April 2, 2016 at 1:00 pm #755
Imagine you are a mythographer, such as the 2nd century BCE scholar Apollodorus, compiling lists and biographies of various figures from mythology, and you are working on encyclopedia entry about Helen. Examine the account presented in Homer’s Odyssey Book 4, where Telemachus meets with Helen and Menelaus on his journey to find his father Odysseus. You may find particularly interesting the part in which Menelaus describes his own nostos and asks Proteus about the nostoi of his fellow Greeks. (Click here for a free downloadable copy of The Ancient Hero in 24 Hours Sourcebook, which includes Odyssey Scroll iv.)
In 300-400 words, describe how you as mythographer would reconcile the Odyssey‘s account of what happens to Helen after the Trojan War with what happens to her according to Euripides’ Orestes. In other words, how do these stories interconnect and how can they coexist? Further, how do the accounts of the Odyssey and the Orestes play color your view of Euripides’ Helen play? Do these versions change your perspective on the Helen?
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April 5, 2016 at 7:35 pm #774
In the past few class sessions and discussions we can see that that Homer’s view of Helen contradicts Euripde’s account in multiple ways. In Euripides Orestes, Helen is ashamed and feel dishonored about what had become of her and also for receiving the blame for the Trojan War. Families across her home land cursed her because they believed she was the reason their loved ones had died. When we see Helen in Homer’s version she is more than welcoming to Telemachus. To me this came off as over confident and overwhelming as she interrogates her husband. As we read on in Homer’s Odyssey, Book IV, Helen seems to fade out of the story suttley. We see Helen dining with her husband and his shipmates and in a way she isn’t written out of the story but isn’t spoken of again. In Euripides she receives a immortality and seems to escape the scene with a much easier outcome because she is the daughter of Zeus. If I was to assume the mindset of a mythographer I would say that both stories are completely opposite and there is no definite way of connecting the two or justifying that they could coexist. Helen is written in two completely different ways in both stories. When it comes down to facts, there just isnt enough detail in either story to really understand what conclusions we can come to. As for my own personal feelings on the matter they have not changed from when we read both the stories. I still believe there is not enough written about either to understand key links between the two.
April 5, 2016 at 9:26 pm #781
Apollo comes through and turns the whole story in another course, by and by. Presently Helen is without a worry in the world any blame and even worshipped as a star in the heavenly body alongside Hera herself! Is that equity or Euripides variant of “all is well that finishes well”? Indeed, even Pylades is lucky to have the capacity to wed Electra now, which Orestes had guaranteed him; yet appeared to be weak at the time. These transgressions genuinely guard Helen and clear her, and Orestes, of any fault. I can hardly imagine how Helen has encountered no demise or even a negligible harm as of right now! At the point when the worker who got away Orestes ran out and recounted the narrative of what had simply happened, I rapidly saw the punch line of Helen circumventing coming; extremely antique Mr. Euripides. However that might be what he expected from the beginning. This accommodates Helens purity and trustworthiness as never having really did anything incorrectly.
Euripides proceeds on endeavoring to pick up sensitivity for Helen in his written work of Orestes. Being that Orestes was an infant toward the start of the Trojan War, it is protected to say that this play happens numerous years after is has finished. All through the length of the play, Helen is both grieving the lost of her sister and tolerating fault for being the reason for the Trojan War (on the off chance that you missed the reminder we are back to stating that she was really there). She is embarrassed about what she has done and declines to permit herself to be seen by others so as to keep away from their examination. What I didn’t concur with was the demonstration that in the wake of all that she had done, when her dead is at last composed into the play she is taken to be among the Gods since they at long last need to recall the Zeus is really her dad and not Tyndareus.
