This week we’ll be reading Euripides’ Trojan Women, a tragedy that depicts the effects of the fall of Troy on the city’s women. It’s a difficult text (don’t skip the content note on the course schedule), but helps illustrate one of this semester’s central themes: that myths never have an original, true version, but are always retellings that try to accomplish something new.
In your forum this week, I’d like you to put the play in conversation with Homer’s Iliad. We’ve met some the play’s main characters before: Andromache, Hecuba, Helen are familiar figures to us. What’s different about the female-focused storytelling we encounter in Euripides’ version? How does his focus on their suffering reframe or subvert the Iliad’s narrative? How does the suffering of these women affect us as contemporary readers? Do we observe hints of feminine solidarity, of resistance to patriarchy, or of transhistorical connection in this play, or is it simply a parade of suffering women?
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Children of Medea (Family A): Post your comments here!
I found the differences in the relationship between Hecuba and Helen in the Iliad and in Trojan Women profound. When reading the Iliad, I didn’t get a clear sense of Hecuba’s feelings toward Helen, but in Trojan Women, Hecuba’s dislike is intense. This was especially clear to me when Hecuba acted as the “prosecution” for Helen while she’s arguing with Menelaus – I thought that Hecuba might understand that it was the fault of the gods, not entirely Helen, that the war began. I thought there might be more undertones of female solidarity in Trojan Women, but I felt like instead Hecuba might perhaps have some sort of internalized misogyny, that she so readily attacks Helen but gives her son, Paris, more grace and forgiveness for his part in the war. Or, maybe Hecuba was doing Helen a favor, somehow, by convincing Menelaus to send her to her death? I think it’s an interesting and extremely complex narrative here.
I think Nat makes a really interesting point here about Hecuba’s internalized misogyny and her attack on Helen despite the gods’s obvious interference and role in the war. I think this latter argument stems directly from the extreme reverence that the ancient Greeks had for their gods — they were seen as all-powerful and divine, something/someone to be worshipped and a group that was physically separated from the mortal world. To this end, though some people might argue that Hecuba unjustly attacked and persecuted Helen for her supposed crimes that led to the Trojan War, I believe that her feelings toward the entire affair were concentrated on Helen because she needed a scapegoat/ someone to blame for the actions that she knew the gods would not be held accountable for.
I agree with both Clara and Nat. Going into this reading I also thought that there would be a stronger sense of solidarity between all of the women’s stories – but, we touched on this question in class, can this piece be read as a feminist take or not? This question definitely does not have a correct answer in a lot of ways – although it highlights the experiences of women, does it really show their suffering in a way that aids in a discussion of feminism, or does it just highlight their trauma for the sake of a story? This also connects back to the points made about Hecuba’s internalized misogyny. If the suffering of these women (especially Helen) is at the hands of Hecuba, what commentary is Euripides making there about women’s experiences?
A moment that stood out to me as a subversion of ideas from The Iliad was when Hecuba refers to herself as “I whose son was Hector once” (line 493). This line particularly highlights Hecuba’s grief by suggesting that Hector’s death is not only painful but also eliminates part of who she is. Hecuba is no longer a princess, a wife, or a mother; by losing her family members, she has lost herself. This heartbreaking moment of Hecuba’s grief questions the glory-seeking mentality of the heroes in the Iliad: they are remembered in glory, but that same remembrance causes pain and grief to their family members. Euripides shines a light on those who are left behind to remember the heroes.
I thought that this was also a major moment in terms of revealing how those who were not “heroes” recognized the events happening around them. While we meed many of these characters in the Illiad, they are not the focal point of the story and thus we do not get to understand there complete role in the world. However, here, we see that the Greek idea of being remembered past death can be considered a selfish goal and it puts into question whether or not that should be the ultimate goal. One question that we faced in the Illiad is whether to choose selfishly by living a peaceful life or whether to choose glory through battle and remembrance, but through Hecuba we question whether each choice is selfish in their own regards, muddling the question for me.
You guys pretty much covered my thoughts on how Trojan Women related to the Iliad, but I think it’s important to emphasize just how pointless the fight for glory (or really the fight in general) really was when it’s recontextualized by Trojan Women. Euripides subverts the themes of the Iliad (glory in battle, legacy) by focusing on the real, guarenteed to be terrible aftermath of war regardless of outcome.
I think this also emphasizes just how ostracized women are. Women are only seen as an extension of men, and when that extension is no more, the woman loses all her credibility. Not only did she lose her son, but she also lost her value in society and must grieve both. To me, its beyond just losing part of herself, she has lost her whole self as the one thing that made her respected, is now dead.
This moment in the Illias also stood out to me because Euipodes subverts the ideologies of heroism into a focus on the ones we lose in war and the sacrifices we must make as a hero. By doing so, she shifts the lens from the traditional viewpoint of heroism into something far more melancholy.
The female voices in these first pages of Euripedes are packed with power, emotion, and awareness, specifically with Hecuba. In Hecuba’s monologue in the beginning, she asks, “must I be hushed?” This question, whether sincere or ironic, points to her knowledge of her role as a woman in this story. She is seen as inferior, powerless, and silent, and she is questioning the nature of her hierarchical position with such a simple and straightforward question. In addition, Hecuba’s emotions are complex and detailed throughout her explanation of her captivity and experience of despair. She deals with the complicated philosophy of existentialism, questioning her future, both in terms of her societal status but also in terms of aging and her existence as a whole. More practically speaking, she is given a lot of air time in this text and it is clear that her character is one that is valued and must be heard.
I strongly agree with this post and the quote you pulled out. It is short but still very powerful. The ‘I’ reveals that this is the perspective of solely a woman. It personifies the sentiment of women being objectified. Ultimately revealing that women’s opinions were overlooked. Euripides’ version ostracizes women revealing how they were an extension of men. Through Hecuba’s perspective, the horrors of her captivity and life as a woman are seen. For me, this arose the vital question of what path of life is worse. Whether women were better off stuck in captivity or death in fact was a way out?
I think that this is a very interesting line to analyze. Because when I break it down I see all three words separately and then what they mean as a compound. first is “must”. Not only does must inadvertently ask a question but it is not a question of why but more that it is expected. like Must it be this way? And for her use of I I agree with Lauren is making it from her perspective, almost like the audience (if a play) is in her head. Then is the word hushed. Again an interesting choice of words especially for a woman where I feel the word silenced is often used. Then finally the use of those three create a sentence that explains so many thoughts and feelings of women at that time in such a simple way. “must I be hushed?” must women still keep their thoughts and ideas private while men do not? when will it end?
To me, lines 403-405 in Euripides’s version really stuck out to me. When Cassandra, Hecuba’s daughter says, “Let no more tears fall, Mother, for our land, nor for this marriage I make; it is by marriage that I bring to destruction those whom you and I have hated most.” In Euripides, Trojan women, we get to explore some of Hecuba’s relationship with her last daughter before she is sent away with Agamemnon. At first, I was a bit confused by Cassandra’s eagerness to leave, she describes her enslavement as a “victory” and a “bless(ing) to lie at a king’s side.” However, this moment could be described as one of female solidarity, where Hecuba’s daughter shows resilience and a commitment to her mother and what remains of her city. It could also show the difference between how men and women fight in the Iliad. Masculine violence is one of war, duty, and blood, female violence on the other hand is silent and vengeful. And despite Cassandra’s helpless situation, she shows spirit and strength and reassures her mother that not all hope is lost.
I agree, Cassandra displays incredible courage and resilience in the face of her own tragic death. In the play she says, “I am ridden by God’s curse still, yet I will step so far out of my frenzy as to show this city’s fate is blessed beside the Achaeans'” (lines 365-367). This quote demonstrates Cassandra’s strength and conviction when facing own impending death. She accepts her fate as being cursed by God, but she also demonstrates a belief in the justice of the gods to those who have wronged her. I think this is similar to Hector in the Iliad, where he must face Achilles in a battle he knows he cannot win in order to defend Troy. Both characters know that they will be confronting death, but remain strong and courageous when it matters most.
