Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Background for Helen on 86th St. THE TROJAN WAR

The ancient Greek story of the war between Greece and Troy is an epic of love, revenge, sorrow and bloodshed. But this quick overview will help in the background of WFT Musical Performance Intensive, "Helen on 86th St."

When the goddess of Discord made trouble by throwing a golden apple labeled 'to the fairest' into the midst of a party of gods and goddesses, three goddesses all rushed to claim it.  Paris, a prince of Troy, is asked to settle the argument: just who is the fairest?  Each goddess tempted him with a bribe.  The first, Hera, offered him a wide empire.  The second, Athena, offered him glory in war.  Lastly, Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty, offered him the most beautiful woman in the world. This last offer he could not resist. And who is this beauty? Helen.

The most beautiful woman in the world, Helen, was married to king, Menelaos.  Since Aphrodite had promised Helen to Paris, she made Paris journey to Greece and made sure he was irresistible to Helen.  So Helen ran away with Paris to Troy, leaving her husband behind.  Not such a good move.
To reclaim his wife, Menelaos took his troops to Troy, led by his brother Agamemnon, and the greatest warrior in all of Greece, Achilles.  Troy fought back and after nine years the war waged on.  Agamemnon and Achilles fought (over another woman) and Achilles was determined to punish Agamemnon, so he refused to fight.  Without Achilles things went badly for the Greeks.  Achilles' best friend Patroklos persuaded Achilles to let him lead the troops himself and in Achilles armor, Patroklos fought brilliantly but was killed by Hector, the Trojan champion, and one of Paris's brothers.
Achilles was full of sorrow and rage. Now he wanted to rejoin the battle to avenge his friend's death, but he had no armor. He begged his mother, the sea-goddess Thetis, to get him some new armor made by the smith god.  Equipped with new armor, Achilles raged through the battle looking for Hector.  Finally the two great warriors met. Each was supported by a god.  As Achilles rushed forward, his goddess Athena stood behind him. As Hector fell, the god Apollo was forced to leave him.
Even though he had killed Hector, Achilles was not yet fated to die. He still had time to fight the Amazons, fierce female warriors who were on the side of the Trojans.  The Amazons fought hard and killed many Greeks, but when their brave queen, Penthesilea, came face to face with Achilles, she had met her match.
Paris was desperate to avenge his brother's murder.  He managed to fire an arrow into the one area of weakness that Achilles had - in the heel of his foot.  Achilles was killed just as his mother had foreseen.  However, Paris himself died in battle soon after.
The war had now gone on for ten years.  To win, the Greeks knew they had to somehow get their troops inside the city of Troy.  They came up with a clever plan.  They made a huge hollow wooden horse, filled it with their best warriors and left it outside the city, then they pretended to sail away. Thinking it would bring them luck, the Trojans brought the horse inside.  After nightfall, the Greeks hidden in the horse sneaked out and opened the gates to the rest of the army.

When the Greeks got inside the city, they began killing people wildly.  To make sure that none of Hector's family lived to avenge his death, they even killed his old father Priam, the king of Troy, and his baby son Astyanax.
Menelaos found Helen.  He drew his sword to kill her because of all the trouble she had caused, but the goddess Aphrodite protected her, and when Menelaos looked at Helen, he was so overwhelmed with her beauty that his sword fell to the ground. And so the war ended.


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