The Trojan Women (Greek Tragedy in New Translations)
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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 centrality of that theme to the deepest fears of our own age, this is one of the relatively few Greek tragedies that regularly finds its way to the stage. Here 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 woman who survive the fall of Troy, and the degradation of the victors, shown by the Greeks' reckless and ultimately self-destructive behavior. It offers an enduring picture of human fortitude in the midst of despair. Trojan Women gains special relevance, of course, in times of war. It 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 but part of the lived experience of Euripides' day. And their analogues in our own day lie all too close at hand.
This new powerful translation of Trojan Women includes an illuminating introduction, explanatory notes, a glossary, and suggestions for further reading.
The ties of blood, Lady Athena, Irresistibly charm the mind and heart. 32 T R O J A N W O M E N [53–76] 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
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 780 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.
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 43–5 /36–8 reveal that their entrance has been preceded by the arrival and collapse of
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 524–5 for her ‘‘Bacchic’’ adornments. 393 / 343 O Hephaestus As god of fire, Hephaestus is the archetypal torch-bearer. 404–469, 487–530 / 353–405, 424–461 Cassandra’s two long
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. 1066–7 / 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