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Helen

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3.69  ·  Rating details ·  918 ratings  ·  71 reviews
Among the legends of ancient Greece, there is perhaps no story more compelling than that of Helen. Her surpassing beauty was said to have launched the Greek fleet of a thousand ships to Troy. No woman was so adored and so hated. She was seen as both prize and scapegoat, the promise of bliss and the assurance of doom.
Hardcover, 112 pages
Published April 1st 1986 by University of Massachusetts Press (first published -412)
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3.69  · 
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 ·  918 ratings  ·  71 reviews


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David Sarkies
Apr 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of Greek Drama
Recommended to David by: My Classical Studies Lecturer.
Shelves: tragedy
Rewriting the Trojan War
28 April 2013

This is probably one of my all time favourite Greek plays, namely because Euripides takes a well known Greek epic and completely turns it on its head. I actually studied this particular play in Greek and Roman Drama and the focus of the lectures was on the idea of appearance and reality. It seems that this is something that was explored back then as it is now in the post-modern movement, which makes me think that there is nothing modern about post-modernism.
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Phoenix2
Sep 21, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: classics
Shelves: classics
One of my favourite classical, ancient writings. The story is very interesting, a twist of the classical tale. The ending is particularly thrilling, as you are anticipating the recognition scene.
Elena
Mar 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: greci-e-latini
I had heard about a version of the myth according to which Helen was never actually kidnapped by Paris because the gods had hidden her and replaced her with 'her image', but had never been able to locate the source. This tragedy by Euripides recounts what happened to the real Helen, so blamed for being the cause of the Trojan war when in reality she never even met Paris. I loved it.
Steven
Many tales might be clear, and yet not true.
The story of Helen that has her sailing off to Troy with seducer Paris, leaving behind her husband and home, is clear; but is it true? In Helen, Euripides provides an alternative version of Helen’s tale, one that was suggested by Herodotus some thirty years earlier. Helen never went to Troy. Instead, after rivalry among gods over Paris, Hermes whisks her off to Egypt while a phantom takes Helen’s shape to accompany Paris to Troy. While Troy falls, He
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Inkspill
Euripides takes the lesser known alternative story of Helen of Troy for this play. Between the chorus and Helen’s soliloquy I discovered how Paris, unknown to him, took Helen’s phantom to Troy whilst the real one is kept in Egypt. Most of the drama is driven by Helen lamenting how she is blamed for the death of many soldiers when her phantom, a ploy devised by the gods, is to blame. The rest is driven by keeping the new king of Egypt, Theoclymenus’s, lust at arm’s length. With his father, Proteu ...more
Dorotea
Building upon Stesychorus’ version, in this play Helen is in Egypt and has been there for the entire Trojan War, while the Helen at Troy was only an ειδολον, so we know right from the prologue that things are not as they appear to be and as a result the whole play is contradictory. Segal counts more than 30 times in which appearance is contrasted with reality and you can interpret it you want: haste might explain imperfection, or it could be a signal that we could be going towards the trope of t ...more
Red
May 21, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: player
Homer wrote about Helen 800 BC and he did so like a whistleblower. His claim was beware of Helen. He was brave in this acts because deities could punish severely. Like striking with blindness. But Homer was already blind so he had nothing to fear on that.

Some 200 years later an other Greek poet made a critical poem on Helen. His name was Stechisorus. And he was indeed blinded for his act. But clever as he was he wrote a palinode on the subject and said no I never said something critical on behal
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Laz
Jul 13, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, literature
I personally love this. It's all about Helen.
Michael A.
Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
theoclymenus you gullible motherfucker! helen tricked your ass good
Anand
Jun 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read this in Emily Wilson's translation for the Modern Library Greek plays collection.

