March 18, 2016 at 12:06 am #648
Helen is a popular figure portrayed in much classical Greek literature. In Encomium of Helen, classical rhetorician/sophist, Gorgias flexes his rhetorical skill and defends Helen. Please review sections 2-8 of Gorgias’ text, keeping in mind his characterizations of Helen. Click here for a free downloadable version.
Euripides’ Helen provides many different characterizations of Helen from various points of view, leaving it up to the audience to decide whether his intent was to praise or blame Helen. Comparing Euripides’ characterization of Helen to Gorgias’, explain in a 300-400 word response whether Euripides’ Helen should be read as praise, blame, or some combination of the two.
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- This topic was modified 2 years ago by Gwen Gruber.
March 22, 2016 at 1:30 pm #672
I understood Helen’s character in the play Helen to be praised. In all of the other plays and contexts we have learned about Helen she has been completely at fault for the fall of Troy, and the death of many Greeks. Until this play Helen has been depicted as an unfaithful traitor who is only concerned for her own well being. This play contrasts those perceptions explicitly. The war is not her fault since she did not voluntarily leave Greece with Paris, she remained faithful to Menelaus despite a royal suitor, and 17 years of loneliness. The play Helen outlines her faithfulness in many ways. First she is clear she has never sacrificed the dignity of their marriage. Another way she demonstrates her faithfulness is she comes up with a plan to free herself, Menelaus and his men from Egypt. If this plan were to fail she suggests they kill each other to protect the sanctity of their marriage. This contradicts the preconceived notions of Helen’s Character I had conjured from the previous texts. In The Trojan Women Helen is seen as narcissistic and blames everyone else but herself for the outcome of the war, and in the Iliad she is seen as a traitor who has not only been unfaithful to her marriage but also her country. Withholding the play Helen, the character Helen is depicted as the reason for all of the treachery and overall a despicable character, however, This play gives her an alibi and excuses any fault she was previously given by suggesting she was taken away to Egypt against her will and a twin was conjured out of thin air to replace her. Not only does the play excuse her treason to Greece but it also emphasizes her enduring faithfulness to Menelaus. Therefore it is evident the play Helen was written with the purpose to redeem and praise the Helen character.
March 22, 2016 at 8:30 pm #679
In all of the plays, Helen is seen as selfish, only caring about herself and the reason for all of the downfall of Troy. Helen is seen as a runaway wife to have her self-pleasure with Paris. Now that we get a clearer understanding on Helen in Euripides, she is not the way that most perceived her to be. She did not elope to Troy, she actually was rescued and protected by king Proteus in Egypt. It was not her fault in the war because she did not leave Greece with paris on her own terms. She was not sacrificed and she came up with a plan to free Menelaus and his men. That speaks volumes, to which she was judged on being selfish so, she seems like an entirely different character in the play Helen. This play “Helen” contradicts everything that she was about in the first few plays that we read. Every mistake of fault that she had, was covered up in the play Helen. So, it is clear that the play Helen was written for us to get a better understanding of who she really was.
March 22, 2016 at 8:41 pm #680
All of the other plays we’ve read, Helen is portrayed as a selfish character that only cares for herself and she is the sole reason for the destruction of Troy. In Euripides the way that Helen is portrayed is different than the way we’ve seen her in prior readings. In prior readings we’ve become so used to putting the blame on her for the destruction of Troy and the death of thousands of people, yet the way she is portrayed by Euripides and Gorgias is entirely different.
Euripides starts out the play with a dialogue with Helen explaining what actually happened. Helen is actually in Egypt where she was put by Zeus. Helen goes on to tell that Hera made an exact replica of her and she switched their places. All the chaos that has happened is because of the shadow of Helen. While Helen is in Egypt she says how she has stayed true to Menelaus no matter who persuaded her never breaking her marriage vows. Euripides depicts Helen as a trustworthy wife unwilling to wave her devotion to her husband. He shows Helen as someone that is pure and she is asking for forgiveness, making us all change the way that we see her. One of the moments that made me see Helen in a different light is her first encounter with Menelaus. She tried to convince him that she is the real Helen despite him saying that his wife is another and that is cannot be her. When the servant comes to tell Menelaus that his wife has vanished into thin air, he finally believes Helen and he is overwhelmed with joy to know that she was telling the truth. I believe that the picture Euripides paints of Helen is one that tries to make us see her from a different light as maybe everything that happened isn’t her fault, especially since it was her “shadow” that had a play in the destruction of Troy.
