HECABE: Get the tissues out

I bawled my way through Hecabe. Tears were streaming down my face for ten minutes, until I realised that Hecabe would go all ‘strong independent woman’ on me and take wonderful revenge on Polymestor.

I’m not condoning killing children and wrenching people’s eyes out, but in my opinion, Polymestor deserved it.

This is the first Greek play that I’ve cried at, and I’m not sure if the reason behind my sentimentality was the fact that I’d been particularly touchy all day, or because the combination of the beautiful prose and the tragic plot was a fatal one.

Hecabe is about the former queen of Troy (you guessed it – her name is Hecabe), who is reduced to slavery and faces the prospect of her daughter being sacrificed. Seriously, if you think that you have a tough life, turn to this. Double tragedy strikes – I wonder if Euripides even thought of the emotional well-being of his audience – and I was reduced to a blubbering mess within the first six pages. Attractive.

 Wrap my cloak over my head. While death is still before me, my heart melts to hear my mother weep; and her heart melts to see my tears.

spoken by Polyxena, from Hecabe by Euripides

It may cheer the reader to hear that Hecabe does get some form of revenge (but not upon whom you might expect), in a suitably bloody manner. However, tragedy still remains. Hecabe is still kingdom-less and childless, trapped in slavery and apparently predicted to die a horrible death. And I was still left with a damp pillow.

I think that one of the most important questions that this play raises is to do with justice and revenge. There are a couple of people who I’d like to take glorious revenge upon (in the Greek fashion, with knives and blood and maybe the intervention of the gods, if I’m feeling particularly irritated), but Hecabe forces you to think what’s the bloody point? Yes, she may have satiated her blood lust by spooning someone’s eyes out, but will that bring her daughter back? Despite the momentary lull of pain caused by the fact that she finally has power over another human being, will she ever be able to move on with her life?

Sounds like an introduction to the Jeremy Kyle show. Imagine it: ‘After losing her kingdom and her children, Hecabe lost the will to live. Now, six months later, we revisit her case.’ Daytime television at its finest – especially if they show the footage of the murders.

Hecabe is hauntingly beautiful (quite literally). The mother-daughter relationship between Hecabe and Polyxena is heart wrenching, combine this with the flowing prose, and you’re going to need a box of tissues on standby.

Have you read or seen Hecabe? I’d love to know your thoughts!

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