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Anti-war literature and movies often portray the events of one war to inspire people to reflect on the outcomes of another war. The play The Trojan Women, created by an ancient Greek playwright Euripides, is a great example of a tragedy that can be and was used to show the outcomes of the war in a general sense. The original play is often thought to be a commentary on the Peloponnesian War, which outcomes affected the author’s land. Many directors and authors referred to this play to show the horrors of war to the public. Michael Cacoyannis returned to the theme of the Trojan War in the post-war Vietnam era when he directed the film The Trojan Women in 1971. The play and the film deliver the same ultimate anti-war message through a number of general plot lines and devices.
The Events of the Play
The play depicts the events happening after the Trojan War through the eyes of the women of Troy. The audience does not need to see the battlefield to learn about the outcomes of the war. The most devastating effect of any war is seen best through the eyes of those, who survived and have to deal with the aftermath. These women lost their fathers, husbands, and children to war. They have also lost their homes and their freedom. This play focuses on the family of Hector to show that people from different social classes can be affected by war.
Mother of Hector, Hecuba, who was the queen of Troy before the war, is to be a slave. Hecuba’s position changes drastically from a place in royalty to slavery. Hector’s wife, Andromache, is also affected significantly. Apart from being a widow, she is told that her son has to die because he is the last man of Troy. Andromache does not get a chance to bury her son as she is sent to Greece to be a concubine. Furthermore, one of Hecuba’s daughters, Cassandra, is also promised to a man. The audience sees that the events of the war have driven Cassandra to lose her sanity. In the end, every woman is captured and taken away on ships, from where they watch their homeland burn.
Many war movies and literature prefer to focus on the positive outcomes of war, completely looking over the tragic aftermath that is unavoidable after every battle. The Trojan Women, on the other hand, does not show the war itself, concentrating on the events that happened after the war was over. By completely ignoring the winning side, the author is able to depict the war as gruesome, devastating, and, most of all, unnecessary.
The audience of this play does not see any positive sides to the Trojan War, which are often overblown by war odes. People only see women, who lost absolutely everything, and their burning land. The only characters representing the winning side are Talthybius and Menelaus. Both characters are presented in a rather negative way. Menelaus is weak and indecisive, while Talthybius is a decent man, who has no desire to disobey orders. The intent of the play was not to argue about the necessity of war but to show the inescapable grief that follows it.
The play shows that there are many more outcomes to war than the death of the soldiers. The primary anti-war sentiment is that war destroys the lives of everyone, who was touched by it. The impact of war is long-lasting. For many of these women, the Trojan War predetermined their whole life, turning them into slaves and concubines. Every Trojan woman suffered the same fate regardless of their status. The death of Astyanax, Andromache’s son, is also symbolic because it shows the absence of the future for the Trojan people. This theme is continued by the fire that consumes the land of Troy as the captured women leave for Greece to accept their new fate.
The anti-war sentiments in the play The Trojan Women describe the aftermath of the Trojan War with an intention to show the audience the unavoidable consequences that follow every war. The primary focus of the play is shifted from the battlefield of the war itself to the main victims – the women of the losing side, who suffered a great loss. War did not spare these women, their homes, and their children. This play is universal as it can be applied to every major conflict regardless of the time period. Trojan Women shows that war is a destructive force that impacts the lives of many generations.