Bill Van Leeuwen
Classical Mythology 230
April 22, 1999
Cassandra of Troy
SCENE: Cassandra stands alone staring out from the battlements of Troy. Her face reflects her solemn mood. The time is just before dusk.
(Enter one of Cassandras servants)
SERVANT: My Princess, my Princess! Have you heard the wonderful news?
(Cassandra continues looking outward, not acknowledging the servant.)
CASSANDRA: The chance of any "wonderful news" sprouting from the butchery that surrounds these city walls remains slim to none. (In a hushed voice to herself) Better are the chances that my weather prediction for sun tomorrow will be applauded than for such an event to occur.
SERVANT: I beg your pardon my princess but I didnt get that last part? I know that you havent been yourself since Paris was nearly killed by Menelaus. A loved ones near death experience sends frosty shivers through all the branches of the family tree. But rejoice Princess Cassandra, for Paris lives to this day! He swore before his father King Priam that it was Queen Aphrodite herself who freed his throat from suffocation (Iliad, p.73) and whisked him away from the field of battle! (Iliad, p.74) You no doubt, Princess, already know this. What appears to have missed you ears, though, is the news that our Trojan forces have pinned the Greeks back against the Aegean Sea! (Iliad, p.154) Tomorrow, your mighty brother will lead his forces in battle to set the Achaean ships ablaze! After nine long years weve finally worn the Achaean scourge down into submission. With this mortal blow delivered, our enemies will finally be vanquished and peace shall return to mighty Ilium! Oh, I do hope that this news brings even a hint of joy to you princess! The Queen stands perplexed on how she can bring even the most remote sense of joy into your world. She cries herself to sleep, feeling that in the midst of such a horrible war, she can do nothing to protect her child from its grief. As a mother myself, I know there exists no pain worse than to see your child self-destruct before your very eyes. She claims that most of the time you remain alone out here on these battlements, solemn with your dark thoughts. In the sparse times that you two do engage each other, however, youre raging incessantly with words of madness! For her sake Princess Cassandra, please leave this witness stand of butchery and go in to talk to her. You cant remain out here forever, can you? Tomorrow will be the opportune time to catch up with your mother. After all, tomorrow its expected to rain again. (SERVANT bows and exists)
CASSANDRA: Rain? (She chuckles) Oh, what poetic irony? Mark my words, poor fool, when I declare that Troys reign is indeed over But what do I know Tonight the city will be alive with cheers and celebrations to bestow upon our brave Trojan warriors! "Let us raise a cheer and celebrate," our townsfolk will cry, "the eve of the Argive armys decent to the House of Hades!" If I concentrate hard enough, Ill bet I can even hear the proud fathers raising a toast to their brave Trojan sons." Its good that they do this. Might as well enjoy the goods times as long as theyre here. Might as well enjoy the reign while its here. Though the suns light appears to be permanently smothered in the skys dark blanket, it would be foolish to think that the sun would be permanently vanquished. In seeing the earths plants and animals suffer from the lack of sunlight, the suns rays would at the last moment rage and muster enough strength to part the clouds and save Earths creatures! I fear that it will not be the sun alone that blazes in the coming days. Trojan hubris has made us forgetful that up to this point victory has come in the absence of our greatest enemy, the famed Achaean warrior Achilles. How foolish we the Trojans are for lulling ourselves into believing this false confidence! What makes us so certain to bet that Achilles would camp idly by as the Argive ships went ablaze? His own destruction would be sealed! When he finally witnesses the miseries that the Trojans assault will bring to his comrades, a blaze of fury within him will be aroused to such a degree that Troys doom will be sealed! In Troys destruction, I vision the destruction of my family as well!
HECUBA: Your servant told me that I could find you here? Wont you please come inside? Youll catch your death out here, child?
Cassandra (moaning): Oh, to be so lucky! To die in my own homeland!
HECUBA: My darling daughter, please try to restrain yourself! You know that I dont have the stamina nor wisdom to put up with and unravel your mad ramblings! How can I help you child? (She attempts to console her)
CASSANDRA: Away, leave me be! I cannot bear to be under the smothering embrace! I have sworn my love to the Archer god himself! As a virgin priestess I shall honor my love!
HECUBA: You must regain whats left of your senses Cassandra! As royalty, it is imperative that we maintain high moral for the citizens of Troy! If they see the royaltys confidence in our army falter with these insane outbursts, they too will begin to question if victory over the Greeks truly remains feasible. (She grabs ahold of Cassandra) Now return to the palace immediately!
