Composers and their stage works 


(Hekabe, 417 B.C.).



set before the tents of Agamemnon, whose army is encamped in Thrace, on its way home after the Trojan War.

The ghost of Polydorus, the youngest son of Priam and Hecuba, appears and tells the audience that the Thracian king Polymestor, to whom he was entrusted by Priam with large quantities of gold during the war, cruelly murdered him and stole his gold after receiving news of the Trojan defeat. Polydorus's ghost further warns that his sister Polyxena will be sacrificed that very day by the Greeks in honour of the dead Achilles. Hecuba enters and speaks of frightening dreams she had, foretelling suffering for Polyxena and Polydorus, whom she believes to be still alive. The chorus of captive Trojan women informs her of the imminent sacrifice of Polyxena. She pleads with the obstinate Odysseus to let her die in place of her daughter, but Polyxena, preferring death to slavery, goes calmly to the sacrificial altar.

Preparing for Polyxena's s burial, Hecuba's maid finds Polydorus's body, washed up by the sea, and Hecuba realises that he was murdered for his gold. Though Agamemnon refuses to aid her revenge, he swears not to interfere and allows her to send a messenger to Polymestor. The Thracian king arrives with his children and is lured by Hecuba, with enticing tales about more of Priam's gold, into her tent. There his children are killed, and his eyes are put out by the Trojan women. Since it is clear that Polymestor killed Polydorus for the sake of the Trojan gold and not, as he claims, to do a favour to the Greeks, Agamemnon refuses him aid or sympathy.

Polymestor then prophesies that Hecuba's daughter Cassandra and Agamemnon shall both die at the hands of Clytemnestra, Agamemnon's wife, and that Hecuba herself will turn into a dog and drown in the sea. Agamemnon, furious, exiles Polymestor to a desert island and with blind optimism sets out homeward.