Places: Andromache

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First produced: Andromachē, 426 b.c.e. (English translation, 1782)

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Tragedy

Time of work: Shortly after the Trojan War

Places DiscussedTemple of Thetis

Temple Andromacheof Thetis. Temple in Thessaly, the central region of ancient Greece, near Phthia, the home of Neoptolemus, the goddess Thetis’s grandson and son of Achilles, and Pharsala, the home of Peleus, Thetis’s mortal husband. The ancient Greeks considered temples, and particularly temple altars, sanctuaries–places of asylum for both good and evil people. In Euripides’ play, the Trojan hero Hector’s widow, Andromache, is seeking refuge at the Temple of Thetis from the threat of Neoptolemus’s Spartan wife, Hermione, and her father, Menelaus. She trusts that whoever respects the gods will honor the tradition of sanctuary. However, the Greek king Menelaus does not respect that tradition and lures Andromache away from the altar and lies to her by telling her that her son will be spared if she forfeits her own life. His disrespect for the temple reflects both his untrustworthiness and his barbarism.

Euripides’ symbolic use of temples also occurs when the report comes that Neoptolemus is killed by Spartans while praying in the temple of Apollo in another gross example of Spartan treachery, arrogance, and brutality. Unlike the Spartans, Peleus–who could despise Andromache because his son was killed by her brother-in-law–honors Andromache’s request from the altar for protection, rescuing her from Menelaus.

Euripides thus uses temples as sacred places of refuge, and, by extension, as measuring rods of civilized decency. Characters such as Menelaus who dishonor the sanctity of sanctuaries, demonstrate their vileness, while those who show respect for the sanctuary demonstrate their nobility and righteousness.

BibliographyAldrich, K. M. The “Andromache” of Euripides. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1961. A detailed analysis of the play. Aldrich makes an argument for the work’s unity of plot and theme.Allan, William. The “Andromache” and Euripedean Tragedy. Oxford, England: Oxford, 2000. A thorough analysis of the play, which the author asserts deserves a greater degree of critical appreciation than it has received historically.Grube, G. M. A. The Drama of Euripides. London: Methuen, 1941. A learned, traditional, close reading of the play. Accepts the anti-Spartan tone of the work at face value and sees the characters as lively but not subtle.Kitto, Humphrey Davy Findley. Greek Tragedy: A Literary Study. London: Methuen, 1939. A classic study of classical tragedy. Argues that Andromache is unified in theme but not in plot and that Hermione, Menelaus, and Orestes embody negative Spartan qualities of “arrogance, treachery, and criminal ruthlessness.” Expresses admiration for the work’s action and characterization.Kovacs, Paul David. The “Andromache” of Euripides. Chico, Calif.: Scholars Press, 1980. Argues against the view that Euripides’ tragedies are antiheroic and that they attack traditional attitudes. Instead, Kovacs sees Andromache as conventional and close to Sophocles’ view of the tragic. Kovacs also disputes the claim that Euripides sides with the Sophists in this play.Vellacott, Philip. Ironic Drama: A Study of Euripides’ Method and Meaning. London: Cambridge University Press, 1975. Sees Andromache as an indictment of cruelty to women and the horrors of war. Vellacott rejects the view that the play’s early episodes are irrelevant to the outcome, maintaining instead that these scenes are essential.
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