This alongside Trojan Women is one of my favorite Euripides plays, and I am interested in the revisionist myth of the Trojan War that shows the whole war as being fought for nothing. Trojan Women follows the more traditional outlines of the Trojan War mythos, with Helen being a real flesh-and-blood presence in the Trojan War, and The Iliad gives a brief but powerful portrait of this most beautiful of women (and
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Justin Echols
“If I can’t bring her home, I’ll take her down to death... If you want to kill us, do it! We’ll die as heroes.”
Ananya Ghosh
Since I had loved Medea by Euripides, I instantly decided on reading Helen when I saw it in the list of options for my assignment. But this wasn't as alluring or powerful as Medea had been. But Euripides being the first Greek dramatist I read, I admit I'm still biased to him.

The story follows the Greek Queen Helen who faces a personal tragedy as she becomes the reason behind the Spartan War because of Paris' lust for her. While throughout history, Medea was blamed for the war and Paris' lust, Eu
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Suzanne
Mar 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Some people see this play as a kind of feminist or proto-feminist text. I disagree. There is nothing remotely feminist about it. Euripides doesn't question or examine the underlying values, misogyny and double standards (like he does in Medea) of a society that blames Helen for the Trojan War (e.g. he doesn't question why it was acceptable for men to have multiple relationships, but unacceptable for a woman; why it was acceptable for a husband to leave his wife, but unacceptable for a wife to le ...more
Tslyklu
Jan 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Ah me! ye Sirens, Earth's virgin daughters, winged maids, come, oh! come to aid my mourning, bringing with you the Libyan flute or pipe, to waft to Persephone's ear a tearful plaint, the echo of my sorrow, with grief for grief, and mournful chant for chant, with songs of death and doom to match my lamentation, that in return she may receive from me, besides my tears, dirges for the departed dead beneath her gloomy roof!"

Most beautiful harmony


"LEADER: … And I will myself go in with thee, and wit
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Maan Kawas
Aug 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful light paly by the great Ancient Greek playwright Euripides, which tells a different version about the story of Helen of Sparta, based on the Ancient Greek historian Herodotus’ suggestion. The play has a happy ending – although it contains some element of a tragedy - were the beloved spouses are re-united and go back together to their own homeland. The play includes a number of themes and points, such as the power of reason, women’s ability to find solution (even through tricks), appe ...more
Elle
Jun 15, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This late take on Helen suggests that only a copy of her went to Troy, and that for this fake Helen, so many fought and died for so long. Helen, Euripides claims in this comedy, was actually safe in Egypt the whole time. I'm so curious why earlier ages valorized and deified Helen, and later ages hated and dismissed her.

In some ways, Helen stands for all women perceived as beautiful. To be desired was dangerous--as the full story on her goes, she is the daughter of the rape of Leda, raped by The
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Manuel Alfonseca
Interesting counterpart to The Iliad, where Euripides follows the alternative legend, that Helen never went with Paris to Troy (the gods replaced her by a phantom with her appearance), while she was brought to Egypt, there to await Menelao's arrival after the destruction of Troy, in this way solving the apparent discrepancy between The Iliad and The Odisea, when Telemachus arrives in Sparta and finds there Helen reintroduced as queen as though nothing had happened.

This book has influenced other
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Matthew
Feb 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is often felt that men are more indulgent to a woman with a pretty face, but one of the more unusual instances of this is Helen of Troy, a woman of unusual beauty who never existed outside of fiction. Nobody has ever really seen her, yet men act as if they have.

A savage and prolonged war was fought after Helen eloped with Paris, the son of the Trojan king, leaving her Spartan husband Menelaus behind. That alone might seem to be cause for condemnation, but a number of male writers have been s
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Keely
Jan 06, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: greek-plays
3.5 stars. This play has completely changed my opinion of Helen of Troy. Euripides continues to blow me away. His portrayal of Helen was really great. I also really loved the smoke and mirrors element to this play. Nothing was solid. Every moment was layered.
Gerasimos
One of the masterpieces of Ancient Greek Literature. It is not one of my personal favorites, though.
Magic_Demigod
Feb 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2019
Once again I read this beautiful tragedy By Euripides for school. In Greece, we are really lucky to be taught at least one work of our ancient ancestors.
The plot is just outstanding.

