecuba, the entire process of Polyxena’s sacrifice at the tomb of Achilles, which only her nobility makes in some sense acceptable. It is, however, the transformation of her suffering

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mother into a kind of Fury that has caused the greatest problems for the interpretation of this powerful drama. Is it, as the Introduction to the translation in this volume argues with great eloquence, a picture of the demoralization, or even disintegration, of a person pushed to the outer limit of what a human can endure? Or is Hecuba only getting the vengeance that is her due, justly employing the same degradation of the original crime, her transformation into a dog the sign that she has indeed become a Fury? One kind of answer may be that (as, for example, in Aeschylus’ Oresteia) revenge takes the form of a new horror to match the old. Euripides, however, unlike Aeschylus, would be suggesting that vengeance itself deforms the avenger. Something similar certainly happens in Euripides’ Electra and Medea, and at the end of Children of Heracles. It is also important to note that Hecuba devises her revenge in a world already corrupted by the negation of morality in favor of expediency and self-interest: the world of an amoral Odysseus who justifies Polyxena’s sacrifice with political abstractions, or of a self-seeking Polymestor, whose greed for gold justifies the breaking of sacred commitments and human decency. Polymestor was already blind to honor long before Hecuba blinded his eyes; Odysseus was already deaf to arguments from morality before he turned a deaf ear to Hecuba’s pleas. From this perspective, Hecuba’s passionate embrace of revenge at its most violent and repugnant springs from what she has just witnessed: that nobility is only for those who suffer, that cynicism and the dogged pursuit of one’s own ends—whatever lies are required, whatever means are necessary—are the tools of the victorious. Absent a shared morality, Hecuba must blaze her own trail to her own rough justice. This also helps us understand a feature of her role that made this play particularly appealing to Renaissance humanists (for whom tragedy was the highest form of rhetoric), but is likely to put off readers and spectators today: the elaborately rhetoricized speeches of the heroine, sometimes frigid and often sophistic. The native language, so to speak, of an Odysseus is the language she, too, must use in order to save what all that is left to her: the horrible satisfaction of vengeance after so much suffering. Trojan Women is a powerful presence on the contemporary stage, a play that from beginning to end evokes pity and fear in audiences everywhere. Despite that, it has long been censured by scholars for

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seeming to flout Aristotle’s other ‘‘rules’’—there are no reversals of fortune and no recognitions—and to rely entirely on pathos for its effect. In the Introduction to the translation in this volume, I have tried to show how Trojan Women works as drama, that is to say as a ‘‘doing,’’ and not a mere suffering. Hecuba is at the center of everything here, at least as insistently as in Hecuba, but to very different effect. The play combines every painful calamity the queen must suffer at Troy, and shows Hecuba again and again bent and in imminent danger of complete collapse under their weight, but nobly rising once more to reassert her humanity and compassion, the force of her resilience, and the possibility of hope. Her rising and falling and rising once more give this play its particular dramatic rhythm, as around her, one after another, her remaining loved ones fall prey to the horrors that defeat holds in store. True, the prologue, with its dialogue between the gods Poseidon and Athena, sets these losses in a wider context in which the Greeks, too, are to suffer for their crimes and excesses. Beyond that initial vignette, however, no gods remain at Troy, and in the end none appears from the machine to set things aright, for although more suffering is still to come, nothing here can be set aright. And yet Hecuba, at the end of it all, stands upright one last time and leads the women of Troy to meet whatever the future will hold. Rhesos may well not be by Euripides, but it if is not, we have the good fortune to possess an anonymous work of great interest. Doubts about its authenticity go back to antiquity; a comment in the hypothesis (introductory note by a later scholar) appended to our manuscripts of the play says that some consider Rhesos ‘‘illegitimate’’ (i.e., inauthentic) but that it is entered as a ‘‘legitmate’’ work in the didascalia (the official theatrical records). There seems to be little doubt, then, that Euripides wrote a Rhesus, but the preponderance of scholars who have given serious attention to the question of authenticity since it was raised by eighteenth century critics doubt that the play we have could be his. This is not the place for a detailed discussion, but the state of the question can be briefly described. On the one hand, Rhesos has been claimed as a youthful work of Euripides, perhaps from the 440s (the view of the author of the translation in this volume) or even the 450s. However, those who have attention regard our Rhesos as the work

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of a fourth-century tragedian. It might of course also be a work of Euripides modified for later production. The issues have to do with questions of style, dramatic structure, conventions of presentation, and not least with divergent opinions about the quality of the work as a whole. Such a wide variation of opinion is possible at least in part because the elements that make the play seem Euripidean can be explained by his great influence on later tragedy, and the elements that are unlike the rest of Euripides can be attributed to its putatively early composition. (The earliest play in the universally recognized corpus, Alcestis, dates from 438, when Euripides was probably in his later forties, and all but one or two others from the 420s and after.) The question of authenticity also reminds us of the limits of our knowledge. Only a small proportion of Euripidean drama survives (eighteen or nineteen of the eighty-eight known to ancient scholars), an even smaller proportion of those by Aeschylus and Sophocles, and nothing but fragments of their contemporaries and the later tragedians. If Rhesos is a fourth-century work, it stands alone. Judgment here cannot be final, and in any case uncertainty about authorship and date should not be allowed to obscure the merits of the play itself. Whether by Euripides or not, Rhesos is an unusual specimen of Greek tragedy on more than one count, and it would be wrong to attribute its apparent oddities to incompetence or a debased taste without attempting to understand it on its own terms. As already noted, it is the only extant tragedy to take as its material an episode from Homeric epic, the night raid against the Greek camp in Book 10 of the Iliad, though as the Introduction in this volume points out, it is by no means slavishly faithful to Homer’s telling of the story. (The only complete satyr play to survive, Euripides’ Cyclops, does the same thing with a famous episode from Book 9 of the Odyssey.) Rhesos is also the shortest Greek tragedy we have. In brief, Hektor, who has driven the Greeks back into their camp, sends Dolon, the only Greek soldier who to volunteer for the duty, as a spy to discover their intentions. Rhesos, King of Thrace, arrives belatedly in answer to Hektor’s call for his help in the war, promising to defeat the Greeks for good and all in one day. Before he can do anything, however, Odysseus and Diomedes, who have killed the hapless Dolon, are directed to the sleeping Rhesos by Athena, and

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kill him, too. Hektor is falsely accused of the murder, but his innocence is proclaimed by the Muse, Rhesos’ divine mother, who arrives as dea ex machina to lament his death and proclaim his heroic destiny. Rhesos takes place entirely at night, which means that the limitation of vision that is a metaphor for the cause of many tragic errors here becomes a literal fact, emphasizing the characters’ lack of understanding. Hektor, for example, begins and ends the play convinced that the gods are about to give him victory at last; Dolon imagines that on his mission he will be the one to kill Odysseus. Combined with this is an emphasis on disguise (Dolon goes off to the Greek camp disguised as a wolf; Athena sends Paris away by disguising her voice as that of as Aphrodite), misdirection, and rapid changes of mind that at moments suggest something more like comedy than tragedy. Furthermore, the play is divided (a bit like Andromache) among three central figures: Hektor, who is on stage more than any of the others, but remains essentially unchanged by its action; Dolon, whom the play casts as something of an upstart and a braggart and whose death the play soon outruns, but whose forced revelation of the Trojan password leads to the success of the Greek raid in which Rhesos is killed; and Rhesos himself, whose death is utterly unheroic since he has not even a moment’s chance to show the strength and valor of which he so freely boasts. Rhesos, whoever its author, foreshadows the larger tragedy of Troy with a series of reversals that come just when victory seems at hand, but systematically rob the action of the expected heroic cast, an ironic treatment which—whoever the author of the play—can surely be called Euripidean. The translations in this volume were originally published between 1978 and 2009. Richard Emil Braun is an American-born poet and classicist who was a classics professor at the University of Alberta in Canada for many years. He has been publishing poems since the 1950s, and among his books are Children Passing, Bad Land, The Foreclosure, Last Man In, and The Snow Man is No One. Janet Lembke, best known for her numerous books of essays on the natural world and the place of humans and other animals in it, is also a poet and a translator from Latin (Bronze and Iron, a splendid volume of fragments from early Latin poetry, and more recently Virgil’s Georgics) and Greek. For this series she has also

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translated Euripides’ Electra (like Hecuba, in collaboration with Kenneth Reckford) as well as two plays of Aeschylus. Alan Shapiro, a General Editor of this series, is one of America’s most accomplished poets. Kenan Distinguished Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina, he is the author of ten volumes of poetry, including Mixed Company (winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize), The Dead Alive and Busy (winner of the Kingsley Tufts Award), Song and Dance, Tantalus in Love and Old War. He has also made his mark as a memoirist (The Last Happy Occasion, Vigil) and critic (In Praise Of The Impure: Poetry And The Ethical Imagination). Susan Stewart, who has won acclaim both as poet and as critic, is the author of several collections of poetry, including The Hive, The Forest, and Columbarium, which received the National Book Critics Circle Award. Among her critical studies are On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection; Crimes of Writing: Problems in the Containment of Representation, Poetry and the Fate of the Senses (winner of the Christian Gauss Award); and The Open Studio: Essays in Art and Aesthetics. She is a professor of English at Princeton University. Peter Burian, a General Editor of this series, is Professor of Classical and Comparative Literatures at Duke University and has published numerous critical studies and translations of Greek drama. Kenneth J. Reckford, an emeritus professor of Classics at the University of North Carolina, is one of today’s subtlest, widest ranging, and most humane critics of Greek and Roman literature. Reckford’s books include Horace, Aristophanes Old and New Comedy, and most recently Recognizing Persius. His other translation for this series, Euripides’ Electra, was also the product of collaboration with Janet Lembke. Wesley D. Smith, Professor Emeritus of Classics at the University of Pennslvania, is the author of important articles on Euripides and a leading expert on the history of ancient Greek medicine. His books include The Hippocratic Tradition and an edition with translation of the Pseudepigraphic Writings of Hippocrates.

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CONTENTS

ANDROMACHE

Translated by Susan Stewart and Wesley D. Smith

Introduction,

3

Andromache,

16

Notes,

57

HECUBA

Translated by Janet Lembke and Kenneth J. Reckford

Introduction,

65

On the Translation, Hecuba, Notes,

83

88 141

TROJAN WOMEN Introduction,

Translated by Alan Shapiro with Introduction and Notes by Peter Burian

153

On the Translation, Trojan Women, Notes,

235

179 182

CONTENTS

RHESOS

Translated by Richard Emil Braun

Introduction, Rhesos, Notes,

263

280 333

GLOSSARY,

353

FOR FURTHER READING,

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ANDROMACHE

Translated by

susan stewart and

wesley d. smith

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INTRODUCTION

Andromache is one of a number of Euripides’ preserved plays that are concerned with distressed women. In Alcestis, the title character gives her life for her unworthy husband; in Medea, the heroine, because her husband betrayed her, kills their shared children; in Hippolytos, Phaedra destroys her beloved when he scorns her; and in Hecuba, the queen of defeated Troy takes an ugly vengeance on the murderer of her son. Each play has its own logic, but Euripides shows an overall tendency to bring into question, or even to parody, the conventions of heroic literature, which began with the Iliad. Alcestis and Medea achieve heroic stature while their husbands are presented as less than noble, men to whom honor means less than winning by whatever means. The heroes may speak as though they are in the mold of Achilles of the Iliad, but their actions belie it. The Andromache, along with Hecuba and Trojan Women, make a group that dramatizes the aftermath of the Trojan War from the point of view of the war’s devastating consequences for its victims, especially women. These dramas are not inspired by heroic victory over a worthy foe or tragic failure in the attempt, though such values are still remembered. In Andromache, the poet contrasts heroic female qualities with unheroic male qualities. Hector’s widow struggles to save her own life and that of her child from the callous vindictiveness of the Greek general Menelaus, who lacks a sense of honor. Menelaus is only an agent of his daughter Hermione in what she would like to think of as a contest in which she is upholding the ideals of Greek womanhood against the barbarian usurper. But in the conflict between the two women Euripides uses language and emphases that tend toward psychological realism, and the values at issue turn out to be not the old heroic values, but social and domestic ones.

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ANDROMACHE

In creating Andromache, Euripides picked an out-of-the-way part of the mythology of the heroic period, and worked out its dramatic possibilities by altering and shaping the facts of the story in his own way. We can see what it was in the subject that attracted the poet if we notice the potentialities he brings out in his version. Immediately we are struck by the way Andromache’s life story lends itself to expression of pathos: she began in innocence and in the happiest of circumstances, she devoted herself to doing the correct things as her circumstances dictated, and in the end she was brought down to the utterest misery, finally to offer her own life to save her child’s, but in vain, since her torturer lied to her. Euripides sets up a series of moments in which Andromache tells parts of her story, and he gives the Chorus lyric musings that support it with reminiscences of the causes and consequences of the Trojan War. Throughout, Euripides presents Andromache as a mature woman of dignity and heroism, the best of women in the worst of circumstances. Behind or beside this portrait Euripides has given himself scope to picture the culture that produced it. Andromache is a victim because as a woman she faces another more powerfully placed woman’s irrational jealousy. She is a victim because war brought her own culture down, a war like other wars, fought with talk of honor and shame, but fought by shameless people like Menelaus, themselves exceedingly limited. Persistently Euripides draws our attention to woman’s fate, woman’s nature. And persistently he flashes back and forth between the small and the grand, the domestic and the national and international, the personal and the universal. Menelaus’ bad judgments in running his household led to a gathering of Greek forces for an attack on Troy. And in Troy, also, bad judgment had prevented their heading off the actions that they could see would lead to disaster. In Neoptolemus’ house, divided control (two wives, which everyone talks about) has caused disastrous turmoil that in the end destroys dynasties. But one consolation is that a new dynasty is created in Molossia. Such emphases and choices by the poet ask us to look further at the way the play is organized to affect its audience. Two particular aspects of the play have drawn much negative comment through the years: the dramatic structure and the political overtones. I would like to talk about them first, because judgments about them have broad implications for the way we think about Andromache or any Euripidean tragedy. Andromache’s structure has been faulted because she, the heroine, and with her the interest she brought to the play, virtually vanish about halfway through. Those who are certain that this is a flaw see it as symptomatic of the author’s basic misunderstanding of how a play

4

INTRODUCTION

should work. Other Greek tragedies, besides those of Euripides, have anomalous structures. The term ‘‘diptych’’ has been much used in discussions of the change of dramatic focus in Sophocles’ Ajax, for example. Critical literature abounds with assessment of the seriousness of such flaws, assessments inevitably connected to the importance of Aristotle’s insights in the Poetics, and to questions of what dramatic unity might be if it is not focused on an individual’s reversal of fortune.1 Such discussions are not unimportant, but they only become cogent after they escape from the easy assumption that there is one best structure for drama, that all dramas should be judged against it, and it is a structure organized for maximum emotional impact at a climax. Many people are willing to contemplate and try to respond to other kinds of structures. It is for such people that Euripides wrote. Hence, without defensiveness, let us look at the way Euripides put Andromache together. Andromache’s structure is linear and sequential. The opening of the play portrays a crisis, Andromache’s severe danger, and in a series of scenes she is brought to the verge of death and then rescued. At this point in the action the audience is engaged by another problem: Hermione’s fear of punishment for what she has tried to do. Her fear is not unreasonable, and has in some sense been anticipated earlier. Neoptolemus’ likely reaction was talked about, but the audience was not prepared for a second movement that would explore Hermione’s problem. The long scene that dramatizes Hermione’s ‘‘crisis’’ produces information about another impending crisis: the slaughter of Neoptolemus. Again, it comes out of the play’s action, and in the event seems inevitable, but the audience was not earlier told to anticipate that that was the way things would move. Neoptolemus’ slaughter does occur, and is described movingly. Following that, attention shifts to Peleus’ utter grief, but then Thetis intervenes to offer reassurance, and a prediction of everyone’s future. Initially in the play, Andromache’s action provides a focused structure, with a beginning, middle, and end, a change of fortune, and so on, perhaps even a purgation of pity and fear, but following Peleus’ entrance and Menelaus’ withdrawal the audience’s involvement in subsequent events is less emotionally intense, somewhat more detached and intellectual. One can say that surprise rather than suspense is what the audience is treated to. The audience is not so much moved by Hermione’s difficulties as made uncomfortable. They cannot but be affected by her desperation, but at the same time they must be amused or 1. Approaches to modern as well as ancient dramas assess them according to their matching a formula: is the play about a good person, does his fortune change, does it produce a ‘‘catharsis’’ of pity and fear, and so on.

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ANDROMACHE

bemused by the difficult position she has put herself in when her ruthless scheme fails. I think that it is fair to say that Euripides addresses the critical mind more than the emotion. We can appreciate this, I think, without needing to wonder whether he is making a comic or tragic structure. The wit and irony are essential to what Euripides did when he wrote tragedy. And without the earlier ‘‘tragic’’ action of the play, the later part would not work. In a comparable way, although the fate of Neoptolemus is dramatized for us in a vivid speech whose effect on Peleus the audience observes and feels for, the empathy with him is less intense and immediate than it was with Andromache in the early part of the play. The audience never knows Neoptolemus, and his fate allows a detachment that lets their minds appreciate the human and divine forces at play. In the compressed drama of Neoptolemus’ death there is heroic confrontation of man and god, but the setting is sinister and the cause of what happens is ambiguous. Thetis’ epilogue solves every problem and ties all details together, and in the process permits our savoring different kinds of satisfaction from the different parts of the drama, as Aristotle might say. The second most common criticism of the play is that it depends for its effect on the cheap propaganda device of abusing the Spartans, against whom Athens was waging war. Once again, this is not a trivial question. It springs from a consideration of what tragedy ought to be, but it can be pursued in ill considered ways.2 I think all readers must agree that Euripides plays on anti-Spartan sentiments. He expects some of the lines in the play to be effective because they touch the audience’s feelings that have been roused by Athens’ current danger from and hostility to Sparta. Importantly those feelings include personal fear, the sense that Athens could be destroyed, her people slaughtered and enslaved if Sparta has her way. Aside from the various remarks about Spartan treachery and cruelty, the telling jab comes at Menelaus’ last departure from the stage. He has been faced down by Peleus, prevented from murdering woman and child, but he saves face by blustering that he has to leave to go home to punish and enslave a town near Sparta that has offended him, after which he will return to take care of things in Phthia in a heart to heart talk with his son-in-law. What Menelaus says is in no way out of dramatic character for him, whose treachery and casual cruelty have been successfully drawn in the action. But at this point, when the focus suddenly changes from the personal to the international, it offers a frisson of fear to the Athenian audience. We do 2. Some critics are moved by art for art’s sake feelings, others are properly offended by an approach to reading Euripidean and other tragedies that tries to see them as allegories responding to contemporary events.

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INTRODUCTION

not know the date of the Andromache, so we cannot know whether what Menelaus says may have reminded the original audience of a specific recent Spartan action against a neighbor, as it reminds modern students of Mantinea, which later suffered repeatedly from being Sparta’s neighbor.3 How appropriate, then, is Euripides’ appeal to antiSpartan sentiment? To my mind Euripides has used it all well, taking the immediate and turning it into the abstract and eternal. The antiSpartan sentiments work like other appeals to emotional values, Greekbarbarian, male-female, even war-peace, light-dark. I do not see that they are used illegitimately or in a way to confuse the audience’s mind as to what the poet is doing. The Spartans in the play represent an attitude and kinds of behavior common in Classical Greece, but common, too, in the heroic period. Nothing is made false by drawing a comparison between past and present, and the action of the play cannot by any stretch be read as current events wearing the mask of antiquity. The play’s greatest anachronism occurs, I think, in Peleus’ tirade on the bad bringing up of Spartan women to be immodest athletes, which translates later practices back into the bronze age, and accomplishes nothing by suggesting that Helen and Hermione were athletes. Perhaps the actual driving issue, what it is that leads some people to a suspicion that there is an illegitimate emotional appeal to the audience, is the fact that the action of Andromache is drawn with broad strokes and may seem excessively melodramatic and black and white: the innocent noble woman and her boy are victimized by unfeeling powerful people and saved by the aura of a feeble but worthy old man. It is true that the tone approaches that of melodrama, and that the utter insensitivity of the Spartans contributes to that tone. Each of us has to judge whether such a play is tolerable, and if so, why. For me it succeeds because Euripides’ characteristic irony tempers the melodramatic tone, as do his poetry and his wide range of intellectual subject matter. That is to say, Euripides does not reduce our area of consideration, as we think of melodrama doing, but goes from simple melodramatic form to increasing complexity of thought and emotion. One structural technique he uses for this purpose is worth noting: the dramatic stage action is so contrived as to promise immediate action, e.g., Andromache is about to be moved violently from her sanctuary, Menelaus drags her child in and is about to use violence to coerce her, Peleus and Menelaus face off when Menelaus refuses to release the bonds. The audience is riveted and 3. It is a mistake to leap from Euripides’ ‘‘abuse of Sparta’’ to say that this is a ‘‘patriotic play,’’ differing in that respect from the later Trojan Women, which clearly expresses shame and indignation for Athens’ brutality in the Peloponnesian war, and so is not ‘‘patriotic.’’ Such categories are too reductive.

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ready, and the poet uses his riveting of the audience as a chance to explore ideas more extensively. A debate on women’s needs and duties erupts between Hermione and Andromache, another debate on the role of reputation, on seeming versus being in human affairs occurs between Andromache and Menelaus, and later Peleus and Menelaus hold forth on the rival claims of family versus decency and honor. A powerful line each time sets the mental-verbal action going by elevating the immediate conflict to an expression of nature or culture (187–88 / 184–85, 450–52 / 445–47, 697–701 / 693–96): A curse on mortals—that’s what Youth brings us, and worst are the young without a sense of justice. Where’s there a man who doesn’t hate you Spartans— specialists in treachery, weavers of twisted intentions, captains of lies. . . . How senseless are the customs here in Greece. When armies raise their trophies over foes the crowd forgets the ordinary soldiers who did the work and suffered. Instead the general gets the laurels.

And this responds to 649–52 / 645–49: How can they say the old are wise? How did the Greeks speak of your good sense? . . . You made a marriage alliance with us and now you insult us. . . .

Thus, while the action is simple and can be called melodramatic, the poet engages us in such a way as to make us feel that the staged events are entwined with larger values and problems that he introduces. The play’s setting, too, hints at essential human experience. The scene is set at a small temple in an insignificant place, but the scene itself touches in every member of the audience a core of fear, eliciting an attention that the poet can use to get his material in front of the audience. In the opening scene a suppliant clings to a statue of a goddess. The suppliant posture is one of helplessness, resignation, desperation at having passed beyond human help. Clothing and headdress (possibly shaved head) add to the pathos of the suppliant’s position. The audience readily knows the meaning of the scene, and has feeling for the suppliant: 8

INTRODUCTION

many of those watching the play will have fled for their own lives and sought sanctuary at some time. All of them knew people who had. And a number of those in the audience might have been the pursuers in such events, and would have their own complex responses. Thus, while the setting of the play is in the mists of antiquity, in the heroic age, the action involved is so near as to be gripping. Even in civilized fifth century Greece, and even in Athens, the most civilized of cities, one depended on the gods for safety. The gods, most people believed, watched over their worshippers and their institutions. In times of desperation they were the only protection, and one became their suppliant in the hope that respect or fear for the gods would be effective. Fear of the gods often did restrain people from violence, but not invariably. Respect for the ritual of suppliance was increased by many stories of the curses that had pursued and ruined people who had violated the gods’ sanctuaries. In myth the gods are generally very jealous of their prerogatives and their dignity. They are very likely to fly off the handle when crossed. They are very dangerous beings. The Chorus’ questions at 1012–21 / 1009–18 bring this out, as does, possibly, Apollo’s response to Neoptolemus. What then should we make of divinity’s function in this play? What becomes of the aura of holiness with which the play begins? That the object of supplication is the goddess Thetis is told by Andromache in her opening speech. Thetis is not a major goddess, not commonly worshipped in Athens. She is fairly far off and misty. One knows her from the Iliad as a sea nymph most distressed by the tragic situation of her son Achilles. But the normal Greek was quite conscious that gods of any rank exercise great power in the vicinity of their own shrines where they are worshipped. As the scene develops, it is clear that Hermione and Menelaus are afraid to violate the sanctuary of Thetis’ temple, despite their threats to burn it down and their bold assertions that they have no fear. On the whole it was safer to be afraid of the gods. But after Andromache is tricked into leaving the temple, the sense of Thetis’ involvement fades into background both for the audience and the characters. Still, as it turns out, Andromache is saved by an old and weak man, and Thetis appears at the end to assert her authority and to take responsibility for everyone’s future. The audience is free to feel Thetis’ influence throughout the action as much as they desire. The play gives a simple shape: she was supplicated and she answered. The promise implicitly given by the stage setting is fulfilled. Apollo similarly exercises power in the vicinity of his shrine. Neoptolemus goes to Delphi to apologize to Apollo, presumably to try to avert whatever malign influence Apollo might continue to exert on his life. When the messenger tells us what happened, he concentrates on 9

ANDROMACHE

what the Phthians saw in Delphi, and what they surmised from it. It is the mob of Delphians, urged on by Orestes, who are the agents of Neoptolemus’ death, and they were egged on by gossip, innuendo, and slander. But one moment of divine mystery occurs during the battle in the temple, when it appears that the heroic and violent Neoptolemus of myth has risen to the occasion with his Pyrrhic leap and is going to beat his attackers. A profound voice sounds out from the temple, stunning Neoptolemus and rousing his attackers. The audience is again left to interpret the god’s action as they wish.4 I suspect that Sophocles or Aeschylus would have constrained the audience more directly, guiding their interpretation. Euripides tends always toward ambiguity in such matters, leading critics into many disputes about his attitudes. But here in Andromache the messenger helps us out somewhat. Though he has described all the mob’s action and motivation in human terms relating to Orestes’ schemes, he says at the end (1162–66 / 1661–65), This is how the god who prophesies for all, who judges morality for all mankind, has treated the son of Achilles when he came to make amends. Like a cowardly man, he brooded on old quarrels—how can we call that wise?

Questions of belief deal not with atheism versus belief in the gods’ existence, but rather with the nature and character of the gods. The Chorus directs a question to Apollo when it is trying to trace the chain of bad events. It wants to know how Apollo and Poseidon could have turned against Troy, their own creation, and destroyed it along with the people they had protected. It is something of a rhetorical question, because the Chorus is implying that there can be no adequate reasons. Similar feelings are produced by the Chorus’ retelling the story of the contest of the three goddesses and the judgment of Paris. Indeed, when looked at mythologically, the whole sequence of events, beginning with Helen’s adultery and ending in the plight of Andromache, was caused by arbitrary, frivolous acts by divinities. So, the human action is played out before a background of superhuman entities. If such entities were submitted to the audience’s discussion and judgment, widely different views would be expressed. Nor will we ever know the poet’s views. Within the play, however, the dramatic effect of reference to the 4. The audience might well be reminded of Apollo’s intervention in the battle in the Iliad, in which he stunned Patroclus and knocked him to the ground, where all could stab him.

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INTRODUCTION

supernatural behind the event is to promote a sense of unity and completeness. In so using divinities Euripides is continuing Greek literary traditions as old as literature itself. In storytelling, in hymns to the gods, songs of praise for mortals, as well as in graphic arts, there is a tendency to weave divinity into the fabric of everything, and to trace events back to their divine sources. Even if events are adequately accounted for without the gods, the signs of the gods are said to be there anyway. The Greek artists have wide latitude in their use of such material, and need not even be self-consistent unless they wish. In the foreground of the Andromache are human motive and action, and insistently our attention is drawn to women’s nature, women’s role, and so on, as it seems Euripides takes every opportunity to raise the topic and to introduce broad generalizations: love is the most important thing to a woman, woman is very jealous, and a bad woman is worse than a viper; they say a woman takes pleasure in rehearsing her miseries; she can always find an excuse for something. And the Chorus sounds as though it is taking material from Aristophanes’ comedies when it cautions Hermione that women should stick together and cover one another’s faults with cosmetics. There is a dose of irony in what Hermione says to elicit that admonition from the Chorus. Hermione has proceeded from remorse and fear about the consequences of her brutality to Andromache and Molossus to a process of excusing herself. How could she have gone so wrong, she asks, and she concludes that the fault must lie with women, her women visitors to whom she confided her problems, and who gave her dreadful advice that led to her crimes. She declares that men should isolate their wives from other women and restrict their visitors because the society of women is dangerous. Hermione’s simplistic reduction, along with instant social philosophy that presents an extreme version of the point of view that actually determined the status of women in classical Athens, is what I speak of as exemplary Euripidean irony. It seems indubitable, considering the amount and variety of attention he gives to it, that not only was Euripides interested in the status of women, but also that he wanted to draw the audience’s attention to it. Ancient suggestions in Aristophanes’ plays that Euripides was misogynist or feminist make sense in the light of such concentration. But we are forced to ask whether either label applies, and how do we prove it? It is not easy to peer into a culture as alien to us as that of ancient Athens to see and judge sympathetically the subject of woman’s condition, or to make out what is being said about it. The Greeks sometimes seem much like us, as when Andromache says ‘‘All men love their 11

ANDROMACHE

children.’’ But we quickly learn that we cannot transfer values one by one, or make one for one equivalencies for meanings of words. It is well to remember the funeral speech Thucydides attributes to Pericles at the end of the first year of fighting in the Peloponnesian War, in which, after giving a picture of Athens as the most enlightened and humane city on earth to that time, and after urging sons and brothers of the dead to carry forward the city’s excellence, he turned to the women present: ‘‘If I must say anything on the subject of female excellence to those of you who will now be in widowhood, it will all be comprised in this brief exhortation. Great will be your glory in not falling short of your natural character; and greatest will be hers who is least talked of among the men for good or for bad.’’5 The fact that Thucydides found that exemplary sentiment appropriate at such a symbolically important time cautions us against simple anachronistic judgments. The society was patriarchal; women were largely sequestered, they were under the control and protection of the oldest male relative, who arranged their marriages and gave them dowries, and to whose protection they would revert if they were divorced. The woman was under effective control of her husband. There were a few legal limits to the abuse he could visit on her. Custom and public opinion offered the greatest restraints. All these things are alluded to in the play, whose family arrangements are like those of the classical period in which it was written.6 And yet Euripides shows a delicate sympathy not only for the fallen aristocrat whose status deprives her of all rights, but also for the ‘‘fellow slave’’ who is sent into danger of death for Andromache’s sake, and who says, ‘‘the life of a woman who is a slave has little value.’’ In the clash between Andromache and Hermione, Euripides divides woman’s role into two to make the sharp contrast. Andromache is a wholly sympathetic figure whose point of view is well established before Hermione appears. In poignant antitheses between what she strove for and what she experienced, Euripides works on the themes that he used again in his portrait of Andromache in Trojan Women some years later. I aimed always at the prize all good women win, and my success won me ruin. All the modesty wit has conjured for us I pursued. First, the worst thing that we face, 5. From the translation of Richard Crawley. 6. I think the audience might have wondered, when Hermione says Neoptolemus will kill her outright on his return, whether that is something Euripides attributes to the more brutal heroic age in which the play is set, or whether she exaggerates in her hysteria.

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INTRODUCTION

gossip, good or bad, when we go out, I avoided. I stayed within my home, I was not a shrew, nor coy nor shrewd. My happiness was knowing where to stop. Silence, and my eyes at peace on him. When to win and when to yield I knew. News of me spread to the Grecian camp, so when Troy fell and we women became loot I was first prize. Achilles’ son chose me. Son of the man who killed my husband, he killed my husband’s father. I am his. His. Do I now push away the head of Hector where it left its impress here?

As a type of perfect woman she is victimized by her own nature when she becomes the mate of a new owner. Hermione does not have such difficulties. And her problem as it is presented is that she is too assertive of her own wants and needs instead of most interested in what will be convenient and pleasing to her husband. She demands too much love, too much attention, too much eleutherostomia, the right to speak her will. But Hermione says that her view is the view of the civilized Greek. She is made to seem ridiculous when she imagines that Andromache’s magic potions are ruining her, when she asserts that the barbarian will not play fair because her type of people can put up with any indignity, including incest. But Andromache brings us up somewhat short when she says (225–29 / 222–71), O dearest Hector, for your sake, I opened my heart to your loves when Cypris caught you. I often served as wet-nurse, offering my breasts to your bastards, to show you I was not bitter. And with such wifely perfection, I led you to love me.

Earlier Euripides has Andromache argue that if a woman marries into a Thracian house where there are many wives, she should govern her passions accordingly. Thus, in the same way as Euripides pulls out the stops in his treatment of Hermione as the young and selfish, snobbish, Spartan girl, in whom the normal passions of a young wife turn murderous, he also tweaks the audience when he draws the portrait of 13

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the ideal submissive woman and wife. Yes, those barbarians are a bit extreme, perhaps. It seems that Euripides is not really proposing an answer to questions about the ‘‘woman problem’’ in his culture so much as using the elements of it to heighten sensitivity. Or perhaps a better analysis can produce a different answer. The Chorus members in Andromache are women from Phthia. The Chorus feels closer to Andromache than to Hermione because she lives in Phthia, and because it can empathize with her powerlessness. The Chorus consists of simple, no-nonsense, moral Greek women. Hence the Chorus mediates between the audience and the players on stage. The Chorus is loyal to the house of Aeacus, to the memory of Achilles, and to Neoptolemus. It feels and responds to the innocence of Andromache and Molossus, the high-strung selfishness of Hermione, the insensitive cowardly bluster of Menelaus, the aged dignity and goodness of Peleus, and so on. It thinks and feels in its own character for the most part. The Chorus is there to say a few things in dialogue but primarily to contribute to the lyric, musical portion of the play. Unfortunately, with the loss of the music and all but a few vague descriptions of the dance, we cannot really get at its effect, but must take it on faith that it enhanced the drama considerably. The lyric passages sung by the Chorus keep returning to the Trojan story, to the judgment of Paris on the three goddesses, to Poseidon and Apollo’s vengeance on Troy, and the Chorus tends to conventional views. The Chorus extols nobility, with Peleus as the example, and deprecates divided authority, in Neoptolemus’ house and elsewhere. At the end it sings the refrain Euripides also used elsewhere, which boils down to ‘‘What happens is not what you expect will happen,’’ or, as A. E. Housman put it in his parody of Greek tragedy, ‘‘Life is uncertain.’’ The Chorus does not speak for the poet or characters. Its tag at the end of the play is one of a number of examples of irony or understatement by the poet. If the play does, in the end, produce a sense of unity as well as of rightness and therefore of inevitability, it is because Euripides, who Aristotle said is ‘‘the most tragic of the poets,’’ is actually the most realistic of the Athenian tragedians in spite of all his fancies and diversions. At the end of Andromache Thetis sets all right, but leaves Neoptolemus dead, leaves Hermione, Menelaus, and Orestes as we saw them. And, of course, the realities that Euripides has pointed out to his audience are all in place, including the rituals of war and man’s inhumanity. Despite the superficially cheerful conclusion, the view of life that Euripides presents in Andromache, as in all his work, is fundamentally tragic. Wesley D. Smith 14

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Translated by

susan stewart and

wesley d. smith

CHARACTERS

andromache slave and concubine of Neoptolemus, a Trojan woman, widow of Hector maidservant an enslaved Trojan woman chorus of Phthian women hermione Spartan princess, wife of Neoptolemus, daughter of Helen and Menelaus menelaus King of Sparta molossus son of Andromache peleus father of Achilles, grandfather of Neoptolemus nurse of Hermione orestes nephew of Menelaus messenger thetis goddess, once wife of Peleus

Line numbers in the right-hand margin of the text refer to the English translation only, and the Notes on the text beginning at page 57 are keyed to these lines. The bracketed line numbers in the running heads refer to the Greek text.

The scene is the temple of thetis, near the front of Neoptolemus’ palace in Phthia. The temple is an open structure with an altar in front, stairs up to the peristyle, and a statue of thetis visible on a pedestal inside. andromache is sagging in front of the statue, clinging to its knees in a posture of suppliance. She rises and speaks, while moving about the shrine. andromache Glory of all Asia, city of Thebe, from you in that far time, I came dowered with bridal gold to Priam’s royal hearth. I, Andromache, came as the true-wed wife of Hector, the one who would give the world his sons. Andromache, so worthy of envy. But now I am the most miserable of women. I saw Hector, my husband, slain by Achilles. I saw Astyanax, the son I bore, hurled from the highest ramparts—murdered as the Greeks seized the hill of Troy. And I, a child of the freest of all houses, was brought as a slave to the shores of Hellas and given as the choicest spoil of war to the islander Neoptolemus. Now I live near the town of Pharsalia on the plains that border Phthia—lands where the sea goddess, Thetis, dwelled as the wife of Peleus, avoiding humankind. People in Thessaly, in memory of her marriage, call this place Thetideion. Achilles’ son made his home in this place and honored Peleus’ rule. As long as the old king lives, the grandson refuses the scepter. I myself have borne a son here, a son to Achilles’ son, for he remains my master and I his slave. Before then I lived in misery. Yet, since his birth, hope has sustained me—the hope that, if he is saved, I’ll find in him some succor and strength in my troubles And since my lord wed the Spartan princess, Laconian Hermione, he spurns this slave’s bed. She, his bride, has cruelly wronged me, saying I’ve used secret potions to make her childless and thereby made her husband hate her.

17

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20

30

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[34–69]

She says I want to take her place as lady of the house and force her from her husband. But from the first I took his bed without consenting. Now I have left it. Zeus is my witness. I shared that bed against my will and heart. She has no faith in what I say; she wants to kill me and now her father, Menelaus, has joined her to help destroy me. He’s in the house. He came from Sparta for that very purpose. In fear, I have fled to Thetis’ shrine: she will protect me. Peleus and his descendants revere this monument to his marriage with Thetis. I have sent my only living son in secret to another house, for here he may be killed. His father is not near enough to offer me protection, nor can he help the boy. He has gone to Delphi to atone for the madness he showed in the past when, at Pytho, he demanded justice of Apollo, for the god had killed his father, Achilles. He hopes that, by begging forgiveness for his mistake, he will come into the favor of the god.

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Enter maidservant. maidservant My queen, I do not hesitate to use that title since I showed you the same respect in your own home when we lived in Troy. I was loyal to you and to your husband when he was alive. Now I come to bring you awful news, in fear that my masters will see me, but in pity for you. You must take care against the horrors that Menelaus and his daughter are planning against you and your child. andromache Dear, dear fellow slave; indeed you are a fellow slave to me, who was once your queen and now am fallen very low. What are they doing? What murderous schemes are they weaving? maidservant Dear queen, they plan to kill your son this time; the little boy you’ve hidden from their eyes. 18

60

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[70–90]

andromache Oh no, can it be true that she has learned he is in hiding— 70 whose voice, whose tongue, has told her? Is it done? I am undone. maidservant I do not know, but with my own eyes I have seen Menelaus leave the palace, bent to find the boy. andromache Undone, utterly. I am utterly undone. Those vultures, twin vultures, will snatch and kill my little one while his hope, the man he calls father, is still at Delphi. maidservant Yes, if he were here you would not suffer so. But as it is, you are without friends. andromache And still there is no word that Peleus might come? maidservant Even if he came, he’s much too old to help you.

80

andromache Yet I have sent for him—not once, but many times. maidservant Do you really think that anyone here has carried a message for you? andromache I see, now I see. Yet you—would you take the message? maidservant What excuse can I use for leaving my post so long? andromache You, too, are a woman—you could find many reasons. maidservant It is dangerous. Hermione keeps a constant watch. andromache When trouble comes, will you renounce your former friends? maidservant Do not stain me with that reproach—I’ll go. I may meet with evil, but the life of a woman who is a slave has little value. Exit maidservant. 19

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[91–116]

andromache Go then, and I will extend to heaven the lamentations, the sobs and tears, to which my life seems given over. They say a woman rehearses her misery, taking pleasure as it spills from her lips. Yet I have not one, but many sources for my grief; my native city razed, my bond to Hector broken, and the bitter yoke of slavery that fate has placed, so unjustly, upon me. Never call any mortal blessed until you see, in his last hour, his last day, how he goes down into the world of death.

100

[Intoned, like a funeral dirge] Helen arrived as a bride brought by Paris to lofty and steepbuilt Troy, but she was a curse, like a fury upon us. Because of her, War came from Greece, in a thousand swift ships to destroy you, Troy, and the son of the sea goddess Thetis dragged Hector behind his chariot, dragged him three times around the walls, a corpse through the dust of the chariot’s ruts. I, myself, captured and led from my bed, out of my innermost chambers, wrapped horrid slavery about my bowed head and went down 110 to the sea, to the strand of my exile. Then fast flowed the tears as I left my poor city, my sanctum, my bed, and my husband, my love there entombed in the dust. Oh destiny, anguish of destiny! Why do I still look up, up to the light, even now as Hermione’s slave? Hounded and harried without a respite, I have thrown myself, a suppliant, on Thetis’ statue. My tears come unbidden like springs from a rock. Enter chorus, 15 women of Phthia. 20

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[117–50]

chorus Woman, how long you’ve stayed on the floor strophe of Thetis’ shrine, staying your ground. Though I am from Phthia, I have come to you, Asian woman. I hope that I might concoct a remedy for this raging quarrel that locks you and Hermione together in violent hatred. Achilles’ son is the source of that hatred. Two wives share him, so two wives suffer. Know your fate. Reason through where evil circumstance has brought you. You are at war with your masters. You are a Trojan woman struggling against high-born Spartans. Leave this house of the sea goddess where sheep are received for slaying. You will gain nothing by wasting away in desperate fear of your rulers. Power comes down on you, and you are nothing. Why struggle? Come then, leave the Nereid’s glorious shrine. Know yourself— most miserable of women, you are a slave, a servant in a foreign city where you never meet anyone you have known as a friend.

120

antistrophe

130

strophe

140

Pity is what we feel for you, antistrophe a Trojan slave in our master’s house. Fear holds our tongues, but pity fills our eyes. We don’t want the daughter of Zeus’ daughter to see the pity we bring you. Enter hermione. hermione I have wreathed my hair with strands of gold and draped these dappled veils about me, but it is not thanks to the first fruits, the marriage gifts of my bridegroom or his father, that I make

21

150

ANDROMACHE

[150–87]

such an entrance. It was my father, Menelaus, who bestowed such finery— and a rich dowry, too—all the license I need to speak my mind. Here is what I say: You, slave woman, brought by the spear, you would love to throw me out and make my house your own. I am hated by my husband because of your potions. It’s your fault my womb is now 160 withered and empty. Such curses are a specialty of you Asian women. But I am going to stop it. The Temple of the Nereid won’t help you, and neither will its sacred shrine and altar. You are going to die—even if he tried, no man or god could save you. Forget your past, your former glory; skulk here on the ground, grovel at my knees, dip a hand into my golden basins and sprinkle the water of Achelous drop by drop from my golden ewers. Know where you are on earth; there is no Hector here, 170 no Priam, no fabled gold. This is a Greek city. You are so stupid, so mindless, you had the nerve to go to bed with the son of the man who killed your husband— and you bore the baby of the one who slew your kin. Yet this, too, is the kind of thing you barbarians do. The father lies down with his daughter, the son marries his mother, the sister takes up with the brother, and family squabbles are settled with blood. You may have no rule of law, but keep such customs to yourselves. We think 180 a man who teams up two wives is only asking for trouble. Anyone who wants a happy home will search for a single wedded love. chorus Every woman’s heart is prone to jealousy and there is no hate like hate for a rival. andromache Oh, oh A curse on mortals—that’s what Youth brings us, and worst are the young without a sense of justice. Because I am a slave, I fear my words will be discounted. And though I have a just 22

190

ANDROMACHE

[188–225]

position, I may be punished for winning the argument. The high and mighty, the self-righteous—all hate to hear the truth from those below them. Still, I won’t be condemned because I dropped my own case. Tell me, young woman, what line of reasoning led me to push you out of your legitimate marriage bed? Is Sparta humbled by Troy’s splendor? Am I blessed with wealth and freedom? Do I have a girl’s ripe beauty? Do my powerful friends and great city support me as I dispossess you? And all so I can bear my sons as slaves— each one a wretched weight upon my wretched life? If you have no children, those sons of mine are sure to be exalted as Phthia’s royal kings! Oh, how the Greeks love me for Hector’s sake! Andromache the obscure—a Trojan nobody. Not because of my drugs does your husband hate you—it’s just that you’re not a pleasing companion. This, too, is a love potion: not only beauty but perfect virtue, too, can prove a charm in bed. When you are irritated, you always say that Sparta is a great place and Scyros nothing.

200

210

Points to hermione’s dress and jewelry. Here in poor Phthia, you show off your riches. For you Menelaus is above Achilles. Such things your husband truly hates. Even the lowliest of husbands deserves to be cherished and not opposed. What if you had married a king of snow-bound Thrace, where men take to their beds in turn numerous wives? Would you have killed the others? Would you have blamed it all upon their appetite for bed? How becoming! It’s true we pine for love more than our husbands do, but it’s only decent to keep it to ourselves. O dearest Hector, for your sake, I opened my heart to your loves when Cypris caught you. I often served as wet-nurse, offering my breasts to your bastards, to show you I was not bitter. 23

220

ANDROMACHE

[226–50]

And with such wifely perfection, I led you to love me. But you—you are even jealous of the rain that falls to touch your husband’s face. Don’t try to outdo your mother’s philandering, because children with such mothers should run in the opposite direction—if they have any sense.

230

chorus (to hermione) Mistress, with all respect, please try to find some way to get along with her. hermione Why do you preach to me and argue with me as if you alone are sensible? andromache Well, you clearly aren’t. Just listen to you now. hermione I hope I’ll never show the kind of sense that you have.

240

andromache You’re young, and yet your talk has such a nasty streak. hermione But you don’t talk—with action you hurt me. andromache Will you not bear the pain of love in silence? hermione Why should I? Love’s all a woman has to live for. andromache But love is only all for those who use it well. hermione Your barbarian laws will not hold sway here. andromache Here or there—no difference—shame is simply shame. hermione A clever wit—too bad you have to die. andromache And do you see the eyes of Thetis turned on you? hermione Expressing how she hates your people—the killers of Achilles? andromache Helen killed him, not I—Helen, your mother. hermione Do you intend to keep it up, to open all my wounds? andromache All right, I’ll be silent. I hereby seal my lips.

24

250

ANDROMACHE

[251–77]

hermione But wait, tell me one thing, the thing I came to ask you. andromache I tell you that you lack the sense you need. hermione Will you, are you going to, leave this shrine of Thetis? andromache I’ll leave if I might live: if death awaits, I’ll stay. hermione Your death is destined. And I’m not waiting for my husband. andromache Until he comes, I’ll cling to life, I’ll never trust you. hermione I will set you on fire without a thought for your fate.

260

andromache Strike your fire, but don’t forget the gods are watching. hermione Then they will see your flesh torn apart in horrid wounds. andromache Slash away, bloody her altar—the goddess will pursue you. hermione Barbarian creature, half-savage and stubborn, do you really defy death? I will unseat you. I have a lure that will make you consent in the end. But for now, I won’t announce it; the event itself will soon disclose my meaning. Keep your seat like a statue, as if molten lead had soldered you to that sticking place. I’ll pry you loose before Achilles’ son, your trusted champion, comes.

270

Exit hermione. andromache Yes, it’s he that I trust! How strange that the gods have given us antidotes for all venomous snakes, but none have ever found a cure for an evil woman, worse than the stings of vipers of flames. Such poison are we to mankind. chorus It was the beginning of terrible sorrows when the son of Maia and Zeus went into the glen of Ida, leading a lovely team of three—three

25

strophe

280

ANDROMACHE

[278–312]

goddesses. Armed with their beauty for the hateful contest, they came to the shepherd’s lonely hearth— to that wild place, to the poor door where the shepherd kept his solitude.

280

When they came among the branches antistrophe and leaves of the shadowed glen, they bathed their shining bodies in the splashing mountain spring. And then they stood in radiance before the son of Priam, vying as rivals with hot words. Aphrodite snared him in deceit— words sweet to hear, but fatal for the Phrygian city, fatal to the walls of Troy. If only she who gave birth to this evil had raised him overhead and thrown him far away before he came to Ida’s slope. Cassandra cried out— imploring the elders, she cried for his death. Beside the laurel of prophecy she shouted against the blight on Priam’s city. Whom did she not approach?

strophe

For then the women of Troy would never antistrophe have been harnessed to slavery’s yoke. And woman, you would still be living within your royal house. Then the Greeks would have escaped a decade full of agony, and young spearmen would not have struggled to the death around the walls of Troy. No beds would be bereft of lovers, no old men would be bereft of sons. Enter menelaus, with attendants, bringing molossus. menelaus I’m here. I brought your son, whom you hid secretly from my daughter in a neighbor’s house. You seem to have hoped this statue would save you while the neighbors could save the boy. But you 26

290

300

310

ANDROMACHE

[313–50]

have been proved not half as astute as Menelaus. If you don’t leave this spot, we’ll slit his throat. His corpse in return for yours. So mull it over—do you want to die or do you want this boy slaughtered for all the wrong you’ve done to me and mine? andromache Fame, bloated fame! How many thousand worthless mortals have you puffed up in glory. Any who have gained renown through truth deserve their laurels. But those who win by fraud or chance I dismiss. They deserve nothing. It’s hard to believe that you were the one who led the troops of Greece and ruined Priam’s Troy— you, a weakling who does your little daughter’s bidding— now you enter the fray against a hapless slave, breathing such fire and fury! You’re not worthy of Troy, nor she of you. Successful men like you might seem to shine. Yet within you’re merely mortal—just richer. The gleam of wealth bestows that power you have. So Menelaus, let’s reason together: let’s suppose I’m dead, that your daughter has killed me, she’ll never flee this murder’s bloody consequences. The people will blame you, too, as her accomplice— necessity will chain you two together. Or let’s suppose, instead, I live. And if you kill my son do you think his father would take that death in stride? Troy does not speak of him as unmanly. He will do what should be done—things worthy of Peleus and his own father, Achilles; he’s sure to throw your daughter from the house. Do you then have a plan to marry her off again? Will you say her virtue led her to leave her husband? The facts will be known. Who will marry her? Shall she live with you for years—drying up, turning gray? You poor man—don’t you see the catastrophe at hand? How many betrayals 27

320

330

340

350

ANDROMACHE

[351–88]

of your daughter’s bed would you prefer rather than suffer what I describe? Don’t turn a trifle into a disaster. We women might be given to extremes, but why copy us? If I have filled your daughter with poisons and made her barren, as she claims, my judge should be your son-in-law. I won’t flee to altars. I’m willing to submit to his justice, for if I’ve made him childless, he has an equal grievance against me. That is the kind of person I am—I affirm it. But as for you, I fear your nature. Because of a woman’s quarrel before, in the end it was Troy that you destroyed. chorus You are a woman, speaking to a man: you have gone too far, your righteousness has overshot its mark. menelaus Woman, it’s true that these are merely trifles, true they’re hardly fitting for a king—or Greece. But don’t forget, when something claims one’s heart the goal can grow as strong as taking Troy. I’m here to help my daughter. I consider it a very great matter to be robbed of one’s mate. There’s nothing worse a wife can ever suffer. To lose her husband is to lose her life. My son-in-law must rule over my slaves, and my daughter, with my help, will rule over his: true friends like us hold everything in common; there is no place for private wealth. It’s up to me to set this house in order: waiting is for the weak, not the wise. So stand and leave this sacred shrine of Thetis, for if you die, this boy will not be doomed. But if you refuse, and live, I will kill him. One of you must now submit to death. andromache How cruel a lottery you set before me, a choice between two lives—when winning wins me wretchedness and losing brings ill fate. Oh you who from small causes take grand actions, why are you killing me? For whose sake? What city 28

360

370

380

390

ANDROMACHE

[389–426]

have I betrayed? What child of yours have I killed? What house have I set on fire? Against my will, I mated with my master. And then you kill me, not him who was the cause. You overlook the source as you pursue the end you want. All these evils! Such misery to me, such suffering to my land. Why did I have to be a mother and with that double the pain I bear? Yet motherhood isn’t my only burden; I have other sorrows equal to my present sorrows. I saw Hector dragged behind the wheels. I saw Ilium wrapped in pitiless fire. Yanked by my hair, I went, a slave, aboard the Argive ships. And when I came to Phthia, I was wed to Hector’s murderers. Why should I value life? What should I think of? Shall I look to the past or to the present? The last eye of my life is this one child and those who have power are going to kill him, but they will hold back in exchange for my wretched life. At least if he is saved, I have hope and if I don’t die for him, I have shame. Look—I now am leaving the shrine. I’m yours to hack, bind, murder, strangle with a rope! My child, your mother goes to join those in Hades so you may live. Having survived, remember your mother—and why I died. When you kiss your father, when he lifts you in his arms, tell him with your tears and words all that I’ve endured. For all mankind, children are their very life. The childless criticize the childbearers, and always feel less pain, but their blessing is in truth a kind of curse.

400

410

420

andromache comes down the steps of the shrine. chorus What I hear awakes my pity; for sorrow stirs the hearts of mortals, even the sorrow of strangers. You, Menelaus, should reconcile your daughter and this woman so she might have some relief from her pain. menelaus Seize this woman, come and tie her hands; she’ll hardly want to hear the words I’ll say. 29

430

ANDROMACHE

[427–53]

An attendant seizes her. I’ve caught you now; I’ve dangled the boy’s life like a lure to make you leave the holy altar. I’ve led you straight into my waiting trap. You can be sure of death; your fate’s a fact. But as for your son, my daughter will decide whether he should live or die. Go to the house now. I’ll teach you, slave, not to vent your rage against the free. andromache Fooled! Duped! Caught by treachery and deceit!

440

menelaus Go tell the world! It’s true; I won’t deny it. andromache On the banks of Eurotas, this is called cleverness? menelaus Of course, just as in Troy, we believe in revenge. andromache Have the gods lost their divinity? Do you think there is no justice? menelaus When there is, I’ll bear it. But I’m going to kill you. andromache And kill my little babe, too, my chick, torn from beneath my wing? menelaus Not I. His death will be my daughter’s bidding. andromache My little boy, there is no reason to delay my lament. menelaus It’s true, he has little to hope for. andromache Where’s there a man who doesn’t hate you Spartans— specialists in treachery, weavers of twisted intentions, captains of lies, assassins, never a straight and honest thought, never a sound judgment— your prosperity in Greece is a crime in itself! There is no evil you have not committed. Your hands itch with greed and the urge to murder. Your lips say one thing while your hearts plot another. Damn you! Death is not the worst I fear. 30

450

ANDROMACHE

[454–90]

I died before when Phrygia burned: I died with my glorious husband who so often sent you, a whimpering coward, back across the sand to your ships. You’re such a fierce warrior now, standing up to a woman. Kill me! Kill on! You and your daughter will hear no pleas or flattery from me. Now you rule in Sparta, but I ruled once in Troy. Don’t boast of my destruction. Your turn to suffer will surely come.

460

As she speaks menelaus moves toward the exit, and the attendants herd andromache and molossus out. chorus Never will I approve of any mortal having two mates, never should sons live with two mothers. Strife and pain and hate will fill the house. Let a husband be content with one mate, one mate for one man, and share the bed with no one else.

strophe 470

Neither in cities is a pair of rulers ever easier to bear than one. Suffering is piled upon suffering and civil war comes to the citizens. When a pair of craftsmen draft one hymn, the muses always cause strife.

antistrophe

When blasting winds sweep sailors along, then a pair of minds at the helm, even a whole crew of skilled men, are weaker than a lesser mind in full control. Under one roof and over the city, the power of one man will make the right decisions.

strophe

The Spartan woman proves it, the general Menelaus’ daughter. Against her rival, she breathed fire. She tried to kill the poor Trojan woman and her child. Strife and pain and hate,

antistrophe

31

480

490

ANDROMACHE

[491–520]

godless graceless slaughter. Such things, lady, bring reversal and revenge. Now indeed here’s the mother and son yoked together so tightly—devoted to death. Poor, poor woman. And you, wretched boy, you are dying because of your mother’s marriage, though you’re blameless, you bear no fault toward the kings.

500

Enter menelaus, then andromache, bound, with molossus holding onto her skirt. menelaus’ attendants are guarding them. They go up to the altar in front of the temple. andromache Here I am, being dispatched to death; my hands are bloody from these knots, so tightly bound.

strophe

molossus Oh mother, mother, beneath your wing, I, too, go down to death. andromache Lords of Phthia, this is an unholy sacrifice.

510

molossus Oh father, come and help your family. andromache Dear little one, you will lie below, crushed against my own cold breast. molossus Mother, what will become of me? You and I could not be more wretched. menelaus Go down to your deaths in the Underworld. You come from a city I hate. Your two deaths come from two votes: I’ve delivered your sentence—my daughter demands the immediate death of your son. A mere fool would allow his enemies, 32

520

ANDROMACHE

[521–47]

or the children of enemies, life when revenge could protect his home from fear. andromache Oh husband, husband—if only you could come to spare us with your hand and spear—Oh son of Priam.

antistrophe

molossus My poor mother, what spell or song of mine can turn away our fate? andromache Plead with him, my boy. Clutch his knees in supplication.

530

molossus Please, sir, do not harm me. Please let me go. menelaus prevents molossus from clutching his knees. andromache My eyes are full of tears; they will not stop— This misery flows like a sunless spring that sends its water down the smoothest rocks. molossus Oh misery, how much misery—and for how long shall I have to suffer? menelaus Do not bother to supplicate me. I’m as hard as a sea-worn cliff, as relentless as sea-borne waves. I would help my own family without hesitation, but you, boy, do not move me. Remember I wasted the prime of my life fighting to capture Troy and your mother. Don’t cling to me, cling to her as you set off for the Underworld. chorus Yet, look, Peleus is on his way, hurrying his old legs as fast as he can. Enter peleus, attended by a young man and followed in the background by two armed attendants. peleus (speaking as he enters) You, especially you who oversee this killing, 33

540

ANDROMACHE

[548–76]

tell me—What are you doing? What’s the meaning of this? What is the reason for the chaos in the house? What are you doing executing without trial? Menelaus, stop your unjust haste!

550

Speaking to his attendant. And you, lead me on now quickly. I have no time to waste. If only I could regain my former strength. First, I’ll send this woman a fair wind to fill her sail. Speaks to andromache. Tell me, by what right did these men bind you and the boy and take you away? The lamb and the ewe are being slaughtered when your master and I are gone. andromache Just as you see, old father, these men are taking my son and me away to die. What is left to tell you? Not once, but many times I sent my cries of help to you, messenger after messenger. You must have heard of the fury of his daughter and why I’m doomed to die. Now they have torn me from the altar of Thetis, mother of your noble son— the goddess you adore and revere. They took me off by force; they did not hold a trial or wait for those who were absent. They knew that I and this child were all alone. They are about to kill him in his innocence, along with unhappy me.

560

570

She approaches him, holding out her bound hands. But I beg you, old father—I fall at your knees, for I cannot reach your dearest beard in supplication— save me, in the name of the gods! I’ll die, disgraced and disgracing your family. 34

580

ANDROMACHE

[577–603]

peleus I order you to loosen this woman’s bonds, release her hands or you will pay for this. menelaus But I say don’t, and I’m the one in charge; it’s up to me, for I rule over her. peleus What? Have you come now to try to rule my house? Isn’t it enough to rule the Spartans? menelaus I captured her and brought her as a slave from Troy. peleus Yes, but my son’s son took due possession of her as his prize. menelaus What’s mine is his—and all that’s his is mine. peleus For you to do well by, not badly, not by murdering.

590

menelaus Face the facts: you’ll never rescue her from my control. peleus You face the fact that this staff will bloody your head! menelaus Touch me and see what happens! Just come near me! menelaus retreats. peleus What? Now you, a coward descended from cowards, claim to be a man? Why should anyone esteem you? You lost your wife to a mere Phrygian! You left your house without a lock or guard; you thought she was a faithful wife, when really she was the world’s most wanton! No Spartan girl, no matter her intention, could ever be chaste. Their thighs bared and tunics opened, they leave their houses with young men to race and wrestle. Such sporting is intolerable; how could you be surprised such girls are lewd? Why don’t you ask Helen to explain it? She left the proper family she shared with you and went off as if in a marriage procession, 35

600

ANDROMACHE

[604–43]

with a young husband to another country. So for her sake you mustered the bands 610 of Greeks and led thousands into Troy? You should have spat her out, not lifted a spear once you found her faithless, and left her in Troy— even paid her not to come back! But your mind veered in another direction. You went ahead and destroyed so many brave lives, you left old women childless in their homes, you snatched away the noble descendants of whitehaired fathers—I know, I am one of them! I hold that you are the murderer of Achilles, as if you had killed him yourself, while you alone 620 returned from Troy without a scratch—your gleaming armor in its pretty case, the same as it was when you left. I warned my grandson, when he wanted to marry, not to ally himself to your house, to avoid the foal of an unchaste filly. Such daughters repeat their mothers’ faults. Be careful, suitors, to always choose the daughter of a good mother. Yet there’s more—there’s the terrible outrage you wrought against your brother, urging the senseless slaughter of his daughter. Were you so afraid to lose your 630 worthless wife? Then Troy fell (Yes, I pursue you here, too), Helen was in hand, but still you didn’t kill her. One look at her breasts, and you let go of your sword, kissing, lapping at that traitorous bitch overcome by Cypris—you vile coward! And then you came to my grandson’s house while he was gone: you pillaged the place and began the slaughter of this helpless woman and child. This boy will cause great pain in your own home, even if he’s three times a bastard. 640 For a dry patch often bears better than rich soil, and bastards often are superior to rightful sons. Now take your daughter away from this house. A marriage alliance with an excellent poor man is better than a match with a rich bad man. You are a nothing. chorus The smallest start leads the tongue to great quarrels 36

ANDROMACHE

[643–81]

Because of this, wise men will be careful not to spark a fight with their kin. menelaus How can they say the old are wise? How did 650 the Greeks speak of your good sense? You are Peleus, the son of a noble father. You made a marriage alliance with us and now you insult us, disgracing yourself—all for the sake of a barbarian. You should have cast her beyond the Nile, sent her beyond the Phasis, and called on me for help. She’s from Asia, where the ground is strewn with the corpses of fallen Greeks. She played her part in the death of your son. Remember that Paris, the one who killed Achilles, was the brother of Hector. And she was Hector’s wife. And yet you 660 share the same roof with her, you enter by the same lintel; she even sits at your table. You let her bear the children who are your worst enemies. Yet when I, for your sake and mine, want to kill her, you snatch her from my grasp. But come on, think. There’s no shame in thinking: if my daughter never has children, while this woman does—will you set her sons up as kings of Phthia, letting barbarians rule over Greeks? Are you going to tell me that by hating what is wrong 670 I lack judgment and you are full of common sense? And now give some thought to this: What if your daughter had married a fellow citizen and suffered this treatment? Would you sit quiet? I doubt it. But, defending a barbarian, you attack your kin. When abused, both women and men feel the same. When they are wronged, women will always grieve. So will a husband with a corrupted wife. But the man has great power in his own hands. For the woman, action depends on her family and 680 relations. Is it not right for me to help my own? You are the oldest of old men. When you mention my generalship, you help my case. The gods corrupted Helen—not her will. But in the end it brought great good to Greece. 37

ANDROMACHE

[682–719]

Before, the Greeks knew nothing of arms and battle. In war they came into their manhood; acquaintance teaches mortals all things. If I held back from killing my wife when finally I stood before her, I did the right thing. And you, I can wish you had not killed Phocus. I come back at you with good will, not anger. You deal with what follows a loose tongue and temper; I’ll be rewarded for my foresight.

690

chorus Stop these wild and foolish words. Stop or you will go down together. peleus How senseless are the customs here in Greece. When armies raise their trophies over foes the crowd forgets the ordinary soldiers who did the work and suffered. Instead the general gets the laurels. He brandished his one spear among countless thousands, did one man’s work—no more— and gets the praise. Those self-important officials of the city, though nobodies themselves, look down on other men. But citizens with wit and nerve show far more wisdom. Just so, you and your brother sit swollen with pride when you think of your generalship at Troy. But you were lifted by those who suffered and died. You’ll see that even Paris of Ida is no match for the hatred that Peleus bears toward you unless you leave this house at once—you and your barren daughter. My son will grab her by the hair and drag her from one room to another— that sterile heifer; she’s decided that if she can’t have children, she won’t let anyone else have them. Just because her own womb is empty, do we have to cut the thread of generations? Stand back from that woman, you slaves. Show me anyone who plans to stop me as I untie her hands. Come, stand up so that I can. These shaking old hands will loosen these twisted and knotted thongs. You coward—look how you’ve disfigured her hands. 38

700

710

720

ANDROMACHE

[720–56]

Did you think you were roping a bull or a lion with this? Or maybe you thought she’d draw a sword and rout you? Come here, under my arms, little boy, help me untie your mother’s bonds. I’ll bring you up in Phthia the enemy of these people. Take away their fame in battle, take away their fame in war, you’ll find them no better than nothing.

730

chorus Old men are unbridled and hard to control— their tempers can flare so quickly. menelaus You are far too inclined to abuse. But here in Phthia I won’t stupidly resort to using force and I won’t have force brought against me. For now, I’m in something of a hurry and so I’m going home. There’s a town—a city— near Sparta that used to be our friend and now is making trouble. When I go back, I want to march on them and put them under my heel again. And when I’ve put things as I want them there, I’ll come back. I plan a man-to-man talk with my son-in-law; we’ll work things out. If he punishes this woman and is reasonable toward us, he’ll be treated in kind. But if he makes trouble, he’ll be met with trouble. I’ll match his every deed, blow for blow. I plan to ignore your own empty words. You are a walking shadow with a voice. You talk and talk, but have no power.

740

750

Exit menelaus. peleus My child, lead on, stand here under my arms, and you, too, poor woman. You’ve endured a fierce storm, but here’s a safe harbor, sheltered from the wind. andromache Old sir, may the gods forever bless you for saving my baby and me, his luckless mother. Make sure, though, we are not ambushed in this deserted place. Now along the empty road, they might attack and carry me off by force, for they know you are old and I am weak and the baby is helpless. Watch out—having got away, we might be caught. 39

760

ANDROMACHE

[757–91]

peleus Shhh! No more of these womanish fears! Go ahead; no one will touch you—and if anyone does, he’ll be sorry. For by the grace of the gods I have a great army—cavalry and infantry— in Phthia. I’m far more vigorous than you think. Old as I am, my glance will set such a man in a panic. A brave-hearted elder is more than a match for many young men. What use is being of vigorous frame to a coward? Exeunt. chorus Better never to be born if you cannot be born a great noble, with wealth and a strong haven to shield you from pain. For when suffering comes the nobly born have no lack of resources. There’s always a voice to proclaim the most famous, to honor the glory of noble descendants. For time will never wear away the traces of their honor, nor obscure the remains of their deeds. Even in death, from the torches on a grave, their greatness shines—deathless.

strophe

780

Better to win with no stain of dishonor antistrophe than to overthrow justice by violent means, or the odious uses of power. When mortals learn they can triumph over justice, the victory’s sweet for a moment, but then it withers and reproaches the guilty, soon bringing disgrace to his house. This is the life that I praise and esteem, the life to which I aspire —to wield no power in public or private that goes beyond justice’s bounds. O aged son of Aeacus, I have no doubt the story is true that you took up your glorious spear 40

770

epode

790

ANDROMACHE

[792–824]

and fought with the Lapiths against the Centaurs, that you stood on the deck of the Argo then, passing through dangerous waters, the Crashing Rocks, sailing on to your fame where the Symplegades front the roiling sea. And when on that earlier day Zeus’ son brought great Troy within the snare of his slaughtering net, you, too, came back to Europe in triumph.

