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Helen of Troy Literary Analysis

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  • Pages: 6
  • Word count: 1260
  • Category: Troy

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I. CHARACTERS

Major Characters:
Achilles- Stanley Baker
Agamemnon- Robert Douglas
Andromache- Patricia Marmont
Hector- Harry Andrews
Helen of Troy- Rossana Podestà
MenelausNiall MacGinnis
Paris- Jacques Sernas
Patroclus- Terence Longdon
Priam- Cedric Hardwicke
Ulysses- Torin Thatcher

Minor Characters:
Aeneas- Ronald Lewis
Polydorus- Robert Brown
Alpheus- TonioSelwart
Andraste- Brigitte Bardot
Andros- Eduardo Ciannelli
Cassandra- Janette Scott
Cora- Barbara Cavan
Dancer- George Zoritch
Diomedes- Marc Lawrence
Hecuba- Nora Swinburne
High Priest- Esmond Knight
Nestor- Guido Notari
Ajax- Maxwell Reed

II. SUMMARY

“Because of her extraordinary beauty; they say a thousand ships were launched, fifty thousand men died, and the world’s greatest city fell to
dust. They say great Zeus himself was her father, that the gods never sculpted a more perfect face than hers. But behind that face was a girl named Helen, who loved horses, played the flute, and bit her nails.” (Clemence McLaren, 1)

Throughout time, men have waged war. Some for power, some for glory, some for honor – and some for love. In ancient Greece, the passion of two of literature’s most notorious lovers, Paris, Prince of Troy and Helen , Queen of Sparta, ignites a war that will devastate a civilization. When Paris spirits Helen away from her husband, King Menelaus , it is an insult that cannot be suffered. Familial pride dictates that an affront to Menelaus is an affront to his brother Agamemnon , powerful King of the Mycenaeans, who soon unites all the massive tribes of Greece to steal Helen back from Troy in defense of his brother’s honor. In truth, Agamemnon’s pursuit of honor is corrupted by his overwhelming greed – he needs to conquer Troy to seize control of the Aegean, thus ensuring the supremacy of his already vast empire. The walled city, under the leadership of King Priamand defended by mighty Prince Hector , is a citadel that no army has ever been able to breach. One man alone stands as the key to victory or defeat over Troy – Achilles , believed to be the greatest warrior alive. Arrogant, rebellious and seemingly invincible, Achilles has allegiance to nothing and no one, save his own glory.

It is his insatiable hunger for eternal renown that leads him to attack the gates of Troy under Agamemnon’s banner – but it will be love that ultimately decides his fate. Two worlds will go to war for honor and power. Thousands will fall in pursuit of glory. And for love, a nation will burn to the ground. As King of Troy Priam seems to have begun a negotiated peace with King Menelaus of Sparta and perhaps larger Greece, his son Prince Paris has become infatuated with Menelaus’s the beautiful wife Helen . News that Trojan Paris has stolen away Spartan Helen unites all the Greek armies under Mycenaen Agamemnon. Thus, with a dispute between two men, begins the conflict of nations: The Trojan War. A total of 50,000 soldiers set sail to Troy in a thousand ships, and soon the walls of Troy, invincible to all previous invading armies will test this new alliance. The battle begins with Achilles and his Myrmidons forging a beachhead, and through discipline and skill taking the beach and the temple of Apollo almost by singlehandedly. In a memorable scene, Achilles loses his spear several hundred meters, driving it through the head of Trojan warrior Tecton. Priam’s brave and level headed son Prince Hector (Eric Bana) leads the force to hold the Greeks on their beach head and enters the temple.

Here he meets Achilles, who he lets him go free. Achilles is not wont to kill a fellow warrior, and yet knows and says that he will: But another day, perhaps when their tragedy can play to a better audience. Tensions build between Agamemnon and Achilles. As Agamemnon takes tribute from his fellow kinds for his “victory”, Achilles’ is disdainful, and, Agamemnon takes the young priestess Briseis from Achilles he curses Agamemnon: Achilles is not owned by Agamemnon but is his own man, and he and his men remain out of the next battle. The massed armies meet before the gates of Troy. Agamemnon demands the return of Helen to his brother and submission of Troy to the Greek empire. Rebuffed by Hector, Paris offers to fight Menelaus in single combat. But Paris, foolish romantic boy who stole Helen away is not the man his brother is. Defeated, he crawls back to his brother’s feet. Paris kills Menelaus.

The die is cast: Battle ensues Without the Myrmidons and Achilles tactical genius, the Greeks are beaten badly: fighting beneath the walls of Troy, they fall in their thousands to massed Trojan archers, with all the advantages of height and distance. Odysseus advises Agamemnon- fall back: you won’t have an army if you don’t fall back. With Menelaus gone, the original purpose of the war is gone. Still Achilles will not rejoin the army, despite Odysseus’ reasoned argument. Reunited with Briseis, Achilles engages her with a deeper intellect and reflective nature than she thought possible. Achilles’ sense of individualistic timelessness – that all will begin and all will end, but that how we perform our hour on this stage is everything sees Briseis fall in love with him and Achilles determines to return home. All council Greek retreat.

In the Trojan camp, religious leaders, who know nothing of battle, but everything of court politics argue for immediate attack. Hector now shows a break with human history: he is not impelled by the day’s victory, nor by gods and omens, but councels that Troy not repeat the Greek’s mistake of underestimating their enemy: they have a proven strategy, the Greeks have failed to respond – perhaps, as is the case, they might now return home in their hubris. Priam listens to the priests omens over his son’s reason, and the Trojan army prepare to attack, far from their defensible walls, driven to drive the Greeks into the sea. The Trojans attack with fire: tremendous straw balls burning like Napalm. The Apollonian force and Trojan army descend on the Greeks, their backs to the sea. But then Achilles appears, Mrymidon’s with him: the Greeks rally tremendously, Hector easily kills this ill-coordinated and weak “Achilles” in battle – only to find it is Achilles young cousin and lover Patroclus , tired of being out of the fight and dreaming of glory.

The battle ends: Hector knows that defeat has been snatched from jaws of victory and prepares his wife to escape should the Greeks now win the war. Vengence turns Achilles mind from love to blood: He challenges Hector, and they fight to the death, a fabulous pitched battle of two men, ending in Achilles dragging the dead Hector’s around Troy behind his chariot. Priam pleads for his son’s body, and Hector is returned for a ceremonial funeral lasting 12-days of truce. At the end of this time, the Greeks appear to have left: a large Wooden Horse (Odysseus’s idea) their parting gift to Troy. The wooden horse is taken into the city, and the Greek soldiers inside open the gates of Troy to the Greek army… all is lost, all is won. Brave and wise Hector and his kind peaceful father Priam are dead. Menelaus, Patrcoclus, Achilles, all dead. Romantic Paris escapes to live in the wilds with Helen. The Greek victors begin their Odyssey III. CONCLUSION AND INSIGHTS

To conclude, though the war may have been partially her fault, could you blame Helen for choosing a man who loved her for her interior, over one who loved her for her exterior, and displayed her as a naked trophy, simply because she was his.

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