THE TROJAN WOMEN – Play by Robert Patrick

Carol Nelson and Patti Haines, Theater for the New City production, NYC.

Carol Nelson and Patti Haines, Theater for the New City production, NYC.

The Trojan Women
by Robert Patrick
1837 N. Alexandria Ave.
#211
L.A. CA 90027
(323) 360-1429
Rbrtptrck@aol.com
IM: rbrtptrck

For Carol Nelson, Bonnie Young, Midge Montgomery, Steve Nelson, and Terry Talley, for whom it was written.

[Setting: A beach outside of Troy. Early dawn.
HECUBA, old and in the rags of royal sleepwear, lies face-down on the ground]

HECUBA:
Arise, you wretch, at least upon your knees.
[RISES to kneeling position]
Look, you’ve left an impression on the earth,
a hollow Hecuba like you’ve become,
an empty image of lost royalty
the full, foul tide of dawn will wash away.
And what is it that greets your ancient eyes
on this first dawn of peace in ten long years?
One thought the age of miracles was past
but the sun seems to be rising in the West
as if the whorish world has turned in bed
to show her face to her victorious Greeks.
Enough, you’ve lost your wits, now lose your wit.
That line of fire upon the Western strand
is not sunrise, but torches borne by Greeks
all borne to burn the unmanned towers of Troy.
There, Hecuba, you hear? It can be said.
The towers of Troy stand hollow as old bones.
Now, shall I wail upon this wet salt shore,
or shall I moan against the whipping wind?
Or shall I mourn the corpses in the doors
about to burst and send their sizzling blood
across the stones of undefeated Troy?
Troy! Keeper of the gate from East to West,
whom Asia and whom Europe tribute paid.
Troy with her worldly wit and her wide walls
Which held till last night’s onslaught. Here come tears,
to crawl triumphant down my stonelike face,
then steam in that chilled wind that beats the sails
of those Greek ships! Look, women, how they swell,
tugging against their masts, mad to inhale
unhallowed dead men roasting on our stones!
Oh, eager ships! How shall Greeks hold you back
for long enough to load slave women on?
The treasury of Troy is not enough,
not rich enough to hold their bellies down.
They rear up in the harbor, ships in rut!
Hold, hold. Your captains will be coming soon
to winnow out us women, and each claim
his horde of Trojan women, Trojan whores,
old widows, orphans, drudges, Trojan slaves —
no sons nor husbands, but sufficient wives
to weight you in this blood-tinged bay, and hold
you steady as you turn to canter home
on tides of undefended women’s tears!
Why do I kneel before this sacrilege?
Why lift my corpse up high enough to kneel
on shattered shells of sea-beasts whose lives end
to cut the knees of women where they wail?
Fall, Hecuba, fall down face down to fit
in that cold hollow mold of Hecuba
you can hide in again. Lie down and die …
But why? Why not use now to learn to kneel?

COMMON WOMAN: [ENTERS, sees Hecuba]
Your majesty! What are you doing here?
I searched for you in all the women’s huts.
We woke to find you, woke to find you gone.
She’s here! She’s here! Come now, rise from the sand.
Oh, let me help you with my common hands.
Dread rumor had you dead, drowned in the sea,
dashed down the cliffs, drained pale by some Greek blade,
or even fallen to base suicide,
strangled by your own hair, or monstrously
coring your heart out with a smuggled sword.
Come, rise, come back, come in, and let them see
who huddle in their rags alone, afraid,
Queen Hecuba’s alive and well today!

HECUBA:
I? Stand up like a doddering flagpole
stripped of its banner? I like a scarecrow
to frighten cawing, vulturous Greeks away?
No, you kneel, too, kneel down and tell them all
to grovel, fall , and kneel. No, do not kneel.
How dare you kneel to me? What do I rule?
Those ruins where flames send fat rats scuttling now
from interrupted nightlong greasy feasts?
No, I command you, do not kneel to me.
But let me kneel where there is yielding sand
to beat with these hard hands while I intone:
“I am a widow that was last night a wife!
Childless that was the dam of a royal line!
Captive insane upon this frigid beach
that was at sunset mistress of warm halls.
And I am a pitiful slave without a name,
Queen yesternight of all-unrivalled Troy.”
Oh, women, count no man happy till he’s dead.

WOMAN:
Oh, Hecuba, great queen, great lady, great,
great mother of great men, you should be proud.
You must be proud enough to shame us all.
For this ten years against a plague of Greeks,
wisest of warriors, your husband, Priam,
stern Hector and glad Paris, your tall sons,
led my meek husband and all Trojan men
to stand against a siege more formidable
than any ever seen by warworn Earth.
Legends till Earth’s unimaginable end
will swear that Priam’s men were the most valiant,
heroic men that ever stood at arms.
We would be worthy of them, but we need
you standing as our guide, as Priam stood
staunch and unyielding when his men would sway.
What will your weak, dependent women say
to see you humbled on your knees this way?

HECUBA:
What will the women say if they are wise?
If they are wise, they’ll say, “Bear no more sons.
Let Mother Earth bear what she thinks is wise,
but I will bear no soldiering men today!”
This they would say if they were ever wise,
but they are not wise, and cheer waste-laying men.
What will the women say if they are strong?
If they are strong, they’ll say, “Give me a blade,
give me a rope, give me a poison’s gall
to scald my guts that I might die in pain
before I let a man pump seed in me
to make more women that must bear such woes.”
This they would say if they were ever strong,
but they are weak, and soon upon the decks
of those tossed ships they’ll tumble under Greeks
and treasonable wombs will gulp Greek seed,
ovens to bake men to make women mourn.

WOMAN:
Anguish has maddened you, when most we want
your sovereign wisdom and most royal command.
Oh, God Apollo, her great strength restore.
Olympian healer, in your halcyon sphere,
look to this suffering Earth.

HECUBA:
Look to the sky!
Look, Lord Apollo rises in his East,
thrusting his arms through early coils of smoke
and pioneering vultures. Oh, surely now
our Troy will resurrect, like a shamming boy,
playing dead, and all its bones and stones,
billow and tug together to be Troy?
What, no? Not yet? No miracle? Come, God,
vanquish the heathen. Reward this woman’s faith.
Blind, burn our foes, blaze back the Greeks, great god!
No, it’s the Trojan women you make mad,
Queen Hecuba mad to think Troy is in ruins,
this woman mad to think herself a slave,
her husband gone, her starving queen alone,
screeching among the seaweed on her knees.

WOMAN:
Now blasphemy issues from you like the rank
discharge down madmen’s chins. Gods, is our goddess
overthrown? Weep, women, in your huts,
weep for yourselves, weep for the waste of Troy!

HECUBA:
No, not of Troy, but Greeks, my daughter, Greeks!
There are no Trojan women anymore.
In our men’s blood, we were re-christened Greeks!
I have not even subject daughters now
to take the place of those I gave to Priam,
for I, that mothered Troy, cannot say this:
“Daughter, you may not take that man to bed
and be his wife,” or, “Yes, my blessing, go;
follow him to his bed and bear him sons.”
These Greeks, when Troy is gutted of its gold,
will come for you, pitch dice, draw lots, make riddles,
and whichever one has won you take you off
to ravish on the waves, or even here,
haul you from line and have you in my sight,
and in the sight of all these wailing women,
kiss you with mouths that called your husbands dogs.

WOMAN:
That I, a common woman of great Troy
who thought it blessing twice in a good year
to glimpse you in a festival parade,
gorgeous with flowers in bejeweled state,
or watch you waving from your balcony,
authority’s icon, Hellespont’s gilded queen,
should come so close to hear you curse and scathe
the god that guarded us for war’s decade,
the husband king that held the beasts at bay,
your valiant sons as warlike, and denounce
even the living memory of tall Troy,
drawing in smoky swirls such hideous pictures
of our near future to make hope drop from me
like an aborted child. Is there no hope?

HECUBA:
None.