800

Enter hermione’s nurse. nurse My dear women, today evil has followed every evil. The mistress of this house, Hermione—she is there within—has been deserted by her father, and now, consciencestricken, she’s awakened to what a dreadful deed she’s done in planning to kill Andromache and her little son. She wants to die. She fears her husband, fears expulsion from this house, disgrace, and even that she herself may be killed because she tried to take these lives she had no right to take. She put her head inside the noose and her servants barely saved her; when later she took up the sword, they pried it from her right hand. She’s full of regret after the fact and anguished over her wrongful deeds. Friends, I’m tired of saving her from herself. You try to save her now. Maybe she’ll be willing to listen to newcomers. chorus Listen, the servants are shouting in confirmation. And now this pathetic woman will show us just how sorry she is to have done what she did. She leaves the house, running away from her servants’ grasp because she wants to die. hermione enters and sings and dances about the stage. The nurse remains stationary and replies with spoken dialogue. 41

810

820

ANDROMACHE

[825–53]

hermione Misery, misery I’ll tear my hair and furrow my cheeks with my nails.

strophe 830

nurse My child—what are you doing? Will you so disfigure yourself? hermione O lacey veil—go down to hell, stripped from my hair—into the wind!

antistrophe

nurse Child, cover your breasts, fasten your gown. hermione My gown can cover my breasts, but bare are the deeds I have done; my crimes are clear in my husband’s eyes.

strophe

nurse You cry because, behind his back, you schemed this murder? hermione Grieving and grieving over my deeds my murderous daring, my plotting then— and now I’m accursed in all men’s eyes.

antistrophe

840

nurse Your husband will forgive you. hermione Why did you pry the sword from my hand? Give it back, my friend, I’ll strike my heart. Why do you keep me from the waiting noose? nurse But what if I do let you go, crazy girl, to kill yourself? hermione Oh misery, my fate. Where is the dear flame for me? Where is the rock that I might climb, then plunge into the sea or the mountainous wood, into the care of the gods of the dead? nurse Why grieve on and on? The gods send bad fortune to each of us, sooner or later. 42

850

ANDROMACHE

[854–86]

hermione Oh father you have left me alone on the shore. Father, you’ve left me desolate, without an oar—and now he will kill me, kill me! I’ll no longer dwell in the house where I was a bride. To what god’s statue shall I run? Shall I, like a slave, clasp the knees of a slave? How I wish I were a dark-winged bird, that I could soar far from Phthia, or that I were that pine-planked ship that sailed through the Symplegades. nurse I didn’t like it when you committed crimes against the Trojan woman and I can’t approve of you now that you are crazed with fear. Your husband will not throw off his ties to you. He won’t be won over by the abusive speech of a barbarian. You are no Trojan prisoner of war, taken as a prize. You’ve brought a large dowry; you are a noble’s daughter from a prosperous city. Your father will never abandon you or allow you to be thrown from this house. Come now, go inside. Don’t make a spectacle of yourself in front of the palace. You will be disgraced, showing yourself out here. hermione retreats toward the exit. chorus Look, here comes a foreigner, a stranger; he’s walking toward us in a great hurry. Enter orestes. orestes Women, strangers, is this the dwelling of Achilles’ son, his royal palace? chorus It is, but who are you who asks? orestes I am the son of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra—my name is Orestes. Traveling to the oracle of Zeus at Dodona, I’ve stopped 43

860

870

880

ANDROMACHE

[887–912]

here in Phthia to ask after my cousin, Hermione of Sparta, if she’s doing well. For though she dwells so far from me, she’s dear to my heart.

890

hermione comes forward to orestes. hermione O, you who have appeared, like a haven that shelters the storm-tossed sailors, Agamemnon’s son— kneeling, I beg you, pity me whose distress you can see. I wrap my arms, like wool-draped branches, about your knees in wreaths of supplication. orestes Oh—what is this? Am I mistaken, or is this Menelaus’ daughter, who should be queen here?

900

hermione Yes, surely I am his daughter—the only daughter whom Tyndareus’ daughter Helen bore him in their house. orestes Oh Phoebus, healer, spare us such sorrow. What is the matter? Do gods or men oppress you? hermione I’m to blame, but so is my husband, and so, too, is a god partly at fault. I am undone, utterly undone. orestes You have no children and so the trouble you have must arise from your marriage bed. hermione That is my problem. You prompt me exactly. orestes Is your husband in love with some other woman? hermione Yes, his captive prize—Hector’s wife. orestes One man with two loves—a disaster! hermione You see the problem. I sought my own solution. orestes Did you weave the sorts of plots that women weave? hermione Yes, I plotted to kill her and her bastard son. 44

910

ANDROMACHE

[913–41]

orestes And did you, or were you somehow thwarted? hermione Old Peleus stopped me, honoring that worthless pair. orestes And did anyone help you in your attempt? hermione My father, who came from Sparta to help me. orestes And did the old man get the better of him?

920

hermione He was ashamed—and then he left me alone. orestes I see. You fear your husband because of the things you have done. hermione It’s true; he will kill me, and within his rights. What more can I say? I beg you, in the name of Kindred Zeus, take me from here—to the ends of the earth or to my father’s house! The very walls seem to have taken a voice and say, ‘‘Go,’’ and all of Phthia hates me. If my husband leaves the oracle of Phoebus and finds me here when he arrives, he’ll kill me most shamefully. Or else I’ll become a slave to his concubine, who was once my slave.

930

hermione pauses, looks off into the distance, and continues dreamily. How did I go so wrong? Now I see that I was spoiled by the gossip of my visitors, how I swelled with the flattery of those bad women! They said, ‘‘Why do you let this wretched slave share your husband’s bed? I swear by Hera— in my house, if she enjoyed my husband, that would be the last of her pleasures!’’ I listened to these Sirens’ words, the chatter of these cunning deceivers, and swelled with folly. Why did I spy so jealously on my husband when in fact I had everything I could want? I had wealth and full control of the house. I would have carried legitimate children while her 45

940

ANDROMACHE

[942–80]

little bastards would grow up to be their slaves. Never, never—it can’t be said too often— should a husband who has any sense let women visit his wife in her house. They can found a school of evil. One will gain from the corruption of the bride; another, a fallen woman herself, wants a companion in vice. Others thrive on titillation. This is the source of disease in a house. Post a guard and bolt the gates and doors! For women who come calling from outside bring no good—only trouble.

950

chorus Your own tongue is running on against your own kind. The reasons are understandable, yet women should use cosmetics to cover women’s diseases. orestes It is true that it is wise to listen to accounts 960 from the enemy camp. For I had heard a great deal about the chaos in the house and the struggle between you and the wife of Hector. I watched and waited to see if you would want to stay here or if, in terror over your murder of the slave woman, you would want to escape this house. Although it was not at your bidding that I came, I hoped that by talking, as we are doing now, I could take you away from this place. You were to be my rightful wife—it was only 970 because of your father’s treachery that you married this man. Before the attack on Troy, he gave you to me. And then he promised you to your present husband if he would take the city. When Achilles’ son came home to this land, I forgave your father, but begged Neoptolemus to relinquish his marriage plans, I told of my family’s misfortunes, my present fate my terrible exile, and how I could only marry a kinswoman. But he turned to me with insults about my mother’s murder and the Furies’ bloody eyes. 980 Crushed by the fate of my family, 46

ANDROMACHE

[980–1015]

crushed by my grief in being robbed of you, I was forced against my will to leave you, abandoning my plans. But now, since your own fortunes have changed—since you, too, have fallen into disaster, I will take you away and restore you to your father. Blood is a strong and powerful bond and when trouble comes, there is no stronger ally than family. hermione Arranging marriages for me is my father’s concern; it’s not up to me to make such a decision. But, quickly, help me to leave this house before my husband arrives and catches me— and before old Peleus learns of my escape and follows on horseback in hot pursuit. orestes Don’t worry about an old man. And have no fear of Achilles’ son, who insulted me. Such a death trap I have set for him— an immovable snare, right in the middle of his path. I’ve wrought it with cunning and will speak no more of it, but the cliff of Delphi will know when it springs! Oh, I’m ‘‘the matricide’’! If my allies at Delphi keep their oath, I’ll teach him not to marry one who belongs to me. And he’ll be sorry that he asked the god for satisfaction for the death of his father. Yet his apology and reparation to the god will be no use. Thanks to Apollo and my own slanders, he’ll learn in death what my hatred is like. He’ll taste the god’s enmity. The god turns his enemies upside down and will not allow their pride. Exeunt orestes and hermione. chorus Phoebus, who walled in the high hill of Troy, and Poseidon, you who drive your chariot drawn by your storm-gray mares over the storm-gray sea, what violent anger made you dishonor the work of your own hands, and give 47

strophe

990

1000

1010

ANDROMACHE

[1016–51]

it all over to to spear-loving Ares? Troy into ruins—Troy into ruins—how could you bear to bring such undoing?

1020

On the plains of the Simois you yoked fine horses, setting so many contests of men, games of death with no victor’s garlands. Wasted and gone are the kings of Ilium. No more do the fires burn there for the gods on the altars of Troy. No more does the smoke go up there.

antistrophe

Gone is the son of Atreus, strophe struck by the hand of his wife. And dead and gone, too, is she— struck down by the god at the hands of her children. Spoken from god were the words the oracle sent to Agamemnon’s son. Coming from Argos, he begged at the inmost shrine—he the mother slayer. Oh God, Oh Phoebus—how can I believe it? So many women in so many plazas antistrophe of Greece then sang dirges for miserable sons. And so many wives left their homes to go to the beds of strangers. Not on you and not on yours alone have fallen the grinding griefs. Greece, too, suffered a plague. It swooped out of Phrygia, onto the placid and fertile fields, raining down bloody death.

1030

1040

Enter peleus. peleus Women of Phthia, answer my question. A vague report’s arrived that Menelaus’ daughter has left the house and gone away. I’ve hurried here to learn if this is true. 48

1050

ANDROMACHE

[1051–75]

For those of us at home should mind the cares of those we love who are abroad. chorus All that you’ve heard is true. I have a duty to tell you the troubles I’ve witnessed. The Queen has left this house in flight. peleus Fearing what? Tell me the story. chorus She feared her husband—that he might expel her. peleus Because of her plot to kill the boy?

1060

chorus Yes, and her plot to kill the slave woman. peleus Did she leave with her father? Who was with her? chorus Agamemnon’s son came and took her away. peleus And what was his aim? To marry her? chorus Yes, and he plans to kill your grandson. peleus By lurking in ambush or in a fair fight, face to face? chorus In Loxias’ sacred shrine, with the help of Delphians. peleus Oh, dreaded news! Quick, someone go in haste to the holy hall at Delphi and tell what has happened here. Go, before Achilles’ son is murdered by his enemies! Enter messenger. messenger Terrible news I bring you. It’s a curse to bear such tidings to you, old sir—to you and any who love my master. peleus Oh, my prophetic heart senses disaster! messenger The news I bear is that the son of your son is dead— Old man, so many strokes he took from swords— the swords of Delphians and the Mycenean stranger. 49

1070

ANDROMACHE

[1076–112]

chorus Oh, oh, steady there, old sir. Hold steady there. peleus I’m done, destroyed—my voice is gone, my limbs cannot hold me.

1080

chorus Hang on, something may be possible. Listen, hold yourself together. peleus Fate has overwhelmed me at the final verge of life. I am so unhappy! How did the only son of my only son perish? An unbearable story that I must hear. messenger When we arrived in Phoebus’ famous land, we walked about for three full days, taking in the sights, seeing all there was to see. But this caused suspicion. The citizens who dwell there kept forming little knots of talk. And Orestes ranged through the town, whispering a slander in every ear: ‘‘Keep watch on this man,’’ he said, ‘‘he roams about the sacred way where the gold brims in our treasuries. Maybe he’s come back a second time to complete his earlier plan and ransack the temple of Phoebus.’’ And so rumor seethed throughout the city. The magistrates gathered in the council chambers and those who guarded the god’s treasury posted watches within the colonnades. We, still knowing nothing of this, took our sheep, raised on Parnassus’ pastures, and went before the altars, taking our place beside the Delphian agents and priests. Then someone said, ‘‘Young man what should we ask of the god? What do you desire?’’ And he answered, ‘‘Only to make reparation for my earlier sin against Apollo, when once I demanded satisfaction for my father’s blood.’’ But Orestes’ story reigned— All believed my master was lying and bent to some foul purpose. My master then mounted to the temple to pray to Phoebus at the altars 50

1090

1100

1110

ANDROMACHE

before the inner shrine. But all at once there rose, out of the shadows cast by the laurels, armed men who had been lying in ambush— Clytemnestra’s son had contrived it all. Neoptolemus in plain sight was praying, then they, armed with whetted swords, unseen, stabbed the unarmored son of Achilles. He backed away, he wasn’t wounded deeply; he drew his sword and snatched some votive armor that hung on pegs on the temple wall; he took his stand at an altar; turning his terrible face toward them, he shouted to Delphi’s sons, ‘‘Why do you want to kill me when I come in piety? Why am I being sent to death?’’ And though there were many gathered there, not one spoke—instead they pelted him with stones that fell like hail about him. He used his armor as a shield and held the shield itself now here, now there, and back again. But all to no avail. The attackers pressed with their arsenal: arrows, javelins, altar forks and knives for sacrifice came flying all about him. You could have seen his Pyrrhic dance as he stepped and sprung, dodging their weapons. Soon they circled and penned him in until he could hardly breathe, but he left the animal accepting altar and with that famous leap that Troy had known—he charged upon them. Like doves facing a hawk, they turned and fled in panic. Many fell, jammed into the gateway— fell from his sword and by crushing each other. In that holy place an unholy clamor rose, echoing against the stone. Then calm for a moment while my master stood still, his armor gleaming in a shaft of sunlight—from deep within the temple a dreadful voice, bloodcurdling, roused them back to attack. And that was when Achilles’ son collapsed, killed by a Delphian who, stepping out from the pack, stabbed him through the ribs with a blade. When 51

[1113–51]

1120

1130

1140

1150

ANDROMACHE

[1152–87]

he fell to earth, were there any in that throng who did not then go on to strike him? With rock and sword they bruised and rent every inch of his beautiful body. His body lay near an altar in the incense-filled temple. They tossed it outside. We gathered it up and hurried back to you, old sir, so you could mourn and bury him. This is how the god who prophesies for all, who judges morality for all mankind, has treated the son of Achilles when he came to make amends. Like a cowardly man, he brooded on old quarrels—how can we call that wise?

1160

Enter a procession carrying neoptolemus’ body. chorus Oh now look, how our lord arrives home on a litter, his body is carried from Delphi. How wretched is he, how unlucky. And you are the same, a poor luckless old man who must welcome Achilles’ son in this way. This was not what you hoped for and now you yourself share this same cursed fate.

1170

peleus becomes the chief mourner, singing a lament. The chorus responds. peleus Misery! What a disaster I see here strophe before me and take into my arms and into my house. What sad sorrow, alas! I am finished. I’m done for, undone! Oh sad Thessalian city! Finished now, none of my race survives, no children left in the halls of my house! Oh how wretched I am from misfortune! To whom can I turn for consoling? Oh face that I love so, and poor knees and hands! Better some god had killed you long ago on the banks of the Simois at Troy. chorus Yes, then laurels would be his— and you would now be less miserable. peleus Marriage, oh marriage, that ruined my house antistrophe 52

1180

ANDROMACHE

[1187–220]

and laid waste to my city! Alas, my poor child, my poor family! Never should we have embraced that vile union; Hermione cast death on our house and our home. Oh what evil she brought to the son of my son. Better to perish by lightning and thunder than yoke yourself firm to disaster. How I still wish you, a mortal, had never accused the great god Phoebus of killing your father by Paris’ murderous arrow. chorus Oh grief! I must lament my lord now with the song, the keen we sing the dead.

1190

strophe 1200

peleus Oh grief! so old and luckless now, I take up the lament. chorus It was a god who caused this doom. It was a god who made this disaster. peleus Dear child, you’ve left me desolate you’ve left the house bereft— all children gone and me alone. chorus You should have died before your children.

1210

peleus I want to rend my hair. I want to strike my head with savage hands. Oh city see how Phoebus twice robbed me of my sons! chorus Old man, you’ve known such grief, you’ve suffered through such pain. What afterlife awaits you?

antistrophe

peleus No child, no help, no stop to suffering— unending misery to my dying day. chorus In vain did the gods bless you in your marriage. peleus My blessing’s flown— gone far beyond the reach of boasts! 53

1220

ANDROMACHE

[1221–255]

chorus Alone in a lonely house. peleus I’ve lost my city—gone! I’ll throw my scepter down! And you, daughter of Nereus, who dwell in the cave of night, will see me here fallen in ruin. chorus Yet now—look! What movement do I see? What holy thing? Women, come and see! What marvel—look! Something divine comes among us, on the white air; it rides on the wind and appears shimmering here on the grass of our horse-pasturing Phthia!

1230

thetis enters, elevated on a machine, and alights in front of the temple. thetis Peleus, it is Thetis. Because we shared the marriage bed, I’ve left the house of Nereus to come to you —to say first do not give way too much to the sorrows that burden you now. For I, too, who never should have borne children who would perish, since I am a goddess and the daughter of a god, have lost our child, Achilles, fleetest of foot and noblest of the Greeks. Listen to why I have come: 1240 go now, take the slain son of Achilles to Delphi’s altar. Bury him there, a reproach to the Delphians, so that his tomb may proclaim that he was brutally killed by the hand of Orestes. Then send the captive woman, Andromache, to settle in the land of the Molossians and marry Helenus. Her son, too, the last of the line of Aeacus, will settle there and his sons, an unbroken line of kings, will bestow to Molossia their blessed, prosperous rule. For, old sir, 1250 your race and mine will not be laid waste as it may now seem. Nor is Troy destroyed. For Troy, too, is in the gods’ care, though it fell by the will of Athene. As for you, because you should be glad for your marriage to me, I will set you free 54

ANDROMACHE

[1256–88]

from mortal sorrow and make you a god— you will never know death or decay. And we shall dwell, as a god and goddess, in the house of Nereus from this time until forever. There, as you walk, dry-shod, out of the depths of the sea, you will find your son and mine, Achilles, living in his island home, Leuke, amid the Euxine Sea. Go now to the sacred city of Delphi, take the body of this man. And when he is laid in the earth, go to the hollow cave where Sepias rises from the water and sit and wait in that place where the cuttlefish swim. Wait until I rise from the waves with my chorus of fifty Nereids to call you. All this is fated; it is the will of Zeus. Cease now, cease your grieving. Death is the judgment that stands over mortals. Death is the debt that each must pay.

1260

1270

Exit thetis on the machine. peleus Oh lady, oh noble companion who once shared my bed, daughter of Nereus, farewell! Your plans do honor to yourself and your children. I shall put aside my sorrow at your bidding, goddess. When I have buried this man, I shall go to the glens of Pelion where I took your beauty in my arms. Shall a man not seek a noble wife or give his daughter to a man of high birth? And should a man not avoid an unworthy match, even if she brings a large dowry? Then the gods will not send ill will.

1280

Exeunt all while the chorus chants. chorus The gods appear in many forms. We cannot know their ends. What we cannot dream unfolds and what we dream will vanish. Such was the outcome of this story. 55

1290

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NOTES

All stage directions are supplied by W. Smith and are simply inferences from the text. the scene The temple is center stage in this play, I think, despite the fact that the more common scenic arrangement was that of palace entrance as the central feature. The ritual of supplication that Euripides invokes with Andromache’s initial posture is well described already in the Iliad and Odyssey, the oldest Greek archaic literature, and the ritual persists virtually unchanged throughout antiquity. The suppliant put him or herself in a sacred place (Cassandra and Priam both sought altars at the sack of Troy, Odysseus sought the hearth in Scheria), declaring him or herself under the protection of the god. To supplicate a human being’s protection or kindness, the suppliant took a humble position at the person’s feet and tried to encircle his/her knees, and/or take hold of his beard to make more binding the obligation of the person to whom he/ she was appealing. It was dangerous for those supplicated to offend the god by rejecting such supplication. Zeus Hikesios was the high god of the Greeks in his role of protector of all suppliants. 1–116 / 1–116 The prologue (technically everything before the entrance of the Chorus) consists of Andromache’s monologue, a dramatic scene between Andromache and the maidservant, and Andromache’s lament. Her memories of Thebe, her birthplace and place of childhood joy, recall allusively a rich strain in archaic poetry that celebrated her marriage to Hector, including a lavish procession from Thebe to Troy. By chance, the only narrative poem by Sappho that has been preserved (in fragments only) describes the homecoming of Hector with his bride Andromache

57

ANDROMACHE

(Sappho 44). Such lyric poetry from the Aegean presents a backdrop for Athenian tragedy’s treatment of related themes. 15 / 14 islander Neoptolemus For his birth on Scyros, see the Glossary. The significance of ‘‘islander’’ here is not clear, but the audience might hear it as a disparagement: he is from the outlands, not a sophisticate. Neoptolemus’ violent nature (see, e.g., the description of him in Aeneid 2) is somewhat played down in this play, though in the Andromache’s version of his story he impetuously went to Delphi to demand satisfaction from Apollo for the death of his father, and at the play’s opening has left Andromache alone because he has repented his brashness and has gone to Delphi again to ask the god’s forgiveness. 103–16 / 103–16 Andromache’s lament is in elegiac meter. It is the only elegy in what remains of Greek tragedy. Elegiac verse was used for many purposes in archaic poetry: love poetry, philosophical moralizing, marching songs, etc., as well as for tombstone inscriptions, which probably gave the meter its reputation as a rhythm for mourning. 117 / 117 The Chorus is composed of Phthian women. Fifteen members make up the Chorus. One Chorus member, the leader, speaks for the Chorus in dialogue. The whole Chorus dances and sings, probably in unison, in performing the choral odes between the acts. The lyric portions of the play, those sung to musical accompaniment, are generally divided into strophes and antistrophes (movements and answering movements) that signal repeated rhythmical passages. Probably the music and dance shared the repetition. 126 / 126, 138 / 136 ‘‘Know thyself,’’ gno¯thi sauton, was inscribed at the temple at Delphi, part of the moralizing advice that came from that shrine. The phrase, much quoted and alluded to throughout Greek antiquity, was generally taken to mean be aware of your mortality and your limitations. (William Arrowsmith’s comments on what he calls modality, in his translation of Alcestis in this series, are illuminating on this subject.) Here the Chorus’ extension to ‘‘know your limits as woman, slave, barbarian’’ fits the usage. It is almost inevitable in heroic literature that someone so advised will do the opposite, and Andromache is being characterized as heroic. 155 / 153 License . . . to speak Eleutherostomia, the right to speak one’s mind, was a precious value to the Athenians, for which they thanked their laws and constitution. Euripides acknowledges it frequently. Here, Hermione seems to be suggesting that her dowry, which would go back home

58

NOTES

with her if she were divorced, is what assures her status in Phthia, and her right to self-assertion. 282 / 279 It is perhaps striking that the same term is used here for the goddesses’ quarrel as for the strife between Andromache and Hermione, eridi stugera, hateful strife. Hesiod says that there is bad, but also good eris, for example, the hateful fighting between brothers for their inheritance, and the productive competition between shoemakers. Euripides did not have to have that in mind, though eris in the Theogony is called stugere. Euripides uses eris only twice more in this play, both times in the next choral ode: line 471 / 467 where it refers to the kinds of strife the Chorus disapproves of, such as contests between two wives, and line 493 / 490 where it says Hermione is killing Andromache because of irrational eris. Thus, it appears, Euripides uses the word eris in this play with something specific in mind, something like the horrors that come out of sexual jealousy, and it appears that he is comparing the judgment of Paris, in the goddesses’ contest for who is the fairest, with the contest of Hermione with Andromache. He does not dwell on the naked beauty the goddesses displayed, but on the viciousness of their dialogue to win the contest and on the trickery implicit in Cypris’ promise. 313 / 309 Enter Menelaus. Staging of tragedies often implies nonspeaking characters, as here attendants for Menelaus. We have no ancient evidence to draw on for the traditions of staging in that regard but must make our inferences from the text of the play. Menelaus must have lackeys to support him, as later Peleus must have attendants to face them down. 369 / 364 The Chorus traditionally intervenes verbally between long speeches, often counseling moderation or taking sides in argument. Greek playwrights must have found it a useful kind of transition. 420 / 416 When you kiss your father, when he lifts you in his arms, tell him with your tears Molossus’ appearance here is suggestive of scenes in the Iliad that relate to Astyanax. Particularly poignant in the scene in Iliad 6, in which Andromache appeals to Hector not to let her become a widow and Astyanax an orphan, is Hector’s approach to his baby while the baby shrinks from his fierce aspect, until he adjusts his war helmet to reveal his face, after which he lifts the baby in his arms to kiss him. 497 / 494 The Chorus introduces this section in anapestic rhythm, which is not the meter of dialogue or of lyric. Probably the anapests were chanted, halfsung, with musical accompaniment. Andromache and Molossus sing a strophe and antistrophe in lyric meters. After each, Menelaus responds

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to them in anapests. The Chorus in 547 / 545 resumes the spoken dialogue meter, iambic trimeter, for the Peleus scene. 530 / 529 Plead with him For the mode of formal suppliance see the note on line 1–116 / 1–116 Menelaus will evade Molossus here to keep him from touching his knees or beard. 629 / 625 senseless slaughter The reference is to Iphigeneia. 649–65 / 645–59 For Peleus’ father Aeacus and his reputation, see the Glossary. Menelaus alleges here that Peleus has betrayed the moral code of an international Greek aristocracy that makes its alliances by marriage. In raising this issue, Euripides is being historically accurate: there was such a nexus among the aristoi, the ‘‘best families’’ in Greek city states of the archaic period. 755 / 752–53 Make sure . . . we are not ambushed The roads of rural Greece were never safe from pirates, with the result that protection was always desirable. There were numerous shrines for seeking the gods’ protection, and travelers used convoys whenever possible. Here, Andromache’s fear that Menelaus could arrange an ambush is not unreasonable. 770 / 766 The saying ‘‘Better not to be born than to suffer. . . . ’’ was a not uncommon poetic lead-in to descriptions of life’s evils that are hard to face. Euripides offers a new version of it here. Initially one may wonder whom is the Chorus thinking of? Peleus? Menelaus? Andromache? Their sentiment in 782 / 778, ‘‘Better to win with no stain of dishonor,’’ is reminiscent of Pindar and others’ praise of the athletic victors in epinician lyrics. Finally, the epode, 794–805 / 789–801, fulfills the ode and makes it clear that it is a victory ode for Peleus’ career that the Chorus has been singing. 829 / 825 Hermione begins a lament, but the Nurse and the Chorus, instead of joining and supporting the lament, reject it. For the form of lament see the note below on 1174–227. 889 / 885–56 Traveling to the oracle of Zeus at Dodona Phthia is not on the route to Dodona from anywhere Orestes is likely to have been. And his admission later (963–69 / 961–66) seems to indicate that he is being disingenuous here. 925 / 921 Kindred Zeus She invokes Zeus homognios, Zeus who oversees matters of kinship. He would normally be worshipped by families, who would pray to him to keep them together and make them prosper. He would also have been invoked in reference to the special obligations to take vengeance for slights against the family.

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978 / 974–75 marry a kinswoman Keeping wealth in the family was a major concern in marriage law and practice. The disgraced Orestes is not a great catch, but the family is obligated to be concerned for him. Hermione’s inheritance, for example, can be kept in the family if she marries her cousin. 1004 / 1002–3 he’ll be sorry that he asked the god for satisfaction Neoptolemus was accepting and acting out the normal obligation of a kinsman to take vengeance or get satisfaction for a family member’s death or disgrace, in this case saying that Apollo had murdered Achilles by guiding the arrow of Paris to its mark. By demanding satisfaction from the god, Neoptolemus in effect demanded reparation by a money payment or challenged the god to a duel. Such a challenge to a god was obviously suicidally rash, as the sequel proves. 1072 / 1070 Peleus enters (1049 / 1047) having heard that Hermione is gone. The messenger enters immediately to tell him that Neoptolemus has been killed by Orestes’ plotting, and implies that Orestes was present at the death. But Orestes, while he was onstage, said only that he had laid a plot to do away with Neoptolemus, and implied that its execution was to come in the future (996–1001 / 993–98). Delphi is several days’ journey from Phthia. Neoptolemus’ body arrives immediately after the messenger’s news. There seem to be serious inconsistencies here. It appears that Euripides did not establish a ‘‘time line’’ of which he made the audience aware and to which he adhered. Instead he chose inconsistency, stretching and compressing time and distance. Orestes could hardly say to Hermione, ‘‘I’ve killed your husband,’’ without disjointing Euripides’ emotional sequence. And the Greek theater had no curtain to drop, or program to say ‘‘act three, two weeks later.’’ The inconsistencies are problematic if we direct our attention to them, and Euripides keeps our attention off them, or tries to. This is not unusual in Greek tragedy, the audience of which was used to the convention that the choral odes could cover the passage of an indeterminate amount of time. 1095 / 1093 treasuries The sacred way approaching the temple was lined with treasury buildings in which the various Greek cities stored and displayed their dedications to Apollo. They took pride in the lavishness of the treasures. 1103 / 1100–1102 took our sheep The worshipers would buy perfect animals in the precinct of the temple and hand them over to the priests for sacrifice at the large altar in front of the temple, where the priests would offer prayers on behalf of the worshipers. Then Neoptolemus mounts the stairs of the temple alone to pray inside. At the top of the stairs is a porch supported by rows of columns. In the porch there are small altars, and on

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the wall of the temple itself dedicatory offerings are hung, including armor. 1137–40 / 1135–37 Pyrrhic dance . . . leap This was a martial dance performed by men and boys in armor. Invention of the pyrrhiche was sometimes attributed to Achilles’ passionate dance around Patroclus’ pyre, but more often attributed to Neoptolemus (with a pun on his other name, Pyrrhus), ‘‘leaping’’ from the wooden horse or doing a victory dance after killing Eurypylus at Troy. 1174–227 / 1173–225 The lament. Formal lamentation (in life as well as art) was carried on by a chief mourner who stated the themes of his or her grief, and a supporting Chorus of mourners who reinforced what the chief mourner said and suggested new themes. Here Peleus, the chief mourner, sings his grief in lyric verse and the Chorus responds at first in dialogue, but by the second strophe joins in lyric song. 1230 / 1228 on the white air The deus ex machina was brought on stage carried by a crane, which probably swiveled so as to raise her and bring her out from behind her own temple and set her down in front of it. 1267 / 1266 Sepias A promontory near Iolchos, which is near to Phthia. In some traditions Peleus ‘‘wooed’’ Thetis there by catching hold of her when she came out of the Aegean and holding her tight while she went through various transformations (line 1280 / 1278). Hence Peleus is to return to the place where he and Thetis had their first encounter. 1286–90 / 1284–88 This tailpiece appears at the end of Alcestis, Helen, Bacchae, and Medea. Like the theophany that precedes, the Chorus’ exit lines distance the audience from the emotion of the play by invoking a universal perspective, the notion of universal design, or at least of superhuman influence.

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Translated by

janet lembke and

kenneth j. reckford

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INTRODUCTION

I

The day will come when holy Ilium will fall, and Priam, and the people of Priam of the good ashen spear. (Iliad 6, 448–49)

When Polybius, the historian, asked the younger Scipio what he meant in quoting these lines from Homer and weeping, after the last Roman conquest of Carthage, he replied that, as he contemplated human fortune, it was his own country, Rome, for which he felt afraid. This probably apocryphal story (Polybius 38.22) illustrates the spirit of Roman humanitas, which was nourished on Greek poetry, art, and philosophy. It goes well with Virgil’s Aeneid, where ‘‘Troy’’ stands for all defeated peoples, all nations and ages that must fall so that others may rise; and it stands, too, for each individual’s childhood, which he or she is compelled to outgrow. The lament for lost Troy becomes universal, like the Hebrew exiles’ lament for lost Jerusalem (‘‘If I forget you, Jerusalem, . . . ’’), except that they will return in time to rebuild Jerusalem, but Troy, once razed to the ground, will never be rebuilt. Virgil’s account of the fall of Troy derives its spirit (though not its content) from Homer, as well as from Greek tragedy. It was Homer who gave the defeated Trojans as much admiration and sympathy as the Greek victors. Scipio quoted from Hector’s meeting with Andromache in Iliad 6. She begs him not to reenter the battle, reminding him of her dependence—and Troy’s—on his living valor. And he acknowledges this. He realizes that Troy will fall some day. He feels pity for Priam, for Hecuba, and for his brothers, who will be killed, but most of all for her:

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. . . when one of the Achaeans clad in bronze takes you away in tears, your day of freedom finished; in Argos you might then weave at another woman’s bidding, or else you might fetch water from a distant spring, against your will. Compulsion will weigh you down. . . . (Iliad 6, 454–58)

All this Hector sees. Yet he rejects his wife’s plea, takes up his helmet, reenters the war, and eventually is killed. The Iliad ends with mourning and funeral preparations, yet it concludes on a quiet, reassuring note. For the violence of human passions, of fighting and killing, is balanced for Homer and for his hearers by the beauty of noble actions, by the order and regularity of nature, by human understanding (which transcends national borders, as when the old king, Priam, enters Achilles’ tent), and by the loveliness of song and its enduring commemoration of what is good, noble, and beautiful in human life. Fifth-century tragedians drew on Homer, on the ‘‘epic cycle’’ (now mostly lost), and on narrative lyric poetry for the stories of the Trojan War, going back to the birth of Helen, or her abduction by Paris, or to Agamemnon’s sacrifice of his daughter Iphigenia (so that the winds might blow and the Greek army sail to Troy), and forward to the return of the Greek victors and the aftershocks of the war in their homelands— most notably the murder of Agamemnon by Clytemnestra and the subsequent agonies of his house. Still other poems portrayed the death throes of Troy itself. Priam is killed at the altar by Neoptolemus, Achilles’ violent son. Hector’s child, Astyanax, is taken from Andromache’s arms and hurled from the walls of Troy by Neoptolemus or, in other versions, killed by Odysseus after the capture of the city. Priam’s daughter, the virgin Polyxena, is sacrificed at Achilles’ tomb; he may have desired her in life (the story is unclear), so now his ghost demands her blood. Other Trojan women are led away into slavery. Cassandra, Apollo’s never-believed prophetess, becomes Agamemnon’s concubine. Andromache must go with Neoptolemus. And Hecuba, the aged queen, will be Odysseus’ slave—or as such, at least, was she originally intended. Simone Weil described the Iliad as ‘‘the poem of force.’’1 Her picture of a blind, mechanical necessity beating down on the heads of helpless humans does not exactly suit Homer, but it does suit Euripides. His bestknown Trojan play is the Trojan Women, performed in 415 b.c. It centers on Hecuba’s increasing grief and bitterness as she experiences the madness of Cassandra, the desolation of Andromache, and (in an ironic,

1. Simone Weil, La Source Grecque (Paris, 1952), p. 9.

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almost farcical, scene) the easy survival of Helen, the cause of all this misery, still beautiful, still unrepentant. I have seen hardened individuals weeping during this play, as well as at a performance of Euripides’ Iphigenia at Aulis, which was revived, with striking timeliness, during the Vietnamese War. Euripides’ Hecuba, dating from 425 or 424 b.c., is less well known, yet it has remained a perennial favorite. It was revived on the Greek stage, adapted for Roman audiences, and read in Byzantine schools and Renaissance libraries. Its story of Hecuba’s suffering and revenge is so simple that any schoolchild can understand it. Yet it also speaks to the complexities of human character and destiny, as these were captured in a moment in time no less confusing and dangerous than our own; and it speaks of things that bring to our minds and hearts not only a sense of pity, as Homer’s Troy could do, but also sheer terror.

II

The scene is Thrace. At the Thracian Chersonese, a small promontory across from Troy, the Greek army pauses on its return voyage. There, as we learn, the boy Polydorus has been murdered secretly by his host, the Thracian king Polymestor, for gold; there, too, Achilles’ ghost has appeared above his own burial mound, demanding Polyxena’s sacrifice. To Euripides’ Athenian audience, Thrace was a wild northern region inhabited by barbarians, where all manner of uncivilized behavior might be expected. At the same time, the coastal cities of Thrace were a rich, vital, and vulnerable part of the Athenian Empire. The Thracian Chersonese in the northeast had been colonized by Athenians in the sixth century b.c. and was wrested from Persian control after the Second Persian War (480–479 b.c.). It had rich plains; it helped control the corn route from the Black Sea. Of more immediate concern, Athens needed to protect tribute-paying cities farther west in the Thracian Chalcidice. The revolt of one of these, Potidaea, with Corinthian support, was a direct cause of the Peloponnesian War, the lengthy, costly struggle of Greek against Greek (431–404 b.c.). The Athenians, whose anxieties mounted proportionate to their sphere of influence, looked for help wherever they could find it. They made short-lived alliances with such northern kings as Perdiccas II of Macedon (who proved to be an unusually treacherous ally) and Sitalces of Thrace. Both sides were cynical; both were disappointed; it is hard to say who exploited whom. In his Acharnians of 425 b.c. Aristophanes satirizes Athenian hopes for Thracian (and Persian) aid. Sitalces, it seems, has sent some Odomantian soldiers, monstrous and crude barbarians, who are presented to the 67

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assembly and subsequently steal the comic hero’s garlic. A hilarious scene, it shows what many Athenians—including Aristophanes—must have felt, namely, that those Thracian ‘‘allies’’ were a murderous horde, far more troublesome and dangerous than their aid could possibly be worth. Euripides, writing his Hecuba perhaps that same spring, must have asked himself the same questions as Aristophanes. Was it really necessary to deal with Thracian kings? And where, in the end, would all these involvements lead? Poets are not necessarily prophets, and Euripides could not have foreseen the event of 413 b.c., when a band of Thracian soldiers (intended to support the Athenians in Sicily, but arriving too late to sail) gave what help they could, sacking a Boeotian town. As Thucydides tells it, The Thracians burst into Mycalessus, sacking the houses and temples, and butchered the inhabitants, sparing neither the young nor the old, but methodically killing everyone they met, women and children alike, and even the farm animals and every living thing they saw. For the Thracian race, like all the most bloodthirsty barbarians, are always particularly bloodthirsty when everything is going their own way. So now there was confusion on all sides and death in every shape and form. Among other things, they broke into a boys’ school, the largest in the place, into which the children had just entered, and killed every one of them. Thus disaster fell upon the entire city, a disaster more complete than any, more sudden and more horrible. (Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, 6.29; trans. Rex Warner)

But Euripides scarcely needed to exercise prophetic powers or, indeed, to look to Thrace in order to realize what a world war meant and would mean. By 426 b.c. the exhausting war had dragged on inconclusively for five years. Not merely fighting and killing but plague, frustration, uprooting of families from the country and crowding in the city, scarcity of food, inflation, corruption, and political factionalism and demagoguery had long since disrupted civilized life and embittered the Athenians’ normally bright and generous spirit. The year 427 b.c. was especially violent. That spring and summer the Athenians almost annihilated a rebellious ally, Mytilene; the Spartans betrayed an old and admired ally, Plataea, to the jealousy and hatred of the Thebans; and in Corcyra two rival factions, abetted in turn by Corinth and by Athens, plunged into a bloodbath of mutual destruction and revenge. Thucydides makes Corcyra an object lesson in wartime demoralization, when passions run riot, no longer controlled by reason or loyalty, let alone by traditional morality, decency, or fairness. All this happened far from Athens, to the west. Yet an Athenian fleet was anchored in the harbor at Corcyra while the

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democrats murdered their public and private enemies. Morally as well as physically, the Athenians were there. What does it mean, then, when Euripides brings us from Troy to Thrace, along with Agamemnon’s victorious Greek officers and soldiers and their Trojan slaves? Thrace is a wild and savage world that has never been tamed by civilization. It is also the homeland of Dionysus, the halftamed god of abandon at whose spring festivals comedies and tragedies were performed. It all seems so primitive and distant, yet Euripides’ Thrace, like Conrad’s deepest Africa, becomes a ‘‘heart of darkness’’ in which civilized people are strangely and horribly involved. And horror is precisely where the play begins. A slight, youthful figure comes onstage. He is Polydorus, he tells us, the son of Hecuba and Priam. During the war his father entrusted him and his treasure for safekeeping to their guest-friend (xenos) Polymestor, the Thracian king, but when Troy fell Polymestor violated the most sacred bonds of trust. He killed the boy for his gold and threw the body into the sea. Yet things will turn out well, Polydorus says, for his body will be washed ashore and revealed to his mother, Hecuba, just after his sister, Polyxena, is sacrificed to Achilles’ ghost near this very same Thracian shore. So this nice, simple ghost will get the burial he deserves. The gods of the underworld have been kind to him. To Hecuba, who now enters, terrified by dreams, the gods will be less kind. III

The play falls into two halves—almost into two plays. The first might be called ‘‘Polyxena’s Sacrifice,’’ and the second ‘‘Hecuba’s Revenge.’’ The first begins, after the ghost scene, with Hecuba’s emergence from the central tent. Although her frightful dream of wolf rending fawn alludes to Polydorus’ murder, the Chorus focuses both Hecuba’s attention and ours on the impending sacrifice of Polyxena. Achilles’ ghost demanded it and the Greek army consented. The report of their debate, with all its politicking, moves the sphere of action further from Homer’s noble world and closer to everyday realities at Athens. Polyxena, called out of the tent by Hecuba, who laments with her, exudes an oldfashioned nobility; she speaks and moves as a Trojan (and Homeric) princess ought. The Odysseus, however, who comes with soldiers to take her is not Homer’s wise and compassionate hero but a coldly rational officer and politician who serves necessity and expects others to do the same: ‘‘Even in bad times it’s prudent / to use common sense’’ (244–45 / 228). Good advice, for him, is what works best at the moment. When Hecuba pleads with him to save Polyxena—appealing to such

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traditional values as decency, fairness, personal gratitude, and respect for suppliants—he counters her plea, as a sophist-trained orator might in 420 b.c., with high-sounding phrases and arguments, very much like Hecuba’s yet somehow ringing hollow. Now it is Polyxena’s turn, but she will not plead. She will die free, not live the life of a slave. She departs, untouched and free, with Odysseus’ soldiers. After the Chorus sings a song of exile and of lingering hope, a messenger, the compassionate Talthybius, comes to inform Hecuba of her daughter’s death. The queen grieves but admires Polyxena’s enduring nobility. Sending a servingwoman to fetch seawater to bathe the corpse, Hecuba reenters the central tent, leaving the stage empty, as if at the end of a play. Then, after a brief choral ode on the sorrows of the Trojan War (and of all wars), the second part begins. The servingwoman returns, a corpse is carried onstage, and Hecuba reemerges to learn the worst. Her agony reaches its peak as she discovers not Polyxena’s body but her murdered boy’s. With this blow her last hope is gone. But after a few cries of utter pain, she turns to action with renewed decisiveness and vigor. She pleads with Agamemnon to assist her in her desire for revenge. This time her determination carries the day, for Agamemnon is a weak-willed man and an indecisive general, anxious to preserve his image before the world. He agrees to lend passive support to Hecuba. For her that is enough. Like an effective general, she takes charge of the situation. With her women’s help, she lures Polymestor to the camp and into the prisoners’ tent, kills his two young children, and puts out his eyes. The smiling villain, the Thracian king, is reduced to a howling, helpless beast. Agamemnon is ‘‘shocked’’ by these events. Presiding over a mockery of a trial, he passes judgment against Polymestor, who then prophesies disaster for all concerned. As soldiers and slaves prepare to sail for Greece (for the winds are blowing again), the play ends. The play’s two halves differ in tone and pace. In the first part, which centers on fear, grief, and loss, things are still done slowly, deliberately, with a certain dignity and grace. It might almost be a tragedy by Sophocles. In the second part excitement builds and events occur rapidly. The audience will be caught up in the excitement, wanting Hecuba to win, hissing the villain Polymestor—and finding the end result appalling. The scenes involving Polymestor are pure black comedy. The trial scene is a parody of tragic resolution. The finale is unsettling. It is, unmistakably, a play by Euripides. But the play’s two halves are unified through plot, character development, and metaphorical and thematic statement. Most obviously, Polydorus’ ghost foretells what will happen; the discovery of his body, confidently anticipated by him, destroys what is left of Hecuba’s spirit. 70

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Her passion for revenge, on the other hand, arises naturally enough from her grief and loneliness and eventually supplants it. Like that other Euripidean heroine, Medea, she moves relentlessly forward to an almost demonic victory over her enemies that is, at the same time, a measure of her defeat as a person, her inward dehumanization. Hecuba’s bearing controls the play, marking the stages of action and meaning. At first her movements convey a sense of weakness coupled with inner effort and half-hearted resolution. She walks slowly onstage, leaning on a staff, supported by attendants; she kneels painfully to clasp Odysseus’ knees in supplication and rises up again to confront him; she collapses to the ground, torn from her daughter, and lies there like a corpse; and yet, stirred by Talthybius’ kindness and decency, she rises up once more and walks with dignity. This was the queen of Troy. In the second part, we expect her to collapse, but she does not. She stiffens. She speaks and moves with resolution. No need for measure now, nor dignity; what matters is command. Hecuba moves quickly, perhaps without her staff. She gives orders; she controls events, though they are meant to destroy, not save; she is a queen again, though not a Trojan queen, and not for long. The play’s two halves are now one. It portrays Hecuba’s suffering and her revenge, the one following from the other as lightning breaks from storm clouds (a metaphor used by Euripides to describe Medea’s anger). It also portrays a fall from grace, from decency, from the innocence and nobility of the ‘‘Trojan’’ or Homeric world. The play is not just about Hecuba’s fall, for what she learns as a result of her suffering and from ‘‘instructors’’ like Odysseus and Polymestor is that she lives in a godforsaken world where chance and harsh necessity prevail and where no one (general, victor, king) is truly free. Polyxena died free, like a Trojan princess, while she still could. Hecuba lives on, a broken spirit in a shattered world.

IV

As befits her upbringing, Polyxena dies a free, noble, even beautiful death; but if she had lived on, she reasons in order to console her mother, she would have to endure the compulsions of slavery: I might chance, too, on a brutal master who’d haggle and trade silver coins for me— sister to Hector and the many others, and he’d constrain me to his needs—grind corn, make bread, sweep dirt from his house, stand at the loom, each day know grief. He’ll force constraint on me. 71

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And a slave, bought who knows where, will foul my bed that was reserved for kings. (386–93 / 359–66)

We are reminded of Homer again, of Hector’s tender words to Andromache. But Euripides’ picture of slavery is much harsher. It does not include drawing water from some lovely Greek spring (an image to be recalled shortly by Euripides’ still hopeful Chorus). It ends with a brutal rape—the negation of all that Polyxena has been and chooses to be. Her instinct is right—more than she realizes—when she advises her mother that to die is sometimes better than to live: . . . But agree that I should die before my dignity is made ugly by shame. One not accustomed to the taste of cruelty endures it but bends her neck to the yoke of anguish. Dying would be better luck than living, for life without moral beauty inflicts endless pain. (400–405 / 373–78)

The Greek word kalos here used by Polyxena means ‘‘beautiful,’’ ‘‘fine,’’ and ‘‘noble.’’ In Euripides’ time it referred not just to physical beauty but also, by an easy and common transference, to moral beauty and grace (much as we still say ‘‘that was a beautiful thing to do’’ or ‘‘she’s a beautiful person’’). The ‘‘life without moral beauty’’ rejected by Polyxena is also life without nobility, grace, or honor. Opposed to kalos and contrasted with it throughout the play is aischros, meaning ‘‘ugly,’’ ‘‘foul,’’ ‘‘ignoble,’’ or ‘‘shameful.’’ In the traditional Greek view, even ignoble actions carried out under compulsion are felt to be ugly and to infect the doer with ugliness, which is why Talthybius later asserts that he ‘‘would rather/die than let chance plunge me/in the ugliness of shame’’ (525–27 / 497–98). Polyxena, then, not only dies beautifully but in dying also escapes an ugly life, the despoiling of her Trojan nobility. At that moment in the messenger’s report when she offers herself freely to Neoptolemus’ sacrificial knife, baring her ‘‘breasts that gleamed like a statue’s/carved to honor the gods’’ (593–94 / 560–61), her physical and moral beauty seem caught up and immortalized. We think of the figures on Keats’ Grecian urn, or of Sophocles’ unyielding heroes and heroines, who, even in the act of dying, defy time and change. Their will and sense of self live on unstained. Hecuba grieves for Polyxena’s death, but she is consoled by the beauty, decency, and nobility of that death, as reported by Talthybius. And this sense of consolation precludes excessive grief. Polyxena had 72

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been Hecuba’s prop and support, like the staff she leans upon: ‘‘She is my better self, my consolation,/my country, nurse, staff, guide.’’ (301–2 / 280–81). Now all that support is withdrawn. Yet for a brief time the queen is still upheld inwardly by the image of her daughter’s nobility, which reflects her own. So she can, for now, continue. In a strangely reflective and self-conscious speech, Hecuba muses on the nature of human nobility. Many critics, since ancient times, have found her remarks peripheral, but they hold an ironic central place in the play’s thematic development. For Hecuba, musing on her daughter’s grace under compulsion, also dwells on what seems a paradox: In human nature, inborn nobility endures, whereas in the fields good soil cannot always guarantee good results, since plants depend on such external factors as sunlight, rain, and human attentiveness for their sustenance and growth. But Hecuba’s paradox is as unstable as the old aristocratic values on which it is based. Its very language indicates that it cannot hold up. Only in the perfection of sculpture, music, or death can human virtue and nobility remain constant. It may be that for the living virtue can be taught as well as inherited (this was a hotly debated subject in Euripides’ own time). What matters to Euripides in this play, as in many others, is that virtue can be untaught, good character corrupted, and nobility destroyed. And this is what happens to Hecuba in the ugly and shameful sequel. She outlives her daughter and her better self. She falls into a state of slavery and evil. If her glowing words on nobility serve as a kind of funeral oration for Polyxena, they are also appropriate for the Trojan queen, for Homer’s Hecuba, who will shortly fade from sight.

V

There is no question that we are all sympathetic to Hecuba’s cause after she discovers the mutilated body of her son. We want her revenge to succeed and it does. After receiving so many orders, Hecuba takes command; after suffering so much horror, she inflicts it; after trusting, without avail, in men and gods, she lures the too trusting deceiver Polymestor to his ruin. Revenge is all she wants now, and it is what she gets. And we, the audience, are caught up vicariously in the wild and bloody exultation of her revenge, as in a Dionysian revel where the god’s maddened votaries, his maenads, tear their animal (or human) victim limb from limb. As is often the case, it is the Chorus, occupying an intermediate position between actors and audience, that sets the tone as their mood turns from grief and sympathy to anger. Their first choral ode is a lament over their state of exile. They wonder, still hopeful, in what land they 73

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might be destined to serve. Perhaps it will be a holy land where the gods are honored. The second ode, harsh and brief, speaks of necessary toil and of the fateful union of Paris and Helen. It ends with the image of a bloody fingernail rending the cheek’s flesh in an act of universal mourning. But the third ode—saddest and most beautiful of all in its description of Troy’s last night of happiness and ruin—ends in a curse against Helen and Paris and the wish that she may never return home again. The earlier compassionate ending is no more. Now, just prior to Polymestor’s entrance with his two children, the uprooted women pray that their enemy may be uprooted like themselves. We should recall the psalm that begins: By the rivers of Babylon there we sat and wept, remembering Sion,

but ends, O Babylon, destroyer, he is happy who repays you the ills you brought on us. He shall seize and shall dash your children on the rock!

The anger of the Trojan women rouses us to further complicity in Hecuba’s revenge. Prior to the choral ode, as Hecuba pleads with Agamemnon for support, we are excited by the force of her argument and the will with which she manages to overbear the Greek commander. How much ought we to realize that her new power, her energy of mind and will, springs from disillusionment and from despair? She repeats the old, familiar arguments—the appeal to the gods, to custom and law (nomos), to justice—but now she uses them as Odysseus himself had done, playing a game of persuasion utilizing counters with no real validity of their own. Indeed, as she intimates (her language here is crafty and ambiguous), the only real divinity remaining is the goddess Persuasion, or the tongue’s power to obtain what the will requires. Master the art of persuasion and you will have (reading between the lines) a god’s power in a godforsaken world. Since the old values of loyalty, trust, honor, decency, and fair play have vanished into thin air, other things have taken their place; in pursuing your goal—be it wealth or power or revenge—it is now permissible to use any means that comes 74

INTRODUCTION

to hand. Reason itself and rational discourse have been debased to serve this end, as has sex. With the quick insight born of cunning and desperation, Hecuba realizes that sex is real to Agamemnon, though honor and decency are not. She reminds him of the happy nights he has spent hugging Cassandra and demands ‘‘what thanks, what fee’’ (875 / 830) she will get for these. The request is shocking. Nothing could contrast more strongly with the modesty of Polyxena’s life and death. But it is granted, and Agamemnon agrees, to comply tacitly with Hecuba’s act of revenge, paying lip service to the gods, justice, and the rest. That clears her way, and she proceeds from there. We have begun, I think, to perceive a coarsening in Hecuba’s words, gestures, and actions that will become more apparent later on. For now, her change of heart is captured precisely in a brief but passionate statement. When Agamemnon asks, with extraordinary carelessness, What do you crave? Freedom? That’s easy.

she quickly responds, No, no! Revenge on criminals, and I’ll be slave for all my days to come. (794–97 / 754–57)

For nobody is truly free. Hecuba sees that now; it is another worthless counter. But she discovers in her slavery a terrible new freedom and power, sensing that it is her destiny to track down her enemy as a hound might a wolf, and to rend him with bloody nails. Polymestor is lured, caught, and rent. However much we may have desired his punishment in the form of torture or death, his actual reappearance is horrifying; the king has been reduced to a frenzied animal lurching to and fro in search of human flesh. Moreover, his two dead children are carried silently onstage and laid upon the ground, as Polydorus’ body had been earlier. We had just seen them, alive and cheerful, innocent of their father’s treachery. Two dead boys for one. It is a spectacle not of justice carried out, of what we might reasonably and fairly have hoped for, but of human atrocity. Nor does the final courtroom scene produce anything like real justice. It is, rather, like the great mistrials in the fiction of Stendhal, Dostoievski, or Kafka, a parody of all that law and justice were meant to be. The judge, Agamemnon, is prejudiced and corrupt. (We know what 75

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he was bribed with.) The plaintiff, Polymestor, is easily refuted, though less on moral grounds than of being an unreliable ally of the Greeks. The debate, for Agamemnon, is a political one, and Polymestor is of no further use to him, so Hecuba wins hands down. Now the Greek army can go about its business of returning home. Yet there is more to be said, and Polymestor, of all people, says it. In place of the god who often appears at the end of a Greek tragedy to establish some memorial rite or to announce the restoration of the social and political order, we are surprised to hear the blinded, half-crazed Polymestor speaking with prophetic insight about the future. He foretells how Hecuba will be transformed into a fiery-eyed dog, plunging from the ship’s mast into the sea; the promontory of Cynossema, ‘‘bitch’s rock,’’ will be her memorial. Hecuba is only slightly shocked, for she has won her revenge, and the prophesied transformation and suicide is only the outward, visible sign of an inner transformation—or dehumanization—that has been taking place all along. But Polymestor goes on, foretelling still other disasters. Cassandra will be killed, and Agamemnon will be murdered by his wife. What awaits the king, the Greek victor (and the audience knows it) is bloody slaughter. His answer is to muzzle the prophet. The misfortunes of the Greeks can be related in other plays. Agamemnon prays for a good return, for release from toil. The winds are blowing at last. The fleet can sail. The Trojan women make ready for their bondage in Greece, from which there is now ‘‘no escape.’’

VI

It is one thing to become demoralized as a result of one’s own excessive suffering, but quite another to confront a demoralized world, one in which, as Polymestor says, ‘‘Nothing at all can be trusted’’ (1009 / 956). He ought to know. A man who has broken the most sacred ties of honor, decency, and guest-friendship, he is even now toying with his victim’s mother—and she with him. Ironically, Polymestor proves too trusting; he thinks that the women’s tents are safe. And he is caught like a savage beast or a barbarian who is finally punished for his uncivilized behavior. As Agamemnon puts it, displaying a Greek consciousness of superiority, ‘‘Among your people, perhaps it’s easy/to murder guests./To us, the Greeks, this deed is ugly in its shame’’ (1340–42 / 1247–48). Did the Athenian audience applaud? They must have enjoyed the defeat and humiliation of the villain. It is comforting to see justice meted out. And Thrace, where these ugly events occurred, must have seemed reassuringly remote from Athens. Or did it? 76

INTRODUCTION

As Euripides was writing Hecuba, Athens was not only active in Thrace but was also engaged in a long, demoralizing war that pitted Greek against Greek. When Thucydides describes the brutality of events at Corcyra and the breakdown of all basic values—religious, moral, familial, and even of reason itself as it is embodied in meaningful discourse, when he laments the passing of that old-time spirit of simplicity and openness ‘‘to which nobility most largely contributes’’ (History of the Peloponnesian War, III, 83. 1) (we think of Polyxena) that ‘‘was laughed down and altogether disappeared’’ (III, 83. 1); we begin to wonder whether it is war and civil strife that are the exception, destroying normal life, or whether it is that normal, civilized, ‘‘Athenian’’ life itself that constitutes the exception to the usual chaos. Nor can we say that trust in the gods or in an underlying moral code are simply overwhelmed by the extreme nature of war. Modern thought can also induce a metaphysical crisis of meaning and belief, and to a keen observer like Euripides it was doing just that in Athens well before the Peloponnesian War broke out. Physics and astronomy; empirical medicine; comparative ethnography; naturalistic anthropology; the new rhetorical exercises in conceptual analysis, definition, and argumentation—all these ongoing developments undermined people’s blind confidence in the workings of divine and human law and in the authority of accepted codes of behavior. What replaced these values for some was pride in science and technology, in the ascent of man. It seemed a grand success story, a panoramic view of human progress from primitive beginnings, through the gradual, experimental, and self-taught mastery of tools and methods, to the building of towns and cultures and advanced civilizations. All this was admirable, but the price was a new sense of the precariousness of laws, customs, institutions, and rational discourse. Could these things be waived on occasion? Could they be manipulated by clever people who perceived themselves to be above the law? Certainly, they could collapse under sufficient pressure— and not merely the pressure of war. When the plague invaded Athens in 430–429 b.c. and no effective remedy could be found, not even the most sacred laws—for example, those of burial—were able to withstand the weight of human despair. And this happened not in savage or mythic Thrace but in Athens a mere five years before Euripides’ Hecuba was staged. Viewed in this light, one can understand how Hecuba’s demoralization parallels her discovery of a demoralized world. Odysseus and Polymestor are her teachers or, more precisely her ‘‘un-teachers.’’ Odysseus, deaf to Hecuba’s pleas, blind to her as a real person, illustrates how oldfashioned values like decency, honor, and gratitude may be laughed at 77

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and may disappear altogether. Polyxena’s actions in preparation for her impending death mirror these golden values of nobility at their best and brightest, but the discovery of Polydorus’ little mutilated body simply annihilates them both for Hecuba and for the world. From that point on, Hecuba’s passionate energy and her sure-footed movement toward revenge spring from a newfound, cynical, even nihilistic assurance that values do not count. The gods, law, honor, justice—all are mere words, though words that retain some half-persuasive force. Other forces are more real; greed, lust, and persuasion can be made to serve revenge. What rules the world, finally, is neither god nor law but incalculable chance (tycheˆ). In such a world, there is no privileged space for human dignity, nor even for human freedom. Everyone, as Hecuba says, is equally a slave. That being so, one must grapple like a slave for what one can. When we, the audience, find ourselves applauding Agamemnon’s verdict against the barbarian Polymestor, we seem to be cooperating, like Agamemnon in Thrace or the Athenians at Corcyra, with destructive passions far beyond our understanding or control. For the play appears to be a mockery of justice and order. In the gods’ absence, Hecuba devises her own brand of justice; Agamemnon makes his; Clytemnestra will make hers. There is no order, no morality, in this chance-ruled universe. We do not even have the consolation (if one considers it thus) of seeing dark powers at work, like the witches in Macbeth, making the clouding of reason and will more understandable. In Euripides’ Hippolytus there is Aphrodite; in his Bacchae there is Dionysus. Hecuba lacks even amoral gods. There are ghosts, certainly, but they act mainly as catalysts. Behind the scene there is only chance and blind necessity. Perhaps this mood is best caught in the image of the winds that suddenly stop blowing, forcing the Greek army to be detained in Thrace, and reappear again at the play’s end—but only after Hecuba has won her revenge. What the winds of fortune grant in this play is time not for good but for evil; and that, in a blind universe, is as close as Euripides lets us come to sensing a dark power at work.

VII

We come, then, to the emotions of pity and fear, which Aristotle says are purged, or clarified, by experiencing painful events represented on the stage. As we read Hecuba, the words seem inadequate. Pity is what we feel for noble people who have fallen into misfortune—for Homer’s Trojan king and queen, whose country is invaded, whose children are slain, and who slide from prosperity to ruin as the gods’ favor deserts 78

INTRODUCTION

them; or we might feel pity for Polyxena, dying so young and still a virgin; or for the Trojan women, bundled off into slavery in distant lands. For Hecuba pity seems inadequate as she falls into a slavery of the soul, into what Simone Weil has described as malheur, as opposed to mere douleur: ‘‘In the realm of suffering, affliction is something apart, specific, and irreducible. It is quite a different thing from simple suffering. It takes possession of the soul and marks it through and through with its own particular mark, the mark of slavery.’’2 Euripides’ Hecuba exemplifies the worst possible fate that can happen to human beings; it is appalling, bound up with terror. Fear, moreover, is too weak a word for the impact of these events. Simple fear is what we feel when the ghost appears, when Hecuba describes her dream, when we struggle (with her) against the realization that Polyxena will have to be sacrificed. These fears are confirmed—and resolved—as the play’s action unfolds. We experience terror, though, at the possibility that we and the people we love might suffer what Hecuba suffers; and we feel terror at that other possibility, namely, that the world we have come to know and trust— the world of Troy, of Athens, of Western civilization—might suddenly metamorphose into Thrace or, rather, might reveal itself as the world of blind, mechanical necessity that Weil has described so well: If the mechanism were not blind there would not be any affliction. Affliction is anonymous before all things; it deprives its victims of their personality and makes them into things. It is indifferent; and it is the coldness of this indifference—a metallic coldness—that freezes all those it touches right to the depths of their souls. . . . Human crime, which is the cause of most affliction, is part of blind necessity, because criminals do not know what they are doing.3

There is compassion in these lines even for war criminals. There is also a chillling horror of the godforsaken world that might, but for God’s grace, be our own. Of course, there have always been ways of evading the full impact of tragic pity and terror. One way is to claim, rather like Agamemnon, that it happened in Thrace, that only barbarians act like animals. This is, as I have suggested, to miss the point. Some years ago, after a performance of William Alfred’s Hogan’s Goat, which is set in late nineteenthcentury Brooklyn, I heard one spectator say to another, ‘‘How lucky this sort of thing doesn’t happen today,’’ which, in its way, recalls the Victorian lady’s comment on Antony and Cleopatra: ‘‘How unlike, how very unlike, the home life of our own dear Queen!’’ 2. Simone Weil, Waiting For God, trans. Emma Craufurd (New York, 1951), p. 117. 3. Ibid., p. 125.

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There is also the use of esthetic distancing as a mode of evasion. The choral odes, in particular, are a delight to read and must have seemed even more beautiful when they were sung and danced to music by a well-trained Chorus. These odes provide emotional variety and relief, qualities easily overlooked today. They are often mistakenly viewed— especially in Euripides’ later tragedies—as escapist pieces, distractions from the main tragic event. In Hecuba, it is rather Euripides’ heightened sense of the fragility of all things good and beautiful that leads him to express, in new and strange ways, the loveliness of ordinary life—‘‘the home life,’’ we might say, ‘‘of our own dear Queen!’’—and the pain and sorrow of losing it. There is an extraordinarily touching moment in the third ode when the young Trojan wife makes herself ready for bed: ‘‘I was arranging my hair, / binding it up in ribbons for the night, / and a golden mirror’s endless sunlight / held my gaze’’ (977–80 / 923–26). It is an ordinary moment, yet an intensely precious one, for the next moment will bring confusion and sudden death; the wife, her husband newly slain, will find herself being carried off into exile, looking back sadly to Troy. To take another example, in the first ode the Chorus consoles itself in the face of slavery and exile with the wistful hope that it might be taken to places of physical and spiritual beauty—to the holy isle of Delos, perhaps, or to Athens, where its citizens join in the lovely Panathenaic ceremonies. The sense of beauty, of ceremony, of worship of the gods is comforting. (We might recall that the presentation of Greek tragedies was only one part of the Athenian festival of Dionysus, god of wine and release.) But the feeling of consolation fades as the play unfolds, even as the feeling of lost happiness grows more passionate and intense. The realization of life’s fragility can also result in a sense of compassion that overrides boundaries and reaches out to one’s enemies. In the second ode, the Chorus sings of how ‘‘laments also rise/by the banks of a sunlit Greek river/where a Spartan girl cries alone in her room’’ (685–87 / 650–51). It is Homeric and ‘‘Trojan,’’ this awareness that the Greeks experience sadness, too. But the Spartan girl is, after all, a representative of the enemy. In an Athenian theater, before thousands of angry and frustrated Athenians, writing (and speaking) these lines took courage. Euripides was a cosmopolitan, but he was no less patriotic on that account. His sense of the beauty and fragility of things, which the citizens of all nations experience equally since they are all human beings, made him love his own Athenian homeland all the more passionately, not for its glory, or even for its advanced civilization, but because (as Scipio perceived at Carthage) that glory and that advanced civilization could so easily be destroyed. 80

INTRODUCTION VIII

Much that I have said will not seem especially new or surprising to many classical scholars, for Euripides’ Hecuba is not a problem play. Most twentieth-century criticism is sane, balanced, and to the point. I am indebted, among others, to the work of Abrahamson, Conacher, Daitz, Garzya, Grube, Kirkwood, Luschnig, Matthaei, Pohlenz, and especially that of Jacqueline de Romilly. The best pages written on Hecuba are still those of William Arrowsmith in The University of Chicago Press series of translations. I have also seen, and been stimulated by, unpublished writings by Martha Nussbaum and Ann Michelini, and have made extensive use of my own somewhat unbalanced lecture entitled ‘‘Concepts of Demoralization in Euripides’ Hecuba,’’ which was presented in March 1977 at a Euripides symposium held at Duke University.4 Alice Radin provided me with much advice and information regarding the character of Polyxena. I referred to my lecture as ‘‘somewhat unbalanced’’ because I focused my attention exclusively on a few key passages. In order to make original observations the critic must often do this; but in doing so he or she may obstruct the play’s flow, obscure its emotional impact, or become too preoccupied with the printed text. The Oxford University Press series entitled Greek Tragedy in New Translations compensates the critic for all this. There is the challenge of writing for nonspecialists (I almost wrote ‘‘for a live audience’’). There is the pleasure, for one who can read Greek, of being yoked together with a poet who can write English, who can breathe life and movement into the printed page. As companion spirits, Janet Lembke and I found ourselves asking the same basic questions of the text: what is happening here, and what does it mean? We felt, with equal passion, that the play moved (esthetically, dramatically, emotionally) and that a live audience should and would be moved by it. At the same time, Janet has conveyed—and helped me to realize—the crisp, neat lines, the conciseness and power of Euripides’ play. We owe much to William Arrowsmith, who harnessed this particular chariot and set the pace. He has been a model of clear thinking, clear writing, and the confrontation of what he has called ‘‘turbulence’’ in Greek drama. I owe a similar yet stronger and older debt to the late Robert A. Brooks. He was my teacher, my predecessor (in several ways) in this series, and the father-in-law I never had. For my part, I wish to dedicate this effort to Rab and Jane, in thanks for their enduring generosity to my wife, Mary, and to me. Kenneth J. Reckford 4. Papers presented at this symposium were published in 1985 by Duke University Press under the title Directions in Euripidean Criticism, edited by Peter Burian, the organizer of the symposium.

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ON THE TRANSLATION

One of the principles underlying Oxford’s series Greek Tragedy in New Translations is that the latter be performable. This is a praiseworthy and necessary aim, but how can it be achieved? The answer lies, I believe, in testing through performance. Plays exist only secondarily as literature. Like music and dance, they are, first and foremost, part of the performing arts. For me, translating Greek tragedy begins in silence. The Greek words are strung across the pages like formidably precise strands of barbed wire. They hold neither music nor movement. But gradually the mind limbers and the tongue gains a stumbling facility for turning separate letters into sounds, for piling those sounds up to form whole words and lines. Patterns emerge; the rhythms begin to be heard; the work of translation begins. That work involves finding the English words and rhythms that most readily recreate the sense of the original play. By sense, I mean both verbal and affective content. On the one hand, the words chosen should be as faithful as possible to literal meaning. On the other, they must sing, shout, whisper, march, hesitate, rise and fall in ways that suggest the nonverbal elements of the original—its meters, its actions and dramatic pace, its tug at the emotions. Making such choices calls for much scribbling and muttering; the results fill reams of paper. The translator’s mind becomes a stage. What is an audience supposed to see? Characters enter, speak, and exit. The Chorus sings and dances. The play is tried out in a mind’s eye version of the classical Athenian theater, complete with musical accompaniment, stage building, entrance passages, and seating for at least ten thousand people. The imagination also mounts the play in more contemporary settings, including a proscenium stage or a theater-in-the-round.

