The Trojan Women: So Anti-Helen It’s Hilarious
My first read of the Trojan Women was focused on the argument between Hecuba and Helen and Menelaus decision to execute Helen for her betrayal. Out of all Euripides plays The Trojan Women is the most anti-Helen or work that places all the blame on Helen. The work frames Helen as a spoiled traitor on both sides just interested in glamour, being on the winning side, lust. Her wants are not to end the war, but the attention she receives. Helen never denies her actions, but she claims she was under control of the gods and actions outside her control such as the choices of Paris and Menelaus.
Helen now worried about her life because Menelaus naturally hates her aims to explain her actions, she does not feel regret, instead she states she is just as much a victim as Menelaus if not more. A woman taken by a brute barbarian, enchanted and struck by Eros arrow and driven mad with passion to only be stolen away to Troy. Helen does not deny she left for Paris, but instead she begins to say the gods were at fault as well as Paris, but divinities are the most to blame.
Helen begins with the judgment of Paris and states that both Hera and Athena promised Paris great rewards for choosing them as the fairest goddess, but who would want to evoke the wrath of Aphrodite, Hera, or Athena. Paris choice ended with Helen’s downfall. Both, Helen and Paris being struck by love drove their passions, making love more so a disease only cured by them being together.
In addition, Menelaus choice to remind her former suitors that they must fight for Helen in the event someone goes after her is even more tragic. Menelaus drags all of Greece and Troy into a ten year for the principle of xenia and a wife that no longer wanted him. Once the war was over he no longer wanted her, but merely wanted to avenge his pride, love no longer a piece of their relationship which is also seen in the Odyssey when Telemachus visits them.
Both Hecuba and Menelaus mock Helen by allowing her to argue her case for freedom but the whole argument is for show. Menelaus and Hecuba announce to her that her speech will do nothing for her and her death will happen. Hecuba’s refutes Helen’s claims working together with Menelaus believing Helen should be put to death only allowing her to speak her case because it is the right thing to do. She refutes that Helen was not at any point controlled by the gods nor that Hera or Athena would fall to the shallowness of Paris’ choice. What is confusing about Hecuba’s argument is she argues that Athena is not angered while earlier in the play she laments Athena’s destruction of Troy.