WOMAN:
Is there no promise?

HECUBA:
No.

WOMAN:
No dream?

HECUBA:
Bad dreams, or good ones that seem horrible
when you wake, reeking sluts on mats of straw,
hobbling with chained feet to make a meal
for the pig that fell on you the night before.

WOMAN:
Women of Troy, come and be counted now,
concubine cattle, by right of wanton war.
Stagger, weeping, from corrals of bondage,
trembling, shove aside the ragged skin
that makes your prison’s door. Set naked feet
carefully on sharp stones and broken weapons,
hungry and shivering, women of Troy, in line,
stand, gaze, and see the mistress of your minds,
a ravening mad dog whom we have adored:
Hecuba, queen of Priam, star of souls
she whom we aped and studied, longed to be,
whose veriest gown or ornament imitate,
Hecuba who set fashions for each season
and whose full life was model for us all,
again, as she did always, showing us
what we must next become. Come, Trojan women,
shaking like aspens, with blank eyes, and necks
scarcely strong to hold your heads upright,
master yourself to bow to your queen’s will.
Her will is that we utterly submit
to fate that seemed impossible last night.
Pay her the homage due the rightful queen,
and fall in hopeless bitterness in these weeds.

HECUBA:
Oh, daughters still, the only ones I have,
see that I do what I can do for you.
What can I do but shake you like bad girls,
and say, “Give up those frivolous, foolish dreams
that you were once dear daughters, mothers, wives,
daydreaming girls with suitors for your hands,
obedient girls with fathers you purred to please,
spirited girls whose mothers spanked your hands,
yet smiled remembering their mothers spanking theirs.
You’re nothing now. Believe you never were.
Life til last night was dreamed. Wake up to fate.
Life is a punishment. Life was always grim.
Love was a lie, freedom a fable for slaves.
Nothing is yours. Nothing was ever yours.
You stand alone, the helpless slaves of whims
indomitable as weather and old age.
Greeks are not men, will not be men to you,
are sun and rain, volcano, tidal wave,
nothing you can control. Your are not women,
but toads and monkeys fleeing fits of gods.
That’s the best good that I can do for you.
Be grateful to be chained with your baby girls
if needed still to nurse them like a sow
or grateful if they separate you from them,
so not to see them bred to bleeding shame.
For everything, be grateful, and for death–
if it comes quickly–gratefullest of all.
You see I set new fashions for our fall.

WOMAN:
Great Hecuba, forgive my shocked rebuke.
You still are mother to this Trojan throng.
Where kindness would be cruel, you still are kind
when cruelly you inure us to cruel blows.
We’ll kill hope like a virulent disease
with all the nursing skills that women learn.

HECUBA:
Kill hope, that monstrous child, and think like slaves.

WOMAN:
But look, here comes a Grecian soldier now.
Oh, has it come? Is even waiting done?
Suspense, that seemed unbearable just now
seems suddenly like the divinest peace
compared to this approaching certainty.
Oh, let it wait one moment, turn back time
an hour, a minute, a second, the least part
of the leap of a heart or the tic of a gummy eye.
What peace it was when, famished, gaunt, and chilled,
we clutched each other in our noxious stalls
and whispered what might happen.

HECUBA:
Lose the past.
Apollo’s rising in smudgy sky. He will not turn.

WOMAN:
We’ve lost the chance to die.

HECUBA: Remember, no hope.

WOMAN:
Oh, I remember no hope.
It was only a tear ago.

HECUBA:
But like a dog
beaten a thousand times that drums its tail
when the master nears, I cannot restrain my plea:
I was Hecuba, man! What news of my daughters for me?

SOLDIER: [ENTERS]
You are Hecuba; I saw you on the walls,
dressed all in gold, watching our false retreat
which fooled your men and led to our victory.
I wrote my girl how beautiful you were,
more beautiful than all the legends said.
I never thought I’d ever meet a queen,
and you a beggar now.

HECUBA:
Beggars are free.
We slaves watch beggars passing and we sigh.
I was the gaudy queen upon the walls,
watching your heroes feed her sons to curs.
I am your suppliant now for any word
to set to rest the spirits of my girls.

SOLDIER:.
Well, I’ve a job to do, but I suppose
they wouldn’t mind if I take time to tell you:
Your daughter, Cassandra, was not among the dead.
Menelaus, our chieftain, sent us out to search.
We washed the face of every female corpse,
and nowhere was the priestess of Apollo.

WOMAN:
Who knew her face? A sacred, cloistered virgin
hidden from men, she never walked the walls.

SOLDIER:
We found her image in a cameo
around King Priam’s neck upon the field.

HECUBA:
I never knew he kept that. From those rags
left of his body that was dragged around
the city’s precincts tethered to a chariot,
you could pluck out a gem without disgust?

SOLDIER:
I saw the locket when we lugged his body
to lay it on the altar of Apollo,
defiling it to turn the god from you.

HECUBA:
So common solders saw Cassandra’s face.

SOLDIER:
Her face is strange. You wouldn’t want to kiss it.

WOMAN:
She was made mad by Apollo for deceit.
He loved her and gave her the powerful gift of prophecy,

SOLDIER:
But why would any girl deny a god?

WOMAN:
She prized her honor, and with his prophet’s gift,
foresaw all the ploys of his impassioned wooing.

SOLDIER:
A fool to shun a suitor with such power.
Smart girls love strength. So he took back his gift?

WOMAN:
No, but he poisoned it; no one believes her.

SOLDIER:
Well, when you deny a powerful lord, you get punished.
Which brings us to business. Queen Hecuba, I’ll deal with you.
I’ve been sent by Menelaus to gather the women.

WOMAN:
Are we to be drawn and distributed by lot?

SOLDIER:
You common women will, by us common soldiers,
after the leaders have made their personal choices.

HECUBA:
Menelaus chose Cassandra for himself?

SOLDIER:
No, her he means for his brother Agamemnon.

WOMAN:
Agamemnon? He’s married to Helen’s sister!

HECUBA:
My daughter to Helen’s sister for a slave.
I hope Apollo raped her into heaven.

SOLDIER:
And Menelaus himself has chosen you.

HECUBA:
I? An old woman? He means to dishonor my bones?

SOLDIER:
No, nothing so base! But nothing noble, neither.
He says he means you for a kitchen slave.

WOMAN:
No, not our queen?

HECUBA:
Be still!

SOLDIER:
I meant nothing offensive.

HECUBA:
Not you, new lord. I meant for my woman. Be quiet.

WOMAN:
But this is too awful, no matter how strong you’ve made me.

HECUBA:
If I can endure it, see that you bear your lot.
Do you spy your lot? See how his eyes flicker toward you?
Young, kind man–and my other princess daughter?
Was proud Polyxnea among your tumbled corpses?
Do not hesitate. I know you have other business
than herald to kitchen-helpers. Tell me quickly.

SOLDIER:
I did not find your daughter Polyxnea.

HECUBA:
Your tone tells me you know, though, what has found her.

SOLDIER:
I haven’t seen her. I’ll say no more than that.
Now leave me be; I’ve got to fulfill my mission.
Hear me, women of Troy, now draw together.
See if Cassandra’s in disguise among you.
Menelaus will be here soon to take her.
We common soldiers will come then for our pickings.
[to Woman]
You, lift your head. Why don’t you wash your face?
When I come back, if you’re pretty, then I might choose you.
You’ll be better off with me than with some, I promise.
:
HECUBA:
Quiet, daughter. Be demure. Your bridegroom appraises.

SOLDIER:
We Greeks are just men, you know. The gods were with us;
that’s what war’s all about. There’s no need to hate us.
Your men would have done the same.

WOMAN:
You think my husband – ?

HECUBA:
Go on away, soldier. Come back here when you’re finished.
We will not mistreat you. You pause and falter.
Are you struck still by love, or is it that
you have still other news to hurt or cheer us?

SOLDIER:
You haven’t asked for your daughter-in-law, Andromache.

