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Euripides’ “Hecuba” and the Value of Human Life

An Illustrated Presentation by Dr. Lena Hatzichronoglou

In Euripides’ drama, the story of Hecuba takes place near Troy, while the war’s ashes are still smoldering. Hecuba is the old widow of the Phrygian king Priam, the fallen queen of Troy, who has lost not only her husband, but also her entire family, country, freedom, love, friendship, dignity, faith, prosperity, and everything that once made her life meaningful. Although she is a woman of noble origin and extraordinary past, at the play’s opening, she is represented as weak, miserable, devastated, and progressively dehumanized. In a world of hypocrisy, ruthlessness, demagoguery, expedience, ingratitude, betrayal, cynicism, indifference, realpolitik, and calculation, she is pushed to the edge and she turns violent. At the end, she appears as something monstrous, frightful, and incomprehensible. Yet, Hecuba’s drama still moves us. But this is not against incredulity, as Page had once commented, but on the contrary, because her world resembles so much our own. In this seminar, we will explore Euripides’ purpose in representing Hecuba the way he does, and we will seek to understand the dramatist’s message to his fellow Athenians and to all of us.

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