Andromache’s discussion of Hector’s heroism and its repercussions for their son, Astyanax, stood out to me. Andromache says, “Your father’s heroism means your death,/though it saved so many other Trojans./For you, his nobleness became a curse.” (741-43). The Iliad touches on the fate of Andromache and her son after Hector’s death, but I found that these words coming directly from her mouth helped reframe the narrative. We see firsthand that Hector’s enduring battle for nobleness and glory (kleos) has indeed cemented his legacy, but it has done nothing to protect his wife and son from a terrible fate. Glory is a double-edged sword, a fact that Andromache makes abundantly clear. Hector may have his legacy, but his family is felt without one, doomed to enslavement and death. Hector’s fortitude in battle and his courageousness upon facing his death must be some comfort to Andromache, but this comfort ultimately pales in comparison to the overwhelming grief and anguish she feels later in the play when her son is taken by the Greeks to be hurled from Troy’s walls.
I found both Cassandra’s and Hecuba’s spite towards the gods to be somewhat surprising. Cassandra brings up “Apollo’s promises,” that Hecuba die in Troy, and Hecuba rants on the subject of their inadequacy: “O gods — what wretched things to call on — gods!” In fact, though she knows she should invoke their aid, she prioritizes telling her own story first. I find these two passages to be powerful instances of both female rage and empowerment. In the Iliad, grief overtakes the women, but now they have the chance to showcase malice towards the gods (notably the male gods) who have played a large role in putting them in this position.
Both Cassandra’s and Hecuba’s anger towards the gods also really stuck out to me. I found it interesting that these women really place the majority of the blame on the gods and not on the people who started and instigated the war for so long. I think this really highlights how much fate played a role in this situation as these women appear to feel as though all of the events that transpired were out of a morals hands.
Through Euripides’ Trojan Women, the way women are treated compared to men is highly apparent, especially when compared to the Iliad. In Homer’s Iliad, the focus is more on the actions and events in the war concerning men. Although female characters are mentioned and occasionally talk, the Iliad centers more on how the men react to war and their opinions. Unlike the Iliad, Euripides’ Trojan Women, as the name suggests, focuses on women. The women are in the spotlight as their opinions and feelings are expressed as well as experienced by the reader. Through getting more of an insight into the experience of the effects of war on Women, when thinking in a modern context, I was appalled by how women were being treated. The fate of the women was not up to them, but instead, the men on the winning side of the war. Euripides’ Trojan Women, although maybe not its intention, highlights the despair and unfair treatment by men as well as societal construction and traditions as a whole.
I agree with Emily. I think Emily has a good grasp of the difference between the Iliad and the Trojan Women. In Euripides’s Trojan Women, we get more direct interaction with the female characters- lots of them have monologues expressing their sufferings. That is to say, readers can develop a much more intimate relationship with the female characters and feel more connected to them. Each female character is distinct from the others under Euripides’ description; however, there is that share of pain and unfair treatment, showing that regardless of the woman’s background, she has to be subject to the greatest oppression because of her gender.
In the two works, I was intrigued by the Greek’s interest in describing the ferocity and suffering they brought onto the Trojans, choosing not to paint themselves as the good, but as violent, emotional, and sometimes cruel, perhaps more honestly. The female-focused storytelling in Euripides’ Trojan Women, particularly from Hecuba’s perspective is intense, and emotional, and provides the reader with a much stronger understanding of her feelings as opposed to in the Iliad. Hecuba’s fear is also apparent, as she says “And I, whose wretched slave shall I be?” (190). She villainizes the Greeks and draws pity from the audience upon her precarious situation.
Jared, I definitely agree with your assessment. I also feel like in the Iliad, the focus is more on the men’s struggle to achieve glory and ensure their remembrance after death with the women often functioning as characters conveying the severity of the men’s decisions throughout the play, with Hector’s conversation with Andromache in anticipation of battle coming to mind. However, in Euripides’ work, the struggle that the women face is brought to the forefront, and their dependence they have on each other is revealed in these conversations anticipating their slave assignments to the Greek men. Returning to Hecuba, her true emotions and her struggle is highlighted after learning she is Achilles’ slave when she exclaims, “I am gone, doomed, undone, O wretched, given the worst lot of all” (289-291).
I found the concept and history between the Iliad and Trojan Women pretty interesting. They stand next to each other timeline-wise, and share characters, but very much differ in terms of content. I wonder how much of that has to do with the authors themselves — Homer is very famous and acclaimed, but is more likely than not actually a larger group of people, each crafting their own version of the story. The version of the Iliad that we have today has had many hands involved in making it. Euripides stands in contrast to Homer. He is a well-known tragedian with specific plays to his name. The Iliad has a lot to cover. It’s a bigger, overarching story about war and violence. Trojan Women has a distinct focus on the women of Troy, on their grief and anger.
Last week when reading Homer’s Iliad, the role that women played in the tragedy varied greatly when compared to Euripides’ Trojan Women. In the first case, we see women cast aside, only portrayed as objects and possessions of men. However, in the second tragedy, women take center stage and men play a more secondary role. That being said I don’t think this shift completely removes the subtle and not-so-subtle patriarchal narratives throughout the play. Throughout the play, the women are broken by the loss of the men in their lives. Hecuba is heartbrokenly wishing to be “taken to her death now” and Andromache longs for her husband who she refers to as her “defender”. I do recognize that these women are going through loss and suffering, but their emotions and feelings are still completely dependent on the men in the play. I think this tragedy is a perfect example that despite being focused on women characters, Trojan Women does not necessarily fight the narrative of the patriarchal society of the time.
Hi, Julia! I totally agree with you. The three heroes in Iliad, Achilles, Hector, and Patroclus, are all described as queer or gay. I think it also shows the objectification of women. Women seem to be only the appendages of heroes, and can never actually have spiritual resonance with the heroes. Although I agree with you that woman in the Trojan Woman still deeply dependent on the men, I do think they have no choice. The only way to achieve honor and status at that time was through violence and war, so women were at a disadvantage. The only thing they can do were reply on man to get honor and status.
So I’m currently in Iphigenia, and as such, I have a lot of thoughts about Agamemnon in particular. He comes to the war having just killed his eldest daughter, and he returns home with Cassandra, leading to his death at the hands of his wife, Clytemnestra. He also killed Clytemnestra’s first husband in battle. But the entire play of Iphigenia, he’s convinced that he’s the victim. I kind of get that here too. He acts like he’s powerless to defy these ideas, but he’s a king. If there’s anyone able to defy them, it’s him. Cassandra’s plight takes on a symbolism that I don’t think Euripedes intended- her always being right but never being believed is a kind of sad parallel to the way victims of sexual assault are often treated. While I don’t think the play is super feminist (because it does sometimes turn into a parade of suffering), I feel like there’s a transhistorical connection between the Women of Troy, and modern day women. What I mean is that these problems they face of seeing vicious men rewarded is something that a lot of women can understand and relate to, even if we’ve never been in a situation as drastic as them. While they themselves kind of measure up their suffering against each other, I think the fact that we’re in the audience allows us to get a better view of things, and the threats these women face are pretty exclusive to women. Dying in a war is terrifying, and scary. I’m not trying to deny that at all, it’s tragic. But the idea of being at the mercy of an angry group of men who can and will commit sexual violence is terrifying too. And that’s also not to say that men can’t and haven’t been victims of that violence. It’s more that culturally speaking, that fear is something that is usually much more present in the mind of a woman. I’m not sure if Euripedes intended it that way. But I think it’s that fear specifically that allows for a trans-historical connection.
I think the question of wondering whether or not this Trojan Women disrupts or upholds patriarchal values is a fascinating one. One one hand I do genuinely think that it feels different from the Illiad and the other plays we have read. Especially considering what was mentioned in class of how it responds to the actual policies of Athens at the time it must have felt like a challenge to the status quo. On the other hand, I can’t really seem to determine whether or not there actually is depth to the characters, and to what extent.
Children of Artemis (Family B): Post your comments here!
While both The Iliad and Trojan Women are about war, violence and grief, these two stories show how war impacts men and women differently and unequally. In The Iliad, men lose their lives fighting in war. All the Trojan men are killed prior to the events of the play. For the women surviving them, losing the war means life in slavery. The suffering of the surviving Trojan women is a stark contrast to deaths of the men of Troy. While the men of Troy die in battle, the women have to live with the consequences of a war that they did not participate in. This is exhibited not only in the stories of Hecuba, Cassandra and Andromache but also in the chorus of Trojan women.