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Decisions are made. English simulacra of speech, chant, and song are transcribed onto paper. Stage directions are inferred from hints supplied in the characters’ words, for the Greek text contains no directions. A script comes into being, but silence still threatens, for the script is tentative, a collection of written symbols, an effort that has been played out only in solitary fancy. It can be read, but can it be transferred from page to stage? Is it performable? Is it truly alive? The worth of a play’s translation is demonstrated, I believe, only in the fleeting moment of performance, be it a walk-through with scripts in hand or a full production. At some point the translation-in-progress should—I want to say must—be tested for performability: the fit of words in actors’ mouths; the meshing of words and actions; the efficiency of the invented directions; the applause or restless fidgeting of an audience. The translator may then make changes, see and hear them enacted, and decide—with the help of others—what to keep, drop, or alter further. With help: theater is now, and has always been, an intensely cooperative enterprise. In the case of translation, the translator stands in, however inadequately, for the playwright. But the written translation lacks juice; its words can only suggest sound, motion, and spectacle to the lone reader. As a play it has no reality until it finds intermediaries— director and actors—who can perform the ultimate act of translation by breathing life into the script and delivering it directly to an audience. The audience, in turn, plays an active role in testing by providing its own cues to players and director as they transform static script into immediate activity. To be a member of an audience is to participate in a common sensory experience denied the lone reader. Performance can also suggest, as the page cannot, the vanished elements of the original: music and dance. The surviving Greek tragedies have been compared to libretti that have lost their operas; the plays are seen as texts forever separated from their contexts. This is not quite so, for performance provides context. The actors’ voices alone constitute a kind of music, and blocking conveys a sense of choreography. A director may go still further by giving fancy footwork to the Chorus and providing live or recorded music as background to lyric passages. The possibilities for embellishment are limited only by their appropriateness to the drama being staged. Such dance and music cannot, of course, reproduce the originals, but they can give the contemporary audience an understanding—remote, perhaps, but an understanding nonetheless—of tragedy’s original threefold nature, its intricate braiding of words, music, and dance.

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Testing, yes! Chance has granted this version of Hecuba just such a trial by performance. Many individuals have contributed their knowledge and encouragement to the work of translation. Chief among them is H. Rick Hite, professor of Theater/Communications and chairman of the Humanities Division at Virginia Wesleyan College. He rallied student actors and put them through their paces on a stage that was in no way imaginary. He summoned an audience. During several performances I could hear the clunkers that had sounded fluent in the scribbling-and-muttering phase; could see the loose ends that had seemed tightly joined; could gauge the audience’s attentiveness by its cough-and-rustle quotient. Moreover, performance reveals aspects of a play that are not readily apparent to a reader or to the translator playing out the drama in the mind’s eye. For example, in solitude it is easy to forget that Polyxena is onstage during the long dialogue between Hecuba and Odysseus. But the theatergoer knows that she is indeed physically present as her mother pleads for her daughter’s life while Odysseus adamantly and arrogantly refuses all mercy. With such insights, the work of revision could begin. For this testing experience thanks also must go to Bentley Anderson, whose set converted the theater into a tented encampment on the coast of Thrace or any such encampment where the ruinous aftermath of war demands more degradation, more death. Credit must be given to the cast, who willingly tackled difficult, painful material, and in particular to Mary Christine Danner, who played Hecuba with a trained skill not usually found in a collegiate actor. How rewarding to hear her say, ‘‘It’s been easy to learn my lines.’’ Even more rewarding has been the opportunity to proceed under the gentle, informed tutelage of Kenneth Reckford, who has always seen Hecuba as a play ‘‘with possibilities for performance that usually go unrecognized in the reading of a Greek text.’’ Other ‘‘Editors’ Forewords’’ to this series have referred to ‘‘collaboration between scholar and poet.’’ Collaboration, however, is too impersonal a word to describe our teamwork. Cooperation better describes a dual effort that began auspiciously with Kenneth’s firm wish that ‘‘we must borrow a stage and an audience after a while.’’ Sometimes wishes do come true. But before such inspired cooperation could burgeon, an initial decision to undertake a translation had to be made. The impetus behind the decision came from William Arrowsmith. It was he who urged me to abandon Aeschylus and try my hand at Euripides—specifically Hecuba, which he himself has translated with commendable performability. And it was he who suggested that Kenneth Reckford be my guide.

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The text used is that edited by Stephen G. Daitz (Teubner, 1973). Professor Daitz also gave my ear its first chance to hear the music of the Greek; he has recorded the entire play on tapes that accompany his prose translation (Jeffrey Norton Publishers, 1981). The prose translation helped greatly in resolving several problems of interpretation. Professor Daitz was good enough, as well, to send me a copy of his article ‘‘Concepts of Freedom and Slavery in Euripides’ Hecuba’’ (Hermes, 99, no. 2 [1971]). Last to be mentioned but far from last in my thoughts as I slowly made my way through the tale of Hecuba’s self-enslavement are my daughters, Elisabeth and Hannah to whom my efforts are dedicated. May their lot be beauty, dignity, and freedom.

Janet Lembke

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Translated by

janet lembke and

kenneth j. reckford

CHARACTERS

ghost of polydorus hecuba queen of Troy, widow of Priam, mother of Polydorus and Polyxena chorus of captive Trojan women polyxena daughter of Hecuba odysseus Greek commander talthybius the Greeks’ herald serving woman Hecuba’s attendant agamemnon Greek commander polymestor king of Thrace Serving women, attendants to Hecuba Greek soldiers Two boys, sons of Polymestor Thracian attendants of Polymestor

Line numbers in the right-hand margin of the text refer to the English translation only, and the Notes beginning at page 141 are keyed to these lines. The bracketed line numbers in the running heads refer to the Greek text.

The coast of Thrace. In the background center, agamemnon’s tent, where hecuba is quartered. On either side, tents housing the captive women.

The ghost of polydorus enters left. ghost I come out of the pit that hides the dead, out of the gate-guarded darkness where Hades lives separate from other gods. I come, Polydorus, Hecuba’s son and Priam’s. My father saw danger— our Troy falling under Greek spears. Fearful, he smuggled me from Trojan soil to Polymestor, his friend in Thrace, who plants these fertile plains and rules a horse-loving people. And my father sent me with much secret gold. Then, if the walls of Troy should fall, his children—those who lived—would not be poor. And I was youngest of Priam’s sons. He smuggled me out, for I was a boy, too young to carry heavy shield and lance. As long as our boundaries held and Troy’s towers stood unbroken and chance blessed my brother Hector’s spear, how quickly, cared for by my father’s friend, I grew, like a young tree reaching tall, to be cut. For Troy met ruin. So did Hector’s life. And my father’s hearth was leveled to the ground, and there by the godbuilt altar, he fell, slaughtered for sacrifice by Achilles’ murder-stained son. My father’s friend killed me as I grieved. For gold

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10

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[25–54]

he killed me and threw my body in the sea so he could keep that gold within his house.

30

I lie ashore, I lie in the breaking sea sucked back, tossed up by waves that surge and lapse, unwept, unburied. And now, my shell of flesh left empty, I am only air that flickers lightly over her I love, my mother Hecuba. Three days I have hovered— ever since my helpless mother was landed here far from Troy on this Thracian soil. And all the Greeks, becalmed with their ships, are waiting ashore for a fair wind. For dead Achilles showed himself above his tomb to hold back the army of the Greeks as they plied oars toward home. He claims my sister Polyxena for his tomb as the sacrifice he covets, as a last prize. And it shall come to pass: He shall not go giftless. His friends will honor him. Fate leads my sister on this day to her dying.

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50

And two children’s two corpses—how closely my mother shall see them, mine and my doomed sister’s. For I will show myself in surf at a slave’s feet so that my torn flesh shall find its grave. For the gods below have might, and I have begged them. Let me claim a tomb, claim the hands of my mother to bury me. And all, all I have wished for shall come to pass. Hecuba, grey, old—I must draw back. She walks from Agamemnon’s tent frightened. She dreamed my ghost. (moans)

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[55–86]

O mother, sheltered in a royal house and come to slavery, you know life’s harshness now as once you knew its joy. Some god gives you ruin equal to the riches lost. The ghost exits left. hecuba, holding a wooden staff, enters from agamemnon’s tent with her serving women. hecuba (chanting) Lead children, lead this old one from her house. Lead, Trojan women. Raise to her feet the fellow slave once your lady and queen. Come, carry me, lead me, lift me taking my old hand. Lend me your arms bent for a crutch. And I—let me lean—I will hasten with slow stiff-ankled steps.

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O lightning of Zeus, O dark-brooding Night, why am I caught up, held captive nightlong by terrors, ghosts? O Queen below earth, mother of dreams, black-winge`d dreams, let me push away nightmares that still possess me— dreams of the one who found safety in Thrace, my young son, dreams of Polyxena, daughter I love best. In my dreams I learned fear. O gods below earth, keep safe my son, the only anchor left to my house. Hidden in snowbound Thrace, he lives guarded by his father’s friend. Something new comes, new bursts of grief in our grieving. Never before has my heart so relentlessly pounded, shuddered.

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[87–107]

The soul of Helenus my prophet-son, my daughter Cassandra— women of Troy, where shall I find them? They could read the truth in these dreams. For I saw a fawn, saw that a wolf’s bloody teeth were slashing her bared throat, saw that necessity tore her away from my lap. And I fear still more. Achilles’ ghost— I saw it stride the earth heaped on the tomb and it claimed as a last prize one of us, a Trojan woman. Not her, oh not her! Divine might of heaven, push this away from my own child, I beg you.

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The chorus of captive women enters from the side tents and moves into the orchestra. hecuba stands and listens with dignity. chorus (chanting severally) —Hecuba, here, I am coming. —Coming in haste from my master’s tent. —The tent assigned to me by lot when I was taken slave. —A slave driven out of my city, Troy, spear-hunted, trapped by the Greeks. —I cannot lift the weight you bear. —I come laden with heavy news. —My lady, I come to herald pain. —The Greeks met in full assembly. Word comes

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[108–35]

they decreed a sacrifice. Achilles claims your child. —He strode on his tomb. He appeared, as you know, armored in gold and held back the ships when they put to sea, canvas already straining at the stays.

120

—He shouted, he howled, ‘‘Where, Greeks, where would you sail leaving my tomb without its last prize?’’ —And a wave of discord broke. Argument divided that spear-proud host, some eager to give the tomb its sacrifice, others roaring NO! —Agamemnon pressed for your good because the one who is quick with prophecy sleeps in his bed.

130

—But Theseus’ two sons, branches of Athens’ tree, spoke with two voices to state their one thought, and they agreed that Achilles’ tomb be crowned with new-blossomed blood. —‘‘Cassandra’s bed or the spear of Achilles— which would you put first?’’ —And the rush of words, yes and no, was balanced until that shifty-hearted butcher knife, that sweet-coaxing, pandering son of Laertes persuades the army not to reject the best of all Greeks for the life of a slave, a sacrifice.

93

140

HECUBA

[136–59]

—Otherwise one of the dead, standing before Persephone, could say Greeks are ungrateful to Greeks who fell on Troy’s plains and died for their country.

150

—And Odysseus will come, he will drag your foal away from your breast, out of your old arms. —He wastes no time. —Go to the temples. —Go to the altars. —Kneel before Agamemnon. Beg him. —Cry out, beg the gods—gods in heaven, gods below earth. —Prayer will save you from being made childless. or else you must see her thrown on that tomb.

160

—A virgin stained red. —Blood on her gold-clad neck. —Blood in a gleaming black gush. hecuba (chanting) No! What can misery cry out? What prayer, what pain, what dirge? Made more helpless in my old and helpless years, caught in slavery I cannot bend to, cannot bear—oh no! Who comes to help me? What kin,

94

170

HECUBA

[160–82]

what country? My husband, gone. Gone, gone my sons. This path, that path, which shall I take? Where shall I go? Where find a god, a force, a defender? (to the chorus) Woemongers, women of Troy, you mongers of cruel woe, you destroy, you destroy me. My life no longer holds a light I want to see.

180

Feet, be willing to carry me, carry these old bones back to the tent. Daughter, my daughter, come, come out, listen to your mother, your most unlucky mother. polyxena enters from agamemnon’s tent. O child—you should know—I hear such, such rumors spread about your life. polyxena (chanting throughout this passage in response to hecuba’s chant) Mother, mother, why shout? What news? You flush me from cover like a frightened bird. hecuba Grieve, grieve with me, child. polyxena Why grieve? This prelude scares me. hecuba Grieve, grieve for your life.

95

190

HECUBA

[183–212]

polyxena Speak. Stop hiding your secret. I’m shivering, shivering, mother. Why do you moan? hecuba O child, child of a luckless mother. polyxena What would you tell me?

200

hecuba Sacrifice. Yours. On Achilles’ tomb. The Greeks, all the Greeks require it be done. polyxena Mother, poor mother, how can your tongue be so cruel? Mother, tell me, tell me what you know. hecuba I hear, child, a desperate rumor. The message comes that the Greeks have voted your life away. polyxena How dreadfully your pain brims over! O mother, your years have brought you no joy. Once more an outrage hateful past words strikes down from heaven to hurt you.

210

No more will your child be helpless with you in your helpless age, no more share slavery. Helpless, you must watch your helpless young, your calf, dragged from your arms, throat cut and consigned to Hades’ dark earth where I shall lie sorrowing among the dead. I weep for you, grieving mother.

96

220

HECUBA

[212–34]

For you, my tears, my dirges. My life will be seized and slashed open. I cannot lament it, no. To die is my chance for happiness.

230

chorus leader (speaking) Look. Odysseus comes, stepping briskly. Hecuba, he’ll give you news firsthand. odysseus enters left with an escort of Greek soldiers. polyxena steps back and listens quietly to the following exchange. odysseus Madam, I think you know of the vote cast and the army’s decision. I bring you formal word. The Greeks have decreed that your daughter Polyxena be sacrificed before the earthmound of Achilles’ grave. They choose me to take and escort the girl. And when the offering is made, a priest will officiate—Achilles’ son. Do you know your duty? Not to let yourself be torn from her by force, not to contest my warrant with your fists, but bow to the strength of your troubles. Even in bad times, it’s prudent to use common sense. hecuba Why, why must I face a struggle? Why must I moan and weep? Torn from my home, I did not die— I should have died! But God did not destroy me. He saves my life that I may suffer even greater loss. (to odysseus) But if a slave may ask a free man

97

240

250

HECUBA

[235–60]

questions not meant to offend or sting the heart, then you must give answers, and I who ask will listen. odysseus Go ahead. I don’t begrudge you the time. hecuba Remember when you came to Troy, a spy wearing shapeless rags? Your eyes bled the fear of death, the tears clotted in your beard.

260

odysseus I remember, I didn’t take it lightly. hecuba But Helen knew you and told only me? odysseus I recall coming into great danger. hecuba You humbled yourself, embracing my knees? odysseus Yes, like a condemned man, my hand on your robes. hecuba So I saved you? I sent you out of my country? odysseus Yes, and today I still see the sun. hecuba What did you say then when you were my slave? odysseus I found a rush of words to keep me from dying. hecuba Do you smell the stench in your designs? You admit that I treated you well. But are you fair to me? No! You use your power to cause me pain. You people who grew up ignorant of gratitude, who lust for acclaim bought by crowd-coaxing tongues— I do not want to know a single one of you who think nothing of abusing friends so long as your smooth speeches lull the mob. What chicanery tricked the Greeks into voting slaughter of this child? Do they feel bound to make human sacrifice

98

270

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HECUBA

[261–88]

on that tomb where they should kill a steer? Or if Achilles wants a death to pay for his death, what justice that he target her for slaughter? She never injured him—not once! Helen—he must claim her blood to soak his tomb. She killed him. She led him to Troy. And if the captive picked for death must be the one most beautiful, we are exempt. Helen’s face and form command all eyes, and Helen’s acts are not less wrong than ours.

290

Justice—I appeal first for justice. And more: the debt you owe me now comes due. Bear with me. You admit clinging to my hand, touching this old cheek, kneeling to beg my mercy. hecuba kneels in suppliance, touching odysseus’ knees. As she mentions the ritual gestures of supplication, she performs them. My turn now. I cling, I touch, I call in your debt of gratitude, I beg your mercy. Do not tear my child from my arms. Do not kill her. Enough of my children have died. In her I remember joy and forget great loss. She is my better self, my consolation, my country, nurse, staff, guide. The strong should not abuse their strength, nor the fortunate think Chance will bless them forever. I know. Once I was blessed. Not now. One single day saw all I lived for lost. hecuba again touches odysseus’ bearded cheek in supplication. But, O my friend, show me respect, take pity. Go to the Greek army. Warn that there will be just cause for anger

99

300

HECUBA

[288–318]

if you now kill women whom you did not kill when first you tore them from their altars. Then you took pity. And your laws forbid equally spilling the blood of free man and slave. Your prestige counts. No matter how you speak, you will persuade them. High repute and low may speak the same words but not with the same force. chorus No human heart is set so hard that hearing the grave music of your dirge, your keening, would not bring tears.

310

320

odysseus pulls hecuba to her feet and moves away from her. odysseus Hecuba, be instructed. Do not let your imagination find an enemy in one who gives you sound advice. I stand ready to save your person because chance let it save mine. I can say nothing more nor retract one thing that has been said. Troy is taken. The army’s chief made his demand. For him your daughter will be sacrificed. Most countries show weakness—you know this— when the man truly noble and brave fails to be rewarded more than baser men. We think, woman, that Achilles deserves full honors. He died, our finest man, for Greece. Regard him alive as a friend, disregard him now he’s dead—would that not shame us? So much for that. But what will people say if troops muster again and war comes? Will we choose to fight or to put our own lives first in a world where our dead lie dishonored? As for me, each day that I live may bring next to nothing. Yet, I have everything my life needs.

100

330

340

HECUBA

[319–45]

But I want my tomb thought worthy of tribute. Such recognition endures. But if you say, Pity me, I suffer, I answer, Some of us are not less sorrow-struck— grey-haired women, old men, brides, too, deprived of their highborn young husbands whose corpses rot covered by Troy’s dust. Accept your lot. And we—if we do wrong to honor courage, then we stand convicted of our ignorance. But you foreigners do not treat friends as friends nor pay respect to those who died in a moral cause. Thus, Greece is fortune-blessed while you barbarians receive exactly what your notions call for.

350

chorus (wailing) The slave’s lot—to know pure evil without cease, to bear what no one ought, to be crushed by force! hecuba Daughter, oh my words about your killing, put vainly in the air, disappear.

360

polyxena comes forward. But you—if you have more strength than your mother, be quick, become a nightingale singing notes so clear they stop this theft of life. Stir pity. Grasp Odysseus’ knees. Persuade. You can change his mind, for he has children, too. Make him pity the chance that strikes a child. polyxena I see, Odysseus, that your right hand hides inside your cloak and your face turns aside so that I cannot touch your bearded cheek. At ease! You have escaped the Zeus

101

370

HECUBA

[345–78]

who guards all suppliants. Yes, I will go. Necessity is kind, for I wish to die. If not, I’d seem a woman broken but rejecting death. Why should I live? My earliest memory: my father lord over all Trojans. And I grew, cherished, reared with bright hope for a king’s bride. Not small the rivalry about whose court, whose fire would give me welcome. And I, degraded now, was princess among Trojan women, most admired of her virgins, a goddess except in one way—I must die. But now I am slave. That name alone, harsh name, makes me lust for death. I might chance, too, on a brutal master who’d haggle and trade silver coins for me— sister to Hector and the many others, and he’d constrain me to his needs—grind corn, make bread, sweep dirt from his house, stand at the loom, each day know grief. He’ll force constraint on me. And a slave, bought who knows where, will foul my bed that was reserved for kings. No! I forfeit my view of this sunlight— free—as I hand my body to the god of death. Lead me, Odysseus. Let this contest for me stop. For I can see no hope, no grounds to think that glory might again invest our days. And you, mother, try not to stop us with speeches or tugging hands. But agree that I should die before my dignity is made ugly by shame. One not accustomed to the taste of cruelty endures it but bends her neck to the yoke of anguish. Dying would be better luck than living, for life without moral beauty inflicts endless pain.

102

380

390

400

HECUBA

[379–401]

chorus Nobility—how deep and terrible its stamp on those wellborn. And when actions enhance a good name, it wins still greater dignity. hecuba Beautiful words, my daughter, but in their beauty my grief lies waiting.

410

(to odysseus) Odysseus, if you need to show Achilles gratitude, yet cast no blame on Greeks, do not kill her. Take me instead. Lead me to his grave. Kill me without a qualm. I gave birth to Paris whose arrows shot down Achilles. odysseus Old woman, Achilles’ ghost did not demand your throat be cut but hers. hecuba Then kill me with my daughter. Earth and that corpse who makes demands shall drink twice as much blood. odysseus One death—your girl’s—is enough. No more. I wish we did not gain from even one. hecuba I am constrained to die with my child. odysseus Who gives orders here? My master? hecuba Ivy to oak—that’s how I’ll cling to her. odysseus No. Listen to someone with better sense. hecuba I will not let go of my child. odysseus I will not depart and leave her here.

103

420

HECUBA

[402–25]

polyxena Mother, listen to me. And you, son of Laertes, unbend toward a parent with good cause for distress. And you, poor mother, don’t fight power. Do you want to be thrown down, age`d flesh bleeding, and want to be shoved away, manhandled, hauled off in disgrace by some callow soldier? No, not you! That does not befit you. But, mother I love, give me your sweet hand, let me press my cheek to yours. Never again, but now for the last time I shall see the rays, the bright circle of the sun. Accept my last greeting, my last goodbye. My mother who gave me birth, I go to my dying.

430

440

polyxena and hecuba embrace. hecuba While I, daughter, live on as a slave. polyxena No bridegroom, no wedding songs for me. hecuba You, child, win pity. My lot is anguish. polyxena I’ll lie in Hades separated from you. hecuba No! What shall I do? Where will my life end? polyxena Freedom was my birthright, but I die a slave. hecuba And I have lost all my fifty children. polyxena What do I say to Hector and your husband? hecuba That I am the most anguished of women. polyxena O breasts that sweetly nursed me. hecuba O daughter, your luck—spoilt before it ripened.

104

450

HECUBA

[426–43]

polyxena Farewell, mother. Give Cassandra my farewell— hecuba Others fare well. Your mother cannot. polyxena —and my brother Polydorus here in Thrace. hecuba Does he live? I doubt it. I have no luck. polyxena He is alive. He’ll close your eyes when you die. hecuba I have died. Cruelty kills me before my time. polyxena Take your prize, Odysseus. Cover my face. Wails, dirges—before my dying I have made my mother’s heart dissolve in tears, I melt in her tears. O light! I may still speak your name and claim my brief share in you as I walk to the sword and Achilles’ grave.

460

As polyxena speaks, odysseus slowly veils her head with a corner of her robe. odysseus, polyxena, and the soldiers exit left, in that order. The soldiers follow at a respectful distance and do not touch polyxena. hecuba O God, no! My head reels. My legs won’t hold me. Child! Touch me, stretch out your hand, give it. Don’t leave me childless. (to the chorus) Friends, I am destroyed. (sinking to the ground) And so would I see Spartan Helen. Her eyes flashed, her lovely lustful eyes, and she shamed, she burnt Troy’s blessedness.

105

470

HECUBA

[444–72]

hecuba, supine, shrouds herself with her robes and lies on the ground with corpselike stillness. chorus (singing and dancing) Seawind, sail-filling wind, who makes the swift ships leap through onrolling waves, where will you carry my sorrow? Shall I go to a house as a piece of bought goods, as a slave? Or go to a Dorian harbor?

480

Shall I go to Phthia? There, so they tell me, the purest of rivers fathers the crops in glistening green fields. Oars, sea-sweeping oars, will you bring my sad life home to an island? The isle where the first palm and laurel sprouted, honoring Leto with gifts: holy shade and trunks to grip as she labored to bear Zeus twin children?

490

There with the virgins of Delos shall I sing praising goddess Artemis, praise to her arrows and gold crown? Shall I go to the city of Pallas? And there on Athena’s saffron robe shall I harness the foals to her gleaming chariot with intricate stitches of flower-steeped threads? Or shall I weave Titans

106

500

HECUBA

[473–98]

as Zeus blazed his double lightning and seared them with death? Oh how I grieve for my children. I grieve for my fathers’ earth, for my home. And I still see the smoke and the burning and Greek spears. And I am called slave in a land of exile, made to leave Asia, made to become Europe’s servant and bride to my death.

510

talthybius enters left. talthybius Where might I find Troy’s onetime queen? Trojan women, where is Hecuba? chorus leader Near you, Talthybius—there, on her back, shut away inside her robes. talthybius My god! Zeus, do you watch over human lives? Or do we cling to such belief in vain, [falsely sure that more-than-human powers exist,] when Chance, blind Chance, rules us till we die? Was she not queen of the gold-proud Trojans, nor wife to Priam glad in his great wealth? And now spears have torn her city from its roots, and she—a slave, old, childless—lies there, common dust crowning her head. I, too, I, too, am old, but I would rather die than let chance plunge me in the ugliness of shame. (to hecuba)

107

520

HECUBA

[499–524]

Stand. Lift yourself. Lift up that white, white head. hecuba Away, whoever you are, away. Let my body rest. Why intrude on grief?

530

hecuba begins to rise slowly. talthybius I am Talthybius, my lady, servant to the Greeks. Agamemnon sent me for you. hecuba A friend, come to take me also to that tomb for sacrifice—is that what the Greeks decide? Oh yes! Hurry, hurry, help me, old man. talthybius Your dead child, my lady—you are to bury her. That’s why I come, so ordered by Atreus’ two sons and all the Greeks. hecuba God, no! I am not to die? You come only to bring cutting words? O young one, you are gone, torn from your mother who learns once more the pain of losing a child.

540

And how did you end her life? With due respect? Or as an enemy, in ways too terrible to mention? Old man, tell the truth, though it gives no comfort. talthybius My lady, you ask me to reap my tears twice. My eyes filled when I watched your child die. Now memory must see her die again. They were all there—the Greek army in full strength, there by the tomb for your girl’s sacrifice. And Achilles’ son took Polyxena’s hand and placed her on top of the grave-mound.

108

550

HECUBA

[524–57]

I stood nearby. And young soldiers, specially chosen, followed, hands ready to keep your calf from bolting. And the son of Achilles takes in his two hands a brimming goblet, pure gold, and raises libations to his dead father. And he signals me to call the whole army to silence. I took my station and called out the order: ‘‘Silence, Greeks. All keep silence. Keep still. Silence.’’ And not a ripple swept the crowd. And he spoke: ‘‘O son of Peleus, my father, receive this wine that summons up and calms the dead. And come, taste a darker drink, a girl’s unwatered blood, the army’s gift and mine. And turn your dead eyes peacefully on us at last and let the hulls go, let the hawsers loose, and let the ships sail from Troy in peace, grant us all a safe return home.’’ So he spoke, and the whole army echoed, ‘‘Safe return home.’’ Then, taking his sword by the gold-covered hilt, he unsheathed it and gave a quick nod to the chosen young men: Take the virgin. But she saw him and gave her own clear orders: ‘‘Listen, Greeks who laid my city waste, I volunteer my death. Let no hand touch me, for I am glad to offer you my throat. Set me free so, by the gods, I die free when you do your killing. Born a queen, I would feel shame to be called slave among the dead.’’ A wave of approval broke, and Lord Agamemnon told the young guards to let go of the virgin. And they, the instant they heard that order come from the chief in command, let her go. And when she heard authority’s words,

109

560

570

580

590

HECUBA

[558–90]

she grasped her robe and tore it wide open from shoulder straight down to her navel and showed breasts that gleamed like a statue’s carved to honor the gods, and she knelt on one knee to say the most courageous last words: ‘‘Look, young soldier. If you would strike my breast, strike here. But if my throat is what you want, my neck is bared—here.’’ And he, unwilling yet willing in his pity, cuts her windpipe with the iron sword. Springs gushed forth. But she even in her dying took great care to fall modestly, hiding all that should be hidden from men’s eyes. Then, when sacrifice had stopped her breathing, none of the Greeks performed the same labor, but some strewed green leaves over her body, while some brought pine logs to build her a pyre. And the man who brought nothing heard the bringers accuse him: ‘‘How can you stand there, you no-good, hands empty, no robe, no gift for the young one? Nothing—is that what you give to the bravest, the brightest in soul?’’ Hecuba, your child is dead. Of all the world’s women, I see you as luckiest in your child and most ill-used by Chance.

600

610

chorus What does it mean—that misery boiled over, scalding Priam’s house and people? How fierce, the gods’ constraints! hecuba Daughter, what single grief shall I look at? I don’t know. Many, many press close. And if I seize this one, that one does not let me go, and out of it another heartache summons me, grief crowds on grief. And now, your suffering—I cannot

110

620

HECUBA

[590–614]

wash it from my thoughts, cannot help wailing. But you keep me from excessive tears by your inborn grace. What does it mean—that poor soil given its chance by the gods, bears abundant grain, but fertile soil, deprived of what it needs, will yield a poor crop? How different people are! The worthless person stays forever base while the man of nobility is noble, and no disaster drives him to deplete that inborn nature—he is good forever. Do parents count for more, or education? Parents, to be sure! Yet a moral education will teach nobility. And a person well taught comes to understand shame’s ugliness by learning what is beautiful.

630

640

Oh how my mind shoots its arrows—to what use? (to talthybius) You, go, make it clear to the Greeks that no one touch my child, that the mob keep off. When thousands bear arms, well you know the mob’s unchecked, the sailors run more lawless than wildfire, and one who does no wrong is wrong. talthybius exits left. (to the serving woman) And you, take a pail, old servant. Dip it in the sea, and bring me saltwater. For the last time I’d bathe my child— bride and ghost’s bride, virgin and virgin’s ghost— wash her and bury her as she deserves. But how? I cannot, I have—why this confusion?

111

650

HECUBA

[615–44]

Small ornaments, at least—I’ll collect them from the captive women in these tents, if anyone, escaping her new master’s notice, still keeps some fine thing smuggled from her own home. The serving woman exits left. O walls and roofs of home, Chance smiled on your halls. O Priam, you owned wealth and beauty, you fathered strong sons, and I, gone grey, was their mother. How we all come to nothing, stripped of the spirit once ours. How people preen and puff themselves, one because the world’s goods overflow his house, another because the citizens flatter him. All nothing, nothing but wishful thinking and idle talk. The richest among us is he who chances on no evil day by day.

660

hecuba exits into agamemnon’s tent. chorus (singing and dancing) My fate gave me to disaster, my fate gave me over to sorrow the moment the pines on Mt. Ida were cut down by Paris

670

to build the ship he would steer through high waves to the bed of Helen most beautiful woman on whom the gold-shining Sun casts light. My grief and a force far stronger— constraint—come circling around me. Out of one man’s mad folly, for all who lived by Troy’s river ruin burst forth, seaborne disaster swept in, and discord flows rapid

112

680

HECUBA

[644–69]

when Paris, a herdsman on Ida, judges three daughters of gods. The outcome, spears and murder and my home dishonored. And laments also rise by the banks of a sunlit Greek river where a Spartan girl cries alone in her room and a mother mourning dead children lifts hands to her head and tears out grey hair and rakes down her cheeks with nails gone bloody from her sacrifice.

690

The serving woman enters left with attendants bearing a covered corpse. serving woman (loudly) Women, where is Hecuba? Poor thing, she wins at grief. Over every man and woman she wins. No one will dispute her crown. chorus leader What is your foul tongue shouting? Your hurtful cries don’t pause for rest. serving woman (indicating the corpse) I bring Hecuba this pain. In ugly times it’s not easy to put pretty words in my mouth. chorus leader And here she comes. Give her your words. hecuba enters from the tent. serving woman Oh my lady, I can’t find words for your torment. You’re destroyed, no light left to see, no child, no husband, no homeland. You’re ruined.

113

700

HECUBA

[670–92]

hecuba You say nothing new. You taunt me. But why come bearing Polyxena’s body? We’ve heard the Greeks have busied all hands for her funeral. serving woman (aside) She does not know. She mourns Polyxena. There’s new pain that she has not grasped.

710

hecuba Torment! Not the one who sings out prophecy, oh not my Cassandra? serving woman She’s alive. You wail her name but make no sound for this one. The serving woman uncovers the corpse. Look at the body I’ve covered. It’s a shock to see hope gone all wrong. hecuba (moans) My son, he’s dead—Polydorus, kept safe in the Thracian’s house. A final wound. I breathe but I do not live.

720

(chanting) Child, my child, I’ll raise you a song, the measure that vengeance enacts. Made wild, I learn new strains of grief. serving woman (speaking) Then you know what happened to your son? hecuba (chanting) Past all belief, the shocking shocking sight. Volley on volley, grief crowds on grief. Never again shall my days break free of groans, free of tears.

114

HECUBA

[693–714]

chorus leader What does it mean— these blows that keep striking?

730

hecuba (chanting) Child, O my child, what destiny kills you, what doom makes you lie here, what human hand? serving woman (speaking) I don’t know. I found him on the shore. hecuba (chanting) Drowned and cast up on the smooth sand? Cut down by a bloody spear? serving woman (speaking) The surf washed him ashore. hecuba (chanting) Now, oh now I’m taught the meaning sent in last night’s dream. No fancy, that shadow spreading its black wings. I saw you, it was you, child, no longer living in Zeus’ radiant light.

740

chorus leader Who killed him? Did you read that in your dream? hecuba (chanting) My friend, my friend, the Thracian commander with whom his old father placed him for hiding. chorus leader What do you imply? He killed for the gold? hecuba (chanting) No words for this, no name, it more than stuns,

115

750

HECUBA

[715–40]

not godly, not bearable—where are friendship’s laws? Damn you! Oh how you hacked my son’s flesh, your steel blade cutting his arms, his legs, and you showed him no pity. chorus leader Woman who has known more pain than any other living soul, heaven insists that you bear whatever burdens you most.

760

But the master comes—Agamemnon. Silence, friends, be silent. agamemnon and his escort enter left. agamemnon Hecuba, why so slow to bury your child? Talthybius gave us your message— no Greek to lay a finger on the girl. We’ve gone along with that; we do not touch her. But you amaze me by dawdling here. I’ve come to fetch you. Where she is, all’s been managed beautifully—if such things can be beautiful.

770

(seeing the body of polydorus) Hah! Who’s this—the man beside the tent? Dead, Trojan, certainly not Greek— his clothing tells me that. hecuba (aside) You wretched woman—I speak to you and mean myself. What to do? Embrace Agamemnon’s knees, beg his help? Or bear my torment in silence? agamemnon Why hide your face and turn your back? Why wail but tell me nothing? Who is this?

116

780

HECUBA

[741–62]

hecuba (aside) But if he should think me slave and enemy and shove me off, my pain would grow. agamemnon You know I was not born a prophet. I hear you but cannot follow your thoughts. hecuba (aside) Or do I miscalculate—seeing him as hostile when he means no ill? agamemnon All right, if you don’t want to speak, we’ve reached the same point. For I don’t want to hear. hecuba (aside) Without this man I cannot avenge my children. Why think further? Necessity gives me courage to act. Succeed or fail, I’ll take that chance.

790

hecuba goes to agamemnon, kneels, and makes the gestures of supplication. Agamemnon, I touch your knees, your bearded cheek, your god-guided right hand. I beg your help. agamemnon What do you crave? Freedom? That’s easy. hecuba No, no! Revenge on criminals, and I’ll be slave for all my days to come. agamemnon But why call for our help? hecuba Not for reasons you can imagine, my lord. You do see this body and the tears I shed? agamemnon Of course. But I can’t see what comes next. hecuba I gave him birth. I carried him in my womb.

117

800

HECUBA

[763–82]

agamemnon Which child, then, is this one? hecuba Not one of those sons who died beneath Troy’s walls. agamemnon Are you saying you had still another? hecuba And not to my comforting, the one you see. agamemnon But where was he when your country was destroyed? hecuba His father sent him away so he would not die. agamemnon Where did he go, this one you singled out? hecuba To this country where we found him dead.

810

agamemnon To the ruler of this land? Polymestor? hecuba Yes, sent here to guard the most bitter gold. agamemnon How did it happen? Who killed him? hecuba Who indeed but the Thracian, our friend. agamemnon Did he lust that eagerly for gold? hecuba Oh yes, as soon as he knew of Troy’s fall. agamemnon Where did you find him? Did someone bring his body? hecuba This woman. She found him on the shore. agamemnon Looking for him? Or busy at something else? hecuba She went to bring seawater to bathe Polyxena. agamemnon So his host killed him and cast the body out. hecuba Yes, and the waves tossed his knife-shredded flesh.

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[783–812]

agamemnon You’ve suffered more than anyone can measure. hecuba I am destroyed. No further suffering is left. agamemnon Could any woman be less fortunate? hecuba None, except Misfortune herself. But now, the reason that I grasp your knees— please hear me. And if you think the gods approve my suffering, I’ll accept that. But if you think otherwise, avenge me on that man, that most ungodly friend. Fearing neither those below nor those on high, he has done the most ungodly crime. A man who often shared my food, a man I counted first among my friends, to whom I gave every courtesy—he did premeditated murder. Yet, the murder planned, he gave no thought to decent burial but made the sea his rubbish pit. True, I am a slave without strength. But the gods are strong and so is that which forms their power— the law of custom. For, this age-old law confirms our faith in gods and gives us lives that can distinguish right from wrong. Keeping the law depends on you. If it’s transgressed, and if no punishment is dealt to those who murder friends or plunder the gods’ holy places, then no justice—none—exists for humankind. Let your sense of shame give you compassion. Have pity. Like a painter, stand back, look at me and see my sorrows whole. Once a queen, but now I am your slave, once blessed with sons, now old, without my sons, without a home, alone, struggling to the utmost, helpless—

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agamemnon tries to pull away. No! Where are you going? I’ll accomplish nothing. Oh helpless. Why do we spend our short lives straining, craving after knowledge of all sorts but one— Persuasion, who alone is mankind’s queen? Why no zeal in us to hire a teacher and learn the art so perfectly that we persuade and we obtain?

860

Without that art, how may anyone hope to come out well? Those who were my sons are mine no more, and I, a captive ugly in my shame, am lost. I see the smoke still rolling up from Troy. Perhaps it is pointless for me to put forward Love’s divine name. But I shall do it. Pressed against your ribs, my daughter sleeps, my child possessed by prophecy, Cassandra. How, my lord, will you acknowledge love’s delights? Or for the loveliest embraces in your bed, what thanks, what fee will my child gain, and I for her? For out of darkness, out of night’s enchantments comes the strongest drive toward thanks that flesh can know. Listen to me. Do you see that dead boy? Do him honor, and you honor kin, your bedmate’s brother. One thought still looks for words. If only Daedalus could work his wonders, or some god, to give my arms a voice, my hands a voice, and my hair and feet, then all would clasp your knees in concert crying out my plea in all possible ways. My master, most shining light among the Greeks, be moved. Lend your hand to an old woman, a hand 120

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[843–71]

for vengeance, though it come to nothing. Be fair. For the man born noble and good always serves justice and finds fit consequences for a crime.

890

agamemnon extends a hand and lifts hecuba from her suppliant posture. chorus What does it mean? Everything crashes together on mortal flesh. The world’s constraint, not bound by human laws, can turn our fiercest enemies to friends and stir up hate in those who once meant well. agamemnon I do have pity, Hecuba, for you, your son, your misfortune, your suppliant hands. And I want for the gods’ sake, the sake of justice to help somehow to give you justice on that godless friend. But if things work out for you, the army must not take the notion that I plot the murder of Thrace’s king as thanks to Cassandra. Uneasiness sweeps down on me. The army thinks that man its ally, the dead one its enemy. And if he’s dear to you, that’s your concern, not shared by the army. See it my way. I’m willing, yes, to work with you, eager to give you aid, but slow to let the Greeks assign me any blame. hecuba I see. I see that no one alive, no one, is free. For some are slaves to money, others to chance or majority rule or man-made laws that keep them from acting on their own good sense You’re frightened, you bend to the crowd’s beliefs. I shall set you free, free from that fear. Be my accomplice, should I plan harm to him who killed my son, 121

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only in the knowing, not the doing. But if the Greeks should give outcry or start to help the Thracian when he enjoys what he deserves, hold them off. Don’t seem to act for me. The rest? Be confident. I shall manage it—beautifully. agamemnon How? What will you do? Snatch up a sword in your old hand and kill that barbarian? Give him poison? And who will help? Is there a helping hand? Where will you find friends?

930

hecuba The tents hide a mass of Trojans. agamemnon You mean the captives, the Greeks’ plunder? hecuba With them I’ll take my vengeance on the murderer. agamemnon Just how can women overpower men? hecuba Sheer numbers. Add our wiles, and we’re invincible. agamemnon Invincible? Womankind deserves contempt. hecuba What! Did not women kill Aegyptus’ sons and empty Lemnos of every last male? Enough! I put aside such argument. (indicating the serving woman) Give safe conduct through the army’s lines to this woman. (to the serving woman) And you, go to our Thracian friend. Say this: ‘‘Hecuba, once queen of Troy, summons you in your own interest no less than hers. And bring your sons. They, too, must be acquainted with her information.’’

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The serving woman exits right with an escort provided by agamemnon. (to agamemnon) And the girl just sacrificed— you, Agamemnon, delay Polyxena’s funeral. Let brother and sister, a mother’s twofold grief, be burnt in one flame and buried in one grave.

950

Attendants of hecuba exit left with the body of polydorus. agamemnon As you wish. And you know, if the army should set sail, I would not grant this favor. But as it is, the gods send no fair wind. The sails lie slack. We are constrained to wait. May you somehow succeed. It’s everyone’s concern, public and private, to see the evildoer fall on evil times while the upright prosper. agamemnon exits left with his escort. chorus (singing and dancing) You, O my homeland Troy, will be named no more among unplundered cities. The Greek cloud surrounding you hides the waste made by spears, driving spears.

960

And you have been shorn of crowning towers and you have been stained— my heart grieves—by smoke-blackened flames. City brought low, no more shall I set foot within you. Death came to me at midnight, the evening meal over, eyes sweetly drowsy, and when he had done with dancing the songs and making burnt offerings to gods,

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[918–47]

my husband lay in our bedroom, his spear on its peg. He never saw what the sea brought— mobs of men shouting. O Troy, they have trampled upon you. I was arranging my hair, binding it up in ribbons for the night, and a golden mirror’s endless sunlight held my gaze. I would have laid me down upon the warm bed,

980

but up through the city rose clamor, and this cry rang down through Troy: O sons of Greeks, how soon, I ask how soon you will lay the Trojan hill-fort waste and sail for home? Dear bed, leaving you I wore tunic only, like a Spartan girl. I clung heartsick to holy Artemis but all in vain. And I am swept, beholding my bedmate killed,

990

away on the salt sea, and as I look back on my city, the ship homeward bound moved its keel and severed me forever from Troy’s earth. I fainted then, a woman brought low. To the sister of God’s two sons—Helen, to Mt. Ida’s shepherd, war-breeding Paris, my gift, a curse! Forcing me to leave my fathers’ earth, they gave me death,

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and I am cast out from my home by marriage not marriage but some vengeful dirge. May the salt sea never grant her passage. May she never return to her fathers’ home. polymestor and his sons enter right with their guards. polymestor My dearest friend Priam, O my dearest Hecuba, I weep for you both and your city and your daughter recently dead. (sighs) Nothing at all can be trusted, not good name, not good luck. Moral actions turn out wrong. And it’s the gods themselves make this jumble, confusing us so we, not knowing what may happen, will worship them. But why sing out complaints? They give no help in outrunning sorrow. But you, if you blame me at all for my absence, hold back. I’m deep in the mountains when you arrived in Thrace. But I’d just come home, was just on the verge of going to see you, when this servant of yours comes dashing at me to give your message. I heard, and here I am.

1010

1020

hecuba I am ashamed to look you in the face, Polymestor, while sorrows crowd and cover me. You saw me first in my days of good fortune. You see me now in altered circumstances—shamed, nor can I look at you with steady eyes. But do not think my manner expresses ill will, Polymestor. No, for custom’s law binds women not to look men in the face. polymestor Nothing strange in that. But what do you need? Why did I come running here?

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hecuba A private matter, one I wish to discuss with you and your sons. Order your guard to leave. polymestor (to the guards, who exit right) Go. (to hecuba) We are alone here and secure. You are my friend, and the Greeks’ armed forces also bear me friendship. But make your need plain. What must a man who prospers do for friends who prosper not at all? I stand ready to help. hecuba Tell me first about the son who came from my hands and his father’s to your house. Polydorus—does he live?

1040

polymestor Of course. In him your luck is good. hecuba Dearest friend, how well this news conveys your worth! polymestor Now what would you like to know next? hecuba His mother—does he remember me? polymestor Yes, and tried to visit you in secret. hecuba And the gold is safe? The gold he brought from Troy? polymestor Safe, and closely guarded in my house. hecuba Keep it safe, and do not lust for your neighbor’s goods. polymestor Never. My lady, I enjoy what’s already mine. hecuba Can you guess what I want to tell you and your sons? 126

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polymestor No, but your words will soon tell me. hecuba There exists—O longtime friend, how dear to me now— polymestor What is it that I and my sons must know? hecuba —gold, the ancient buried treasure of Priam’s house. polymestor Do you want your son to know about it? hecuba Of course, and through you, a man who honors duty. polymestor But why demand my children be here? hecuba Better, should you die, that they have the secret.

1060

polymestor Well said. You choose the wiser course. hecuba Do you know where Athena’s temple stands in Troy? polymestor The gold is there? What marks the spot? hecuba A black rock rising from the ground. polymestor Anything more that you want to tell me? hecuba Save the heirlooms I smuggled from Troy. polymestor Where are they? Hidden in your robes? Buried? hecuba Safe beneath the plunder heaped in the tents. polymestor But where? This is the Greeks’ naval encampment. hecuba The captive women have private quarters. polymestor Quarters I can trust? A place without men? hecuba No Greeks, no men—we women are alone. But come into the tent—oh how the Greeks 127

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[1019–42]

chafe to sail home—come now. When you’ve done all you must, you may leave with your sons for the place where you housed my child. hecuba, polymestor, and his sons exit into the central tent. chorus (singing) You have not paid but you shall pay justice in full. Like someone falling overboard, no haven near, you, too, shall fall away from heart’s desire, your world a wreck. For the double debt owed Justice and the gods contains no clash. Ruin, ruin in committing wrong. Your high road of hope shall cheat you and lead you down to the god who owns death, O man brought low, and a hand unacquainted with war shall cost you your life. polymestor (inside the tent) My eyes, oh my eyes—I am blind!

1080

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halfchorus Did you hear the man’s anguish, friends? polymestor My children, my sons—you are murdered! halfchorus Friends, new wrongs have been done. polymestor Run, run, but you won’t get away. I’ll batter these walls till they break. Loud noises, as of a heavy missile striking the wall, are heard. chorus (severally)—Look! What blows come pelting from heavy hands! —Should we rush in? —Yes, now. 128

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[1043–70]

Hecuba needs our help. hecuba enters with several women. hecuba Smash on, hold nothing back, keep pounding. Your eyes will never again see light nor see alive the sons I killed.

1100

chorus leader My lady, you bested that—friend? And truly did it just as you say? hecuba You’ll see for yourselves. He will come forth blind, stumbling, groping his way on blind feet. And you will see two bodies, the sons I killed with help from Troy’s noblest women. Justice is mine. And see, he’s coming now. I’ll stand back, remove myself from the rush of his anger, an anger he will never quell.

1110

polymestor stumbles from the tent and falls. polymestor (singing) My eyes, oh eyes! Where run, where stand, where stop? Four-footed, made a mountain animal, I crawl, hands searching out the track. This way, that—which way to turn, to take these women, man-murdering women who brought me down? Daughters of Troy, damn you, damn you. Where do they flee, where go to ground? Bleeding sockets, eyes made blind—if only you could heal them, heal them, holy Sun, and dazzle me with light. Aaah, aaah, hush! I hear the soft scurry 129

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[1071–91]

of women. Where stalk that prey, where pounce to glut me on their flesh and bones, to make a feast of such fierce animals? Where go to sate me on ruin that repays this outrage? Oh poor blind eyes! But where do I go? Why leave my children alone, sacrificed, soon torn apart by death-crazed women and thrown out on mountain rocks, raw, bloody meat for dogs? Where stand, where rest, where run? Like a ship in port, sails furled, I gather in my linen robe. Where run to guard my children in that deadly lair?

1130

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polymestor’s sons are carried from the tent by Trojan women and laid in the space occupied earlier by polydorus’ body. chorus Luckless man, how can you bear the crimes worked against you? But, for your shameful, ugly deeds, the energy of heaven exacts this fearful price that bends you low. polymestor (singing) My eyes, oh my eyes! Yo! You Thracian spearmen, horsemen, all of you whose blood thrills to War! Yo! You Greeks, you sons of Atreus!

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I shout, I howl, I who rule Thrace. Yo! In the gods’ name, be quick, come! Do you hear? Will you help? What now? Women destroyed me, women, women made captive in war. What does it mean—this darkness I endure? O ruined eyes, O life in ruin, where find a foothold, where be driven? Where will a wretch go? Fly, soaring up to the rooftree of sky where hunter Orion and Dog Star at heel blaze jets of fire straight from their eyes? Or plunge through the black-skinned water where Hades’ ferryman bends his oars? chorus We should forgive the man who suffers wrongs too great to bear and would prefer self-made release from life.

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agamemnon and his escort enter left. agamemnon What is this uproar? It holds no peace. Echo made it ring and crash among the rocks unsettling the army. And if we had not known Troy’s towers were long fallen to Greek spears, this din would strike panic. polymestor (speaking) Best friend! I know that voice. It’s you, Agamemnon. Do you see what is done to me? agamemnon I do. Polymestor, who wants to destroy you? Who blinded you and made your eyes weep blood?

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Who killed your sons? What bursting rage he had, whoever he is, against you and your children. polymestor Hecuba—she and those women war captives— she destroyed me, no, more than destroyed me. agamemnon I am shocked! (to hecuba) You did this as he claims? Hecuba, you dared this boldness? Impossible. polymestor She did! You speak to her? She’s near, somewhere near? Turn me, tell me where she is. When I set hands on her, I’ll tear her flesh to bloody scraps.

1200

agamemnon (to polymestor) What’s wrong with you? By the gods, let me

polymestor catch her. My hands crave her flesh.

agamemnon Stop! Don’t be barbaric. Argue your case. When I’ve heard your brief and hers, I’ll decide—justly—if you’ve earned your pain. polymestor If it please you. The youngest son of Hecuba and Priam was Polydorus. His father Priam, who suspected that Troy would fall, sent him out to me, to be reared in my house. I killed him. And why did I kill him? Listen: with clever foresight for your own good. He was your enemy, that boy. Left alive, he would regroup the Trojans and rebuild their home. And the Greeks, knowing one of Priam’s yet lived, would send their forces to make war again on Troy.

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And going home, they’d trample Thrace’s fields and take the cattle. Troy’s near neighbor would again reap Troy’s defeat. My lord, Thrace is weary.

1220

But Hecuba learned of her son’s death, and she entrapped me with a tale of something Priam’s family had hidden in Troy— gold. And she takes me alone with my children into the tent where no other man may see or overhear us. I settle, relaxed, on a couch. And many hands reach out from right and left to welcome me, as with a friend, of course. Troy’s daughters seat themselves. Some finger the Thracian weave of my robes and hold the cloth to the sunlight, and others, touching my Thracian spear in admiration, strip me naked of robes and weapon both. And the mothers among them, cooing praise, play toss with my children, handing them on till they are far, far from their father. Then, out of a calm sea—can you imagine?— knives spring sudden out of hiding in their robes. They stab my sons, while their companions seize me like a prisoner of war and pin back my arms, my legs. And wild with the need to help my sons, if I dare lift my head, they pull me down by the hair. If I move an arm, that press of women makes me helpless, helpless. And finally, pain beyond pain, they do their worst. Oh my eyes, eyes that had just looked on death—they take their brooches, stab my eyes, make the blood pour. Then they scatter and run like fugitives. But I spring. Like a beast of prey I chase those bloodthirsty bitches,

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I beat at their cover like the master of the pack, flailing, pounding. And striving to do you a favor, Agamemnon, I who killed your enemy am made to suffer. I need say little more. Women—if they are called vile by generations past, present, or yet to come, I can put the whole truth in a few short words: neither sea nor earth rears another such brood. Any man who takes his chances with them knows that well. chorus leader Do not be brash. Do not blame womankind for woes you bring upon yourself. We are a multitude, some envied for our worth, some caught in evils that we can’t escape. hecuba Agamemnon, a person’s tongue should never speak more loudly than his acts. Yes, if good is truly done, words must ring true; if evil, then words must fail in strength. No one should ever speak well of injustice. Clever minds, of course, know how to lie, but cleverness does not sustain them in the end. They die ugly deaths. Not one escapes.

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So much for opening remarks. Now I shall answer this man’s arguments. (to polymestor) You say that you removed a twofold threat— Troy risen and the war renewed, and so, for Agamemnon’s special benefit, you killed my son. But your corrupt heart knows that Greeks have never

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looked with friendship on barbarians. They cannot. What is this ‘‘striving to do a favor’’ that so excites your zeal? To marry a Greek? To exert a claim of kinship? What is your reason? That, should Greeks sail again, they’d devastate your crops? Whom will your reasoning persuade? If only you were willing to tell the truth, that gold and your own greed killed my son. Now answer us this: Why, when chance shone bright on Troy and walls with towers still embraced the city and Priam lived and Hector’s spear exulted, why not then—if you wished to do this man a favor, then, while you reared my son and sheltered him, why not kill him then, or take him prisoner to the Greeks? But you waited till the enemy snuffed out our light, till smoke gave its signal over the city. Only then did you kill the guest at your hearth. Keep listening. I charge you with further baseness. If you were indeed the Greeks’ true friend, duty bound you to give them the gold you admit was not yours but held in trust. You should have brought it to them in their need that comes from long and homesick years of war. But no, your spirit fails. Not even now will your hands let go. You keep it hoarded in your house. And had you reared my son as duty bound you, had you saved him, how beautifully your name would ring. For ugly times most clearly show our true friends, while success attracts friends to itself. And had you needed money while he prospered,

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you would have found my son an ample treasure chest. But now you do not have him for a friend, your profit from the gold is gone, so are your sons, and you must live on as you are.

1320

(to agamemnon) And I charge that if you help him, Agamemnon, you, too, are criminal. For you will benefit a host who is not reverent, not faithful to his guest, not godly, not just. Then we might say you also relish crimes, for you connive at them. But you are my master. I mean no rebuke. chorus True, how true that a righteous cause is always fertile soil for righteous words.

1330

agamemnon It burdens me to judge wrongs done by others, but the need constrains me. To set hands on duty and then withdraw brings a man shame. You should know my opinion. You killed a boy, your guest, not to do me a favor, not for the Greeks at all. No, you wanted only to keep his gold. And your corruption speaks only to serve itself. Among your people, perhaps it’s easy to murder guests. To us, the Greeks, this deed is ugly in its shame. If I find you not guilty, how do I flee censure? I can’t. Because you dared act without beauty, you must live without friendship. polymestor What now? You’d have me knuckle under to a woman, a slave. I am punished by criminals.

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hecuba Given your crimes, is the punishment not just? polymestor What now? My children gone, my eyes made blind.

1350

hecuba You grieve. And I? Do you suppose I feel no grief? polymestor Does it please you to mock me? hecuba Why not be pleased? I have my revenge. polymestor But soon, no pleasure when the sea’s waves— hecuba Will take me voyaging to Greece? polymestor —shall bury you after you fall from a mast. hecuba Who will force me to take that plunge? polymestor You yourself shall climb the ship’s mast. hecuba And how? Sprout wings on my shoulders? polymestor You shall become a dog, your eyes blazing fire. hecuba But how do you know my shape will change? polymestor Dionysos, prophet and god, so spoke. hecuba But did not prophesy your own plight? polymestor No, or you would not have trapped me. hecuba Dead or alive—just how do I reach my shore? polymestor Dead. And your tomb shall be given a name— hecuba For my new shape? What are you promising? polymestor —Poor Bitch’s Rock, a landmark for sailors.

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hecuba I cannot care. Justice is mine.

1370

polymestor And your Cassandra shall be constrained to die. hecuba Hateful words—I spit them back at you. polymestor (indicating agamemnon) This man’s wife, fierce defender of his house, shall kill her. hecuba May such madness never touch Clytemnestra. polymestor And kill him, too. He shall die by the axe. agamemnon You—are you crazy? Begging for trouble? polymestor Kill me. The bath of blood still waits for you. agamemnon (to his escort) Haul him away. Don’t be gentle. The escort seizes polymestor and begins to take him away left. polymestor It hurts you to listen?

1380

Strap his mouth.

agamemnon

polymestor It’s shut. I’m done with words. agamemnon

Take him. Throw him on some deserted island. He’s far too brash at spouting lies. The escort, carrying polymestor, exits left. (to hecuba and her women) And Hecuba—Hecuba, I give you leave to bury your two corpses.

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[1288–95]

Women of Troy, you must go to your masters’ tents. The breeze is freshening at last. We’re going home. (looking left toward the sea) May fair winds fill the sails. May we see our homes again. Our troubles are done. chorus Go to the harbor, my sisters. New trials await in our masters’ tents. Heaven’s constraint is hard. all exit slowly left.

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NOTES

1–104 / 1–97 Prologue The ghost of Polydoros gives a prologue speech and exits; Hecuba enters and, chant heightening the emotional tone of her utterance, recounts a dream and her premonitions. 1–65 / 1–58 Prologue speech Polydorus’ ghost is not especially spectral (like Marley’s) or impressive (like Hamlet’s father or the ghost of King Darius in Aeschylus’ Persians). What we see, I believe, is a youth of twelve or fourteen, simply dressed, with a death-pale mask; he enters and exits like anyone else. What we are to imagine is something different: a disembodied spirit, hovering over Hecuba in her dreams, and wanting, like all wandering ghosts, a proper burial. 24 / 21 Troy met ruin Troy’s fall, in the tenth year of the war, was described in lost Greek poems like Arctinus’ Sack of Troy; our vivid impressions of the Wooden Horse, Laoco¨on, Priam’s death, the burning of Troy, and Aeneas’ flight come mostly from the second book of Virgil’s Aeneid. Euripides imagines the smoke from Troy’s flames still visible from across the water. 28 / 24 Achilles’ murder-stained son Neoptolemus, or Pyrrhus, often depicted as more violent and ruthless than his father. His murder of Priam at the altar, violating sanctuary, was one of those actions of the Greek victors that offended even gods on the Greek side. This is the man who will sacrifice Polyxena. 41–42 / 35–36 And all the Greeks, becalmed . . . a fair wind It is implied, though never clearly stated, that Achilles’ ghost stopped the winds from blowing in order to compel Polyxena’s sacrifice; compare Neoptolemus’ later prayer (570–73 / 538–41) that his father allow the ships to sail. The winds

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do not blow, however, until the play’s end. In general, Euripides plays down the supernatural element in Hecuba in order to place more weight on human nature and human responsibility; but the parallel with Aulis—where Artemis stopped the winds and the Greek fleet could not sail for Troy until Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter, Iphigenia—is not forgotten. 46–47 / 40–41 He claims my sister Polyxena . . . a last prize Appearances of Achilles’ ghost—to demand this sacrifice and/or to convey useful information to the Greeks—were described in lost epic and lyric poems relating to the sack of Troy and also (it seems) in an impressive account in Sophocles’ lost tragedy Polyxena. A separate iconographic tradition has Achilles encountering Polyxena and her brother, Troilus, by a fountain: He ambushes and kills Troilus, while Polyxena runs away. How early were tales extant of Achilles’ love for Polyxena, by whose hand he was betrayed and killed? We cannot be sure, but such an erotic element may lie behind the demanded sacrifice and the motif—more extensively developed by Seneca in his Troades—of marriage with the dead. 48–58 / 42–52 And it shall come to pass . . . shall come to pass The words here italicized are prophetic. 55 / 49 For the gods below These are Hades (or Pluto) and Persephone, king and queen of the dead. They are represented here as unusually considerate. 94–96 / 90–93 For I saw a fawn . . . from my lap The dream is significant and truthful in its symbolism. Hecuba fears most strongly for Polyxena’s safety, yet the imagery of wolf rending fawn applies better to Polymestor’s murder of Polydorus, which has already taken place. Images of wild beasts recur frequently in the play’s second half. 105–64 / 98–153 Parodos, entry song of the Chorus. 121–23 / 112–14—He shouted, he howled . . . its last prize In life, Achilles cared passionately for his honor; his wrath, after Agamemnon takes his prize and war captive, Briseis, is a chief theme of Homer’s Iliad. In death, his demanding nature is still felt. The Greeks won’t refuse him twice. 129 / 121 the one who is quick Cassandra, the daughter of Priam and Hecuba, was courted by the god Apollo, who bestowed on her the gift of prophecy; later, when she refused him, he added the corollary that no one would believe her. Now Agamemnon has taken her as his mistress. He will bring her home to Argos, where, not surprisingly, his wife Clytemnestra will murder them both.

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131 / 123 Theseus’ two sons Their names were Acamas and Demophon. Athenian legend depicts them as noble and generous; their ruthlessness here savors of modern-day Athens, as the Achaean assembly is transformed into something like the Athenian. 143 / 133 son of Laertes This is Odysseus. Like a modern-day Athenian politician and demagogue, he controls the assembly’s debate for his own purposes. The words used of him are colloquial and insulting. 165–473 /154–443 Episode one The episode begins with a kommos (165–230 / 154–215), a lyric dialogue of lament begun by Hecuba and continued responsively with Polyxena. With the entrance of Odysseus, spoken dialogue replaces song. 258–60 / 239–41 Remember when you came . . . in your beard Odysseus disguised himself as a beggar to spy upon Troy. As Helen tells the story (Homer’s Odyssey, 4, 240–64), she alone recognized Odysseus, but she helped him because her mind and heart had returned to their former Greek allegiance. If, as Euripides has it, Helen told Hecuba, then Hecuba can only have spared Odysseus out of compassion—very misplaced compassion, from the Trojan point of view! 274–75 / 254–55 You people who grew up . . . crowd-coaxing tongues Again, this recalls the Athenian politicians of Euripides’ day as a disgruntled aristocrat might view them. 286 / 265 Helen Her beauty launched the ‘‘thousand ships.’’ Paris, backed by Aphrodite, carried her off from her husband, Menelaus, whose brother, Agamemnon, led the great expedition to punish the Trojans and bring her home. Homer pictures her as beautiful but repentant; in Greek tragedy she more often appears beautiful, irresponsible, and guilty, an instrument employed by the gods to demonstrate the workings of justice, wreak havoc with human lives, or reduce the surplus population. (Euripides’ play Helen where she is presented as innocent, is a remarkable exception.) In Hecuba the guilty Helen is contrasted with the innocent Polyxena. 296 / 275 I cling, I touch Through these formal gestures, the suppliant begs for help and protection in the gods’ names. To refuse a suppliant was not just inconsiderate but dangerous. 303–6 / 282–83 The strong should not abuse . . . lost Hecuba’s plea ironically recalls the warnings Odysseus addresses to Penelope’s suitors in the Odyssey (17, 414–44; 18, 124–50), warnings that reflect his own tragic experience and the mature wisdom he has gained since the fall of Troy.

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366 / 340–41 for he has children Actually, Odysseus had only one child, his son Telemachus, whom he loved dearly. 444–511/ 444–483 First stasimon 487–90 / 458–61 The isle where . . . twin children Delos, formerly a floating island, welcomed Leto when, pregnant by Zeus, she was pursued by Hera’s hostility. There, holding onto a palm tree, she gave birth to the bright gods Apollo and Artemis. The laurel became Apollo’s sacred tree. In the Odyssey (6, 160–68) the needy Odysseus compares the princess Nausicaa¨ to a beautiful palm tree he once saw at Delos—a picture of just and beautiful human growth that Euripides remembers and uses. 495 / 468 Athena’s saffron robe A highlight of the annual Panathenaea (held at the end of July, according to our calendar) was the presentation of a new robe, or peplos, to cover the great cult statue of Athena in her temple (Erechtheum) on the Acropolis. We still catch something of the beauty and excitement of this festival from the great procession depicted on the Parthenon frieze (housed in the British Museum in London). The peplos was woven by Athenian maidens during the preceding year. Its size, bright colors, and tapestrylike decorations were impressive. Just how Trojan slaves might find comfort in such a spectacle, or at Delos, is not clear. 500–502 / 472–74 Or shall I weave Titans . . . death Zeus’ victory over the Titans, those violent nature spirits, is described in Hesiod’s Theogony. This struggle came to symbolize the triumph of civilization over savagery in human life, hence serving as a mythic foil to the present tragedy. 512–666 / 484–628 Second episode 518 / 490 falsely sure The line here bracketed is probably an actor’s interpolation or, less likely, a critic’s explanation that has been absorbed into the text. If we retain it, then Talthybius is displaying even greater skepticism by asking not only whether the gods watch over human lives but whether they exist in the first place. From a practical Greek standpoint, the difference is not significant. 552–613 / 521–80 They were all there . . . the brightest in soul Human sacrifice, long since abolished in Greece, is frequently practiced in myth and drama to avert a god’s anger and/or to win a victory. The voluntary sacrifice of a virgin is especially potent; by assenting, Polyxena here transforms her necessary death into a beautiful act that even the Greeks admire.

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564–65 / 532–33 ‘‘Silence, Greeks . . . Silence’’ Euripides’ audience, too, will be hushed in silence, paying careful attention to the narrative. 573–75 / 541–42 safe return home . . . ‘‘Safe return home’’ This part of the prayer would not be fulfilled. Ajax, the son of Oileus, was shipwrecked; Agamemnon was murdered upon reaching home; others (most notably Odysseus) suffered delays and hardships at sea and found new troubles awaiting them at home. Neoptolemus, the speaker, returns home and lives happily for a while until he is killed at Delphi by Apollo’s attendant priests and at Orestes’ instigation. In general, dark irony hangs over the fates of the Greek victors in Euripides’ Trojan plays. 636 / 599 Do parents count In Euripides’ time Hecuba’s questions were posed by ‘‘sophists,’’ those traveling professors who taught courses in political science, economics, or rhetoric to the ambitious sons of rich Athenians, and are restated brilliantly in Plato’s early dialogues: (a) Can areteˆ (virtue, excellence) be taught? (b) How much of areteˆ is inborn (physis, phya) and inherited, and how much is the result of upbringing (tropheˆ), instruction (didacheˆ), and one’s environment? (c) How can a good and noble upbringing serve as an instructive model about what is ignoble and bad? The old aristocratic belief in inherited nobility, supplemented by proper training, is best conveyed in Pindar’s victory odes; in general, it is challenged by the new professors, the would-be educators of Athenian youth. Hecuba speaks for the old ways, but her thinking, like that of Euripides, is infused with the new. 649–50 / 611–12 For the last time . . . virgin’s ghost Often in Greek tragedy, imagery of the ‘‘marriage with death’’ contrasts a virgin’s untimely funeral with the bright hopes of marriage. On her wedding day, a bride’s mother bathes her in water drawn from a sacred spring. 667–93 / 629–57 Second stasimon Chronological time passes swiftly during this ode, which reviews the Paris–Helen story but reverses the order of events. In the fateful beauty contest on Mt. Ida, Paris judged not Hera or Athena most beautiful but Aphrodite, who offered him the most attractive woman in Greece as his wife. He then sailed to Greece and carried off Helen with Aphrodite’s help, thus causing war and grief. 694–958 / 658–924 Third episode The episode includes a kommos (718–63 / 681–722), a lyric dialogue of lament over the corpse of Polydorus. 722–24 / 685–87 I’ll raise you a song . . . new strains of grief The Greek text here is disputed (we follow Daitz [Stephen G. Daitz (Leipzig, 1973)]), but the ambiguity seems clear: the ‘‘nomon baccheion ex alastoros’’ that Hecuba

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now commences is either a Bacchic ‘‘strain’’ or a new Bacchic ‘‘law’’ created by an avenging spirit, or alastor. 776–91 / 736–51 Hecuba’s asides are played for effect. All her ‘‘spontaneous’’ doubts are orchestrated for Agamemnon’s benefit. 841–43 / 800–801 the law of custom . . . right from wrong The Greek text plays on the ambiguity of nomos, which can mean ‘‘law,’’ ‘‘custom,’’ or both. Does Hecuba mean that the law is an underlying principle of existence, overriding even the gods’ will, and governing human life in its religious and social aspects? Or does she mean that it is merely a result of convention and custom that we believe in the gods and make moral distinctions to regulate our lives? The ambiguity suggests that Hecuba’s public and private views of the world no longer coincide. 858 / 814–15 Why do we spend Another allusion to the sophists. The ‘‘art of persuasion’’ brought quick successes in the assembly and the law courts. Its best-known teacher was the Sicilian orator Gorgias of Leontini, who visited Athens in 427, as well as at other times, and left a great impression. 893–97 / 846–49 What does it mean? . . . once meant well In this difficult passage, the Chorus appears to be saying both that everything ‘‘comes together’’ or ‘‘falls into confusion’’ for mortals, and that customs and laws (nomoi), provide a framework for necessary situations; among these, presumably, is the transformation of enemies into friends and vice versa. Apparently language and customs are like a veil drawn over what can’t be grasped, namely, the shifting realities or ‘‘necessities’’ of human life. 908–10 / 858–60 The army thinks . . . by the army The army is represented, in unHomeric fashion, as an unruly mob. In the latter part of the fifth century, even reputable Athenian generals could be slandered by unscrupulous politicians (which hardly helped the war effort). 916–19 / 865–68 For some are slaves . . . the crowd’s beliefs Again Euripides makes Hecuba echo a significant and dangerous modern debate: the case of natural freedom versus social and conventional restraints. The latter are represented here as imposed by the ruling democratic ‘‘majority’’ in the form of written laws (which are subject to change) enacted by that majority. Hecuba sneers at the ‘‘crowd’’ as an aristocrat might (in private), much as she denounced demagogues earlier. The oligarchic revolutions of 411 and 404 b.c. would prove how insidious this appeal to ‘‘freedom’’ can be; the sentiments would also be voiced by the Nietzschean figures in Plato’s dialogues.

