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HECUBA

an analysis of the play by Euripides

The following essay on Hecuba was originally published in The Tragic Drama of the Greeks. A.E. Haigh. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1896. pp. 291-2.

The Hecuba, exhibited about the year 425 [B.C.], is a play which consists in reality of two distinct parts, the first of these dealing with the sacrifice of Polyxena, the second with the vengeance exacted for the murder of Polydorus. The story of Polyxena formed part of the Sack of Troy, one of the epics of the Trojan Cycle. The fate of Polydorus was variously described in ancient legend, but the particular form which the tale assumes in the Hecuba is not found before the time of Euripides, and may possibly have been his own invention. The play is remarkable for the grace and purity of style, and abounds in striking scenes and beautiful passages. But as a whole it fails to produce much impression on the mind owing to the desultory character of the plot, and the absence of any necessary connection between the successive parts, beyond that which is supplied by the person of Hecuba. Some, also, of the vices of Euripides begin to be apparent; and Hecuba's habit of discussing current questions of philosophy appears strangely out of place in a Trojan queen. The choruses, too, have little reference to the immediate destinies of the principal characters. But at the same time they are exquisite specimens of poetry, and the description of the capture of Troy is one of the most beautiful lyrics in Euripides.

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