Justice In Hecuba

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Cynossema: A Warning for Sailors
“War is a violent teacher… it reduces most people’s temperaments to the level of their present circumstances.” - Thucydides
In the wake of the great chaos of war and the tragic loss of humanity, those who are left behind are often angry and hopeless, craving closure. These feelings of anger and hopelessness, sometimes even propell those who remain, to lose their own humanity in return. Euripides’ Hecuba details the aftermath of the Trojan war, a conflict that emerged from the gods’ need for judgement and the noble Menelaus’ need for retribution. This play centers on two violent actions: the sacrifice of Polyxena and Hecuba’s revenge. Both actions were motivated by a need for justice and retribution, however
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While Hecuba’s instinctual, animalistic revenge and later transformation was of a Dionysian nature. In Hecuba, Euripides explores the human need for retribution, examining the effects of injustice on its victims and how society chooses to justify or crimilize violence.

Through the state-sanctioned slaughter of the innocent Polyxena, Euripedes shows how the Apollonian values of rhetoric and reason have the power to justify cruel violence and coerce cowardice, mercilessness and immorality. Achilles’ demand for Polyxena’s sacrifice is motivated by his “thirst for revenge” and need to “appease his wounded honor” after being killed by Polyxena’s brother, Paris, with an arrow (a well-known symbol of Apollo.) When the Greeks first discussed Achilles’ demand they were “split between those who would kill a young girl… to appease fierce Achilles and those who disagreed.” However, the decision was ultimately made when Odysseus used his rhetoric to persuade all the soldiers that her sacrifice was a necessity and that to spare her would be to commit sacrilege. Odysseus’ utilization of rhetoric, an emblem of Apollo, the god
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Through Hecuba, Euripedes illustrates the devasting effects of humanity’s need for revenge, the dangerous power of rhetoric and the consequences of

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