“The Trojan Women” – Euripides

the purpose of any art essentially is to either
inform or entertain, preferably both together,
therefore comedy would be associated with
entertaining whereas tragedy with informing
and, as such, this last would be perhaps more
intellectually demanding, so be it 
 
the strength nevertheless of great tragedy is in
its level of delivering immediacy and fascination,
which is to say entertainment, of great comedy
its obverse, insight  
 
The Trojan Women” was written in 415 BC by
Euripides, a tragedian at the very summit still,
2400 years later, count them, of remarkable 
historical achievement 
 
the war with Troy had taken place a full 800
hundred years earlier, Homer had written the
alternate Bible to our Western civilization,
The Iliad“, still with Proust to my mind the
very summit of our Occidental accomplishment,  
resonating across the ages as powerfully as
even the pyramids, extraordinary to read,
from about, again count them, astounding
millennia, nearly unimaginable centuries, 
850 BC  
 
 
Helen had been abducted from Sparta, according
to that side of the story, by Paris, the son of King
Priam of Troy, she had been whisked away not
unwillingly according to that prince of that city,
from where she became known to us as Helen of
Troy, rather than of her original Sparta
 
the Trojan War ensued
 
 
the Trojans were creamed by the Achaeans, the
Greeks, the Spartans, interchangeable terms,
under Menelaus, king of Sparta, and his brother,
Agamemnon, older brother, and king of Mycenae,
the greater incorporating kingdom   
 
the Trojan women remain to pay the price of
war, after so many centuries still their horror is
vivid, nor do we need to look far for equivalent
modern instances, they were all slaughtered or
enslaved, ‘nough, or maybe not ‘nough, said 
 
 
here we get perhaps the best interpretation
we’ll ever see, with a cast we’ll probably not
in a long while again put together – Katharine
Hepburn in perhaps her greatest role – “Once
I was queen in Troy”, she says, and you will
profoundly believe her – Vanessa Redgrave
doesn’t get ever much better as she reaches
chthonically, which is to say from the very
entrails of her earth, her soul, for a cry of
anguish you are not likely to ever forget – 
Geneviève Bujold, a mad Cassandra, and
Irene Papas, the very incarnation of the
most beautiful woman in the world
 
all tear up the screen in their moments,
leaving you breathless and helpless before
their art and evocative power, only Helen,
because of her beauty, insidiously manages
in the story to reasonably comfortably
survive, making mincemeat meanwhile
out of her big bad, he would have it, 
Menelaus
 
Helen had been the gift to Paris, who’d had
to choose among the goddesses, Hera, Athena,
Aphrodite, which of these was the most
beautiful, but only when Aphrodite had bribed
him with the gift of the most beautiful woman
in the world instead of from either other deity
power and glory, had he chosen Helen
 
the other two of course reponded with the
devastation at Troy, Olympians were not prone
to be easy, Christian mercy would find in that
pagan unequivalency propitious ground 
 
  
wonderful rendering of the traditional Greek
chorus – the Greek version of back-up girls,
“doo-wop, doo-wop” or “she loves him, she
loves him” – commenting on the tempestuous
story     
 
one of my favourite ever films   

   

 
Richard