I agree with this. Sexism is always involved in greeks myth. The women of troy basically die with the men of troy who died in the war by losing their freedom. It’s sad also because regardless in Troy men and women suffer either by death or slavery. The treatment of troy’s men and women can be compared to Medea’s story. The men in the play of Medea are soldiers while the women are housewives and have to live for their husbands by giving up everything while the men don’t even know how much pain they are in.
I agree, and I would even argue that the war is worse for the women than it is for the men. Throughout the Iliad, several characters on various occasions express that they would rather die than live to suffer. One of the most memorable instances of this is when Hector tells Andromache that he hopes to be dead when she is dragged off into slavery (Iliad 54.490). In this way, the men get both the benefit of dying an honorable death (and the possibility of kleos) and an easy way out of a life of hardship. The women, while they survive the war, are diminished to slaves and subject to rape (Cassandra), murder (Polyxena), and other forms of violence. Their fate is the worst of all despite how sidelined they were during the war.
I strongly agree with the idea that suffering for the rest of one’s life is worse than death, and one of the most powerful moments for me was when Hecuba wanted to commit suicide by jumping into the fire, but was stopped by Talthybius because she is “Odysseus’s property” (Trojan Women, lines 1280-1286). The fact that she doesn’t even have the freedom to do end her life shows how dire the circumstances are, especially in contrast to her trying to remain strong and encouraging in the beginning.
Exactly Isabel, at the end of the many of the men of troy end up dying, which is certainly sad but the women around them are subjected to enslavement. Hector’s speech about wanting to be dead and for Andromache to mourn him while she is enslaved ends up sounding extremely selfish once you realize he is condemning his wife to a life of sexual violence and loss of autonomy. Not to mention that his son will be killed to prevent troy from ever raising again.
I agree with this point. Trojan Women shifts the focus from the suffering of men as a result of the war to the intense suffering that women experienced in the aftermath of the war. This play raises the question of whether it is better to live a life of immense pain and suffering or to die. Andromache says, “Death, I am sure, is like never being born, but death is better thus by far than to live a life of pain” (Euripides, 636-637). Referring to Polyxena, Andromache says, “She died; it is as if she never saw the light of day, for she knows nothing now of what she suffered. But I, who aimed the arrows of ambition high at honor, and made them good, see now how far I fall” (Euripides, 641-644). Just as the women compare their fates in this play, one may also compare the fates of the men who were willing to die in the Iliad to those of the women who were left to suffer immensely. What do we make of the choice to die in the name of glory? How does this kind of suffering compare to the intense suffering that the women who are left behind experienced as a result of this decision?
This is an interesting point, because it raises the questions, is death or servitude worse? I think in both Trojan Women and The Illiad, death is seen as the better of the options, and that is reflected in the attempts of Hecuba to commit suicide.
Yeah I definitely agree with the fact that death seems to be considered preferable in both plays. In addition to Hecuba’s attempted suicide, there is a theme of dying in battle as a war hero being honorable as well. On the other hand, being enslaved is possibly the worst fate that could befall someone according to the Greeks.
Two interesting counterexamples would be Astyanax and Helen. Even though Astyanax would be raised as a slave, Hecuba and Andromache aim to raise him as a “savior” to get revenge on the Greeks for Troy. Helen similarly begs for her life, claiming that she was “bewitched”.
Hecuba’s role as a maternal, protective figure within Euripides’ Trojan Women highlights a side of her, one that presents itself differently than in Homer’s Iliad. Within the context of Homer’s Iliad, Hecuba maintains the role of a mother who is worried about her children; she appears to be consumed by emotion. This is especially evident when Hecuba is trying to persuade Hector to not go to battle with Achilles; Hecuba is “wailing” and “sobbing” while trying to convince Hector to stay at home (Iliad 22.89). In Euripides’ Trojan Women, however, Hecuba is able to express her emotions particularly well through her speeches (her words alone are powerful). What stuck out most to me was Hecuba’s monologue that begins with line 466, where she outlines the struggles her life has consisted of. She reflects on her hardships throughout her life, which consisted of the abduction of her children and witnessing the gruesome death of Priam (and more) (Trojan Women 479-485). Hecuba’s monologue here arguably evokes more emotion than her speeches throughout the Iliad. In other words, Hecuba’s suffering is more apparent in Euripides’ piece and highlighting her voice in this way is quite powerful in my opinion.
I agree with Celia. Hecuba’s characterization is reframed in Eripudes’s play to give the mother more of a voice and build on the maternalism she displayed in the Iliad. Hecuba’s character stands out to me because of her fortitude. Despite having to endure enormous tragedies like the destruction of her city and having her family killed and broken apart she continues to be a steadfast and outspoken supporter of other Trojan women. Her unwaveringness is even shown in how she is on stage for the entire play no matter what is happening. Her words serve as both an outlet for her own anguish and a call to action for the other women to unite and support one another in their new lives as hostages. It forces the reader to change their idea of what a victim looks like.
I agree that Hecuba’s pain is more powerful in Trojan women than it is in the Iliad. I think part of this is because of the different ways the stories are centered. The Iliad, with a focus on the war and the heroes fighting in it, lends itself so that the pain of the heroes feels more important to the audience rather than the pain of those around them. This is in contrast with Trojan Women where the play is centered around Hecuba and others like her. With them at the center the audience is being told that this is something to care about and they are more invested in the emotions of the people that are now at the center of the play. The very act of centering the play around women and particularly Hecuba is a large part of what makes the emotions feel so much more powerful then they did in the Iliad.
I think you make a really great point here and I feel like this difference comes from the fact that this is female-focused storytelling. If we remember that Hecuba is the same character in both of these, the only difference comes from the author of the story itself and how they characterize her. Since the Iliad is male focused and narrated by a man, he undermines her narratives by calling her as “wailing” and “sobbing,” it dismisses the point she is trying to make and just makes her look emotional. This makes sense because this often how men choose to treat women. But in the play, she is allowed to communicate her emotions through her monologue and isn’t dismissed. I feel like this is true for all of the characters in the play. This play is still clearly written by a man and would have been performed by men, but simply because the basis of the play is female-centric the author is forced to have to give her a real identity and allow her to share her story, because otherwise there would be no play. If this had been written by a woman and performed by a woman I suspect it would be even more compelling. This would also make the play feel like less of a parade of suffering women because the accuracy of what a woman like Hecuba would have felt would be more accurate. A female author during that time period would have been in the midst of a war herself and could channel her own feelings into giving an accurate representation of a woman’s suffering in war. But despite this, Euripides’ play is still more compelling in terms of its female characters than the Iliad because it is female-centric and highlights the women telling their own story.
Euripides’ Trojan Women tells the story of the women of Troy and the aftermath of the war that they did not fight in. Their destiny was controlled by the men who fought in the war, and now their rights are being stripped away from the victors. Women are seen only as bodies, to be dominated, similar to the city of Troy itself. This comparison is clear throughout the play and I think in contrast to Homer’s Iliad, where women are the heart of the city of Troy, as they are the last of the fallen empire. The violence the women of Troy face can be put in conversation with the siege of Troy itself, and how its consequences are palpable even after the war is over.
I agree JJ!
I believe there are some strong tendencies here of modern society which is illustrated in the way Homer’s Iliad has been presented. Trojan women have to now deal with the consequences of the war. A war they had nothing to do with. Homer’s Iliad uses women and objectifies them for their bodies and abilities. I would like to highlight how consistent this idea is within Greek literature. Women are often seen as the heart or center of the city, yet they are no exemplified in such a way. This makes a strong tie to the Iliad and modern works of literature that retell feminine fate. While some plots may change, the underlying theme of feminine struggle is prevalent.
I found it interesting that Hecuba calls into question the significance of pride and glory (Kleos) by saying, “O massive pride that my fathers heaped to magnificence, you meant nothing” (108-109). Even the wife of the king of Troy rejects the motivations of the war. This makes the devastation to the women of Troy even more tragic, and frustrating.
