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Notes on Helen

The following notes and questions are derived in response to Emily Wilson's introduction to her translation of Helen, collected in The Greek Plays, edited by Mary Lefkowitz and James Romm (Modern Library 2017)

  • It appears that Euripides was the only tragedian to present Helen in a drama.
  • Is the drama Helen, even properly categorized as a tragedy?
  • Compare the status of Helen with Antigone, Andromache, or Medea.
  • Why is the drama set in Egypt?
  • Why does Euripides present such a strong escape action?
  • Is the play concerned with issues of justice? If yes, how so?
  • Compare the plot of Helen with Iphigenia in Tauris.
  • Would the plot make a good Hollywood screenplay? Consider the elements: a traveler, a hostile foreign king, a lost-love in danger, a ruse to escape, a chase scene, a messenger's flashback, and divine intervention.
  • Is Helen really a sequel to material familiar to his audience?
  • Is the presence of a phantom Helen at odds with the heroicism of Homer's version?
  • Compare how Aristophanes takes on the project of anti-war drama with Lysistrata within the same year.
  • Does Euripides make Helen the new Penelope?
  • Does this drama mark a change in emphasis from the order of the city to the order of the household?