Study Questions for

Euripides' Helen

1. Before you study this play, read Herodotus' version of Helen's story (Herodotus, Bk II.114-120). What are the main events in Herodotus' tale? What are his sources? How does this compare to Homer's version?

2. The introduction to this play appears AFTER Lattimore's translation. What does Lattimore say in the introduction is the theme of this play?

3. As you read Helen, mark passages which deal specifically with Egypt (and Egyptians), barbarians (and Barbary), Greeks or Hellenes (and Greece). What impression to get of these people and places?

4. Which characters in this play are Greek (Hellene)?

5. Which characters are non-Greek (barbarian)?

6. Which are described as savages, tyrants, etc.?

7. How does Euripides say that Helen got to Egypt? How long has seh been there as the play begins?

8. At what spot in Egypt does this play take place? Why is this place important?

9. Why has Teucer come to Egypt?

10. Why does Helen advise Teucer to leave Egypt immediately?

11. What does Helen learn from Teucer?

12. Why does Helen tell the chorus in the first episode that she wants to die?

13. What advice does the chorus give her?

14. Why does Menelaus land in Egypt on his way home from Troy?

15. What does the portress tell Menelaus happens to Greeks in Egypt? Why?

16. What surprise news does Menelaus receive from the portress? Why does this puzzle him?

17. What does Helen hear from the prophetess Theonoe in the house? How does she respond to this news?

18. What surprise does Menelaus' servant announce to him at line 605?

19. How can there be two Helens in this play?

20. How is Helen's situation similar to that of the Danaid women in Aeschylus' Suppliant Women?

21. Why does Menelaus say he was swindled by the gods at line 703?

22. What reason does Helen give Menelaus for her being at the tomb of Proteus?

23. Why doesn't Helen want to marry Theoclymenos?

24. What is the first thing that Helen and Menelaus decide to do to save his life?

25. What does Theonoe tell Menelaus and Helen?

26. What arguments do Helen and Menelaus use to try to persuade Theonoe to help them?

27. Does Theone decide to do?

28. What do the actions of Theone suggest about the portrayal of Egyptians (barbarians) in this play?

28. What plan do Helen and Menelaus use to trick Theoclymenos?

29. What does Helen promise the chorus in return for their discretion? Does she keep this promise?

30. Describe Theoclymenos' behavior towards Helen? Is is appropriate or inappropriate?

31. What does Theoclymenos' behavior in this play suggest about Euripides' portrayal of Egyptians (barbarians)?

32. Who does Theoclymenos think Menelaus is?

33. Why does Theoclymenos agree to let Helen give her husband a sea burial?

34. What news does a messenger bring Theoclymenos after Helen leaves to bury her husband?

35. How does Theoclymenos react to this news?

36. What keeps Theoclymenos from getting even for his betrayal?

37. Who are Castor and Polydeuces (the Dioscuri) and how are they related to Helen? Where do they come from to speak to Theoclymenos?

38. What do they tell Theoclymenos?

39. How does Theoclymenos respond to what Castor says?

This material has been published on the web by Prof. Tom Sienkewicz for his students at Monmouth College. If you have any questions, you can contact him at

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