Trojan Trilogy

The completion of Euripides’ Trojan Trilogy evolved out of my long association with his play Trojan Women. 


I first translated Trojan Women in 1986, revising that text for a production mounted by Actors of Dionysus in 1997.  But it was when I came to write an adaptation of the play in 2001 that my real passion was kindled.


The story of a lost world destroyed when a city’s towers are toppled by a “missile packed with men” had particular resonances that Autumn in the immediate and still unfolding aftermath of 9/11.  In those months, fear for the future and nostalgia for an innocence destroyed were as omnipresent in our real lives as they are in Euripides’ play. 


While avoiding close parallels which could too easily appear facile or crass, my wish was to allow the atmosphere of 9/11, the anthrax scares, the invasion of Afghanistan to inform the adaptation.  But, above all, I wanted to explore how the situations, both ancient and modern, impinged on the people caught up in them on both sides and affected their basic humanity.


The more I worked on Trojan Women, the more I wanted to know what the original dramatic context of the story was, how it had fitted in to its original trilogy.  I discovered that enough fragments of the first two plays survive to be able to make informed guesses about what they contained.


Between a sixth and an eighth of Alexandros survives, along with a fragment of a Latin adaptation of the play.  These, together with an ancient synopsis, provided a strong framework for the reconstruction.  Of Palamedes less survives, and some of what does is problematic. 


But I didn’t want to write something scholarly or academic.  Instead, I wanted to create a new work, drawing heavily on what we know of Euripides’ original, but fitting into the context of both my existing adaptation of Trojan Women and the political and military realities of early 21st century. 


Perhaps Palamedes, with its story of an army bogged down in a long drawn-out campaign for a morally ambiguous goal will remind an audience of Iraq and other recent conflicts.  The parallels are there.  But they are there in the original, too. 


What is important, and what I have aimed to achieve, is to tell a story, which is universal and timeless, and which just maybe will cause us to reflect on our own beliefs and values, our own responsibilities, and on what it really means to be human.


David Stuttard


For a fuller discussion of the process of reconstructing the Trilogy, please go to the Open University’s website at http://www2.open.ac.uk/ClassicalStudies/GreekPlays/Practitioners/issue1/stuttard.pdf

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