HECUBA:
Andromache? Hector’s wife is not, surely, living?

SOLDIER:
As living as I am. And chosen by one great general.

HECUBA:
My daughter-in-law did not leap to her death
down slanting Trojan walls when she saw Hector,
his head fought for by Trojan soldiers’ dogs?

SOLDIER:
She’s in the camp. I saw them getting her ready.
They said she was coming to say goodbye to you.

HECUBA: [to WOMAN]
The gods have answered your prayers, if there are gods.

SOLDIER:
I won’t stay here and listen to you blaspheme.
There’s loot to distribute. Oh, and one other thing.

HECUBA:
You needn’t tell us that the war is over.
We Trojan witches have powers of divination.

SOLDIER:
I can’t condemn you for your snide sarcasm.
But be careful; Menelaus doesn’t go for it.
Be good to him and he’ll be good to you.
He said for you all to tell Helen to get ready.
Gods! Wait til I tell my girl I met the Queen!
[EXITS]

HECUBA:
Helen is still alive?

WOMAN:
She’s here, great queen.
We gave her a hut of her own.

HECUBA:
From loathing or honor?

WOMAN:
From habit. It seemed the natural thing to do.

HECUBA:
I had forgotten why we fought the war.
Some corner of my mind had said, “What matter?”
It had assumed the beautiful bitch was dead.

WOMAN:
Don’t trouble yourself more, Mother; be glad of your daughters.

HECUBA:
One mad and vanished? The other, whatever he said,
gone to some fate too horrible for even
a stupid soldier to relate to me?
Glad for my daughters? I am glad for unborn daughters ,
for sterile eggs that poured out of me monthly
when I was a fool and in my breeding prime!

WOMAN:
You told us to forget!

HECUBA:
Forget? Cassandra wandering somewhere among the military rabble, doubtless by now raped, murdered, her tongue cut out to prevent her screaming “rape” while no one listened? Polyxnea, god knows what, and there is no god? And Andromache still alive, a strong young woman who might have ended her life? And Astyanax, her singing little son – is he alive? Hector’s son, my only living grandson? Forget? Oh, you are hollow women if in you there does not live anger at all these men and gods and wars. Let me fall into ashes like Troy if ever for a minute, lugging slopjars across a kitchen where fat slaves spit on me, I forget this anger like a raging pit ready for sacrifices in it, for what time and matter have made of Troy today.

WOMAN:
Mother of all, I cannot leave you here raging while I go to tell Helen to ready herself for Menelaus.

HECUBA:
Oh, do go, and tell her. Tell her the man who killed all the men of Troy and most of his own to regain her is coming across a beach of rotting jellyfish. Tell her the conqueror of Troy has at last rescued her! Tell her we are her ransom! Tell the kidnapped Aphrodite that her lord comes in squishing procession to reclaim her hand! Tell her that made my lovely son Prince Paris mad with desire to abduct her here to spark this war on women, her husband is coming! Tell her to paint her face as fair as it was ten years ago when she swept in, a pestilence. Tell her, that gave the excuse to our executioners, her master executioner’s on his way! Tell her she need waste no time on powder; her terror would be enough to paint her chalk! Say Menelaus is on his way to kill her, for that’s what cuckolded husbands do in her Sparta! Leave me alone; make no prolonged protestations. Go and find Helen, and see that she’s brought here alive! [Woman Exits] I want Apollo to see her split by spear points, her smoking intestines steaming on this beach!

ANDROMACHE:
[Offstage] Mother!

HECUBA:
Who calls me, “Mother?” Cassandra? Polyxnea?

ANDROMACHE:
[Entering with child in basket]
Mother of Hector, grandmother of my son!

HECUBA:
Andromache! Hold me close! No , let me go! Forgive me, Priam! I saw you forty years a king of legend, making decisions that made an empire move! And now I know not whether to hold this woman and clasp at all that’s left of Noble Troy, or fling her to the ground and call her, “Traitor!” Andromache, just now I vilified you, cursed you to be still living, and yet the heart I thought had turned into a coal of vengeance has leapt to see you. How can we know what’s human will to act on, when the world has turned and all halls serve as morgues?

ANDROMACHE:
My husband’s mother. Alone and unattended?

HECUBA:
All protocol is banished. We are not royalty, only property now for choosing since the game’s decided. But you, you look right royally. That’s the garment you wore the day we married you to Hector. And those the jewels he gave you that blessed morn your little boy was born in a Troy at war. And who has done your hair? Are your handmaidens still let serve you? Andromache, you are a vision of all that last night died without embalming. What has happened?

ANDROMACHE:
Mother, they took me to a royal tent. No man has been allowed to come near me. Baths and perfume and cushions and such fine food as we have not seen in Troy since our besiegement, all these were laid out and Grecian woman served me. Then this I was told: to leave the tent and come to you here, to say our last farewells. Oh, Hecuba, in this insanity how shall we part? Clearly they mean me for some Achaean king. You do not wrap a present thus for paupers. How can I live and go into a bed where I am dishonored, my husband made grotesque jokes, my boy raised by the leaders that killed his father? What am I to do? On my wedding night you took me into your bower, and told me with kindness how to win your son to be my lover as well as my husband. No mother could have been so gentle to me, nor in these years when I was by our Hector could I have wished a more compassionate advisor, blessing my progress, patient but stern with failings, raising me, it seemed, to walk beside you, and then, when inevitable time should change our places, to be the queen of Troy. You’ve been my guide, my leader and protector, the kiss consoling, the touch admonishing. Who held my hand when Hector’s son came howling into a world in a war we knew we’d win? Whose other hand was in my mouth to bite back the screams, but this hand, now scraped and ringless? Mother of Hector, Astyanax’s grandmother, friend, Teacher, Deity, Teach me how to live!

HECUBA:
Oh, daughter, true daughter, though adhered to this flesh, not drawn from it. Kneel with me, Andromache. Nymph of loveliness, could you not have — how shall I say it? –1 mean no chastisement. Could you not in some interim moment have taken the tiniest sliver of silver, some knife or cutlery carelessly left by a handmaiden in a fruit basket, could you not — the heart recoils to say it, but couldn’t you — listen, I whisper it for I cannot shout it to gods I no longer believe in ~ Andromache, could you not quietly have died? My tears would have soaked the planet, but could you not have? All servants can be bribed, why, any jewel twinkling about your person could have convinced some slave-girl or hair-dresser to lay down on your fair face a pillow, to have held, tamped, tightened, restrained even against your disloyal body’s buckling, which I am anguished to imagine, for the sudden chilling stilling of which I would howl for revenge from all armies of righteousness, but Andromache, Andromache, could you not have died? It is easy to say, for me, for whom any instant might finally quench the fire of life and I be dead without fearful moment, oh, I know, it is easy, it is hard, it is impossible, but it is possible, Could you not see it, not think it, might you not, darling, in some swift way have died?

ANDROMACHE:
Mother, I would have died and left you longing, oh, yes, rather than be here now in this world without reason, I would have eaten coals or drained my body’s blood into their patterned carpets, can you doubt me? I who have known the greatness of a city hanging in haze around us, do you think I would face this sunrise over its ruin? Do you think I did not suddenly see each object as a weapon against my continuation, each person passing humbly through that harem as my blessed deliverer? The desperate grow new eyes that see the dangers others shun, as delightful as flowers springing from a field’s grass. But those same eyes that looked for the way to nothingness saw also that sweet godling, Hector’s offspring, the child of our love, the last son of your line, the heir we were brought together to engender, our darling Astyanax, playing at forts with cushions on the rug, his little face bright-gleaming from fine food, his eyes that have seen devastation to daunt a god gleaming with delight at the bright pretty things around him, and so I lived. Mother, do you forgive me? Can you teach me to forgive myself?

