Helen of Sparta … of Troy …of Sparta

Characters

Helen of Sparta .. of Troy … of Sparta

Teucer – Greek hero and brother of Ajax the greater

Menelaus – Husband of Helen

Theoclymenus

Servant of Menelaus

 

Helen is sitting in front of the Tomb of Proteous muttering . It looks as though she is praying. We go closer until we can hear her

Helen : I wonder how I can fool the son of Proteous ,Theoclymenus. He wants to marry me , but I am bored of these sappy doting Egyptian eyes .Long ago I was tired of Menelaus too which is why I eloped with Paris in the first place. I wonder why all these men are so boring  (she pauses) But I do prefer Menelaus , he is a strong man and the father of my daughter, I also miss my daughter that I have not seen in so long. But I was not sure if he has forgiven me and would spare my life; after all he did try to kill me once before and only stopped after he gazed upon my face . Regardless of what men like to claim about wealth and principles , he is obviously hurt about the fact that I , his wife left him for another man and though he is still smitten with my beauty , it is obvious he is hurt.  A cuckolded man will always bear a grudge so I need to convince him that I stayed true to him.

(she pauses again , this time much longer and muses thoughtfully)

Helen : The ship wreck is a blessing in disguise . The idiot that he left to guard me was certainly a blessing , all I had to do was blow some of the magic powder and he fell fast asleep. Now  maybe I can convince Menelaus that the gods were indeed playing tricks on him .

Teucer rushes in and looks upon with shock at Helen .

Teucer : What is this? I thought you were with Menelaus

Helen : Who are you, my brother ? Who is Menelaus?

Teucer : You look so much like Helen of Troy that I mistook you. Forgive me but I am trying to find the prophetess who is going to show me the way to my new home .

Helen : Brother, you best get out of here as soon as you can , her brother is slaughtering all the greeks that he can get his hands on.

Teucer – Thank you , my lady . You look like Helen but dont act like her . May you prosper unlike her .

Teucer leaves

Helen (muses thoughtfully) : I could certainly pull this off

Menelaus comes in and stops and looks at Helen in shock .

Menelaus: How is this possible ? I left you with my servant , how could you possibly be here?

Helen : Alas , Menelaus my one true lord , is that really you or are the gods playing a trick on me ?

Menelaus : What is the meaning of this ? I left you up on the mountains a week ago and now you claim to not recognize me ?

Helen : Alas my lord, the gods are playing a trick upon your eyes . They kidnapped me all those years ago and left me here , chaste and true to you but they created a fake Helen that they sent to Troy with Paris . I dont know what terrible deeds I have done to cause so much hatred among the gods that they seem this as a fair punishment for me.

Menelaus : How is this even possible ? You are lying

Servant of Menelaus enters ; he has not seen Helen yet .

Servant : My lord Menelaus , your wife , the queen vanished in a puff of smoke before our very eyes

Helen (turns towards us and smirks) : Thank god for fools, they are sorely needed.

Menelaus dismisses him pensively ,

Chorus – Menelaus , surely you have to wonder if that is truly the case . Had this beautiful wife of yours always been true to you and the gods just playing a vicious game with you . Surely a woman this beautiful and delicate not capable of causing the mayhem that was attributed to her.

Menelaus looked at her , her beautiful eyes welling with tears .

Chorus – Women’s tears fuel men’s emotions . The more beautiful the woman, the greater the impact

Menelaus : I believe you , my beautiful wife . I never ever doubted you but when the gods are bent upon making a fool of you, the best of us don’t stand a chance .

Helen (turns to us and smirks again) : I cant believe it was so easy

Helen turns to Menelaus and weeps : Yes my lord , accursed am I , to lead you into such perils

Menelaus : surely all is well that ends well now . Shall we get out of here ?

Helen : No my lord , the ruler of Egypt is in love with me and he has sworn to kill all Greeks

Menelaus : Maybe I can challenge him to a duel and fight him in single combat

Helen: No my lord, this needs us to out think him not out fight him. He is not a civilized Greek to honor your challenge

Menelaus : Let us run away , surely if he does not know where we are going, he wont know where to search

Helen (turning towards us): This dreadful world, things that I could have done if I was a man. Now I have to rely on an idiot

Helen (to Menelaus) : My lord, we need to convince him to give us his fastest boat so that he wont be able to chase us.

