A story of how the weak (a woman, a boy and an old man) with a just cause subdued the strong (a general).
Andromache, Hector’s wife, was reduced to a slave and concubine of Achilles’ son Neoptolemus, after the death of her husband and the fall of Troy. Neoptolemus’ wife Hermione desired to murder Andromache and her baby boy because of jealousy, and she enlisted her father King Menelaus as an accomplice.
Euripides lends a compelling voice to the conquered, the enslaved and the disenfranchised. In his plays, he creates equality of the weak with the strong by negating physical force and providing power of speech to the unfortunate. By her own speech, Andromache, though in the most abject misery, maintained her dignity and sense of justice, and defended herself against injustice; Peleus, the aged father of Achilles, squelched Menelaus with a resounding speech in such a way that it’s almost hilarious in effect.
For e’en an old man, be he brave, is worth a host of raw youths; for what avails a fine figure if a man is coward?
Better is it not to win a discreditable victory, than to make justice miscarry by an invidious exercise of power; for such a victory, though men think it sweet for the moment, grows barren in time and comes near being a stain on a house. This is the life I commend, this the life I set before me as my ideal, to exercise no authority beyond what is right either in the marriage-chamber or in the state.
Many are the shapes of Heaven’s denizens, and many a thing they bring to pass contrary to our expectation; that which we thought would be is not accomplished, while for the unexpected God finds out a way.
- “Andromache” at Perseus, translated by David Kovacs
- “Andromache” at ebooks@Adelaide, translated by E.P.Coleridge