“The Trojan Women” is a superb translation and adaptation of a splendid play by Euripides (about 480 to about 406 BCE) who wrote tragic plays in ancient Athens. Scholars estimate that he wrote over 90 plays, most have been lost during the past 2,500 years. Only about a dozen and a half survived. It was first performed in 415 BCE. It is based in large part upon the classic Iliad by Homer which describes the war between the Greeks and Trojans.
In about 1250 BCE, the two nations engaged in a ten year battle. The son of the king of Troy, Paris, fell in love with Helen, the wife of Menelaus, the king of Sparta, and persuaded her to abandon her husband and come with him to his home in Troy. Menelaus asked his brother Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, to help him get his wife back. Agamemnon agreed and persuaded many Greeks from many countries to join him in the quest. He assembled a fleet of 1,000 ships containing 50,000 Greeks. They fought in Troy for ten years and were only successful when they tricked them into thinking that they were giving them a gift of a huge wooden horse. Unbeknownst to the Trojans, Greek soldiers were hidden in the huge horse. When the horse was taken into the city of Troy, the Greeks emerged, opened the gates to their fellow soldiers, slaughtered all the males in the city, and took the women and children as slaves.
“The Trojan Women” tells the tale of the Trojan women and children who survived the calamitous siege and sacking of Troy, focusing especially on four Trojan women: Hecuba the queen of Troy, Cassandra her daughter who has the ability to give prophesy, Andromache the widow of Troy’s greatest hero Hecuba’s son Hector, and Helen who caused the war. The first three lament the loss of Troy and of everyone and everything they hold dear, while Helen tries to justify her adultery and save herself from being killed by using feminine tactics. The three and other Trojan women have the challenging task of adapting to their new lives as slaves. Most but not all of them realize that their fate is much worse than the speedy murders of their husbands and sons.
The play is translated and adapted by Dr. Howard Rubenstein, a noted physician and author of ten very well-received plays. Rubenstein published his work in 1998. It had its premiere in 2001. His translation is written in easy to read very pleasant free verse. He has a 42 page introduction in which he explains the play and tells that he made a few changes in it in response to the criticism of the play by the ancient humorous Greek playwright Aristophanes and the more famous Greek philosopher Aristotle. He discusses the six criticisms and tells what changes he made in response to them. He tells us that Euripides was one of three great Greek tragedians. The others are Aeschylus and Sophocles, and that Aristotle considered Euripides “the most tragic of the poets.” He explains how the play shows that the gods do not care about human suffering, the play teaches people to question everything and think for themselves, and that unlike other Greeks of his time, Euripides emphasized human dignity. Thus, besides giving us an excellent translation and adaptation of a great classic, Dr. Rubenstein reveals much other interesting information.