Menelaus : How on earth do you propose to do that?

Helen : Leave it to me . (rings for the servant of Theoclymenus)

Helen: Please ask your master to come here . I have received some dreadful news from the Greeks , this man who is my husband’s servant just told me that my husband drowned at sea. (Menelaus’s eyes widen)

The servant leaves to fetch Theoclymenus

Helen: My lord , with your rags it is easy to believe that you are a servant . You need to tell Theoclymenus that you drowned at sea and it is the Greek custom to have the burial rites at sea for people who are lost at sea . You also have to agree with me that until the burial rites are complete , I am not free to marry another man

Theoclymenus: My love , have you decided to marry me ? Your beauty is stupefying , I fail to see why you keep refusing to marry me.

Helen : My lord , I am already married but I have good news for you. My lord , Menelaus has drowned , this is his servant who just bought me the terrible news .

Theoclymenus : So you can marry me now ?

Helen : My lord, I have to perform the last rites for my husband, only then will I be free.

Theoclymenus : Why does he not do it?

Helen : My lord , it has to be done by near and dear ones

Theoclymenus : Fine , let us do it and get married as soon as you are done

Helen : My lord , this has to be done out at sea. He was lost at sea so the burial rites must be done at sea. Otherwise the gods will not deem me a free woman

Theoclymenus : ok , what do you need ?

Helen : My lord , I know I have made you wait too long , now I want to make it up to you and want to marry you as soon as I can . Would you not lend me your fastest trireme so I can perform this dreadful ritual and come back to start our life of happiness

Menelaus looks at her agog

Theoclymenus (eyes brimming with tears of happiness) : My love , you shall have it . I will instruct my chief commander to give you his fastest trireme . (he hugs Menelaus) Thank you for bringing me this wonderful news

Menelaus stares at the back of the departing king in bewilderment and turns to Helen

Menelaus : But dont we need 60 men for a trireme ?

Helen : Where are the soldiers who came with you?

Menelaus : Oh they are around .

Helen : Well in that case , we are going to get aboard that, get your soldiers on board , as soon as we are out at sea . We slaughter everyone who is not Greek and head to Sparta .

Menelaus (stares in admiration at Helen ): My love , you are so wise

Helen (smiles) : Hurry my lord

Menelaus leaves

Helen turns to the audience

Helen : Sometimes life is indeed too much of a bore for a woman of intelligence.Add some tears and a beautiful face and men are like putty , willingly acquiesce to be abused and treated like sheep. And now my choice is between two fools , Menelaus and Theoclymenus but Menelaus is a known fool and he has already swallowed the story that the gods had put a different woman in Paris’s bed and so I have always been true to him. (she stops ) He was a good lover, pity he is dead.

Menelaus enters

Menelaus : My love , let us leave now

Helen and Menelaus board the trireme , followed by his soldiers . The trireme commandant having received orders to do everything as ordered by Helen, followed all the orders

We finally see Helen and Menelaus on board the deck of the Trireme . Menelaus looking at her adoringly ,Helen looking out at the sunset

 


This has been inspired by the play Helen by Euripides . While the play is actually a comedy , I found it dreadful . A satirization seemed so much more satisfying

 

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Hecuba

Hecuba was a short quick gripping read .  Quick primarily because the timeline seems so dreadfully short .The time frame is after the fall of Troy and men have been murdered , most of the women raped and taken as concubines .The agony of Hecuba seems to be something so poignant that though  we have a hard time relating to her pain , our own desire for the macabre insists on continuing , that is the genius of Euripides ; he starts off with an ingenious device ; our fore-knowledge of her son Polydorus’s death. So while we ,the audience are aware of this dreadful knowledge ,Hecuba is not and that provides for some of the excitement that curiosity fuels to see how she would react.

The ghost of Polydorus  informs us that he has been murdered by his host , King Polymestor of Thrace who was a close friend of Priam, King of Troy and was responsible for safe guarding him and the treasure that Priam sends along. Polydorus informs us that as long as Troy was safe and Hector was alive ,he was safe but as soon as the slaughter commenced after the fall of Troy, his host . Polymestor murdered him and threw him into the sea and usurped the treasure.