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938–39 / 886–87 What! Did not women . . . every last male Hecuba’s defense of women underscores their propensity for violence. The fifty Danaids, daughters of Danaus, fled to Argos, where they were pursued by their Egyptian cousins and forced to wed them. Forty-nine, at Danaus’ instigation, killed their husbands on their wedding night and were condemned to fill leaky jars with water in Hades as punishment for their deed. The women of Lemnos also killed their husbands and lived for a time without male companionship. 959–1005 / 905–52 Third stasimon The women sing of the night when Troy was captured. The Trojans had celebrated the (pretended) departure of the Greeks with song, dance, and great festivity, but all this was a delusion. The Greeks sailed back from the island of Tenedos, where they had been hiding. Their leaders emerged from the Wooden Horse and quickly and brutally captured the city. During this ode, as usual, chronological time is flexible: Hecuba’s messenger travels inland to find Polymestor and brings him back to the Greek camp. 977 / 923–24 I was arranging my hair Professor Arrowsmith reminds us that ‘‘slave women were normally shorn; these lines about how it was before their slavery, before their hair was shorn, are a fine instance of Euripides’ refusal to use merely decorative detail, merely lovely touches of ordinary domestic life.’’ 997 / 943 To the sister Helen’s two brothers were the demigods Castor and Polydeuces (Pollux), the twin Dioscuri, or ‘‘sons of Zeus.’’ In Greek lore they became figures of salvation, especially for sailors caught in storms at sea. Helen lived with Paris (who had been raised as a shepherd on Mt. Ida) but was not, strictly speaking, his wife. 1005 / 951 May she never return She did, of course, return. In the fourth book of the Odyssey, when she and Menelaus entertain Telemachus in Sparta, Helen looks back on her Trojan period as a kind of temporary aberration. Menelaus is not so sure. 1006–76 / 953–1022 Fourth episode This scene is heavily ironic, with concealed knowledge on both sides; hence the presence of many ambiguous remarks. It constitutes the first part of a long and extraordinary finale that allows us to witness Hecuba’s revenge in its full fury. 1011–13 / 958–60 And it’s the gods . . . will worship them The Greek words are ambiguous: the gods put confusion in things so that we may worship them ‘‘through ignorance.’’ Does Polymestor mean through ignorance of what

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is happening in men’s lives or, more sophistically, by falsely imagining that the gods exist, when enlightened people like Polymestor know they don’t? 1047 / 993 visit you in secret The irony backfires; Polydorus’ ghost had made his own arrangements. 1077–1180 / 1023–1108 Kommos (lyrical exchange in place of a stasimon). 1095 / 1040 I’ll batter these walls Euripides’ lines do not make the staging clear. Line 1096 / 1041, which Daitz gives to Polymestor, literally means ‘‘See! A missile is launched from a heavy hand.’’ The words follow (or are followed by) a loud noise, as of a heavy object striking a wall—the wooden wall, in fact, of the stage building, here represented as a tent or hut. Polymestor is wildly attempting either to hit his enemies or to escape. 1113–14 / 1055–56 My eyes, oh eyes! The blinding of Polymestor will recall the ninth book of the Odyssey, where the man-eating cyclops Polyphemus is tricked and blinded by Odysseus, emerging as an almost pitiable figure, though still a dangerous one. Euripides’ one surviving satyr play, the Cyclops, presents a farcical version of these events. The blinded giant is teased by the Chorus of childish satyrs, as in a game of blind-man’s buff. Quite possibly the Cyclops formed part of the same tetralogy as Hecuba, providing comic relief but also reflecting serious themes from Hecuba in the distorting mirror of farce. 1139 / 1077 soon torn apart The image is literally false but symbolically true, since it compares Hecuba and her women to Dionysus’ maenads, his ecstatic female followers, who in the course of their rituals rend wild animals and eat them raw (sparagmos, oˆmophagia), and who could, in their frenzy, do the same to humans (compare Euripides’ Bacchae). 1170 / 1102 Dog Star at heel Sirius, the Dog Star, suggests the burning heat of summer. Polymestor’s lyrical wish to lose himself in the sky or sea is conveyed in images that anticipate Hecuba’s eventual fate as a fiery-eyed hellhound plunging from the ship’s mast into the sea (see 1355–61 / 1259–65). 1181–1396 / 1109–1295 Exodos 1206 / 1130 Argue your case This heralds a formal debate (agoˆn) such as the Athenians always enjoyed both in real life as well as on the tragic or comic stage. The latter debater usually wins. Polymestor speaks as the plaintiff, the injured party, but also defends his killing of Polydorus. Hecuba rebuts his arguments—and scarcely bothers to defend her own behavior.

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1265–68 / 1183–86 Do not be brash . . . we can’t escape The Chorus leader, speaking for the women of the Chorus (and probably for Euripides), warns Polymestor not to indulge in rash generalizations about women. Lines 1185–86 in the Greek (‘‘We are . . . can’t escape’’) were deleted by Dindorf (G. Dindorf [Greek text], Oxford, 1832); they are bracketed in Murray’s Oxford text (1902) as an actor’s interpolation; their meaning is uncertain. We follow Daitz’s text and punctuation in all other respects but read toˆn kakoˆn: ‘‘Some women are enviable’’ (i.e., for their virtue); ‘‘others of us are born by nature into the number of the bad.’’ Euripides touches briefly here on the unfair lot of women, who are to be envied or else considered evil. In his lifetime he was satirized as a misogynist, always depicting evil women and shaming good ones. Our translation highlights the relevance of these remarks to Polyxena and Hecuba. 1355–76 / 1259–79 But soon . . . die by the axe The passages here italicized are in the form of a prophecy. Polymestor speaks with new insight and authority, rather like Sophocles’ blinded Oedipus; but his inspiration is Dionysian, not Apollonian, and all he foresees is bestial transformation and murder. 1369 / 1273 Poor Bitch’s Rock Greek Œıe ƺÆÅ ~ÅÆ (Cynossema), from kyoˆn, ‘‘dog’’ (the term ‘‘bitch’’ is often insulting in Greek, as in English), and seˆma, a ‘‘sign’’ or ‘‘tomb.’’ Cynossema became the name of a Thracian promontory. 1371–76 / 1275–79 And your Cassandra . . . die by the axe The audience knew the sequel well from epic, lyric, and tragic works (notably, for modern readers, in Aeschylus’ Agamemnon). Clytemnestra killed Cassandra and Agamemnon partly for revenge (besides bringing his mistress home, Agamemnon had sacrificed their daughter Iphigenia) and partly to please her lover, Aegisthus. One version had Agamemnon butchered at the feast; another had him ensnared in the bathtub and killed—hardly a suitable end, either way, for the great victor at Troy. 1395–96 / 1295 Heaven’s constraint is hard The last word, ananke, usually translated as ‘‘Necessity,’’ suggests a harsh and impersonal controlling power determining the course of human events. We have translated it throughout the play as ‘‘constraint,’’ which, according to the OED, denotes ‘‘coercion or compulsion,’’ or (by transference) ‘‘confinement, bound or fettered condition, restriction of liberty or of free action’’; other meanings, now obsolete, are ‘‘oppression, affliction, distress.’’ All this suggests the thematic range of ananke in Euripides’ play, as well as its affinities, as Professor Arrowsmith has pointed out, with such words as ‘‘angst,’’ ‘‘anguish,’’ and ‘‘angina.’’

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TROJAN WOMEN

Translated by

alan shapiro With Introduction and Notes by

peter burian

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INTRODUCTION

TROJAN WOMEN IN CONTEXT

Tragedy, as everyone knows, tells ‘‘sad stories of the death of kings,’’ but among surviving Greek tragedies only Euripides’ Trojan Women shows us the extinction of a whole city, an entire people. Despite its grim theme, or more likely because of the way that theme resonates with the deepest fears of our own age, this is one of the relatively few Greek tragedies that regularly finds its way to the stage. The power of Euripides’ theatrical and moral imagination speaks clearly across the twenty-five centuries that separate our world from his. The theme is really a double one: the suffering of the victims of war, exemplified by the women who survive the fall of Troy, and the degradation of the victors, shown by the Greeks’ reckless and ultimately self-destructive behavior. Trojan Women gains special relevance, of course, in times of war. Today, we seem to need this play more than ever. Let us begin, however, by considering this extraordinary document of human suffering and resilience in the context of its own times. We know that Euripides competed at the City Dionysia of 415 with a trilogy of Trojan tragedies and won second prize—almost tantamount to losing, because only three playwrights competed in the tragic competition. This information comes down to us in a bemused comment from Aelian, a writer of the early third century of our own era: Xenocles, whoever he was, won first prize with Oedipus, Lykaon, Bacchae, and the satyr play Athamas; Euripides came second with Alexander, Palamedes, Trojan Women, and the satyr play Sisyphus. Is it not ridiculous that Xenocles should win and Euripides be defeated with plays such as these? (Varia Historia 2.8)

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From Aelian’s astonishment, we learn that in his day, Euripides’ play was held in high regard, although it was not an immediate success. Aelian suggests that the only possible explanations for Euripides’ loss to Xenocles were that those who voted were stupid and ignorant, or that they were bribed. Neither alternative, he says, is worthy of Athens. There are of course other possibilities. One is that Xenocles was a great writer whose works we should be very sad to have lost, but no ancient source supports this supposition. Another, perhaps more plausible, is that something about Euripides’ plays offended his audience; the German philologist Wilamowitz proposed long ago that Euripides could hardly have expected to win with a tragedy such as Trojan Women that went so much against the grain of popular opinion.1 That of course is also pure speculation, but there is certainly reason to think that this play did engage political issues of the day and may have struck a raw nerve in some or even most of the original audience. When Euripides’ ‘‘ Trojan trilogy’’ was first performed, Athens was a city ostensibly at peace but feverishly preparing a massive military expedition to far-off Sicily, a war of choice whose purpose, as Thucydides describes it, was to extend Athenian power to the rich cities of the Greek west and to enrich the citizens of Athens thereby.2 Moreover, in the years of war with Sparta and her allies, and even during the uneasy truce that was currently in force, there had been atrocities enough on both sides to make the treatment of prisoners and the sacking of cities topics of almost too immediate relevance. The Peloponnesian War broke out in 431. In 427, the city of Plateia, an ally of Athens whose attempted conquest by Thebes was one of the causes of the war, was annihilated by Sparta at Thebes’ behest; its defenders were executed, its women made slaves, and the city itself razed to the ground.3 In the same year, Athens put down revolts in several cities of Lesbos, a subject ally, and the Athenian Assembly voted to execute all males of military age in the city of Mytilene and to enslave its women and children. A ship was sent off to Mytilene to convey the decision, but on the following day, the Assembly reversed itself. Thucydides has a full account of the debate and then gives this gripping description of the dispatch of a second ship to countermand the earlier order:

1. U. von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, Griechische Trago¨dien U¨bersetzt vol. 3 (Berlin, 1906), 259. 2. As Thucydides (History of the Peloponnesian War 6.24) describes the popular mood prior to the expedition, passion for it. 3. Thucydides 3.68.

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They immediately sent off another ship in great haste, lest they find the city destroyed because the first had already arrived; it was about a day and a night ahead. With the Mytilenean envoys providing wine and barley for the ship and making great promises if they arrived in time, the degree of zeal was so high during the voyage that they ate barley kneaded with wine and oil as they rowed, and while some rowed others slept in turns, and since by luck there was no opposing wind, and the first ship was sailing without urgency for its horrible business while this one was pressing on as described, the one ship arrived just far enough ahead that Paches had read the decree and was about to carry out what had been decided, and the ship following it landed and prevented the killings. Mytilene’s danger came this close.4

Then, in the summer of 421, Athens besieged and recaptured Scione, an erstwhile ally in northern Greece that had revolted. In Thucydides’ laconic account, the Athenians ‘‘killed the adult males, enslaving the children and women and giving the land to the Plataeans to occupy.’’5 The Spartans, for their part, captured the town of Hysiae in the Argolid in the winter of 417, ‘‘killing all the free men they caught.’’6 One event, however, has long been associated with Trojan Women, in part because of its proximity in time to the performance of the play, and in part because one of the most famous passages in Thucydides’ History has made it unforgettable. This is the Athenian expedition against Melos, a small island in the southern Aegean with ancestral ties to Sparta. Even after the other islands had accepted Athenian hegemony, Melos had attempted to maintain its independence. After initial Athenian raids had failed to make the Melians submit and only made them openly hostile, the Athenians sent a substantial force against the island. Thucydides gives us an extraordinary imagined dialogue preceding the hostilities in which the Melians claim that they have a right to independence and neutrality; the Athenians offer in reply, without hesitation or shame, the doctrine that might makes right. Because the power to subdue Melos is theirs, they will only appear weak if they fail to exercise it.7 When the Melians failed to heed their warnings, the Athenians attacked. The initial siege did not yield the desired result, so the Athenians sent reinforcements, and the Melians, after a certain amount of treachery in their midst, surrendered to the Athenians to be dealt with as they wished. They killed all the grown

4. 5. 6. 7.

Thucydides 3.49. Thucydides 5.32. Thucydides 5.83. The ‘‘Melian Dialogue,’’ Thucydides 5.85–113.

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men they captured, enslaved the children and women, and settled the place themselves by sending out five hundred colonists later.8

In the last twenty years, a number of scholars have accepted the view that there could not have been sufficient time between the destruction of Melos—probably no earlier than December 416—and the production of Trojan Women in March 415 for the play to have been written in response to the Melian disaster.9 How quickly Euripides might have responded to events (and the Melian siege, after all, went on for a considerable time, with its outcome not hard to imagine), and how those events might have shaped or reshaped part of his trilogy, is obviously difficult to say. But even if Melos was not on Euripides’ mind when he wrote the play, it is even more difficult to suppose that the practices of warfare it portrays from the vantage point of the victim could have nothing to do with war and politics in his own day. That these practices were still a regular feature of Greek warfare we have just seen; that they were a subject of intense and passionate argument in Athens in the years preceding Melos is made clear by Thucydides’ report about the debate in the Assembly that led to the rescinding of the ‘‘death order’’ for Mytilene.10 And because, as N. T. Croally sensibly points out, the performance took place some months after the fall of Melos, the

8. Thucydides 5.116. 9. Proposed by A. van Erp Taalman Kip, ‘‘Euripides and Melos,’’ Mnemosyne 40 (1987): 414–19. It should be said that this decoupling of Melos from Trojan Women has been welcomed as a way to defang the play politically. D. Kovacs, ‘‘Gods and Men in Euripides’ Trojan Trilogy,’’ Colby Quarterly 33 (1997): 162–76, uses this argument as the basis for rejecting interpretations of Trojan Women as a document with specific relevance to Athenian policy or politics altogether. Instead, he suggests, the play should be understood in the Greek poetic tradition that emphasized the instability of fortune and the fallibility of human understanding. Kovacs underlines the ‘‘paradoxical consolation’’ that the great misfortunes shown, remembered, and predicted in the play are not the product of accident or mere human folly, but of divine will. Trojan Women, then, is a philosophical and religious document, but hardly a political one. J. Roisman, ‘‘Contemporary Allusions in Euripides’ Trojan Women,’’ Studi italiani di filologia classica, 3rd ser., 15 (1997): 38–46, also rules Melos out of consideration but is nevertheless open to the notion that the play makes ‘‘conscious references to contemporary events and opinions,’’ even if they should not ‘‘be construed as its dominant element.’’ It turns out, however, that the only allusions he approves of are those that do not suggest criticism of Athenian imperial policy. Thus, for example, Roisman acknowledges the possibility of a contemporary reference in Cassandra’s commendation of the Trojans for fighting a war that was forced upon them and waged in and for their homeland, and in her condemnation of the Greeks for fighting by choice, far from home. He does not think, however, that this would raise questions about the impending invasion of Sicily, since in his view few Athenians at the time ‘‘would have regarded the Sicilian expedition as a moral dilemma.’’ Although he does allow the possibility of multiple meanings for different audiences, he argues that Euripides’ ‘‘conscious references’’ provide ‘‘the option of rejecting a recognition of themselves in the depiction of the Greeks.’’ That was an option, then as now, but not the only one by any means. 10. The ‘‘Mytilenean Debate,’’ Thucydides 3.35–50.

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writing of the play is not necessarily the most important moment to consider; rather, ‘‘it was a matter for the audience to decide in March whether they saw the play as a response (as their response) to Melos.’’11 In reading Trojan Women with knowledge of the extreme destructiveness with which resistance was likely to be met at the time, cognizance of Athens’ imperial ambitions (especially with the impending Sicilian expedition in the air) and Sparta’s fears on that account, and familiarity with the exasperated rhetoric of power that this and other Euripidean tragedies share with Thucydides, encourages us to understand it as a specifically political, singularly dark, and deeply humane drama. If a reading of Trojan Women that depends on its direct inspiration by a particular historical event is open to the charge of anachronism, an interpretation that treats it as a demonstration (quoting Kovacs) ‘‘that uncertainty about the future is the human condition’s most salient feature, and that it is the part of a wise man not to take today’s happiness for granted’’12 is open to the charge of being reductive and historically impoverished. But there is no reason to suppose that we must choose one reading or the other. Trojan Women presents a particularly intense account of human suffering and uncertainty, but one that is also rooted in considerations of power and policy, morality and expedience. Furthermore, the seductions of power and the dangers both of its exercise and of resistance to it as portrayed in Trojan Women are not simply philosophical or rhetorical gambits; they are part of the lived experience of Euripides’ day, in Greek and Athenian action and argument. Their analogues in our own day lie all too close at hand. EURIPIDES’ ‘‘TROJAN TRILOGY’’ The passage from Aelian quoted above provides valuable information that is often missing with regard to other tragedies: the names of the plays that preceded Trojan Women (Alexander and Palamedes) and of the satyr play (Sisyphus) that completed the tetralogy mandated by the rules of the City Dionysia. While the subject of Sisyphus can only be guessed at,13 enough remains by way of fragments and other testimonia to make

11. N. T. Croally, Euripidean Polemic: The Trojan Women and the Function of Tragedy (Cambridge, 1994), 232, n. 170. 12. Kovacs (above, n. 9), 176. 13. Only two short fragments of the satyr play survive, not enough to permit even the identification of its mythical plot. One of them, however, is addressed to Heracles, and the only myth known to connect Sisyphus and Heracles is the story of the horses of Diomedes that Heracles brought to Eurystheus as one of his famous labors. These horses were then stolen by Sisyphus, who gave them to

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possible a rough reconstruction of the first two plays, which together with Trojan Women clearly constituted an interconnected set of Trojan tragedies, if not precisely a tight trilogic structure like that of Aeschylus’ Oresteia.14 As far as we can determine, this is the only time when Euripides presented three tragedies that present successive phases of the same legendary subject: all three plays take place at or near Troy and treat Trojan War themes in chronological order. In the case of Alexander, a papyrus from the Egyptian town of Oxyrhynchus from the second century of our era gives us a fragmentary plot summary of the play. There are also a couple of papyrus fragments from the play itself, as well as a number of ‘‘book fragments,’’ the majority of which are quotations preserved by the later anthologist John of Stobi (or Stobaeus). In addition, we have several fragments of an Alexander by the early Roman poet Ennius, including chunks from Cassandra’s prophecy of the downfall of Troy, that are almost surely related to the Euripidean play. Using these materials, a reconstruction of Alexander is possible: Alexander is a son of King Priam and Queen Hecuba, exposed on a mountainside and given up for dead because his mother dreamt that she had given birth to a burning torch, which Apollo’s oracle interpreted to mean that this son, if he grew up, would be the destruction of Troy. Alexander was rescued by a herdsman and given the name Paris, the name by which we have come to know him. All this was presumably recounted, perhaps by Aphrodite, in the prologue. Twenty years later, Paris is brought to Troy by fellow herdsmen and arraigned before Priam because of the arrogant way he treats them—an indication, as it later turns out, that he is not one of them. He defends himself and is even allowed to

his son Glaucus, whom they then devoured. A satyr play could be made from some part of this story, but there are other possibilities in which Heracles might play a role. One with greater relevance to the Trojan tragedies is the tale of Sisyphus seducing Anticleia and becoming the real father of Odysseus. Discussion of Sisyphus is complicated by the existence of a well-known and remarkable fragment of forty-two lines that has every earmark of coming from a satyr play. The fragment gives a narrative of the rise of human culture that culminates with a wise man inventing the gods to instill fear in evildoers and keep human behavior within the bounds of law. Our main source for this fragment, the skeptical philosopher Sextus Empiricus, attributes it to Critias, an aristocratic Athenian contemporary of Euripides, who wrote poems and dramas and became a leader of the Thirty Tyrants at the end of the Peloponnesian War. Two other writers, however, quote parts of the fragment and attribute them to Euripides; one of them, Aetius, says Sisyphus is the speaker, a view shared by some modern scholars. The style of the passage makes Euripidean authorship problematic, but not impossible. 14. Text and translation of the fragments, along with judicious commentary and further bibliography, are available in C. Collard, M. J. Cropp, and G. Gibert, eds., Euripides: Selected Fragmentary Plays, vol. 2 (Oxford, 2004).

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take part in commemorative games that Hecuba, mourning the loss of her son, had established in Alexander’s honor, though he must first overcome the opposition of his brother Deiphobus, who thinks him a slave and thus ineligible to compete. Stobaeus preserves parts of what seems to be a debate between Deiphobus and Paris. Paris’ victory in the footrace and pentathlon (reported by a messenger) further enrages Deiphobus, who returns from the games berating Hector for taking his defeat at the hands of a slave too lightly. Deiphobus plots with Hecuba to kill the upstart (the papyrus preserves a bit of this), although Cassandra, in a frenzied state, recognizes him for who he is and prophesies the destruction of Troy. She is of course given no credence. Two lines preserved by Stobaeus show that Paris learns of the danger to his life. The herdsman who raised Paris is compelled by this danger to tell the truth about his supposed child’s origin, and Hecuba is prevented from killing Paris, presumably at the last moment. She has found the lost son she had mourned for so long, and paradoxically, in failing to kill him now, she destroys her city. Present joy plays out against the foreboding of disaster to come. Considerably less material survives from Palamedes, and reconstruction depends largely on versions found in the mythographers and other late sources. Because we are aware of additional dramas on this theme by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Astydamas the Younger, a fourth-century tragedian, it is hard to be sure which of the variants in our surviving sources should be attributed to Euripides’ play.15 All versions, however, have enough in common to allow us to give an outline of the plot with some confidence. Palamedes is a man known for his intelligence (in one of the surviving fragments, he claims to be the inventor of writing, a skill that will play a crucial role in the plot), and for this and other reasons he wins the jealousy and enmity of Odysseus and other Greek commanders, including Agamemnon, whom Palamedes may have personally insulted.16 Odysseus devises a deadly plot against Palamedes: he buries gold under Palamedes’ tent and forges a letter, purportedly from Priam, promising that amount of gold for Palamedes’ betrayal of the Greeks. The play features a trial scene pitting Odysseus’ clever sophistry against

15. R. Scodel, The Trojan Trilogy of Euripides, Hypomnemata 60 (Go¨ttingen, 1980), makes the most thorough attempt to reconstruct and evaluate the lost plays of the trilogy (although she perhaps overemphasizes the connections between them and Trojan Women), and she does what one can to sort out the specifically Euripidean elements in the Palamedes tradition; see pp. 43–63. Since Scodel wrote, however, there is new evidence to suggest that Nauplius, Palamedes’ father, appeared at the end of the play to threaten revenge for his son’s death; see Collard et al., 92–95. 16. See Plato Republic 522d.

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Palamedes’ wisdom, presumably with Agamemnon as judge. Palamedes is sentenced to be stoned to death. In a device of Palamedan ingenuity, his brother Oeax chisels a message on oar blades and launches them into the sea, hoping that one will reach their father Nauplius (the ‘‘fragment’’ we have in which he does this is actually a parody of the Euripidean lines from Aristophanes’ Thesmophoriazusae of 411). The message does reach Nauplius, and he apparently arrives at the end of the play to threaten revenge. Clearly, aspects of these plays bear upon Trojan Women. Euripides gives us one drama that explores the origins of the war, another connected with the Greek siege of Troy, and (in Trojan Women) a third that presents the devastating consequences of Troy’s fall.17 At least two characters from Alexander, Hecuba and Cassandra, reappear in Trojan Women. Assuming that the surviving fragments of Ennius’ Alexander follow the Euripidean original closely, the disastrous events foretold in Cassandra’s prophecy all come to pass in Trojan Women. The image of fire of which Hecuba dreams at the beginning of Alexander returns to engulf her city at the end of Trojan Women. The Odysseus whom Hecuba rages so vehemently against in Trojan Women has shown himself to be a villainous liar in Palamedes, and the ruin of the Greeks promised by Nauplius at the end of that play is taken up by the gods in the prologue of the next. Given that this grouping of such closely connected plays is unique in Euripides, one would very much like to know what the connections signify. Answers to this question have varied greatly, and what remains of the plays makes it hard to say anything definitive. It seems unlikely, however, that the lost plays contained a comforting answer to the suffering of the defeated Trojan women in our play. It is certain that Alexander shows the beginnings of a sequence of events that Trojan Women will complete, but only in the sense that Alexander set something in motion that cannot be called back. The events of this play do not explain or justify the results that will somehow issue from them, nor are they said to do so in Trojan Women. Palamedes contrasts the ways in which human ingenuity can be used to creative and destructive ends and shows how the self-serving side of our nature can push us to abandon all decency. This observation offers one explanation for the Greeks’ destruction after their triumph at Troy, but the gods who promise that

17. See F. Dunn, Tragedy’s End: Closure and Innovation in Euripidean Drama (New York and Oxford, 1996), 112–13. Dunn points out that no other dramatic trilogy or single epic poem encompasses the beginning, middle, and end of the Troy story.

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destruction at the beginning of Trojan Women ignore that explanation and offer their own instead. The linkage of themes is real but far from simple, and the wish to see some justice and order emerge from all the horror of Troy will not be satisfied. WHAT’S HECUBA TO US? Although Trojan Women continues to be performed regularly and to make its impact felt on audiences worldwide, until quite recently its critical reputation did not match its success on stage. Scholars steeped in the tradition of Aristotle’s Poetics criticized a tragedy that had the temerity to offer no reversal of fortune, but simply sufferings piled one upon the other to the breaking point. For much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the view of the famous German critic A. W. Schlegel carried great weight. He found the ‘‘accumulation of helpless suffering’’ wearisome to the point of exhaustion, objected to Hecuba as a protagonist who could only lament, and characterized the debate between Helen and Hecuba as a sterile rhetorical exercise.18 Such objections were repeated for more than a century in harsh and condescending terms: ‘‘static,’’ ‘‘almost plotless,’’ padded with ‘‘dry and analytic rhetoric.’’ Even the distinguished translator Richmond Lattimore expressed a sort of grudging bemusement: ‘‘In candor, one can hardly call The Trojan Women a good piece of work, but it seems nevertheless to be a great tragedy.’’19 Theatrical producers and audiences have accepted its greatness more open-handedly. Particularly in the twentieth century, there seems to have been a strong sense that this drama speaks to the horrors of war in our time as well as its own. From Franz Werfel’s adaptation, Die Troerinnen, written and produced in the midst of World War I, and Gilbert Murray’s translation, which successfully toured the United States, sponsored by the Women’s Peace Party as war clouds gathered on these shores in 1915, to Jean-Paul Sartre’s adaptation, Les Troyennes, written in response to the French war in Algeria, the striking film version made by Michael Cacoyannis during the Vietnam War (following a stage run of more than 650 performances in New York), Tadashi Suzuki’s adaptation, also from the 1970s, in which the play is set in Japan after the Second World War, and many others more recently,

18. A. W. Schlegel, A Course of Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature, trans. John Black (London, 1846), 136–37. 19. ‘‘Introduction’’ to Trojan Women, in D. Grene and R. Lattimore, eds., Euripides III (Chicago, 1958), 135.

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Trojan Women has asserted its claim as the most grippingly contemporary of Greek tragedies.20 Clearly, watching this play—at least with the mind’s eye—helps one understand what makes it so powerful, despite its apparent flaws. It is almost a cliche´ to say that Greek tragedies are drama of words, not deeds. Actors stand around and argue, choruses rehearse the mythic background, prayers and laments resound. The murders, the battles, the blindings all take place off stage, and the audience finds out about them from the speeches of messengers. Yet there is every reason to be skeptical of Aristotle’s claim in the Poetics that tragedy can be fully experienced through reading alone.21 In what follows, we will examine how attention to movement and gesture, and even to the externals of ‘‘spectacle’’ (opsis in Aristotelian terminology),22 can inflect and deepen our understanding of the words; and I shall also point out some ways in which performance elements are themselves enhanced by particular features of the verbal texture, particularly in its characteristic alternation of speech and song. Our evidence for the Greek tragedy is largely in the form of scripts to which modern editors must add even the most rudimentary stage directions. Happily, however, these scripts contain most of the information we need to make reasonable conjectures about blocking, choreography, and even gesture, although much uncertainty obviously remains in matters of detail. Whatever the obstacles, however, attention to these aspects of ancient theater will help us to follow Aristotle’s advice to poets to ‘‘construct the plot and work it out in dialogue while keeping it before one’s eyes as much as possible.’’23

20. Werfel’s version was published at Leipzig in 1915. Murray’s translation, also published in 1915, had been produced already in 1905, implicitly reflecting his opposition to the Boer War; see E. Hall and F. Macintosh, Greek Tragedy and the British Theatre 1660–1914 (Oxford, 2005), 508–11. Sartre wrote his adaptation in 1964; it was first performed in a Paris production directed by Cacoyannis in 1965, appeared as a book in 1966, and in English translation by Ronald Duncan in 1967. The Cacoyannis film, with Katherine Hepburn as Hecuba, was released in 1971, its text (like that of his New York theatrical production) being an adaptation of Edith Hamilton’s translation. Suzuki’s Toroia no Onna was first staged in Tokyo in 1974, then revived for an international tour that began in 1977 and ended in 1990. There is information on several of these productions in M. McDonald, The Living Art of Greek Tragedy (Bloomington, 2003), 147–50. 21. Poetics 62a12. 22. Poetics 50b17–20. Aristotle calls opsis the ‘‘least artistic and least integral to the poetic art’’ of all the elements of tragedy. G. F. Else, Aristotle’s Poetics: The Argument (Cambridge, Mass., 1957), 278–79, makes a case for the view that Aristotle refers only to costume and mask, but opsis has regularly been understood as the visual element of tragedy as a whole, and Aristotle’s deprecation of it has led to its exclusion from much traditional criticism. 23. Poetics 55a23. For Aristotle, this seems to mean above all the proper guiding of the stage action by visualizing the whereabouts of characters both on and off stage. For us, it can imply attention to everything that is done on stage and in the orchestra, the drama in its most literal sense.

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Seen this way, for all its lack of obvious action, Trojan Women is not simply a pathos, an extended suffering; it is a drama, a ‘‘doing’’ that is both gripping and disturbing, the drama of life going on in the face of disaster and despair. The play opens with what might be described as a ‘‘silent action.’’24 Although the text begins with a monologue spoken by the sea god Poseidon, his words ‘‘there is Hecuba’’ (43 / 36) imply that the old queen, robed in black, her hair shorn, has already been helped on stage by her attendants. Spectators will surely be expecting her to speak, but instead, she collapses, buries her head in her arms, and remains motionless. Only after a brief pause, then, does Poseidon enter to announce that he is abandoning the city he had protected until its fall. The picture of desolation is all the more poignant for being painted by the god who had built the walls that Athena has now succeeded in destroying (54–57 / 45–47). Hardly is the goddess’ name out when she herself enters to engage Poseidon in a truce and common action against the Greeks, who in victory have outraged her. Thus, the prologue looks ahead, beyond the bounds of the play, to the destruction of the Greek fleet, the sufferings and deaths of the conquerors, in short to a future of continued hatred and devastation for those in whom triumph has bred sacrilegious excess. Poseidon’s speech and the subsequent dialogue with Athena, the settling of scores and the promise of horror still to come, confirmed by the audience’s knowledge of the tradition of the Greeks’ disastrous homeward journey, are played out against the tableau of the pitiful but regal figure of Hecuba, prostrate with grief. Poseidon, who points her out ‘‘if anyone cares to see’’ (43 / 36), stresses the old queen’s wretchedness. Seeing Hecuba there, motionless and mute, not only gives palpable human substance to the gods’ talk of destruction and misery, but also emphasizes the contrast between their power and the helplessness of humans. The gods depart; only now does Hecuba stir and begin her lament. If this discussion of Trojan Women focuses in large part on Hecuba, it is because from the moment the gods leave the scene until the very end of

24. I use this term to describe actions, implied in numerous tragic and comic texts, that take place before the first words of the prologue are spoken; see P. Burian, ‘‘The Play Before the Prologue: Initial Tableaux on the Greek Stage,’’ in J. H. D’Arms and J. W. Eadie, eds., Ancient and Modern: Essays in Honor of Gerald F. Else (Ann Arbor, 1977), 79–94. The Greek theater had no curtain, and the traditional view requires that when actors who were not going to initiate the dialogue took their places on stage in full view of the audience, their entrance was simply to be ignored, or rather ‘‘erased as though it had not happened’’ when the prologue got under way (O. Taplin, ‘‘Aeschylean Silences and Silence in Aeschylus,’’ Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 76 [1972]: 62). There is, however, no need to treat these entrances so apologetically, and every reason to treat them as significant starting points for what follows.

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the play, Hecuba remains at the center of the action, singing, chanting, and speaking nearly a fourth of the lines, never out of our sight. Gesture and movement play a crucial role here, reinforcing the affective power of the language. At the start of her first chant, she still lies on the ground, just raising her head; then, as the text clearly indicates, she sits up, rocking her body back and forth in a gesture of mourning. She will collapse again when Cassandra is led away to become the concubine of Agamenmon, and her first long speech is made from the ground where she has fallen. But she will rise again to receive the successive blows that rain down upon herself, her family, her ruined city. Only at the end of the play, when she is being led into captivity, does she break free at last and try to rush into burning Troy. She is stopped from this escape, and we see her fall to earth one last time to beat the ground with her fists, as if to rouse the shades of her dead, then rise one last time to lead her fellow captives into their new lives. Returning to Hecuba’s first lament, the emotional effect of the old queen’s arousal from the depths of silent despair is amplified by the fact that she rouses herself to song. Her words are couched in an anapestic rhythm that allows itself to modulate from spoken or chanted verse to a fully lyric form accompanied, as Hecuba rises, by the plangent tones of the aulos, an ancient oboe-like double-reed instrument. There is a touching contrast between the divine prologue, spoken in the standard iambic verse of tragic dialogue, and this passionate, painfully human lament. Hecuba combines a bitter acknowledgment of loss with the grudging recognition that mourning itself provides some relief in the midst of sorrow: this long lament, These tears, the only music Left for the wretched, singing the song Of troubles no one dances to. (137–40 / 119–21)

The fallen queen speaks these words just before her lament moves from chant to full song. The ‘‘troubles no one dances to’’ are, in the lapidary Greek, ‘‘dooms without dance’’ (atas achoreutous); what an odd thing to say in a medium defined formally by the presence of the Chorus, and in a play whose Chorus will indeed dance these very dooms! This curious bit of self-consciousness, the questioning of the power of representation to represent what this play is intent on representing, points to the unique extremity of the ‘‘troubles’’ in Trojan Women. As Adrian Poole remarked,

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this play is ‘‘Euripides’ Endgame.’’25 And yet the release, the relief of song drives Hecuba to rise and sing. Hecuba’s ‘‘undanceable’’ lament prompts the entrance of the Chorus of Trojan captives. As elsewhere in Euripides, their arrival is motivated by what is said on stage; in this case, one part of the Chorus enters immediately in answer to Hecuba’s request to join her in grieving, and the second part arrives in answer to the appeal of the first. The emotional involvement of these women with the action on stage is immediately established by their anxious questions about their own futures, expressed in the same anapestic rhythms Hecuba has been using. They subsume the individual suffering of the fallen queen into a collective gesture of solidarity, joining her in a ritual performance that helps all the afflicted come to terms with their grief and carry on. In the course of this lyric dialogue (kommos), the Chorus moves from bewailing its misfortune to imagining a future as slaves of the victors—where will they go, what will their lives be like? The Trojan captives do not attempt to sing and dance the ‘‘troubles no one dances to’’; indeed, this is the only choral song in the play that does not concentrate on Troy. Rather, moving as Hecuba had before from chanted to lyric anapests, they speculate about where their new masters will take them—let it be Athens, not Sparta, or at least Thessaly, or beautiful Sicily. The heightened emotion of the Chorus’ entrance song, then, serves not to deepen the prologue further but rather to lighten its grimness. In the music and movement that enact human solidarity, in the consolations of ritual lament, a resurgence of life force manifests itself, ready to meet what the future holds. This concern for the future makes an emotional about-face with the arrival of the Greek herald Talthybius, who announces the destinies of Hecuba’s daughters Cassandra and Polyxena and her daughter-in-law Andromache, and finally Hecuba’s own fate. The news goes from bad to worse: Cassandra, to whom Apollo gave the privilege of remaining unmarried, must serve as Agamemnon’s concubine; Polyxena has been mysteriously enslaved to Achilles’ tomb; Andromache will belong to Neoptolemus, the son of her husband Hector’s slayer. Hecuba has been allotted to the treacherous and hateful Odysseus. This scene provides an excellent example of the effects possible in a kommos where one participant speaks in iambics and the other responds in highly charged outbursts of lyric. Talthybius answers Hecuba’s questions with calm and tact in single iambic lines, and she responds to the news in

25. ‘‘Total Disaster: Euripides’ Trojan Women,’’ Arion, n.s., 3 (1976): 257.

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lyric meters, reaching the highest pitch of anguish and vehement denunciation, expressed in violent rhythms, when she learns that she herself is to serve Odysseus. The contrasting use of meter and mode of delivery conveys more than differing levels of emotional engagement: Talthybius’ laconic calm underlines the starkness of the reality he announces, while Hecuba’s lyric intensity conveys the full force, even in utter powerlessness, of her emotional resistance. Hecuba’s response to her new sorrows, however, is not the whole story. The lines with which the Chorus leader in Greek tragedy conventionally caps a scene here answer Hecuba’s plea that the Chorus weep for her with a reminder of its own misery: ‘‘Your fate is known, my lady. But what of mine, / Who’ll be my master? What Achaean, what Greek?’’ (324–25 / 292–93). It is a striking feature of Trojan Women that the ordinary women of Troy not only reflect and amplify the grief of the royal family but also call attention to their own. Hecuba’s fate as fallen queen is, as it were, the traditional tragic subject, but Euripides keeps reminding us that she is now as much a slave as the women who were once her slaves and retainers, and that their sorrows are now very much like her own. Furthermore, Hecuba—and, as we shall see, her daughter-in-law Andromache—respond not simply as royals fallen from their former high estate, but also as ordinary women caught up in extraordinary circumstances, as wives and mothers bereft of their loved ones, expressing the sense of bereavement, the anguish, and even the hopes that are the normal human response to such extremity. Cassandra, on the other hand, is a special case, and her entrance is a genuine coup de the´aˆtre: Talthybius’ call for Cassandra to be brought out for delivery to her new master is forestalled by the sight of flames from within the women’s huts. He thinks that they have chosen to burn themselves alive; no, says Hecuba, that is not a blaze, it is my frenzied child Cassandra running toward us. And Cassandra rushes through the doorway, brandishing flaming torches, singing and dancing a mad parody of a wedding hymn. Fittingly, music and movement upstage iambic speech altogether. Cassandra’s sudden, turbulent eruption onto the stage is a spectacular moment, but also horrible in its seeming flight from sanity. The imagined marriage in Apollo’s temple is of course a mocking parody of her enslavement to the bed of Agamemnon, but it rests ironically on the expected wish-dream of a maiden for marriage, and it forms with equal irony the prelude to Cassandra’s promise, in her subsequent speech, to exact vengeance from Agamemnon for the fall of Troy. Apollo’s virgin votary calls on the god to lead the dance that consecrates her to marriage, and upon the Trojan women ‘‘in all your 166

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finery’’ (388 / 348) to join the celebration—irony made visible, given the miserable dress of the women we see before us. Hecuba talks Cassandra down, as we might say, takes the torches from her hands, and has them carried away, but as in Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, Cassandra, rather than subsiding into silence, turns to plain speech (i.e., the iambics of tragic dialogue) that explains the meaning of her wild performance with a lucidity that is anything but mad. She offers a clear-eyed, prophetic view of the role that she will play in Agamemnon’s murder and the destruction of Atreus’ house: her marriage will be ‘‘more disastrous than Helen’s,’’ her wedding night ‘‘a night of death / And devastation’’ (410–12 / 357–60). Recounting the death and pain the Greeks inflicted and suffered ‘‘for just one woman’s sake’’ (422 / 368), Cassandra makes a carefully constructed, if paradoxical, case that it is they who in the end will taste defeat, whereas Troy, whose warriors fought nobly in defense of their own soil, will have won undying fame. The Chorus leader caps this speech by calling Cassandra ‘‘giddy’’ and her speech ‘‘dark’’ (470–71 / 406–7); we are reminded that Apollo blighted Cassandra’s gift of prophecy with the curse that she would never be understood. Talthybius responds by forgiving Cassandra’s words of ill omen only because she is mad, and even questioning Agamemnon’s judgment in taking her as his bedmate. Even after Talthybius instructs Cassandra to follow him to the ships, she stands fast and delivers a second prophetic message, describing in some detail the sufferings of the Greeks on their homeward voyage. Changing to more solemn trochaic verse for an address to her ‘‘bridegroom,’’ she foretells that the man who brags of sacking Troy will be buried ‘‘dishonorably, by night’’ (513–15 / 445–47). Cassandra then enacts her withdrawal from service to Apollo with a striking gesture, bidding farewell to the woolen headbands that are tokens of her priestly office by tearing them from her brow and flinging them to the wind.26 She ends this final, powerful speech by embracing the horror of her own death, which will seal her final victory over Troy’s enemies as she goes ‘‘triumphant’’ (538 / 460) to join the dead below. Hecuba, who has heard her daughter’s prophecy but cannot understand her death as anything but another terrible loss, is overcome and collapses. The Chorus leader urges her attendants to lift her up, but Hecuba says she will remain where she has fallen ‘‘from all I suffer and have suffered, and / For all the suffering still to come’’

26. See the note on 524–25 for the relation of this gesture to that of Cassandra in Aeschylus’ Agamemnon.

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(547–48 / 467–68). And yet she gathers the strength to tell her story, if only for the satisfaction of rousing fresh pity in her listeners. This iambic speech is the pendant to her lyrical lament in the prologue, and it is the only other opportunity for an extended account of her own story—the good fortune that once was hers, the horrors she has witnessed, and the future she fears—rather than a response to the sorrows of her kin. At some point in this speech clearly she rises, reanimated by passionate engagement in what she recounts. Then, at the end, after she has returned to Cassandra, Polyxena, and all the children she has lost, who can give her neither aid or comfort, she asks to be led—as she had been in the ‘‘silent action’’ that preceded the prologue—to a place where she can lie down ‘‘and cry myself into oblivion’’ (594 / 508–9). After the long series of speeches that closed the first episode comes tragedy’s quintessential leap from speech to song: the Chorus of Trojan women sings and dances its first episode-dividing ode or stasimon, taking us from the immediate world of the action to project in word, music, and mimetic movement the larger picture of the city’s fall. They do not quite dance the ‘‘troubles no one dances to,’’ however, for they frame the city’s fall in a beguiling evocation of the relief and joy that first greeted news of the wooden horse, and the dances and songs that greeted its arrival—all of course made poignant in the retelling by knowledge of what was still to come. Similarly, the second stasimon will dance around Troy’s destruction by describing an earlier sacking and burning of the city by Heracles and Telamon, and then considering the gods’ present indifference to Troy’s present fate. Only the third stasimon, which follows the departure of the hated Helen, will translate the city’s destruction directly into movement, gesture, and song; and even here, the first images are nostalgic ones of rites and places now lost. This sensuous evocation serves, however, as a bitter reproach to Zeus, whom the Chorus members see as having abandoned their city. The destruction itself is evoked in startlingly personal terms, as the women address first their slaughtered husbands, wandering unburied, and then evoke the words of the children frightened at being separated from their mothers as they are led away for the journey to come. The second episode begins with another notable arrival, one that sets a tone entirely different from that of Cassandra’s spectacular entrance. Hector’s widow, Andromache, enters from the wings in a cart laden with the arms of Hector and other spoils, her young son Astyanax in her arms. She is bound for the ship of her new master, Neoptolemus. As with Cassandra’s torch-dance, the point is not just to create an arresting spectacle, but also to provide an appropriate visual reference point for the entire episode. Here is the loving wife of the greatest Trojan hero, 168

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about to be delivered to the son of her husband’s slayer, along with their child. The cart that they share with the rest of the spoils emphasizes their status as just so much booty to be disposed of by their captors, ‘‘mere loot, nobility in the great turning / Of the wheel become the slaves of others,’’ as she herself bitterly observes (709–10 / 614–15). And as with Cassandra’s casting off of her priestly regalia in the preceding episode, there seems to be a pointed allusion to Aeschylus’ Oresteia. The grand entrance of Agamemnon in his royal chariot in the Agamemnon is the obvious model for this scene. The outward contrast could hardly be greater; the victorious generalissimo with spoils of war in tow, including Cassandra, makes a triumphal return. And yet of course he is heading, all unknowing, to his ignominious doom. For Andromache, too, a further and unexpected reversal is in store. The presence of Astyanax is crucial, for it is he who inspires Hecuba, pragmatic and intent on survival in the face of every new horror, with hope—and he whose fate will strike the final blow. The episode begins, unusually, with a kommos, a lyric duet between Andromache and Hecuba whose main formal feature is a large number of split verses, as if a regular pattern of line exchange was inadequate for the emotions of the grieving women. This gives way to a spoken exchange in which Andromache reveals that Polyxena has been sacrificed at Achilles’ tomb (the explanation of Talthybius’ mysterious words in the preceding episode, and the next blow the old queen must endure),27 and argues, by way of consolation, that Polyxena’s fate is better than her own: ‘‘She’s better off than I am, still alive.’’ To this Hecuba replies unhesitatingly, ‘‘No, child, you’re wrong. They’re not the same. / Life means hope, death is nothing at all’’ (727–29 / 630–33). After Andromache’s elaborate and passionate exposition of her reasons for preferring death to the life she now faces, in which she must either accept a new lord and betray her beloved Hector, or show her hostility and face his wrath, Hecuba replies by invoking Astyanax as the future of Troy. Accept your new master, she says, and your lot, so that you can bring up my grandson. ‘‘And maybe his descendants will come home / To Troy and bring the city back to life’’ (809–10 / 703–5). Hardly are these words out, however, when Talthybius reappears and haltingly brings himself to announce that the Greeks have decided to kill the boy—so much for the one remaining hope for Troy! Talthybius, quite surprisingly for a herald, shows shame at his fellow Greeks’ actions

27. For this technique, see note on 666.

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and sympathy for the victims: ‘‘Against my will, I must announce the common / Will of the Greeks,’’ he tells Andromache, asking her not to hate him for it (815–17 / 710–11). Shame and sympathy are both manifest in the hesitancy with which Talthybius makes the announcement in slow, painful stages and in the advice he gives. He urges Andromache to ‘‘grieve nobly, befitting your nobility’’ (835 / 727), reminding her that she is utterly powerless (‘‘your city / Ruined, your husband dead,’’ 838–39 / 730) and that the Greeks can easily handle ‘‘just one woman’’ (841 / 731)—a remark made more poignant by the glancing allusion to Helen, the ‘‘one woman’’ so often mentioned in this play, who caused so many years of grief. He advises her not to do anything that would make the army angry, lest they refuse even burial to her dead child. For Andromache, after a powerful speech that seizes on the paradox of Greek barbarity and ends with a tremendous curse against Helen, there is nothing left to do but abandon her child to his executioners, and herself to her fate: ‘‘But go on, take him, / Carry him off, hurl him [rhiptete] to his destruction’’ (888–89 / 774), she commands in the bitterness of total despair, adding that they should cover her body ‘‘and hurl me [rhiptete] / Into the ship’s hold’’ (893–94 / 778). In a heart-wrenching moment of separation, Talthybius takes the child toward the city, Andromache’s cart is dragged toward the shore, and it is left to Hecuba speak the lament for her grandson, just as later she will perform his burial rites. The contrast of naked force and human compassion could hardly be more explicit. At this point it is perhaps worth stopping for a moment to observe how variegated a picture Euripides presents of the three women whose struggles and sufferings we have been following. All are caught up in a single, terrible doom, but each of them is so fully personalized and differentiated that rather than becoming numbed by the succession of sorrows, we come to feel for each woman as an individual. All of them have known wealth and privilege, and all are now in positions of seemingly absolute weakness; each is strong in her own particular way. Cassandra derives her strength from her role as virgin priest and prophet, able to turn her forced concubinage with Agamemnon into a sacral celebration because she knows that it will give her vengeance for the sacrilege done to her and the destruction wrought upon her city, her family, and her people. Andromache paradoxically suffers because of her nature as a loving and loyal wife, which is also what gives her, when confronted with the choice of betraying that love by trying to please a new master or earning his hatred by refusing to ‘‘give my heart to my new husband’’ (763 / 662), the inner strength to face the choice unflinchingly and reaffirm her loyalty to Hector. Hecuba, who urges the 170

INTRODUCTION

opposite course for the sake of a future she still believes may bring some good, remains, for all that she is overcome by fainting and grief as she absorbs the news of one disaster after another, a figure of astounding resilience. She is the fallen queen, of course, who not surprisingly laments all she has lost, but the secret of her strength appears to be the more ordinary emotions of a mother and grandmother, the fact that that she never loses sight of the loved ones who are left, never ceases to want the future to mitigate their sorrow. So she tries to protect Cassandra and, in the episode we have just been examining, to convince Andromache to make the best of her new circumstances. All her efforts are futile in the face of the terrible events that threaten to overwhelm her, but she will continue to struggle nonetheless, furiously debating Helen in the name of justice for Troy, gathering what gifts she can to give Astyanax his rites of burial. When at last she yields to despair, and even the attempt to end her life in the flames of her burning city is thwarted, she will rise once more and lead her women into their new lives, come what may. Hecuba’s resilience is shown in a different way in the episode that comes next. Once more, Euripides gives a new female character a striking entrance—not one of the Trojans this time, but Helen, the woman they most despise. Although she has been mentioned several times already, most notably in Andromache’s bitter curse at the end of the last episode, we only learn that she will make an appearance in the play with the arrival of her husband Menelaus, who bursts into the deepening gloom to proclaim, ‘‘How gloriously bright the sun is shining’’ (994 / 860), now that he will lay hands on his treacherous wife at last. Helen is just another captive, given to him to do with what he will, and he has decided ‘‘to sail back to Greece with her / And kill her there’’ (1014–15 / 877–78). Hecuba responds with a strange, perhaps even bewildered apostrophe to Zeus as Air, or Mind, or Necessity of Nature.28 The stasimon that followed Andromache’s and Astyanax’s departures ended on a note of despair: ‘‘the gods / Who loved Troy once love Troy no longer’’ (992–93 / 858–59), and Hecuba herself had called them ‘‘useless allies in a time of need’’ (549 / 469). Now, however, her novel invocation of the ‘‘boundless mystery / called Zeus’’ (1021–22 / 885–86) allows for the possibility of an inscrutable process that will set things right, that seems to promise the fulfillment of the one hope left to the Trojan women, albeit only the hope that whatever force controls Troy’s destiny will at last wreak vengeance upon the first cause of Troy’s ruin.

28. For the philosophical background of this prayer, see the note on 1020–25.

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Hecuba tells Menelaus that he will win her praise if he kills Helen, but that he must avoid being ensnared by the power of Helen’s glance and charms. However great Hecuba’s hope, she remains alert to the danger that her enemy will yet escape unharmed. On this note, Helen herself enters, manhandled (or so she claims) by Menelaus’ men, but nevertheless—as Hecuba will pointedly mention—‘‘tricked out in all your finery’’ instead of appearing, as would be fitting, ‘‘in filthy rags / Your head shaved, trembling, humbled by fear’’ (1193–96 / 1022–26). These lines give us a crucial visual clue: Helen is as concerned as ever with appearances, a true votary of Aphrodite and a shrewd survivor, standing among the battered, ragged, gray band of Trojan woman, still radiantly beautiful, still alluring, still dangerous. The episode is cast as a formal debate, with Menelaus in the role of judge. It is noteworthy that the debate begins, against all the rules of both law courts and stage trials, with the defense, even before the plaintiff has lodged charges. Helen immediately asks to speak; Menelaus does not wish to hear her, but Hecuba insists that Helen be allowed to defend herself, so much does she want to be sure that her enemy is confuted, so confident is she that her case will prevail.29 At least for the original audience, however, this confidence would have carried a bitter irony, for they all surely knew that Helen would survive. Hecuba appears to have the upper hand, and this is the only scene of the play in which that is so, but spectators will have evaluated Menelaus’ promise of future punishment in the light of a familiar scene in Book Four of the Odyssey.30 There it is clear that he forgave his errant wife and settled back into his old life in Sparta with Helen at his side; we find them living together, if not in harmony, at least in mutual forbearance and a kind of brittle domesticity. We have no reason to think that Euripides expected his audience to change their minds about what happened to Helen, and there are hints in the scene that the announced decision will not stand.31

29. On Hecuba’s motivation, see also the note on 1047. 30. See in particular Odyssey 4.120–305. 31. These hints, however, should not be given undue weight. K. Lee, in his edition of the play (London, 1976), blunts the force of the contradiction between the formal outcome of the debate and the known myth by tacitly changing the outcome to fit the demands of the myth. ‘‘At the beginning [Menelaus] simulates severity, but gradually his real feelings become evident and by the end of the episode we are certain that his condemnation of Helen is only verbal’’ (219–20). When Menelaus will not speak Helen’s name, he ‘‘is so concerned to give the impression’’ that he is done with her that he ‘‘descends to the childish’’ (221). Menelaus ‘‘protests too much’’ and ‘‘continues to pretend indifference’’ (243), and so on in a similar vein. This rough and ready psychologizing, though at a certain level not unwarranted, misrepresents the far subtler and more intriguing way in which Euripides manages the scene as a demonstration of the power of eros on the one hand and the failure of self-knowledge on the other. At the opposite end of the spectrum, however, the vigorous

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The most obvious such suggestion comes at the end. Menelaus has heard both sides and reiterates that he will take Helen home for public stoning. When Hecuba warns him not to let her sail home on his ship, he replies with what we might least expect from this grim play—a joke: ‘‘Why not? Has she gained weight? Is she too heavy now?’’ (1225 / 1050).32 So far is he from understanding her point, or so loath to admit that he has understood it! Helen’s erotic nature is central to the debate itself in other ways. The crux of Helen’s argument is that it is not she, but rather Aphrodite, the goddess of love, who bears responsibility for her desertion of Menelaus and escape with Paris. Hecuba’s reply ‘‘rationalizes’’ Helen’s claim in a way that may well seem convincing to modern sensibilities: Aphrodite ‘‘is just the name we give to lust run wild’’ (1148 / 989). At the end of the debate, Menelaus echoes this sentiment by saying that Helen ‘‘invokes Aphrodite / As a smoke screen’’ (1211–12 / 1038–39). And yet, the power of Aphrodite inhabits this scene in so many ways. The element of ‘‘spectacle’’ that we mentioned with regard to her costume earlier and that no doubt infuses every aspect of Helen’s appearance—movements, gestures, vocal inflections—comes into its own in this scene, for it becomes the embodiment of a power that we know will reduce the proud general who stoutly resists it here to an ignominious capitulation. And indeed, we see the danger signs already, particularly through Hecuba’s eyes. It is not, of course, that Hecuba is simply wrong about Helen and has no good arguments to make, and it is certainly not that Helen’s claims are to be taken at face value. But Hecuba’s attempts at ‘‘demythologizing’’ Helen’ story are fraught with a fundamental difficulty. The ‘‘beauty contest’’ on Mount Ida, for example, which Hecuba treats as an

argument of M. Lloyd, The Agon in Euripides (Oxford, 1992), 99–112, to show that Euripides leaves the outcome of the debate deliberately uncertain also fails to account for the full effect of the episode. For Lloyd, the debate is about the Trojan War and is thus ‘‘too important to be tied down to the comparatively trivial question of whether Helen will be punished’’ (112). Lloyd takes Menelaus’ protestations at face value and argues that the elements of the scene often taken to undercut his resolve—principally Hecuba’s warnings—are not sufficient to establish that he will not punish her. But on one level, at least, the debate is precisely about whether Helen will be punished, and the audience’s complicit awareness that she will not is absolutely crucial to its dramatic effect. 32. Justina Gregory, ‘‘Comic Elements in Euripides,’’ Illinois Classical Studies 24–25 (1999–2000): 69–72, argues vigorously against taking this line as a joke, but in my view she misunderstands the nature of the exchange. To go no further, it need not be, as she claims, a ‘‘fat joke’’ of a kind for which we have no evidence from ancient Greece. (After all, Helen is standing there in all her overwhelming beauty.) The joke is not really about Helen; it is about Menelaus, who misses Hecuba’s point entirely. Whether he does so intentionally, i.e., brushes her concern aside with the silly suggestion that his boat might become seriously overloaded if he took Helen aboard, or whether he simply reveals his utter incomprehension, his remark is amusing, and disturbingly so.

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irrational absurdity, is part and parcel of the mythological foundation upon which the entire play is based, from Poseidon’s recollection of building Troy’s walls together with Apollo, in the first lines of the prologue, to the gods’ disastrous loves for mortal Trojans, evoked in the stasimon that immediately precedes this episode. The most famous case of this sort in Euripides occurs at Heracles 1340–46, where the hero, newly recovered from an attack of madness in which he killed his wife and children, calls all the traditional tales of divine amours and other excesses ‘‘wretched lies of poets.’’ He thereby summarily denies his own descent from Zeus, although the play itself has been at pains to prove his doubts about his divine parentage mistaken. Such Euripidean provocations as these are part of a complex and grimly playful confrontation with the question of what the old tales really say about the place of humans in a mysterious and often hostile cosmos. The deities that Hecuba, strictly for the sake of refuting Helen, imagines as behaving rationally, in ways that humans can readily understand and approve, do not make sense in the larger context of the play but only as one gambit in a complex and unending search for meaning in the most extreme circumstances. In the episode we are examining, Euripides engages the complicity of his audience in an ironic, even deconstructive ‘‘reading’’ of the action as it unfolds before them. As the scene progresses in a kind of bitter deadpan to the apparent condemnation of Helen, the spectators’ awareness of its incongruity with what they know permits them, with a minimum of hints and pointing, to construct a very different scene, one that enacts the undoing of what they are witnessing. Euripides has designed this scene, in short, as a sort of self-consuming artifact (to borrow Stanley Fish’s term from a different context).33 It is a daring and quintessentially Euripidean technique that acknowledges both the overwhelming power and the moral inscrutability of the gods, or the irrational, or whatever we choose to call the forces that shape our fortunes. Menelaus is weak, but Euripides seems less interested in exposing his weakness than in illustrating the power of eros. The distinction is important. Critics stirred by Hecuba’s passionate rhetoric have tended to accept at face value the assertion of human responsibility over divine responsibility, Hecuba’s insistence that Aphrodite is just another name for lust, just an excuse for bad behavior. Such a conclusion seems far too simple, however, once we recognize how Euripides

33. Stanley E. Fish, Self-Consuming Artifacts: The Experience of Seventeenth-Century Literature (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1972).

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uses his spectators’ knowledge of Helen’s later life to engage them in thought. We confront the certainty of what Hecuba at this point can only fear—that Helen will escape punishment, that the Trojan women will get nothing, not even revenge.34 If there is a just Zeus, his justice eludes Hecuba’s calculus, and our own. Perhaps, as she insists, it is unjust that the gods should destroy a whole people over something so frivolous as a beauty contest; but what we are made to understand here about the insidious workings of beauty can hardly be called a demonstration that such a thing did not or could not happen. At any rate, the argument that Helen’s lust alone caused Troy’s downfall is paradoxically undermined by the power that eros exerts in this very scene. The demonstration of that power is all the more devastating for being so sly. The Helen scene is cast as a rhetorical struggle, the only episode of Trojan Women that is conducted entirely in trimeter dialogue; there is no place in it for music of any kind. In the final movement of the play, however, centered as it is on rites of mourning and farewell, musical intensification of emotion is an essential ingredient. All that remains for the women of Troy to do is bury Astyanax and leave their city forever; the agitated rhythms of the lyrics combine with a series of powerful gestures to express the desperate urgency of their grief. Talthybius and his men return, bringing the dead child for burial, a small, shattered body laid out on the great shield of Hector, seen earlier among the spoils on Andromache’s cart. Talthybius tells Hecuba with some tenderness that Andromache has already made a hasty, tearful departure, but only after she had obtained from her new master Neoptolemus permission to have her child buried with his father’s shield for a coffin. The Greek herald entrusts Astyanax to his grandmother for funeral rites, adding that he has spared her the task of washing the child’s body and cleansing his wounds by performing the task himself. The detail is telling: this is a duty normally entrusted to the nearest female relatives of the deceased, and Andromache, as he himself tells us, had asked for Hecuba to have charge of the preparations for burial. Talthybius’ voluntary assistance comes as the culminating token of his increasing engagement with the sufferings of the women who have survived Troy’s fall. Trojan Women has only two male characters: the weak and officious Menelaus, who appears in a single episode, bested, one might say, by both Helen and Hecuba; and this Greek herald, decent in a world of depravity and grief. Euripides has transformed the typically anonym34. Compare the close of the following stasimon, where the Chorus pray that Menelaus not return home to Sparta ‘‘now that he’s got back / The shame of Greece’’ (i.e., Helen, 1315–16 / 1114). The prayer in vain, as we know, and there is no further thought of any punishment for Helen.

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ous figure of the herald into a man of some sensitivity, whose role is not merely to bring the commands of his leaders to the enslaved women of Troy, but also to show us that even a Greek can see the horror those commands entail. We get some measure of the man from his first appearance, when he alludes to Polyxena’s death with a series of almost delicate euphemisms: ‘‘She serves Achilles’ tomb,’’ ‘‘happy, free of trouble,’’ ‘‘following her fate. Her cares are over’’ (291–97 / 264–71).35 When he next returns, he expresses openly his anguish, even shame at the news he bears for Andromache from the beginning: Wife of Hector, once the bravest man In Troy, don’t hate me for what I’ve come to tell you. Against my will, I must announce the common Will of the Greeks. (814–17 / 709–11)

There follows a hesitation that requires eight more lines of fraught exchange with Andromache before Talthybius can bring himself to announce that Astyanax is to be killed; as he himself says, ‘‘there’s no easy way to tell the bad news’’ (824 / 717). At the end of the episode, having witnessed Andromache’s horrified and despairing response to this new loss and given her the best advice he can, he leaves with the child, ruefully remarking that the man who does his job ‘‘ought to be all ruthlessness, / Someone with a heart more shameless than mine’’ (904–5 / 787–89). By the end of the play, as we have seen, Talthybius offers Hecuba and her companions the only help he can. He is of course still a Greek; he has a realistic grasp of what has happened and why, and he is understandably eager to begin the trip home. For all that, Euripides has gone out of his way to emphasize Talthybius’ humanity in a world seemingly bereft of that quality, and in a way that makes the inhumanity of the Greeks’ treatment of Troy’s survivors all the more repugnant.36 35. To gauge the tone of these double entendres, cf. Euripides’ Hecuba 989, where Hecuba asks for and receives a similar (though far less equivocal) assurance that her son Polydorus is alive and well from Polymestor, the very man who killed him. The spectators know that this response is both deceitful and self-interested. Here, Talthybius avoids an out-and-out lie (Hecuba speaks of his ‘‘riddling words’’ when she hears the truth from Andromache), and his motive can only be understood as some combination of sympathy and shame. 36. Commentators sometimes offer surprisingly harsh assessments of Talthybius’ character. K. Lee, in the introduction to his edition (xxiv–xxv), while allowing that Talthybius has been ‘‘drawn with great skill,’’ thinks the main feature of his character is ‘‘self-importance and pride in the grandeur of Hellas; he can scarcely think of anything else.’’ Despite his sympathy for the women’s lot, he has ‘‘no understanding of the tragedy which he witnesses’’ and is ‘‘without a will of his own.’’ It is hard to see how such a view of this character can be justified. For a more balanced assessment, see K. Gilmartin, ‘‘Talthybius in the Trojan Women,’’ American Journal of Philology 91 (1970): 213–22.

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After Talthybius’ departure, Hecuba first delivers what is in effect a funeral oration over her grandson, a brilliant substitute for a conventional messenger speech describing the boy’s death.37 Her address to the young Astyanax’s broken body, evoking once more what might have been, recalling his loving words and gestures, is almost unbearable in its intimacy. The funeral rites conclude with a kommos in which Hecuba receives from her attendants such robes and ornaments as they have been able to find, and she adorns the child laid out upon his father’s shield, continuing to address him in spoken iambics while the Chorus members sing their anguished lament and beat their heads in mourning. The improvised ceremony completed, Hecuba bids the attendants carry Astyanax away for burial. Talthybius returns to announce that Troy is being put to the torch and that the women must move to the ships. After one last, desolate apostrophe to Troy and to the gods she knows are not listening, Hecuba breaks at last and tries to die with her city by rushing into the flames. Talthybius stops her and puts her into the hands of his men, who are to take her to her new master, Odysseus. It is a moment of great poignancy, but not Hecuba’s last. She does not go meekly, but leads the Chorus in a final kommos, a lyric lament of staggering intensity. With it, the play comes to a close; as Francis Dunn points out, this is the only play of Euripides to end in a lyric meter, and there is no ‘‘moral,’’ no generalizing comment of any kind.38 Once we have reached this pitch of disaster, what remains to be said? Hecuba falls to the ground one last time to beat the earth with her fists, and the Chorus members follow suit in an extraordinary gesture of farewell to—and solidarity with—their beloved dead, but above all in a call to witness. Then, as they hear the wall of Troy collapse, Hecuba rises one last time, orders her trembling limbs to carry her into slavery, and leads the Trojan women slowly but without stumbling toward the ship. There could be no more fitting final vision of Hecuba, against all odds the embodiment of human fortitude in the midst of despair.

Peter Burian

37. See also the note on 1366–1422. 38. Dunn (above, n. 17), 102. In other extant tragedies of Euripides, the Chorus chant the closing lines in marching anapests (trochaic tetrameters in Ion).

