Trojan Trilogy

When David Stuttard undertook to reconstruct the lost plays in Euripides’ Trojan Trilogy, he wanted to use the surviving fragments to produce something which adhered to the structural rules and the spirit of Greek tragedy, while allowing himself enough freedom to create new works which would stand up as powerful dramas in their own right.

At the same time, he wanted to create a unified trilogy which would set the surviving Trojan Women, and especially his own existing adaptation of that play, in context, revealing it as part of a wider story, rather than an independent and isolated episode.

193 lines of Alexandros survive in one form or another.  This represents perhaps a sixth of the entire play.  But apart from one 10 line fragment, in which the chorus reflects on the nature of nobility, there are only  two or three other fragments which are series of complete lines (and none are more than 4 lines long).  The rest range from relatively lengthy passages where only part of each line survives to one- or two-word fragments.  In addition, we have 43 lines of a Latin adaptation by Ennius (3rd-2nd Century BC) in fragments ranging from one to 11 lines long, and a Greek “hypothesis”, or summary of Euripides’ play.

Of Palamedes, less than 40 lines (perhaps a thirtieth of the play) survive, over half of which come from the trial scene.  What else we know about the play comes from supposed allusions to it in other authors, for example Euripides’ contemporary, the comic poet Aristophanes, and entries in ancient dictionaries. 

The distribution of the fragments is entirely random.  They have survived purely by chance, most because they were quoted by later writers to illustrate philosophical or linguistic points rather than for what they revealed about the dramas from which they came.

Thus they reveal little in themselves about the structure of either play.  In keeping with ancient practice, none of the fragments is attributed to a specific character.

For this reason, while using the fragments as an essential starting point, Stuttard wanted to give himself the freedom to mould, adapt or even omit such lines as survived in order to enhance the overall integrity of the story.  In the case of Palamedes, this policy led to the exclusion of an entire scene, which even Euripides’ first audience seems to have found implausible.

Much of the reconstruction is necessarily imaginative: there is no evidence which character spoke the prologues in either of  the plays; nor how the murder plot was foiled in Alexandros; nor for the content of the choruses in Palamedes; nor for most the dialogue, including the images which weave through the trilogy to bind it together. 

If the complete plays are ever rediscovered, as they may be in the Library at Herculaneum, they will undoubtedly differ considerably from this reconstruction.  But that is not the point.  Rather Stuttard’s  reconstruction aims to create a fusion between old and new,  a piece of  modern drama with its own integrity, addressing situations and responses as unsettling for our own age as they were for that of Euripides.

For a fuller discussion of the process of reconstructing the Trilogy, please go to the Open University’s website at