This reminds me of the scene in the Odyssey where Odysseus meets Achilles in the Underworld. Odysseus tells Achilles that he is honored among men with the utmost kleos. Achilles died willingly to achieve this, but he dismisses it now, claiming that he would rather be lowly and unknown in life than exalted in death. I find it curious that “great” Greeks such as Achilles and Hecuba are imagined in epic and drama to realize the uselessness of kleos. That realization doesn’t seem to be reflected in the values of the ancient Greeks themselves.
This is a great point; to me, the most impactful way that Trojan Women subverts the plot of the Iliad is by absolutely stomping on the value and importance of kleos, which had its importance emphasized so heavily in the Iliad. Sure, Hector may have died as he wished to, in glory and service to his nation. But what good was any of it? His family is not saved from their persecution because of his glory, nor are they granted any relief from their suffering because of his virtue. Euripedes absolutely crushes the importance of this virtue in his play by saying that it does not affect the true outcome of war. Perhaps this can be considered an early hint of feminist work, in that he is implying that what men spend their whole life on, achieving glory and virtue, is ultimately useless to those who survive them, particularly women. Instead, Euripedes challenges us (and the Athenian viewers at the time) to consider how this dark fate could’ve been avoided. Could Hector have done a better job of protecting his family personally? Could he have better protected Troy if he was not so linearly focused on his own glory and reputation? Had Hector not been so focused on his own virtue, this dark future could’ve been averted. Thus, Euripedes invites us to focus on the possibility of men protecting women, rather than men protecting themselves. While of course, his ideas are still deeply rooted in the patriarchy, it’s an interesting way to at least start to think about feminism.
While women are treated horribly in both the Iliad and Trojan Women, the subtext arguably differs because of the context of the narratives. Contrary to the (possibly) traditional take that Trojan Women has feminist undertones, I’d contend that women are written as more vital and powerful in the Iliad. The Iliad tells the story of war whereas Trojan Women focuses on the aftermath. Thus, in the Iliad, the action involves women so that they are interwoven with the stories of heroism. The pursuit of masculinity and glory could not exist without the women and, in a twisted way, that gives women in the Iliad a certain power. On the other hand, the women in Trojan Women are written solely to be dehumanized as the leftovers of the war. Their role is not to drive the action of the story forward but rather to be part of descriptions of what happens after the crux of the action (the war) is over.
The differences in the way these two works tell the same story is something I find quite intriguing. Trojan Women is very much a refocusing of the narrative of the Trojan War presented in The Iliad. Where The Iliad focused almost entirely on the men and the conflicts between them, Trojan Women shifted that focus to a facet of the story that was glossed over by Homer: the women of the losing side. It does an excellent job of showing the true horrors of war that often aren’t spoken of in tales of glory and tragedy that tend to ignore those who aren’t soldiers or kings. Euripides covers the uncomfortable and horrific parts of the war that affect the innocent: grief, slavery, sexual violence, and death. By shining such an intense spotlight on this typically-not-mentioned aspect of Greek warrior culture, Euripides crafts a powerful tale of the violence faced by the victims of the Greek victors.
Overall, I think the play can come off as a parade of women’s suffering. The women of troy seem completely unable to empathize or comfort each other in a situation that i would think would make people cling onto any bonds they had from their past. Euripides seems unable to imagine women a. thinking other women are worthy of respect and b. are able to think beyond themselves. But i also think it was an important play for Athens to hear as it highlighted that violence did not stop after the Trojan war while also mirroring Athenian actions on melos.
I think that Euripides’ play challenges the traditional narratives of the Iliad by highlighting the pain and trauma experienced by women, who are often overlooked in The Iliad. By giving voice to these women and their struggles, Euripides is able to subvert The Iliad’s narrative, and therefore offer a new interpretation of the Trojan War. As contemporary readers, we are able to observe hints of feminine resistance to patriarchy in the play. The suffering of these women connects with us on a personal and emotional level, allowing us to empathize with their struggles and see the impact of patriarchy on their lives. We are able to see the ways in which gender inequality continues to affect women across time and cultures.
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In Trojan Women, the brutality of the aftermath of war is emphasized, as well as the lengths that the Greeks will go to ensure that they maintain their power by destroying any potential enemies. This is especially evident when Astyanax, still a child, is executed because is is the son of a hero. I was particularly shocked when Talthybius was taking Astyanax from Andromache, and told her, “take your grief as you are born to take it”. This line suggests the extent to which women are subjugated by men in Greek society, as women are born expecting to suffer and experience much hardship. Andromache’s relinquishment of her son without putting up much of a fight further highlights the steep power imbalance between men and women, as she knows that she can do nothing to stop the execution of her son.
In Homer’s Iliad, readers are told over and over again that the fate of a woman is dependent on whether there are men remaining to protect them. Briseis loses her father and brothers and becomes the war prize of Achilles. The women of ransacked villages become the bed mates and laborers of the Greeks. Even Hector tells Andromache that she will soon be put into slavery. Yet these words don’t truly bring in the horrors of such a fate until we read Euripides’ version. We understand with Euripides that women and children bear the full brunt of a defeated war. Their lives are left to the whims of the Greeks whose desires do not take into account their safety. Euripides highlights that the aftermath of a war is more dangerous to women than to men because they must lose all their possessions and family and even their lives to their new masters. One line I find critical to this overwhelming loss of identity and freedom for the survivors of Troy is when Cassandra says “The Trojans have that glory which is loveliest: they died for their own country” which contrasts the life these women will have to endure. A life set in a foreign land, working for strangers, and giving birth to children that’ll never know Troy where the hope of returning home is gone for good.
Both “Trojan Women” and “Homer’s Lliad” both focus in on the struggle and suffering of women during the trojan war however we see different perspectives represented when we read into both pieces. In “Trojan Women” we see the aftermath of the war that occurred retelling accounts of those who lost everything despite the fact that they didn’t really play a role in the fighting. Instead their world’s were turned upside down by the actions of reckless men. When we read “Homer’s Lliad” we are able to see both the greek and trojan women however it is from the perspective of male characters so we don’t get as much emotion and honesty as we do from the other story.
I found this female-focused retelling to be even more revealing of the treatment and objectification of the women in this story. One phrase in particular stuck out to me in the reading, where Hecuba refers to the daughters of Troy as “brides of disaster.” I found this phrase to be upsetting, but unfortunately an accurate description of women’s fate post-battle. In this reading we get to see first-hand the suffering of these women as they learn that each of them are being “given” to men. This same language was used in the Iliad when Agamemnon and Achilles were discussing the “prizes” they were “given.” The language used to describe the act of enslavement here is truly disturbing. Women are treated as prizes and bargaining chips in battle with no value other than to serve the man they are “given” to. Despite the amount of suffering described in this retelling, there is also a significant amount of strength and resistance portrayed, especially by Hecuba. It was refreshing to see toughness even among all this hardship.
I agree that the words used to describe women in these stories are very unsettling. Like you said, using words like “prize”, “given”, and “disaster” clearly shows that the men objectify women for their bodies and their beauty. Also the men seem to have a lot of internalized misogyny. Especially since, as you mentioned above, women’s fate post battle is dependent on men.
What’s different about the female-focused storytelling we encounter in Euripides’ version? How does his focus on their suffering reframe or subvert the Iliad’s narrative? How does the suffering of these women affect us as contemporary readers? Do we observe hints of feminine solidarity, of resistance to patriarchy, or of transhistorical connection in this play, or is it simply a parade of suffering women?
I think this play is different from the Illiad because of how it gives the women in the story of the Iliad an actual part in the story, and makes it important. Not to say that any role the woman plays is not important, but they may be given roles which are passive or don’t contribute at all. It affects the Illiad’s narrative because it shows how women can be revengeful and just as violent as men. Cassandra talks about how she’s going to murder the king and take revenge for her family and her entire country. Athena is talking to all the gods to make Odysseus’s journey insufferable for then he goes back home. This play also hints a lot to future plays and events that will happen, and outright can be used as an entire prequel to the Odyssey. We defenitely see hints of female solidarity against the patriarchy because they’re plotting together and plotting to kill the patriarch himself (the king). The suffering of these women makes me sad because we all know that they don’t have a way out unless it is to die or to kill her abuser. In addition to that, even if the play is in very passive language, if we think of the implications of the words and what is being said, we can truly see the violence and aggression of the people who won the war.
