The Trojan Women

Menelaus Character Analysis

The King of Sparta and the former husband of Helen, who he has fought the Trojan War for, and who he now intends to transport back to Greece and kill for her disloyalty. Although Menelaus is her enemy, Hecuba treats him with respect, and he awards her the same courtesy. The only woman he has no respect for is Helen, who he seems to hate and distrust but also lust after.

Menelaus Quotes in The Trojan Women

The The Trojan Women quotes below are all either spoken by Menelaus or refer to Menelaus. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Cost of War Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the University of Chicago Press edition of The Trojan Women published in 2013.
Line 294-461 Quotes

I am ridden by god’s curse still, yet I will step so far
out of my frenzy as to show our city’s fate
is blessed beyond the Achaeans’. For one woman’s sake,
one act of love, these hunted Helen down and threw
thousands of lives away. Their general—clever man—
in the name of a vile woman cut his darling down,
gave up for a brother the sweetness of children in his house,
all to bring back that brother’s wife, a woman who went
of her free will, not caught in constraint of violence.
The Achaeans came back Scamander’s banks, and died
day after day, though none of them sought to wrench their land from them
nor their own towering cities. Those the war god caught
never saw their sons again, nor were they laid to rest
decently in winding sheets by their wives’ hands, but lie
buried in alien ground; while all went wrong at home
as the widows perished, and couples who had raised in vain
their children were left childless, no one left to tend
their tombs and give to them the sacrificial blood.
For such success as this congratulate the Greeks.
No, but the shame is better left in silence, for fear
my singing voice become the voice of wretchedness.
The Trojans have that glory which is loveliest:
they died for their own country. So the bodies of all
who took the spears were carried home in loving hands,
brought, in the land of their fathers, to the embrace of earth
and buried becomingly as the rite fell due. The rest,
those Phrygians who escaped death in battle, day by day
came home to happiness the Achaeans could not know;
their wives, their children. Then was Hector’s fate so sad?
You think so. Listen to the truth. He is dead and gone
surely, but with reputation, as a valiant man.
How could this be, except for the Achaeans’ coming?
Had they held back, none might have known how great he was.

Related Characters: Cassandra (speaker), Menelaus, Helen, Agamemnon, Hector
Page Number: 365
Explanation and Analysis:
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Line 860-1059 Quotes

O splendor of sunburst breaking forth this day, whereon
I lay my hands once more on Helen, my wife. And yet
it is not so much as men think, for a woman’s sake
I came to Troy, but against that guest proved treacherous,
who like a robber carried the woman from my house.
Since the gods have seen to it that he paid the penalty,
fallen before the Hellenic spear, his kingdom wrecked,
I come for her now, the Spartan once my own, whose name
I can no longer speak with any happiness,
to take her away. In this house of captivity
she is numbered among the other women of Troy, a slave.
And those men whose work with the spear has won her back
gave her to me, to kill, or not to kill, but lead
alive to the land of Argos, if such be my pleasure.
And such it is; the death of Helen in Troy I will let
pass, have the oars take her by seaways back to Greek
soil, and there give her over to execution;
blood penalty for friends who are dead in Ilium here.

Related Characters: Menelaus (speaker), Helen, Paris
Page Number: 860
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Hecuba: O power, who mount the world, wheel where the world rides,
O mystery of man’s knowledge, whosoever you be,
named Zeus, nature’s necessity or mortal mind,
I call upon you; for you walk the path none hears
yet bring all human action back to right at last.
Menelaus: What can this mean? How strange a way to call on gods.
Hecuba: Kill your wife, Menelaus, and I will bless your name.
But keep your eyes away from her. Desire will win.
She looks enchantment, and where she looks homes are set fire;
she captures cities as she captures the eyes of men.
We have had experience, you and I. We know the truth.

Related Characters: Hecuba (speaker), Menelaus
Page Number: 884
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

She mothered the beginning of all this wickedness.
For Paris was her child. And next to her the old king,
who would not destroy the infant Alexander, that dream
of the firebrand’s agony, has ruined Troy and me.
This is not all; listen to the rest I have to say.
Alexander was the judge of the goddess trinity.
Pallas Athena would have given him power, to lead
the Phrygian arms on Hellas and make it desolate.
All Asia was Hera’s promise, and the uttermost zones
of Europe for his lordship, if her way prevailed.
But Aphrodite, marveling at my loveliness,
promised it to him, if he would say her beauty surpassed
all others. Think what this means, and all the consequence.
Cypris prevailed, and I was won in marriage: all
for Greek advantage. You are not ruled by barbarians,
you have not been defeated in war nor serve a tyrant.
Yet Hellas’ fortune was my own misfortune. I,
sold once for my body’s beauty, stand accused, who should
for what has been done wear garlands on my head.

