Trojan Women by Seneca (Translated by Frederick Ahl)
About the author
Lucius Annaeus Seneca (often known simply as Seneca) (ca. 4 BC – 65 AD) was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work humorist, of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero. While he was later forced to commit suicide for alleged complicity in the Pisonian conspiracy to assassinate Nero, the last of the Julio-Claudian emperors, he may have been innocent.
This free and eloquent translation skilfully reproduces the imagery, power, and frequent irony and sarcasm of Seneca’s language.
I recently read this play because it is required reading for my course, however before this my course had made me read Euripides’ Trojan Women and I find that personally I much prefer Euripides’ interpretation.
The play is about the aftermath of the war of Troy and is about the fate of the survivors of Troy which is sadly the women of Troy who no longer have husbands, fathers or brothers. They are on their own and their fates are left in the hands of the Greeks and those fates will not be good. There are also two tragedies left in the play for the audience to see.
I did enjoy Seneca’s interpretation but I did find it very long winded and some of the speeches just seemed to drag for me and because of this I found it hard to visualise the play on the stage. I also found the language quite stilted but this could be because of the translation by Frederick Ahl.
The other issue I did not like was I found the play overly graphic in places and found it hard to read. I just found the detail of the gore rather overboard but I suppose this is what the Romans enjoyed on stage.
I liked the play and must admit that if I had not read Euripides’ version first I might have enjoyed it more but Euripides’ version is faster paced and I could not put it down but Seneca’s version I was quite happy to have a break from.
I also really enjoyed the introduction by Frederick Ahl and found it very informative but did find it rather amusing to see differences between Ahl’s information and information from what I have discovered in my research.
Overall I found this play ok but it just lacked the wow factor for me, maybe I prefer the Greek playwrights to the Roman playwrights but it was a good read and I am glad I have discovered the works of Seneca and hope to read more. I give this play and translation 3 out of 5 Dragons.