Compared to the Iliad, Trojan Women focuses almost entirely solely on the women, who they are, their thoughts, feelings and opinions, and treats them less as objects used for plot and more as real human beings. There is a sense of understanding throughout the women, and though they do not agree with everything and believe some suffer more than others, their is a certain sense of solidarity in the fear they all experience, coupled with the pain each women is grappling with through loss. Hardly any of this is touched on in the iliad, as the war’s aftermath is not touched by the story and the fate of the women of troy is left unknown. When the women cry and “beat their breasts” (the Iliad different sections), this is repeatedly due to the loss of heroes and or their husbands, though it is never described the anguish each of them experiences knowing they will be enslaved and shipped away, separated from their families. And Euripedes’ “Trojan Women” does exactly this, and shows us exactly what these women are experiencing after the Greeks have conquered them, focusing less on “heroic men” who only want their prizes, and more on the consequences of becoming their prize.
When we first started reading the Illiad, Prof. Farmer took a poll on the main topic of the Illiad — at the beginning, most of us said that it was an epic about “glory.” The concept of glory, and its aftermath is both explored and scrutinized in Trojan Women. These women were thrown around, subjected to cruel fates, all because the men in their lives wanted some sense of “glory”. Hecuba especially asks “Should I cry a lament?” when all the men around her die. The men around her chose to go and die for the sake of glory, but she didn’t choose to be left behind and deal with the aftermath. Additionally, Hecuba, by surviving and outliving her male relatives, is completely stripped of any power she had. Keeping in mind how widows are just passed off to the next male relative, Hecuba has nothing left. It’s not just her though. The other women in the book are left with absolutely nothing because their husbands and sons — people who supposedly loved them — threw themselves into a war where they knew they would die. Did the Greek women in the audience understand this? Was this just accepted as fact? It’s devastating.
I think the difference between the suffering of men and women, as shown through the two texts, was fascinating to me. No one truly wins in war. The men in war are risking their lives, and most seem to inevitably die. They suffer through death and watching everyone around them die. The women in war are used as trophies and become horrifically enslaved. Cassandra was even morbidly pleased to be killed instead of living a life as a slave. Even if a group wins a war, there is so much death and suffering occurring for all, but most texts solely focus on men. “Trojan Women” provides a new perspective to wars and tragedy, highlighting the suffering that women experience which is typically erased in similar texts.
Great point Tali! I completely agree with your point about the suffering of women being pushed to the background in the male-centric Iliad. I also wanted to emphasize the difference between grief as experienced by the men and women of the Trojan War, as detailed by Homer and Euripides. In Homer’s retelling, the men’s grief is the focus of the story; out of grief, epic heroes are pushed further into battle and closer to death. The women’s grief is almost reactionary, or in other words, a result of the death of the men around them. A common theme of womanly grief in the Iliad is the death of a loved one, often husband or son. However, this womanly grief seems to be rewritten in Euripides’ Trojan Women because it follows the story of the women in the absence of men. Although the women are still grieving for their husbands and sons, they also start to center their own lives in their grief with questions of their own fate. In addition to mourning men, they are also mourning their freedom apart from men.
In Euripides’ Trojan Women, women are placed at the forefront with Hecuba taking the main role. There is less emphasis on the plot and action of war as seen in Homer’s Iliad, with the conflict arising from the war heroes’ internal dilemmas to pursue a premature death and glory or contentment and longevity. This female-focused retelling describes Hecuba’s despair and suffering in much more detail. She endures witnessing her husband Priam’s death, her city taken and ransacked, and the girls she “nursed, choice flowers to wear the pride of any husband’s eyes, matured to be dragged by hand of strangers” (Trojan Women 483-486). Whereas in the Iliad we are shallowly exposed to parts of Hecuba’s grief and desperation through her wailing and lamentation, in Euripides’ version we see just how devastated Hecuba is, flinging herself to the ground multiple times and claiming that she is among winged birds, or living as a hollowed shell of the former princess she was (Trojan Women 146). The suffering of these women humanizes the story and makes it applicable even when extracted from the time period and place wherein the events took place. Regardless of context, a mother’s grief and the gut-wrenching aftereffects of a war are painful to read and even worse to endure.
I think that the telling of Trojan Women gives more gravity to the consequences of war that impact women. Trojan Women puts more emphasis on how the deaths of husbands can cause intense grief and sorrow for the widows. It also emphasizes the duty of the women to protect their households, as well as the potential for women to be cast into slavery if their side of the war loses. Trojan Women also provides a clearer forum for the female characters to display their emotions to the audience. For example, when Cassandra, Hecuba’s daughter, expresses interest in murdering the king Agamemnon in the name of revenge, the story shows an intensely invigorated side of a female character that is often missing in the Iliad.
It seems that Euripides’ version (Women of Troy) does seem to reframe the story as told by Homer in the Iliad. Women of Troy offers us a perspective that is more shifted towards the suffering endured by the loved ones, namely the wives/families, of the soldiers who died during the war. The Iliad seems to be more focused on the war or battle itself and its details, but Euripides’ version helps bridge the gap left by the Homer, in bringing to light the experience of the women who suffered during the war–Women of Troy depicts women not as heroes but as particular victims of the suffering caused by the war, and women of all kinds are subjected to cruel realities as the slaves of Greeks. Unlike the Iliad which depicts the glory of the heroic fight between the soldiers, Euripides’ version focuses on the suffering of the women and their difficult plight, one that seems to unite women across different statuses/across social factors–even powerful and prominent women are taken as slaves and subjected to adversity, such as Cassandra being forced to be King Agamemnon’s concubine.
After Tuesday’s lecture, I have begun to think that the suffering depicted in Trojan Women is meant to hold up a mirror to an army of veterans. The men in the audience were all probably either directly or indirectly involved in the Destruction of Melos. I think the play is meant to inspiree anger and pity in the audience, in the hopes that a kill-all-men-enslave-all-women-and-children scenario never happens again. The Astyanax felt particularly brutal to me, especially after having read the Iliad. A little little boy, who has shown himself to be afraid of war, is killed for fear of another war.
In Trojan Women I feel like we are given the most important perspective as it is the perspective of the people who truly lost in the War. It is emphasized in Homer’s Iliad that even through a loss or a win, a man who dies in battle is an honorable one, however Trojan women emphasizes that whether or not they die during a battle, the women during this time are still subjected to a life of hurting. And especially with Euripides version of this ideology, he seems to almost play with this idea instead of actually attempting to empathize with the experience of women.
The Story of Trojan Women is a horrific view into the resulting devastation after a war, with the actions of the victors despoiling both lands and peoples. I am confused, however, how the gods, who were integral to the beginning of the war, and assisting all throughout, take no action to save any of these women as they did throughout the combat. Paris was more than once saved by the powers of gods and it still resulted in his death, but when these women can be saved from a life worse than death the gods turn their backs and instead prepare revenge against the new captors. The revenge against the Greeks also affected the lives of the newly captured women who suffered with their enslavers. It is just bizarre to me that the gods take a step back after all their efforts during the war and consign the women to their fates.
The difference between Trojan Women and the Iliad is striking. In the Iliad, given that the majority of the story focuses on the heroes fighting in the war, there is a glorification of warfare and violence, and a general acceptance that women are wholly dependent on the strength and guidance of men. In Trojan Women, however, the harsh realities of war are much more clear. You see the destruction and pain that war causes to all those not directly involved, especially to the women who have to bear terrible atrocities while being told that is their duty or given role to be the subjects of woe.
I found it interesting how the women in this play are horrified by going into slavery when the women in the Illiad seem to somewhat loyal (at least Brisius is). I think this humanizes the women more, as it seems far more realistic that they would not want to be enslaved and hate the enslavers. It was very odd to me in the Illiad that Brisius was loyal to Achilles at all, and that the other women were sad about Patrocles death. However, even within the the Illiad, the Trojan women dread the day of slavery, so maybe its more interesting how the different women in similar situations have very different reactions as written.
