The Trojan Women



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The Trojan Women Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Euripides's The Trojan Women. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Euripides

Euripides is one of the most famous classical Greek playwrights. Although less popular in his time than Aeschylus or Sophocles, his surviving work has continued to resonate with audiences for almost 2500 years. Little is known about Euripides’ life outside of his dramatic writings. He was likely born to a wealthy family, and never went to war or served in the military. He began competing in dramatic competitions in 455 BCE, at the age of 30, and continued submitting plays until his death — in fact, his final tetralogy was produced by his son after he had died.
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Historical Context of The Trojan Women

The Trojan Women takes place in the aftermath of the Trojan War. This a central conflict in Greek mythology, likely based on real-life battles between Bronze Age Greek soldiers and the “Trojans,” people living in present-day Turkey sometime between 1100 and 1200 BCE. Additionally, Euripides was probably inspired by real-life contemporary conflicts. In the year that he wrote The Trojan Women, soldiers from Athens had recently captured a small Greek Island, killing its men and enslaving its women — a situation carefully depicted in his tragedy.

Other Books Related to The Trojan Women

The Trojan Women was originally performed in a tetralogy (a cycle of four plays), and would have been accompanied by Alexander, Palamedes, and the comedy Sisyphus, the texts of which have since been lost. However, Euripides wrote several other surviving plays centered around the events of the Trojan War. The clearest points of comparison are his plays Hecuba and Andromache, which center the experiences of specific Trojan women, instead of looking at their suffering more broadly as the Trojan Women does. The events of the Trojan War itself are most famously described in Homer’s epic poem The Iliad.
Key Facts about The Trojan Women
  • Full Title: The Trojan Women
  • Where Written: Athens or Salamis
  • When Published: First performed 415 BCE
  • Literary Period: Ancient Greek Tragedy
  • Genre: Dramatic Tragedy
  • Setting: The city of Troy
  • Climax: The death of the child Astyanax
  • Antagonist: The Greeks

Extra Credit for The Trojan Women

Setting the Scene. Most surviving Classical Greek plays, including those written by Euripides, Aeschylus (author of the Oresteia), and Sophocles (author of the Oedipus cycle), were originally written as entries in a yearly Athenian dramatic festival. Each author submitted four related plays (three tragedies and a drama with a happy ending), which formed a “tetralogy.” Each play was performed by the same set of actors against the same backdrop. Three men would perform all the speaking roles, and would be backed by a large chorus. Actors would enter from the left or right of the stage onto a dance floor where most of the action took place. Behind them was a “skene,” or a wooden building with a single set of large doors, which would occasionally open to show events inside. If the play called for it, actors playing gods could hang above the action suspended by a crane, which is where the term deus ex machina (god from a machine) comes from. 

Prolific Writer. Scholars have attributed over ninety plays to Euripides, though only nineteen full plays have survived to moder times.