A Short Analysis of Euripides’ Helen

Interesting Literature

An introduction to a classic play

Helen is not the most famous of Euripides’ plays, but it is one of the most curious – and it deserves close analysis and study. The play was first performed in 412 BC at that year’s City Dionysia. In summary, the plot of Helen turns on an old conspiracy theory first put forward by the ancient historian Herodotus: that ‘Helen of Troy’ was a mere phantom conjured by Hera, and that the real wife of Menelaus spent the duration of the Trojan War in Egypt, having been taken there by Hermes and kept safe out of harm’s way. (This is the basis of H. D.’s modernist epic poem Helen in Egypt (New Directions Books).) The Greeks and the Trojans both go to war over what is, effectively, an illusion. The goddess Hera is responsible for the phantom Helen and, therefore, the cause…

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