When Hecuba sees Andromache being taken away and the two speak to each other briefly, Hecuba says “and our pain lies deep under pain piled over” (597), a phrase I was immediately struck by. The imagery here is evocative of a grave, portraying the experience of pain and grief as a sort of living death, or the slow decay of being buried alive. I was interested in how the structure of the dialogue reflects this sense of entrapment as well; in this scene, Andromache and Hecuba seem to be speaking to each other, yet each is isolated within their own mind, conversing with no one but themselves. Occasionally their thoughts converge, only to diverge again. This layering, this burying of coherence perfectly reflects the layering of pain that both women experience.
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One big difference between reading the Iliad and the Trojan Women was the way the stories centered the experience of going to war and the consequence of war. The Iliad, written from the male perspective, highlights the glory of dying in battle and focuses on the fear and eventual death of the men in battle. In contrast, the Trojan Women highlights the experience of the wives of the men headed off to war. Specifically, the grief and heartbreak that contrasts the glory the men in their life feel when they die. The wives are widows left behind and living with the consequences of the men’s actions. The stories of Hecuba, Cassandra and Andromache highlight the pain of being left behind and the pain when the men in their lives die in “glory”. That same glory their husbands died for is a constant reminder to the women of all they lost. In addition, the Iliad stresses the fact that the men at war deal with the stress of the war while the Trojan Women illustrates have to deal with the potential death of their husbands, the fear of slavery if the war is lost, and maintaining the house as well as taking care of the children.
I agree with Eva. A specific piece of the Iliad that I think helps illustrate this difference is when Andromache and Hector are talking and Andromache tries to convince him to stop fighting, but Hector refuses to be a coward and wants to achieve glory. In the Iliad, we are meant to sympathize with Hector, and we do– of course he wants to be remembered as a hero instead of a coward, of course he can’t back away from his responsibility to protect the people of Troy to the best of his ability. However, in Trojan Women, we are faced with the consequences of this, as Eva said, “‘glory.'” Andromache’s entire family is dead, her baby is going to be killed, and she is going to be forced into slavery. By forcing the audience to acknowledge this, Euripides raises the questions: What is glory, really? What are you fighting for? Is an immaterial concept worth the suffering of your loved ones?
I definitely agree with the overall thoughts of this comment and appreciate the distinction between the experience of the men in the illiad vs the women in the women of troy. One area where I disagree slightly, however, is that the illiad portrays the men as feeling glory in their death. I think they are absolutely striving to achieve some form of glory but ultimately we see many of them expressing that it doesn’t quite live up to that. This isn’t in the illiad, but we know that Achilles regrets his choice of dying young in battle. Additionally, before his final fight, Hector almost decides not to go into war and has hesitations about his “glory”.
As I was reading Euripides’ Trojan Women, one difference that stood out to me was the play’s approach to death, and the relationship between death and glory. Hecuba says that it makes “small difference” whether the dead are buried properly or not, and that “All this is an empty glorification left for those who live.” These statements starkly contradict the value placed on proper death rites in The Iliad, where Priam risks his life to enter the Greek camp and retrieve Hector’s body.
At first glance it appears that Eurpides “Trojan Women” stands in opposition to the Iliad. Instead of highlighting the glory and romanticizing the war, the consequences and tragic reality are brought to light. . However, taking a deeper look “Trojan Women” continues to tell the narrative that without men, women are worthless and only a part of the spoils of war.
I agree, Trojan Women shows different perspectives from the Iliad especially when it comes to how women were viewed and treated during the Trojan war.
A question that I have is do these poems dictate the genre or does the genre dictate the poems?
When I was doing the reading for this class, I was initially convinced that this was just a parade of suffering women, as they would complain about their issues regarding being taken as slaves and wives for the men conquering Troy. This was especially true for Hecuba, who was initially singing about the pain she was experiencing. But later in the reading, it did seem as though this piece was written with some hints of feminine solidarity, and resistance of the patriarchy. The women set things on fire, and when Cassandra talks about her forced marriage with Agamemnon, they are confused as to why she is so optimisitic and want her to fight back for her rights. Later we understand that Cassandra is framing her marriage as as consenual and kind because this way, she is able to more easily kill Agamemnon and his family as it his her fate to die as well. She compares herself to soldiers participating in the war, and sees this as her duty to get revenge and honor her own family, which shows just how powerful of a woman she is. There are still moments where women were seemingly weak and potentially reliant on men, but there is also some resistance present that highlights how women can stand up for themselves too, which I believe is a step up from the Illiad.
One difference that I noticed between the Iliad and Trojan Women is how the stories view glory. The Iliad portrays glory as the end all be all whereas Trojan Women shows that glory isn’t that important through the suffering of the women of Troy, particularly Hecuba. Hecuba says “Ah me, what need I further for tears’ occasion, state perished, my sons, and my husband. O massive pride that my fathers heaped to magnificence, you meant nothing. Must I be hushed? Were it better thus? Should I cry a lament? Unhappy, accursed, limbs cramped, I lie backed on earth’s stiff bed.” (105-114) which shows that dying with glory causes much more pain than it provides relief. It makes Hector and the idea of kleos appear selfish because the men get to die proud knowing that they will be remembered as a hero, but the women are doomed to a life of despair. The men in the Iliad push the narrative that glory will provide relief once they die, but Trojan Women show that the women of Troy don’t really get to share in this relief.
I really like your point that glory in these two works means very different things. I think this further reveals how kleos is very gender-based, and that maybe the women of Ancient Greece are only impacted by the glorious deaths of the men around them, rather than benefiting from an honorable death themselves. Therefore, kleos appears very differently in the context of women, since their glory is based on a sexist system which expects them to support and increase the glory of men instead of themselves.
I think you bring up really interesting points when comparing and contrasting Trojan Women and The Iliad. It’s interesting to see how the two present their ideas of glory in the sense that the Iliad emphasizes that for men who live a glorious life, they will be able to die peacefully. However, on the other hand, Trojan Women are fated to live a difficult life without the same honor that is presented to men. The power dynamics between genders is something that is often explored through these texts, and it was intriguing to see how men and women are viewed in Greek culture/texts.
I definitely agree with this assessment of how glory is viewed in both texts. I think that obviously the notions of glory and death are heavily intertwined and this leads to such varying sentiments between the men and the women when it comes to glory. Further, it seems that in the death of a man glory can be gained, though it often results in only suffering for the living. I also agree with Sam’s point about Hecuba and Helen’s relationship and would like to add how that exemplifies the divisiveness of glory as something to be culturally valued. Also, it feels to me that the women ultimately have a more balanced perspective on war and life as a result of them not being completely wrapped up in the notion of glory.
In “Women of Troy,” Euripides dives deeper into the tragedy and pain the women of Troy face after the war and the ransacking of their city. Homer’s Iliad has a more male perspective focused on the war/glory itself, while comparingly, “Women of Troy” has a female-focus retelling of the war’s aftermath and its repercussions, like slavery. However, I was surprised to see how Hecuba blames Helen for the death of her family and the destruction of Troy. Hecuba feels no solidarity towards Helen and calls her a “fatal bride” who crossed the sea from Greece to Troy, bringing death and destruction. This excerpt, which she sings, shocked me as I thought the women of the story would try to stick together as they face similar fates of sexual slavery and even death. However, we see Hecuba blame Helen for Troy’s downfall as she is fueled with rage and sadness. This revealed to me that there are significant points within the story where women don’t necessarily support and engage in solidarity with one another.
I found this moment to be really surprising as well. Overall though, I thought the portrayal of women in this text vs Homer’s Iliad was very different. In the Iliad, women were treated with no respect and were seen as less powerful than men. Although it seems as if the women were going to become victims of war in Women of Troy, they paint an image of power, such as Cassandra’s revenge that she ultimately gets. This is part of the stark difference in the portrayal of women between the two different stories. I definitely see your point with the scene you pointed out when Hecuba and Helen are not in support of each other, however I think generally in this text compared to Homer’s Iliad the women are able to portray position of power.
I think a striking difference between the two texts are the gendered portrayals of war and its aftermath. The Iliad brings a lot of attention to the battles, and the experiences of men as heroes in these wartime scenarios, whereas “Trojan Women” sheds light on the experiences of women in the aftermath of these battles, and their place in these moments. Likewise, there is a contrast in which women in general are perceived in each text. In the Iliad, women tend to be more objectified and complementary to male heroes in the story. When compared to “Trojan Women,” women are given more individualism in thought and in action.
