Themes in Trojan Women

A brief overview of the Themes in Trojan Women.

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The Horror of War

The central theme of the play is the horror of war. The harsh realities of what war holds for the Women of Troy is not hidden

Their home, Troy, is in ruins. Corpses, many of them husbands, sons or friends, lie about the battlefield. Trojan women young and old huddle together as they lament the loss of husbands and children and shudder at the thought of becoming slaves in a land across the sea. Hecuba, once a great queen, is to become a lowly servant in the house of the Greek warrior Odysseus. The **** victim Cassandra, a prophetess of Apollo, is to become the property of Agamemnon, his mistress, the leader of the Greek armies.

One of the most painful moments in the play is the death of Little Astyanax—the son of the dead Trojan leader, Hector, and his wife, Andromache. The Greeks throw him from the walls of Troy in the belief that he would have sought vengeance as an adult. This, in many ways, is the final act in the horror of war - the death of the innocent over th future fears of their crusades.

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Dread and fear of the future

The captive Trojan women dread the future. All they know for certain is that ships will carry them across the sea to a strange country, a different culture, unfamiliar faces, and a degrading way of life. There will be no family members to comfort them, no pay for the work they do.

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Andromache says she would be better off dead. But Hecuba says that where there is life there is hope for a better tomorrow. Having lived long enough to know that situations change, she says, “Fortune, like a madman in her moods, springs towards this man, then towards that; and none ever experiences the same unchanging luck.”

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Athena turns against the Greeks after Aias the Less rapes Cassandra in Athena's temple. To gain revenge, Athena persuades Poseidon to help her sabotage the Greek ships. Cassandra herself later speaks of retribution when she says, "I will slay [Agamemnon] and lay waste his home to avenge my father's and my bretheren's death." Meanwhile, the Greek king Menelaus plans to kill Helen, his wife, for having run off before the war with Paris, a prince of Troy. "My purpose is . . . to carry her to Hellas in my seaborne ship, and then surrender her to death, a recompense to all whose friends were slain in Ilium." The Trojan women agree with his decision to kill her, for they regard her as the source of all their troubles. 

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