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ON THE TRANSLATION

Down three games to zero in the 2004 American League Championship best-of-seven series, the Boston Red Sox beat the New York Yankees four straight times to win the Pennant. The Red Sox became the first team in any sport to win a series after losing the first three games. When asked how they overcame that deficit, Terry Francona, the Boston manager, said they tried to narrow their focus from winning the series, or even winning each game, to winning each inning, each at bat, each pitch. By breaking down the series into games, the games into innings, and the innings into at bats and pitches, the BoSox established small, achievable goals. As a result, he said, they were never overwhelmed by the enormity of the challenge they faced. Francona’s strategy aptly describes how I went about translating The Trojan Women. First of all, I had to forget who it was I was translating. I had to forget that Euripides is one of the greatest poet / playwrights who ever lived, and that of all the surviving tragedies, The Trojan Women is perhaps the purest, and most heart-wrenching expression of the tragic spirit—undeserved and unredemptive suffering. I also had to forget that by and large tragic language is, in John Herrington’s words, ‘‘a distinct and easily recognizable composite genre-dialect . . . a dialect which was never spoken outside the theatre but was mostly as remote from the language of the streets as the tragic masks and costumes were from the dress of the streets.’’ I narrowed my focus to each sentence, each line, each word. Of course, my situation differed from the situation facing the Red Sox in that from the outset I knew I was going to lose. What I attempted to do, what I hoped to do, was to lose in an interesting and responsible way, in a way that honored my opponent by dramatizing my own intimate understanding of his unique achievement. I took to heart Cervantes’ complaint that reading a translation is ‘‘like looking at

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the Flanders Tapestries from behind: you can see the basic shapes, but they are so filled with threads that you cannot fathom their original luster.’’ In this translation, I try to fathom, if not to preserve, the original luster of The Trojan Women. Relying on Shirley Barlow’s prose translation, I cast the spoken passages in blank verse, and the choral and monodic odes in a variety of two- to four-beat accentual lines. I use blank verse because of its flexibility, its capaciousness, and its potential to modulate subtly between formal and informal levels of speech. Blank verse can heighten into lyricism of intense emotion or accommodate and dramatize the rhetorical flourishes of argumentation. It can feel thoughtfully, and think feelingly. To avoid monotony, I vary degrees of stress among accented and unaccented syllables, I substitute anapestic and trochaic feet for iambs here and there, and I play the phrases off against the lines while making sure the line cuts into the sentence at relatively stable places, so that the line itself never ceases to be heard, even while the volume of it as a measure, as and a pattern of sound, is constantly changing. The shorter accentual lines of the odes reflect the intensification of feeling, as do the denser imagery and the forward lilt of the sentences, mimicking both the accelerating sense of doom and the struggle to preserve a sense of dignity in the face of catastrophic loss and suffering. My poetry, of course, is not as rich or intricate as Euripides’. There is simply no way to bring his complex music over into English. The amalgamation of lyric meters in The Trojan Women, each with its own particular conventions and tonal associations, is impossible to replicate. All I hoped to do is to find some metrical and stylistic analogies for untranslatable effects. What I offer here is an intimate, creative reading of one poetry by another, a reading that I hope reveals and honors the emotional and verbal richness of the primary text. The most that any translator can hope for is to fail in ways that send the reader back to the original with a freshened sense of how unbeatably wonderful it is.

Alan Shapiro

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Translated by

alan shapiro With Introduction and Notes by

peter burian

CHARACTERS

poseidon god of the sea athena warrior goddess hecuba Queen of Troy, now enslaved chorus of captive Trojan women talthybius herald of the Greek army cassandra daughter of Hecuba and King Priam andromache widow of Hector, mother of Astyanax menelaus Greek general, husband of Helen helen Spartan daughter of Zeus and Leda, wife of Menelaus, then of Paris Mute roles: astyanax son of Hector and Andromache servants and armed attendants

Line numbers in the right-hand margin of the text refer to the English translation only, and the Notes beginning at page 235 are keyed to these lines. The bracketed line numbers in the running heads refer to the Greek text.

The scene is an open space outside the wall of the captured city of Troy. The stage building represents the walls of the city, and against the walls are perhaps three huts or tents that house the captured women who are the sole survivors of the defeated city. queen hecuba, now a slave, with hair shorn and dressed in rags, is helped by other captive women, similarly attired, from the central hut to the center of the stage, where she collapses. After a brief pause, poseidon enters, either atop the walls of the city or from a side entrance.

poseidon I am Poseidon. I come from the deep brine Of the Aegean where the Nereids dance In circling choruses on faultless feet. Ever since the day that Phoebus Apollo And I with straight rule set down the enclosing Towers and stone walls in this Trojan land, My heart has loved these Phrygians and their city. But now the city smolders, toppled, sacked By Argive spears. Pallas Athena willed What Epeius devised, the man from Phocis Where Parnassus looms—a brood mare big with weapons To send inside the city walls, heavy With death, which men of later times will call The Wooden Horse whose belly hid the spears. The sacred groves are now deserted, and blood Oozes from the temples of the gods. Priam lies cut down by the steps that rise To the altar of Zeus, protector of the hearth. Pile on pile of gold and Trojan plunder Is being dragged away to the Greek ships. And now, after ten long years, the Greeks who crushed This city are only waiting for the right wind, A favoring wind to bring them home at last To the great joy of holding wives and children In their arms, of seeing those longed-for faces. Hera, the Argive goddess, and Athena Joined forces to destroy the Trojans and 183

10

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[25–50]

Defeat me, too, so I’m deserting Troy, Leaving this famous city and my altars here. For when desolation seizes a town, Religion falters, the gods receive no honor. Cry echoes cry down Scamander’s stream, The cry of women suddenly enslaved, Soon to be divvied up to masters: some To the Arcadians, some to the Thessalians, And others to the sons of Theseus, The royalty of Athens. Here in this tent The still-unchosen Trojan women wait, The ones the generals have set aside Just for themselves, and among them is one Rightly treated as a captive slave, The daughter of Tyndareus, Helen of Sparta.

30

40

(poseidon points to the fallen figure at the center of the stage.) But there is Hecuba, if anyone cares to see her, Unhappy woman face down before the door, Weeping her many tears for many reasons. Her daughter Polyxena was killed at Achilles’ tomb, Mercilessly, though she doesn’t know it yet. Priam, her husband, is dead. Her sons are dead. Her one remaining child, Cassandra, maddened By Apollo’s touch and made untouchable, Will soon be forced to sleep in Agamemnon’s Unholy bed. Taking her, he spurns Lord Apollo’s will and all piety. O city that flourished once within your towers, Your high stone walls, farewell. If Zeus’ daughter, Pallas Athena, hadn’t destroyed you, you Would still be standing firm on firm foundations.

50

athena enters and joins poseidon. athena May I put aside the bad blood between us And speak now to my father’s close relation, Whose awesome power is honored among the gods? 184

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[51–74]

poseidon Of course. The ties of blood, Lady Athena, Irresistibly charm the mind and heart. athena I thank you for your kindness. I want to raise A subject that concerns us both, my lord. poseidon Has a new directive been sent out From Zeus, or one of the other gods? athena No, it’s for Troy’s sake, where we are standing now, That I would win your power to my side. poseidon But has your hatred given way to pity Now that fire has burned the city down to ash?

70

athena Let’s keep to the subject. Will you advise me, Help me accomplish what I want to do? poseidon Of course I will. But tell me what it is You want, and on whose behalf—the Greeks or Trojans? athena I want to help the Trojans whom I’ve hated And hurt the Greek troops as they journey home. poseidon Why does your mind blow with the winds of chance Too much this way or that, in love or hate? athena You’ve heard how they insulted me, my temples? poseidon Yes—when Ajax dragged Cassandra off by force. athena And the Greeks said nothing, did nothing, they just looked on. poseidon And yet you gave them the strength to conquer Troy. athena That’s why, with your help, I would make them suffer. poseidon I’ll gladly help. But what do you want to do? 185

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[75–102]

athena Make their homecoming a coming home to pain. poseidon Right here on land, or on the open sea? athena At sea, while they are sailing home from Troy. Zeus will unleash an avalanche of rain And pummeling hail and gale storms black as night. He’s promised to let me hurl his thunderbolt Against the Greeks, to blast their ships to nothing, But as for you, your task is the Aegean sea, To roil it up with towering waves and whirlpools Till Euboea’s deep bay churns with corpses, So that from now on Greeks will learn to revere My awesome power, and honor all the gods. poseidon Consider it done. What you’ve asked me to do Needs only doing, not long speeches. I’ll rouse The Aegean waters until the shores of Mykonos, The jagged reefs of Delos, Skyros, Lemnos, And the promontories of Caphereus Are clogged with countless bodies. Go to Olympus, And when you aim your father’s thunderbolts, Watch for the moment when the Greeks set sail. The man who sacks cities, who desecrates temples And graves, the holy places of the dead, That man’s a fool. For all his pillaging, Sooner or later, his own destruction comes.

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poseidon and athena leave the stage; after another momentary pause, hecuba raises her head and begins to sing. hecuba You wretch, lift up your head, Lift it up off the ground. Look up: The Troy before you is no longer Troy, The queen of Troy is queen no longer. This is the changing fortune You must bear. Bear it. Sail With the hard current of the strait, Sail with destiny,

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Don’t steer your life’s prow back Into the heaving waves; Sail as you do, and have, and will On the winds of chance. AIAI. AIAI. What’s not to mourn for in my misery— My homeland gone, my children gone, My husband? And you, too, Ancestral glory, all that opulence, You added up to what? To nothing. So why be silent now? And yet, why not be silent? Why sing A dirge? What good can it do? Unlucky as I am, my limbs So beaten down that they can only Lie here on this hard bed crushed beneath The crushing weight of destiny. From head, from temple Down to ribs, oh how my body Longs to rock on waves of grief, the spineKeel tilting side to side, In rhythm to this long lament, These tears, the only music Left for the wretched, singing the song Of troubles no one dances to. And you, you prows of ships with quickened oars That skimmed the blue waves to holy Troy, Out past the beautiful, Calm harbors of Greece, and while the war Song of your hateful flutes was sounding, And the melodious pipes Were playing hatefully, you dropped Your anchors with Egyptian cable Off the Trojan shore, hunting The hateful wife of Menelaus, Her brother Castor’s blight, the shame Of the Eurotas, she who killed Priam, Father of fifty sons, Who made me, wretched Hecuba,

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[103–36]

120

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TROJAN WOMEN

[137–67]

Founder against the reef she is. Look where I’ve come to, where I sit, Here by the tents of Agamemnon. Look how bereft of home I am, a slave, an old woman slave, My head shaved to the very bone. Troy burns, swallowed up in flame: You pitiable wives of bronzeSpeared Trojan warriors— You daughters wed to ruin, come, Let us keen for Troy, and like A mother bird for her fallen chicks, I’ll cry The loudest, though my song is not the song I led once, honoring The gods, my footsteps beating out The frank praise of the dance while Priam, Smiling, leaned on his scepter.

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Half of the chorus enters from a hut at one side of the stage. half-chorus 1 Hecuba, why the shrill cries you cry? Where will your outburst take us? Even from Inside the tent I heard you keening. Your pitiful wail sent fear cutting through us, Right through the hearts of Trojan women Mourning indoors their day of bondage.

Strophe

hecuba The oarsmen of the Greeks are stirring; See how they’re moving to the ships. half-chorus 1 Is this their will? Has the time come To tear me from my ancestral home? hecuba I don’t know. I only guess our ruin. half-chorus 1 (turning to call their companions still inside) Ah, you unlucky Trojans, come out And hear the harsh toils You’ll soon be caught in. The Greeks Are getting ready to go home. 188

180

TROJAN WOMEN

[168–96]

hecuba Ah, wait, don’t let Cassandra out, Crazed and delirious, for the Argives To mock, as if the pain I feel Weren’t sharp enough already. Ah Troy, unlucky, unhappy Troy, Your time is over now, and those Who leave you are unhappy too, The living and the dead alike.

190

The second half of the chorus enters from a hut at the other side of the stage. half-chorus 2 Trembling in an icy sweat, I’ve rushed? Antistrophe From Agamemnon’s tents to hear you, My queen. The Argives, have they decided To kill me, wretched creature that I am? Or are the sailors poised to seize The oars and set the ships in motion?

200

hecuba My child, I awoke at dawn, my spirit Wracked with panic, terrified. half-chorus 2 Has the Greek herald come already? Whose wretched chattel am I to be? hecuba We’ll learn that any moment now. half-chorus 2 Who’ll take me—Argive or Phthian? Will I, poor wretch, be going to Some island far away from Troy? hecuba O god, O god, whose slave shall I be? Where in this wide world shall I live My life out, doing drudgework, Stooped, mechanical, a less-thanFeeble token of the dead? Shall I be a guard, stationed at Their doors? A nursemaid to their children? I who was once the queen of Troy? 189

210

TROJAN WOMEN

chorus AIAI, our ruined lives, this brutal outrage— What dirges you could sing! Never again to lead the whirling shuttle Over and back across Our Trojan looms. Never again To see our parents’ home. I see it for the last time now And know that I have even Greater suffering in store— Dragged to some Greek’s bed (Oh, I dread that night, that fated dark) Or bent under the weight Of water I’ll be forced to draw At Peirene’s sacred fountain. If the choice were mine, I’d choose The land of Theseus, So blessed and famous, but not, no, Never for a moment, The swirling river of Eurotas, Detested home of Helen, Where I’d have to lower my eyes To Menelaus, Scourge of Troy. Word, too, has reached me Of Peneus’ hallowed ground, Glittering navel stone of Mount Olympus, dense with fruits And riches, and where I would go If I couldn’t go To Theseus’ holy land. I’ve also heard the land Of Etna, stronghold of Hephaestus, Across the sea from Carthage, is Renowned for the garlands it has won. And I’ve heard there’s another Country, near the Ionian Sea, That the shining river Crathis Nurtures with water so blessed it dyes The hair of those who bathe Red gold, and makes the men Of that place strong and happy. 190

[197–229]

220

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TROJAN WOMEN

[230–51]

talthybius enters from the side, accompanied by armed soldiers. Look over there—here comes a herald From the Greek army. What news is he bringing in such haste? What’s left to say? We already know we’re slaves to Greece.

260

talthybius Hecuba, I can call you by your name Because I’ve come so often as a herald From the Greek camp. I’m Talthybius. Surely you know me from the times before. I’ve come again with news for all of you. hecuba AIAI! It’s come at last, dear friends, what we have feared. talthybius If what you’ve feared is your assigned lots, yes. hecuba Is it Thebes, dear god, or some Thessalian city? talthybius You’ve each been given to a separate master.

270

hecuba Who is given to whom? And who among us now, Which Trojan woman, will find happiness? talthybius I know, I’ll tell you, but you have to ask The questions one by one, not all at once. hecuba My daughter, my poor girl Cassandra, tell me, then— Who’s taken her? Who’s she been given to? talthybius King Agamemnon picked her for his prize. hecuba A queen’s child—to be a slave to that Spartan queen! Gods! How could my misery get any worse? talthybius No, no, not a slave, but a mistress, a bedmate. 191

280

TROJAN WOMEN

[252–77]

hecuba Cassandra, Apollo’s virgin, she to whom the goldHaired god has given the gift of never marrying? talthybius Desire for the god-seized girl cut deep. hecuba My child, my child, hurl down your holy laurel branches, And strip your body of the sacred wreaths you wear. talthybius Yes, she’ll attain a king’s bed. What could be better? hecuba And what of the child you took from me, my little girl? Where is my youngest? What have you done with her? talthybius Do you mean Polyxena, or someone else? hecuba Yes, Polyxena. Her fate has bound her to whom?

290

talthybius She serves Achilles’ tomb—that’s the decree. hecuba She? Guarding a tomb? Ah! A child I bore! What’s this, my friend? Some law established long ago? Something decreed by custom among the Greeks? talthybius Think of your daughter as happy, free of trouble. hecuba What do you mean, she’s ‘‘happy’’? Is she still alive? talthybius She’s following her fate. Her cares are over. hecuba And the wife of Hector, fierce in arms, Andromache, That poor girl, what befalls her now? With whom? talthybius Achilles’ son has picked her for his prize. hecuba And what of my fate? Whom will I serve, with my gnarled Hand on the stick I cannot walk without? talthybius Odysseus, Lord of Ithaca. You’ll be his slave.

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300

TROJAN WOMEN

[278–302]

hecuba AIAI. Not this! Tear the shorn head, Rip cheeks with nails, Wail, scream, My luck is to serve The foulest man Alive, back stabber, Justice hater, Hell-born snake Whose slick tongue Twists everything To nothing, twists Love to hate, And hate to love. Weep for me, Trojan women, Weep for this wretched Fate. I am gone. The worst of all Possible lots is mine.

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chorus leader Your fate is known, my lady. But what of mine, Who’ll be my master? What Achaean, what Greek? talthybius You servants, quick, go inside and get Cassandra, So I can turn her over to the commander, Then divvy up the other women prisoners To the officers who drew their names. (The attendants stop short, and talthybius points at the central hut.) What now? Some torch flame bursting from inside the tent? The Trojan women, frantic, soon to be torn From home—have they set their rooms on fire? Or have they set fire to themselves, burning Themselves to death, the way free spirits do

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330

TROJAN WOMEN

[308–24]

Who find bad luck like this unbearable? Open those doors—right now—right away. I fear That what they want to do will rile the Greeks, And I’ll get blamed. hecuba

There is no fire. No one Is burning anything. It’s just my daughter, Cassandra, delirious, running out to us.

340

cassandra enters, dancing out of the central hut with a flaming torch in each hand and singing a lyric monody. cassandra See how I lift the torch, How I wave it, whirl with it— How my reverence for this sacred Precinct flares— O Lord Hymenaeus! Hymen, how blessed the bridegroom, How blessed the bride, Blessed by a royal wedding, soon, At Argos— O Hymen, Lord

Strophe

350

Hymenaeus! And mother, While you weep, keening, Day and night for my dead father And our beloved Country, It falls to me to set The torch fires blazing At my own wedding, to make them blaze In a wheel Of radiance That lights the way for you, Hymenaeus, And you, Hecate, as is the custom

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360

TROJAN WOMEN

[324–45]

For a young girl’s Marriage. Step high and lead the dance— Euhan! Euhoi!— Just as we did before in glad times When my father Lived.

Antistrophe

370

The dance is sacred. You lead The dance, Apollo, You lead it as I, crowned with bay leaves, Offer sacrifice In your temple. Hymen, O Hymenaeus! And you, mother, You, too, lead the dance, join in it Joyously, And turning

380

As I turn, now here, now there, Sing out The wedding song, yes, celebrate The bride With blessed chants And clapping hands. Come, Trojan daughters, In all your finery, sing for the husband Fate has chosen I lie down beside. chorus leader My queen, can’t you calm her delirium Before she dances off lightly to the Greek camp? hecuba O Hephaestus, holder of the wedding torch, The torch you hold here burns with misery, The opposite of all I ever hoped for.

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390

TROJAN WOMEN

[346–73]

I never dreamed, my child, that you’d be married At spear point, forced into marriage by Greek arms. Hand me the torch. Child, hand it to me now, In your mad rush you’re carrying it wrong, It isn’t straight. (gently taking one torch from cassandra) These new trials haven’t shocked you Into sanity but left you as you were. Women of Troy, come take away the torches, And let’s replace her wedding songs with tears.

400

(Women take both torches, and cassandra resumes in spoken verse.) cassandra Mother, enwreathe my head; crown it with triumph. Rejoice! I’m marrying a king. Escort me, And if you think I’m dragging my feet, push me, Force me forward, for if Loxias Is still Loxias, the great Greek leader, Agamemnon, marrying me, will make A marriage more disastrous than Helen’s. 410 Our wedding night will be a night of death And devastation for his house; I’ll kill him, I’ll Avenge my father and my brothers’ blood. But let all that go! Enough! Why should I Sing about the blade that’s soon to slash My throat, and the throat of others, or how my marriage Will set the plot in motion to butcher a mother And bring down the house of Atreus? I may be mad, God-seized, but I will stand outside my madness Enough to show you how much luckier 420 Our city’s lot is than the Greeks’. Consider: For just one woman’s sake, one fit of passion, The Greeks tracked Helen down and slaughtered thousands. Consider, too, how clever he was, the general Who slaughtered what he loved for what he hated, Sacrificing the sweetness of his child At home to his brother, for one woman’s sake, A woman who wasn’t taken off by force

196

TROJAN WOMEN

[373–400]

But went freely. And when the Greeks came at last To the Scamander, all along its banks They were cut down, one after another, Though no one had been menacing their homeland, Raiding their borders, scaling their high-walled cities. And those the War God caught never again Got to see their children, nor had their bodies wrapped In winding sheets by their wives’ hands. They all lie buried in a foreign land While at home it goes no better, for their wives Die widows, and their parents childless, The old who raised their children up for what? So there would be nobody to tend their tombs With offerings of blood? (This is the praise Their army’s earned. Silence better suits Such shamefulness. I’d never want my muse To be a singer of nothing but disaster.) Now think about the Trojans. Consider how They have by far the greater glory: they died Defending their homeland. And those the spear cut down Were carried home by loved ones who by right Prepared the corpses for burial and buried them In their ancestral earth’s embrace. And those Who fought and lived found comfort day by day At day’s end with their wives and children, pleasures The Greeks no longer knew. And even Hector, You think his fate so terrible and cruel? Listen, the truth is, though he’s dead and gone, He wouldn’t be the Hector that he is To all the world now if the Greeks had stayed home. If they had not invaded, who would have known Or seen how brave he was? And Paris too— Whom would he have married? Not Zeus’ daughter, But some nameless wife! All sane men think

197

430

440

450

460

TROJAN WOMEN

[400–431]

A war of choice is madness for a city, But when war’s forced upon you, to die a hero Wreathes your city’s reputation in glory, While to die a coward smears the city with shame. There is no need, then, mother, to shed tears For our country or my marriage. By marrying, I’ll kill the very ones I hate the most. chorus leader You’re giddy at your own calamities, Brightly singing what your song keeps dark. talthybius If Apollo hadn’t made you crazy, We’d punish you for hurling at our leaders Such evil omens as they leave your country. But those called high and mighty are in the end The same as anyone. For the great Greek king, Beloved son of Atreus, has yoked Himself to a passion for this lunatic, While I, poor man that I am, would never leave My sandals by her bed. Mad woman, I scatter Your Greek rants and Trojan praises to the winds. Follow me to the ships, a perfect bedmate For our wise leader. And you, Hecuba, you, too, Go willingly when Laertes’ son arrives. For everyone who comes to Ilium says She’s a good woman, his wife whose slave you’ll be. cassandra This servant is too clever for his own good. Why do we flatter them with the name of ‘‘herald’’ When the whole world hates them, knows they’re nothing but Factotums, lackeys, lapdogs of tyrants and states? You say my mother will go to Odysseus’ palace. And yet Apollo in his own words told me She’ll die right here at home. I won’t say more. Why should I reproach her with the rest? Odysseus, though, the fool, he thinks his trials Are over. But what’s in store for him will make

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490

TROJAN WOMEN

[432–56]

My suffering and the suffering of Troy Seem like a paradise by comparison. After ten years here, he won’t come home For ten more years—he’ll have to face the whirling Terror of Charybdis in the narrow strait, And the moody mountain-dwelling Cyclops Who rips flesh raw from the bone, and Circe, The Ligurian witch, who turns men into pigs, And he’ll be shipwrecked, too, in the heaving sea, And feel desire for the lotus, and hear the bloody Flesh of the sacred Oxen of the Sun Sizzle an unholy, sickening sound. He’ll go into the underworld alive And after troubles on the sea, he’ll find His home infested with even more troubles. But what’s the point of hurling prophecies About Odysseus’ sorrows? It’s time To marry my bridegroom in the house of death. Dishonorable man, they’ll bury you Dishonorably by night, in darkness, you, Illustrious commander of the Greeks Who brag of having brought Troy to its knees. And me they’ll slash and dump in some ravine Where runoff from the rain will wash my corpse Out by the grave of my beloved bridegroom, And there I’ll lie, naked, for wild beasts to feed on, Me, the faithful servant of Apollo.

500

510

520

(cassandra removes her priestly headbands.) Farewell, you fillets of the god I loved So well, you emblems of awe. I’ve left for good The festivals in which I so rejoiced. O lord of prophecy, see how they go, Ripped from my body, my still untainted body, How I scatter them to the winds for you, O lord. Where’s the king’s ship? Where do I get on board? We can’t too quickly find a wind to fill

199

530

TROJAN WOMEN

[456–83]

The sails, and when you take me from this land You’ll take with you a Fury, one of three. Mother, goodbye. Don’t cry. O my beloved Country, and my brothers in the world below— Soon you and our father will welcome me among you When I’ve brought down the ruinous house of Atreus And sink triumphant to the sunken dead. cassandra is taken away by talthybius, and hecuba falls to the ground grief-stricken.

chorus leader Caretakers of our aged Hecuba, Can’t you see your mistress sprawled on the ground, Not saying anything, not even groaning? How can you let someone so old, so venerable, Just lie there? Lift her, you wretches, lift her up. hecuba No, women, leave me lying where I’ve fallen. An unwanted kindness is no kindness at all. Is it any wonder I should faint From all I suffer and have suffered, and For all the suffering still to come? O gods! You useless allies in a time of need, And yet we’re helpless not to call on them Whenever trouble strikes. (rises slowly) But let me sing Of happier times one final time, so that My old good luck intensifies your pity For my bad luck now. I was a queen once, I married royalty, and I had royal sons, Supreme among all the Phrygians, sons such as No Trojan or Greek or any other foreign Mother could ever brag of having. And I, I had to watch them, son by son, brought down By the Greek spear, and for every one of them I cut my hair in mourning at their tombs. I wept for their father, Priam, not from hearing That he was butchered at the household altar— 200

540

550

560

TROJAN WOMEN

[484–514]

I saw with my own eyes. I saw firsthand The city overrun and torched. I saw The hands of strangers take my daughters, Daughters I reared for husbands we would choose, But I raised them only to be stolen from me, Daughters, the daughters I’ll never see again, Who’ll never see their mother. I am no mother, But a slave, an old woman slave at that, And—miserable capstone to all my misery— Soon to be brought to Greece, where I’ll be yoked To work no woman my age should have to do. What will I be, a servant at the door? Keeper of the keys? I, the mother of Hector? What will I do? Bake bread, then lay my bent Back on the ground, far from the soft sheets Of my royal bed, my raw flesh dressed in rags, I who once wore luxurious robes? O god, How miserable I am. Look at the misery I’ve suffered and will go on suffering, And why? Because of what? One woman’s marriage? Cassandra, my daughter, you breathed your inspiration From the gods, but now on what humiliating Bed will you have lost your purity? And you, poor Polyxena, where are you? So many children, and not a single one, Not one of them, is left to ease my pain. Yet you would help me to my feet? For what? What’s left to hope for? Guide my shackled steps That glided once so easily through Troy. Lead me to the straw mat on the ground, The pillow of heaped stones where I’ll lie down And cry myself into oblivion. Never mind how rich a man may be, Don’t call him lucky till he’s dead and gone. chorus Sing, Muse, sing of Ilium; Sing full of tears a death song In a new key, 201

570

580

590

Strophe 600

TROJAN WOMEN

[515–47]

In a strange key, for I will sing An ode for Troy, about my own destruction, How I was made a wretched slave By the four-wheeled horse The Argives left there at the gate, By the hidden thunder of spears inside it, Fine harness of gold Lightning all along its cheeks. Our people on the Trojan rock, Rejoicing, shouted, ‘‘Our troubles are over. Go bring the idol Inside the walls to honor our Trojan goddess, Zeus’ daughter, go get it now!’’ And who among us, what young girl Or old man didn’t run From their houses to sing and dance Around the horse in their Enchantment At their own death in disguise. And all the Trojan people, Antistrophe All of us, swelled to the gates, To bring the gleaming Treachery of mountain pinewood To the goddess, a gift of Troy’s destruction For the virgin goddess of the deathless horses. And the crowd parted Before the looming hull of that ship, The country’s death ship, Tugged by bright ropes To the stone floor of Athena’s temple. And when at last night’s blackness Fell over their jubilant work, The Libyan flute Played Trojan melodies While girls lifted their feet In joyous dance, and joyously Raised their voices in song. 202

610

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630

TROJAN WOMEN

[548–78]

And later, at home, The blaze of flickering torch-fires Cast a gleam Through the darkness of happy sleep. And I, too, sang in the palace, sang Epode And danced in honor of Artemis, The mountain-dwelling daughter of Zeus. Then suddenly everywhere throughout the city The same bloodSoaked cry as children cowered behind their mothers, Trembling, clutching Their mother’s dresses, their only shield, As War came stalking from his hiding place. The handiwork of Pallas—Trojans Butchered at the altars, husbands Beheaded on the desolate beds From which the wives were taken To bear sons for Greece, Troy’s last humiliating pain.

640

650

andromache enters with her son astyanax on a cart piled high with Trojan spoils. Hecuba, look over there, do you see her— Andromache on an enemy cart, Astyanax, Hector’s loved boy, held To her panting breast? Poor woman, Where are they taking you, Jarred in the wagon by the bronze gear Of Hector and the spear-caught Trojan Spoils that Achilles’ son will hang In Phthia’s temples, far from Troy? andromache The Greeks, our masters, are taking me away. hecuba OIMOI. andromache You cry my cry . . . 203

660

TROJAN WOMEN

[579–93]

hecuba AIAI . . . andromache . . . for these afflictions . . . hecuba O Zeus! andromache . . . for this hard fate. hecuba O, my children . . . andromache . . . once—but now no more.

670

hecuba Our Troy, our power, lost, all lost . . . andromache Miserably! hecuba . . . and all my high-born children . . . andromache God, O God . . . hecuba . . . and all my . . . andromache . . . sorrows. hecuba Pity our city’s . . . andromache . . . destiny . . . hecuba . . . now sunk in smoke. andromache Come back, my husband . . . hecuba My son’s a shade, my child, It’s to a shade you cry . . . andromache . . . protect me. Scourge of the Greeks . . . hecuba Firstborn of Priam’s sons— Who once were mine. 204

680

TROJAN WOMEN

[594–613]

andromache I want to die, I can’t control this longing . . . hecuba This is our fate, sad one, this anguish . . . andromache . . . for my lost city . . . hecuba Pain crushes pain. andromache . . . because the gods hate us, Your son eluded death and in a cursed bed Brought down Troy’s towers. And now The mangled blood-soaked bodies lie Sprawled at the feet of Pallas Athena For the vultures to carry, piece by piece, away. Your son—Paris, alone—yoked Troy to slavery.

690

hecuba O my homeland, my unhappy homeland . . . andromache I weep for you, abandoned. hecuba . . . you see your bitter end come round at last. andromache And I weep, too, for the house Where I bore my children. hecuba Children, your mother has no city, No children either. What misery, what sorrow! Our house now just a wealth of tears. At least a dead man is immune to grief. chorus leader Only tears can soothe the afflicted, tears And dirges sung to the melodies of grief. andromache Mother of the man whose spear cut down So many Greeks—look at me—do you see this? hecuba I see the work of gods who build up towers Out of nothing, and sweep away like nothing Towers we think no one could ever topple. 205

700

TROJAN WOMEN

andromache My child and I are spoils now being taken Away, mere loot, nobility in the great turning Of the wheel become the slaves of others.

[614–38]

710

hecuba Necessity’s a terrifying force. Just now, Cassandra was taken from me, ripped from my arms. andromache A second Ajax for a second time, It seems, is threatening your daughter. And yet More suffering lies in wait for you. hecuba I know, there’s no end to my suffering. Evil elbows evil all around me. andromache Polyxena’s dead—killed on Achilles’ grave, A final gift to him, a corpse to a corpse. hecuba Ah! That pain cuts deeper. So that’s what he meant, Talthybius. His riddling words have all come clear.

720

andromache I was there. I saw her myself. I climbed down from the cart And covered her body with robes and wailed and beat my breast. hecuba My child, O my poor child, to be sacrificed So brutally, your throat slit at a dead man’s tomb! andromache What was, was. She’s dead. But being dead She’s better off than I am, still alive. hecuba No, child, you’re wrong. They’re not the same. Life means hope, death is nothing at all. andromache Mother, listen, let me reason with you A little, at least enough to ease your mind. To me, there is no difference between death And never being born, and death is better By far than living a life flooded with pain, Since death ends every suffering. But a man

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730

TROJAN WOMEN

[639–72]

Who falls from good luck into bad luck suffers Doubly: from the fall and from remembering The good luck that he’s lost. Polyxena’s dead. But it’s as if she never lived at all For all she knows of what she once went through. 740 I set my sights high for the highest honor, But, having hit the target, I fell short Of the happiness I thought I’d won by working Hard in Hector’s house, doing whatever Custom says a woman ought to do. Whether or not all women should be blamed For this, I pushed away that scandalous desire To be out and about. I kept inside and made sure My house stayed clear of the gossip that passes for cleverness Among women. My mind was my only teacher, 750 And content to follow its lead, I held my tongue, Deferring to my husband when he spoke, Turning to him with a tranquil countenance. And I knew where and when to have my way, When I should yield. And yet the reputation I worked so hard to earn was the very means Of my destruction, for my good name reached The Greek camp, and Achilles’ son, no less, Chose me as his wife when I was captured. Now I’ll be a slave in the house of killers of my kin. 760 So tell me, what do I do? If I erase The memory of my beloved Hector And give my heart to my new husband, I’ll Betray the dead. But if I don’t submit, He’ll hate me; I’ll be hated by my master. I know it’s said one night in a man’s bed Is enough to turn a woman’s hate to love. But I despise the woman who casts away Old love and loves again so easily. Even a young mare taken from her stable770 Mate will buck and whinny when you yoke her, And yet a horse is just an animal, A dumb, unreasoning beast, so far below Us on the scale of nature.

207

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[673–700]

But you, my Hector, My beloved Hector, you were everything I ever wanted in a husband—strong In intellect, unsurpassed in wealth, rank, courage. My first and only love, you took me, still A virgin, from my father’s house. And now You’re dead, and I am being taken far Away to Greece, a prisoner in a ship’s hold, Just a slave. Can’t you see, Hecuba, That Polyxena’s death, which makes you weep, Doesn’t compare with what I have to suffer? Even slim hope, last refuge of all others, Is denied me. No, I can’t fool myself— However pleasant it would be to do so— That I’ll ever be happy in this world again. chorus leader You suffer what I suffer. Telling your troubles, You teach me to know my own, how deep they are. hecuba I’ve never in my life set foot on a ship, But I’ve seen paintings, and heard people talk, So I know that when the wind is soft and steady The sailors are all eager to embark, One ready at the helm, one at the sails, And one to scoop the seeping bilge; but when The sea heaves its rough weight across the deck, They scurry from their posts and the ship goes Where the waves toss it. So it is with me: Troubles swell on gathering trouble so fast, So deep, I can’t describe them. I can’t speak, Words fail me in the onrush of the waves The gods keep sending. But child, my child, what good Can mourning Hector do him now? Your tears Won’t bring him back. Bow down to your new master. By your behavior, lure him into love. This way, you’ll help us all, you’ll please us all,

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[701–21]

You’ll see my grandson safely into manhood, And maybe his descendants will come home To Troy and bring the city back to life.

810

But now what? Do you see him coming toward us, The Greek lackey? To announce some new Twist, yet another loathsome new directive? talthybius enters with armed attendants. talthybius Wife of Hector, once the bravest man In Troy, don’t hate me for what I’ve come to tell you. Against my will, I must announce the common Will of the Greeks and of Pelops’ noble grandsons. I’d rather tell you anything but this. andromache What does ‘‘this’’ mean? You’re hinting at something hateful. talthybius It’s been decided that your son—ah, how can I say this? andromache Surely you’re not—you can’t mean we’ll have different masters? talthybius No Greek will ever own him. No, I don’t mean that. andromache Will he be left here? Last of the Trojan race? talthybius No—but there’s no easy way to tell the bad news. andromache Thanks for your courtesy—unless the news is awful. talthybius They’re going to kill your boy. That’s the sorry truth. Now you know. andromache You can’t . . . this isn’t . . . it’s too cruel to be believed. talthybius Odysseus’ proposal won in the Greek assembly . . .

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[721–53]

andromache AIAI, no one could bear this, grief beyond grief. talthybius . . . not to let a hero’s son survive.

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andromache May his own son win treatment just as kind. talthybius He said your boy’s to be flung from the Trojan walls. But don’t resist, it will be wiser not to. Let your son go now, don’t cling to him, don’t fight this— Grieve nobly, befitting your nobility, And don’t pretend you’re strong. You have no power, And no one’s rushing to defend you. Look Where you are, what you have come to—your city Ruined, your husband dead. You’re beaten down. We’re capable of doing whatever we want with you, Just one woman. Don’t struggle anymore, Don’t provoke us, or make things worse for you By cursing us, for if you make us angry, The army might decide to show this son Of yours no mercy, leaving his corpse unburied. Hush now, shoulder your troubles as you should; You will not leave your dead child without his rite Of burial, and the Greeks will be less cruel. andromache O my sweet child, too loved, too doted on, Now you will be killed by enemies, leaving Your mother bereft. What ought to have been your haven, Your father’s high birth, only brings you death, His courage your undoing. When I came To Hector’s house, I never thought those vows, That marriage bed, would lead to misery. I thought I had given birth to a king over all Of fertile Asia’s wealth. I never thought I bore you to be slaughtered by the Greeks. Is that why you cry, too, child? Do you see What’s soon to happen, what they’re about to do? Why hold tight to me, clinging to my dress Like a young bird burrowing for safety Under my wings? No one can save you; Hector Can’t rise from his grave, his famous spear in hand, 210

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[754–81]

Nor any of his kin, nor any strong-armed Soldier from the Trojan ranks. No one will come To stop them or even pity you when they hurl you From that great height, and your thin neck shatters, Snuffing your life out. O my little one, So precious to your mother, O the unbearable Sweet scent of your skin! So it was all for nothing That I suckled you at this breast and swaddled you And fussed and worried, wearing myself out. Now kiss your mother one last time, come hug her Who gave you life, one final time your arms Around my neck, your lips on mine. O Greeks, Not even a barbarian could invent Atrocities like this—why kill this child, What has he done to you? Whom has he ever harmed? Helen, daughter of Tyndareus’ house, Zeus was never your father—I’ll tell you who Your many fathers were: Vengeance, Envy, Murder, Death, and all the Pestilence The earth can breed! Zeus never gave you birth, You plague both to barbarians and Greeks. Die! Die, you whose shining eyes Brought such dark and ugly dying to The famous plains of Troy. But go on, take him, Carry him off, hurl him to his destruction, Or even eat his flesh, if that’s your will. The gods are surely murdering a mother Who cannot save her child from death. So throw Some rag around my wretched body and hurl me Into the ship’s hold. My own child’s blood Is paving the road I take to this new marriage. talthybius takes the child from the cart, which leaves the stage carrying andromache away. chorus leader Unhappy Troy, no one could count the thousands Upon thousands of your children who’ve been slaughtered For the sake of one woman and her evil marriage! 211

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[782–814]

talthybius Let’s go, child, come along now: held no longer 900 Within your heartsick mother’s loving arms, You must go to the highest rampart of the ancient wall Where it’s been ordered you will meet your end. (to the guards) Take him. The man who bears an order cruel As this ought to be all ruthlessness, Someone with a heart more shameless than mine. As it is, my heart just isn’t hard enough. talthybius exits in the direction of the Greek camp. The guards carry astyanax away in the opposite direction. hecuba O child, child of my own sad child, your life Is being ripped from us, your mother and I. What now? What next? What can I do to help you From this harsh fate? I can beat my head and breast, That much I can do, I have that much power. O child, O city—what’s left to suffer? How much further Can we fall into complete destruction? chorus Telamon, King of Salamis, Strophe 1 Rich haunt of bees, the wave-loud island you settled, Island that faces the steep slope sacred to Athena From which she brought forth The first branch of the gray-green olive, Crown and bright splendor to shining Athens, Telamon, you boldly came with Alcmena’s son, The archer, to raze Troy, This city that was ours Only a little while ago. Cheated of the horses he had won, Antistrophe 1 Heracles led out of Greece the flower of its might, Sea oars easing where the Simois flows; and after making fast The ships’ stern-cables he brought forth His faultless bow, brought death to Laomedon

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[814–39]

As the fiery red gale roared up and over the chiseled Stonework of Apollo, sweeping through Troy. Twice in two pummeling storms, The red spear leveled Dardanians All around the walls.

Useless son Strophe 2 Of Laomedon, Glorious servant boy, You prance Among the golden wine jugs, Filling the cups of Zeus, Looking or not Looking down Upon your native city As it burns to nothing, While like a mother bird Crying for its chicks, The beach cries Everywhere Along its length, Crying out For husbands here, And there for children, For palsied mothers, too, The beach cries, and it is All gone, your dew-bright Bathing places, The tracks you ran on, Gone, and yet beside The luminous throne Of Zeus your face Is no less charming In its freshness, Utterly serene. The Greek spear has effaced the land of Priam. And Love,

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[840–66]

Once so at home In the great halls of Dardanus, Love deep rooted In the sky-born minds, How high, how Lofty you built Up Troy once, Marrying her to the gods! But what good does it do now, Blaming Zeus for that? Dawn, friend to mortals, Rising on white wings Of light, looked on As the land burned, As Pergamum was razed, Though she herself Married a man from here, This country, the father Of her children came From this country, a man who Then was lifted In the four-horse Golden chariot to the stars Where we believed His shining meant Eternal promise For our homeland. But the gods Who loved Troy once love Troy no longer.

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menelaus enters with armed attendants. menelaus How gloriously bright the sun is shining On this longed-for day when I finally get to lay My two hands on that woman, my wife. And yet I came to Troy, not as most people think, For her alone, or her primarily, But to exact revenge against the man— A guest I honored in my very home—

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[866–94]

Who then betrayed me, stealing my wife away. Well, he’s gotten his just deserts, I can tell you that; Thanks to the gods, the Greek spear was the last thing He and his homeland felt before they fell. But now that’s over with, and here I am For her, the Spartan (I can’t even bring myself To say her name, though I was married to her once). She’s just another Trojan woman, a prisoner Among prisoners, a slave, and those who fought On my behalf have given her back to me To kill or bring home alive to Argos, If that’s what I want to do. I have decided Not to bother myself with Helen’s death Here, but to sail back to Greece with her And kill her there in punishment for all The friends who fell beside me on the plains of Troy. (to the guards) Men, go inside and get her, bring her out, Drag her by the hair so many died for. When the wind is right, we’ll take her home to Greece. hecuba O you who somehow cup the whole earth Yet have your seat upon it, you boundless mystery Called Zeus, whether you are the fixed law of Nature Or man’s Mind—whoever you are, I invoke you; For walking your own way in silence you guide the tangled Affairs of men toward the path of Justice.

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menelaus A strange way to pray to the gods, if it’s even a prayer. hecuba You’re right to want to kill your wife, Menelaus. But whatever you do, don’t look at her, don’t Look at her eyes: they ambush with desire, They snare the eyes of men, and as for her, She’s hell for cities, burning hell for homes. Her power will trick you into helplessness. You and I, we’ve suffered from her charm, The way so many others have. We know.

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[895–920]

helen is led on stage by menelaus’ men. She is not dressed in mourning like the other women, but is elegantly dressed and with hair unshorn, and she resists her guards with gestures of haughty disdain. helen Menelaus, how could you treat me like this Just when we’re reunited? How could you let Your flunkies put their filthy hands on me And drag me here? You must really hate me. Yet all the same, I want to ask you something: Have the Greeks decided if I’ll live or die?

1040

menelaus No, not precisely. But the army did Turn you over to me, expecting I Would kill you, since I am the one you betrayed. helen May I respond to that? May I try to show you That it would be unjust if you did kill me? menelaus I came here to see you die, not to hear you speak. hecuba Let her speak, Menelaus. She shouldn’t die Without a hearing. But let me be the one To cross-examine her. I know better than you How she has made Troy suffer. A free Debate will kill her. She’ll have no escape.

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menelaus This will take time. But if she wants to talk, She may do so. Make no mistake, though, I’m granting her this opportunity Because of you, for your sake, not for hers. helen You hate me so much that maybe you won’t listen To anything I say, no matter how well I say it. Nevertheless, I know exactly what You would accuse me of, if you did speak, And I have arguments to make in my defense. First, Paris was the cause of all our trouble. This woman here gave birth to Paris, so she’s

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[920–49]

The mother of the cause of all our trouble. Secondly, her husband, the old king, Led to Troy’s downfall and mine by letting him live, The infant, Alexander, as he was called then, The murderous firebrand Hecuba dreamed of. Think about what happened after that. Paris judged a contest of three goddesses: Pallas Athena offered him glory in battle, Leading the Trojan army to victory over Greece. Hera promised he’d rule over Asia, And all of Europe, if the contest went her way. And struck with wonder at my incomparable Appearance, Aphrodite promised me To him if he would say she far surpassed The other goddesses in beauty. Consider What followed from that: Aphrodite won. I married Paris, and Greece reaped the benefit. No barbarians have taken you in thrall, Either through warfare or the tyrant’s lash, And yet what’s given Greece such great good luck Has only meant bad luck for me. Once brokered For my beauty, I’m hated by the very ones Who ought to crown my head in gratitude. I know you’ll say I haven’t yet addressed The major charge against me: my alleged elopement. I did escape in secret from your house. I admit that. But listen, when Paris, or Alexander, Or Hecuba’s vengeful bane, whatever you want To call him, when he came here, Aphrodite, No meager goddess, was right there by his side. And this was the man you left me alone with, you fool, In your own house when you sailed off to Crete. But I must ask myself, not you, about What happened next. What was I thinking when I followed him, that stranger, from my home, Betraying home and country? Blame the goddess For this, not me—go punish her if you think You’re mightier than Zeus, who lords it over

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All the other gods but is himself A slave to her. No, I should be forgiven. Oh, I can just see what you’re thinking now, The empty argument you’ll bring against me: Once Paris was dead and buried, and the godMade marriage was dissolved, why didn’t I leave His house and return to the Argive ships? In fact, I did. I kept trying to leave— The tower guards will tell you, for they saw me, And the watchmen from the walls, they saw me, too, And often caught me as I tried to let Myself down from the battlements by rope. How then, dear husband, would it be just to kill me? Paris took me by force, I was more slave Than bride. What have I won but slavery? This was all the gods’ fault. Your desire To overrule them is dangerously stupid. chorus My queen, protect your children and your homeland From the insidious bewitchment of her words— It’s terrible how well the guilty one can speak. hecuba First, I’ll defend the goddesses against This woman’s libelous attack. Would Hera Or the virgin goddess Pallas Athena ever Be so incredibly foolish as to either Sell out Argos to the barbarians Or let Athenians become the slaves of Troy? I don’t believe it for a second. I don’t Believe the goddesses would come to Ida For games, much less for a silly Miss Olympus Competition. Why would Hera even Be concerned with being beautiful? So she can snare a husband better than Zeus? Is Athena now on the lookout for a spouse, Despite her having asked her father once To let her stay a virgin, because she hated marriage? Don’t gloss over your own bad actions By making the gods out to be fools. You won’t

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[982–1010]

Persuade anyone with any common sense. You claim that Aphrodite accompanied My son to Menelaus’ house, which is Such a laughable idea, since she’s A god and could have stayed right where she was In heaven and still transported you and all Of Amyclae as well to Troy, if she desired. Let’s face it: my son was the handsomest of men. You saw him, and instantly your mind itself Turned into Aphrodite, who after all Is just the name we give to lust run wild. It’s no coincidence that ‘‘witless’’ rhymes With Cypris. Yes, you saw my son dressed up In Asian splendor, his gold all glittering, And you fell hard for him; he made you crazy. He made you chafe against your austere life In Argos, and dream of getting free of Sparta So the flash flood of your opulent appetites Could level the rich city of Troy. Menelaus’ palace Was too small; it cramped your riotous desires. Well then: you say that my son dragged you off By force. If that is so, what Spartan woman Saw you? Did you cry out? Your young twin brothers, Castor and Pollux, weren’t they still at home, Not yet ascended to the stars? Why didn’t they help you? And don’t forget how you behaved in Troy. When the Greeks tracked you down, and the bloody war Had started, your heart turned with the tide of battle: When the Greeks got the upper hand, you’d taunt My son by praising Menelaus, saying What a glorious warrior he was, What a superior lover, but when the Trojans Did well, it was as if you didn’t know Who Menelaus was. In other words, You had no loyalty to anyone, But followed fortune, drifting where it went. You claim that you attempted to escape, That you would secretly shinny down

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[1011–37]

The walls by rope, and that we kept you here Against your will. So why did no one ever Find you with a noose around your neck, Or sharpening a sword that you could fall on, The kind of deed a noble woman heartsick For her absent husband would have surely done? The fact is time and time again I told you, ‘‘Leave us, my daughter, there are other girls My sons can marry. I’ll help you sneak away, I’ll take you secretly to the Achaean ships. Please end this war between the Greeks and Trojans.’’ You spurned me, spurned my advice. Your need For adoration overran the palace, We—to your eyes all barbarians—couldn’t Bow down enough before you. That’s all you wanted. And after all of this you have the nerve, You monster, you brazen witch, to come out here Tricked out in all your finery, to breathe The same air your husband breathes. It would have been More fitting had you appeared in filthy rags, Your head shaved, trembling, humbled by fear. Given your many crimes, you should be drowned In shame, not basking in arrogance. Menelaus, I’m finished speaking. You’ve heard my argument. Now crown your country’s honor with a deed Worthy of your own, and kill this woman. You’ll make her an example to all other wives: That anyone who betrays her husband dies.

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chorus Menelaus, do what the honor of your house And all your ancestors demands, and give Your wife the justice she deserves. You’ll scour From Greece the stain of what she’s done And thus earn even your enemy’s respect. menelaus I’m completely on your side in this debate. This woman freely exchanged my home for a stranger’s, 220

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[1038–62]

My bed for his. She invokes Aphrodite As a smoke screen. (to helen) So go you, go find the people Who’ll kill you by stoning, who’ll see to it that you pay In one instant for all the Greeks’ long labors, Revenge at last for all the Greeks have suffered. Dying, you’ll learn not to shame and dishonor me. helen No! I’m on my knees. The gods sent these evils. I don’t deserve to die. Forgive me, please! hecuba Keep faith with all the comrades she has killed. I beg you for their sake, and for their children.

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menelaus Be quiet, Hecuba. I haven’t listened To a word she’s said. I’m ordering my men To take her to the ships for the journey home. hecuba But don’t let her sail on the same ship with you. menelaus Why not? Has she gained weight? Is she too heavy now? hecuba When a lover falls hard, he falls for good. menelaus That depends on how the beloved behaves. Still, what you suggest makes sense, and I agree That she should travel on another ship. And when we get to Argos, she will die The wretched death a slut like her deserves. I’ll make her an example to all women To be faithful. No easy thing to do, I know, But her death will check their foolishness with fear, Even the ones more shameless than herself. menelaus departs, followed by his attendants, with helen in tow. chorus So, Zeus—so this was your desire? To betray us all to the Achaeans; 221

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[1062–88]

To betray your Trojan temple And its altar gauzed with incense And myrrh in sweet clouds Rising to the heavens; To betray sacred Pergamum And the ivy-darkened draws, The valleys of Mount Ida, Their rivers bright with snowmelt And the extravagant Sweep of sky to the far horizon Cut by the dawn’s first ray, This place so luminous and holy. Gone—all your sacrifices; gone— The joyful singing of your choirs In the dark-enveloped, Night-long festivals we made To celebrate our gods; Gone—the hammered gold Figures and the sacrificial Moon cakes, twelve in all. I have to wonder, Lord, What you had in mind As you looked down From your astral throne On the collapsing city, On the waves of flames that crashed against it. O my beloved husband, Unburied, untouched By lustral water, now You’ll wander, restless, While I’ll be taken from you Over seas in a swift ship Winged by oars to Argos, Where horses graze, To the sky-touched walls The Cyclopes built.

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[1089–111]

And the children crowd To the gates, they press Against the gates, And cling, and call out ‘‘Help me, mother, help me!’’ They call out, crying, ‘‘Don’t let The Greeks take me Away from you, All by myself To the ship’s black hull; Don’t let them Take me to Salamis With its holy temples, Or to the high peak Of the Isthmus Between two seas, Where Pelops set his palace gates.’’ May Zeus himself hurl down Aegean lightning bolts Against the ship that carries Menelaus over the sea; May the god-flung fire Split his ship in two, So that one row of oars Falls burning from the other. May they all suffer For sending me in tears From Troy, far from my homeland, To slave my life away In Greece while that one, Zeus’ daughter, holds In her hand the golden Mirror girls love to gaze into. May Menelaus never reach His home in Sparta, never Warm himself again At his ancestral hearth;

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[1112–39]

May he never reach The precincts of Pitane, The bronze gate of Athena’s temple, Now that he’s got back The shame of Greece, Whose outrageous marriage Brought devastation Here to the shores of Simois. talthybius returns, with men carrying the body of astyanax laid on Hector’s shield. chorus Oh no! A new disaster in the wake Of wave after Wave of new disaster. Sad women of Troy, Here is the murdered body Of Astyanax, hurled Like a discus from the walls. talthybius Hecuba, only one ship remains. The oars Are poised above the salt spray, ready to take back To Phthia what’s left of the spoils of Achilles’ son. Neoptolemus himself has set sail already. He heard bad news concerning Peleus: Acastus, Pelias’ son, has banished him. That’s why Neoptolemus vanished in such a hurry And took Andromache with him. It made me weep To hear her crying as she left, to hear her Grieving out loud for her homeland, saying Goodbye one final time to Hector’s tomb, And begging Neoptolemus to bury Astyanax’s body, your own son’s son Flung to his cruel death from the city walls. She pleaded with Neoptolemus not to take This shield—the bronze-backed shield that terrified The Greeks when Hector wore it across his body As Troy’s defender—to Peleus’ house, into the very Bedroom where she’d become Neoptolemus’ bride. 224

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[1140–66]

She begged him to leave it here, for the child’s Burial, not in a cedar coffin and a tomb, Hewn of stone, but on the shield itself. She begged him to give the child into your care, Give him to you, so you could swaddle him In winding sheets and garlands, adorning him As best you can with what little you have left. You see, it’s up to you to do this now Because she’s gone, because her master’s haste Prevented her from burying the child herself. Now listen: when you’ve got the body ready, We’ll bury it and set sail. So do what you’ve been told To do as quickly as you can. I’ve spared You one chore, though. As we crossed over the waters Of the Scamander, I washed the little corpse And cleaned its wounds. And now I’ll even break The ground and dig his grave so that together You and I can get these last chores done And set the ship firm on the path for home.

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talthybius and part of his escort exit, leaving two soldiers still holding the shield with astyanax’s body laid out upon it. hecuba Set down Hector’s round shield on the ground. Oh, how I suffer at the hateful sight of it. You Greeks, your weaponry holds more strength than wisdom. Why kill this child? Why slaughter him in such A new and brutal way? What were you scared of? That he might one day make Troy rise again? If so, your vaunted strength amounts to nothing. For even when Hector was at his peak in battle, With thousands of comrades fighting by his side, We still fell, all of us, one by one, and now, Now that the city’s gone, and we’re all destroyed, You’re still afraid of him, this little child. I loathe this fear no reason penetrates. 225

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[1167–91]

(turning to the body of astyanax) And you, beloved child, how miserably you’ve died. If you had grown to manhood, and had married, And come into possession of a kingdom Godlike in power, and only then had died, Defending the city, we could have said you’d lived A happy life, that is, if happiness Resides in things like that. But no; however Much you may have been aware of what Your heritage would be, you never lived To know it, you never lived to make it yours. Instead, your father’s walls, the battlements Apollo built, have ripped the curls from your head, The curls your mother fussed over and kissed, The skull now broken, bright blood gushing out Like wicked laughter between the bones. I won’t Conceal or soften the brutality of this. Your hands so sweetly like your father’s Hang broken at the joints. Look at them. Look At the sweet lips that made great promises To me—promises they couldn’t keep, child— As you stood clinging to my dress and said, ‘‘Grandmother, I’ll cut you my thickest lock of hair When you die and bring my best friends to your tomb And say goodbye to you with all my heart.’’ But it is I who say goodbye to you, Who bury you, poor boy, and you so young And I so old, an old heartbroken woman, Without a child, without a city. O god, What were they for, all those embraces, all The daily, nightly coddling of you? They’ve come to nothing. What kind of epitaph Would any poet write upon your tomb: ‘‘The Greeks were terrified of this little boy, And so they killed him.’’ What a shameful indictment Of Greece that epitaph would be.

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[1191–213]

No, child, no, You haven’t won your father’s heritage, But you’ll possess, if only as a coffin, His bronze-backed shield. O shield, that Hector held, That guarded his thick arm, he cared for you So well and yet you lost him. And all that’s left Is the sweet indentation of his body On your sling, the sweat stain on your well-worked rim, The sweat, which in the heat of battle dripped From Hector’s face, his chin pressed hard against you.

1420

(turning to her attendants, who enter the central hut) Come now, time to adorn the wretched body, As much as we can, given our circumstances. Fate won’t permit us to do a lot for him. But what we have he’ll get. That man who feels Safe in his blessings and rejoices is A fool. The way of fortune is to leap About in all directions like a wild man, And no one controls his happiness for long. hecuba’s attendants bring a fine robe and other adornments for the child’s body. chorus Here are your women who bring from the Trojan spoils What little remains to adorn the body with. hecuba My child, I lay upon you what precious things We still have left from what had once been yours, Adorning you with them but not in joy, No, not for any victory you might Have won over your peers with horse or bow,

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Contests we honor to sate the need for strife. No, this is all that Helen left us, all She didn’t steal, god-hated as she is, Who robbed us blind and then destroyed your life And sent our whole house, all of it, down to ruin.

[1213–37]

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chorus Ah, how You break my heart, how you break My heart so deeply, you Who were once a great prince in my city. hecuba The dazzling splendor of these Phrygian robes That I lay upon you now should have adorned you At your marriage to some great Asian princess. O dearest shield of Hector, you who were Supreme in victory, mother of conquests Too many to count, cradle this little crown I place upon you, you no more alive than he is, No more alive yet deathless in your way, More honorable by far than any weapon Of Odysseus, that cunning liar.

1450

chorus AIAI, AIAI. The earth has opened for you, child, Our unbearable grief. Cry out, dear mother . . . hecuba AIAI. chorus . . . a dirge for the dead. hecuba O god! chorus O god, for the sufferings that will not be forgotten! hecuba I can cover your wounds with bandages, A doctor come too late, his skills now useless. Your father will care for you among the dead. chorus Beat your head, your face, Beat it over and over The way the oar stroke beats the water. 228

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[1238–61]

hecuba Dear women . . .

1470

chorus Hecuba, cry out whatever is in your mind. hecuba So in the end the gods did nothing for us. Anguish and more anguish is all they ever brought, And above all hatred for my city. And all Our sacrifices counted for nothing. And yet If god’s fist hadn’t battered us to nothing, What fame would we have had? We would have lived Unsung, unknown in song by those to come. Go bury the corpse now in its paltry tomb. It has what flowers it needs. And anyway What difference can a flowery display Make to the one who’s dead? Adornments like these Are only the cheap solace of the living.

1480

Attendants carry off the child’s body. chorus IO, IO. Saddest of all mothers, All your fine hopes Have been mangled and torn Apart inside you. High birth, Vast wealth—child, you Nonetheless Died miserably.

1490

But look now, up there! Men on Ilium’s high walls, Swinging torches whose flames Gather and swell in bright waves, Like burning water. This can only mean More misery for Troy. talthybius returns with an escort. talthybius I call out to the captains who’ve been ordered To set fire to Priam’s city—don’t let the flame 229

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[1262–90]

Rest easy in your hand but hurl the fire now, And as soon as Ilium’s citadel crumbles and falls, We’ll gladly, at last, sail home from Troy. And you, You daughters of the Trojans, I want my single order To do the work of two, so when the captains Sound the echoing trumpet blare, start moving To the ships that wait to take you from this land. And you go, too, saddest of all old women. Odysseus has sent these men for you, whose lot Drives you from your homeland to be his slave. hecuba Ah, how miserable I am! This, this Is the final destination of all my suffering, Where all of it was heading all along. I’m leaving my country; my city’s sunk in flame. Come, old feet, hobble as best you can, So one last time I can salute the city In all its misery. O Troy, whose greatness Roared like a wind across all Asian lands, Your very name is being disappeared, The last thing stolen. They’re burning you to nothing. And we are dragged away, already slaves. O gods! O gods! Yet why invoke them now? When did they ever listen to my cries? Let’s run into the pyre. Better to die Here burning in my homeland as it burns.

1510

1520

hecuba staggers toward the walls, but is stopped by Odysseus’s men. talthybius Poor woman, your mind has broken under the weight Of all your pain. Men, lead her off, no shirking! Bring her to Odysseus, her owner. hecuba OTOTOTOI. Strophe 1 Zeus, son of Cronus, lord of Phrygia, Founding father, do you see what’s happening, How we suffer, the disgrace To the Dardanian line? 230

1530

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[1291–311]

chorus He has seen, he sees, and yet The great city Is a city no more. There is no Troy. hecuba OTOTOTOI. Ilium blazes. Flames break in waves Over the houses of Pergamum, Against the citadel, along The summit of the walls.

Antistrophe 1

1540

chorus Our homeland fallen to the spear Is dwindling, as smoke Thins to nothing on a wing of wind, hecuba O land where all my children flourished.

Strophe 2

chorus Alas! hecuba O children Hear me, hear Your mother’s cry. chorus You’re crying to the dead, Singing the saddest dirge.

1550

hecuba falls to the ground. hecuba My old body sinks to the ground And I beat the earth with both hands. chorus I follow you and kneel To earth, calling My poor husband In the world beneath. hecuba We’re led away, dragged . . . chorus Pain cries through you, only pain. hecuba . . . . to a slave’s house. 231

1560

TROJAN WOMEN

[1311–26]

chorus . . . and far from my country, too. hecuba O Priam, Priam, unburied, Lonely in death, You can’t know How they’re destroying me. chorus Black Death, Death holy Amid unholy butchery Has closed his eyes. hecuba O temples of the gods, beloved city . . . chorus Alas!

Antistrophe 2 1570

hecuba . . . the murdering flame And the spear’s strength Own you now. chorus You’ll fall to the cherished earth, Straight into namelessness. hecuba And black wings of ash And smoke now open wide To hide the city from my sight. chorus The very name of the land Will be lost soon. All we’ve known is vanishing, Troy is no longer Troy. hecuba Did you hear that, Did you feel it? chorus Yes, the towers crashing. hecuba The earth split open . . . chorus . . . to swallow up the city.

232

1580

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[1327–32]

hecuba rises one last time. hecuba IO, IO. Time to go, you trembling Unsteady limbs, go forward now Into the day of slavery. chorus Grieve for the saddest of all cities. But as you grieve Keep moving to the Achaean ships. All exit in the direction of the ships.