April 5, 2016 at 10:31 pm #786
I must say that I no longer know how to feel about Helen. On one hand she is represented as an eternal symbol of beauty and charming enchantment and on the other she is fruit the poisonous tree, a beautiful evil. During my entire study of Greek literature, I had known Helen as the woman who had abandoned her Greek husband, Menelaus, and ran away to Troy with the handsome prince Paris. The entire Trojan war was, in my opinion, an attempt to bring her home. So, when Euripides wrote a play that portrayed a faithful Helen who never went to Troy, but instead a phantom did, and she had been patiently waiting for her husband in Egypt; I didn’t know how to feel. The Helen we see in Homer’s Odyssey is completely different. She is more confident and doesn’t seem to be affected by the Trojan War as much as it seems to torment her in Helen. In Oestes Helen doesn’t seem to be bothered either way again but still very aware of the damage she has caused. The Helen portrayed in the Odyssey is much less relatable and can even make the reader less sympathetic. The only connection I can draw is that IF Helen were to really happen then it would make sense that all of these plays happened at different points in time and between the phantom Helen and real Helen. The Helen that we are less sympathetic towards is the phantom Helen (Odyssey) and the Helen who we feel sorry for or who shows actual remorse is the real Helen (Oestes and Helen). This assumption could just come from the different views of Helen portrayed by the playwrights OR there could have been an agreement that this is what Helen was really like and that’s why she is portrayed as such. In a nutshell, Helen is just misunderstood based on the different times in her life and the Helen we thought we knew was not the real Helen and we don’t find that out until the end.
April 5, 2016 at 10:59 pm #789
In Orestes, Helen is still used by the characters around her. This time, Orestes, Electra, and Pylades seek revenge on Menelaus and decide to do so by killing Helen. Fortunately for our girl, Helen is favored by the gods. By the end of the play, Apollo reveals Helen has been placed among the stars to be revered – just as she was revered on earth, but now she will be safe from harm. Still, the conspirators succeed in a way, as Menelaus is separated from his wife: “Menelaus must marry again, since the gods by means of Helen’s loveliness drove Phrygians and Greeks together in war and made them die, that earth might be lightened of her heavy burden of humanity. So much for Helen” (1638-43).
In the Odyssey, too, Helen is the cause of things she has no control over. For example, Menelaus learns of his death:
“As for your own end, Menelaos, fostered son of Zeus, you shall not die in horse-pasturing Argos, but the gods will take you to the Elysian plain, which is at the ends of the world. There fair-haired Rhadamanthus reigns, and men lead an easier life than anywhere else in the world, for in Elysium there falls not rain, nor hail, nor snow, but Okeanos breathes ever with a West wind that sings softly from the sea, and gives fresh life to all men. This will happen to you because you have married Helen, and are Zeus’ son-in-law” (560-570).
The gods favor Menelaus because they favor Helen. Another difference is Helen is not an intended murder victim in this play; Telemakhos is.
The controversies surrounding the character Helen are many and varied, and often conflicting. Even her parentage is contested, with many claiming Zeus, some say Nemesis and Zeus, and others say Leda – according to Apollodorus’s library book 3. Therefore, we must assume Helen is merely a mythological figure who is used by the gods, mortals, and authors alike to fit any role in any play.
April 5, 2016 at 11:47 pm #794
When examining Helen during and after the time of the Trojan War, we have to remember that in Euripides’ Helen we learn that the Helen that left Menelaus, which subsequently caused the Trojan War and all the death that came with it, is a mere image of her – it is not the real Helen. Menelaus does not reunite with the “real” Helen until he goes to Egypt over a decade later, so, chronologically speaking, anything that “Helen” does is not necessarily representative of her until we see her in Egypt.
That being said, the Helen we saw in the Trojan War – the image of Helen – did not seem to care about what she had caused, whereas the real Helen is more sympathetic and even shoulders the burden for deaths in the Trojan War, despite her innocence. Following the assumption we made earlier, we can then assume that the Helen Telemachus meets in the Odyssey is actually the less sympathetic image. This explains why Helen does not seem to care that she was the cause of the Trojan War.
While this seems to be the best explanation to me, we should bear in mind that mythology is open to variation, and we should not expect 100% consistency – especially between different authors. Despite this, I believe thinking about Helen in this way provides a sufficient explanation for her differing portrayals.