HECUBA:
Ah, hope, hope, hope is delirium in me. Andromache, rise, let him not see us down and moaning. I who have lived to rise the sorriest woman in the world today, to criticize you who have borne the greater burden? I have lost the past — you lost the fabulous future. And you have endured to tend its only promise. Forgive? Can you forgive me for even dreaming of dragging you into the hopeless Hell I rule?

ANDROMACHE:
Come, come and kiss grandmother.

HECUBA:
Little child with hands like Hector’s, wide at the base there, see, Andromache?

ANDROMACHE:
I see.

HECUBA:
And something of his nose?

ANDROMACHE:
His very nose.

HECUBA:
And is there not some such gentleness in his eyes — for all children are ferocious — as that that Hector showed us all his life? Even when back from a day of war’s harsh carnage, that gentleness he never forgot and fought to restore us to?

ANDROMACHE:
Oh, his father’s face.

HECUBA:
Don’t cry. You must not cry. You are to be a queen yet. Perhaps they will unite the Trojan kingdom with the victorious empire of the Greeks. Perhaps you will hold the throne I trained you for. Perhaps some day young Hector will rule all — not only the Troy we once knew, but the larger kingdom his father would have left him had he won.

ANDROMACHE:
Oh, Hecuba, your face lights up with hope. That is the face I saw when I came to Hector.

HECUBA:
And here they come to take you. May they be swift and take you away before my false face crumbles.

ANDROMACHE:
Gods can show mercy.

HECUBA:
Perhaps there still are gods.

SOLDIER: [ENTERS]
Andromache, wife of Hector?

ANDROMACHE:
She would stand tall and proud before you, to show her little son how royalty stands. I am Andromache. Tell me what you will.

SOLDIER:
Andromache, I am come to take you now.

ANDROMACHE:
I will go with you.

SOLDIER:
Is this your little son?

ANDROMACHE:
This is the son of Hector, the line of Priam, Apollo’s heir to Troy’s most splendid throne.

SOLDIER:
I’ve come to tell you to tell him to say farewell.

HECUBA:
He has no language yet. We have said our farewells.

SOLDIER:
Look, I don’t like doing this.

ANDROMACHE:
Take us away. Before our tears break loose. Have you no heart?

SOLDIER:
I’m getting tired of people asking me that. Soldiers have to do lots of dirty jobs. They say they have to be done. I don’t know about that. I don’t make decisions. I have my orders. I’ve come to tell you ~

HECUBA:
What ever you’ve come to tell us, say it and go.

SOLDIER:
Look, you, you’re not a queen now. Don’t make this harder.

ANDROMACHE:
How dare you?

HECUBA:
Andromache, this is my portion. Let me bear it as you must bear your own.

ANDROMACHE:
I will be silent.

SOLDIER:
I’ve come to take you to your future ruler.

ANDROMACHE:
May I know his name?

SOLDIER:
I can’t even pronounce it. You know our great hero, Achilles?

ANDROMACHE:
I know what he was. I saw my husband kill him.

SOLDIER:
That isn’t the version that they’re giving out. They say he was slain by sorcery.

HECUBA:
It’s flattery to Hector to replace him in myth by magic.

SOLDIER:
Well, anyway, for because your husband killed him ~ though don’t say I said so —

ANDROMACHE:
Your secret is safe with me.

SOLDIER:
— they say that you are to belong to Achilles’ son.

ANDROMACHE:
Belong to the son of my homeland’s greatest foe? But I know of the man; he already has a wife!

SOLDIER:
Yes, he’s said that you’re to be his whore!

ANDROMACHE:
Oh, Hecuba! How could you think me good? Like some fool girl, I took these trappings to be a sign of honor — instead, they have been put on me for mockery. Hector’s bride’s marriage gown. Astyanax’s mother’s natal jewels. To be ripped off me by a brute in trade for his father’s lawful death in battle. But hush — I must never say such things again. Thank god my child has not yet mastered speech. He will grow up never hearing I am shamed. Take me. Please. Now.

SOLDIER:
Well, that’s the other thing —

ANDROMACHE:
I must wait here? Well, Hecuba, out little show we promised to each other, of brave and hopeful faces to feed false hopes, will have to end now, I must wait with you, and I fear before they come for us we will fall into weeping and growling and calling each other names. Kiss me now, and let us swear that whatever unkindness we might do to each other as we wait will not matter. Let us try to believe it.

HECUBA:
Andromache, our herald’s face is flushed and sweaty, and his boots dig into the sand. He has something more to tell us before he goes.

SOLDIER:
Yes, ma’am. Menelaus says for you to say goodbye to the little boy.

HECUBA:
You speak to me or Andromache?

SOLDIER:
Both, ma’am.

HECUBA:
They would not take you without him, a double prize.

SOLDIER:
So — so you should say goodbye, for you’ll not see him again.

HECUBA:
I knew that, child. I told you, I am a seer.

SOLDIER:
Goddamit, Ma’am, can’t you hear what I’m trying to tell you?

ANDROMACHE:
Your language is foul and so are you.

SOLDIER:
Well, I’m not a whore or a kitchen bitch. Listen, Menelaus has decided that your little son must die!

ANDROMACHE:
What?

HECUBA:
How light must it grow before we see all is evil?

ANDROMACHE:
Where is Menelaus? I’ll kneel to him, I’ll kiss his boots, I’ll praise or curse any god or demon or hero or – forgive me, Hecuba – revile my husband, denounce his name, whatever he’s trying to get me to do, I’ll do it. There is no depth to which I won’t lower myself —

SOLDIER:
Boy, he’s a smart one. He said you’d act like that. He really knows you royal types! He said you’d even offer yourself to me if I would save your little boy! But it’s no good. He’s announced your son’s death before all the assembled generals, and they cheered — and he’s not one to change anything they cheer him for. So get up. And say goodbye to him — Queen Hecuba. Forgive me the way I talked. This is hard times.

HECUBA:
Be still, Andromache. Astyanax, come to Grandma. Yes, my darling, it’s all confusing, isn’t it? Kiss Grandma. Just let me hold your hand, so like your father’s, [holds child out to soldier]. Here, take him. There’s no point in delaying. Delay will only make it harder. Kiss him, Andromache.

SOLDIER:
Oh, no. The princess must come away with him.

ANDROMACHE:
Is it blessed death for me, too?

SOLDIER:
No. But they want you to see it.

HECUBA:
[HECUBA catches ANDROMACHE] Andromache. There will always be a way. A high window. A cliff. A noose. Servants know poisons. If you are lucky, perhaps his wife will kill you. [To Soldier] Take her and go.

SOLDIER:
Yes, Ma’am.

HECUBA:
How can you not run yourself through and die with your face in the mud before you can do this thing?

SOLDIER:
Okay, Grandma. I tried to be nice to you. You know your daughter you were worried about?

HECUBA:
Cassandra?

SOLDIER:
No, the other one –

HECUBA:
Polyxnea!

SOLDIER:
Yeah! Well, a dozen soldiers raped her. They raped her and beat her and cut her stuck-up throat. They raped her and killed her across Achilles’ grave! [HE exits with ANDROMACHE and her SON]

HECUBA:
The death of children – but we are all somebody’s child. Not only the innocent baby – and what mother would not laugh to hear her tyrannical child called, “innocent?” ~ every man that slaughtered and was slaughtered around the walls of Troy was someone’s child, had been held on a lap and dandled, thrust against a breast and fed, held across a lap and spanked to teach it fine deportment — and still it came to war.
[enter WOMAN]
Polyxnea was my least favored child. Hector was marvelous, taking all the prizes, bringing me small glass animals for my birthday. Paris was beautiful ~ would he had had scars — kissing his way into and out of trouble. Cassandra had strange beauty, then the shock and terrible glamour of her tragedy. Polyxnea was a happy, bright leftover. We never loved her; she expected nothing. This could not have surprised her as it would some others. But all of this is trying to hold back the colored pictures rising in my mind like ancient gables thrust up by an earthquake. Ah, God, the innocent girl dragged to the graveyard, flung over filthy clods, burst, broken, entered, she who had known no images of love but Troy romancing Helen. Then, crying, gasping, clawing her muddy red robes down for her modesty, her glorious hair jerked back by some coarse soldier, roaring, “Thus we avenge Achilles.” Well, Achilles, we killed you and your lover. Are you avenged? I’m shamed to feel mere rage and guilt and horror. In what Greek pigsty will my sorrow rise?

