|Frederick Sandy's "Helen"|
But Helen wasn't satisfied with Menelaus. She fell for the lovely Trojan prince, Paris. Like Helen, Paris was married, too. But neither seemed to care much. Together, they fled Greece. This didn't sit well with Menelaus or Agamemnon, who rallied the troops and descended on Troy. The resulting battle was the great Trojan war.
Here's where the story gets complicated.
According to one version, Paris was killed during the war that ravished Troy. When he died, Helen married his brother. But Helen is anything but faithful in this version of the story, so when it became evident that Troy would fall... Helen ran to Menelaus and promised to return to him. In exchange for his mercy, she handed Deiphobus over to Menelaus, who immediately killed him.
Together, Menelaus and Helen hopped back on their ship and returned to Sparta.
In another version of the story, the real Helen never made it to Troy with Paris. Their ship was detained in Egypt, and the King replaced Helen with a phantom who sailed on to Troy with Paris. The real Helen was handed back over to Menelaus, and Troy was destroyed anyway.
And in yet another version, Helen survived the war in which Paris died. Her brothers refused to welcome her home, and Menelaus refused to take her back. She then spent the rest of her days wandering.
I hate these versions of the story. In the first, Helen is a bed-hopping hussy, Paris is a cheater, and thousands die as a result. In the second... she is returned to Menelaus, and thousands still die alongside the cheater Paris. In the third... Menelaus starts a war over a woman, and then won't even take the hussy back (not that she deserved it or anything).
If we must accept any of these versions, I like to think being kidnapped by Theseus screwed her up mentally, and she ran to whichever man she felt was the best able to protect her.
Barring that tragic explanation, I prefer to believe that Diane Kruger's Helen fell in love with Orlando Bloom's unmarried Paris because Brendan Gleeson's Menelaus was a brutish husband, they hauled butt to Troy, survived the war, and lived happily ever after. War is such a nasty business. Believing it happened for love is just so much more pleasant than the other options. Plus Orlando Bloom's Paris shoots Brad Pitt's Achilles in the Achilles with an arrow in the end... which is pretty awesome too.
I'll also note that Agamemnon and Helen's sister didn't live happily ever after either. According to the myths, Helen's sister, Clytemnestra, was about as faithful as Helen, and she and her lover killed Agamemnon upon his return from Troy with Cassandra (the concubine he acquired during the war). Cassandra tried to tell Agamemnon of the treachery awaiting him, but no one believed her because she was cursed, so he walked right into it.
You'd think that would make for an interesting read, but it did not. My junior year of high school, I was absolutely certain reading Agamemnon in Aeschylus's Oresteia would bore me to death.
Have you read the play? Loved it? Hated it? What about Helen? Love or hate her?
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