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Greek history reading analyze in comparing character of Helen in two reading - Essay Example

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Greek history reading analyze in comparing character of Helen in two reading

In this account, Helen is portrayed as a victim of circumstances who had no choice but to go with Paris and succumb to his every whim and demand in order to save her life. In the poem we see Helen "dressed herself in fine silvery linens and came out of her bedroom crying softly" when she heard of Menelaus' attack on Sparta clearly illustrating she had no alternative but to wait and see what the aftermath of the war will bring for her future.
Later, talking to Paris's father, she says, "death should have been a sweeter evil to me" explaining that she should have taken her own life than yield to Paris's seizure. She incriminates herself by calling herself a "shameless bitch" for yielding to his demands. Furthermore, she is seen as very embarrassed to have had her family find her in a situation which she apparently had no choice.
There are several colors to Helen's character that are portrayed in Homer's Iliad. She calls herself a "hateful wife" when she thinks of Menelaus winning her away from Paris. On Paris's return and eventual defeat in the Trojan War, Helen reproofs him by telling him he should have been killed by Menelaus, a "real hero"
In the Iliad, Helen is represented as a prey plucked from her serene life with her husband and taken away by Paris to be subjected to subservience despite her many objections. She is shown to have compassion, guilt, love and even acceptance in the way she lives her life in Paris's kingdom awaiting her end.

However, in Helen a play by Euripides, the playwright puts the theory that Helen was a victim of circumstances down and has something else to say. Helen is sought by Menelaus, a grieving husband, who wants to bring her to justice by killing her following the rumors that she went to Paris willingly and was not abducted after all.

Hecuba, Paris's mother describes Helen as a woman who "captivates you with longing", "destroys cities" and "sets homes aflame". While Helen defends herself saying that she was bought and sold for her beauty and has been blameless even attempting to run away, Hecuba negates this by saying she should have hung herself if she was so desperate to get out. Helen states she was kept as a wife by her new husband "in defiance of the Trojans" and Hecuba negates that as well. She is characterized as a vicious and calculating woman who Hecuba states "saw my son in the splendor of gold" and "looked forward to a deluge of extravagance" while Helen says she grieves the death of the Trojans. This is a total contradiction to what the Homer states in the Iliad.

Essentially, Helen has been depicted as the cause of the war between the Trojans and the Greeks whatever the truth may or may not have been. Homer too has treated Helen as a cause of war but also as a helpless victim of her celebrated beauty.

There could be any number of reasons why Euripides depicted Helen in a negative light. Some scholars say that it is impossible for so many heads of states / cities to leave their work to go all the way to Troy to rescue a chit of a woman to whom they did not have much interest in except for her renowned beauty. At the time this story is placed, a lot of women and children were abducted and sold in slavery in Troy and it is thought by some scholars that this was the reason so many city heads brought about the Trojan War. This theory is followed by the hypothesis that Helen never existed! It was all a ply to put the Trojans down for their illegal slave trade.

However, if ...Show more


Helen of Sparta, later Helen of Troy was one of the most popular figures in Greek mythology. She was the daughter if Zeus and Leda and the wife of King Menelaus of Sparta. Helen's fame came not only from her beauty but also her alleged abduction by Paris also known as Alexander due to which the Trojan War came about.
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Greek history reading analyze in comparing character of Helen in two reading essay example
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