CASSANDRA: Cursed be the name Cassandra! The beast has me and there is no escape haven to which I can run! Through vicious force, Ive become impure, unsuitable to serve my most revered god! The shame! My shame! (Flaum, p.46)
HECUBA: Child, if youll only cooperate for a moment! What can I do to ease you sufferings, dissipate the storm that is in your head?
CASSANDRA: Mother, for a few moments, I will end my wails and crying. If you truly want to help me, then prepare me a torch, a nuptial torch for the wedding. I can only pray to Zeus that the groom still finds the bride still a worthy spouse
HECUBA: For whos wedding am I to prepare the sacred torch for? Who would even consider marriage at such a pivotal point in securing the future of our city? Are anxiety levels not already high enough? Anyway, forgive my questions Cassandra. Since you are addressing me in a calm mindset, I will not provoke your rage with probing questions. I will see to it personally that the torch is made with the next few days. Cassandra, I wanted to thank you for this small, personable chat. Its so wonderful to talk to the daughter that I remember. (Exit HECUBA)
CASSANDRA: The daughter that you remember? Indeed, all you will have left of your children is your memories! Oh mother! Its as if you already know what I know about the future! You just dont realize it! Apollo bestowed upon me what no mortal should ever possess, both the gift of human and divine site! My Lord, your Almighty father bestowed to Tireseus the gift of prophecy to compensate him for the loss of his own eyesight. (Metamorphoses, p.61) "Though others see what you cannot," he commanded "so too will you be able to see what all others cannot!" With his wisdom, Tireseus has earned the respect of kings and the gods alike! Oedipus, once revered as the king of Thebes, blinded himself after the realization of his incestuous act. While most despise and spit upon him, his nurturing daughter Antigone remains at his side to fend for his needs. Apollo bestowed upon me what no mortal should ever possess, both the gift of human and divine site! The insidious consequences, you ask? My mother, for the divine gift, marks me insane! Im not permitted to leave the kingdom for fear that my "mad ravings" will upset the citizens blissful ignorance of future events! Ive thought about performing my own version of Oedipus mutilation act upon myself. The question that begs, though, is "Who would take care of my essential needs?" No doubt that Ill be separated from any surviving Trojan woman when the lots are drawn for us slaves. In that regard, I will be completely dependent upon my new master. A blind servant is looked upon as a burden, not a benefit, to the conquerors kingdom! Being labeled as an inefficient would make a politically acceptable excuse for executing a former princess! Great Apollo, do you not see the dark humor in this situation? WHAT DOES IT MATTER WHERE I AM IF IM TO BE EXECUTED ANYWAY! (Fatham, p.131)
The most loathsome aspect of these chain of events is that that sour wretch of a woman, the prize of Menelaus contest, will live to enjoy the bounty of her husband, or should I say husband number four. She is in a win-win situation. Were the Trojans destined to win, she wouldve eventually become queen of this city. Even if Menelaus raged so ferociously that he would love nothing better to do than to kill that bitch, never would he do it. The political price of committing our country to ten years at war and the sacrifice of hundreds and hundreds of Greek lives secures her future. The crux of his reasoning for war lies in the claim that Sparta has been robbed of her queen and such an injustice by foreign invaders must be avenged! No death sentence will fall on her head for fear of anarchy from Greeces citizens. To kill her would be all but an admission by the Atreidae commanders that the expedition wasted a colossal amount time, resources, and Greek lives. My future lord Agamemnon will face enough silent critics in the towns and in his kingdom after the voyage home. Silence, however, can be deadly.
What must be done then is obvious. Helen, that abominable creature, must die! Troy will fall; this had already been made truth to me. My life will follow the citys lead in coming to a violent end. The Greek commander had already sealed his fate upon the shores of Aulis. The political spotlight prevents Menelaus from doing the deed himself. What does a future slave girl like myself have to lose that I know in the future wont already be taken from me? Perhaps I will be doing a favor to Menelaus! He may be able to quench his mourning tears by remembering Helen as a faithful wife whom, rather than spend another moment within Troys walls, ended her life "honorably."
The time has come to show reverence to the gods and ask for their aid in this matter. To Apollo, I must turn to him for the strength to commit this justifiable act! Aphrodite must be reassured that no physical harm will come to her beloved and my brother Paris. Finally, Zeus must be persuaded that this offspring deserves all the destruction to her that she has caused to the infinite lives effected by this ghastly war! Perhaps this line of thought is just another one of my senseless ramblings! Oh, I pray that it be so because if it is, and with the help and blessing of the gods, so it will surely come to pass! (Exit CASSANDRA)