WOMAN:
Queen Hecuba, I mourn your daughter for you. You have borne more than we can ever know. Pitying you we rise above self-pity. And so you are still great to the Trojan women, if greatness atones the power of God for you.

HECUBA:
I would I had been born to little people.
How sweet to care for nothing but my own morals,
to spend each day playing at being good,
pleased enough when I slept by a workman husband
if I have not beaten my children, stolen money,
deceived my husband or been to my mother cruel.
Oh, to have idols who live vicarious for me,
their sexual scandals and marriages, family quarrels,
great celebrations, majestical decisions,
hovered above like clouds or constellations.
Lords on the towers! Ladies on festival floats!
Kings and Queens attending the sacrifices!
The Prince and Princess flaunting their wedding crowns!
Celestial puppets, moved, not as you think,
by great Olympian gods’ manipulations,
but by the whims of mobs crammed in arenas.
Helpless as birds in cages, actors on stage,
yes, you create us kings to entertain you!
Astronomers say the stars move all our actions,
but I deny you now, where I am prophetic:
The minds of men determine the course of stars.
I say it is somehow the fault of the common people
that Helen seduced, Paris eloped. For the people
Greeks made a covenant, and armadas assembled,
Hector pulled on his helmet and bold armor,
and the war for the Hellespont raged for ten long years!
As lovers bribe their beloveds with hot kisses
to be the idols their selfish lust envisions,
you bribe us with pomposities and palaces
to make us play romances for your thrills.
We monarchs pay the poets to conjure gods
so we, in the doomed idleness of idols,
may live such fictions as you force us through.
You make us puppets when you make us proud!
You make us wanton. You make us make war!

WOMAN:
I have deserved none of this. I am all guiltless of wishing you other than well. But I shall tell the others of your madness and urge them to be forgiving. You move in realms of knowledge unknown to me, but I am unknown to you. I want war? Never. And if your son brought Helen home, what was I to do but enjoy to see them strolling, both blond in snow-white velvet, along the walls? Would you rather I had risen and shot them down? Set myself to be morality’s vengeance? Led a great crowd to the castle walls and demanded her repatriation, his dishonor, and no war? We left that to you. We trusted you knew what was right for us. You, after all, accepted the hand of the king, he accepted his throne, he stood above us and called for the men of Troy to keep Helen ours. Oh, I am not to blame. If I know nothing, I know that much. I’ve never made the world, nor yet remade it. But I am not one to chide you; you know secrets. This morning has made us all mad, and so excuses your words to me, mine, and, I suppose, whatever words will ensue between you and that soldier returning now bearing some puzzling burden.

HECUBA:
That man again? What a huge connecting role he is constructing for himself to tell as he sits all fat and crippled around some campfire, telling the new recruits, “Yes, I saw Helen, yes, I raped Polyxnea, humbled Hecuba, enslaved Andromache, saw the gold of Troy —” and what is that he bears within his arms? New ragged robes to shame me? How much worse could there be than this I wear?

SOLDIER:
[ENTERS bearing shield covered with black robes]
I bring you mourning robes. Menelaus thought it fit.

HECUBA:
Ah, then, the ape has some etiquette. And what is this beneath them? Oh, sweet Gods.
[Hecuba uncovers the child’s body on the shield]

SOLDIER:
Your little grandson, that you may lay out and mourn.

HECUBA:
Oh, constables of heaven, how arrest this? Ah, God, look at his little limbs. Heaven’s protectors, how did he come by these? These great abrasions down his little legs?
.
SOLDIER:
No man was willing to put a sword to the child. They set him loose to crawl on the highest walls. He laughed to be where he had been forbidden. His mother watched as he saw a twittering throstle, warbling to guard its nest. As birds will, it attacked, and then flew outwards to draw the grinning invader from its eggs. He reached outwards for the fluttering mother and so fell downward, rebounding, rebounding against the slanting stone.

WOMAN:
All this Andromache saw?

SOLDIER:
Her new owner held her firmly facing the ramparts. Whether she closed her eyes, I cannot say.

HECUBA:
And all that time my words of admonishment echoing in her bejeweled ears, Hecuba chiding that she had not killed herself.

SOLDIER:
Neoptolemus took her off to Pthia. That’s Achilles’ son’s name, and that’s his kingdom.

HECUBA:
I know the name of the place where she is taken, but which of us knows where this little boy has gone? And what else is that, what else have they had you bring me, that lies across your outstretched supplicant arms?

SOLDIER:
This? This is the shield of his father, Hector. They thought you might want it to bury with the child.

HECUBA:
Oh, let me see. Are you sure this was not your doing? A kind thought on your part to atone for your chiding?

SOLDIER:
No, I wish I could say it was, but Menelaus or somebody in authority thought it up.

WOMAN:
The sorrow in your voice does you great justice. I think you are down deep a tender man.

SOLDIER:
You won’t find me cruel. I never am cruel to women.

HECUBA:
If you have water, let me wash his limbs.

SOLDIER:
I’ve water here. But they washed him before they sent me.

HECUBA:
Such gentlemen. But there is fresh blood here. He must have lived for some time to judge from its redness. Here, I’ll tear a rag from off the hem of my robe. Ah, yes, lay there, little kinglet, let grandmother bathe you. You ought to have grown to do my funeral honors, to lay a wreath upon my coffin, watched by the eyes of your caring, cautious mother as you mounted the steps ~ and your hair would have been cut for mourning. And instead, it is I who do this for you, stroke the small leg that would been long like your father’s, wash the fine brow that would have been lined like Priam’s — for we grow more to look like our forefathers as we weather–and this little hand, wide like the hand that held the walls of Troy until last sunset. Here, let me lay him onto the shield of Hector — still yielding the scent of his father’s battle-sweat. Why, there’s a ribbon I gave him to take to battle when he was just young, and not even knew Andromache. He carried his mother’s scarf to battle; until the end, he carried my scarf to battle. Lie on the shield. Here, cover him somewhat decently with this sad rag. From these little loins, this undeveloped acorn, will flow no Hectors, no sons with the hands of his father, no little girls with the proud long neck of his mother, no one, in the dimmest distances of descent, with a little of old Queen Hecuba’s dark-brown hair, or the line of my lips, quite full when I was young. Take him away. Bury him near the walls, as near as the heat and smoke will let you come. Bury the last of Troy near the first of Troy and let it all into anonymous humus molder. Take him away.

[The SOLDIER takes the child away on the shield]

WOMAN:
Oh, the Greeks. They came on seas of salt. On seas of blood they sail.

HECUBA:
And we sail with them. I hope he is kind to you.

WOMAN:
I know you do. I never believed your hatefulness.

HECUBA:
What is that flash of metal? Are they fighting among themselves? They come this way. Dear gods, do they mean to kill us women now?

WOMAN:
Let me look for you. No, it is one lone woman. Queen Hecuba, I think it is Cassandra!

HECUBA:
Cassandra? Still alive? Old Priam’s daughter! Still to be held, one piece of my flesh to me?

WOMAN:
Be brave, great queen. The spell is well upon her.

CASSANDRA:
[Entering with sword]
Ho, where is he? Where is the brilliant god? Where has he led me? Apollo, I am yours.

HECUBA:
Take the weapon away from her, before she hurts herself.

