Composers and their stage works 

The Trojan Women

(Troiades; Troades, 415 B.C.)


Anti-war tragedy, third play of a trilogy relating events surrounding the Trojan War, coming after Alexander and Palamedes. (The satyr play was Sisyphus.)

The action of The Trojan Women takes place outside Troy immediately after its capture. Every Trojan man has been killed. The women, who constitute the chorus, are held captive in a large tent, waiting to be allotted as slaves to their new masters. In the prologue, the goddess Athena, who had aided the Greeks in their destruction of Troy, confides to the god Poseidon that because of their excesses her sympathies have changed, and Poseidon promises to destroy the Greek Fleet on its homeward voyage. Hecuba, formerly the Trojan Queen, laments the fate of her husband Priam and her children Hector and Polyxena, who have been slain. The chorus joins in the lamentation. The fate of those who remain alive is then revealed by the Greek herald Talthybius: Cassandra, Hecuba's mad prophetic daughter, is to become the concubine of Agamemnon; Andromache, widow of Hector, is to be the concubine of Pyrrhus, son of Achilles; Hecuba herself is condemned to become a slave in the household of the hated Odysseus.

When Andromache enters with her young son Astyanax, Talthybius tells her that the child must be hurled from the city walls to prevent his seeking vengeance for the destruction of Troy and drags him off to death. The chorus sings a lament for Troy. Menelaus enters, rejoicing in his long-deferred opportunity to slay his wife Helen. Hecuba accuses her before Menelaus of having wilfully followed Paris to Troy, and when Helen pleads innocence, shifting the responsibility to the goddess Aphrodite, she refutes her bitterly. Nevertheless, Menelaus, captivated once again by Helen's beauty, decides to postpone her death until they have returned to Argos. After they depart, Talthybius returns with the mangled body of Astyanax and reports that Andromache has already left for Greece. Hecuba, after grieving for the child and preparing him for burial, realises that there is nothing left in Troy, now deserted by its gods. She leads the other women to the ships that await them, as Troy burns to ruins.