I think that one big difference between reading the Iliad and the Trojan Women was the way the Trojan Women showed the absurdity of war whereas the Iliad glorified it. The cause of the war is irrational, the length of the war is absurd, and what the Trojan Women highlights is a disastrous aftermath even after victory.
What you said reminds me of what Andromache said to Astyanax, referring to Hector: “Your father’s heroism means your death, though it saved so many other Trojans. For you, his nobleness became a curse” (741-743). While Hector did gain glory in combat as we saw in the Iliad, ultimately the only lasting thing he left to those he loved most was grief, anguish, and suffering. While the Iliad makes war and battle seem like a man’s one true calling, Trojan Women highlights how selfish and irrational that is. People may look up to these ‘heroes’ of battle and seek to follow in their footsteps and become blind to the other ways a person can be fulfilled, i.e. living a long life caring for loved ones rather than dying young in combat because it is “their duty.” As I said, Trojan Women opens the readers’ eyes to the selfishness that the Greek heroes of the Iliad are engulfed in.
After reading both, there is a difference between both the Iliad by homer and the Trojan Women by Euripides. What I discovered is that both tell the same story but they are both 2 sides of the same coin. The Iliad shows the masculine part of the story, glorifying dying in battle, braveness, revenge, glory, bloodshed, it does touch on their feminine part but never really expands on it. Mostly it talks about the war and the men in war. The Trojan Women talks about the feminine side of the story, and to be clearer the consequence of what happened in the Iliad’s masculinity, all the braveness and willing to battle led all the men to die in battle and leave the women and children in the city of Troy. It shows how women and children are suffering, grieving over their losses, and then being sold to slavery or being sacrificed. It shows the sadness of unfortunately what happened to women and children at the time and it is truly unfortunate. But we can see the grieving, “pulling of the hair”, and crying which were all considered “feminine traits” in the Trojan Women. So both are sad but the ends of the story, the Iliad shows sad part of male at the time, while the Trojan Women shows the sad part of being female at the time.
In Homer’s Iliad, the story follows a group of men going off to war. The Trojan Women is a story which follows the women of a city which has recently been destroyed by war. This story was much more in touch with the devastation of war, and follows its vast effects on women left in its wake. One particular moment which I found profoundly sad, was the assassination of Astyanax. His father, Hector, was a prominent hero of Troy. Because of his achievements in life, after his death, his wife and child are targeted. His infant son was ordered to death. This shows the true cost of the Iliad and war, a side which only the women and children of these “brave warriors” must face.
I think both texts are dealing with the question of female, femininity and feminism. It is especially difficult to insert these perspectives into a traditional and “normative” narrative such as Iliad and tragedies, and they really tried. It is interesting that despite the Iliad centers around male characters, they display feminine aspects and are battling with these feminine tendencies inside themselves. In Trojan Women, these feminine aspects in women are almost stereotypical, but ironically, while Hector briefly considers about the possibility of reaching a truce, Hecuba holds this deep prejudice against Helen and insists on killing her, which could be seen as a masculine trait (?). I know little about gender stereotypes in ancient Greece, so it’s hard to presume what the writers are trying to portray here. Nonetheless, from my modern perspective, it seems that both writers are attempting to explore the boundaries of gender definition through individual and theatrical performances, which in itself is already meaningful.
I think what stood out to me the most during our class discussion was the overwhelming belief that Polyxena was provided the most merciful fate in her death. It is interesting because in comparison to the fates of the warriors in the Iliad, death is far from the worst thing that can happen to the women of Troy. When Achilles dies, he does it in the pursuit of glory and revenge. He is remembered as one of the most valiant and strongest warriors of the Trojan war. It is in some way a great success for him because he is remembered. But when Polyxena dies, it is not a valiant death. It is a sacrifice and she is not remembered for herself as a person but as a slave to the grave of Achilles. The enslaved women of Troy are robbed of one of the primary goals of their lives, not life after death, but to be remembered.
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I personally found that the genre change from epic to tragedy really effected my emotional response to the plot. In epic poetry, there’s no choral song to break up the characters speeches, most often the only people talking are the main heroes; the rest of the side characters only really get to react to stage events (like the slave women that Achilles and Patroclus have taken captive rush out and beat their breasts in ritual mourning in 18.31-34). In Euripides’ tragedy, Hecuba gets to verbally interact with a chorus of women in the same (miserable) predicament she is in. This simple shift: from imagining a bard (or bards) orating Hecuba’s speeches in the Iliad to imagining a group of actors onstage, huddled around Hecuba lying onstage, lamenting and consoling immediately raised the emotional stakes of the story to a higher level for me.
I really agree with this sentiment that the change of scenery put a much greater stress on the tragedy of the plot. I think one of the main tools of this version of the myth puts a lot more strain on the female relationships especially between Hecuba and Helen. This dynamic between the two brought out a lot of emotion and depth to the characters which was mostly lost in the Iliad. It also made me feel more sorrowful for these characters. Comparing these two works really demonstrates how perspective can dramatically change the perception of myths and the power of who the focal point is in a story.
After reading the Iliad, I was surprised by Cassandra’s plan to get revenge by killing Agamemnon. In the Iliad women were essentially powerless. Although they attempted to stop the war by trying to convince the heroes to stop fighting or by praying to Athena, in the end all of the impactful choices were made by the men or gods. I agree that Trojan Women still framed the women as dependent on and receiving their value for men, but I was surprised to see Cassandra planning to take control of her fate.
I agree here that Cassandra’s attempt to take control of her fate is a testament to her strength of her as a female character, and frankly, it is refreshing having come off of reading the Iliad. An example of both her resolve, contentness with what she must do, and strength is this following quote, “Great Agamemnon has won a wife more fatal than ever Helen was. Since I will kill him, and avenge my brothers’ blood and my father’s in the desolation of his house” (355-360).
I also found it surprising that Cassandra planned to kill Agamemnon in the Iliad. One quote that stood out to me in particular was “I am ridden by God’s curse still, yet I will step so far out of my frenzy as to show this city’s fate is blessed beside the Achaens’. For one woman’s sake, one act of love, these hunted Helen down and threw thousands of lives away” (Lines 365-369). In this moment, I felt that Cassandra was showing her solidarity with other women in the story. However, I also think in general that reading about the suffering of women, like we do in these works, is something that is so frequently written about by men. I think that while these texts are important in a historical context, it is also important to read stories about women’s joy.
While your perspective on Cassandra is totally valid, I think I viewed Cassandra’s role a little bit differently, especially after the discussion in yesterday’s class. To me, Cassandra’s insistence in the Trojan Women that she will bring Agamemnon’s death kind of highlights/underscores how little agency she has in this situation. Cassandra’s speeches are some of the few (if not the only) instances in the play where women appear to have agency, yet nearly the entirety of her vision of revenge is dependent on the actions & decisions of others for it to come to pass. She knows (thanks to her cursed gift of prophesy forced on her by the god Apollo) she will not herself be murdering anyone, it’s her simple presence in Agamemnon’s home after he drags her to Mycenae that drives another woman, Agamemnon’s wife, to kill him (and everyone else in the household). The only real choice Cassandra has in this moment is whether she wants to die before then at her own hand– does she want to end her suffering now or does she want revenge first?
I agree with Emma. Unlike the other women, Cassandra knows exactly what her fate is, and she can do nothing about it. Even if she wanted to, she could not because of the curse that Apollo had put on her. I was conflicted about whether Cassandra had positive or negative feelings about Agamemnon’s death, as at times she seems to be sort-of joyful about his death while at others it seemed that she did not want it to happen.
While the Iliad mainly focuses on the male warriors and their deeds, “Trojan Women” shifts the spotlight to the female characters, emphasizing their suffering and the injustices they face as a result of the war. In the Iliad, women are mainly viewed as prizes of war, trophies to be won or lost by the male heroes, whereas in “Trojan Women”, women are presented as complex individuals with their own desires, fears, and concerns. They are not mere objects to be conquered or abandoned – rather, they are active agents in their own right. They didn’t choose to fight in this war either, and throughout “Trojan Women”, we can see how their destiny is continuously controlled by men as well as how their rights were stripped away. Euripides’ focus on the suffering of these women isn’t just a “parade of suffering women,” rather, it reveals the true the human cost of war. The play challenges the traditional view of war as a heroic enterprise, and instead offers a critique of the violent patriarchal society that promotes it. The suffering of these women also affects us as contemporary readers, as it forces us to confront the ongoing reality of violence and oppression. The play offers a poignant reminder that unwilling participants often bear the brunt of conflict, both in ancient times and today.