CASSANDRA:
Oh, it is dark, dark, women. When will the sun rise? When will this night’s eye open and show us the splendor of Troy, its stained stonework bathed in the light of Apollo’s celestial orbit? Oh, Troy has been baked by this sun like ceramic; it could not burn. Surely I had a bad dream, for I saw Troy burning black as garbage, human beings popping like grapes within it, my sister jammed into a soft fresh grave, my brothers dragged to pieces like logs in rivers of blood, their heads like boulders rolling when earthquakes dislodge great monuments, my father’s body dishonoring Apollo’s altar, my little nephew bounding in space and scraping the blood of the house of Troy across its faces, and my mother screeching blasphemy into smoke where vultures circled like servants at a banquet. This was a terrible dream, I tell you, women, and I am glad to know that my gift of prophecy, that bribe thrust on me by a lusty god, has finally failed. When this most Stygian blackness that has somehow overwhelmed a sinful earth is finally lifted, when Apollo, god of light, maintains his promise and rises to light the Hellespont, I will be glad to know my gift has failed me. Why is it always night? I know, I’ve wandered clear to the frozen North where sailors tell us the nights are half a year, the sun itself frozen like a great ship in a harbor, and life itself stops for two whole seasons, as life has stopped, as light has stopped. I know the Greek sails that so chafe on the horizon are my first false vision, and that that town like Troy seething out smoke from every stonework cranny, that is false, and the soldiers loading carts with gold and jewels, even the very vessels of the temples, that is a nightmare, and Andromache, bride of my brother, on a cart like so much more brave booty, jouncing down to be loaded as more cargo for a land called Pthia, that’s a delusion. Helen, in a tent of untanned cowhide, washing a mask of virtue on her face, that is a fantasy, for we always gave her the finest rooms and servants. And now I think I see my very mother, Hecuba, she, tall as a tower, always sheathed in palest yellow and rings on her fingers, but now bent, disordered, wearing rags, famished and feverish, her narrowed eyes and thin and fleshless lips fighting back wails of haggard lamentations to see Cassandra, Apollo’s mistress, babbling such madness. Speak, phantasm. Speak, mad simulacrum. This is a dream, and in dreams I hear my prophecies. This is the dream I dreamed last night, and now I seem to be walking through it, but men have always said my dreams are false, and now I hunger to agree with them. This is only a dream I’m having twice! Say that it is. Or, no, that would be a prophecy and my prophecies come true. So say this is real, dream images, and I will know you are all mere mirages. Apollo, if you ever loved me, send me a dream that the Greeks are sailing defeated, that Troy is not marked within by charred rubble and without by an infant’s blood, and I will believe it, though all men say nay!

HECUBA:
Cassandra, have you wandered all this night?

CASSANDRA:
Not all this night, for night is still upon us.

HECUBA:
Alas, my daughter, it is blank white day.

CASSANDRA:
You are having visions, you have inherited your daughter’s affliction.

HECUBA:
Cassandra, you are blinded by the sun.

CASSANDRA:
Alas, that is a symbol of my sickness.

HECUBA:
My daughter you are here, and in my arms.

CASSANDRA:
Fresh blood and death between us. Hold me nearer.

HECUBA:
I’ll take you in my robes to make you warm.

CASSANDRA:
And cover us with mourning black as night.

HECUBA:
There’s nothing left, my daughter, but each other.

CASSANDRA:
For how long, mother?

HECUBA:
Til the very end, for when we lose each other, then there’s nothing,

CASSANDRA:
If that were true, we should part with great pleasure.

HECUBA:
For all this morning I have been like the witches we tell about in stories, who change from witches to birds and fishes, animals and windclouds; I have been changing from woman to woman, Hecuba to Hecuba, pretending to be sad and not to be, wise and void of wisdom, numb, and no, not numb, but as sensitive as propriety would want me. All this morning, I have been trying on Hecubas. seeking for one that would fit this ceremony, and now I do not know what I am feeling, but I know that in my arms is my Cassandra, the last leaf left. Oh, help me to be Hecuba. She’s no one now if not Cassandra’s mother.

CASSANDRA:
Mother, I cannot offer you identity.

HECUBA:
Cease your ravings, daughter, and be gentle.

CASSANDRA:
Mother, the luxury of identity is woven of certainty. And what I dread is what I am certain of. If I could comfort you I would be certain, but if I am certain, I have no comfort for you.

HECUBA:
Do your mad dreamings not leave you for an instant?

CASSANDRA:
Yes. I see nothing now. But that is always the moment I am most fearful, for it always presages a fresh onslaught of visions.

HECUBA:
If you have true visions, why did you not warn father?

CASSANDRA:
Mother, I saw it all, yet held my counsel.

HECUBA:
It was your duty to share Apollo’s foresight.

CASSANDRA:
When I have done so, no one has ever believed me.

HECUBA:
Wicked girl, to withhold a deity’s warning.

CASSANDRA:
Would you have believed me then, if I said Achilles would break his strike against battle and come out so strongly he would rout the Trojans?

HECUBA:
If you had counseled calmly, you would have prospered.

CASSANDRA:
Or if I had said ingenious Odysseus would fill a giant horse with soldiers and leave it before our gates as a peace-offering, and that Trojans would drag it in and close behind it the gates they thought were holding armies out — and that in that night Odysseus and his minions would stream like equine blood out of that monster and lay the seeds of the waste they’ve made of Troy — who would believe me?–

HECUBA:
Cassandra, Cassandra, my daughter!

CASSANDRA:
–when none believe me if I so simply say, “Our side will lose this war?” Which all condemned fantastic! When I said, “All the line of Priam are dead?” and was condoned a madwoman? Then when I say that a Spartan whore and a wooden horse will be the beginning and end of the end of all, will I expect proud patriots, arrogant officers, who suppose it would take god’s lightening bolt to dislodge their rightful crowns, to accept that a hollow doll and a hollow horse, seduction and deception, are their conquerors? Mother! There is nothing myth-loving men hate like the truth! Oh, women all: I tell you age and drudgery wait for you, and yet I know there is not a one of you not sure that she will fool her captor, make him love her, find a pot of money, have an heir to millions, become a famous hetaera, rise to govern, and be forever young! Apollo’s curse was but an afterthought, mere recognition of a simple fact, that truest prophecies are the least believed! I tell you they will kill men down through time who dare speak facts exact — until they learn that no one ever listens; then they will turn and allow free speech to all ~ knowing it makes no difference, that the world rolls on in its dream, only adding to the awards it gives itself for being beautiful, innocent, and hurt, a new laurel: “I must be great; I am misunderstood!” Cassandra’s curse will be the seal of vanity.

HECUBA:
Daughter, daughter, you are overstrung. Rest on my bosom.

CASSANDRA:
I cannot hear your heart.

HECUBA:
There, there it is, you ancient lay beneath it.

CASSANDRA:
I cannot hear your heart.

HECUBA:
Quiet your sobs, they deafen you to solace.

CASSANDRA:
I tell you that I cannot hear your heart.

HECUBA:
The death you presage would be too gentle blessing. I know I will die in alien lands alone.

CASSANDRA:
I hear your words; I cannot hear your heart.

SOLDIER: [ENTERS]
Is that Cassandra?

CASSANDRA:
I see a waiting woman.

SOLDIER:
Is this Cassandra?

CASSANDRA:
I see a purple rug.

HECUBA:
Leave us; she’s weary
.
CASSANDRA:
I see a bath of blood.

SOLDIER:
I’m told to take her to my lord Agamemnon.

HECUBA:
Menelaeus’ brother?

CASSANDRA:
I see a swinging axe.

SOLDIER:
Yes, he wants her to go as his slave to Argos.

HECUBA:
He cannot have her.

CASSANDRA:
Mother, he never shall.

HECUBA:
Hush, cease your babbling. My daughter is too ill.

CASSANDRA:
Agamemnon is married to Helen’s sister.

SOLDIER:
Ill or well, he’s waiting in the harbor.\

CASSANDRA:
He gave her a daughter, pitiful Iphigenia.

SOLDIER:
The winds are waiting.

HECUBA:
Let them wait forever.

