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In the play's unconventional opening, the ghost of Polydorus tells how when the war threatened Troy, he was sent to King Polymestor of Thrace for safekeeping, with gifts of gold and jewelry. But when Troy lost the war, Polymestor treacherously murdered Polydorus, and seized the treasure. Polydorus has foreknowledge of many of the play's events and haunted his mother's dreams the night before.
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Published by Sovereign Classic
First published in 2015
Copyright © 2015 Sovereign Classic
THE GHOST OF POLYDORUS, son of HECUBA and Priam, King of TroyHECUBA, wife of PriamCHORUS OF CAPTIVE TROJAN WOMENPOLYXENA, daughter of HECUBA and PriamODYSSEUSTALTHYBIUS, herald of AGAMEMNONMAID OF HECUBAAGAMEMNONPOLYMESTOR, King of the Thracian Chersonese
Before AGAMEMNON›S tent in the Greek camp upon the shore of the Thracian Chersonese. The GHOST OF POLYDORUS appears.
Lo! I am come from out the charnel-house and gates of gloom, where Hades dwells apart from gods, I Polydorus, a son of Hecuba the daughter of Cisseus and of Priam. Now my father, when Phrygia’s capital was threatened with destruction by the spear of Hellas, took alarm and conveyed me secretly from the land of Troy unto Polymestor’s house, his friend in Thrace, who sows these fruitful plains of Chersonese, curbing by his might a nation delighting in horses. And with me my father sent great store of gold by stealth, that, if ever Ilium’s walls should fall, his children that survived might not want for means to live. I was the youngest of Priam’s sons; and this it was that caused my stealthy removal from the land; for my childish arm availed not to carry weapons or to wield the spear. So long then as the bulwarks of our land stood firm, and Troy’s battlements abode unshaken, and my brother Hector prospered in his warring, I, poor child, grew up and flourished, like some vigorous shoot, at the court of the Thracian, my father’s friend. But when Troy fell and Hector lost his life and my father’s hearth was rooted up, and himself fell butchered at the god-built altar by the hands of Achilles’ murderous son; then did my father’s friend slay me his helpless guest for the sake of the gold, and thereafter cast me into the swell of the sea, to keep the gold for himself in his house. And there I lie one time upon the strand, another in the salt sea’s surge, drifting ever up and down upon the billows, unwept, unburied; but now am I hovering o’er the head of my dear mother Hecuba, a disembodied spirit, keeping my airy station these three days, ever since my poor mother came from Troy to linger here in Chersonese. Meantime all the Achaeans sit idly here in their ships at the shores of Thrace; for the son of Peleus, even Achilles, appeared above his tomb and stayed the whole host of Hellas, as they were making straight for home across the sea, demanding to have my sister Polyxena offered at his tomb, and to receive his guerdon. Andhe will obtain this prize, nor will they that are his friends refuse the gift; and on this very day is fate leading my sister to her doom. So willmy mother see two children dead at once, me and that ill-fated maid. For I, to win a grave, ah me! will appear amid the rippling waves before her bond-maid’s feet. Yes! I have won this boon from the powers below, that I should find tomb and fall into my mother’s hands; so shall I get my heart’s desire; wherefore I will go and waylay aged Hecuba, for yonder she passethon her way from the shelter of Agamemnon›s tent, terrified at my spectre. Woe is thee! ah, mother mine! from a palace dragged to face a life of slavery! how sad thy lot, as sad as once ‹twas blest! Some god is now destroying thee, setting this in the balance to outweigh thy former bliss.
The GHOST vanishes. HECUBA enters from the tent of AGAMEMNON, supported by her attendants, captive Trojan women.
Guide these aged steps, my servants, forth before the house; support your fellow-slave, your queen of yore, ye maids of Troy. Take hold upon my aged hand, support me, guide me, lift me up; and I will lean upon your bended arm as on a staff and quicken my halting footsteps onwards. O dazzling light of Zeus! O gloom of night! why am I thus scared by fearful visions of the night? O earth, dread queen, mother of dreams that flit on sable wings! I am seeking to avert the vision of the night, the sight of horror which I saw so clearly in my dreams touching my son, who is safe in Thrace, and Polyxena my daughter dear. Ye gods of this land! preserve my son, the last and only anchor of my house, now settled in Thrace, the land of snow, safe in the keeping of his father’s friend. Some fresh disaster is in store, a new strain of sorrow will be added to our woe. Such ceaseless thrills of terror never wrung my heart before. Oh! where, ye Trojan maidens, can I find inspired Helenus or Cassandra, that they may read me my dream? For I saw a dappled hind mangled by a wolf’s bloody fangs, torn from my knees by force in piteous wise. And this too filled me with affright; o’er the summit of his tomb appeared Achilles’ phantom, and for his guerdon he would have one of the luckless maids of Troy. Wherefore, I implore you, powers divine, avert this horror from my daughter, from my child.
The CHORUS OF CAPTIVE TROJAN WOMEN enters.
Hecuba, I have hastened away to thee, leaving my master’s tent, where the lot assigned me as his appointed slave, in the day that was driven from the city of Ilium, hunted by Achaeans thence at the point of the spear; no alleviation bring I for thy sufferings; nay have laden myself with heavy news, and am a herald of sorrow to thee, lady. ‘Tis said the Achaeans have determined in full assembly to offer thy daughter in sacrifice to Achilles; for thou knowest how one day he appeared standing on his tomb in golden harness, and stayed the sea-borne barques, though they had their sails already hoisted, with this pealing cry, “Whither away so fast, ye Danai, leaving my tomb without its prize?” Thereon arose a violent dispute with stormy altercation, and opinion was divided in the warrior host of Hellas, some being in favour of offering the sacrifice at the tomb, others dissenting. There was Agamemnon, all eagerness in thy interest, because of his love for the frenzied prophetess; but the two sons of Theseus, scions of Athens, though supporting different proposals, yet agreed on the same decision, which was to crown Achilles’ tomb with fresh-spilt blood; for they said they never would set Cassandra’s love before Achilles’ valour. Now the zeal of the rival disputants was almost equal, until that shifty, smooth-mouthed varlet, the son of Laertes, whose tongue is ever at the service of the mob, persuaded the army not to put aside the best of all the Danai for
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