April 6, 2016 at 10:32 pm #824
`Helen’s fate after the Trojan War is hotly contested as seen by the three very different texts Odyssey, Book 4, Euripides’ Helen, and Euripides’ Orestes. The oldest of the traditions comes from the Odyssey, Book 4, in which we see that Helen has indeed made it back to Sparta unscathed with Menelaus, who saved her from execution from her own people. The Helen we experience here displays “metis,” making her much astute and useful to Telemachus’ cause than Menelaus. Despite her other shortcomings as a wife and woman of Greece, this text does display Helen with a more positive efficacious nature that acts as redeeming quality. Euripides’ Helen takes this positive characterization of Helen to a completely new level by attempting to assuage her of any guilt in the matter of her presence in Troy. In this play, Helen continually asserts that it was an “image” of her that went off to Troy with Paris and not her true person. This version of Helens return can certainly be reconciled with those found in the Odyssey. Helens acclimation and acceptance back into Spartan life becomes more understandable.
While Book 4 of the Odyssey and the Helen, seem reconcilable, Euripides’ Orestes, really throws a wrench in the cohesion of these multi-forms. Helen returns to Sparta a mere 6 days after Clytemnestra was murdered, which definitely does not coincide with the timeline in the Helen, in which it took Menelaus seven years just to find her in Egypt. Furthermore, this Helen makes no attempt to apologize or excuse her behavior leading up to the Trojan War, reaffirming the contemptuous and wanton aspects of her character that make her so villainous in the eyes of the Greeks. In part, there is no real way to reconcile the many multi-forms of Helen’s character and her fate after the Trojan War, and I would wager it is by design. Having such a malleable character, gives and author or playwright an invaluable tool for which to further a plot. If you need a loathsome character, use Helen. If you need a pitiable character, use Helen. It is because these deliberately varied traditions that allow her to be such a versatile and famous character.
April 6, 2016 at 11:40 pm #826
Helen, though being one of the most commonly recurring characters in Euripides works, also seems to be the most inconsistent character in the works. In Homer’s telling of the Odyssey, Helen seems to be mostly devoid of any personality and we only really see her follow customs as she warmly accepts Telemachus into her household. She doesn’t seem to have any sense of guilt about being the cause of the destruction of an entire city or being the cause of a massive loss of life of Greek soldiers, or the fact that many men weren’t able to see their families for over ten years. This contrasts greatly with Euripides’s depiction of her in Helen, as she seems genuinely disturbed and depressed upon hearing the news of her friends’ deaths and she really seems to carry the weight of a person that caused a decade-long war. With that said, Euripedes seeks to redeem her as a person by making her completely innocent of any sins, as he has Helen whisked away by Hera to Egypt and she never cheats on her husband with Paris at all. It is likely that this Helen would have been bothered if Menelaus had been unfaithful to her considering she’d remained loyal to him for ten years despite never having seen him nor known if he were alive the entire duration of the war, but the Helen in The Odyssey doesn’t seem bothered by the fact that Menelaus takes on a mistress and has a son by her. This is likely due to the fact that he was expected to have a son to take over as ruler and Helen was rendered incontinent by divine intervention after the birth of their one and only child, their daughter
The Helen in Orestes, however, seems to be aware of her guilt as the cause of the Trojan war which explains her fear to visit Clytemnestra’s grave at the beginning of the play. With that said, she doesn’t seem to have nearly as much remorse as the Helen in the epynonymous play. Considering that Menelaus and Helen are celebrating the marriage between Hermoine and Pyrrhus, it is impossible for Orestes and The Odyssey to coexist. According to the play by Euripides, by the time Hermione and. Pyrrhus get married, Helen has already been deified.
Reading The Odyssey didn’t really change my view of Helen because Homer made it quite clear in The Iliad that Helen was guilty in his telling. However, Orestes really seems to solidify her innocence in Euripides’s eyes as her transformation into a constellation by the gods really serves as a way to depict the gods accepting that they made a mistake and that they didn’t want Helen to be killed because of it (which leaves you to wonder why they didn’t prevent the war in the first place.)
I apologize in advance for any weird formatting, I’m typing this on my iPad because my computer broke and this is all I have left.
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