CASSANDRA:
The winds were lacking to bring the Greeks to Troy.

SOLDIER:
Queen Hecuba, you’ve used up all my patience.

CASSANDRA:
The winds demanded the death of Iphigenia.

HECUBA:
Soldier, be merciful; say you could not find her.

CASSANDRA:
Agamemnon cut her throat upon the altar!

SOLDIER:
There’s a terrible punishment if I fail to bring her.

CASSANDRA:
Clytemnestra, his wife, now waits to avenge her child!

HECUBA:
And a great reward I suppose if you deliver?

CASSANDRA:
Her axe swings wild and I am the second victim.

SOLDIER:
Do you blame men for making the best of necessity?

CASSANDRA:
Mother, be calm; the vengeance of Troy is crying.

HECUBA:
Hear what she says? He’ll whip you for bringing a mad girl.
CASSANDRA:
Mother, be blest. Why, the ships will sink by dozens!

HECUBA:
Hush, Cassandra; they’ll whip you for boding misfortune.

CASSANDRA:
Mother, be still. Why the gods are laughing in heaven.

HECUBA:
Oh, daughter, daughter, don’t leave me still raging your nonsense.

CASSANDRA:
Why, there will be wars among winners, death waiting for victors. Oh, I never knew vengeance was sweet, but it is, like an apple. Oh, sooner or later, Greeks rule the Mediterranean, but only after some centuries civil embloodiment and the disappointment of all their ideals of themselves, and then a brief golden age till they kill their great thinkers and sink into awful hypocrisy and in the end, the tale of the rulers of Troy will all alone live as the scale of dignity, beauty, honor, the ancient noble way.

SOLDIER:
Come with me, Cassandra; Agamemnon is waiting.

CASSANDRA:
The blow falls on him first; smothered in bath towels!

HECUBA:
Oh, gods, give her peace if you hear me.

CASSANDRA;
Mother, the axe swings!

HECUBA:
Sweet heavens!

CASSANDRA:
Mother, the sword thrusts! Menelaus will suffer!

HECUBA:
You see she’s mad! Menelaus will crucify Helen!

SOLDIER:
Come, stupid girl.

CASSANDRA:
Mother——this war began with a sacrificed daughter! [SOLDIER takes CASSANDRA away]

HECUBA:
No, the war began with a hateful strumpet, loathsome to men, to women obvious and cheap, it is she, she, she who brought this on us, not parents negligent in humanity from obeisance to the gods! They will not listen, or they will not believe, or will not believe because they do not listen? Oh, lies, lies, lies, what Cassandra says, what I say, what the oracles and history preach, Why not live legends, walk on well-laid myths, play predetermined roles, cry when we walk into walls that the walls are not there? But where, where in the songs the poets peddle is there a model for a woman ruined, hopeless, helpless, aimless, lost all the best things in the universe and only the worst to wait for and scant shreds of that? Oh, in this mist of smoke from raging Troy, I have lost the last sight of my daughters, my grandson, my city, my self, while I decide what mask a queen would wear if such a blow could hit her ~ and it has! I know now who to be ! I am Queen Hecuba! I know what she would think, what she would do! The queen I was last night casts off this morning!

MENELAEUS: [ENTERS]
Where is she now? The ships are all tugging their anchors. My soldiers are stiff at attention. There’s just onee execution and we can go home. Where is the criminal? Where is the adulterous woman? Where is Helen? What have you done with my wife?

HECUBA:
Menelaus, ruler of Argos’ strand, Queen Hecuba thus welcomes you to Troy.

MENELAEUS:
You! I thought we’d killed all of you. Where is Helen? I’m here to take her back.

HECUBA:
You’d take her back after all she’s done? My daughter said you would, I called her foolish.

MENELAEUS:
I meant to retrieve her.

HECUBA:
Your ship waits to sail her home?

MENELAEUS:
Are you mad? Do you think I’d let that hussy enter the halls she slimed betraying me with your son? I’ll have her stoned!

HECUBA:
Well, that’s a sure way to bring her to your presence. Cry it louder. Helen, he’s here to stone you!

MENELAEUS:
Send her out. women, or I’ll bake you all in your hovels!

HECUBA:
What a relief! And we thought we must live with Greeks.

MENELAEUS:
Listen, you ancient baggage. If one of my chiefs had not the fancy to see you scrubbing his privy, I’d tear your ligaments out with these two hands.

HECUBA:
Speak louder, master, so all the poets may hear.

MENELAEUS:
You’re right. I forgot myself. The war is over. The barbarism, the horror, the killings, are done.

HECUBA:
All killings but one, you mean.

MENELAEUS:
You’re bloodthirsty as those fools who burned your city.

HECUBA:
Are you not here burning for Helen’s blood?

MENELAEUS:
I’m not. It’s only the law of the land I fought for.

HECUBA:
How many words Greeks have for killing women.

MENELAEUS:
You are not queen of Troy today, Queen Hecuba; I do not have to answer to you now. Old woman, step aside. I have no quarrel with you. Leave me alone. This is an historic moment that men will judge me for til time’s interment. Helen! Tarry no longer ! Come and confront me!

HECUBA:
Helen, come face the brave new king of Troy!

HELEN: [ENTERS, ravishing]
Forgive the delay. I was not told an exact time. Hello, Menelaus. Thank god you’ve come at last.

MENELAEUS:
Take your hands from me. Look at you, shameless harlot.

HELEN:
One does the best one can in times of war; have I neglected something in my toilet? Am I not beautiful enough to greet my savior?

MENELAEUS:
Savior! What are you saying? I don’t want to hear it. Helen, Helen of Troy these long ten years –

HELEN:
Oh, God, you don’t know. Oh, please don’t make me tell you what I’ve been through. Help me pretend it’s all over, even pretend it never really happened. Open your arms and take your Helen home.

MENELAEUS:
That I should see this sight, of all possibilities, you, who betrayed my trust, our marriage vows, a woman’s oath before Hestia and great Hera, and every shred of decency that keeps us from being mere animals bellowing, raging on mountains, you should be standing there trembling and praying swift vengeance, and what do I see? Among these ragged women, you in a gown of swan-white, bows like sparrows barely holding your mantle on your shoulders, a chased, enameled peacock’s tail medallion glittering between you breasts, and Trojan earrings bold and vulgar like your bovine passions, dangling among your curls, ash-smoked and camomiled into unnatural blondness. What bribes and blackmails have kept you in comfort here, where I’ve left you waiting all this intolerable night to show contempt for you? I thought to find you, hoped to find you, shuddering, frigid and frightened, lice-infested, thin, wrapped in some bloody mantle from dead Paris, that witch’s issue you talked into taking you here!

HELEN:
Husband, I have many friends in Troy, who hated this dreadful war and brought me comforts, offerings really to you, to show you honor by keeping me safe and happy. Indeed, I can’t think why this whole war was necessary, since all of the people of Troy praised and adored me, wept when I’d walk above them, flinging me flowers, wishing me back with you and safe at home.

MENELAEUS:
The people of Troy longed for your restoration?

HELEN:
They wished me happiness, they said their happiness was in my wishes. What could that mean but that they wished fulfillment of my wish to see you?

MENELAEUS:
If this was true – not that I’d ever believe it – then why did you stay for ten long years with Paris?

HELEN:
Oh, I don’t know. You know I am slow and stupid . It must be because this woman and her husband insisted I stay to please their spoiled prince darling.

HECUBA:
You bitch! With every breath I wished you gone!

HELEN:
Then why did you never plead for me with your husband? Or why, when you did plead for my death, did you not consider instead that my death or my staying here -which were the same misery – would bring this ten years’ tumult on your people?

HECUBA:
Monster! Your happiness with my lovely Paris was legendary! You walked with him past our towers, waving and smiling and singing and blowing kisses.

HELEN:
And what would you do to me if I had opened the hot tears in my heart and cried out “save me?” I would have disappeared then altogether, locked in the palace. I know it! Husband, help me, silence this woman, take Helen back to Sparta!