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NOTES

Note on the scene The arrangement proposed in this translation is hypothetical. It is possible that all the entrances of the Trojan women were made from the central door of the scene building, but far less likely that they entered from the side entrances—with the exception of Andromache, who comes on in a cart from the direction of the city, and presumably Helen, who is clearly accorded special treatment and presumably also enters from the same side, since the other side will be used for movements to and from the Greek camp. In our reconstruction, tents (cf. 196 / 176) are visible on either side of the stage, from which the women of the Chorus emerge in two groups. The central door is reserved for Trojan royals, and from it emerge only Hecuba, before the beginning of the prologue, and Cassandra. Greeks enter from the camp by one of the side entrances; the other is used for the entrances of Andromache and Helen, the departure of Astyanax, and the return of his corpse. 1–171 / 1–152 Prologue The prologue (construed according to the definition in Aristotle’s Poetics 52b19 as everything that comes before the entry of the Chorus) is formally typical for Euripides: a spoken monologue followed by dialogue, setting out the requisite background, followed by a lyric monody of one of the main characters. Within that frame, however, it is in many ways extraordinary. Two things deserve special notice: first, the gods who introduce the play go far beyond its background, and even its plot, by predicting more distant consequences of the action we are about to see. The divine retribution foretold for the Greeks who have sacked Troy extends the horizons of the drama in time and opens up the meaning of the action to a broader ‘‘gods’ eye’’ view of its meaning. Secondly, lines 43–45 / 36–38 reveal that their entrance has been preceded by the arrival and collapse of Hecuba, whose suffering is

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thus an immediate part of the audience’s experience of the divine dialogue. (For the staging of this scene, see the Introduction.) 1 / 1 I am Poseidon Elsewhere in the surviving plays of Euripides, speeches by gods also open Alcestis, Hippolytus, Ion, and Bacchae. In Alcestis, the opening monologue is also followed by dialogue with another divinity. 5–6 / 5 Phoebus Apollo / And I According to legend, the gods were obliged to hire themselves out to King Laomedon for a year, during which they did the building of Troy’s walls. (These are the walls destroyed by Heracles; see 924–30 / 809–16 with note on 924–25.) 9 / 10 Pallas Athena willed Literally, ‘‘by the designs of Pallas Athena,’’ who is depicted, in line with her portrayal by Homer, as the great friend of the Greeks and enemy of the Trojan cause. Poseidon, who is also presented in the Iliad as pro-Greek, here becomes a friend of Troy (see 7 / 6–7, 28–29 / 23–25), no doubt in part to give a more sympathetic tone to the account of the city’s fall, but also to make the agreement of the gods to spoil the Greek triumph an act agreed to both by friend and foe alike, and indeed a source of reconciliation between them (cf. 58–84 / 48–74). 15 / 15 The sacred groves are now deserted ‘‘Deserted’’ or ‘‘desolate’’ (Greek ereˆmos) is often repeated to describe the fate of Troy. See 30 / 26, 107 / 97 (with note), 653 / 564, and 697 / 603 (with note). 15–16 / 15–16 blood / Oozes from the temples of the gods The sacrilege attendant upon the Greeks’ sack of Troy is an emphatic theme of the prologue. Priam has been slain at the altar of Zeus (17–18 / 16–17); Cassandra, Apollo’s virgin, who has been dragged from Athena’s temple by force (80 / 70), will be made to serve as Agamemnon’s concubine (50–53 / 41–44); temples and graves have been desecrated (105–8 / 95–97). 18 / 17 Zeus, protector of the hearth Zeus in his aspect as protector of the family. Altars to Zeus Herkeios stood within the household enclosure, and suppliants could take refuge there. There is a particular irony here, because Priam, Troy’s patriarch, was murdered by Achilles’ son, Neoptolemus, at the very altar that should have provided safety. This version is attested in the Epic Cycle and finds detailed and memorable expression in Virgil’s Aeneid 2.526–58. Cf. Hecuba’s lament for her husband’s death at 562–64 / 481–83. 26 / 24 Hera the Argive goddess The epithet, appropriate to Hera’s role as partisan of the Greeks, comes from her most famous sanctuary, the Argive Heraion. The most obvious reason for the partisanship of Hera and Athena, not

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stated here, will be suggested by Helen’s account of their loss of the ‘‘beauty contest’’ to Aphrodite, 1069–78 / 924–33. 28 / 25 I’m deserting Troy Gods abandon cities that fall, just as they leave the presence of mortals when they die. For the former, cf. Euripides’ Hippolytus 1437–39, where Artemis departs to avoid witnessing the hero’s death; for the latter, cf. Aeschylus’ Seven Against Thebes 217–18: ‘‘It is said that the gods of a captured city desert it.’’ 36 / 31 the sons of Theseus This might refer to Demophon and Acamas, the sons of Athens’ legendary King Theseus; according to the Epic Cycle and later mythographers, they played a role in the battle for Troy. Alternatively, it could simply be a kenning for the Athenians. In any case, Euripides is making a point of the Athenian presence in this war that is all but nonexistent in the Iliad (merely a reference to an Athenian force under a certain Menestheus in the Catalogue of Ships, 2.546–54); and Athens will return as the Trojan women’s hoped-for place of captivity (231–33 / 207–8). 42 / 35 daughter of Tyndareus Helen is one of the many figures of legend to whom the Greeks attributed both a human and a divine (in her case, Zeus) father. The fact that a deity refers to her mortal father need not suggest skepticism about the tradition of Zeus’ paternity, but it may be considered part of the disapproval of Helen (‘‘rightly treated as a captive slave,’’ according to Poseidon) that runs throughout the play. At 880–81 / 766, on the other hand, Andromache will use the tradition of Tyndareus precisely to deny Zeus’ paternity. 48 / 41 Priam . . . is dead. Her sons are dead The word translated ‘‘dead’’ is phroudos, ‘‘gone,’’ ‘‘vanished.’’ The word recurs at 993 / 859, 1245 / 1071, 1334 / 1130, 1581 / 1323, in four of the instances emphatically at the beginning of a line. 80 / 70 Ajax dragged Cassandra off by force This is the ‘‘lesser’’ Ajax, son of Oileus, from Locri; see Glossary. 92 / 82 your task is the Aegean Sea Poseidon, as god of the sea, is the appropriate deity for this assignment, as his response makes clear. 94 / 83 with towering waves Literally, ‘‘with third waves’’ (triskumiais), which the Greeks thought were always the highest. 99–101 / 89–90 Mykonos, / . . . Delos, Skyros, Lemnos, / and the promontories of Caphereus the islands to be ‘‘clogged with countless bodies’’ cover a broad swath of the Aegean, suggesting the magnitude of the storm Poseidon

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will raise. The cliffs of Caphereus, on the coast of Euboea, is the site where Nauplios lit a huge fire to attract Greek ships to the treacherous rocks below, in revenge for the Greeks’ killing of his son Palamedes at Troy (cf. Euripides’ Helen 1126–310). This may well have been foretold in Euripides’ Palamedes (see the Introduction, p. 160). 107 / 97 for all his pillaging literally, ‘‘having given them [temples, etc.] over to desolation [ereˆmiai]’’; see note on 15. 109–71 / 98–150 Hecuba’s monody is a long, intense expression of grief, beginning (to judge from its meter) with recitative, then moving to full lyric mode at 122 / 141. Hecuba begins with her own sorrows; turns to song to address their cause, the Greek expedition against her city; and at 138 / 156 reverts to her own sorrows and those of the other women of Troy, who enter in response to her lament. 114–15 / 102 Sail / With the hard current of the strait This is first in a chain of nautical metaphors and images, in which imagined ships express abandonment to the power of fate and the rocking movement of the grieving body (134–35 / 115–16), and the real vessels of the Greek fleet evoke the arrival of Troy’s destroyers (141–49 / 122–30). The language of ships and the sea is at once a reminder of the disasters that Poseidon has just foretold for the Greeks, and a foreshadowing of the Trojan women’s voyage to their slave homes, thoughts of which will dominate the initial choral song, the parodos. 139–40 / 120–21 the song / Of troubles no one dances to The other leading figure of the monody is music. ‘‘Why sing / a dirge?’’ asks Hecuba (127–28 / 111), and this is her answer: the song of lament is all that is left to those bereft of everything they value. Music returns in the guise of the hateful war song (paian, a song of rejoicing sometimes used to celebrate victory, and thus hateful to Troy) that sounded as the Greeks approached Troy (144–47 / 126–27), and again as the cry that Hecuba will raise ‘‘like / a mother bird for her fallen chicks’’ (165–66 / 146–47), a cry that she contrasts to the songs she led in happier days to honor the gods (167–71 / 148–52). 148 / 128–29 Egyptian cable The text here is problematic but appears to carry the literal sense ‘‘the woven lesson of Egypt,’’ a compact though circuitous phrase for rope made of papyrus, an Egyptian invention. 172–256 / 153–229 Parodos The choral entrance song in this play takes the form of a kommos (dialogue between the Chorus, divided into two groups that enter successively, and Hecuba, 172–216 / 153–96) and a lyric ode sung and danced by the entire Chorus (217–56 / 197–229). The entrance of the

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first half-Chorus is motivated by Hecuba’s keening; the second is called out by the first. The kommos continues the lyric anapests of Hecuba’s monody, emphasizing the emotional connection between the women and their erstwhile queen. In subject, however, the parodos moves from lament for past loss to concern for what the future may hold, focusing emphatically on the women’s fate and specifically on the allotment of the women to their new masters, which will give shape to the central episodes of the play. 187–90 / 168–72 These lines anticipate Cassandra’s dramatic entrance and ‘‘mad scene’’ by showing Hecuba’s special concern for her daughter, possessed by Apollo’s prophetic madness as if by Dionysiac delirium. The word for her crazed state in the Greek text is ekbakkheuousan, ‘‘raving in Bacchic frenzy.’’ 225–56 / 205–29 In this passage, the Chorus attempts to envisage its new life in Greece. Although its first thought is of sufferings even greater than bidding farewell to all the Chorus has known and loved, the bulk of the passage is devoted to making distinctions about the places to which the Chorus hopes or fears it will be sent. Thus, geographical detail soon largely supplants its immediate emotions. Comments on this passage have largely explicated the choice the Chorus makes as a reflection of current Athenian opinion, especially because Athens is emphatically the women’s preferred destination and Sparta the most feared. In addition, Sicily, because of the impending Athenian expedition, must have been a hot topic in Athens when the play was produced. However this may be, it is important also to observe that the lively travelogue, as it were, shows us the women’s capacity to stay resilient and even hopeful in the midst of so much destruction and horror. For the various sites mentioned, see the Glossary. 232 / 209 The land of Theseus Athens, referred to by the name of its legendary king. The women’s preference for Athens gains emphasis by their immediate rejection of Athens’ great enemy, Sparta, associated of course with Helen. 249 / 223 Renowned for the garlands it has won The reference is apparently to the success of Sicilians, such as Hiero of Syracuse, who won victories in the Panhellenic games. Euripides uses language in these lines reminiscent of Pindar’s victory odes in celebration of such triumphs. 257–597 / 230–510 First episode The Greek herald Talthybius, who now arrives to tell Hecuba about the disposition of the captive women, only deepens Hecuba’s sufferings with the news that Cassandra is to be Agamemnon’s

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concubine, Andromache is to be given to Neoptolemus, Achilles’ son, and she herself to Odysseus. (Talthybius only alludes to Polyxena’s sacrifice at the tomb of Achilles in vague terms; see note on 291.) The bulk of the episode is taken up with the startling appearance of Cassandra, first in a state of wild, ecstatic madness, then in a calmer mood foretelling her own doom, only to reinterpret it and the city’s destruction as painful victories for Troy. The second episode in turn will pick up the threads of Andromache’s and Polyxena’s destinies. 262–92 / 292–323 Unusually, the episode begins with a kind of kommos, in which Talthybius speaks to Hecuba in trimeter dialogue verse, but she answers him in a register of higher intensity, for the most part chanting in iambics and dochmiacs, a meter used to express high emotion. 275–303 / 247–77 The dramatically effective order of the revelations in this passage also reveals Hecuba’s maternal concern. She has already expressed her concern for Cassandra (187–90 / 168–72), and here she asks after Cassandra’s fate first, followed by questions about Polyxena and her daughter-in-law Andromache, before turning to her own fate. 291 / 264 She serves Achilles’ tomb Talthybius’ euphemistic shading of the terrible truth of Polyxena’s sacrifice serves a double purpose: postponing Hecuba’s recognition of this loss until it can be fully exploited dramatically (713–25 / 618–29) and giving us our first clear glimpse of the unexpected empathy of which this Greek is capable (see the Introduction, pp. 175–76). 304–23 / 278–91 The vehemence of this attack on Odysseus may seem surprising, but both his treachery in the Palamedes (see the Introduction, pp. 159–60) and the reputation for unscrupulous behavior that is a frequent element of his portrayal in Greek literature make it fully understandable. In this play, he will be responsible for the convincing the Greeks to kill Hecuba’s sole surviving grandson, Astyanax (828 / 721). 324–25 / 292–93 The Chorus leader (speaking as always for the Chorus as a whole) reminds us that the ordinary women of Troy, as well as the formerly great and mighty, will share the fate of slavery and exile. A similar note will be struck again at 789–90 / 684–85. 326–538 / 294–461 Cassandra scene Just as Talthybius is sending for Cassandra, she appears, whirling burning torches in an ecstatic dance. The torches make her resemble the vengeful Fury she will indeed become (533 / 457), but more immediately they are part of her willful evocation of the Greek wedding ceremony, in which torches light the bridal procession to the home of the groom. As in Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, Cassandra’s

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first utterance is frenzied song, after which she makes, in spoken verse, the rational but paradoxical case that Troy in defeat is better off than Greece in victory. Euripides shows us two different but not incompatible modes in which Cassandra’s prophetic gifts can find expression. 341–90 / 308–40 Cassandra’s monody provides a total contrast to that of Hecuba (109–71 / 98–150) in its wild dance, its highly excited, dochmiac-charged rhythms (and therefore also presumably in its music), and its content. Cassandra imagines that she is celebrating her marriage to Agamemnon in the temple of Apollo, and the language she uses is that of formal marriage, with all its religious and social connotations. In addition to the torches that light the bride’s progress into marriage (356–65 / 319–25), allusions to a wedding include the repeated invocations of Hymen, god of marriage (345 / 310, etc.), and the description of the bride and bridegroom (346–8 / 311–13) and the bridal song (385 / 336) as ‘‘blessed.’’ There is, of course, enormous irony in all of this, and Hecuba sees it simply as a sign of madness (400–401 / 349–50), but there is also a paradoxical logic to Cassandra’s celebration, which becomes clear in her subsequent speech: the sham marriage of Apollo’s virgin to the Greek king leads to the king’s death and to her triumph in death over Troy’s enemies. 342–43 / 310 this sacred / Precinct identified at 375 / 329–30 as the temple of Apollo. 363 / 323 Hecate A powerful goddess associated with fire and often depicted carrying torches. Hecate’s more sinister aspects, including associations with sorcery and the underworld (see Glossary), are relevant here, too. For the invocation of Hecate in the context of sorcery, see Euripides’ Medea 397 and Ion 1048. 367 / 326 Euhan Euhoi Cries used specifically in Dionysiac rites, here a sign of Cassandra’s possession by a divine afflatus; cf. notes on 187–90 for the use of ekbakkheuein, ‘‘revel in Bacchic frenzy,’’ to indicate her particular form of madness, and on 524–25 for her ‘‘Bacchic’’ adornments. 393 / 343 O Hephaestus As god of fire, Hephaestus is the archetypal torch-bearer. 404–69, 487–530 / 353–405, 424–61 Cassandra’s two long speeches are very different in tone from her monody: rational, clearly argued, self-aware. The message, however, remains equally paradoxical: ‘‘I will stand outside my madness / Enough to show you how much luckier / Our city’s lot is than the Greeks’’’ (419–21 / 365–67). She prophesies her own fate—to die, bringing down Agamemnon with her—with perfect lucidity, as a victory for herself worthy of a crown of triumph (404 / 353) and as

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revenge for her father’s and brothers’ deaths (413 / 360). She also explains how Troy’s glory will long outlive her defeat (446–66 / 386–402). 412 / 359 I’ll kill him This does not imply any deviation from the traditional story that Agamemnon fell at the hands of his wife Clytemnestra and her lover Aegistheus, but makes the most of Cassandra’s role as an indirect cause of his death. This is explicit in her mention of the plot . . . to butcher a mother (417 / 363), i.e., Orestes’ revenge on Clytemnestra for killing his father. 418–86 / 365–405 Cassandra’s logical demonstration that the Trojans are the victors consists of showing (446–63 / 386–99) that it is they who have won glory and fame that will last forever in song and story by dying in just defense of their own country and loved ones, whereas the Greeks (418–42 / 365–82) killed and died far from home, for the sake of one worthless woman, exchanged what they loved for what they hated, endured separation from fatherland and family. Those who were killed even gave up proper funeral rites at home, where their wives will die widowed and their parents childless. Taken together with the prophecies of the sufferings to come for the Greeks on their way home—in Cassandra’s second speech (495–518 / 431–70) as well as the gods’ prologue, both of which confirm what the audience already knew to have occurred from the Odyssey and elsewhere—Cassandra’s argument, however paradoxical, is a powerful one. 425–27 / 370–72 slaughtered what he loved . . . for one woman’s sake A compact attack on the origins of the Greek expedition. Cassandra alludes to the bad bargain made by Agamemnon on his brother’s behalf by rescuing Menelaus’ worthless wife, who had left him of her own volition, at the cost of killing his own daughter Iphigenia, the sacrificial victim demanded by Artemis before his fleet could sail from Aulis. (Euripides dramatized this incident in his final play, Iphigenia at Aulis.) 442–45 / 383–85 Many editors regard these lines as a spurious interpolation, both on stylistic grounds and because they interrupt the main argument. They do, however, suggest a contrast to the fame the Trojans have won, and which, Cassandra implies, the Greeks do not deserve to share. 472 / 408 made you crazy Literally, ‘‘filled your mind with Bacchic frenzy’’ (exebakkheusen phrenas); cf. note on 187–90. 482–83 / 420 a perfect bedmate / For our wise leader Literally, ‘‘a good bride for the general,’’ which, following Talthybius’ disparagement of the ‘‘crazy’’

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Cassandra, can only be understood as an ironic comment not just on her but on Agamemnon as well. 486 / 422–23 she’s a good woman Odysseus’ wife, Penelope, was renowned through her depiction in the Odyssey as a women of prudence, fortitude, and fidelity. 492–93 / 428–30 Apollo . . . told me / She’ll die right here at home This remark alludes to a story that Euripides had already employed in his Hecuba, where it is foretold that the queen would end her life by falling from the mast of the ship that was to have taken her to Greece, transformed into a ‘‘bitch with fiery eyes.’’ Her tomb would be known as ‘‘Cynossema [dog’s grave], a landmark for sailors’’ (Hecuba, 1269–73). None of our other sources suggest that Hecuba died at Troy, but the promontory of Cynossema was a landmark on what is now called the Gallipoli peninsula, across the Dardanelles not far from Troy. Thus, Cassandra’s emphatic ‘‘right here’’ should probably be understood to mean not that Hecuba never left Troy, but that she only went a short way on the long voyage to Ithaca before meeting her end. Cassandra’s refusal to ‘‘reproach her with the rest’’ (494 / 430) is presumably to be understood as springing from a desire to spare Hecuba the knowledge of the struggles and undignified transformation she has yet to undergo. 500–511 / 433–43 Cassandra’s prophecy employs several of the best-known episodes of the Odyssey: Odysseus’ shipwreck (book 5), the lotus-eaters, the Cyclops (9), Circe (10), the voyage to the underworld (11), Charybdis, and the Oxen of the Sun (12). 512–23 / 444–61 The final section of Cassandra’s speech is delivered in trochaic tetrameter verse, a longer line that was probably the original form of spoken dialogue verse in Greek drama. Trochaic tetrameter was often used (as here) to achieve a greater solemnity. 521 / 449 out by the grave of my beloved bridegroom An ironic touch, because the ‘‘marriage’’ of Cassandra and Agamemnon continues in a kind of bitter parody of the burial of husband and wife side by side. Here, neither has received respectful burial, and it is only a heavy downpour that carries Cassandra’s discarded corpse to Agamemnon’s side. 524–25 / 451–52 Farewell, you fillets of the god I loved / So well Cassandra removes her sacred woolen headbands and tosses them to the winds. They are tokens of her dedication to Apollo, but once again the language includes an explicitly Dionysiac term, euia, here translated ‘‘awe.’’ (See the notes on 367 and 187–90 for other examples.) As a proper noun, ‘‘Euios’’ is a

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cult-name of Dionysus, derived from the ritual cry Euioi!, similar to the Euhan! Euhoi! of 367 / 326. Cassandra’s fillets are worn in honor of Apollo, but her ‘‘euia’’ associates them with the Bacchic ecstasy of religious possession. The gesture of flinging off the tokens of her sacred office, and some of the language, is borrowed from a more elaborate and emotional passage in Aeschylus’ Agamemnon (1264–74), but the terrible rancor of Cassandra there, who feels that Apollo is leading her to her death, is nowhere in evidence here. In Aeschylus, Cassandra tears at her sacred tokens and hurls them to the ground. Here, she tosses them into the air, returning them to the god before she herself is defiled. 528 / 453 Ripped from my body The Greek word sparagmois (‘‘with tearings’’ or ‘‘in tatters’’) properly refers to various kinds of mangling and rending, including the dismemberment of a sacrificial victim in Dionysiac frenzy. Using this word for the removal of her headbands thus continues the Bacchic associations of Cassandra’s devotion to her god and suggests how painful the separation from him is for her. 533 / 457 a Fury, one of three There was no canonical number of Erinyes, as there was for the Graces or the Fates, and Cassandra is not specifying such a number; rather, she has in mind, as James Diggle has suggested, the three human agents of vengeance who will perform the role of Furies in this case: Clytemnestra, Aegistheus, and herself. 540 / 463 your mistress sprawled on the ground Once again, as at the outset of the play, Hecuba has fainted and lies prostrate with grief. She refuses the help of her attendants, but then rises slowly, reanimated by the desire to ‘‘sing one final time’’ (552 / 472) of her past happiness and to recount the sorrows past, present, and to come. 552–53 / 473 so that / My old good luck intensifies your pity Hecuba here expresses one of the guiding principles of Greek tragedy and indeed of the Western tragic tradition through most of its history: the reversal of great good fortune, the fall of the mighty, causes more pain and provokes greater pity than the troubles of those who have never known happiness and prosperity. She will return implicitly to this idea at the end of her speech with a series of half-lines that remind us of her former happiness and provide a pathetic climax to her catalog of miseries (576–80 / 493–97). For a different use of this idea, see 735–38 / 639–40 with note. 563 / 483 butchered at the household altar See note on 18. 590 / 505 Yet you would help me to my feet? For what? It appears that Hecuba has collapsed again, overwhelmed by the sorrows she has just summarized.

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She asks to be taken to the ‘‘straw mat’’ (593 / 507) that is now her bed, and she is presumably now accompanied to a resting place at the side of the stage, where she will remain during the choral ode that follows. 597 / 510 Don’t call him lucky until he’s dead and gone This sentiment, given its fullest expression in the dialogue between the Greek sage Solon and Croesus, king of Lydia (Herodotus Histories 1.30–32), appears frequently in tragedy (for Euripides, cf. Andromache 100–102, Iphigenia at Aulis 161–63). 598–651 / 511–67 First stasimon Each of the three stasima (scene-dividing lyrics, sung and danced by the Chorus) evokes stories and images of Troy and the Trojans. This first one retells the story of Troy’s fall, beginning with the delusive joy of the moment when the Trojan horse is brought into the city, so that (as with Hecuba’s just-concluded speech) a full sense of the subsequent desolation is given in the contrast. Thus, in a sense, the ode opens out and generalizes the deeply painful sense of the transience of fortune and the pain of loss given personal expression by the old queen. 598 / 511 Sing, Muse The stasimon opens with an epic invocation, in the dactylic meter of epic, signaling that the Chorus will pursue a grand and impressive theme, but they immediately announce that it will be ‘‘in a new key / In a strange key’’—not the duels and deaths of great heroes, but the destruction of a city as it was experienced by its women. 604 / 516 the four-wheeled horse The Greek is deliberately vague, replicating the initial impression of something strange and equivocal, the most literal sense of the words being ‘‘wagon going on four [feet].’’ 612–13 / 526 our Trojan goddess, / Zeus’ daughter This refers to Athena, whose temple was on the Acropolis of Troy, referred to again at 624–25 / 537 as ‘‘the virgin [literally, unyoked] / Goddess of the deathless horses.’’ The latter epithet occurs only here, and no doubt refers, as commentators suggest, to an interest in horses appropriate to a war goddess. But there is a special appropriateness here, because the Trojans are bringing the Trojan horse to her as an offering of thanksgiving—and there is a special irony for the audience, who know of Athena’s support of the Greek cause (cf. 9 / 10 with note), to the Trojans honoring Athena with a ‘‘gleaming / Treachery’’ and ‘‘Troy’s destruction’’ (621, 623 / 533–35). 657–913 / 568–798 Second episode Andromache is now led in on a cart with her son Astyanax and spoils of war that include Hector’s great shield. The episode has three distinct sections: a kommos (here a lyric duet of

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lament, 666–700 / 577–607) between Andromache and Hecuba; an iambic dialogue in which Andromache tells Hecuba of Polyxena’s death (703–810 / 610–705); and a second iambic scene, for Andromache and Talthybius, in which the herald reveals that Astyanax is to be killed and has him seized, concluded with a brief lament by Hecuba (811–906 / 706–98). The cumulative effect of the episode is devastating. Andromache consoles Hecuba regarding Polyxena’s fate by calling it better than the life she herself will now be compelled to lead. Hecuba protests that life always offers hope, offering the possibility that Astyanax may yet grow up to bring Troy back to life as a reason to go on. Talthybius enters to dash that last remaining hope, and mother and son depart in different directions to their desolate fates. 657 / 568 Andromache’s entrance on a cart with her son and Hector’s weapons is effective on a number of levels. No royal chariot, this wagon gives a powerful visual sign of how the mighty have fallen, for like Hector’s unavailing weapons, his wife and son are now mere booty to be disposed of by the conquerors. At the same time, it suggests a contrast with (and may have been suggested by) the grander entrance by chariot of the conquering general in Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, in whose train Cassandra is also riding. There, the fall is about to take place; here, it has already happened, but there is more suffering to come. 666–700 / 577–607 The duet is notable for its high proportion of split verses, in which each interlocutor sometimes responds to the other, sometimes completes the other’s phrase, sometimes pursues her own line of thought. The effect of such broken dialogues is to give dramatic form to a degree of emotion for which regular patterns of dramatic exchange seem inadequate. 667 / 578 You cry my cry Literally, ‘‘Why are you groaning out my paian?’’ The paian is properly a song of thanksgiving or triumph (see note on 139–40), but it can be used more generally for any solemn song. Here, in conjunction with a verb of lamentation, it is used for a song of mourning. 687 / 597 Your son This is Paris, who escaped death when Hecuba—though she knew he was destined to be the destroyer of Troy—refused to kill him, exposing him on a hillside instead, where he was found and raised by shepherds. Alexander, produced with Trojan Women, dramatized his return to Troy and recognition as a young man (see the Introduction, pp. 158–59). 690 / 599 at the feet of Pallas Athena Literally, ‘‘in front of Pallas,’’ i.e., in Athena’s temple precinct, close to her statue. The words suggest both the sacrilege

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of killings in a sacred place and an implied reproach to the goddess who did not protect Troy. 697 / 603 has no city The Greek is ereˆmopolis, which suggests both ‘‘bereft of a city’’ and ‘‘whose city is desolate.’’ Several ereˆmos words elsewhere in the play describe Troy’s desolation (see note on 15). 713 / 618 A second Ajax Agamemnon, who will force Cassandra to become his concubine. The first Ajax dragged Cassandra by force from her sanctuary in Athena’s temple. See 80 / 70 with note. 730–88 / 634–83 Andromache’s speech has often been criticized as rhetorical padding inappropriate to the character and her situation, but granting that tragic speech is far more rhetorical than what people in similarly extreme circumstances would likely say in real life, it is not difficult to see how precisely Euripides has fitted Andromache’s argument to the particulars of her character and experience. We must first notice that the speech is an answer to Hecuba’s point that life is always better than death, because hope inheres in life. Andromache contrasts Polyxena’s death—which she regards as a lack of all suffering, the equivalent of never being born—to her own continued misery. Her virtues are those of a proper wife, an adept in every form of prudent and modest behavior (soˆphrona) known to women (‘‘whatever / Custom says a woman ought to do,’’ 744–45, 645). Andromache’s particular tragedy is that, having lost husband and home, her very reputation for virtue has made Neoptolemus choose her to be his concubine, thus putting her in a dilemma in which she feels she has no good choice: be a good mate to her new man and thus betray Hector, her great love, or resist Neoptolemus and earn his hatred. Her old life is gone; her new life gives her no cause for hope. This speech expresses that dilemma with force (emotional as well as rhetorical) and thereby gives as distinctive a picture of Andromache as those we have already have of Hecuba and Cassandra. 735–37 / 639–40 But a man / Who falls from good luck into bad luck suffers / Doubly This is a version of the sentiment expressed by Hecuba at 552–53 / 473, this time emphasizing the suffering of the one who undergoes the fall, not the pity such a fall arouses in others. Polyxena, now that she is dead, has no more awareness of that suffering than if she had never been born. The contrast will be with Andromache’s continued life, which offers only more suffering. 750 / 652–53 My mind was my only teacher Andromache says she relies on her native good sense—literally, ‘‘mind from home,’’ where ‘‘from home’’ (oikothen) has the sense of ‘‘from my own resources’’—to be her teacher.

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774–77 / 673–74 The sentiment and rhetorical structure of this passage are reminiscent of Andromache’s famous lines from Homer’s account of her meeting with Hector on the walls of Troy (Iliad 6, 429–30: ‘‘Hector, you are my father and my lady mother, my brother and my ardent husband’’). Here, however, as part of Andromache’s argument, four abstract qualities replace the affecting list of four persons, or rather roles, that Hector plays in her life. 782–88 / 679–83 Andromache concludes by reverting to her initial claims that Polyxena’s death is a better fate than her life, which she considers now proved. 789–90 / 684–85 The traditional choral ‘‘tag’’ that separates speech from reply is used once again (cf. 324–25 / 292–93) to press the similarity between the fate of those who were once privileged and the ordinary women of Troy. 791–802 / 686–96 Hecuba returns to the language of ships and sailing prominent in her opening monody (see note on 114–15). Her knowledge of ships (like Hippolytus’ knowledge of sex in Euripides’ Hippolytus 1004–5) comes only secondhand, but she, like Hippolytus, is fearful of the danger and loss of control involved. Her situation is like that of the ship in a storm that must go wherever the waves carry it. 800 / 699 Bow down to your new master Hecuba turns to Andromache with advice drawn from her own response to the forces that have overmastered her; and yet, characteristically for this women of almost uncanny resilience, she finds hope in the very circumstances that have led Andromache to abandon it: if Hector’s widow can please her new husband, then perhaps his descendants will one day return to build Troy anew. 804 / 704 his descendants The manuscript here reads ‘‘sons born to you,’’ but the reference to the safety of Astyanax makes it all the more likely that descendants of Hector, not of the non-Trojan Andromache, must be meant. Two simple corrections to the text of 703–4 give the desired sense: ‘‘bring my grandson up to be the greatest help to Troy, sons born to whom’’ etc. 815 / 710 don’t hate me An unexpected opening remark for a herald of the victorious Greeks, followed by further indications of Talthybius’ pain and even shame at the message he is so reluctant to deliver. His discomfort is dramatically useful for the foreboding it causes Andromache and for the way it separates Talthybius from the rest of the Greeks and implicitly pronounces judgment on their actions. After haltingly revealing the truth, Talthybius steps out of his role as herald to give Andromache

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sympathetic counsel (833–48 / 726–39). As he departs with Astyanax, he explicitly shows revulsion for his own role in carrying out the child’s death sentence (903–6 / 786–89); later, he will provide what help and comfort he can to the Trojan women (see 1359–65 / 1150–55 with note and the Introduction, pp. 175–76). 817 / 711 the common / Will of the Greeks and of Pelops’ noble grandsons The grandsons of Pelops are Agamemnon and Menelaus; the whole phrase suggests that the army as a body has ratified a decision of the two leaders. 828 / 721 Odysseus known for his unscrupulousness (see note on 304–23) and for his powers of persuasion; in the Palamedes, both were on display. 840–41 / 731–32 We’re capable of doing whatever we want with you, / Just one woman Literally, ‘‘we are capable of doing battle with one woman.’’ These words have seemed overly harsh to some, but they are an integral part of acknowledging the realities of the situation, which Talthybius tells Andromache she must do. If anything, the phrase ‘‘just one woman’’ is a sardonic reminder of the ten years’ war fought for the sake of one woman, Helen. 876–78 / 764 O Greeks, / Not even a barbarian could invent / Atrocities like this Literally, ‘‘O Greeks, devisers of barbarian evils.’’ A very pointed charge, coming as it does from a ‘‘barbarian’’ who in effect reproaches the Greeks for conduct worthy of those they claim to despise as less than civilized. (At 890 / 775, Andromache further emphasizes the cruelty of the Greeks by comparing them to wild animals capable of feasting on her son’s flesh.) There is a similar denunciation of the barbarity of Greeks by a barbarian, King Thoas, in Euripides’ Iphigenia in Tauris 1174. Note, however, that on the Greek stage barbarians can use ‘‘barbarian’’ simply to designate non-Greeks, with no implication of barbarity. Thus, Andromache speaks of ‘‘barbarians and Greeks’’ at 885 / 771, and King Theoclymenus of Egypt mentions ‘‘sailing in barbarian waters’’ (Euripides’ Helen 1210). 880–88 / 766–73 Andromache turns to Helen as the ultimate cause of her suffering, preparing us for Helen’s appearance in the next episode. The rhetoric here is forceful, with its elaborate apostrophe and four personifications of Helen’s putative progenitors (contrast the four great qualities that Andromache praises in Hector, 770–71 / 674), all culminating in the one-word curse ‘‘Die!’’ 880–81 / 766 daughter of Tyndareus’ house, / Zeus was never your father See note on 42.

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889 / 774, 893 / 779 hurl The same verb (rhiptete) unites the fates of mother and child as they are taken on their separate paths, him to death, her to servitude. 896–98 / 780–81 Here, as often, Troy is addressed as a fellow sufferer. The Chorus leader again uses the sorrows of an individual of high standing to reflect on the sufferings of all (cf. 324–25 / 292–93 and 789–90 / 684–85). 914–93 / 799–859 Second stasimon This song takes as its subject the story of Troy’s first destruction by Greeks, during the reign of Laomedon, father of Priam, as well as of two other sons, Ganymede and Tithonus, and a daughter, Hesione. In the first pair of stanzas, the Chorus recounts the sacking of the city by Telamon, King of Salamis, and the mighty Heracles (‘‘Alcmena’s son,’’ 920 / 805). Heracles brought a Greek force against Troy after rescuing Hesione from a sea monster, only to be cheated of his promised reward. The second strophic pair recalls the gods’ love for Ganymede and Tithonus, and it reflects on divine abandonment of the city as the betrayal of that love. 916 / 801 the steep slope sacred to Athena The acropolis of Athens, which can be seen from Salamis, and where, according to Athenian tradition, the goddess planted the first olive tree and won her role as the city’s patron deity. 929–30 / 814–15 the chiseled / Stonework of Apollo Apollo, along with Poseidon, built the walls (see note on 5–6). When Laomedon denied them their wages, Poseidon sent the sea monster from which Heracles rescued Hesione— and was denied his own reward, hence his anger at Troy. 931 / 817 Twice in two pummeling storms This transition returns our focus to the current destruction of Troy. 934–35 / 821–22 Useless son / Of Laomedon Euripides’ genealogy of the Trojan kings differs from that of Homer (Iliad 5.265–66), who makes Ganymede a son of an earlier king, Tros. Ganymede was chosen by Zeus to be the cupbearer of the gods on Olympus. The Chorus pictures him as an eternal ephebe who looks down impassively as Troy burns, her people dying in agony. He is ‘‘useless’’ because he can do nothing to save his erstwhile city; indeed, he no longer seems to care that his old haunts have been destroyed. 964, 967 / 840 Love . . . Love Eroˆs, a force that even Zeus cannot resist when it fires him with desire, is here not depicted as dangerous in itself (cf., e.g., Euripides’ Hippolytus 525–44, one of many passages in Greek literature where the destructive nature of erotic passion is emphasized); rather, the Chorus sadly reflects that divine passion for mortal Trojans has

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offered no protection for Troy, as the Chorus had believed it would (988–91 / 857). 980–81 / 852–54 Though she herself / Married a man from here Dawn became enamored of Tithonus and took him up to the heavens (985–87 / 855–56), where Zeus gave him immortality. 982 / 852 her children Memnon (who ruled over the Ethiopians and died in the fight to save Troy) and Emathion. 993 / 858 love Troy no longer Literally, ‘‘the love-spell for Troy is gone / dead’’ (see note on 48). 994–1235 / 860–1059 Third episode Menelaus enters to reclaim Helen, whom he plans to put to death for her transgressions. The scene plays out as though he will indeed take her back to Sparta for a public execution, although the spectators know (in the first instance from Odyssey, book 4, where Helen and Menelaus appear reunited as man and wife), and Euripides gives numerous hints, that she will survive. Although Helen has often been mentioned, nothing until the beginning of the episode indicates that she will appear on stage, and the episode itself is surprising in a number of ways. When Helen appears, she asks to for a chance to plead her case. Menelaus hesitates, but Hecuba persuades him to let her speak, offering to respond to her defense. Thus begins the great agoˆn (contest), a formal debate whose place in the drama has itself been much debated. Everyone would agree, however, that it effectively changes the atmosphere of suffering and lyric lament that characterizes the rest of the play for one of argument and intellectual tension. A sign of this change is the fact that the entire episode is cast in spoken iambics, with none of the lyric verse that begins and punctuates the preceding episodes, raising their emotional temperature. For an analysis of the scene, see the Introduction, pp. 171–75. 994 / 860 How gloriously bright the sun is shining Menelaus’ jubilant entrance brings an instant and somewhat jarring change in tone. His entrance appears to be modeled on that of the Aeschylean Aegistheus at Agamemnon 1577, another character who arrives unexpectedly and late in the action, and who hails the light of a longed-for day that rights past wrongs. Menelaus goes on to introduce himself in something of the manner of a prologue speech, emphasizing above all the decisive end of any erotic attachment to his former wife, whose very name he will not speak (1006–7 / 869–70)—though indeed he names her already at 1013 / 877, when declaring that he has already decided to put her to death at home in Greece.

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1020–25 / 884–88 Hecuba offers a prayer to Zeus in thanks for Menelaus’ apparent willingness to punish the despised Helen. The prayer is remarkable, not for its rather conventional form (the listing of alternate names and qualities by which the deity may be known) but for its content. The god ‘‘who somehow cup[s] the whole earth’’ while nevertheless dwelling upon it is Air (or Aether), here identified with Zeus as the supreme being. Euripides employs the view of his contemporary, Diogenes of Apollonia, following Anaximenes, that Air is the primary substance on which all else depends. The ‘‘fixed law of Nature’’ may refer to the Heraclitean idea of a balance of opposites, ‘‘man’s Mind’’ as in Anaxagoras’ view of nous (mind, intelligence) as the universal animating principle. In short, Hecuba momentarily speaks in the language of philosophical and scientific speculation, a feature of this passage that has been widely criticized as a reflection of Euripides’ interests rather than an expression of dramatic character. It is worth considering, however, whether the language here does not rather express the extreme experience of loss and grief that drive Hecuba to seek a new understanding of the force that can cause such things and still be imagined as guiding ‘‘the tangled / Affairs of men toward the path of Justice.’’ And that belief (or hope) is, of course, the great irony of her strange prayer, because justice will not be done, and Hecuba’s last hope will be denied. 1031 / 891 She’s hell The pun on Helen / hell in the translation is prompted by the repeated use of a Greek verb (haireoˆ, ‘‘seize,’’ ‘‘destroy’’) whose aorist forms (here heleˆi) provide an etymology of the name Helen, ‘‘the destroyer,’’ already used to wonderful effect by Aeschylus (Agamemnon 689–90): helenas, helandros, heleptolis, ‘‘destroyer of ships, of cities, of men.’’ 1035 / 895 Menelaus In contrast to her husband, who initially refused even to speak her name, Helen begins by addressing him directly, and with a complaint about rough treatment, no less. Altogether, although ostensibly powerless, she is clearly an arresting and imposing figure. Her selfassurance is partly expressed on stage by her appearance. In the midst of the shorn heads and rags of the Trojan women, the still-beautiful Helen enters (as we can infer from Hecuba’s censure at 1191–98 / 1022–28) in her full finery. Whether we are to imagine her complaints as justified—that is, whether she is (as many modern stage directions suggest) dragged in by Menelaus’ soldiers, or whether she shakes them off and enters proudly, head held high—is a questions for directors and readers to decide for themselves.

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1047 / 906 Let her speak Hecuba’s motivation for permitting the debate is, perhaps, a moot point. It would tip the balance too obviously if Menelaus gave in by approving Helen’s request. (Note his insistence at 1055 / 913 that he only grants Helen’s request because Hecuba wants him to.) On the other hand, if one wishes to construct a plausible reason for Hecuba’s move, at least two spring to mind. First and foremost, Hecuba understands that contact with Helen will put Menelaus’ resolve at severe risk—she has advised him not even to look at her (1028–29 / 891, cf. 1224–26 / 1049–51)—and she wants to refute in advance the defense that Helen might make on another occasion without contradiction. Secondly, the debate itself makes clear that Hecuba takes a kind of grim pleasure in having this one chance to lash out formally and publicly at the person she regards as the source of all her woes. 1058–59 / 916–17 I know exactly what / You would accuse me of Helen’s opening move signals the fact that the ordinary order of speeches in such a debate (in effect, a trial scene) is reversed here: defense precedes accusation. On the other hand, Hecuba’s role is precisely to refute Helen’s case. In addition, the second speech in Euripidean debates is generally the stronger (that at Medea 465–975 is an exception). Ironically, despite Menelaus’ concurrence at close of scene, in the end Hecuba’s arguments will not prevail with him. 1061–85 / 919–37 The first part of Helen’s defense is a series of attacks against those she says should be held responsible, rather than herself, for everything that has happened. She begins with Paris, destined from birth to destroy his city, and along with him Priam and Hecuba, who knew of his destiny but let him live. Next, she indicts Aphrodite, who offered Helen as Paris’ prize should she win the beauty contest with the other goddesses on Mount Ida. Pointing out that the prizes offered by her competitors involved Greece’s domination by Troy, Helen concludes that, because she was chosen and thus kept Greece from enslavement to a tyrant, she should receive a crown of honor from the Greeks, rather than their hatred. 1066–67 / 922 Alexander, as he was called then, / The murderous firebrand Hecuba dreamed of Both Alexander’s renaming as Paris and Hecuba’s dream while pregnant with him that she was giving birth to a firebrand were recounted in Alexander, the first of the plays performed with Trojan Women (see the Introduction, p. 158). 1086–1117 / 938–65 Helen defends her own actions, emphasizing the irresistible power of Aphrodite and placing the blame on the goddess for her

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elopement with Paris. She then excuses herself for not returning to Menelaus after Paris’ death by claiming that she tried to do so but was thwarted, an assertion that cannot any longer be put to the test (see note on 1109–10). 1105 / 952 Once Paris was dead and buried Paris was killed by Philoctetes, using one of Heracles’ poisoned arrows. 1109–10 / 956 The tower guards will tell you . . . And the watchmen from the walls A convenient claim, because the men of Troy have all been killed and cannot testify to anything. 1113–17 / 961–65 A formal summation, as befits the judicial character of the debate, addressed to Menelaus as judge. 1121–62 / 969–1001 Answering Helen, Hecuba’s speech also falls into two main divisions. In the first, she caustically deconstructs Helen’s argument for the responsibility of the gods, concluding that ‘‘Aphrodite’’ here is merely another name for Helen’s own lust and that she went to Troy willingly. As part of her case for Helen’s responsibility, Hecuba denies the mythical tradition of the Judgment of Paris (‘‘a silly Miss Olympus / Competition,’’ 1129–30 / 975). (For more on this rationalist line of argument, see the Introduction, pp. 173–74). 1143–44 / 986 and all / Of Amyclae as well This city, in close proximity to Sparta, was associated through legend and monuments with the Heroic Age (see Pausanias Description of Greece 3.18.7–19.6). 1148 / 989 lust run wild Literally, ‘‘foolish things,’’ but the word in question (moˆros) can refer, especially in Euripides, to sexual intemperance specifically. 1149–50 / 990 ‘‘witless’’ rhymes / With Cypris Literally, ‘‘the goddess’ name rightly begins with [the word for] folly,’’ a pun on the name Aphro-dite, ‘‘the foam-born one,’’ and a-phrosyne, ‘‘lack of sense.’’ 1162 / 1001 Not yet ascended to the stars Euripides alludes to the legend that, after their death, Helen’s brothers were deified. He is the first surviving author to connect them with stars; they are later commonly identified with the constellation Gemini (the Twins). As deities, they were invoked for rescue, especially at sea. Hecuba’s point here is that while they were still alive, they could easily have rescued their sister, had she only called out to them. 1163–1203 / 1002–31 The second part of Hecuba’s speech deals with Helen’s actions in Troy and refutes her attempts to exculpate herself. Hecuba concludes with two powerful apostrophes, telling Helen that she should be

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ashamed to appear in all her finery amidst the misery she has caused, and telling Menelaus that his honor, and that of husbands everywhere, depends on his killing of Helen. 1200–1201 / 1030–31 crown your country’s honor with a deed / Worthy of your own Hecuba’s summation replaces Helen’s conceit of receiving a crown of honor from Greece (1085 / 937) with the image of her death as a crown of honor for Greece, and for Menelaus. 1217 / 1042 I’m on my knees Literally, ‘‘[I beg you] by your knees,’’ a characteristic gesture of supplication. Helen uses a powerful weapon here, and Hecuba quickly intervenes to defuse it. 1224–26 / 1049–51 Menelaus replies to Hecuba’s sensible suggestion that he not risk taking Helen back on his own ship with what can only be a joke, or at least an attempt at one—something obviously very rare in classical tragedy. It may be that he is derisively shrugging off the implication of his own weakness, or it may be simply a sign of his insensitivity to the tragic implications of the situation. In any case, Hecuba ignores his remark and makes her point clear. To the audience, her final warning is poignant, because they know that Menelaus will indeed succumb to temptation. 1236–1319 / 1060–1117 Third stasimon This ode continues the theme of the gods’ abandonment of Troy broached in the preceding stasimon. There, however, the subject was treated somewhat obliquely, evoking the unconcern for the present sufferings of Troy on the part of the divine lovers of Trojans from earlier days—Zeus, who made Ganymede his favorite and the cup-bearer of the gods (934–63 / 820–39), and Dawn, who married Tithonus (964–93 / 840–59). Here, the Trojan women permit themselves to reproach Zeus directly and with unconcealed bitterness. The first strophic pair frames a long, highly evocative description of Troy’s beautiful setting and the rites celebrated to honor its gods with direct addresses to the god, rebuking him for his betrayal and expressing dismay at his callous lack of concern for Troy’s destruction. The second strophe strikes a surprisingly intimate note: the women first address their husbands, whom they picture unburied and wandering as restless shades, then lament their own departure into slavery. Finally, they evoke the cries of their children, afraid of being separated from their mothers as they, too, are sent to the ships to be taken far away. In the second antistrophe, the Chorus returns to Zeus, hoping despite everything to enlist his aid—not for itself but for the destruction of Helen and Menelaus before they reach home in Sparta. The Chorus’

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scorn for Helen comes as no surprise following her ‘‘trial,’’ but the fact that Menelaus is depicted as having ‘‘got back’’ his wife (1315 / 1114), with no mention of his promise to see to her execution in Sparta, suggests that the women understand that Helen will survive Troy’s ruin, and their own, unscathed. 1242 / 1065 sacred Pergamum The epithet underlines the irony of a city that has honored its gods and been hallowed by them but has now been destroyed with their consent. The point is reinforced at 1249 / 1070 by the characterization of the entire Trojan territory as ‘‘luminous and holy.’’ 1250 / 1071 Gone Phroudos (see note on 48) is given emphasis by its position in the phrase; the list of religious celebrations, rites, and objects that follows serves both to evoke nostalgically what has been lost and to reproach the gods who have turned away from all these honors and devotions. 1256–57 / 1075–76 sacrificial / Moon cakes, twelve in all Literally ‘‘holy moons, twelve in number.’’ The precise meaning is uncertain, and some editors have suggested a reference to a rite performed on the first day of the lunar month. More likely, however, is a mention of the moon-shaped sacrificial cake known to us from a surviving fragment of Euripides’ Erechtheus (frag. 350 Kannicht). 1265–67 / 1082–83 unburied . . . you’ll wander The widespread belief that the souls of the unburied could not find rest in the underworld and wandered about restlessly is attested for the Greeks from Homer (Iliad 23.71–74) onward. 1272–73 / 1087–88 walls / Cyclopes built Impressed by the enormous stones that made up the walls of Mycenaean citadels such as Mycenae itself, later Greeks ascribed them to the giant Cyclopes, said by Hesiod (Theogony 139–46) to have been mighty craftsmen. 1288–90 / 1097–98 high peak / Of the Isthmus / Between two seas Acrocorinth, the highest point on the northeastern corner of the Peloponnese, looks out over the gulfs on both sides of the Isthmus of Corinth. 1291 / 1099 Where Pelops set his palace gates Literally, ‘‘where the seat of Pelops has its gates.’’ Peloponnese means ‘‘island of Pelops,’’ and the ‘‘high peak’’ at its connection to the main land mass of Greece is metaphorically the gateway to his land. 1305–6 / 1107–8 In her hand the golden / Mirror Helen’s mirror is a symbol of her beauty, but also of her continued life of luxury and interest in appearance. The fact that it is made of gold is significant. Once an attribute of wealthy Troy (cf. the golden statues of the gods at 1255–56 /

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1074 and the earlier image of Paris’ seductive appearance in Sparta, ‘‘his gold all glittering,’’ at 1151 / 992), now it makes a striking contrast with the misery of the Trojan captives in their rags. Beyond that, the allure of gold that attaches to both Helen and Paris is marked as something deceptive and dangerous, like the ‘‘fine harness of gold’’ (520 / 607) that added to the Trojan horse’s glamour. 1314 / 1113 The bronze gate of Athena’s temple Literally, ‘‘the brazen-gated goddess,’’ a reference to a famous bronze-plated temple of Athena that stood on Sparta’s acropolis. 1315–16 / 1114–15 he’s got back / The shame of Greece Editors disagree about whether to read echoˆn (‘‘having/holding,’’ the manuscript reading) or heloˆn (‘‘having taken/seized,’’ Wilamowitz’s emendation). The latter has the advantage of alluding to Helen’s name through its supposed etymology from hel- (‘‘seize, destroy,’’ see note on 1031). 1320–1593 / 1118–1332 Exodos The concluding scene of the play is built around a ritual that is also a moment of deeply affecting intimacy: the funeral rite for Astyanax, and indeed for Troy, performed by his grandmother and the other Trojan women. That completed, the women begin their departure to a new life as slaves in Greece. 1332–33 / 1126–28 These lines allude to a story about Peleus (Neoptolemus’ grandfather). Peleus accidentally killed Eurytion during the Calydonian boar hunt and went to Iolcus to be purified by King Acastus and take part in the funeral games for Pelias. That Acastus drove Peleus from Iolcus appears to be a Euripidean variant; the real significance of the allusion, however, appears to be what Euripides left unsaid but most in his audience would already know: that Peleus, fleeing Iolcus, went to meet Neoptolemus on his way home from Troy but was shipwrecked and died on the island of Cos—a further prediction of Greek suffering to come. 1359–65 / 1150–55 Talthybius’ touching account of Andromache’s plea for her child’s burial ends with a surprising announcement that he has already washed the body (ordinarily performed by female relatives) and that he will now go dig the grave. His expressed interest in speeding the departure does not negate the impression he conveys of deep sympathy for the Trojan women’s suffering. 1366–1422 / 1156–99 Hecuba’s lament over the body of Astyanax is in effect a formal funeral oration, presented as a series of apostrophes: to the Greeks, in outrage at their killing of an innocent child; to the boy whose life has

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so brutally been cut short, with a series of tenderly intimate reminiscences; and to the shield of Hector, the reminder of a father’s lost greatness that now will serve as the child’s tomb. Euripides has chosen to forgo a more conventional messenger speech describing Astyanax’s death in favor of giving the pathos of his loss, and even the damage to his body, a far more personal and touching expression in the words of his loving grandmother. 1393 / 1176 Like wicked laughter between the bones Literally ‘‘laughs out from the broken bones,’’ a deliberately grotesque metaphor. Hecuba, as she goes on to say, will not cover over the shameful ugliness of the violence done. 1426–30 / 1203–6 The very sententiousness of Hecuba’s conclusion reminds us that sudden reversal of fortune does not afflict the Trojans only. As Poseidon and Athena prophesied, and Cassandra reminded us, the Greeks will suffer destruction in turn. 1443–83 / 1216–50 The first of two kommoi (lyric exchanges) that end the play. This one brings the funeral rites for Astyanax to a close, Hecuba replying to the Chorus’ lyric keening largely in spoken iambics as she adorns the corpse of her grandson with the such gifts as the Trojan women still have to bestow. 1445–46 / 1216–17 you / Who were once a great prince in my city Refers to Astyanax, despite the fact (and perhaps emphasizing it) that he did not live to rule. The Greek words translated ‘‘great prince in my city’’ (anaktoˆr poleoˆs, ‘‘ruler of the city’’) is a version of the boy’s name, Asty- (‘‘city’’) anax (‘‘ruler’’). 1456 / 1225 that cunning liar Odysseus persuaded the Greeks to kill Astyanax (828 / 721, and see note on 304–23). 1472–78 / 1240–45 Hecuba despairs of the gods who have abandoned her city (a theme introduced by Poseidon himself 28 / 25 and broached by the Chorus in its second and third odes), and yet even now she attempts to find some good in Troy’s catastrophe. Had the gods not brought Troy down, her people would never have won fame in song and story, the only guarantee of survival after death. Cassandra had made the same claim to validate the glory of Hector and Paris (454–62 / 394–99). As ironic as this might sound to us, it will have resonated with ancient Greeks, reinforced not only by the beloved poems of Homer but by tragedies like this one. 1484–98 / 1251–59 A short choral outburst in sung anapests brings the rites for Astyanax to an end as his body is carried out, then calls our attention to the walls of Troy, where men are said to have appeared carrying lighted torches.

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These are the ‘‘captains’’ (1499 / 1260) whom Talthybius orders to set the city ablaze. It is not necessary to suppose that such men appeared on the roof of the stage building; we are simply asked to imagine their presence. Indeed, the invitation to look may have a double function, because this is the point in many Euripidean tragedies when a god appears above the stage, but no god will come to the rescue here. 1524–25 / 1282–83 Better to die / Here Hecuba has reached the breaking point at last. Seeing her city burn as she is ordered to the Greek ships, she rushes to die in the ‘‘pyre’’ that was her city. ‘‘Better to die’’ recalls Hecuba’s refutation of Andromache’s similar sentiment (726–29 / 630–33). 1529–93 / 1287–1332 The final kommos is a kind of funeral lament for Troy. Hecuba, stopped from self-destruction, frees herself from her captors and begins the dirge with a piercing cry. The kommos is a good example of how classical drama can express powerful emotion in formally rigorous structures: two strophic pairs made up of lyric iambics with a very high number of resolutions (long syllables divided into two shorts) adding to an overwhelming sense of emotional urgency and force. This force is underlined by Hecuba’s powerful gesture of beating the earth with her hands (1553 / 1306), taken up by the Chorus, who explain it as a means of calling forth the spirits of the dead (1555–57 / 1308–9). 1538–44 / 1295–1301 The text of this antistrophe is very uncertain. We have followed Diggle’s edition in omitting two lines at the end of the antistrophe (1300– 1301) that refer to the burning of Troy and are likely to have been connected in some way to the textually corrupt 1538–41 / 1295–97. Alan Shapiro translates the omitted lines: While fire and the hungry blades Go rioting From room to room.

1589 / 1328 As the towers shake and the city falls to ruins, Hecuba rises one last time and leads the women away to their new lives. On the significance of this gesture, see the Introduction, p. 177.

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Translated by

richard emil braun

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INTRODUCTION

John Ferguson ends his generally perceptive remarks on Rhesos by observing that this is a play ‘‘to see, to enjoy, and to forget.’’1 From an otherwise intelligent critic, this is a disturbingly captious judgment. After all, a work forgotten is dismissed and lost. Our understanding and enjoyment of art depend upon remembering, upon imaginatively re-experiencing, what we have heard or read or seen. It is enjoyment, surely, that makes a play memorable in the first place. If we did not know for a fact that Shakespeare had written Macbeth and Sophocles the Oedipus, we might be tempted, on the basis of our immediate enjoyment of their value as ‘‘entertainment,’’ to assign them to a similar oblivion. The final revelations of Birnam Wood’s mobility and of Macduff ’s Caesarean birth are dramatically surprising and diverting; but diversion should not be allowed to eclipse the play’s earlier metaphysical speculations. As epiphanies, these last-moment disclosures crown the work’s action and thought; and the proper critical procedure is to re-examine the play—especially Macbeth’s motivation and the ideas of reality which enforce his bitter valor to the end—in the light of improbable revelation. Oedipus’ self-blinding is also a coup de the´aˆtre, but it symbolically completes the dramatic action. So great is the power of names and dates, that most scholars who deny Euripidean authorship grossly undervalue Rhesos. Those who, like Ferguson, argue for a fourth-century date, tend to patronize or condemn the play. But, for the literary men and scholars of antiquity, whose Greek libraries were far larger than ours, Rhesos stood in the company of Hippolytos and Bacchai, Hecuba and Trojan Women, Alcestis and

1. A Companion to Greek Tragedy (Austin, 1972), 499.

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Medea. Its authorship is as well attested as that of most ancient works. As far as can be determined from the meager remnants of the corpus of Greek tragedy, the style, language, and metrical usages of Rhesos most resemble Euripides’ before 428 b.c. How much earlier the play may be, it is impossible to tell, but 445–441 is a good guess.2 I am personally inclined to see elements of topical inspiration for Rhesos in two events: the nine-month siege of Samos by Athens in 439, and the dedication of Phidias’ gold-clad image of Athena the next year. During this time also, Athenians would have witnessed the building of a Thracian kingdom by Sitalkes. Finally, these dates would be fairly close to the time when Euripides presumably became acquainted with Protagoras of Abdera. However, I shall not insist upon authenticity, date, or possible influences. The foregoing are merely suggestions which may help to define my viewpoint. The Macbeth analogy offered earlier must be qualified, of course, by pointing out that Rhesos is a short play; that it works through tidy echoes and ironies, rather than by elaborate twists of plot or depths of characterization. Its power—that is, its memorability—is rooted in its terseness. The audience must be quick to recapture hints in the light of later revelations. Rhesos is created by cumulative suggestion, almost like a series of tableaus; but its summary meaning largely depends upon its concluding scene. It is a thrifty play, and its riches must be sought by compilation. This kind of composition is linked to a stern view of life. Euripides tells us that truth, if it comes, comes late; that evidence does not proclaim itself moment by moment, but lies hidden in a profusion of surfaces. Protagoras carried this notion further by asserting that all human decisions are tentative, and that men should therefore be content with such insight as chance offers. But Rhesos implies that the sudden impression, the illuminated minute, may be a safer guide toward the truth than the analysis and dialectical reasoning which proceed ‘‘step by step.’’ This, Protagoras would probably deny. Rhesos is the story of a futile quest for truth. The quest fails because it is methodical and straightforward, while the world is deceptive, and the gods who rule the world are deceitful. The story shows that the life of men is a fabric of crossing expectations. In this perplexed

2. Ancient testimony states that Euripides was ‘‘still young’’ when he produced Rhesos. Probable dates of his birth are 484 to 480 b.c. For the arguments, see William Ritchie, The Authenticity of the Rhesus of Euripides, (Cambridge, 1964). Protagoras came to Athens from his Thracian home around 445 b.c.

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life, purpose is lost in forgetfulness or diverted by dialectic. Reason is defeated by improbability. It is in this respect that Rhesos resembles Macbeth and Oedipus. Euripides dramatizes the corollary to Protagoras’ statement that ‘‘Man is the measure of all things.’’ The corollary to this motto of humanist relativism is the axiom that the human mind—unable to discover anything certain about the gods or to reach back to the first links in the chain of causation—cannot discern ultimate reality. Rhesos might be called an epistemological melodrama. As might be expected, the element of surprise is important in Rhesos. The plot draws force not only from internal memory of its own hints and echoes, but from the audience’s knowledge of the epic version of the material. Euripides imaginatively shifts the traditional story of Homer and his successors, to create a different picture of life. The first such surprise is the discovery that Hektor is sleeping. In the Iliad (10. 299–300) he is watching out the night. The second change is the information that watch-fires are blazing in the Greek camp. In the Iliad (10. 11–13) it is the fires and hubbub in the Trojan camp which have kept Agamemnon awake. These reversals of the received story are warnings that sleep and wakefulness, light and darkness, are important for all that follows. This is indeed so; for the first scene turns into an attempt to interpret the significance of these fiery signs on the night sky. The shifts of interpretation quickly show that the play is concerned with knowledge and with misunderstanding. Hektor, immediately upon hearing of the fires, makes a strange statement: that the Greeks are about to run from Troy. The sentries have reasonably assumed that the fires indicate that the Greeks are preparing to attack. This happens not to be true either. But Hektor’s belief is based on a prophecy (73–77 / 65–67) not found in the Homeric version. At once scornful of his priests’ predictions, and accepting the fulfillment of them, Hektor seems to have as little self-control as the sentries. Yet, from them, he has demanded coherence and clarity. From the start, Hektor has seemed in an abnormal condition of mind. His eyes (6–8 / 8) have the terrifying look of the Gorgon mask, a gaze that reduces the beholder to a state of childlike helplessness. The first sentry to see Hektor is afraid to speak to him. The audience is being prepared, by small but abrupt shifts from Homer’s familiar tale, by the unusual night setting of the play, where shadows drift and flame is reflected on cusps of spears, for weirdness and for further prophecy. One senses that Hektor is hovering in the state of consciousness between sleep and waking. He stays in this rapt balance of thought long enough to retrieve,

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in the manner of a Thracian shaman,3 a vision of what may yet be. He sees (84–95 / 70–75) sudden victory and bloody vengeance. This vision is shattered by ‘‘reason.’’ The Chorus of sentries urges caution. Then Aeneas enters, and speaks in support of the men’s doubts. He systematically details the dangers of night attack. This argument, too, contains a nightmare vision of the future. For Aeneas employs the same reasoning which, in Homer’s canonical account, is used the next morning by Poulydamas to persuade Hektor to attack the Greek camp on foot, rather than by the usual cavalry charge (Iliad 12.61–79). The audience remembers that the attack will succeed. The Greek ships will be burned. But victory does not follow. Euripides here gives us a dream sequence where facts remain the same but meanings are reversed. We may speculate that the night raid could have succeeded, simply because it would not have been expected. It would be unreasonable, therefore improbable; and the wise Greeks would not anticipate reckless tactics. In view, again, of the divergence from the accepted version of this tale, such speculation is not out of order. If things may be different from what Homer told, what may they not be? The result, however, of the interview with Aeneas is that the fated course of history flows on undiverted. Hektor, more gentleman than general, takes seriously all that is told him. Aeneas suggests that a scout be sent to learn what the Greek fires mean. The Chorus concurs. Though his heart still pounds with anticipation of revenge (203–8 / 141–46), Hektor agrees. He sends out a spy. The rest of the night is spent awaiting the spy’s return. The question of the watch-fires, what they signify, haunts the expectations of the men of Troy until dawn. A similar decision was taken by the Greeks. The anxiety of Agamemnon affected Nestor, his old counsellor. Together, the two have awakened the chief commanders. Nestor has proposed that a spy go out. Diomedes volunteers. He chooses Odysseus as his confederate because ‘‘his heart endures through struggles and suffering,’’ ‘‘Athena loves him,’’ and ‘‘he has a mind that sees through everything’’ (Iliad 10.242–47). So it happens that scouts leave simultaneously from both camps and meet in the middle. In consequence, the Greek cause is saved. The night is waited out by Hektor in anxious inaction. Since the Trojan spy is killed by the Greeks, the mystery of the fires, still unanswered, is lost in daylight disaster, just as stars vanish when the sun rises.

3. See note on 1199–1206 / 943–47.

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At present, day means the hope of freedom. This is a probability, but not the truth. In the darkness of ignorance that glints with violence, a beleaguered people may be expected to hold hard to hopeful appearances. Indeed, what is this war? The Greek goal—to recover Helen—has ceased to be meaningful to most Greeks; all that remains of Helen is her symbolic value—the ambition of the leaders to win supreme fame and fortune by destroying Troy. For the Trojans, the stake is not Helen—not power and wealth—but survival, and the prize is freedom from constant fear of attack. At present, the people of Troy have only two freedoms: liberty of thought and speech. Among the Greeks also (though we hear less of them), Achilles’ withdrawal is a protest against the arbitrary power that forces the war to continue. The difference between Hektor and Agamemnon is that Hektor listens to dissenting opinions. Hektor listens too much. He is too genteel and fair to command, too impatient to rule; but, given Priam’s dotage, he must try to do both. His intentions are good, his instincts sound; yet he fails. Hektor did not pursue the routed Greeks; priests persuaded him to wait for day. Convinced by Aeneas and the Chorus that caution is, if not wise, at least popular, he agrees to send a spy. Persuaded by the Shepherd and Chorus, he admits Rhesos to the camp. In each case, Hektor might have acted as he thought best, as intuition guided. The contrast is provided by Odysseus. By sacrilege, stealing the image of Athena from Troy, Odysseus assured Athena’s support for the Greeks. Hektor was aware of this success (672–76 / 500–503), but remained unwilling to overrule the priests. Again, while Odysseus is courteous to Diomedes, he offers him choices he has himself pre-selected. Hektor allows Aeneas, who has no reputation for acumen like Odysseus’, to convince him to temporize simply because the Chorus concurs, because he is unwilling to wound the sincerity of his fellow men by the exercise of arbitrary authority. This would be proper conduct in an elected officer; in a regent and general it is feeble indulgence. The contrast between Hektor and Odysseus is made clear through verbal echoes: a comparison between the episode of the raid (748–820 / 565–626) and Hektor’s confrontations with the Chorus (11–110 / 11–86), Aeneas (111–212 / 87–148), the Shepherd (351–461 / 264–341), and Rhesos (527–703 / 388–522) will leave no doubt. The effect is to make Odysseus formidable, Hektor amiable. Hektor’s crucial error, after sending the spy, lies in admitting Rhesos as an ally and settling him in the makeshift camp. The Chorus—again right for reasons they did not know—offered a way out: to receive Rhesos as a guest only. But the Shepherd, whom Hektor at first ridicules, is the one whose word he follows. Clearly, if Hektor had obeyed his own feelings, he would have saved Rhesos’ life. Of course, given Rhesos’ 267

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reticence, Hektor had no way of knowing either that Rhesos was really capable of destroying the Greek forces, or that he was likely to die that night, a victim of intervention by Athena, working through Odysseus. But it is his gentlemanly, tolerant character alone that actually prevents Hektor from averting disaster. This returns us to the theme of freedom. Hektor’s weakness is his virtue, and his virtue is specifically that of a free man. But Hektor is not free. He is ruling in a king’s stead, and fighting against strong enemies. He rules, and is no king; he is a fighter rather than a soldier. When he meets Rhesos, Hektor insists (540 / 395) ‘‘I don’t like doubts and double meanings,’’ and (571–72 / 420–21) ‘‘I am a free man. I speak my mind.’’ At once, Rhesos says of himself (576 / 423) ‘‘Neither do I like double meanings,’’ and goes on to speak with scorn of Odysseus as a robber whom he will execute. No man of honor, he says, ‘‘kills an enemy who doesn’t even see him’’ (687–88 / 510–11). Since Odysseus will kill Rhesos in his sleep, the irony is extremely heavy; but it quickens an important theme: that simplicity and duplicity, honor and dishonesty, are qualities which war reverses. Plain talk and independence, the virtues of liberty, are weaknesses in a siege; chivalry and open minds, adornments of victors, are handicaps to contestants. One tends to take Hektor’s simplicity as folly, and to love it in him. Rhesos’ simplicity, on the other hand, is either not believed, or is mistaken for arrogance. After Rhesos’ death, when we learn that he knew the future, we do believe in his truthfulness, and then we regret our quick judgment and mourn his death. Once again, the truth is hard to find. It is also after Rhesos has died that we learn that his ingratitude to Hektor was only apparent. We come to know Rhesos, too late, through the eyes of his mother, who is both mother and omniscient Muse. His seeming insincerity, his brutal talk, his pomposity, his absurd ambition to invade Greece, and his confidence that he can end the war unaided, make Rhesos detestable to Hektor and, presumably, to us. Rhesos could have told Hektor that his divine mother’s revelation of his destiny had kept him from coming to Troy before. But he keeps his honor unsullied. He offers unconvincing excuses for his failure to bring help, and speaks freely of quick victory. But, like Hektor, Rhesos is not really free. Too much a king, ‘‘beautiful, first among men,’’ he hides his fear, the true cause of the delay, as a thing unworthy, and by so doing determines his early death. He knew the danger. He might have stayed in the citadel. At least, he might have posted guards. But he chooses death or glory. This is Rhesos’ simplicity: to think simply and singly, when the truth is complex. 268

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What emerges, then, from the violent night of this drama, is that Hektor’s failure as regent4 and general is owing to his fine qualities, which are, in fact, democratic virtues. Rhesos’ death (which is his failure as king and commander) is due to his regal sense of honor. Each man is made unfit, by his special moral excellence, to cope with the realities of a major and protracted war.5 In this meaningless war, day will not bring freedom. The spy, Dolon, fails in his quest for truth in spite of his plan which should ‘‘work neat as a trap’’ (295 / 215). No, it is because of its cleverness that the plan fails. The trickery of spying must fit the characters concerned. Both Hektor and Dolon are too simple to succeed in duplicity. Moreover, divine help is required in dubious ventures; and divinity may not be single, honorable, or moral. When Dolon goes out in his silly disguise,6 the sentries wish him luck and the help of Hermes ‘‘lord of thieves.’’7 To no avail. Nor does Dolon’s past good fortune matter; his wealthy family cannot save him, so long as Odysseus is in control. Captured, Dolon tells where Hektor is bedded down; promised by Odysseus that he will be ransomed (in Homer’s account, Iliad 10. 383) he also reveals Rhesos’ whereabouts. Diomedes murders Dolon. The two Greeks move on to the Trojan camp. Here, the question rises: why does Euripides again alter Homer’s narrative? The answer is: in order that it shall be by Athena’s aid, and on her responsibility, that Odysseus and Diomedes—disappointed by missing Hektor, and ready to return to their stronghold on the shore—find and kill Rhesos. Athena must be the agent. For the trickery and the ingratitude of Athena, Odysseus’ captive,8 patroness, and ruler, are the very center of the play’s revelation of brilliant evil in the dim core of things. And it is this revelation that makes Rhesos a tragedy of knowledge.

4. In Homer, however, Priam still exercises a good measure of kingly power. Cf. 1116–18 / 879–81. 5. Consideration’s of style aside, it is perhaps this stress on virtues as faults that led a few ancient critics to remark that the manner of Rhesos ‘‘appears more Sophoclean’’ than a work of Euripides should. 6. When Odysseus entered Troy as a beggar (677–81 / 503–7) his face was unrecognizable (922–27 / 710–19) for he had had himself badly beaten (Odyssey iv, 244) before setting out for the city. He might have convinced captors that he was indeed only a poor, old man. Dolon’s disguise is silly because, if captured, he cannot claim he is only a wolf. 7. See note on 1156–71 / 915–25. 8. In the epic tradition, Odysseus entered Troy twice. First, was the job of spying. Second, the stealing of Athena’s image. Both adventures took place some time after the deaths of Hektor, Achilles, and Paris. Here, too, Euripides changes the order of events to stress the success of tricks when carried out under the patronage of Athena, who seems capable of turning impiety into piety. In this war values are inverted.

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Dolon’s disastrous mission reflects directly on Hektor. Hektor is too honorable to succeed in such policies. He is too honest, possibly, to deal with the realities of war. The stratagem suits Aeneas: it is politic and realistic. It is by no means chivalrous, however, and accordingly is not examined closely by Hektor. This is unfortunate. The scheme is not valid. Aeneas does not say to send ‘‘someone competent at intelligence-gathering,’’ which would be reasonable. ‘‘A volunteer,’’ Aeneas says, off-hand. No one but Dolon steps forward.9 Hektor accepts him. He is satisfied to deal with Dolon generously, without inquiring into his qualifications. The weakness here goes beyond its attendant virtue: high-minded Hektor abandons his critical faculty.10 In this scene, there is an enchantment of doom upon Hektor and Dolon. Beside the easy ironies—Dolon’s promise to bring back Odysseus’ head, for instance, and the Chorus’ confidence that Hektor will defeat the Greeks—two things speak of fatality: Dolon’s choices of reward and of disguise. Both are of thematic importance. The wolf-costume also is a variation of Homer, who says that Dolon wore a wolf-pelt as a cape, not as a disguise. Euripides’ Dolon makes much of his wolf-impersonation. Later (990–1001 / 780–88) we hear Rhesos’ driver’s dream, where Odysseus and Diomedes appear as wolves. One function of this symbolism is to suggest the presence of conventional justice in the workings of the world. In Greek and Italian folklore, the wolf represents three related types: (1) the Exile, (2) the Raider, and (3) the Treacherous Host. The relevance to Rhesos is easily stated. First, Dolon, the raider wolf, is killed by Diomedes, his captor (and therefore, host), treacherously. This foretells the retributive fate of Diomedes who, after the war, went into exile in Italy, where he was killed by the king who received him. Odysseus wanders in exile for ten years after the war; he returns home, disguised once more as a beggar, and battles the suitors, his wolf hosts. One sees in these sufferings of Diomedes and Odysseus a form of fatalistic justice which punishes, if it does not redeem. Achilles’ divine horses, Dolon’s choice among all prizes, are part of a wide crossing of themes. First, the horses are emblems of Hektor’s unfortunate virtue. Out of honor, Hektor systematically yields instinct to ignorance: in this case, to Aeneas’ half-blind wisdom. So, when he promises Dolon the prize which he himself has hoped to win,11 Hektor 9. Homer (Iliad 10 227–32) tells us that six men volunteer to accompany Diomedes. 10. Instead of inquiring into Dolon’s service experience, Hektor rashly accepts Dolon’s name as a good omen. This is the obverse of Hektor’s intuitive vision at the beginning of the play, that is, mere superstition. See note on 221–22 / 157–59. 11. This appears to be another Euripidean invention. In Homer (Iliad 10 303–31) the horses are freely offered by Hektor.

