The play is set after the fall of Troy. Hector is dead. Priam is dead. Paris is dead. The city is sacked and the women wait in tents outside the walls for their new masters to parcel them out amongst themselves as slaves. Before meeting the women, we open with Poseidon’s impotent fury at the loss of his city, and his surprise at Athena’s sudden reversal of sympathy and determination to visit revenge upon the Greeks whom she had only just led to triumph. These gods depart, and we are left with the women. Hecuba, Queen of Troy, stirs to bemoan her fate – no sons, no husband, no city – and learns soon enough that so long as she can say “this is the worst” the worst is yet to come.
It’s not the way one normally chooses to spend an evening, listening to the lamentation of women. Conan accounted it the greatest delight, but he spoke specifically of the lamentation of women whose husbands he had slain, and anyhow he was a barbarian.
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