HECUBA:
Menelaus, do not believe that fiction! Hold to your first resolve! Wipe out this monster!

MENELAEUS:
Helen, these blandishments are unavailing. Strumpet you are, adulteress, whore of Paris, willful estrangee from your lawful husband, fugitive from the contract of your marriage, and perjurer now to add to all your crimes. Helen, you are condemned for these malefactions to be taken now and stoned before my generals!

HELEN:
Before your generals?

MENELAEUS:
Yes.

HELEN:
You mean before my suitors?

MENELAEUS:
Yes.

HELEN:
Before the army that I conquered for you?

MENELAEUS:
You conquered for me? You take claim for my power?

HELEN:
Oh, what were you but Agamemnon’s brother? Not winner, but inheritor of your kingdom, sitting back and piling up your income while Agamemnon and all the others, warriors, protected us and so increased your power? Until the day I chose you for my husband, what legendary feat had you accomplished? And then all my contending suitors, ready to join in war against the winner, were by whose smiles persuaded rather, husband , to join in courtly union as your allies, sworn to forever guard fair Helen’s husband, to show their true and knightly fealty to me by swearing to come when you should call for power?

MENELAEUS:
If I was so weak, why out of them all did you choose me?

HELEN:
Oh, husband, can you doubt I must have loved you?

HECUBA:
Menelaus, her traps are obscenely obvious. Murder her now before you sink in her bosom!

MENELAEUS:
Quiet, both of you! Then why are those very warriors at my command arrayed and waiting for us, waiting out this smoking sun in armor to see your horrible formal obviation?

HELEN:
Why, husband, with me dead their bond is broken and they must no longer serve Menelaus!

HECUBA:
Ah, God, Menelaus, you stand there as she pins you!

MENELAEUS:
You think they will follow me if I do not avenge them?

HELEN:
You think they will follow a king who kills a woman?

MENELAEUS:
They follow the king who brings them fame and treasure.

HELEN:
They follow a king who takes the treasure home!

MENELAEUS:
If I give in they will think me weak and stupid.

HELEN:
Clever enough to win me, clever enough to take me back, clever enough to listen to me, husband? Warriors love romance, not stirring tragedy! Menelaus reclaims his Helen, saves his woman, erases enemies, holds sway over heroes, oh, Menelaus, I’ve dreamed so of this moment!

HECUBA:
Dreamed of it in my pretty prince’s bed!

HELEN:
Oh, husband, make her silence that nightmare vision!

MENELAEUS:
Helen, this is too grave to be decided in a hasty moment. Go back to the camp. Your women are waiting for you. Then I will come and punish.

HELEN:
Yes, Menelaus, go forth, before me, tell them I humbly come behind you like a servant, and tell them what you’ve decided. You just might tell them that if they would lay blame for this sad story that has ended in victory, legend, mythic glory for all the Achaean Greeks, well then start blaming by blaming Aphrodite who made me lovely – lovely enough that they all wished to win me – jealous Athena who hypnotized the Trojans and made them, perhaps against their wishes, hold me, romantic Apollo who fanned their dreams of fame, and Paris and Hector and Priam, their valiant victims – before they suggest to the world that a wanton woman had power to rule them all for one whole decade and send the mightiest cities to ruinous war — but tell them what you will, of course. I wonder if they’d rather think about it on the voyage and see all facets of a complex situation? I wouldn’t know; I am only a grateful woman, happy at last to be in the hands of Greek justice. Oh, go, my husband, I won’t have you see me crying.

MENELAEUS:
Crying? Why are you crying? Do you fear me?

HELEN:
Fear you? The conqueror of the Trojan power? Oh, who would not, when you work your will on thousands?

MENELAEUS:
You’ve confused the whole issue. I leave you to join my generals. God knows what I’ll tell them. [He exits]

HELEN:
God knows what he will.

HECUBA:
Helen, you piece of pus, you are a groveling, lying slave who will never be any greater!

HELEN:
A slave that knows she’s a slave can rule her master; a slave who believes she’s a queen will be beaten and broken.

HECUBA:
Now, if there are gods they have brought this into being.

HELEN:
If there are not, I would not fool with earthly powers. And if you think that the Greek’s are fools, great mother, remember what men began this war and fought it no matter what cost of orphanage or starvation it brought to their children and women. If any vision, if any shrine of patriotic ardor still warmed your heart before you insulted Helen, let this last thought stifle your joy forever. The men of Greece did not make war alone; all men are the same; yours fought for Helen , too. [SHE exits]

HECUBA:
Now listen to this body beat ifs blood.
Listen to it pound against my walls.
I must endure this unsignificant drumming
if I choose to endure. But must I choose?
Cassandra said I’d die on Trojan soil.
Did she mean that these shanks will not support me
to those gangplanks thrust out now like wolves’ tongues–
or that any earth that holds my corpse is Troy?
You, woman, come! I see that soldier running
that looked on you with longing twice today.

[Soldier and Woman enter from opposite sides of the stage.]

SOLDIER:
Here now. All of you come now. It’s all been decided. The wooden ships of the Greeks are pulling like ponies, snapping the rotting ropes of ten years’ bondage. All of you women, down to docks in lines.

WOMAN:
Soldier, soldier, save me from the whips.

SOLDIER:
You, too. Get into line. Don’t bother me.

WOMAN:
Soldier, soldier, you said you fancied me.

SOLDIER:
It’s all been changed by orders from above. We common men get loot instead of women.

WOMAN:
Soldier, soldier, look into my eyes. I am a woman. I am full of love. I can make your life as great as kings’.

SOLDIER:
Prisoner, move on. Don’t force me to be rough. All of you now, come line up.
Follow me! [HE exits]

WOMAN:
Hecuba, queen of Troy, what will I do? The world is lost, and you are all I have.

HECUBA:
You do not have me now. You never did.
We are no better than rapacious Greeks.
Stand up. Obey the Gods. Obey the Greeks.
Turn to the noon-gold sea.
Ah, god, that sound!
Is it the royal tower of tall Troy
collapsing into ashes like a log?
Enough! Do not look back. Do not look up.
Life is too short, too long.
The Greek gods wait.

[Shoving the Woman before her, Hecuba EXITS.]

CURTAIN

5 Responses to “THE TROJAN WOMEN – Play by Robert Patrick”

  1. RESUME/Links to Online Works « Robert Patrick's Personal Blog Says:

    [...] THE TROJAN WOMEN (5 women, 2 men)http://robertpatrickpersonal.wordpress.com/2009/07/03/the-trojan-women-play-by-robert-patrick/ [...]

  2. ROBERT PATRICK BIO by Wendell Stone « Quit Says:

    [...] [...]

  3. Patti Haynes Says:

    As I played Hecuba in the first presentation of this play, I can honestly say that this is a wonderful play that can be done in a small space very effectively. We played to a packed house every night. There was not a dry eye to be seen. What an experience! Even the costuming was generalized. Most of ours was somewhat modern and some was not. Buy the premise, buy the bit, and the audience bought it!
    Yes, a lot to learn, but well worth the effort!!

  4. ONLINE VIDEOS, SCRIPTS, SCREENPLAYS, AND SLIDEHOWAS « Quit Says:

    [...] THE TROJAN WOMEN (5 women, 2 men)http://robertpatrickpersonal.wordpress.com/2009/07/03/the-trojan-women-play-by-robert-patrick/ [...]

  5. ONLINE VIDEOS & SCRIPTS OF MY PLAYS « Quit Says:

    [...]   MORE PLAYSCRIPTS     FULL-LENGTH THE TROJAN WOMEN (5 women, 2 men)http://robertpatrickpersonal.wordpress.com/2009/07/03/the-trojan-women-play-by-robert-patrick/     ONE_ACTS   THE WARHOL MACHINE (1967) (Characteristically eccentric Caffe Cino Play. 2 [...]

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