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is innocently imprinting doom on Dolon, Rhesos, himself, and on Troy. It is this horse theme, too, that brings Achilles and Hektor together. Though absent from battle, Achilles often passes across the curtain of this decisive night. His shadow is there, on the stage. In Achilles’ place, we often see Hektor standing. So, too, the lust of mortal men for divine steeds ironically intertwines the fates of the mighty rivals Hektor, Rhesos, and Achilles with that of the foolish Dolon. Achilles is first named by Aeneas, when he warns Hektor of the risk in raiding the Greek camp (168–75 / 119–22); second, by Dolon (252 / 182) when he asks Hektor for the horses. Hektor explains there why he wants the team for himself (259–63 / 184–88): these are the horses Poseidon gave to Peleus—a statement which foreshadows the Muse’s revelation of Achilles’ fate (1244–51 / 975–79): Achilles’ destiny is also Rhesos’. Both are carried into battle by precious teams which the enemy covets. Both are doomed to die soon. Each man is warned of death by his immortal mother. As Rhesos has preferred death to dishonor, so will Achilles. Thetis will mourn as the Muse now mourns. It is appropriate, therefore, that Rhesos asks Hektor to station him opposite Achilles. This is not simply a way of exposing Rhesos’ pride or showing Hektor’s patience. It helps make clear the similarity of character of Rhesos and Achilles. And, when the Shepherd (420–22 / 315–16) and then the Chorus (505–7 / 370–73, 510–17 / 375–78) predict that Rhesos will destroy Achilles, we are being told, ironically as it happens, that Rhesos is Hektor’s savior. The presence of Paris in the play deserves some notice. It has been thought that the scene in which he is fooled by Athena is merely transition and comic relief. But to place Paris so close to the catastrophe must also be a way of showing that conventional justice is inclined to be aesthetically rather than morally satisfying. In the craven betrayer Paris, we see—bearing in mind the epic tradition—the destined killer of Achilles. Later in this play (1248–51 / 978–79), we hear that Apollo is to be the power behind the deed. Thus, another scheme is completed: Rhesos, Odysseus, Athena; Achilles, Paris, Apollo. Gods of wisdom help (or cause) the liars and seducers among mankind to kill their noble and honorable enemies. This is also a poet’s critique of ‘‘poetic justice.’’ Having noticed that the horses of Achilles are the lure which leads Dolon, and therefore Rhesos, to destruction,12 we may ponder the specifically dramatic use of the two teams. ‘‘You and I, a pair of rivals,’’

12. Both in Homer (Iliad 10 474–75) and in Rhesos, Odysseus and Diomedes find Rhesos by first spotting the white steeds. In Rhesos the team is the chief guide for the Greeks, and a special inducement Athena uses to urge them on (812–15 / 616–21).

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says Hektor to Dolon (256–58 / 184), ‘‘I long for them the way a lover does.’’ Then Hektor sends Dolon on his way. Since Rhesos dies because Hektor sends Dolon, it is not surprising, although it is disturbing, to hear Rhesos’ driver charge Hektor with the murder, and specify Your motive was the horses. You wanted them the way a lover wants. (1062–63 / 839)

We are shocked, since we know that Hektor has yielded his claim of Achilles’ horses to Dolon. There has never been a hint that he might covet Rhesos’ team. But at the same time, the erotic content makes the Driver’s accusation sound natural; Hektor’s own expressions have prepared us for such a transfer of desire. In the Driver’s account of his dream (995–1000 / 782–86), the rape of Rhesos’ fillies by the wolves has given the desire for plunder a libidinous aspect. The description of the death of Rhesos (1003–8 / 789–91) continues the gruesome association. Then, the wounding of the Driver consummates it. This last (1011–15 / 793–97) has been prepared for by the wording of Hektor’s threats against the Greeks (87–89 / 72–73; cf. 131–33 / 100–101). Both the Driver and Hektor use words for plowing to describe wounds. The share and furrow are commonplace coital metaphors. The series of associations between sexual penetration and piercing by spear or sword creates a sensation of nightmare. The world of dream has burst upward and mixed with waking life. The natural, irrational leap of thought from Achilles’ to Rhesos’ team is part of the mixture: the symbols are the same in nightmare, however separate they may be in fact.13 So, again, it comes as no surprise, in this eruption of fantasy, that the Driver should accuse Hektor of treachery and duplicity. The climax of the tragedy begins here, with the denunciation of a simple man, whose very simplicity has made him responsible. I have already remarked that, in Rhesos, tricks and treacheries succeed only when performed by suitable characters and with divine aid. The rape of Athena from the citadel of Troy (no less than that of Helen from Menelaos’ house in Sparta) required the help of the object herself. So, too, the raid on Rhesos was Athena’s doing.14 We are made to see 13. Still, one may notice that Achilles’ team is not specified as to sex, while Rhesos’ driver speaks of ‘‘fillies.’’ 14. The Muse first accuses Odysseus alone (1133 / 894), and I have followed this throughout. Both Homer (Iliad 10 474–501) and Euripides (818–20 / 624–26) make it clear that Diomedes does the killing, while Odysseus manages the fillies and chariot. But the real actor is Athena (1189–92 / 938–40). The adventure begins with Diomedes in command; then responsibility passes to Odysseus; at last, Athena rules, and all others are agents.

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this take place so that we cannot avoid believing it.15 The Driver finds such a contingency inconceivable; he names it only to reject it. However, his naming it at all is more than another twist in the irony that is spun so methodically in this drama: the mention of divine assistance makes unavoidable the audience’s recognition of that bitter ignorance which goes by the name of common sense. The Driver is an honest, old soldier lost in the darkness of reasonable incredulity; the systematized knowledge in his mind joins with the pity in his heart to reject the enormity of what really did happen: It’s very simple. The Greeks are in no way responsible. How could they have located Rhesos’ quarters? Before dawn? Impossible . . . unless some god came and told the killers! They couldn’t even have known Rhesos was here. (1080–84 / 851–54)

His evidence is reason: How could Greeks cross through the Trojan army without even being seen? (1072–73 / 844–45)

‘‘Not seeing’’ is a refrain in the play. Night has no answers. Dolon does not return. The quest, diverted by the illogical necessity of fate, turns into a different discovery: the radical cruelty of power. The Driver has not seen, and never learns. Neither we, who have seen, nor Hektor, can believe fully in this cruel power until the Muse discloses the whole truth. The shadow of ignorance has prevailed. None but Athena and the Muse have understood all that this night means. Dawn brings knowledge of the past to Hektor and the Chorus; but this knowledge is now useless. The Muse is in haste to exonerate Hektor. The Driver is not there to hear; we wish he were, and we know the futility of this wish. How would knowing help him? Odysseus did it, the Muse announces, and he will be visited with just punishment (1133–36 / 893–94). Promised retribution again fails to relieve us, who want recompense rather than revenge. Vindication is no comfort to Hektor; for he has not understood that he was indirectly to blame, and has therefore been but little distressed by the

15. It is reasonable to assume the first audience was Athenian.

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Driver’s charges. He even confirms his abandonment of intuition in favor of ‘‘reason’’ by smugly declaring ‘‘We didn’t need priests or prophecy. I knew Odysseus killed him.’’ Yet, he is taking the word of a god. The Chorus, though, is pleased. These men have so long feared that Hektor would blame them for something, that they now feel unburdened; like Hektor, they see no new patterns in the weave of their experience. Next, the Muse reflects in reverie. She resembles a human being who, doubting an obvious explanation, casts about for further causes. But she, of all divinities, is most capable of expressing truth. In fact, she first answers the question which the Trojans want answered first: which Greeks killed Rhesos? Then she begins to unravel the knot of seemingly endless strands of fate. Helen, she says (1151–55 / 910–14), caused her son’s death. This statement should provoke the hearers to search as far as they can. Everyone is always blaming Helen; why not review that, too? Second, the Muse blames Thamyris. This time, she is showing more of the nexus: if Thamyris had not relied on his systematic artistic knowledge, he would not have challenged the Muses; if he had not, this Muse would not have traveled to Thrace, forded the Strymon, and in consequence given birth to Rhesos; if Rhesos had not been born, he could not have died. Then, the final thread: if Hektor had not been at war (due to Helen’s infidelity), he would not have summoned Rhesos to a premature death. In this passage (1151–89 / 910–37), themes of sexual violence, duplicity, and prideful reliance upon learning join together. Paris shames friendship while, with Helen, he disgraces marriage; the result is the breaking of homes through war. Strymon violates the virgin Muse; his son, for whom he dearly cares, dies in a war sparked by the so-called rape of Helen. Thamyris, who did not see the falsity of his estimate of reality, is blinded. In this context, it is interesting to recall that Thamyris, although a bard, was best known for his innovation of playing the lyre solo: he was the first man to abstract musical form from poetic meaning.16 At this moment, one tends to focus on the Muse herself, to see that even this immortal, equipped with transcendent insight, is injured in the actions of our brutal world. One will, at the same time, reflect upon Athena’s violence; her interview with Paris comes to mind. Paris, like Odysseus, is a man of expediency. When Athena impersonates Aphrodite, she is convincing, even though Paris, like Odysseus, is familiar with his patroness (see 803–6 / 608–10 and 831–35 / 637–39). Athena

16. See note on 1156–71 / 915–25.

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can play a credible Aphrodite because the two are alike in power, in vanity, and in ruthlessness. Paris is deceived because, like Odysseus, he judges the present by means of normalized knowledge of the past. The device of disguises in the play connects the death of Rhesos with the doings of Aphrodite and Paris as well as with the activities of Athena and Odysseus. Disguise is a unifying theme in Rhesos. The truth is masked. Disguise is a metaphor for the same ignorance and blind violence which the unique night-setting and the weapon-imagery of the play symbolize. The Muse can now (1189–1210 / 938–49) expose Athena directly, and show the horror of the truth. Odysseus, the sly enemy, was merely Athena’s agent. All Odysseus has is technique. He has done only what the goddess wanted. Like Thamyris, he has the skills of the scholar. He is an expert—and experts are servants of power. Athena is patroness of all crafts. She is a goddess of noble culture. All the more clear, then, is her obligation to the Muse. We have seen that Rhesos appeared ungrateful to Hektor. For this, the Muse assumes responsibility (1137–44 / 895–903, 1180–89 / 932–37). But Athena has blatantly returned evil for good. The debts of Athena which the Muse numbers are relevant to the whole drama: they are, (1) the honor done Athens by the Muses’ visits; (2) Orpheus’ revealing the Mysteries to the Athenians; and (3) the training of Musaios by Apollo and the Muses. The first must refer to the cultural splendor of Athens. One thinks of Phidias’ glittering statue of Athena. The second and third are best interpreted in light of a passage of Aristophanes (Frogs, 1033–34) where we are told ‘‘Orpheus revealed religious ceremonies and taught men to refrain from bloodshed. Musaios revealed the cures for illnesses, and gave oracles.’’ Orpheus, then, called men to gentleness, and Musaios taught them to look to the gods for knowledge. Both fostered piety. It is this innocent piety that the treachery of Athena mocks. For when Athena betrays the Muse, she attacks the source of men’s love of the gods. Earlier in the play, Athena may well have won our admiration. Her impersonation of Aphrodite made us smile. It was possible then to think of her as a great ally, helping her chosen people to escape destruction. Now, confronted with vast evil, we must fear the goddess. We may also fear Athens, fear ourselves.17 At this moment, Hektor tries to justify himself. What could he have done, he asks the Muse, but beg Rhesos’ help for his country? Rhesos

17. See note on 406–9 / 306–7.

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had bad luck. Hektor will bury him with honor. The Muse does not bother to answer the question: indeed, what else could Hektor have done? For all his dreams of peaceful reconstruction, Hektor knows no way to gain peace except by victory. As for ‘‘luck,’’ the habitual use of this word as a refrain in this and many tragedies can only mean that men must express inexplicable happiness and grief in terms of blind chance, of casting dice, and so evade the concept of causation; for this last would force them to judge the ways of fellow men, of themselves, and, most fearfully, of the gods. There is nothing for the Muse to say about luck. Rhesos’ mother answers only Hektor’s offer of a tomb. Persephone, as a favor owed to Orpheus, whose teachings promoted her worship, will bring about the resurrection of Orpheus’ cousin Rhesos. In Persephone, at least, there is honor; and she, we know, reigns among the dead. Her account of the transfiguration of Rhesos leads the Muse back to Hektor. Hektor is not one of those who allow themselves to understand the inspired words of Bacchos’ prophet. To console Hektor in his uncomprehending distress, the Muse predicts Achilles’ death. She allows Hektor, if he wishes, to imagine that he will defeat his great enemy; or, he may take comfort solely in the knowledge that Achilles will not survive the war. But to the audience, acquainted with Homer and the cyclic poems, Euripides’ Muse is saying that retribution will continue to carry on its round of death, hatred, and new bloodshed. The audience is also being led to reflect that Achilles’ death, like Rhesos’, will be without ‘‘glory,’’ and thus, in the Driver’s terms, without meaning. After a pause, the Muse, her son in her arms, delivers a last message to Hektor, the Chorus, and all who will hear. She has said that though Rhesos will live again, he is forever lost to her. She does not, therefore, give solace, but a terrible solution; and because she is a Muse, the truth of what she says is accessible exclusively to those who will understand it in a flash. If you have no children, she tells us, you will not bury them. She has already said this of herself and Rhesos, who, unborn, could not have died. Now, she reveals that this is one dreadful, effectual alternative, of which the counter-solution, which remains unspoken, hidden in the dawn of the play’s new day, must surely be: to cease strife, as Orpheus urged, and escape fear; to revere life, and so save it. The Muse and Rhesos vanish. By their reactions, the Chorus and Hektor declare that they have not been enlightened. The night is over. The sorrowful day, anticipated as the time of decision, brightens. The time—it has been ‘‘time’’ since the beginning, when the Chorus awoke Hektor—the time has come, the Chorus says; Rhesos is the Muse’s concern now. With a nightmare echo, Hektor repeats early orders to hurry, arm, light torches. Trojan torches, these are, pale in the morning 276

INTRODUCTION

light; their destiny, to burn Greek ships. The Greeks have not run away. Then Hektor sees the sun, which is at once the bright form of Apollo, the deceptive password of the past night, and the sun of yesterday, that ‘‘gave out’’ when victory seemed so near. But now he calls the sun’s rays files of allied troops which ‘‘I’m convinced, are bringing us the day of freedom!’’ Hektor has been convinced too often, but he has barely begun to realize this. He makes the gestures expected of him, flamboyant, defiant. The sentries pick up the cry; for Hektor’s mood is theirs. Their hope is pitiable. Freedom, for them and for Hektor, is only talk. The quest for truth, we feel, is past. For a second or two, however, as the call to march rings out, we, too, place our hope in battle. This rapture breaks, and is replaced by the pervasive irony, when we hear the sentry proclaim: Who knows? Some god may march at our side and give us victory. (1270–71 / 995–96)

While Hektor stands in the sunlight, while the men of Troy prepare to march to their supposed decision, which we know to be only tentative, we are left to ourselves. If we are free, Rhesos may help us to trust our own, rare, luminous insights. But we may not be free. Forced by the drama to sense that meaning, the vindication of our nature, is regularly lost in the profusion of appearances, we may suppose that we, too, are armed, at best, with bitter courage, by which we must struggle within the tragic structure of reality.

Richard Emil Braun

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RHESOS

Translated by

richard emil braun

CHARACTERS

chorus of fifteen Trojan soldiers including the leader of the watch, and the second and third soldiers hektor crown prince of Troy, regent and chief commander aeneas cousin of Hektor dolon young Trojan recruit, a wealthy commoner shepherd rhesos king of Thrace odysseus king of the Greek island of Ithaka diomedes crown prince of the Greek city-state of Argos athena paris brother of Hektor driver of Rhesos’ war-chariot muse one of the Nine, mother of Rhesos Other Trojan soldiers, attendants of Hektor and Aeneas, guards and courtiers of Rhesos

Line numbers in the right-hand margin of the text refer to the English translation only, and the Notes beginning at page 333 are keyed to these lines. The bracketed line numbers in the running headlines refer to the Greek text.

Late night on the plain of Troy. To the left, are the advance lines of the Trojans and their allies. Beyond them is the Greek camp. To the right is the city and the road to the mountains. A small campfire in the foreground reveals a few lean-tos improvised of cloaks and spears. A chorus of fifteen Trojan soldiers enters from the left.

leader (to rest of chorus) Make your rounds of the tents, men. Find Hektor. The soldiers begin peering into the lean-tos. The leader calls loudly. Who’s awake for the king? Squire! Bodyguard! Out here, man! (He mutters to himself.) What a night! Whole army asleep . . . Over here!

second soldier (The leader approaches.) third Over here, on the ground . . . soldier

Hektor, sir! Wake up!

second soldier

The leader now stands beside the two soldiers. The second soldier speaks very softly to him. I can’t face him . . . When he opened his eyes, Hektor had the look you see on the Gorgon face glaring on Athena’s armor. Man, please! You talk to him.

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[10–29]

The leader kneels and speaks directly into the improvised tent. The rest of the chorus approaches. leader Hektor, listen. It’s time. You must hear this. Sir!

10

hektor Time? Who are you? You sound like a Trojan . . . Speak up, man! The password! The leader whispers something. There is a rustling of leaves. hektor, in heavy armor, crawls from the lean-to. He stands, using his spear as a staff, and turns to face the cluster of soldiers. You come out of the dark, close in, wake me . . . What’s the meaning of this? We’re sentries, sir . . .

leader

hektor Sentries, in confusion. Why? Nothing to fear, sir.

leader

hektor I’m not afraid of anything, soldier! What is it? A night attack? No, sir.

leader

hektor Then why leave your post? Why stir up the camp? What couldn’t wait till morning? Leave your post, when we’re spending the night under arms, a spear’s throw from the Greek lines? leader Arm is the word, sir! We need to warn the allies, tent to tent ‘‘Rise and shine! Spears on your shoulders! Cavalrymen, harness up!’’ third Dispatch messengers to all the command posts. soldier

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[30–53]

second Are the priests standing by at the altars? soldier third Sir, we have to muster the light troops and archers. soldier hektor One minute you say there’s nothing to fear. Next, you want to sound the alarm. You run, shaking like a man who’s been flogged or goaded or sits in the sun till he thinks he hears piping.

30

From right and left, soldiers begin to gather within hearing range. You leave your post, stir up the whole camp, then you shout orders and instructions at me. Now, soldier, report! Your message! Make it clear. Make me see. leader All through the Greek camp, there are fires. The sky is as bright, sir, as morning, when the shadows are burned clear. second A fire-red flood is rippling over soldier the ships on the beach head. Their whole camp is in confusion.

40

third The troops are like anxious lovers, soldier rushing in hope of a word—to Agamemnon. They never showed so much fear before. leader We looked up at this, and worried, and wondered what was happening. That’s all we can report. And we hope you will never say we failed to come to you in time, sir. hektor No, you came in good time. As for your report: you tried to tell me how frightened you were, but your real message was the Greeks’ fear. The truth is that our noble enemy

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[53–69]

is ready to run. They’ll wade out behind their wall of light, push off and head out into the darkness. They expect to do this right before my eyes, without my seeing them. Very timely Greek panic! Those watchfires warm me like my hearth at home. Still more soldiers enter. hektor looks up and around, but when he speaks again he addresses no visible person. What are you, a god, some little god, a spirit that robbed me? Fox that took the lion’s feast! This spear would have destroyed the whole Greek army! One minute, the sun was holding a million flashing lamps to clear my way. Then, the sun stopped. The sun gave out. But I would never stop. This spear was light with luck. I pushed it into the darkness.

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hektor now addresses the chorus and assembled troops. I was going to set fire to the ships. I was going, tent to tent, to drag out Greeks and kill—no doubts, no second thoughts—kill and harden my hands in the brine of their blood! The spirit was in me. A god was pouring good luck into me. But then, learned men, priests, experts who understand the gods, persuaded me to wait for the light, and then, then, they said, I would sweep the rabble into the sea. Yes, but the Greeks have priests of their own and plans of their own. They’re not waiting for our sacrifices, our reading of gall and lungs and hearts, our scrupulous, pious planning. None of that. They’re like runaway slaves. They feel capable of anything, when they stand in the shadows.

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[70–86]

Now light has come! On the double! Alert the army: out of the arms of sleep, and arm for war! Yes, the Greeks to the sea! They’ll make for the ships. We’ll plow their backs with our spears. Blood will rain down the ladders. Then, we’ll take prisoners: haul them back with ropes around their necks. Then they’ll learn what it is to work the earth. Then they can say they know the land of Troy, furrow to furrow, by struggle and toil, as our people know her. Move it, men!

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leader Before we learn what the Greeks are doing? We still don’t even know they are running. hektor What other explanation can there be? Why so many fires? leader

I don’t know. The more I look, the more it puzzles me. There’s too much light. Never so much before.

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hektor They never turned and ran before, either. They were always ashamed to run. If you let this trouble you, sooner or later you’ll find that you’re afraid of everything. leader They ran when the battle turned. You forced them back. But, for now, wait. Try to see where this leads. hektor The one straight word in war is arm. You said it. third Sir, I see Aeneas heading this way. soldier He must have news . . . aeneas enters, from the right. Armed men attend him.

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[87–104]

aeneas Hektor, these men were posted sentries tonight. What are they doing here? They woke you up, didn’t they? Couldn’t they wait? What is it? What are these men afraid of? They’ve stirred up the whole camp. hektor Aeneas, put on your armor . . . aeneas Armor, why? Are they trying a sneak raid? Not waiting for dawn? Is that the report? hektor No, they’re withdrawing. They’re ready to sail. aeneas Hektor, please, take this step by step. Do you have solid evidence? hektor

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Evidence? There’s light! Fires! The sky is burning. I can’t believe they’ll wait for a new day. They’re feeding flames to keep those famous, polished decks of theirs shining red until they find their places at the oars. Then they’ll push off from our land and make for home.

aeneas Home? Then why should I arm? Why are you armed? hektor I’m going to stop them. That’s what this spear is for. I’m going to cut off their retreat. And when they try to jump aboard, humping their way up the hulls and clutching the rails, they’ll feel me on their backs. Don’t you understand? Where’s your sense of honor? What are we, cowards? Not ashamed to let the enemy escape? Think what they’ve done to us! But now a god has put them in our hands. Do you want to let them go? Won’t you fight?

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aeneas I wish you could plan as well as you fight, Hektor. But no one is good at everything. One man, one talent: and every man so proud of that one talent, he expects authority in everything. Do you see? In battle, no one is your equal. But other men are better strategists than you. Now, here is what happened. You were told there were fires in the Greek camp. You were elated. You felt they were retreating. Even now, you want to lead out the troops. But, think: The first problem is how to cross their trenches. Those trenches are deep. The night is dark. But assume you can transport the army. Suppose then, that, instead of cutting off the enemy as they withdraw, you find them waiting for you. You’d be advancing against the light. The Greeks would be crouching in the shadows. They’d be watching for the glint of your spears. Hektor, you know the Greeks would be the victors.

[105–21]

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The second problem is your retreat. You could never reach Troy. Here again: the night is dark. How can a blind army run across palisades? The infantrymen would be impaled. As for the cavalry: when the drivers tried to jump the ramparts and escarpments, they’d smash the chariots’ axles. Now, the third contingency. Assume the victory is yours. You’ll have to face a whole force of reserves. Whatever you may think of him, Achilles will not let the fleet be burned or his countrymen taken prisoner.

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[122–39]

Inflammable though he is, under attack he stands like a fortress. Our troops need rest, Hektor. Look at them, after the battering of the day’s action, sleeping with their shields in their arms. They’ve just now settled down again. Wait. Send a spy to the Greek camp: a volunteer. If the enemy is preparing to run, we can still head out and intercept them. But if those fires are meant to trap us, then we can consider countermeasures. Given the state of our intelligence, Hektor, believe me, this is all we can do. leader I believe him, sir. Please, look for truth in this confusion. Lead us step by step.

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third Sir, what could work better? soldier Get a scout down to the ships, close enough to learn what those fires are for. second The Greek ships’ prows glow like hatred soldier on the enemy’s faces. We need to know what it means. hektor Truth and learning, knowledge and meaning— those words are sweet to everyone. You all agree. The victory is yours. (to the newly arrived troops) You men: tell the allies to return to quarters and bed down. If they heard about this meeting, tell them it’s nothing. He nods to several men, who hurry out to the left.

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[140–59]

Aeneas, I’ll send a spy. If we learn there’s a trap, you’ll hear about it. But, in case the enemy are casting off, be on the alert. When the bugles sing out, watch for me. I won’t wait. I’ll make contact tonight. And when the ships are sliding out of the grooves they’ve rutted in our shore, I’ll be there, inside, on top of the Greeks! aeneas Send your spy now. Don’t wait. And please, Hektor, think this through, step by step. You’ll see: when you need me, I’ll be at your side, ready for action.

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aeneas and his men leave, to the right. hektor

You all heard. Who will it be? Who will help his country? Our forefathers have given us a great nation. Batallions of foreign allies have joined us: They have journeyed here for the sake of Troy. Speak out! I can’t do everything myself. Who will volunteer?

From the crowd of soldiers, only one steps forward. He is the youngest present, barely past boyhood. He is very homely. dolon I volunteer. I’ll stake my life on Troy. I’ll be your scout, reconnoiter the Greek ships, and learn all their plans. I’ll do this, on my terms . . . hektor You’re Dolon, aren’t you? Dolon. A trapper, trickster! You are well named. It’s a lucky name. Good! Young man, your family is well known:

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[160–78]

Now your mission will double its glory. dolon It has to be done. But the harder the task, the higher the pay. A good reward doubles a man’s pride in his work. hektor I agree. Payment should be just. State any price, except the throne.

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dolon I don’t want to rival you in power. hektor Station, then. Marry one of my sisters . . . dolon I wouldn’t marry above myself. hektor There’s gold, if that’s what you mean by ‘‘reward.’’ dolon There’s gold at home. I don’t want it. My family has no needs of that kind. hektor Then what do you need? Is there something from our national treasuries? dolon

I want your promise. After you’ve taken the Greek prisoners . . .

hektor Prisoners? Good. Take anyone except Agamemnon and Menelaos.

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dolon I know they’ll have to die. Why would I want to save them? hektor Do you want Ajax? The son of Oı¨leus? dolon The son of a king? No. Those princely hands would never learn to work the land. hektor For ransom, then. Name the man. dolon I told you before: we have money.

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[179–96]

hektor Do you mean the spoils? Just be there, you’ll have first choice. dolon

Spoils belong to the gods. Let them hang in the temples.

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hektor What greater reward is there, Dolon? Name it. dolon Achilles’ horses. When a man stakes his life on dice some god tosses, the prize should be worth more to him than life. hektor You? Dolon? You want what I want! You and I, a pair of rivals. Rival lovers. Yes, they are worth any danger. I long for them the way a lover does. Those horses never tire. They will never die. They were the colts the lord of the sea, Poseidon, broke and gave to Peleus. Today, they bear Achilles, Peleus’ son, rushing into the lines. I have raised your hopes, Dolon. I will not turn my promise to a lie. I give Achilles’ team to you. It’s a beautiful prize you’re taking home. dolon That’s the reward courage deserves! Hektor, I thank you . . . Hektor, no hard feelings? You’re the greatest man in Troy . . . You have thousands of wonderful things.

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hektor and several soldiers leave, to the right. The chorus gathers around dolon. leader Dolon, you’ve seen your way clear to try a hard test. If you win, you’ll be a great man, happy forever.

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[197–220]

third There’s glory just in attempting a mission like this. But soldier Dolon, when you marry a sister of your king, isn’t that greatness? second Happiness and eternity and greatness are gifts of the gods. soldier I hope you gain all you deserve. Justice will see to that. All men can do is promise. dolon Well, that’s it, men. I’m heading out. First, home, warm up at the hearth, change into a suitable outfit; then, down to the Greek ships.

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leader What kind of outfit will you change to? dolon Something that suits the job. What a thief would wear. leader A thief? Well, for schooling, ask a scholar. What will you wear? dolon I’ll draw a wolf pelt over my head, down my back, and fix the jaws open around my face. I’ll fix the paws on my hands, and leg to leg. I’ll tack the way a wolf does to fool trackers. I’ll come in close on all fours, move up the trenches, then creep along under the bows of their ships. When I’m back in the open fields, I’ll stand and run. It’ll work neat as a trap.

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second May the son of Maia, Hermes, lord of thieves, soldier be with you, Dolon. May he guide you there and bring you home. leader You know your work, Dolon. You just need luck. dolon I’ll be all right. Don’t worry about luck. I’ll kill Odysseus, and bring you his head.

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[220–45]

Or Diomedes. You’ll say ‘‘This proves it. Dolon made it clear down to the fleet.’’ I’ll be home before light comes on the land. There’ll be blood on my hands—or I won’t be back at all. dolon leaves, to the right. The men of the chorus gather in prayer. chorus Lord of Thymbra, giver of healing grasses forever green, Thymbra of fragrances; god of Delos, island hidden from sunlight where you were born (earth born to bear you); turn from Lykia, land of the wolf, your mother, land of light; walk from your shrine there. Archer, come armed. Come in the night, Apollo. Your face is day. Join with your kingdom. Save the ancient armor you gave us, Troy’s walls, our home you made. Your power is boundless. Lord Apollo, come, bright as the prime of the sky. Guard young Dolon, guide him down to the Greek ships, unseen among the troops, seeking and seeing. Turn and lead him, safe, to his home and his father, where altars burn the spice of thanksgiving. Warrior Ares, then, will abandon Greek hearts, return to Thrace, land of our kinsmen. Then, our king, our master, will storm the Greek fort, open its walls, spoil the invaders. Beaming faces greet the procession. Dolon appears, proud, poised in Peleus’ chariot, drives the deathless team, gift of the god of the sea.

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hektor returns, with soldiers. The chorus breaks up into groups. second Yes, Dolon should stay in our prayers. None of us dared spy soldier on the beach head. But Dolon stood up for our homes and our country. 330 leader His spirit amazes me. Real determination is rare . . .

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[246–69]

third Yes, when the sun gives out and the sea swells, and the ship’s soldier bows butt and lurch to leeward, it tells a man just what he is. second Well, we have a few real soldiers, not afraid to face fixed spears. soldier leader As long as we have some brave men in the field, the allies will have to respect us. There is some restless moving about. The sentries reassemble in a mood of reckless gaiety. leader Which of the noble enemy, do you think, our butcher-boy will stick? He’ll make a shambles of that camp! He’s no fly-by- 340 night. Both feet on the ground, that’s him—no, two by two, four-square and solid, and quick as a timber-wolf. second I’d like to see him catch Menelaos. What a hostage he’d make! soldier Or kill Agamemnon and bring his head, and drop it in Helen’s hands. How’d you like to see that? third Agamemnon? Now you’re talking! He started this war. He350 soldier mustered a thousand ships. I can see Dolon saying to the bitch ‘‘Helen! Helen, here’s your brother-in-broken-law, your head of state!’’ That’ll raise a howl from her. A shepherd enters from the right. He goes straight to hektor. shepherd King Hektor, I hope I can bring my royal masters news like this from now on . . . hektor Now, here’s a sample of rustic clumsiness. Your ‘‘masters,’’ as you see, are under arms. Without thinking, or a second look, you decide to tell me about your flocks. This is not the time. Don’t you know 294

RHESOS

[269–90]

where my house is, or my father’s palace? Go there and announce you’re having good luck with your 360 sheep! shepherd Shepherds are clumsy, sir. I agree. But I have important news. hektor Stop. No farm reports. This is war. shepherd War’s the word. That’s why I’m here. A friend of yours has come to help our country. He’s leading a force of tens of thousands. hektor Tens of thousands? He must have left his home empty. What country was it? shepherd Thrace. His father’s name is Strymon . . . hektor Rhesos? Rhesos is here in Troy?

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shepherd That’s the name. Rhesos. You just said the other half of all I had to say. hektor But why did he wander from the road on the plain? Why did he go to the mountains? shepherd

I don’t know for sure. Nothing’s very clear. But I can figure— since it’s no small problem to move an army in the night—that he must have heard the plain is crawling with enemy troops. I imagine he turned off on the mountain track rather than risk blundering into the Greeks. Now, we live way up the slopes of Mt. Ida, from the bare rock on down, with home and hearth rooted right in the earth. And along he came, in the dark, through the oaks where the wolves run. An army on the march, flowing, 295

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[290–315]

with a hollow roar like a river— it just hit us. We were so amazed, we rushed toward the high pastures. We thought maybe some Greeks were coming to rob your flocks and wreck the pens. But then we heard them talk. It wasn’t Greek, 390 so we weren’t afraid any more. I was anxious as a lover waiting for a kind word. I couldn’t wait. I marched straight up to the leader of the scouts on the trail, and asked him in Thracian ‘‘What’s your general’s name? Is he heading down to help Priam’s people?’’ And when I learned that all I hoped was true, I just stopped. I kept looking at Rhesos. I thought some god was driving by, the way he stood in the chariot and handled those 400 horses. Those horses! Their yoke is like a balance, a pair of scales made of gold crossing their necks. Both are colts, and they’re more like sun on snow than plain snow. And Rhesos: there on his shoulder was a shield glaring with golden medals welded on. The horses’ foreheads have Gorgon faces tied to them, like the ones you see on Athena’s breastplate, but brass instead of gold. On their harness, they have bells, clashing like the hour signals 410 of the guard on the walls—or the alarm bell. The army, I couldn’t count by hundreds. It’s impossible to imagine. The squadrons of cavalry kept coming and coming, and division after division of infantry and archers, and along with them huge crowds of naked men, no armor at all, trailing long Thracian capes . . . That’s the kind of ally who’s come to Troy. Not even Achilles will escape—

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[315–32]

it doesn’t matter if he runs or stands: not from Rhesos. It can’t be done. second When the gods steady a nation’s affairs, soldier they even out the scales. The balance tilts back slowly. Good luck outweighs the losses. hektor (using his spear to mime the action he describes) Here’s our good luck—this spear! The scales of fortune are in the hands of Zeus. Zeus has chosen us. So, only now we discover multitudes of friends. When this war began, we needed good men to share the struggle and the suffering. We needed them when Ares battered us, shattering our defenses like a ship in a gale, sails split to rags, hurling it toward the rocks. That was the time to help. Rhesos showed then what a friend he was to Troy. He didn’t chase the hounds or drive the spear; but here he is, now, just in time to share a feast of the game we’ve brought down. third No, sir: it’s not a friendship you can honor. soldier leader But, sir: if he can help Troy, welcome him. hektor We’ve kept Troy safe without his help. leader Then you’re convinced we’ve won? hektor Yes, I am. And the daylight will prove I’m right. The gods will shine on us. second Please, sir, soldier we can’t know the future before we see it. The gods can change anything.

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[333–46]

hektor That’s why we need friends we can trust. Rhesos has come too late. shepherd King Hektor, if we turn help away, we’ll lose the friends we do trust. Just seeing Rhesos will put fear in the Greeks.

450

leader Yes, since he’s here, sir, let him stay: as a guest, not an ally. Let him share in our victory feast. hektor (to leader) That’s good advice. (to shepherd) But you, you’ve kept your eyes open. Very timely observations . . . This man in golden armor . . . Your report and your arguments convince me: Now that he’s in our country, Rhesos can join the allies. Send him here to me. The shepherd hurries out to the right. hektor retires to the background, where he paces slowly, in the manner of a sentry. Once more, the men of the chorus gather to pray. leader

Nemesis, daughter of Zeus, halt us if what we say now may lose us the friendship of men or gods. No one, run as he will, escapes you.

second soldier

Help us now. Hold us to truth. All that our spirit, the breath of our lives, longs to declare, we must tell.

leader

Rhesos, river’s son, now you have come . . .

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[347–66]

third soldier

down from the foothills, over the plain, close by the palace . . .

leader

Now you are here, Rhesos. Welcome!

second soldier

Your mother Muse—this is the time!— your father river brings you far from the charm of his shores, to Troy.

third soldier

Father Strymon, Muse of song! Clear, whirling fluid in the sweet folds of her— river and god, goddess and singing— planted the seed you blossomed from: Rhesos, now you have come to us, like Zeus who reveals the daylight . . .

leader

driving the colts that twinkle dazzling roan of river dapple, Rhesos, now you are with us!

second soldier

Land of our fathers, at last we can say Zeus has come to set us free; Zeus, unveiling the new day.

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The chorus falls silent until the tension of expectation forces speech.

third soldier

When will this ancient Troy again toast rowdy troops of friends and lovers door to door, dawn to dark? When will the round-the-table romp of rival vintages return, the revelers’ beakers and clashing tunes and the lovers’ singing?

leader

When Agamemnon is gone, and his brother, down from the jutting shore,

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[366–384]

to the open sea, from Troy to Sparta: that will be the time. second soldier

Oh Rhesos, our friend, our brother! I pray that your hand, your spear will renew the days of gladness; and you return safe to your home.

leader

Yes, Rhesos, come, into the light! Raise your shield, turn the glare of its pure gold on Achilles’ eyes. Drive those colts, speed to the van! Level your two-edged javelin!

second soldier

No one who stands against you will ever again dance on fresh lawns when spring returns like a new bride. He will lie on this Earth, heavy and still, and decay in her mother arms.

leader

The great king is here, the regal cub that Thrace has reared! Look! The beauty of the man . . .

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hektor steps forward. Look at the gold of his strong body. Hear the clamor and clash of bells on his shield ringing like the echo of a river in flood.

third soldier

rhesos enters from the right, slowly and ceremoniously, accompanied by his driver and followed by a dozen noblemen. His face is hidden by a visored helmet.

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[385–407]

Oh Troy, this is a god, a true god of war, prancing son of river and song, come to inspire us!

second soldier

The chorus moves aside. The driver and a courtier remove rhesos’ helmet. rhesos comes forward and grasps hektor’s hand. rhesos What joy to see so faithful a son as you, Hektor, ruling this land to the honor of a grateful king. At last, our day of greeting and gladness has come! Your luck is strong, Hektor. How happy I am to see you’ve driven the Greeks back to their fortress. Now that I have joined you, all that remains is to break down the walls and burn their fleet. hektor Rhesos, you, too, I see, are your parents’ child: son of a Muse and the river Strymon. You rush. You overflow. Your speech is full of cheerful melody. But I want always to tell the plain truth. I don’t like doubts and double meanings. You should have come here long ago, to share in this country’s hardships. The Greeks had worn us down. You did nothing. Troy might have fallen. We called out to you— don’t deny it. You didn’t come. You sent no help. Heralds went, and embassies, to beg for aid. We sent robes and scepters. But you, Rhesos, a man of the same blood, made a gift of us to the Greeks. You drank a toast to friendship, and betrayed us. But when you were one of many small rulers, I made you king of Thrace. This hand made you great!

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RHESOS

[408–29]

Around Pangaion, through Paionia, I met your rival princes face to face. I attacked. I broke their lines. I tamed the people and handed you the leash. And how did you reward your friends? You discarded us in our agony of crisis. I couldn’t trust you then. Now it is too late. Other men, of other races, and by nature different from us, joined us long ago. Some fell here. Their graves are monuments to loyalty. The rest, infantry, cavalry, stand with us today, upholding our cause, facing cold winds and the dry fire of the sky, that god in the sky . . . They are not reveling, as you have done, in heavy drinks around the table, dawn to dark, and a snug bed.

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Now you should know that I am a free man. I speak my mind. I say you failed me, Rhesos, and I look in your eye and tell you so. rhesos I am like you, Hektor. My words cut a straight trail. Neither do I like double meanings. It is against my nature, too, to disguise my feelings. The weight of my grief, Hektor, was greater than yours. All the while I remained outside this country, it rode me, grinding at my heart. I was preparing for the passage to Troy when Scythians attacked us. I had reached the coast of the Black Sea, at the boundary of their farthest tribes,

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RHESOS

[429–53]

and was ready to transport my forces from the headland that reaches down toward Troy. They came from behind and closed us in. The earth was churned to a broth of their blood and our blood. The lances stirred indiscriminate death.

590

I was coming to Troy to help you, Hektor. Those were the conditions that detained me. When I had destroyed the invading host, I chose hostages from among their children, and imposed an annual tax on each clan. Then we crossed the straits. From there, border to border, I proceeded overland; not drinking, as you claim, but marching. Nor was I dozing in chambers of pure gold, but sleepless stood against squalls from the sea and gales of the frozen passes that glazed this cloak as I clasped it round me. Now I am here—late, as you say, but not too late. No, Hektor, I have come in good time. Nine years you have fought and made no progress; day after day blindly tossed dice with the Greeks in a random war. Now, put your trust in this: If the sun gives me the light of a single day, that will be enough. I will destroy the fort, attack the fleet, and kill the Greeks. I will cut a quick path to the end of your struggles. At dawn of the second day I’ll leave for home. None of your men need take part in this battle. I alone can stop the Greek boast of greatness. I will destroy them. It is not too late for me.

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[454–78]

The men of the chorus approach hektor and rhesos. leader

We welcome all you have said, Rhesos.

third soldier

Those are the words of brotherhood. This is the friend Zeus sent to help us.

second soldier

I pray that Zeus will help you, Rhesos, if what you have said can lose you the good will of men or gods.

third soldier

The Greeks have never sent a man to match him.

leader

How could Achilles or Ajax stand up to him? It can’t be done.

second soldier

If only I see the new day dawn, King Rhesos: time to harden your hands in the brine of blood, time for your lance 630 to redeem our dead with a ransom of death!

rhesos I will redeem your losses, Hektor. I stayed away too long. But now let me repay you. May Nemesis approve what I shall say: After we have set Troy free; when we have offered the gods the choicest of the spoils we reap, then, Hektor, I want you to join with me. I will lead my army to the land of the Greeks. This spear will root out the entire country. Then they will learn to suffer as you have. hektor If we escape the immediate danger, I hope, step by step, to restore my country. For that, I’ll thank the gods with all my heart. As for invading Greece—it’s easy to talk.

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[479–99]

rhesos I’ve heard their greatest leaders are here in Troy. Is that true? They are great enough for me.

hektor

rhesos Once we kill them, the rest will be easy. hektor Don’t try to see into the future, Rhesos. Keep your eyes on the darkness around us. rhesos Think how they’ve hurt you. Are you satisfied to do nothing in return?

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hektor I’m satisfied with the power I have. Troy is kingdom enough. But now, make your choice: the left wing, the right, or the center. You can station your troops anywhere in the allied army. rhesos Hektor, I want to fight alone . . . But you have struggled so long for this— you’d be ashamed not to be with me when I set fire to the fleet. Very well: station me face to face against Achilles. hektor Achilles won’t be there. rhesos We had word that he had sailed to Troy. hektor He sailed. He’s here. But he has a grudge against Agamemnon. A point of honor. Achilles won’t fight. Who is their second best?

rhesos

hektor I believe that Ajax is as good a man, and so is Diomedes. The cleverest and the loudest is Odysseus.

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RHESOS

The man has spirit and determination. There’s nothing he’s afraid to try. He’s done us more harm than any of the rest. One night he broke into Athena’s temple. He stole her image and carried it through pickets and escarpments and trenches all the way to Agamemnon’s flagship. Another time, he was sent as a spy: came disguised as a beggar, walked past our sentries, cringing all the while and cursing the Greeks. Got clear into the city. And he got out, too. Killed the guards at one of the gates. We always sight him loitering around Thymbra, at Apollo’s altar, four miles southeast, watching his chance to make a sneak attack. Always slips through our hands. He’s like a fox.

rhesos No man of honor kills an enemy who doesn’t even see him. He meets him face to face. By your account, Odysseus is nothing but a highwayman: ambush, treachery, disguises! I intend to take this man alive. I’ll impale him through the back and leave him beside the road to the main gate. Vultures will come flying to the feast. Let him die the death reserved for robbers who desecrate the temples of the gods.

hektor Very well. It’s time to move into your quarters. We still have an hour before dawn. I’ll show you where your troops can spend the night. It’s to the rear of our lines. Our password is Bright Apollo. You may need it. So remember, and tell your men: Bright Apollo. 306

[499–522] 670

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[523–39]

(to chorus) Take up your position in front of our lines. See that you stay awake till you’re relieved. Watch for Dolon. If he’s all right, he should be close to camp. hektor, rhesos, and attendants leave, to the right. Four men of the chorus, under the leader, march out to the left; then four under the second soldier exit to the right. The remaining group, led by the third soldier, paces in front of the campfire. Soon, the leader and his men return, and the third soldier leads his men out to the left. The second soldier’s group returns from the right, then the third soldier’s from the left. leader Whose turn now? It’s time to change the watch. second How can you tell? soldier third See those stars? You can read them like a word. They soldier came up first, and now they’re setting. See those other six, seven? They’re the Pleiades. See how high they’re riding?

710

leader And there, flying halfway up the sky, see? That’s the Eagle of Zeus. It won’t be long. third Wake up, men! What are you waiting for? . . . Who has the soldier next watch? second I don’t know. Rise and shine, you sentries! Stand up and see soldier the moon. third Look, there’s another star, moving fast. Like a runner with a soldier message: ‘‘A new day is being born!’’ 720 leader Who had the first watch? second Paionians, under Koroibos. soldier 307

RHESOS

[540–61]

leader Then who? Every watch had orders to wake the next. second The Kilikians were next. soldier third Right. The Mysians had the third watch. We relieved them. soldier From backstage, the song of a nightingale is heard, faintly, then louder. leader Isn’t it time to wake the Lykians? They have the dawn watch. They drew the lucky lot. second It must be time. Listen . . . do you hear it? A nightingale soldier singing, down by the river . . . third Yes, now I hear it. All those runs and trills . . . What does it 730 soldier mean? second She’s telling a story: the bed, her sister’s blood, and the mursoldier der of her boy, Itys. That story. Her sorrow takes the tones and spins them into songs: Itys, Itys . . . third It won’t be long. The flocks have started grazing the high passoldier tures. I can hear the shepherds’ piping. They’re wandering out on the trails. second I try to keep my eyes open, but sleep smooths them down. soldier leader It must be near dawn. That’s when sleep is sweetest. second Where’s Dolon? He should be close to camp by now. soldier

740

leader He should be here. second Now I’m scared. It’s so dark, a batallion could hide out there. soldier He’s been gone too long. third If he ran into a trap, all this time he could be dead. soldier 308

RHESOS

[561–74]

leader He could be. Don’t think I’m not afraid. second Let’s sing out and wake the Lykians for the dawn watch. They soldier drew the lucky lot. The whole chorus paces out to the left. At once, odysseus and diomedes enter from the left. The two Greeks move carefully, crouching low. They stay in the background, away from the campfire. odysseus is wearing a wolf pelt as a cape. odysseus (whispering) Hear that? A kind of rippling? I don’t know what it means. Could be ringing in my ears. Armor clashing? Diomedes?

750

diomedes Yoke-chains dragging on chariot-rails. It frightened me, too. Then I realized some of the horses are still harnessed. odysseus Look out for the watch. We don’t need that kind of luck. diomedes I’ll watch my step and stay in the shadows. odysseus In case they wake up . . . you know the password? diomedes Dolon said Bright Apollo. odysseus moves in slowly, a few steps inside the edge of the lighted area, and examines the lean-tos. diomedes stays several paces outside, covering the rear. odysseus The place is empty. Look. diomedes comes forward. Deserted! What do you think it means? 309

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RHESOS

[575–92]

diomedes Dolon told us this was Hektor’s bivouac. This is the place. Hektor’s the man I want . . . odysseus Where are they, then? You think this is a trap? diomedes He could have plans for us. That, or they’re out on a sneak raid. odysseus Yes, Hektor’s not afraid to try anything he feels he can bring off . . . and these days, he’s capable of anything. diomedes Well, we were sure we’d find him sleeping. We’re way off target. What’ll we do now? Odysseus?

770

odysseus We’ll head out double-time back to the ships. Some god is keeping Hektor safe. He’s got good luck. Come on! You can’t use force against luck. diomedes

Why the hurry? We could find Aeneas or Paris— he’s the worst of the lot. We’ll cut his head off . . .

odysseus How? You’d have to search half the camp. It’s too dark . . . But suppose you could find them; and assume you killed them—how could you escape? diomedes Where’s your sense of honor? What are we? Not ashamed to come this far, do nothing, and run back to our ships? odysseus Do nothing? Didn’t we kill Dolon? Didn’t we keep him from spying on the fleet? odysseus takes the pelt from his shoulders. He gives it to diomedes.

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[592–612]

That Dolon! An old trapper’s trick. Well, we skinned him . . . diomedes examines the pelt, then puts it on, covering his face with the wolf’s jaws. odysseus gives the paws a tug. This will prove it. We’ve done all we can. Do you think you can destroy a whole army? diomedes All right. You’ve convinced me. Let’s head for home, and hope our luck holds.

790

The goddess athena appears above the stage. odysseus and diomedes cannot see her. She is a gigantic figure in gilded Greek armor and a pleated cloak of spun gold. Her face and hands have the pallor and sheen of new ivory. Golden serpents twine on her shoulders and bosom. On her silver breastplate, the golden Gorgon head glares: gaping eyes, flat nose, sharp fangs, tongue protruding. athena Where are you going? Leaving the Trojan lines? Bitter and aggrieved, you turn away because no god has granted you Hektor’s life or Paris’. But now, hear this: Rhesos has arrived, with a massive force, to help Troy. If Rhesos lives through this night, tomorrow not Achilles and Ajax together will stop him. He’ll break the walls of your camp and destroy the fleet. His lance will sweep a broad path through your ranks. But kill Rhesos now, and you will be the victors. Forget Hektor, and your talk of cutting heads. Hektor will die, but by another hand. odysseus Athena, my lady! I know your voice. I’ve heard you speak to me—words of friendship— in all my struggles and times of danger. You have always been with me and aided me. Tell us: where is Rhesos’ bivouac?

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RHESOS

athena Nearby, just beyond the Trojan lines. Hektor assigned him quarters outside the camp. He is asleep now; and he will lie there till the light begins the watches of the day. Close by, you’ll see white fillies shine on the rim of dawn like wings of a swan on a river. Kill their royal master, and lead them home: a beautiful prize, like no other prize on earth.

[613–40]

810

odysseus Diomedes, it’s your choice. Kill the Thracians; or let me do it, and you take care of the horses. diomedes I’ll do the killing. You take the horses. You have the finer touch. You’re the scholar. Let each man do what he does best.

820

athena Look out. I see Paris. He’s heading toward you. He heard from a sentry that the enemy are here. He believes it. But he has no proof . . . diomedes Is he alone? athena

Yes, alone, coming to Hektor to report there are spies in the camp.

diomedes Shouldn’t we kill him? athena You can do only what destiny allows. Your hand must not kill Paris. It cannot be. You will bring Rhesos the death fate has decreed. This is why you are here. Go, now. Find him. I will meet Paris. He will believe I am his ally, his Aphrodite, who stands beside him in all his struggles and times of danger. And he, my enemy, will accept my word— a gleaming, golden apple, decayed and empty. That is all.

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[640–58]

Paris is near, but has heard nothing. I will deal with him as I wish, and he will know nothing. odysseus and diomedes leave to the right as paris enters from the left. paris, in foppish civilian attire, affecting delicate mannerisms, nevertheless reminds one strongly of hektor. paris

General Hektor! Do you hear me? Brother Hektor. Are you asleep? 840 Wake up, Hektor! Some Greeks are edging round the camp, Hektor. Thieves, I suppose. Maybe even spies.

athena (mimicking Aphrodite): Nothing to fear. Aphrodite’s here, with you, watching over you. I worry about you, Paris, what with this dreadful war . . . And I never forget that wonderful favor you did me, And how furious Athena was when you chose me! And now your Trojan army’s enjoying such good luck. And here I am, to bring you a great friend, a goddess’ boy from Thrace. She is a Muse—a divine poetess. And Strymon tells everyone that he’s the father. paris You always did look kindly on Troy, and me . . . Yes, the greatest decision of my career— one I shall always remember and treasure— was giving you the prize. That was what made you our ally, wasn’t it? Well, here I am, too: but the reason is, I heard something vague— a sentry just casually let it drop. He said some Greeks are here.

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[658–74]

Not that he, personally, saw any. He said another young man saw them come in. But that one couldn’t tell us where they went. So, naturally, I came to find Hektor. athena Nothing to fear, Paris. All is well. Hektor took the Thracians to their quarters. paris Say no more. Your word is enough for me. I’ll just go see those sentries . . . Thanks to you, I’m free of my fears. athena

870

On your way. Your cares are my cares, too. I want to be sure my friends enjoy good luck. You will soon learn what my good will is worth. paris leaves, to the right. (calling loudly, in her own voice) Odysseus, Diomedes, listen! odysseus returns, from the right, wearing the armor of rhesos. Easy men, easy. Odysseus, put that sword away. Yes, Rhesos is down. He will never wake again. We have his horses . . . but the enemy knows you are here. diomedes returns. They’re coming. Run! Back to the ships! A squall is coming down. Save yourselves.

athena vanishes. odysseus and diomedes move to the left, and suddenly turn back. They run past the fire and crouch in the shadows, stage right. odysseus puts on rhesos’ visored helmet. Five members of the chorus enter from the left. 314

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RHESOS

[675–85]

chorus (severally) —Look! There, in the shadows. —Thieves . . . —Throw your spear. Shoot! —Look! —Stirring up the camp . . . —Who goes there? —Throw your spear! Look! —He’s over there. The leader, second and third soldiers, and the remaining seven members of the watch hurry in from the right. The leader stops diomedes. odysseus retreats to the campfire. Over here, men! We’ve got them.

leader

The chorus forms a wide circle. (to diomedes) Identify yourself. What’s your company? diomedes backs off. odysseus comes forward, drawing his sword. odysseus No business of yours, soldier. Touch him, and you’re a dead man. leader See this spear? Give the password, or I’ll put this through your ribs. odysseus Hold on. Nothing to fear . . . odysseus and diomedes dash to the center. leader Close in. Use your weapons, men! The whole chorus moves in with fixed spears. odysseus and diomedes stand back to back, and steadily pivot. They block

315

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RHESOS

[686–89]

several thrusts. The second soldier breaks through the circle and comes close to odysseus, who raises his sword to strike. But the leader rams his spear through odysseus’ (that is, rhesos’) shield. odysseus falls. diomedes, circling with his back to the fire, continues to defend himself. second You’ve killed Rhesos! soldier leader No! This man was going to kill you. odysseus Hold it! Stop! Rush him, men!

leader

The third soldier stabs at odysseus, who rolls away from the blow. odysseus Wait! We’re your friends. Allies! leader Friends? Then prove it. Give the password. odysseus Bright Apollo. leader Welcome, friend. Hold your spears, men. The sentries shoulder their weapons. odysseus stands, and begins trying to extract the leader’s spear from rhesos’ shield. diomedes sheathes his sword and stands beside odysseus. Do you know where the thieves are? odysseus We saw them over there. He frees the spear, and points to the right with it. This way.

316

900

RHESOS

[690–708]

leader Easy, men. Spread out and reconnoiter. third We’d better send for help. soldier leader Don’t alarm the allies. There’s trouble enough. What a night! Nothing but confusion. While odysseus stands proudly, as though reviewing troops, the chorus files out past him, to the right. odysseus then uses the leader’s spear to scatter the campfire. He leaves the spear standing in the mound of ashes. The light on stage is gray now, with a pre-dawn glow. The two Greeks exit to the left. A moment later, the sentries return, dejected and agitated. leader Who do you think it was? Nothing he’d be afraid to try! By now, he’s boasting how great he is: slipped through our hands—like that! He finds his spear, and plucks it from the ashes. What kind of man could cross the lines? How could he manage it? third I figure he walked right in, kept to the shadows. Maybe a 910 soldier smuggler. Plenty of them on the Greek coast. Or one of those islanders, always scavenging . . . second Who knows? Could be anyone. But I wonder which of the soldier gods he depends on—what god he’d claim is the greatest . . . Maybe it was Odysseus. leader Judging by the past, it must have been. third You think so? soldier second Why not? Sure not afraid of us! soldier leader A brave man in the field, Odysseus.

317

RHESOS

[709–35]

third You don’t call robbers brave! soldier

920

leader Well, he’s the slyest of the lot. He knows how to fight. He got through before, right into Troy. Face beaten up, eyes swollen and running. Smuggled a sword in a heavy cloak of rags. third I remember: that poor, old man, begging a crumb, his skin soldier flaking away, filthy face. The way he swore at Agamemnon and cursed that whole family! second If there were justice, he’d be dead. Dead before he set foot on soldier Trojan ground . . . Odysseus or not, I’m scared. Hektor will blame us. He’ll say we failed. 930 third Failed, how? soldier leader He’ll suspect . . . Suspect what? Why are you scared?

third soldier

leader . . . because we let them get past us . . . Who?

third soldier second Whoever broke into camp tonight. soldier

The voice of rhesos’ chariot-driver is heard offstage, from the right. driver Oh, gods! Damn! Damn! leader Quiet, men. Get down. Maybe we’ll catch him. driver Never had a chance. What god did this? Rhesos, Rhesos, why did we ever set eyes on this damned country? Is this what your life was for, to die like this? 318

940

RHESOS

[736–55]

third One of the allies. He’s hurt. soldier The driver enters, slow, bent over, using his spear as a staff. leader I can’t see clearly. Too dim. He’s still just a shape. My sight is blunted on the edge of dawn. (calling to driver) Who are you? Show yourself! The driver locates the chorus. The leader comes forward to meet him. driver Are you men from Troy? Where can I find Prince Hektor? Asleep under his shield? Who’s in command here? I have to get word to him . . . He’d better know what happened to us. We didn’t even see them. Gone! Now it’s all clear as daylight. leader It’s not clear at all. What happened? Speak up, man! Your message! driver Army’s ruined. The king’s been hit. It was a trap. I can’t stand up. Bleeding inside. The leader helps the driver walk to the center. What did we find here, Rhesos and I? No honor. No pride. Death. leader

Yes. I see. (to chorus) The army from Thrace was hit. That’s the word. Heavy casualties.

He motions to the chorus. Three men hurry out to the right, to find hektor. The driver lowers himself by his spear until 319

950

RHESOS

[756–77]

he can sit. The sentries stack shields for him to lean back on, and cover him with a cloak. driver

A damned coward did this. A coward has dragged us down in shame. Disgrace doubles the pain of dying. Do you understand? If you have to die, to die with glory is one thing. It hurts, sure. But you leave something solid behind. You leave a good name. Your family lives on with that to believe in. There was no reason for this waste, no sense. Our death has no glory and no meaning. What happened was this. Hektor was right there. He ordered us to bed down. He gave us the password. We were so exhausted from the long march we went straight to sleep. We didn’t even post sentries for the night watch. Most of us didn’t bother to stack our weapons or fit the goads on the yokes of the teams. Rhesos was convinced you Trojans were winning, practically riding the tails of the Greek ships. We dropped in our tracks and slept. But I cared. With me, it’s a thing of the heart. I kept looking ahead to brave doings at dawn. So, out of the arms of sleep, I’m measuring out extra feed for the team, when I spot two men moving round our camp. They stay where the darkness is heaviest. That stirred me up, so I started out toward them. They both crouched down and moved off again. I thought they were scavengers—some of your allies. I shouted to them ‘‘Keep away from this camp!’’

320

960

970

980

RHESOS

[778–99]

They said nothing, so I said nothing more. I went back to bed and fell asleep. In my sleep, I had a vision. The pair of fillies I tended, and used to drive, standing next to Rhesos in the chariot . . . I believed this visitation stood just that near to me. I saw, and while I watched it, I thought ‘‘I have to be dreaming,’’ two wolves mount their backs and thrust their pricks into the hair, and drive them. The fillies snorted and flared and panted and bucked with fear. Then I woke up. I’m ready to defend them from the wolves. Night fear worked me up. I lift my head. I hear harsh breathing. I know it’s men dying. A hot stream of blood hits me. It comes from the wounds of the king, my young master. He was dying hard. I jump up. I reach, but—no spear. I’m looking and hunting for any weapon. Then someone hits me with a sword, from the side, along the belly and into a rib. Somebody strong, because I felt that blade like I’d been plowed a deep furrow. I drop, face down. They grab the chariot and team and run away. Too much pain. Can’t sit up. The driver rolls onto his side.

321

990

1000

1010

RHESOS

[800–823]

I know it happened because I saw it. I know the dead are dead. I can’t say, for sure, how they managed it. I can’t give names. But I can figure, it had to be friends who did this.

1020

leader You were his driver, I know; you came with him all the way from Thrace . . . second Don’t blame us. The enemy did this. soldier third Hektor’s heard what happened. He’s on his way. soldier You’ll see. Hektor will share your grief. hektor hurries in from the right, with three members of the chorus and several other soldiers. hektor You men! Call yourselves soldiers? The damage you’ve done— nobody ever hurt us this badly! Spies came in, hit the camp like butchers. 1030 You never spotted them. You’re a disgrace to Troy! They walked right out. Why didn’t you stop them? Somebody will have to pay for this. What are sentries for? To guard the army! Not one blow struck back, and they’re off, laughing at Trojan cowardice and the blindness of the high command, laughing at me! Now, remember this—as Zeus is my witness: the cat is waiting for you, and the axe. That’s the death reserved 1040 for soldiers who desert their post. If not, you can forget about Hektor. There’ll be no Hektor, only a coward. leader

No! We came straight to you, sir . . .

third soldier

We came at once and reported the Greeks had started fires among their ships.

322

RHESOS

[824–848]

second soldier

I swear we never dozed, sir, we never even nodded. We were wide awake, waiting for the dawn.

third soldier

Please, my king, don’t turn your anger on us.1050

leader

It’s not our fault. None of it, sir.

second soldier

Wait, wait, sir! Then, if you discover we did wrong, then bury us live in the earth of Troy.

driver Why are you threatening these soldiers? Are you trying to trap my wits in a net of words? You, Hektor, a man of the same blood? That’s not our way. Leave those tricks to the Greeks. You did this. Our dead and our wounded demand your death. You’ll need a learned and brilliant plea to convince me that you’re innocent.

1060

Your motive was the horses. You wanted them the way a lover wants. For them, you murdered friends, brothers, men you’d begged to come and help you. They came, and they’re dead. Even Paris showed more decency— and he disgraced the name of friendship— than you, Hektor. You murdered friends and allies. Don’t blame the Greeks. They never touched us. That’s just so much talk. How could Greeks cross through the Trojan army without even being seen? Our camp was to the rear of yours. None of your old allies is wounded or dead; but our camp was behind theirs. How could Greeks reach us? Somebody came, all right.

323

1070

RHESOS

[849–71]

Some of us are wounded, and some suffered more. Their eyes are shut. They cannot see the sunlight. It’s very simple. The Greeks are in no way responsible. How could they have located Rhesos’ quarters? Before dawn? Impossible . . . unless some god came and told the killers! They couldn’t even have known Rhesos was here. Now—try to disguise your treachery. hektor Ever since the Greeks first landed here, our allies have stood beside us— and there has never been a note of discord. You will be the first to complain. Do you really believe I’m so much in love with horses that I’d murder my friends to get them? A love like that will never make me its prisoner. Nonsense. It was Odysseus. Odysseus . . . No one else could have done this. No one else could have planned it.

1080

1090

hektor pauses and turns to the chorus. Yes, I am afraid . . . What about Dolon? With his luck, Odysseus could have killed him, too. He’s been gone too long, and not a sign of him. driver I don’t know this Odysseus of yours. I know we were hit, and it wasn’t Greeks who did it. hektor If you believe it, think what you want. driver I want . . . to die in my own country. hektor No. Too many have died . . . driver Where can I go, alone, now my king is dead?

324

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RHESOS

[872–84]

hektor Stay in my house. I’ll see that you are cared for. driver Care for me? With the hands that killed your friend? hektor The same old story. He won’t stop. driver The man who did this will die for it. If what you claim is true, forget my story. Justice will be done. The truth will be known.

1110

The driver struggles to rise, propping himself on his spear. hektor (to soldiers) Help him. Two soldiers lift the driver to his feet. Take him to my house and put him to bed. Treat him well. I want no more complaints. The soldiers walk the driver out, to the right. You, go to Priam and the Council. Tell them to bury the Thracian dead beside the bend in the main road to the city. Another soldier hurries out to the right. The gray light on stage becomes noticeably brighter. leader Some god has changed and is changing Troy’s good fortune to grief again. Why? Why? What will be born of his sowing? The muse appears, above the stage. She is a gigantic figure, in a plain white robe, and crowned with laurel. In her arms is the body of rhesos.

325

1120

RHESOS

[885–909]

second Look, Hektor. Look up there! soldier Who is this goddess bearing the young king, Rhesos, dead, in her arms? Her face—her sorrow frightens me. He covers his face with both arms. muse I am here for you to see, people of Troy. Look at me, one sister Muse, whom the learned honor; one mother, whose dear son she sees dead at the hands of enemies. The man who killed him is Odysseus. At the right time, that man who traps men will receive all he deserves: for there is Justice. With song born of me, child, I mourn you now, with sorrow I have carried from the day you crossed to Troy, a trail to grief some god laid. You turned, and forced your way. I called out to you. Your father could not hold you.

1130

1140

leader I am only a stranger. But I feel as though I had lost a brother. muse (to chorus) Diomedes will die. Odysseus will die. He took my boy. He emptied me. (to the body of rhesos)

326

1150

RHESOS

[910–29]

Helen left her home. She brought you here to die. Helen will die. I love you. Tens of thousands of homes, empty . . . The light on stage is now turning from gray to the colors of true dawn. (to the chorus) But it was Thamyris—and he is dead now— who started this blaze that flares in my thoughts. He was arrogant. His arrogance caused him to take one false step: to challenge the Muses. That challenge made me the mother of a doomed child.

1160

To cross into Thrace, Thamyris’ country, I forded Strymon’s rushing current. I entered close to the god’s bed. There, I was sown. We climbed far up the slope of Mt. Pangaion, where the golden earth ends in naked rock. We came armed with pipes and lyre to face a contest in the art of song. Thamyris had slandered us. This learned interpreter of melody had claimed his skill surpassed our own. We left the man blind. When my time was done, I was ashamed to face my virgin sisters. I placed Rhesos in the clear stream, his father’s home. Strymon would not entrust the child to the hands of women, destined to die. He gave him to nymphs of the springs that rise fresh in the new season.

327

1170

RHESOS

[930–45]

It was they who nursed him. They raised my son to be king of all Thrace, beautiful, first among men. The dawn light on stage brightens, as the muse speaks to the body in her arms. Never, my child— so long as it was near your fatherland that you worked brave deeds—did I fear you would die. Although it is a love for blood, you wore your valor like a gay, plumed helmet. I never feared. I knew your fate. I warned you never to cross to the Trojan citadel. But Hektor sent countless ambassadors and counsellors. They convinced you to come to help your friends . . .

1180

The muse looks up and around, then addresses no visible person. But for this, the total and final blame belongs to you, Athena. Odysseus and Diomedes, in all they did, did nothing. Athena, did you believe that you could do this and I not see you? Not even know? Do this to me? But what land have I and my sister Muses visited most? What land have we honored? Athens, your Athens, always. And Orpheus, blood cousin of Rhesos whom you have murdered, Orpheus showed your people and made clear in the light of marching torches those mysteries men’s words must not express.

328

1190

1200

RHESOS

[945–65]

And who equipped Musaios, your revered Athenian, with words to surpass all other poets? Bright Apollo, my sisters, and I. Now this is my reward: my boy, this body in my arms. We will need no expert to interpret this.