I also found the parallels to modern society interesting, specifically the way women are viewed and the way their grief and anger are often ignored. The focus is still on men, just as the Iliad focuses on male suffering and violence, ignoring the suffering that causes to women. While “Trojan Women” brings attention to this, it is also a reminder of the way we still need to bring attention to women and the way they suffer at the hands of men. They are no longer seen as objects, but their lack of agency is still striking. However, the chorus and the way the story is written by Euripides gives the women a voice, even if it is coming from a male writer.
Euripides’ storytelling allows readers to see the consequences of the Trojan war from the women’s perspective. After the war is over, the Trojan women find themselves at the mercy of the Greeks who will enslave them. They have no choice but to accept this fate because they no agency. Though the Trojan women are powerless, Euripides’ female-focused storytelling gives them the power to express their suffering. Rather than depicting them as nameless women, Euripides creates the narrative that they are complex people with strong sentiments about their situation. For example, we’re able to see Hecuba’s suffering throughout the play as she grieves the loss of her family and her daughter Cassandra’s enslavement to King Agamemnon.
I found the language Euripides’ uses about women to be shocking, especially in how women are treated. While attempting to highlight female voices, The Trojan Women details the suffering that women face and the lack of agency that women have. Their fate and how they are treated was up to men. When Talthybius states, “King Agamemnon chose her. She was given to him” the treatment of women is evident (248). Men choose and are given women, and the women have no say in their fate. Additionally, the suffering that women have to endure is quite appealing to a contemporary reader. In the Iliad, the focus is less on women and instead on the war, with the plot being centered around the actions of men. In contrast to the Iliad, The Trojan Women illustrates the suffering and cruel treatment of women, which is quite shocking when read now.
Euripides’ Trojan Women differs from the Iliad by allowing us to see the more humanistic effects of the war through the eyes of the newly enslaved Trojan women. The Iliad’s main focus is on portraying the heroism of the male lead characters. We see them battle and debate war strategy, but we rarely see any emotion beyond anger and the rage of war. This is, of course, typical of ancient Greek epic poetry, or, similarly, modern-day action thrillers. Trojan Women contrasts this theme by showing that there is more to war than male heroes and epic battles; war has consequences that are rarely pleasant and often felt by the innocent. We can feel the pain and suffering of the women of Troy in Euripides’ characters. Through the long lamentations of Cassandra and Hecuba we learn of their awful plight at the hands of the Greeks in addition to their attempts to console each other, united in their shared pain.
I thought that the all-women chorus in Trojan Women was interesting. This female-focused aspect was different from other greek tragedy I have read. This was definitely a shift from the male-dominated perspective of the Iliad, and provided a much different insight into the true cost and significance of war. Having the chorus women express their suffering critiques the way women were written in epics such as the Iliad.
It’s quite a different experience reading Trojan Women compared to the Iliad. While women had little to no agency in the Iliad, they were not the central focus. Trojan Women, meanwhile, puts the stories and fates of the women at the forefront. As such, the audience is clearly able to see that the women were viewed more as trophies or prizes for the “heroes” by their society rather than actual human beings. Though the have thoughts and feelings about their miserable situation, they are unable to change it as they are distributed to their pillagers. Especially when you consider Polyxena, who was sacrificed immediately to Achilles’s tomb, had one of the better fates, the tone and atmosphere of the text is dark and hopeless.
Something that stuck out very interesting to me was the use of the chorus in Euripdes’ version of the Iliad. When the two half-choruses unite into one larger chorus on page 7 (of pdf) where they collectively start with “so pitiful, so pitiful your shame and your lamentation.” Which seems like a dismissal of the emotions that the characters in Trojan Women express. It appears the male bias of Euripides has come through almost immediately in the text as the voice of the chorus. It is startling to see that even as a contemporary reader that the bias of men has almost certainly not changed since the time Euripides writing Trojan Women.
I think that the change in central focus from the men fighting in the war to the woman who have to suffer the consequences of the war was particularly interesting. While in battle the men boast of their winnings (such as women) and how well they are performing, or who they have killed, the women boast about the pain and slavery they are about to endure. While they are not sword fighting, the competition still runs strong even on the female side of the war, as there is competition on who has it worse, a warlike trait that never seems to go away. It is also of importance to see how we are now reading a story centrally focused on the women of Troy, a viewpoint we saw very little in the Illiad, but something that is just as central to the motivation of war.
Was is unique about Euripides’ “Trojan Women” and Homer’s “Iliad” is that they are both ancient Greek stories that take place after the Trojan War and have a significant focus on female characters. With that said, these two passages take very different approaches at portraying and sharing the experiences of Women. In Homer’s “Iliad”, almost all of the main characters throughout the story are men who are portrayed as heroes. At the same time, any female character seen in the novel is in a supporting role rather than being a main character in the story. Female characters are used to support the stories of their male counterparts. On the other hand, when it comes to Euripides’ “Trojan Women”, female characters are found at the center of the story as the story as whole focuses on female experiences following the Trojan War. Euripides depicts these women as victims due to the fact that they are now prisoners and unsure of their future as their city has been captured.
In summary, Homer’s “Iliad” uses women as supporting characters and nothing more while Euripides’ “Trojan Women” focuses on the story of women making female characters the main characters of the story.
The first sentence has a typo, it is meant to read:
What is unique about Euripides’ “Trojan Women” and Homer’s “Iliad” is that they …
I found this reading to be really interesting in terms of female solidarity and the patriarchy. In the opening conversation between Athena and Poseidon and as she asks him for his help, it seems like a fully even partnership, maybe because they’re gods, so the power balance is even. After it gets into the rest of the story, all the characters seem so aware of their plight, almost like they’re in it together. I don’t think it reads as a parade of suffering women precisely because they’re aware; they have more agency and more of a grasp of the situation.
I agree that there is some female solidarity in the text, as the women are all suffering together. Hecuba’s pain for Cassandra and Andromache and Polyxena’s fates clearly shows the connection and empathy among these women.
However, I was struck by the argument between Hecuba and Helen, where Hecuba criticizes and condemns Helen. Some of the things she says are quite misogynistic and / or dramatic. One part that was especially striking to me was when Hecuba said to Helen: “You claim you tried to slip away with ropes let down from the ramparts, and this proves you stayed against your will? Perhaps. But when were you ever caught in the strangling noose, caught sharpening a dagger?” (1010-1013). She also tells Menelaus to make Helen’s death an example for the price to pay for adultery.
I wasn’t sure what to make of this argument. On the one hand, I was saddened by the fact that all the women were fighting and tearing each other down instead of supporting each other even as they were getting enslaved. I was also annoyed at the double standard for women’s faithfulness to their husbands while men’s adultery is normalized and at the fact that this message was conveyed through a female character. On the other hand, I felt that Hecuba was able to have a degree of agency as she gets her revenge on Helen by making Menelaus decide to kill her. Despite her powerlessness and the fact that she is getting enslaved, at this moment Hecuba is able to have some degree of control over Helen’s fate. This is the only instance in the play where the women have the power to change anything. Still, despite the fact that it makes sense that Hecuba takes out her frustrations about the war in this way since she is unable to get revenge on Greek men, the fact that she places the blame for all the death and pain caused by the Trojan war on Helen is still distressing from a feminist perspective.
I think you make a great point with your example of the argument between Hecuba and Helen. Sure, there is some female solidarity in the text, but my impression was that, for the most part, the women turn on each other. The women attack and belittle each other, possessing so much internalized misogyny. It really surprised me to see them depicted in this way, going at each other — you would think living through these similar circumstances, they would be able to sympathize with and trust each other more. I think your example of the Hecuba-Helen argument works especially well because there’s this contrast in the way Hecuba attacks Helen, while protecting Paris, despite his actions in the war.