So full of foreboding we meet Hecuba at  this point . The ghost of Achilles has come to the dreams of the Greeks and demanded the blood of Polyxena, one of her last surviving daughters . So Odysseus has marched in with a contingent of soldiers to take Polyxena away . This is quite a dramatic shift in the points of view for viewing Odysseus . At some point in the past, Hecuba has spared his life but he shows no intention of repaying her kindness . He is depicted as a cruel ingrate who is very conscious about his power and reputation in the Greek army . Polyxena is the innocent pure tragic heroine who prefers death to slavery and leaves willingly after telling her poor mother that she pities her mother because she will actually be going off to Hades , a far better place than the fate that the Greeks have in store for them . When the Neoptolemus , son of Achilles is about to murder her on the grave of Achilles , she willingly offers herself without a fight insisting that she will not die as a slave and will not be bound. After her heroic death , we come back to Hecuba who is recounted the brave last moments of her daughter’s life who will now be given an honorable burial by the Greeks who were touched by the girl’s bravery.

Hecuba is inconsolable and tells her slave girl to fetch water from the sea for the last rites of her daughter . her voyage as the bride of Hades . And it is here that the slave girl finds the body of Polydorus . There is some brief confusion when Hecuba thinks that the body of Polydorus is the body of Polyxena and she chides the slave girl for bringing it here. But once she finds out that it is her son and he was murdered by Polymestor, she conceives of a dreadful plan and it is at this point that we see Agamemnon , King of Mycenae and leader of the Trojan expedition . Again , the great hero is shown in a very different perspective , he knows that the murder of Polyxena was an unrequited tragedy forced upon a suffering old woman , he worries about his reputation and does not stop the murder because he is afraid of the gossip that will ensue . His soldiers will reason that due to his affair with Cassandra , another of Priam and Hecuba’s daughter  , Agamemnon is weak and unwilling to sacrifice Polyxena. But unlike Odysseus , his private moral sense of honor does compel him to go along with Hecuba’s plan for revenge after he is told of Polydorus’s untimely death at the hands of his host.

Hecuba invites Polymestor with his young sons with the pretext of telling him a precious secret which must be told to him alone . When Polymestor comes over , she tells him that she will reveal the cache of gold that Priam had hidden , this cache of gold belongs to Polydorus and Polymestor is the custodian until the Greeks leave . Greedy Polymestor agrees and asks his contingent of bodyguards to leave . We are spared the morbid details of the actual murders but instead given a beautiful couplet

Life is held on loan,

the price of life is death

Those who take a life 

repay it with their own

Justice and the gods 

exact the loan at last

Hands which never held a sword

shall wrench your twisted life away

Polymestor  is blinded and both his young children are murdered by the women of Troy.

Hearing the uproar , Agamemnon who pretends to be unaware of Hecuba’s plan for revenge listens to both sides . It is a trial of sorts where Polymestor claims that the murder of Polydorus was a political necessity else the Greeks would have invaded Thrace and if the boy grew up, there would be a resurgence of Troy and more trouble for Troy’s neighbors but Hecuba claims that Polymestor’s speech is pure sophistry because he is not related to the civilized Greeks nor had any prior relations with them and the murder was driven exclusively by his greed. If he was truly a friend then he would have not waited until the sack of Troy to offer his services to Agamemnon . She finishes with a flourish  forcing Agamemnon’s hand by claiming that if he passed the verdict on Polymestor’s behalf then he would go down in history as an unjust man .Agamemnon does come down on her side and prosecutes Polymestor for murder. The play ends with two dreadful prophecies by the blind Polymestor , one that Hecuba will die by drowning and that Agamemnon will be murdered by his own wife .

If ever there was a play that can show us what depths we can plunge to , driven by circumstances , Hecuba would certainly qualify .  Hecuba starts off as a grieving mother but ends up performing the most dastardly inhuman acts  ; the murder of innocent children. She is driven by her circumstances , driven by her captors to lose the last shreds of humanity, compassion and kindness .