Rescatando a Helena

Dr. Francisca Gómez Seijo has just published Rescuing Helena. Characterization of Helen in the eponymous tragedy of Euripides in the prestigious German publishing house De Gruyter, a monograph on that character in the tragedy of Euripides.

Helena never loved Paris nor ran away with him. The Trojan War was fought over a ghost with the same physical appearance as the real Helen. Held in Egypt by the will of Zeus, Menelaus’ wife must claim before her recently reunited husband that she is the authentic Helen, very different from the ghost that the hero brought with him from Troy. Transcending the dialectic between appearance and reality, Euripides managed to provide this new Helen with a human intelligibility artistically integrated into the dramatic text itself.

The characters of Attic tragedy have been widely studied from perspectives in which their words and actions are often explained from our modern notions about the human mind and personality, and from ethical assessments and moral judgments foreign to classical Greece. Rescuing Helen aims to contemplate the characterization of Helen in the eponymous tragedy by Euripides from a perspective in which the human intelligibility of the character does not come from the supposed discovery of her internal conscience or her individual psyche, but from the adequate subordination of the characterization. from Helena to the action of the play in which said characterization is organically integrated. Instead of isolating the character from the dramatic context to which she belongs, as if she were endowed with an idiosyncratic identity, this monograph does not attempt to discover who Helena really is by reading between the lines below the textual surface, but rather how her words and actions manage to effectively move to the original audience of the work.

Faced with our erudite and reflective readings of the preserved texts, the viewers of the 5th century B. C. went to the Theater of Dionysus to see and hear the actions and words of the tragic characters within a broader spectacle that included music and dance. That is, the Attic tragedy was primarily an emotional experience, not an occasion for psychological introspection or philosophical reflection.


Fronte ás nosas lecturas eruditas e reflexivas dos textos conservados, os espectadores do século V a. C. acudían ao Teatro de Dioniso para ver e oír as accións e as palabras dos personaxes tráxicos dentro dun espectáculo máis amplo que incluía música e danza. É dicir, a traxedia ática era ante todo unha experiencia emocional, non unha ocasión para a introspección psicolóxica ou a reflexión filosófica.