1210

leader (to hektor) Hektor, that driver said we planned the murder. This will show him his slander was meaningless. hektor I knew it. We didn’t need priests or prophecy. I knew Odysseus killed him. Death is his art . . . (to the muse) I watched a Greek army entrench itself in my land. What could I do but send out heralds and beg my friends to come and help my country? I did what I had to do. Rhesos was obligated. He came to join in our struggle. His death is a bitter loss. I will do my best to honor him. I will build a great tomb and raise a high wall round it. With his body, I will burn tens of thousands of beautiful robes. He was a friend. He came. His luck ran out. Now he is gone. muse No. He will not go to the black plain under your world. The Bride beneath the earth, child of Demeter, mother who creates the grain, will let his soul ascend. I will ask, and she will grant this; for she is obligated

329

1220

1230

RHESOS

[966–82]

to honor the family of Orpheus. Rhesos will never look on daylight, never return, or see his mother’s face. In his own land, in a silver cavern, hidden, he will remain, a wakeful, deathless spirit, man, and god—a man like the one who speaks for Bacchos, the dweller in Pangaion’s stone, a god revered by those who understand.

1240

So, I will bear the weight of my grief more easily than the goddess of the sea. Thetis’ son, too, must die. First, my sisters and I will sing a hymn of lamentation for Rhesos; soon, for Achilles. Athena could kill you, my child, but she will not save Achilles. An arrow waits. It cannot be escaped. Apollo keeps it safe. The muse turns her eyes from the body and from hektor to the chorus and to the audience. Children are the creations of accident. You work, you struggle, suffer and die. Do you see? Count yourselves. Add the evidence. If you live through the night of your lives childless you will never bury boys. The muse vanishes.

330

1250

RHESOS

[983–96]

third Rhesos’ mother will care for him, Hektor. soldier leader Sir, if you’re going to carry out your plans, it’s time. It’s daylight. hektor (to leader) On your way, then. Tell the allies to move. Full armor. Hitch the teams.

1260

(to second and third soldiers) You men, get torches ready. Wait for the bugles to sing out. We’ll cross their walls and burn the ships. (to the whole chorus) Look! Those files of sun rays on the march— I’m convinced—are bringing us the day of freedom! leader And we are convinced. Obey the king. third Full armor! Head out! Pass the word! soldier second Who knows? Some god may march at our side soldier and give us victory. The leader and four men leave to the right, the rest of the chorus to the left. hektor stands watching the bright sky.

331

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NOTES

I have followed the edition of Murray (Oxford, 1913). I have replaced some conjectures in that text with manuscript readings, and favored the manuscripts’ assignments of lines to speakers. I wish to thank William Arrowsmith for constantly reminding me that I was translating a play meant to be performed: et premitur ratione animus vincique laborat. 1–67 / 1–5 Parodos (choral entry song in the form of a lyrical dialogue with Hektor). Because Rhesos is Euripides’ shortest tragedy, and alone lacks a prologue, some critics believe the play’s beginning has been mutilated. Two prologues were known in antiquity; but it seems that neither was authentic. The aptness of this entry of the Chorus, introducing basic themes, and establishing a military atmosphere, argues against the mutilation theory. Lack of internal evidence of a lost prologue is generally acknowledged. (But, see W. Ritchie, The Authenticity of the Rhesus of Euripides [Cambridge, 1964], 101–3.) I would speculate that, if there was a prologue, it was spoken by Apollo. In it, he explained that—as the god in charge of reading the riddles of fate to mankind—he was leaving the Trojans to their own, human resources. If the Trojans could interpret the mysterious night before them, they would do well; if not, Athena would work out the Trojan’s doom. In that case, Apollo would return to avenge the death of Hektor. 6–8 / 8 his eyes . . . the Gorgon face The Gorgon face is a mask of hate and fear, emblem of infantile impotence. It protects the chastity of Athena. It breaks the courage of warriors. See note on 406–9. The allusion (gorgopon) is glossed to identify the symbol with Athena. The suggestive power of the Greek, however, would require wide expansion to be felt by a modern audience. Such a version might read:

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second soldier

Hektor, sir! Wake up! The leader now stands beside the two soldiers. The second soldier whispers to him. I can’t face him. You talk. The leader draws the second soldier a few steps away. He looks closely at the man. Just as he opened his eyes, Hektor had the look you see on the Gorgon face on Athena’s armor. You know: you see Athena’s face—like a girl, and a mother too, long and calm, thoughtful. And the rest—the spear and shield and strong shoulders— is like one of us, a soldier, a friend. But then you see that round, gold head burning on her breast, and the sharp teeth. You can’t breathe. Can’t move. It’s like you’re lost in the winter on a huge field of hard ruts and stubble. You don’t have any clothes on . . . Man, please! You talk to him.

27 / 30 priests The priests in an army would ritually determine whether an action was auspicious, and invoke divine aid. See 73–81 / 65–69. 58 / 54 without my seeing them Within the night, there is the darkness of the mind. The play abounds in the vocabulary of perception and knowledge. See 648 / 482, 688 / 510, 1031 / 810, 1073 / 845, 1194–95 / 940, and compare 1 / 1 (find), 10 / 10 (hear), 36 / 40 (see), 46 / 49 (looked, wondered), 53 / 53 (truth). 64 / 59–60 flashing lamps See especially 1265–67 / 991–992; also, 75 / 66, 304 / 223, 609 / 447, 627 / 464, 719–20 / 535–37, 1079 / 850. 66 / 60 luck Good and bad luck are substitute concepts for wise and foolish behavior. Yet, given the limits of perception, the idea of chance must serve. See 73 / 64, 299 / 218, 360 / 270, 425–26 / 318–19, 531 / 390, 755 / 570, 775 / 583, 849 / 649, 1120 / 882, 1227 / 961; Introduction, p. 276. 68–305 / 52–223 First episode 73–77 / 65–67 learned men The concept that systematic knowledge ends in obscurity or the obvious, and the implication that intuition and inspiration may lead to less obvious truth, is a major theme of the Rhesos. See 139–45 /

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NOTES

105–8, 286 / 206, 1060–61 / 837–38, 1168–71 / 924–25, 1201–3 / 943–44, 1210 / 949. 87–95 / 72–75 the Greeks to the sea Hektor’s vision (cf. Introduction, pp. 265–66, and note on 73–77 / 65–67) may be regarded either as second-sight or as wish-fulfillment. If it is the latter, then knowledge comes only by revelation. Thus, the message of Athena to Odysseus and Diomedes, and that of the Muse to Hektor and the Chorus represent truth; Hektor’s vision, like Athena’s words to Paris, is delusion. Man must measure all things because it is impossible to tell whether the gods are truthful. But man is weak. Hektor fits reality to his hopes, Aeneas (150–75 / 112–22) to his fears. 103 / 82 ashamed Rhesos is an anti-war drama, and so displays the slogans that make war seem to follow moral ideas. Dishonor and shame are evil; honor and glory are good. For glory, see note on 225. For more shame and disgrace, see 134–38 / 102, 658–60 / 489–90, 781–83 / 589–90, 958–67 / 756–61, 1031 / 810, 1067–69 / 841–42. The ‘‘running’’ referred to here is the Greek retreat of the evening. 111–15 / 87–89 Sentries . . . camp An example of the pattern of repetition that makes the fabric of the Rhesos so coherent, this short speech by Aeneas should be compared with 13 / 13, 18–19 / 18–19, 33 / 38. The effect is the echoing of a half-waking state, where thoughts break then rejoin like movements under flickering light. 117 / 92 sneak raid In this war, the facts of treachery interfere with ideas of simplicity and honor. See 184 / 128, trap; the name ‘‘Dolon’’ (note on 221–22 / 157– 59); 295 / 215, ‘‘neat as a trap’’; 954 / 748; 1134 / 894. The idea is exhibited in all shades: moving from the pretence of abhorring an enemy’s methods here and in 685 / 509, the self-admiration of an adolescent (295 / 215), and the outrage of a wounded man (954 / 748), at last, in a divine revelation, it takes on a judicial tone (1134 / 894) to describe Odysseus. 171 / 119 Achilles During the time of the Rhesos, Achilles is refraining from combat (661–66 / 491–95). He returns to the war to avenge Patroklos, his friend, whom Hektor has killed. Warned by Thetis that his death is destined to follow, Achilles nevertheless kills Hektor, and is thereafter fatally wounded by an arrow Paris (notes on 828 / 635, 859 / 656) shoots. See 420 / 315, 507 / 371, 625 / 462, 797 / 601, 1242–51 / 974–79, and Introduction, p. 271.

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181 / 125 a volunteer This is an instance of the inadequacy of systematic knowledge. If Hektor’s hunch, that now is the time to attack, does not promise success, Aeneas’ proposal, to send ‘‘a volunteer’’ offers no more certainty. See Introduction, pp. 265–66, 269–70 and note on 73–77. 198 / 137 the victory Another vital theme in Rhesos is conviction or persuasion. The crises of this play involve specious proposals, accepted by Hektor contrary to his intuitions and feelings, and leading to disaster, that is, the death of Rhesos. See Introduction, pp. 266–67. For more on persuasion see 975 / 767–68, 1060–61 / 837–38, 1265–68 / 991–993. 221–22 / 157–59 Dolon The name is related to dolios, ‘‘tricky,’’ and means a sly man, a trapper, sneak, etc. In Dolon’s case the name is ironic; mere cleverness is not what the case demands. Homer’s characterization of Dolon (Iliad X, 316–17, Rouse version) is: ‘‘He was a poor creature to look at, that is true, but a quick runner. He was an only son, with five sisters.’’ For other applications of dolios and related words, see note on 117. 225 / 160 doubles its glory Doubling is referred to on two important occasions in Rhesos. Here, where it is at once (228 / 163) echoed by ‘‘doubles a man’s pride,’’ the immediate—apparent—contrast is that Hektor thinks of glory, Dolon of visible honors. Again, at 540 / 395, Hektor says he doesn’t like ‘‘double meanings.’’ In 576 / 423 Rhesos says the same of himself. Thus, we see that both Hektor and Rhesos, in contrasting ways, are men of single minds, too ‘‘simple’’ to deal with data that have double meanings. See Introduction, pp. 267–69. Hektor, for instance, expects clarity where it is least forthcoming, from the panicked Chorus in 29–30 / 30–33, 35– 36 / 38–40. Note, too, the echo of doubling in 960 / 757, which is meant to jar harshly with 225 / 160. Simplicity, however, remains a kind of nobility. Themes of honor and glory run through the Rheso. These contrast with trickery (note on 221–22 / 157–59) and shame (note on 103 / 82). Rhesos (666 / 496) wants the best adversary, and yet rejects Odysseus as ‘‘no man of honor’’ (687–90 / 510–12). When Odysseus has killed Rhesos in a sneak attack, the Driver deplores this death with ‘‘No honor. No pride’’ (956 / 752), and adds that a glorious death gives fame to the family (963–65 / 758–60), recalling Hektor’s words to Dolon here. The ‘‘winners,’’ Odysseus and Diomedes, also have a sense of shame and honor; in 769–85 / 763–75 it is made clear that such sentiments can belong to ‘‘practical’’ men. Contrast this with the parallel discussion between Hektor and Rhesos in 632–97 / 467–517, and also with that between Aeneas and Hektor, 111–212 / 87–148.

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For the double meaning of Dolon’s honor, see note on 259, last paragraph. 230 / 165 except the throne Hektor is not king, but rules for his aged father, Priam. Rhesos will suggest the contrast with himself (527–29 / 388–89), but his implication of superiority is quickly rejected by Hektor (535–40 / 393–95) and a moral stand substituted (641–43 / 474–76). The name Hektor, ‘‘Holder,’’ points to the prince’s role as regent and chief defender of Troy. Rhesos, on the other hand, appears simply to be the Thracian word for ‘‘king.’’ But humor is not lacking in Hektor’s stipulation— heavy, military jocularity, used in reaction to Dolon’s bumptiousness. There is also an undertone of social snobbery. 243 / 175 Ajax Ajax, the son of Telamon, is regularly paired with Achilles in this play. He was the second-best combatant among the Greeks. This lesser Ajax, son of Oı¨leus, is his partner in much of the action of the Iliad. Why does Hektor offer the son of Oı¨leus to Dolon? Why introduce him at all? (1) By offering Ajax, the son of Oı¨leus, instead of the expected son of Telamon, Hektor is downgrading Dolon. (2) This Ajax is favored by Athena far less than the other Greeks. (Witness her aid to Odysseus in the foot-race against Ajax in Iliad 23. 740–83.) In this drama the help of Athena is decisive, and the allusion may show that Hektor is unconsciously aware of this. (3) This Ajax is a foil to Odysseus; for while Odysseus has succeeded in profaning Athena’s temple with the goddess’ help, later, Ajax will be killed for a similar offense (Odyssey iv, 499–511). (4) This Ajax is also a counterpart to Rhesos; for after his inglorious death—at the hands of Athena and Poseidon—he, too, is worshipped in his native land. 249 / 180 spoils belong to the gods It was understood that the first fruits—whether of agriculture or warfare—should be shared with the gods. While Dolon here, and Rhesos (635–36 / 469–70) both show piety, the gods kill both. Note, too, the relevance of this insistence on ransom and wealth to Dolon’s fate as told by Homer. 255–58 / 184 You want . . . rival lovers The Greek is explicitly expressive of sexual longing. Cf. 1062–65 / 839–40 and see Introduction, pp. 271–72. 259 / 185 horses . . . will never die Poseidon would naturally give something splendid to Peleus, who had married his sister-in-law Thetis. The gods’ horses were immortal, like the gods themselves. Poseidon and Athena once vied for patronage of Athens. Poseidon gave the Athenians the horse, as a bribe, and Athena gave the olive tree. Poseidon is connected with the introduction of horses into Greece. The horse was a steed of war, the precious property of kings and nobles.

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It was an incident of the wedding of Peleus and Thetis that gave rise to the Trojan war. All gods but Eris (Discord or Contention) were invited; she, to avenge hurt pride, appeared there and cast a golden apple inscribed ‘‘Beauty shall have me’’ before the company. Three claimants came forward: Hera, Athena and Aphrodite. On the heights of Mt. Ida, the three were to reveal their naked forms to Paris, and be judged by him. Each offered Paris a bribe: Hera, a kingdom; Athena, intellect and strategic ability; Aphrodite, the most beautiful woman living. Paris awarded Aphrodite the apple. Helen, wife of Menelaos, was the most beautiful of women. The whole scene, the offering of rewards (224–71 / 159–94), works on two or more levels. On the surface, it is a transition with comic relief. However, after the Muse’s references to the mysteries and their interpreters (1199–1205 / 943–47) and to resurrection by the grace of Persephone (1228–41 / 962–73), it is possible to detect an aura of mysticism in the episode. Dolon insists upon a reward. But he rejects temporal power, and humbly refuses marriage to a princess. The third prize offered him is on both a lower and higher plane: gold (234 / 169), as a medium of exchange or a symbol of incorruptibility, is already part of Dolon’s heritage: he is rich, and his upbringing has rendered him virtuous. Accordingly, the offer of ancient treasure or art works is rejected lightly. Now Hektor offers captives, a combination of the first and third ideas— power and wealth. Dolon is firm in his refusal. The sixth offer, of spoils to dedicate to the gods, is rejected on the same basis of humility as the royal marriage: Dolon does not wish the glory of conspicuous piety. Having passed the test of these temptations, Dolon is asked to choose the greatest prize. He asks for Achilles’ horses which, being immortal, are worth risking death. The notion that the episode can be taken as a religious examination—where Dolon is a candidate for initiation as well as a (seemingly) greedy youth bargaining for a spy’s hire—makes it all the more comical. Yet, in the end, the humor is as much at the expense of the prejudiced aristocrat Hektor as of the too-high-minded bourgeois Dolon; for Dolon proves, even to Hektor, that his aspirations to everlasting life (or fame) equal Hektor’s. 260–61 / 187–88 the lord of the sea Generally in this play, the Greek threat is symbolized by images of the sea and sailing, and Trojan strength by the soil and the life of the land. See, for example, 40–41 / 43, 92–95 / 74– 75, 131–33 / 100–1, 194–95 / , 206–8 / 145–46, 245 / 176, 332–34 / 243–44, 341–43 / 254–57, 432–34 / 321–23, 496–98 / 365–67, 515–17 / 377–79, 638– 40 / 471–73, 911–20 / 699–709, 1013–41 / 795–818, 1242–43 / 974–75. But

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notice the reversed values in 76–77 / 67, 163–67 / 116–18, and 880–81 / 672–74. 278 / 199 Justice Justice was in the keeping of two gods: by Zeus, it was enforced; by Dike, his daughter, incarnated (note on 463 / 342). The Chorus is pious in vain. The gods in Rhesos do not deal so much in reward as in retribution and revenge. See 928 / 720, 1110–12 / 865–67, and 1133–36 / 893–94. 288 / 218 a wolf pelt On the disguise, see Introduction, pp. 269–70, and footnote 6. 306–350 / 224–63 First stasimon 306–16 / 224–32 Apollo together with Poseidon built Troy’s walls for Priam’s father Laomedon. Thymbra recalls thyme, a healing herb, hence part of Apollo’s province as a medical god. Apollo’s mother was Leto, a Lykian goddess, who assumed wolf form while pregnant, in order to escape the jealous persecution of Hera. Apollo was associated with the wolf. The name Lykia, to Greek ears, may mean either ‘‘land of the wolf’’ or ‘‘land of light.’’ It is not surprising that Apollo’s title ‘‘Bright,’’ Greek Phoibos, is the Trojan army’s password (703 / 521, 758 / 573, 898 / 686) and that this name is echoed by the Muse (1207 / 947) in her revelation of the meaning of this night’s events. Apollo was called ‘‘Bright’’ because he was associated with the sun; since the action of the Rhesos amounts to futile waiting for a day of decision, the invocation of this name is at all times ironic (note on 64 / 59–60). For the sun, see 63–65 /59–60 , 1079 / 850, 1265–67 / 991–992. Notice, too, that Odysseus regularly stations himself at Apollo’s altar (682–85 / 507–9). In the Rhesos, then, Apollo is not aiding his Trojan worshippers. See notes on 1–67 and 935 . Another circumstance connected with the allusion (314–15 / 229–32) to the building of Troy’s walls is the fortification of the Greek camp (151– 52 / 111, 163–67 / 116–18, 531–34 / 390–92, 798 / 603), a work which Poseidon, in Iliad 7, remarks will be as famous as the walls which he and Apollo built for Troy. It is an irony of the setting of Rhesos—based on Homer but given particular stress—that the invaders are besieged by the defenders. 351–461 / 264–342 Second episode 354–60 / 266–70 rustic clumsiness . . . your sheep One expects a conventional, hesitant messenger; but it is Hektor who tries to put aside the Shepherd’s report. Hektor, like any soldier (see note on 381), never forgets that while war

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rages on the lowlands, life proceeds with peaceful concerns on the mountain slopes. (Notice he says ‘‘your flocks,’’ 357 / 267, and ‘‘your sheep,’’ 360 / 270; but to the Shepherd, 389 / 293, they are Hektor’s sheep.) Hektor may imagine that civilians are unconcerned with the peril of the nation. The Shepherd, however, understands. In 381–88 / 287–92, he describes his home. It is a paradigm of life: above the pastures is barren rock; round about are forests where beasts roam—wolves, wanderers, like the Greeks and Thracians; below, the devastated prairie. But the shepherds’ homes are ‘‘rooted right in the earth.’’ Vergil makes Mt. Ida the rallying point for refugees after the fall of Troy. The people, the ultimate salvation of the Trojan race, are dedicated to lasting values: the earth is theirs because they are of the earth. 369 / 279 Strymon He is the god of the river Strymon in Thrace. Rhesos’ mother is a Muse. Ancient authorities specify Terpsichore, Euterpe, or Kalliope. But Euripides gives no name: he lets the unnamed Muse represent all Muses, ‘‘Reminders,’’ who give men knowledge of past and future. River gods were consubstantial with their rivers and yet anthropomorphic. The idea, that conception could result from entering a river so animated, is common in Greek folklore; see 476–80 / 351–54. 381 / 287 Mt. Ida From the summit, Zeus would watch the war (note on 278 / 199) and weigh the Greek and Trojan fortunes in a golden balance. As they wait for Dolon, the sentries will think of Ida’s slopes, where shepherds pipe their flocks along the trails (735–37 / 551–53). The place for war is the civilized plain with its highways; hence, Hektor’s query and the Shepherd’s careful account. 399 / 301 some god The Chorus soon catches the Shepherd’s enthusiasm: 481–82 / 355–56, 524–26 / 385–87. Rhesos will be worshipped as a hero in Thrace, but is never a god. This is all vanity. When the Chorus says (524–26 / 385–87) Rhesos is ‘‘a true god of war . . . come to inspire us,’’ the unconscious allusion goes past vanity, and after Athena has appeared, becomes sinister (note on 406–9 / 306–7). For ‘‘war,’’ whether personified or not, is called Ares in Greek, and is regarded, in mythology, as a native of Thrace, Rhesos’ home. Ares’ squires, in myth, are Deimos and Phobos—personified ‘‘worry,’’ ‘‘alarm,’’ and ‘‘fear,’’ ‘‘fright,’’ ‘‘panic,’’ recurrent words in the Rhesos. Moreover, Ares is a god of the fury of war and of the Berserker, the noble duellist who fought in a rage. This war god whom the Chorus welcomes in Rhesos represents both the chivalrous and barbarous traditions of the

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Trojans and Greeks as well as of the new Thracian allies; the ideals and archaic vices of a warrior culture are his inspiration. 406–9 / 306–7 Athena’s breastplate The sight of a Gorgon-head (see lines 6–8 / 8 and note) turns men to stone; the principle which Athena incarnates can paralyze furious warriors. Just as Ares personifies the nobility at war, Athena personifies the community’s cooperative efforts in war; as Ares has heroism, Athena has exact procedures, and to Ares’ rage, Athena opposes strategy. Now, in the Rhesos, neither of these opposites is favored; war is reprehensible. Our sympathies now lie with the Trojans, later with Rhesos and the Thracians too. The greater efficiency of Athena and the Greeks makes our distress more keen. Euripides wrote this play, after all, for Greeks, whose patroness was Athena; in Athenians, the content of the drama might produce conflicts of conscience we are exempt from, unless analogies open us to criticism of our own sources of efficiency. Remember that Athena was the giver not only of rational techniques of war, but of orderly and popular forms of government, and of the arts, crafts, and industries that potentiate a people’s aptitude for greatness. 417 / 313 naked men A mid-fifth-century Attic vase represents Orpheus singing and playing the lyre for four Thracian warriors. Each warrior carries two spears. The younger men are naked, with embroidered capes slung behind, reaching the ankles. The fourth Thracian, an older man, is well wrapped, like a Mexican villager in his blanket; hands hidden, he uses the hem of his cape like a mitten to hold his pair of spears. 423–25 / 317–18 steady . . . even out the scales 432–39 / 321–26 battered us . . . share a feast of the game The Second Soldier mixes the ship of state metaphor with a figure of weighing goods. The ship sounds less like a man-of-war than a merchantman. Hektor turns the ‘‘scales’’ to those of fate, and the land of Troy into a real ship at sea (432–34 / 321–23). Then, seeing that the Second Soldier is not up to sustained rhetorical banter, he changes to a proverbial hunting metaphor (437–39 / 325–26). 447 / 332 The gods can change anything This translation gives the reasoned sense of poll’ anastrephei theos and omits the underlying, concrete metaphor. The problem here may be compared to that of translating ‘‘With the slow smokeless burning of decay’’ into Attic dramatic verse. An ‘‘imitation’’ of the play might revive the metaphor by making it explicit. A writer more concerned with hidden feelings, at this moment in the play, than with pace, could expand in the manner of:

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Please, sir, we can’t know the future until we see it. Till then, a god can change it. We see the earth. Then a farmer cuts it, turns it upside down, and buries it. The place we knew is hidden, and things from underneath are crawling in the light.

See R. E. Braun, ‘‘Translation: The Problem of Purpose,’’ Modern Language Notes, 90 (1975) 794–96. 462- 517/ 342–78 Second stasimon 462 / 342 Nemesis, daughter of Zeus The Chorus will soon liken Rhesos to Zeus (482 / 355), then claim (487–89 / 357–60) that Zeus has come to bring freedom; in 620 / 455, the sentries will call Rhesos a friend whom Zeus sends. Hektor has just attributed the day’s success, in part, to Zeus’ aid (427–28 / 320). Having seen (note on 278 / 199) that Justice was put in the keeping of Zeus by calling her his daughter, we now find that Nemesis (or Adrasteia) is subordinated by the same connection. This contradicts the common mythology; for, according to Hesiod, Nemesis was born of Night and Shame. Now, Nemesis is little more than retribution; the negative reaction inherent in anything beyond the average. The Chorus fears that optimism will result in disappointment and gives notice that high hopes depend on the good will of men and gods. When Rhesos (632–40 / 467–73) proposes an ambitious scheme of conquest, and calls upon Nemesis, he acknowledges that he may fail, and hopes, by this admission, to avert reversal. The result of making Nemesis, like Dike, a daughter of Zeus, is that Justice and Retribution are equated. Both are subject to the regulation of Zeus, and perform the same duties. This myth expresses standard Greek morality. In the Rhesos, justice is merely retribution. This scheme makes Zeus—the enforcer of contracts, guarantor of the rights of foreigners and orphans, sanctifier of oaths—less truly just than Homer left him. The Zeus of the Iliad is an objective weigher of fate (note on 381 / 287). Euripides has alluded to this image of ‘‘justice’’ in the Shepherd’s description of Rhesos and his horses on Mt. Ida (401–2 / 303). Since it is from Zeus-like Rhesos that the sentries expect justice, it seems the justice they hope for is merely the revenge which the king of Thrace promises (632–40 / 467–73). It is darkly amusing to reflect that Mt. Ida, seat of Zeus’ judgment, was also the site of the Judgment of Paris (note on 259 / 185).

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487 / 358 free When Hektor says he dislikes double meanings (540 / 395; see note on 225), he will also claim to be a free, frank man (571–73 / 420–21). On the bitterness of this unreal ‘‘freedom,’’ see Introduction, pp. 267–69. Rhesos agrees that to free Troy is the first objective (635 / 469). Paris, deluded by Athena, says he is free of fear (871 / 664). Finally, the light of day will bring freedom, Hektor proclaims (1267 / 991), marching into further futile battle. 512–14 / 375–77 lawns . . . bride The allusion is to the festival of Hera in Argos and Mykenal. Hera, as bride of Zeus, personifies the spring season, fertility, and regeneration. 518–707 / 379–526 Third episode 518 / 379 The great king Euripides’ audience would think of the Great King of the Persian empire, and be ready to see Rhesos as an opulent autocrat, proud before the fall. 522 / 382 the gold In Rhesos, gold—especially the Thracian gold that obsessed fifthcentury Athenians—is a refrain. Cf. 234 / 169, 402 / 303, 406 / 305, 409 / 307, 458 / 340, 506 / 370, 600 / 439, 1165 / 921. 548 / 404 the same blood The Phrygians of Troy were, at least, of the same linguistic stock as the Thracians. Cf. 395 / 297, 1056–58 / 833–34 and note. 552 / 407 king of Thrace In Histories V, 3, Herodotos, a contemporary of Euripides, saysthe Thracians are the most powerful nation in the world except the Indians. If they had one ruler, or were united into a state, I believe no people could come near matching them. But they cannot unite. This is their weakness. The notion here of an ancient Thracian kingdom under Rhesos may have been inspired by the Thracian union under kings Teres and Sitalkes (roughly, 480–24 b.c.). 553 / 408 Pangaion, Paionia For Mt. Pangaion, 1156–71 / 915–25 and note. Apollo is often associated with Paionia: his title Paı¨on, ‘‘Healer,’’ and the coagulant plant, the peony, were thought to have to do with that country. 587 / 429 the headland Apparently, the site of Byzantium, modern Istanbul. 607 / 446 tossed dice See 219 / 154, 253 / 183, and note on 66 / 60. Cf. Introduction, pp. 275–76. 624 / 460–61 never An exaggeration. A generation before, the Greek heroes Herakles and Telamon took Troy with a small force.

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659 / 489 ashamed See note on 103 and references there. 674 / 502 He stole her image The image was a heaven-sent effigy of Athena, kept to ensure the safety of Troy. Odysseus and Diomedes stole it and transported it to Agamemnon’s capitol. Thereafter, it was possible to take the walled city (but see note on 828, and Introduction, footnote 8). 677–80 / 503–7 a spy . . . got out too Cf. 921–27 / 710–19 and Introduction, footnotes 6 and 8. The contrast is between Odysseus and Dolon. Disguises, like all manipulations of perception, succeed when the gods help (notes on 221–22 / 157–59, 225 / 160, 288 / 218). Athena will successfully impersonate Aphrodite (843–74 / 646–67) whom Paris knows well. Even when they capture Odysseus, the Trojans are persuaded to let him go (885–90 / 678–84). 683 / 508 Thymbra See note on 306–16. 689 / 511 face to face See 554 / 409 and 661 / 491 for this expression; cf. 507 / 371, ‘‘on Achilles’ eyes’’; 573 / 421, ‘‘I look in your eye.’’ This insistence on personal confrontation belongs to noble warfare. It is also a knowledge-motif. 708–47 / 527–64 Third stasimon 722–26 / 539–43 Paionians . . . Kilikians . . . Mysians . . . Lykians These are foreign allies of Troy. Cf. 560–70 / 413–19. The naming of one leader, Koroibos reminds us again that Apollo is absent. Koroibos joined the Trojan forces when Priam promised him the hand of the princess Kassandra. Kassandra rejected the advances of Apollo. 728–34 / 546–550 a nightingale Prokne and Philomela were daughters of Athens’ king Pandion. Prokne was married to a Thracian king, Tereus; to him, she bore a son, Itys. Later, Tereus brought Philomela from Athens for a visit. On the voyage, he raped her (‘‘by the barbarous king/ So rudely forced’’); so that she could not inform on him, he cut out her tongue. But Philomela wove the truth into the fabric of a robe, purple crossing white; and Prokne read the story spun through its pattern. The sisters killed and cooked Itys, and served him to Tereus. In dark ignorance, he ate. When he asked for Itys, Tereus was shown the boy’s head. ‘‘You,’’ the sisters told him, ‘‘are your son’s tomb.’’ He was about to kill Prokne and Philomela, when all three were transformed: Tereus into a hawk, Philomela to a swallow, Prokne a nightingale. (The sisters’ names are interchanged by some writers.) See Ovid, Metamorphoses vi.

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For the study of Rhesos, this legend is suggestive. In the nightingale and Itys, we see the Muse and Rhesos. But morally, the tale is reversed. Like Tereus, Strymon is a rapist. Like Prokne, the Muse casts Rhesos into the body of his father, for a river is the body of its god. But Strymon is a benevolent being; from him, Rhesos receives nurture. Again, the Muse, like Prokne, can blame herself for her son’s death; but the blame is merely that she tried, and failed, to save him. Still, she has lost him (1234–35 / 967–69) and like the nightingale, the Muse mourns a son with song born of herself (1137–38 / 895–96). Finally, the very structure of the Rhesos is that of a dark and iridescent robe, which must be seen obliquely from front then back before the hidden themes come clear; as such, it is also a replica of the world of men. 748–904 / 561–695 Fourth episode 758 / 573 Dolon, Bright Apollo See notes on 306–16 and 221–22, Introduction p. 269. In the Iliad, Dolon tells Odysseus about the arrangements of the camp, and the presence of Rhesos. There is no mention of a password. 778–80 / 587–88 Search . . . too dark . . . escape Cf. Aeneas’ warnings, especially 151–59 / 111–14 and 161–67 / 115–18. 781–83 / 589–90 ashamed Cf. Hektor’s words, 134–38 / 102. See note on 103 for echoes of ‘‘shame.’’ 815 / 620 a beautiful prize Cf. 267 / 190, Hektor to Dolon, about Achilles’ horses. 820 / 626 what he does best Cf. 140–45 / 106–8, Aeneas to Hektor. 828 / 635 must not kill Paris Paris is destined to be killed by an arrow shot by Philoktetes. This refers to another trick of Odysseus. When Achilles has killed Hektor, and Paris Achilles, the Trojans under Aeneas still resist. Odysseus traps Helenos, a prophet; from him he learns that before the Greeks can achieve victory the arrows of Herakles must be used against Troy. The arrows are in the keeping of Philoktetes. Because he was afflicted with a disgusting wound, the Greeks had abandoned this man on an island. In Aeschylus’ version of the tale, Odysseus—in disguise—persuades the embittered Philoktetes to come to Troy by convincing him that the Greeks are being defeated. 846 / 648 that wonderful favor See note on 259. Athena mimics the fatuous femininity of Aphrodite, who was a sex-goddess: a silly person, and a dread power. 859 / 656 here I am too We are surprised to see Paris at all. He notoriously evaded battle and kept to Helen’s bedroom (Iliad VI). Paris’ shrewdness—dis345

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guised by an affectation of giddiness and pretended effeminacy—rather comically fails him here. See Introduction, pp. 271, 274. 871 / 664 free of my fears See note on 487. While his nation struggles to regain freedom, Paris is much concerned with comfort. The fear he disposes of so readily is reality. He, certainly, is free. 893 / 686 killed Rhesos The Chorus has no clue that Rhesos has been killed by its captives. The Second Soldier, who remembers Rhesos’ armor, mistakes Odysseus for the king. Odysseus picks up the idea (896 / 687) and pretends to be a foreign ally of the Trojans. See Ritchie (cited in note on 1–67) 72–74. 904–34 / 692–727 Fourth stasimon 935–1119 / 728–881 Fifth episode 935 / 728 The Driver is Euripides’ invention. In Homer (Iliad X, 515–22), Apollo awakens Rhesos’ cousin Hippokoon, who sounds the alarm. There is no scene suggesting 935–1115 / 728–878. If the purpose of removing Apollo is to isolate the Trojans and leave them at the mercy of Athena, that of substituting the Driver for Hippokoon is to isolate Rhesos. Like Achilles, Rhesos must have no loyal kinsmen at his side. The Driver is an old retainer, whose relationship to Rhesos is similar to that of Phoinix to Achilles in the Iliad. 958–65 / 756–60 coward . . . shame . . . doubles . . . glory See 224–25 / 159–60 and notes on 225 and 103. 980 / 770 the arms of sleep Cf. 86 / 71. 990 / 780 In my sleep See Introduction, p. 272. 1014 / 796 a deep furrow See 88–89 / 73, and Introduction, p. 272. 1019 / 801 are dead Apollodorus says that Diomedes first killed twelve men who were sleeping nearby, then killed Rhesos. See 1004 / 789, 1064–66 / 840–41, 1069 / 842, 1078–79 / 847. 1029 / 808 nobody But in fact Odysseus has done it again. See 672 / 500, and note on 674 / 502. This outburst is foreseen by the Chorus first in 479 / 353, again in 929–34 / 723–27. See note on 1044–54. If you want to know the future, consult your fears. Hektor here (1028–43 / 808–19) condenses dispersed themes: shame, not seeing, justice, fear, and Zeus as guarantor of the sworn word. Also, cf. 1040–41 / 817–19 with 693–97 / 514–17.

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1044–54 / 820–32 No! The jagged movements of nightmare do not cease. One kind of echoing (see note on 111–15 for verbal echo) is here carried to its most daring extreme in Greek tragedy; nowhere else is an antistrophe—a song responsion—so distant from its strophe, the initial statement of an antiphonal lyric. The strophe to this antistrophe is 618–31 / 454–66. Comparison will show the antiphonal technique at play. In performance, the melody— repeated from strophe to antistrophe and changed only in succeeding pairs—would serve as a reminder. The opposite sentiments, sung to the same tune, would gain greatly in force. Even lacking this motival strengthening, the verbal contrast itself is clear: in 618–31 / 454–66, the sentries sang of hope; they founded their hope of victory on Rhesos’ claim of superiority. Now, in 1044–54 / 820–32, they try to excuse themselves of having caused Rhesos’ death. While the strophe ends in a wish to see Rhesos’ spear ‘‘redeem our dead,’’ the antistrophe ends with a wish to be buried alive. With the ‘‘fires’’ in 1046 / 824, cf. 37 / 41, 99 / 78, 174 / 122, and 122 / 95. Notice, too, that Hektor is called ‘‘my king’’ (1050 / 828). Hektor has just spoken like a king rather than the fair-minded regent. Cf. 2 / 2, 1268 / 993. Live burial, a punishment for treason, will be recalled—and transformed—when the Muse reveals Rhesos’ fate (1236–41 / 970–74). In the earth, there is hope. If dry seeds give forth shoots, may not the dead rise? Cf. note on 1229–33 / 963–66. 1056–58 / 833–34 trap my wits . . . the same blood . . . the Greeks Cf. 547–50 / 404–5, Hektor’s accusation of Rhesos. For implications to an Athenian audience, see note on 406–9. The Driver summarizes themes: persuasion, shame, not seeing, deceit. See notes on 58, 103, 198, 255–58, 259, and 296. 1063 / 839 the way a lover wants Cf. 255–58 / 184. 1068 / 842 disgraced See note on 103. 1098–1100 / 863–65 Dolon . . . not a sign Hektor echoes the sentries’ anxiety (740–45 / 557–61), which, characteristically, is an echo of his own (706–7 / 524– 26). To its characters, the Rhesos is all a waiting for Dolon and for dawn. 1108 / 873 killed your friend Hektor does not know he is responsible; see 1215–27 / 954– 61. The Driver is about to guess (1110–12 / 865–67) that Hektor’s guilt is that of omission. But Hektor never sees that his yielding to the Shep-

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herd’s optimism, and to Rhesos’ proud show of confidence, has led to disaster. 1118 / 881 road to the city Cf. Rhesos’ threat against Odysseus, 693–94 / 514–15. 1119–1271 / 882–996 Exodos There is no stasimon at this point, but a short choral interjection separates the appearance of the Muse as deus ex machina from what has gone before. 1136 / 894 there is justice See note on 278. 1137 / 895 a song See note on 728–34 / 546–550. 1147–50 / 906–9 Diomedes, Odysseus The Greek gives only the patronymics, Oineidas and Laertiadas. I doubt that this is accidental. The original audiences would remember accounts of the sufferings of Oineus, Diomedes’ grandfather, and of Laertes, Odysseus’ father—aged, deposed kings, alone and helpless—during the Trojan war. They would remember that Hektor died in battle, leaving Priam to the mercy of the invader, while Diomedes and Odysseus survived, returned, and restored Oineus and Laertes to dignity. 1151–55 / 910–14 Helen See note on 259. In a manner suited to her mortal audience, the Muse at first lays blame wildly: actually, like Diomedes and Odysseus, Helen is a pawn in the gods’ game of pride. Still, in terms of the intricacies of causation, the charge is sound. If Helen had never lived (and been most beautiful), Rhesos would have survived; just as, if Thamyris had never lived (and been so skillful), Rhesos would not have been born. 1156–71 / 915–25 Thamyris For the role of Thamyris in Rhesos, see Introduction, pp. 274–75. The conditions of the contest were: if Thamyris won, he would have sexual intercourse with all nine Muses; if he lost, they might take from him whatever they wished. The Muses deprived Thamyris of his eye-sight and his art of lyre-playing. Thamyris was the son of a poet, Philammon, who served the cult of his father, Apollo, at Delphi. Thamyris and Odysseus are related through Chione, daughter of the Morning Star, grand-daughter of Dawn. The genealogy is: Zeus

Maia Hermes

348

Zeus chione

Autolykos

Philammon

Antikleia Odysseus

Thamyris

Leto Apollo

NOTES

For Pangaion (1164–65 / 921–22), see 553 / 408 and 1240 / 972; also, for the description, cf. 380 / 287. Regarding Hermes and Odysseus, see 296–301 / 216–20: the blessing of the Chorus does Dolon no good against Hermes’ great-grandson. 1185–86 / 934–35 never to cross Rhesos, we now learn, knew his destiny. In 579–92 / 424–33 and 632–33 / 467–68, he told Hektor half the truth. He was too proud to admit he had been afraid to come sooner. This, together with Athena’s information in 796–800 / 600–605, also reveals that Rhesos’ promise of quick victory (608–17 / 447–53) was not empty boasting. See Introduction pp. 268–69. 1187 / 936 ambassadors Cf. 544–47 / 399–403. 1199–1206 / 943–47 Orpheus, Musaios See Introduction, p. 275. Orpheus was the son of a Thracian river-god Oiagros and the Muse Kalliope, hence was Rhesos’ cousin. The children of river-gods are not immortal, since rivers do not flow forever. Cf. note on 369 / 279. In the sixth century b.c., Greeks began writing poems under the name of Orpheus. ‘‘Orphic’’ literature was a species of theological verse which treated Greek religion from the viewpoint of mysticism. In Athens such verse centered on the implications of the mysteries of Eleusis, where the resurrection-deities Bacchos, Demeter, and Persephone were worshipped. The Orphic teachings promoted vegetarianism and chastity. The original ‘‘Orpheus’’ was most likely a Thracian shaman: a singer of magical charms, able to influence animals, to see the future, and to visit and return from the world of the dead. Herodotos’ account of the Thracian shaman Zalmoxis (Histories IV, 93–96) has much in common with Orpheus. See also Ovid, Metamorphoses x, xi, 1–66. Musaios, a pupil of Orpheus, was also connected with Eleusis. A hymn to Demeter (note on 1229–33 / 963–66) attributed to Musaios existed in Euripides’ time. 1209 / 948 this body in my arms After the death of Hektor, Memnon, son of Tithonos, Priam’s brother, and Eos, goddess of dawn (note on 1156–71 / 915–25), will bring an army to aid Troy. Achilles will kill Memnon. Several vase paintings show Eos holding the body of her son. The group combines ineffable pain and dignity, revealing an immortal being’s knowledge of death. It is the prototype of the Christian pieta`. It is likely that the Muse and Rhesos are posed in this same composition. 1210 / 949 no expert See note on 73–77. 349

RHESOS

1229–33 / 963–66 the Bride The Orphic poets helped raise the goddess Persephone to cult significance as president over the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. Persephone is Bride of Death each summer when parched plant life withers; she returns as Daughter of Demeter in the spring. (Cf. 510–14 / 375–77, which refer to the fertility cult of Hera.) Dead Rhesos is to become a hero (that is, a human spirit that resembles a deity in power but is confined to the region of its grave)—such, at least, was the common tradition regarding him. Rhesos was worshipped as a hero in three or four sites in Thrace. However, the Muse’s description of Rhesos’ future state implies that, with Persephone’s help, he will live again in the flesh. This calls to mind the supernaturally prolonged cave-dwelling existence of Zalmoxis—or, for that matter, of Merlin. So, too, in Euripides’ time, the poet Empedokles claimed to have died and returned to eternal life. See the discussion in Chapter V of E. R. Dodds, The Greeks and the Irrational (Berkeley, 1951). 1239 / 972 the one who speaks for Bacchos Unknown: probably an entombed oracle of the type of Zalmoxis. More important, is the reiteration of the play’s basic message: that the truth is available, if at all, only to those who listen to words from darkness when clearer, false words are at hand. Like Persephone, Bacchos was a god of earth; and it is in the earth that truth lies hidden. Yet, the Muse says that Rhesos will ‘‘never look on daylight’’ (1234 / 967–68). This is unlike the resurrected deity Bacchos, and rather returns to the idea of a figure of the Zalmoxis-Merlin pattern. To Greek ears, the words ‘‘look on daylight’’ are equivalent to ‘‘live’’ (cf. 1078–79 / 849–50). We are in the presence of a mystery which lines 1236–37 / 967– 69 reveal for human contemplation. If Rhesos lives, and does not live, what is this state? Is it—as we are inclined to feel—a form of punishment (1054 / 831–32), or a senseless limbo? I think not. To the ancient Greek (witness Achilles in Odyssey xi, 487–91) possession of body was far superior to any spiritual condition. Rhesos sees the light of truth, as does the oracle of Bacchos. If one reads the lines which follow, out of Yeats’ context, the Muse’s meaning may be felt: I hail the superhuman; I call it death-in-life and life-in-death.

1242–51 / 974–79 the goddess of the sea . . . a hymn . . . for Achilles . . . Apollo The funeral of Achilles is described in the Odyssey (xxiv, 35–97). Thetis and her sister Nereids attended, ‘‘wailing lamentably’’ (Rouse). The nine Muses sang the dirge.

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NOTES

Actually, this was a triple funeral. Achilles’ two friends, Patroklos and Antilochos, were also honored. Patroklos had died first, at Hektor’s hands, as he led Achilles’ forces to save the fleet. Then Antilochos had been killed defending Nestor, his aged father, from Memnon, son of Dawn (note on 1209 / 948). One recalls (Iliad x) that it was Nestor who, with Agamemnon, sent Diomedes and Odysseus to the Trojan camp tonight. Here, by allusion, the absent Achilles is joined with Rhesos (cf. Introduction, pp. 270–71). The death of youth and beauty, the bereavement of parents, are at the heart of this play. Antilochos and Memnon, Achilles and Rhesos are the most beautiful of the warriors who came to Troy. Nestor, Dawn (Eos), Thetis, and now the Muse, are classic images of grief. It is worth noticing that Apollo helps Hektor kill Patroklos and Paris to kill Achilles. Apollo is yet another beautiful—but eternal—youth, absent from the action of this play, but present in the thoughts of the players. Notice, too, that (in Iliad 22) Athena will help Achilles kill Hektor. Assuming the guise of a Trojan, she will mislead Hektor at the critical moment in the combat. 1260–64 / 986–90 On your way This is another quilted piece (cf. note on 111–15 / 87– 89) which joins odd thoughts to nightmarish effect. See 871 / 664, 22–25 / 23–25, 204 / 141, 533–34 / 391–92, and 172 / 120. 1266 / 991 I’m convinced See note on 198, and Introduction, pp. 276–277. 1267–71 / 991–96 day of freedom See notes on 64 and 487.

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GLOSSARY

acastus:

King of Iolcus, son of Pelias; at his father’s funeral games, he purified Peleus from the accidental killing of a companion at the Calydonian boar hunt; in Trojan Women (1333 / 1127–28) he is said to have subsequently exiled Peleus from Iolcus.

achaean, achaeans: Synonym for ‘‘Greek’’ and ‘‘Greeks’’ in Homer and later literature. In historical times, Achaea was the name of a region in the northern Peloponnesos. achilles: Greatest of the Greek warriors at Troy, prince of Phthia in northern Greece. The son of Peleus and the goddess Thetis, he was the father of Neoptolemus; his killing by Hektor is the culminating event of the Iliad. Achilles then was killed by an arrow from Paris’ bow, and Polyxena was sacrificed at his tomb as an offering to his shade. adrasteia: ‘‘She from whom no one can run away,’’ often said to be the nurse of the infant Zeus, but in Rhesos 463 / 342, said to be Zeus’s daughter. See nemesis. aeacus: King of Aegina, known for his piety; the father Peleus. aegean:

Sea that divides Greece from Asia Minor.

aeneas: Cousin of Hektor, son of Priam’s brother Anchises and the goddess Aphrodite, he assumed leadership of the Trojan refugees after the war, and founded the city that ultimately became Rome. agamemnon: King of Mycenae (Mykenai) or Argos, supreme leader of the Greek forces at Troy, murdered upon his return home by his

353

GLOSSARY

wife Clytemnestra and his cousin Aegistheus, her lover. His brother, Menelaus, married Helen, whose abduction to Troy was held to be the cause of the Trojan War. He sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia to avert Artemis’ anger and allow the winds to blow again and the ships to sail to Troy. Agamemnon’s death was avenged by his son, Orestes, and his daughter Electra. ajax:

Son of Oileus, from Locri, sometimes referred to as the ‘‘lesser Ajax,’’ to distinguish him from Ajax, son of Telamon. This Ajax, though depicted in the Iliad as a valiant fighter, is best known for a sacrilege that caused the death of much of the Greek army on its voyage back from Troy. Ajax seized Cassandra by force from the statue of Athena, to which she clung as a suppliant after the fall of her city. In retribution, Athena sent a terrible storm that wrecked a large number of Greek ships, including the one on which Ajax was sailing.

ajax:

Son of Telamon, cousin of Achilles, second greatest of the Greek warriors at Troy. Disgraced by the intrigues of Odysseus that denied him the armor of the slain Achilles, he subsequently committed suicide.

alcmena: Wife of Amphytrion, King of Thebes, and beloved of Zeus, to whom she bore Heracles, the greatest of Greek heroes. alexander: An alternate name for Paris. amyclae: A city celebrated for its connections to heroes of the Heroic Age, situated on the banks of the Eurotas just south of Sparta. andromache: Wife of Hektor, the greatest of the Trojan warriors, daughter-in-law of Hecuba, mother of Astyanax; allotted as a war prize to Neoptolemus, son of Achilles (who had killed her husband) as his concubine. She eventually becomes the wife of Helenus. aphrodite: The goddess of love in all its aspects, daughter of Zeus and Dione, possessor of a power to which gods and mortals alike succumb. A divine supporter of the Trojans, she was the mother of Aeneas and the helper of Paris in the abduction of Helen. After a quarrel had broken out at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis among Aphrodite, Athena, and Hera about which of

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GLOSSARY

them was the most beautiful, Hermes brought the goddesses to Mount Ida for Paris to judge between them. Aphrodite won the contest by promising him Helen, whose abduction led to the Trojan War. apollo: Son of Zeus and Leto, god of prophesy whose prophetic shrine at Delphi was the most influential in the Greek world. As a god of order and beauty, he was leader of the Muses, and among his other powers were those of healing and purification. He is also known as Phoebus (‘‘bright one’’) and Loxias (‘‘crooked one,’’ explained as referring either to the oblique orbit of the sun, with which he is often identified, or to the obscurity of his oracles). arcadians: Inhabitants of Arcadia, a mountainous region of the central Peloponnesos. ares:

God of war.

argive: Inhabitant or attribute of Argos. argos:

Major city of the Argive plain in the Peloponnesos, often conflated with Mycenae as the royal seat of Agamemnon.

artemis: Sister of Apollo, virgin goddess who presides over childbirth and is pictured both as hunter and protector of wild animals. astyanax: Son of Hektor and Andromache, who does not live to fulfill the meaning of his name, ‘‘ruler of the city.’’ athena: Virgin goddess and patroness of Athens, born full grown and armed from the head of Zeus; associated with wisdom and with arts and handicrafts, especially weaving, but also a warrior goddess. She sided with the Greeks at Troy but turned against them because of their sacrilegious behavior in victory. athens:

Chief city of Attica, where Greek tragedy was performed at the festivals of Dionysus.

atreus:

King of Mycenae, son of Pelops, and father of Agamemnon and Menelaus. He murdered his brother’s children and served them to their father Thyestes at a horrendous feast, giving his name to a house torn apart by deceit, murder, and revenge.

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GLOSSARY

bacchos: ‘‘The Shouter,’’ a title of the god Dionysus, god of ecstatic experience and the release from ordinary constraints that is embodied, for example in wine. caphereus: A promontory on the southeastern coast of Euboea, where the rocky coast was dangerous for ships. carthage:

Phoenician city on the African coast.

cassandra (kassandra): Daughter of Priam and Hecuba, beloved by Apollo, who gave her the gift of prophecy; but when she refused his sexual advances, he punished her with the curse that her prophecies would never be believed. Raped by Ajax and allotted as spoils of war to Agamemnon to be his concubine, she was later killed, together with him, by Clytemnestra and Aegisthus. castor and pollux: Twin sons of Zeus and Leda, known collectively as the Dioscuri. After their deaths, they were taken to the heavens as gods and became known for rescuing those in danger, especially mariners at sea. centaurs: A race of half horse-half man creatures that produced some wise teachers, including Chiron to whom Achilles was entrusted by Peleus and Thetis for his education. Centaurs also had a reputation for getting out of control: hence the story that they got drunk at the wedding of the Lapith king Pirithous, and tried to abduct the bride. charybdis: A sea monster whose swallowing and disgorging of great quantities of water, producing the effect of a whirlpool, made it dangerous to sail near her. Odysseus, when first passing between her and Scylla, another monstrous creature, escapes unharmed; returning, he is caught up in the whirlpool and only saves himself by clinging to a fig tree at the mouth of Charybdis’ cave. circe:

Bewitching deity whom Odysseus encountered in his wanderings and who turned his men into swine until he subdued her and she returned them to their normal form.

crathis:

River in the instep of Italy’s boot that flows into the Ionian Sea near the eighth-century Greek colony of Sybaris, which became a byword for luxury. Athens had a direct connection to

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GLOSSARY

this area: Sybaris was destroyed in 510 and refounded as Thurii by Athenians in 443. cronus: Youngest son of Heaven and Earth, who overcame his father to become leader of the Titans. He in turn was defeated and supplanted as chief of the gods by Zeus, youngest of his six children by his sister Rhea. cyclopes: Gigantic one-eyed beings. In the Odyssey, they appear to belong to a pastoral but savage race; in Hesiod’s Theogony, they are splendid craftsmen who make Zeus’ thunderbolts. In line with this second tradition, they are credited with building the ‘‘Cyclopean’’ walls of cities like Mycenae, built from huge, beautifully fitted boulders. cypris:

‘‘The Cyprian,’’ a cult name of Aphrodite taken from her shrine on Cyprus.

dardanian: dardanus:

Another name for the Trojan, derived from Dardanus. Founder of Troy and ancestor of Priam.

delos: A small island in the Aegean Cyclades; birthplace of the twins Apollo and Artemis, and a great cult center of these gods. delphi:

The location of Apollo’s temple on Mt. Parnassus at which he prophesied through the medium of his priestess.

demeter: ‘‘Earth-Mother,’’ the goddess of grain and the harvest, mother of Persephone. diomedes: King of Argos, one of the leading Greek warriors at Troy; later, in exile, he is said to have founded a number of Italian cities, including Brundisium. dodona: The location of a famous oracle of Zeus in northwestern Greece. dolon:

‘‘The Trickster’’ or ‘‘Trapper,’’ Trojan youth who volunteers to spy on the Greek camp.

eleusis: Town near Athens, center of a mystery-cult of Demeter, Persephone, and Dionysos.

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GLOSSARY

epeius:

A Greek from Phocis who devised the Trojan Horse as the means to end the war at last.

erinyes:

Also known as Furies, avenging spirits called forth by blood of murdered people. The Erinyes of his mother pursued Orestes.

etna:

Volcano still active in Sicily, ‘‘the land of Etna.’’ Etna is the ‘‘stronghold of Hephaestus’’ because of the tradition that its eruptions were caused by the god’s work in his forge under the mountain.

euboea:

The island that stretches alongside the Greek mainland from Attica to Thessaly.

eurotas:

River of Sparta; used metonymically to refer to Sparta.

euxine sea: The Greek name for the Black Sea. Euxine means ‘‘friendly to strangers,’’ and is a euphemism for its real name, axine, ‘‘unfriendly to strangers.’’ gorgon: Medusa, the sight of whose face turned men to stone. She was decapitated by the hero Perseus, founder of Mykenai. Perseus gave the head to Athena. hades: brother of Zeus and ruler of the Underworld; his name is synonymous with death. hecate: Goddess of the underworld, crossroads, and magic; also (like Artemis) worshipped as a nurturer of children and thus connected to marriage. hektor (hector): Eldest son of Priam and Hecuba, husband of Andromache, father of Astyanax; crown prince of Troy, and commander of Trojan and allied forces. The greatest of the Trojan warriors, he was killed by Achilles, the greatest warrior of the Greeks, after he had killed Patroclus. Achilles’ beloved companion. In the Iliad, Hektor is portrayed as a man of sense in council and a conscientious husband and father. hecuba:

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Queen of Troy, the mother of fifty children to Priam, among them Hektor, Cassandra, Polyxena, and Polydorus. She becomes an exemplary figure of grief.

GLOSSARY

helen:

Daughter of Leda and Zeus (or Tyndareus), wife of Menelaus, king of Sparta, and mother of Hermione. She was considered the most beautiful woman in the world, and this legendary beauty led to her abduction by Paris, helped by Aphrodite, which led in turn to the Trojan War. Many Greek heroes had been her suitors, and swore to help her chosen husband if needed; thus the huge Greek contingent to the Trojan War when she was stolen by (or eloped with) Paris.

helenus: Son of Priam and Hecuba; like his sister Cassandra, he possessed the gift of prophecy. He survived the fall of Troy and became king of Molossia, where Andromache joins him. hephaestus: Son of Zeus and Hera, god of fire and the forge; lover of Aphrodite. hera:

Goddess of marriage, wife and sister of Zeus. Hera sides against Troy when Paris awards Aphrodite the prize for being the most beautiful. She is called the Argive goddess because of her famous sanctuary and cult at Argos.

heracles (herakles): Son of Zeus and Alcmena, a mighty fighter of the generation before the Trojan War whose preferred weapon was the bow. He destroyed the earlier walls of Troy after he had been denied the horses promised as a reward for rescuing Hesione, daughter of King Laomedon, from a monster. After his death, this godliest of heroes, in both accomplishments and appetites, became a god. hermes: Son of Zeus and Maia, god of travel, thrift, theft, trickery; messenger of the gods and leader of dead souls to the world below. hermione: Spartan princess, daughter of Helen and Menelaus. She was married to Neoptolemus, but in Euripides’ version and others, had previously been promised to Orestes by Menelaus. hymenaeus (or simply hymen): A god, or in some explanations a particularly handsome man who married happily, invoked for good fortune in chants accompanying the bridal procession. ida:

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A mountain near Troy, site of the Judgment of Paris.

GLOSSARY

An alternate name for Troy.

ilium:

ionian sea: The sea that lies between the Balkan peninsula and Italy, today usually called the Adriatic. isthmus: The Isthmus of Corinth, the neck of land connecting the Peloponnesos to the rest of mainland Greece. ithaca: Island off the western coast of the Peloponnesos, home of Odysseus. See cassandra.

kassandra:

Kingdom of Asia Minor, allied to Troy, now southeast Turkey (standard English spelling, Cilicia).

kilikia:

koroibos: Trojan commander, suitor of Cassandra, died at the capture of Troy. lacedaimon: laertes:

See sparta.

Father of Odysseus.

laomedon: King of Troy and, in Euripides’ genealogy, father of Ganymede, Tithonus, and Priam. lemnos:

Island in the northeast Aegean.

leto: Mother, by Zeus, of Apollo and Artemis. ligurian: Inhabitant of Liguria, an area on the northwest coast of Italy. loxias:

See apollo.

lykia:

Kingdom allied to Troy; ‘‘land of the wolf,’’ birthplace of Leto, cult center of Apollo, now in southwestern Turkey.

maia:

One of the Pleiades; daughter of Atlas and Pleione and mother of Hermes.

menelaos (menelaus): King of Sparta, brother of Agamemnon and husband of Helen.

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GLOSSARY

molossia: A small kingdom in Epirus, in northwestern Greece, with a long tradition of independence. Its name was derived from Molossus, considered the founder of its ruling dynasty. molossus: Son of Neoptolemus and Andromache. mykonos:

Island in the Aegean Sea.

musaios: Thracian poet who wrote in Greek, disciple of Orpheus, influential at Eleusis. muse: One of nine daughters of Zeus and Memory, goddesses of the intellectual arts. mysia:

State allied to Troy, now northwest Turkey.

nemesis: Personification as a goddess, daughter of Zeus, of the principle that pride must fall; Adrasteia is often identified with her. neoptolemus: Son of Achilles, who fathered him with the Nymph Deidameia on the island of Scyros, where his own father, Peleus, had sent him in the hope of saving him from service in the Trojan war. Neoptolemus, also known by the name Pyrrhus, was summoned to the Trojan war after Achilles’ death, as the one who, according to prophecy, was needed to capture Troy. He killed Priam during the sack of Troy and was awarded Andromache as a war prize. nereids: The fifty sea-nymph daughters of Nereus, who dwell in the depths of the Aegean. Thetis is a Nereid. nereus:

Sea god, famous in myth for his cleverness. His daughters are called Nereids after him.

odysseus: Son of Laertes, king of Ithaca, to which he only returned in the twentieth year after leaving for Troy. He was the ablest strategist among the Greeks, known for cunning wiles and persuasive speech. olympus: Mountain in northeastern Thessaly; home of the Olympian gods.

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GLOSSARY

orestes: Son of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, Menelaus’ nephew, cousin of Hermione. He was pursued by furies (see erinyes) after he killed his mother to avenge his father. Apollo protected him and eventually purified him of blood-guilt. orpheus: Thracian poet and musician, a shaman, son of the Muse Kalliope and a river god, Oiagros. paionia:

Land northwest of Thrace, now divided between southern Serbia and Bulgaria. Alternate name or title of Athena.

pallas:

pangaion:

Mountain in southwest Thrace, near the Greek border.

paris: Son of Priam and Hecuba, also known as Alexander. Exposed at birth because of a prophecy that he would destroy Troy, he was rescued by a shepherd but later returned to Troy and was recognized as a royal prince. While a guest in the palace of Menelaus, he abducted Helen as his prize for judging Aphrodite the fairest in a divine beauty contest (see aphrodite). This brought about the Trojan War and the eventual death of his city. In the war, Paris managed to kill Achilles with an arrow. parnassus: peirene:

Mountain of Phocis in central Greece. Fountain at Corinth, famous for the clarity of its waters.

peleus: Son of Aeacus, king of Aegina, became King of Phthia in Thesssaly and husband of the sea goddess Thetis; father of Achilles and grandfather of Neoptolemus. Peleus had to leave Aegina because of a murder committed by him and his brother Telamon. His subsequent career linked him with many famous adventures, such as the battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs, the voyage after the Golden Fleece, and the first sack of Troy. For his marriage, see thetis. pelias: King of Iolcus in Thessaly. pelops:

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King of Argos who gave his name to the Peloponnesos (‘‘island of Pelops’’); grandfather of Agamemnon and Menelaus.

GLOSSARY

peneus:

River in Thessaly that flows to the sea between Mount Olympus and Mount Ossa.

pergamum: Alternate name for Troy, from a word meaning ‘‘citadel.’’ persephone: Daughter of Zeus and Demeter, wife of Hades and queen of the realm of the dead. A region of central Greece around Mount Parnassus.

phocis: phoebus:

An epithet or alternate name for Apollo.

phrygia, phrygians: Alternate names for Troy, Trojans. Phrygia was an area of northwestern Turkey, of which in mythology the Trojans were the leading people. phthia: Region of east central Thessaly, over which Peleus and his descendants ruled; home of Achilles. pitane:

A district in the city of Sparta.

pleiades: Seven daughters of the Titans Atlas and Pleione and the constellation of that name in the northern sky; one Pleiad, Maia, was mother of the god Hermes; another, Elektra, was mother of Dardanos, founder of Troy. The father of both was Zeus. pollux: See castor and pollux. polydorus: Youngest son of Priam and Hecuba; he was murdered by the Thracian king Polymestor, to whom his parents had entrusted him, along with much gold. polymestor: Treacherous Thracian king; formerly the guest-friend of Priam and Hecuba. polyxena: Unmarried daughter of Priam and Hecuba, sacrificed at Achilles’ tomb to appease his ghost. poseidon: Brother of Zeus and Hades, god of earthquakes, horses, and especially the sea. priam:

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King of Troy, son of Laomedon and husband of Hecuba; father of many children, including Hektor, Paris, Cassandra, and

GLOSSARY

Polyxena. He was killed at the altar by Achilles’ son, Neoptolemus (or Pyrrhus); a paradigm of human happiness turned to misery. rhesos: King of Thrace, son of river Strymon and a Muse, friend of Hektor. Island near Athens; Telamon’s realm.

salamis:

scamander:

River at Troy.

scythians: A non-Greek people living between the Danube and the Don. simois:

River at Troy.

skyros:

Island in the Aegean Sea.

sparta: Principal city of the southern Peloponnesos, ruled by Menelaus; original home of Helen of Troy and, in the fifth century, Athens’ chief enemy in the Peloponnesian War. Also known as Lacedaimon. strymon: River and river-god, border in ancient times between Greek and Thracian territory. symplegades: Clashing rocks that the Argonauts had to pass to enter the Hellespont. talthybius:

Herald of the Greek army.

telamon: King of Salamis who with Heracles destroyed the walls of Troy a generation before the Trojan War. Father of Ajax. thamyris:

A Thracian musician, grandson of Apollo.

thebe: City on the foothills of Mt. Ida, south of Troy; birthplace of Andromache, destroyed by Achilles and the Greek army. thebes: Chief city of Boeotia; in the fifth century, an important opponent of Athens in the Peloponnesian War.

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theseus: King of Athens in the generation prior to the Trojan War, famous for a series of exploits akin to those of his friend Heracles, involving the slaying of evil-doers and monsters. thessaly: Large region in north-central Greece, with Mt. Olympus on the north, the Aegean sea on the east, and Mt. Oeta on the south. thetis:

A sea goddess, daughter of Nereus, given in marriage to a mortal, Peleus, because, as Zeus discovered, she was destined to bear a son greater than his father; mother of Achilles.

thrace:

Vast northern region, controlled by competing warlike tribes, bounded by the Strymon, west, the Danube, north, the Black Sea on the east, and the Aegean to the south. Its southern coast was colonized by Greeks.

thymbra: Town four miles east-southeast of Troy, a cult center of Apollo. titans:

troy:

Elemental powers; an older race of gods conquered by Zeus and imprisoned; their king was Cronus (Kronos). City in northwestern Asia Minor near the Hellespont (today, Dardanelles), site of the Trojan War. Its inhabitants were nonGreeks, although they are regularly depicted as being practically indistinguishable from Greeks in language, customs, and religion.

tyndareus: King of Sparta, husband of Leda; the ‘‘mortal father’’ of Helen and other children said to have been sired by Zeus. zeus: Son of Cronus, whom he surpressed, becoming the chief and most powerful of the gods, father of many deities and mortals, including Apollo, Athena, Heracles, and Helen. As king of gods and men, he was protector of guest-friends and suppliants, dispenser of destiny, referee of good government, guarantor of oaths.

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FOR FURTHER READING

EURIPIDES

Peter Burian. ‘‘Euripides.’’ In Michael Gagarin and Elaine Fantham, eds., The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010, pp. 129–41. A brief, broadly based introduction. Desmond J. Conacher. Euripidean Drama: Myth, Theme, and Structure. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1967. Still the most useful play-by-play study of Euripides. Donald J. Mastronarde. The Art of Euripides: Dramatic Technique and Social Context. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. A new assessment of the entire Euripidean corpus, employing a variety of perspectives. Ann N. Michelini. Euripides and the Tragic Tradition. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1987. A study of Euripides and the history of Euripidean criticism. James Morwood. The Plays of Euripides. London: Bristol Classical Press, 2002. Brief, personal discussions of all the surviving plays. Judith Mossman, ed. Euripides. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. A collection of influential critical essays.

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FOR FURTHER READING ANDROMACHE

William Allen. The ‘‘Andromache’’ and Euripidean Tragedy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. The fullest and finest analysis of this often disparaged play. Poulpheria Kyriakou. ‘‘All in the Family: Present and Past in Euripides’ Andromache.’’ Mnemosyne 50 (1997): 7–26. Christine E. Sorum. ‘‘Euripides’ Judgment: Literary Criticism in Andromache.’’ American Journal of Philology 116 (1995): 371–88. HECUBA

Robin Mitchell-Boyask. ‘‘Sacrifice and Revenge in Euripides’ Hecuba.’’ Ramus 20 (1991): 116–94. Judith Mossman. Wild Justice: A Study of Euripides’ ‘‘Hecuba’’. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995. A detailed and sympathetic analysis of the play. Charles Segal. Euripides and the Poetics of Sorrow. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993. This important study concludes with four rich and thoughtful chaapters on Hecuba, revised from articles published in the late 1980s (pp. 157–226). RHESOS

Anne Pippin Burnett. ‘‘Rhesus: Are Smiles Allowed?’’ In Peter Burian, ed., Directions in Euripidean Criticism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1985, pp. 13–51. The fullest and most compelling literary study of the play to date that highlights its comic and ironic elements as a way of explaining peculiarities that have raised doubts about its authenticity. William Ritchie. The Authenticity of the ‘‘Rhesus’’ of Euripides. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1964. Most studies of this play are directed toward the questions of its authorship and date. This remains the fullest defense of Euripidean authorship. Joe Park Poe. ‘‘Unconventional Procedures in Rhesus.’’ Philologus 148 (2004): 21–33. An accessible recent article that presents arguments

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against authenticity based largely on matters of dramatic structure and conventions of presentation. TROJAN WOMEN

N. T. Croally. Euripidean Polemic: ‘‘The Trojan Women’’ and the Function of Tragedy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. A reading of the play that emphasizes civic significance and an overarching didactic purpose. Barbara Goff. Euripides: Trojan Women. London: Duckworth, 2008. One of a series of Companions to Greek and Roman Tragedy that provide reliable introductions with full and up-to-date bibliographies; this is an intelligent and lively guide. Adrian Poole. ‘‘Total Disaster: Euripides’ The Trojan Women.’’ Arion New Series 3 (1976): 257–87.

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