Related Characters: Helen (speaker), Hecuba, Menelaus, Athena, Hera, Aphrodite, Priam, Paris
Page Number: 919
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

My son was handsome beyond all other men.
You looked at him, and sense went Cyprian at the sight,
since Aphrodite is nothing but the human lust,
named rightly, since the world of lust begins the god’s name.
You saw him in the barbaric splendor of his robes,
gorgeous with gold. It made your senses itch. You thought,
being queen only in Argos, in little luxury,
that once you got rid of Sparta for the Phrygian city
where gold streamed everywhere, you could let extravagance
run wild. No longer were Menelaus and his house
sufficient for your spoiled luxurious appetites.
So much for that. You say my son took you away
by force. What Spartan heard you cry for help? You did
cry out? Or did you? Castor, your brother, was there, a young
man, and his twin not yet caught up among the stars.
Then when you had reached Troy, and the Argives at your heels
came, and the agony of the murderous spears began,
when the reports came in that Menelaus’ side
was winning, you would praise him, simply to make my son
unhappy at the strength of his love’s challenger,
forgetting your husband when the luck went back to Troy.
You worked hard: not to make yourself a better woman,
but to make sure always to be on the winning side.
You claim you tried to slip away with ropes let down
form the ramparts, and this proves you stayed against your will?
Perhaps. But when were you ever caught in the strangling noose,
or sharpening a dagger? Which any noble wife
would do, desperate with longing for her lord’s return.
Yet over and over again I gave you good advice:
“Make your escape, my daughter; there are other girls
for my sons to marry…Let the Greeks, and us,
stop fighting.”

Related Characters: Hecuba (speaker), Menelaus, Helen, Aphrodite, Paris
Page Number: 987
Explanation and Analysis:
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Menelaus Character Timeline in The Trojan Women

The timeline below shows where the character Menelaus appears in The Trojan Women. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Line 98-294
The Cost of War Theme Icon
Fate, Fortune, and the Gods Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
...be taken to Athens, where Theseus is from, but not to Sparta, where Helen and Menelaus once lived. The women of the Chorus try to make light of their situation. They... (full context)
Line 860-1059
The Cost of War Theme Icon
Duty, Obligation, and Integrity  Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
Menelaus enters the stage from the city, flanked by Greek soldiers. He is in a sunny... (full context)
The Cost of War Theme Icon
Duty, Obligation, and Integrity  Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
Menelaus wants to set the record straight—he didn’t come to Troy just for a woman, but... (full context)
Men and Women Theme Icon
Now, it is finally time for Menelaus to reclaim Helen. He refers to her as a woman “once my own,” who has... (full context)
The Cost of War Theme Icon
Fate, Fortune, and the Gods Theme Icon
Duty, Obligation, and Integrity  Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
Hecuba, who has remained onstage watching Menelaus’s speech, takes a moment to invoke the gods. She asks them to “bring all human... (full context)
Duty, Obligation, and Integrity  Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
Helen exits the tent and faces Menelaus. She can tell that Menelaus hates her by the way his soldiers treated her. She... (full context)
The Cost of War Theme Icon
Fate, Fortune, and the Gods Theme Icon
Duty, Obligation, and Integrity  Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
Helen begins to barter for her life. She argues based on points she anticipates Menelaus will use against her. First, she accuses Hecuba, the mother of Paris, as being to... (full context)
Duty, Obligation, and Integrity  Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
Helen then anticipates Menelaus’s next argument—that she ran away of her own volition. Although she admits she did run... (full context)
Fate, Fortune, and the Gods Theme Icon
Duty, Obligation, and Integrity  Theme Icon
Helen challenges Menelaus, asking him if he “would be stronger than the gods.” She hopes that, after all... (full context)
Duty, Obligation, and Integrity  Theme Icon
...any Spartans heard her resisting as Paris took her. Furthermore, she accuses Helen of praising Menelaus to Paris when the Greeks were winning, but fawning over Paris when the Trojans were... (full context)
Duty, Obligation, and Integrity  Theme Icon
...would have tried to kill herself, or her husband, like a faithful, “noble wife” to Menelaus would do. Hecuba says she told Helen to leave over and over again, to return... (full context)
Duty, Obligation, and Integrity  Theme Icon
...believes she retains her “old impudence,” sinfulness, and immodesty. She repeats her plea, and asks Menelaus to kill Helen. The Chorus Leader agrees, and urges him to “keep the ancestral honor... (full context)
Fate, Fortune, and the Gods Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
Menelaus agrees with Hecuba’s assessment of Helen and her story. He thinks her talk of Aphrodite... (full context)
Duty, Obligation, and Integrity  Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
Hecuba urges Menelaus to think of his fallen friends and soldiers. She also tells him, if he insists... (full context)
Line 1060-1332
Fate, Fortune, and the Gods Theme Icon
...own journeys across the ocean as they are scattered throughout Greece. They also sing of Menelaus’s ship. They hope a bolt of Zeus’s lightning and will hit and sink it, with... (full context)