March 22, 2016 at 8:56 pm #681
In Euripides version of Helen I would say the whole purpose of the story is to give Helen the credit she deserves. Helen has been blamed in all the other works we have read so far in the course for the Trojan War. Helen has been portrayed as dishonest, unfaithful, and like she left her country behind to move to Egypt. In Euripides Helen, Helen is shown as smart, cunning, and loyal to not only her country but her husband the entire time. Helen in all the other works has been made to take all the blame for the war and all the decisions when in reality it was all because Aphrodite promised Paris the most beautiful women. The plot twist in the story of her having a “doppelganger” was also very interesting to me, and how the real Helen never left and the doppelganger was the one who was actually taken to Troy. Gorgias version is also trying to show the better side of Helen. Gorgias version talks about blaming it on fate and that Helen had nothing to do with it actually.
The Gods had most of the “blame” for the war since they were the ones responsible for the capture of Helen. If the three Goddesses didn’t want to know who was the most beautiful and the best then Helen would never have been offered to Paris and the Trojan War would never had happened in the first place.
After reading both pieces I think they were trying to show that Helen was never to blame for the actions that took place for her leaving with Paris, since she would have never went willingly on her own. I think these works helped others to understand that it was never Helen’s fault and she took a lot of blame from the other stories.
March 23, 2016 at 12:39 am #715
I feel that Euripides’s Helen is a characterization of Helen that is to be praised. Ultimately Helen is freed of guilt in this play. Most of the guilt and blame is placed on the divines (which we have observed as being a pattern throughout Euripides’s plays). Here we see Aphrodites as being the main culprit as she started the Trojan War by giving a married woman to a “barbarian”. In this play we see the unique perspective of Hera’s saving Helen’s faithfulness to her husband by constructing an ethereal phantom Helen, so that she would not soil the bed of her husband. Be that as it may, this perspective has worked to relieve Helen of guilt and place her as a victim of the god’s demise. I compare this to the Gorgias’s Encomnium of Helen as having similar arguments. One of Gorgias’s arguments was that Helen was fated to go with Paris and could not resist the fate of the God’s. In essence this is the picturesque representation of such an argument, however, it goes a step further by saying that the “real” Helen never even left with Paris. This act alone is crucial in playing a role of Helen’s innocence. In the Encomnium of Helen we observe pure sophistry as means of rhetorical argument (arguing for the sake of arguing), yet in Euripides Helen we actually see evidence of her innocence. Not only is she proven innocent and victimized in his play, but she is seen as a noble and loyal woman who in essence is full of anima. It is here that she is seen as being the ideal Greek woman and closely resembles Homer’s Penelope. Despite numerous attempts by Egyptian king Theoclymenos to marry Helen, she remained faithful and steadfast in her marriage. This resilience apparently lasted seventeen years until her husband’s return. Her faithfulness was expressed by her willingness to lay in a bed of straw for the allotted time as a suppliant to Theoclymenos’s father. This sort of loyalty is admirable in both pan Hellenic and post modern societies, as Helen was obviously in a tough situation out of her control. On an end note, the gods role in the fate of humans (Helen in particular) is vividly described in the end as the Chorus explains that ultimately the god’s waver like the waves in the ocean and fate is inescapable and ever changing. I felt that this ending really helped to support Helen’s helplessness and praiseworthiness in the play.
April 6, 2016 at 11:00 pm #825
In my opinion, I believe that Helen’s character in Helen was definitely one of praise. In every other play that we’ve read Helen has been seen as sneaky, selfish, conniving, villainous, and ultimately the reason behind the Trojan War. In the Euripides’ Trojan Women, Helen is seen as selfish, barbaric, and narcissistic in a sense. She also blames everyone, except herself, for the fall of Troy. Even in Homer’s Iliad, Helen is selfish and self-indulging.
Euripides’ Helen gave Helen somewhat of a clean slate by freeing her of all of her wrong doings. This play combats preconceived notions that the may have of Helen. Euripides even allows Helen to prove herself in a sense. She is the one who comes up with a plan for her and Menelaus to escape Egypt and safely return to Sparta. She even agrees to die with Menelaus if Theonoe had not agreed to help them escape. This play allows Helen to shoe her faithfulness and loyalty to Menelaus. She also informs Menelaus that even though she has been stuck in Egypt, she has not given her body to anyone else, thus protecting their marriage bed,. Even before Menelaus’ arrival to Egypt, Helen is seen in a heroic light as she urges Teucer to leave Egypt quickly so that he isn’t killed when he comes in search of Theonoe.
I definitely feel that Euripides’ Helen, allows Helen’s character to be seen in a new and true light. It allows the reader to see Helen in a way that is much more clear without the negative connections that have been made between her and the events in the previous readings.
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