Myth Part to help understand the plot(you can skip):
Zeus had a ceremony, but he hadn't;t invited the goddess Eris. So to get her revenge she made a golden apple and threw it into the ceremony, with an inscription that read "to the most beautiful".
Three goddesses, Hera Athena and Aphrodite argued as to who would cla
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Mike
May 11, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-owned
I was surprised when reading the critical introduction after I had finished this play that it is considered almost a comedy. In fact, no one is quite sure if it’s a comedy. Here’s the thing: if you can’t be sure something is comedy, then the humor can’t possibly be very good. I found it be a dry and dull collection of overly long monologues.

It’s a shame, because I actually found the premise fascinating: Helen isn’t physically taken to Troy by Paris, but is instead carried to Egypt by the gods w
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J
Jan 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
There isn't a listing for this fun BBC radio drama version of this, but the Trojan War goes meta with Helen spinning a story about the gods creating a vaporous mist version of her that was the one that left Sparta to go with Paris to Troy, while the real Helen hid out in a cave. So the war was about what?

Look, it's clear Greece wanted to smash an economic, political, and military rival and this whole Helen story is just a sham cover to do the deed. It's the "weapons of mass destruction" of its
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Christopher Condit
Doesn't really work for me. Choruses weak and boring. Plot ridiculous. Just like Iphigenia in Tauris, a Homeric tale is reworked via god magic. This time Helen it turns out never went to Troy, ending up in Egypt instead, as a phantom replica goes to Troy. Making the Trojan War even more pointless. Menelaus finds her and brings her home, escaping the clutches of the king of Egypt. Romance, not tragedy. Read the other one instead.
Stephanie :}
Read this for a college lit class. Greek myths aren't really my thing, but Helen was entertaining enough. It flowed easily; for me it wasn't one of those old books you have to force yourself to keep reading, and I didn't need a dictionary open next to me to look up a million unfamiliar words like I have to do with good ole Shakespeare.
Pam
Sep 25, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like the craftiness of Helen in this version. However, by removing Helen's presence in Troy, too much of her character as I have come to know it was lost. She did not seem like the same Helen. I did like her comment to Aphrodite "Reverend Goddess, if you acted with some moderation, you would be the best of all the gods."
Ash
Mar 07, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: plays
Read the Vellacott translation. This play is deeply tonally odd and draws on a section of Greek mythology I had no idea about: the Helen who went to Troy was a phantom, while the real one was preserved in Egypt. This has the side effect of rendering the entire Trojan War even more pointless, but I don't know that it carries great impact as, you know, a piece of theatre.
Nikki Sojkowski
*i did not read this exact translation, but this story by Euripides
Jeanne
Helen and Menelaus can be quite the power couple when they want to be.
Dmk
Jan 31, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was really interesting to read alternative version of story of Helen. I prefer classic one though.
Portraiting Helen as super-faithful wife seems really odd to me. And the moode of story was more like some Red Library romance my mother would read than great greek tragedy. And the first half of the play was uneventful.
On the other side there are certainly good things in this play. Obviously the idea of alternative stor of Helen is big plus, the trick they[Helen and Menalaos] used to escape was
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(Greek: Ευριπίδης )
Euripides (Ancient Greek: Εὐριπίδης) (ca. 480 BC–406 BC) was the last of the three great tragedians of classical Athens (the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles). Ancient scholars thought that Euripides had written ninety-five plays, although four of those were probably written by Critias. Eighteen of Euripides' plays have survived complete. It is now widely believed that wh
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“What mortal claims, by searching to the utmost limit, to have found out the nature of God, or of his opposite, or of that which comes between, seeing as he doth this world of man tossed to and fro by waves of contradiction and strange vicissitudes?” 3 likes
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