Kris continues his guest blogging with the next chapter of the great Trojan War. Kris?
Hello guys, gals, and non-binary pals! My name is Kris Karcher and I am the dramaturg on warplay. What is a dramaturg you ask? Well, a dramaturg’s job changes with every production, but to put it simply, I see myself as a research assistant to the director, and more importantly, an advocate for the playwright in the rehearsal room. For warplay, being the dramaturg meant doing a lot of digging into the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus, the myths surrounding the Trojan War, and exploring other themes of the play such as Free Will and Toxic Masculinity both now and in Ancient Greece. In this series of blogs, I will be touching on a few different areas of research in order to help contextualize the play you will be seeing in the next coming weeks. Or maybe you’ve already seen the play, and you’d like to know more. That’s great too!
If you’re just joining us for the first time, my last post discussed the origins of the Trojan War, which is the backdrop of our hero’s story in warplay. In this post, I do my best to summarize The Iliad, and finish with the rest of the war.
A (very very very brief) Summary of The Iliad
The Iliad begins with a quarrel between Agamemnon, the leader of the Greeks, and Achilles, the Greek’s greatest warrior. In the beginning of Homer’s epic, Agamemnon and his men have seized a neighboring Trojan city. Agamemnon takes a local priest’s daughter, Chrysalis, as his prize for conquering the city. After Agamemnon refuses to give the priest his daughter back, the priest prays to Apollo who sends a plague onto the Greek camps. Soldiers and their horses die in large numbers. After a soothsayer explains the origin of the plague to Agamemnon, Agamemnon agrees to let Chrysalis go if he can have Briseis, Achilles’ prize from a recent siege. Achilles feels so betrayed and shamed that he decides he will no longer help Agamemnon or his army in the war.
As Achilles weeps outside his tent by the seashore, his mother, Thetis, appears. Achilles pleads with Thetis to ask Zeus to aid the Trojans in battle to teach Agamemnon a lesson for taking Briseis from him (yes, I know, all of this is so so gross and toxic). Zeus sends a dream to Agamemnon telling him to forget about Achilles and take his army to battle. When he wakes, the Greeks charge the plains but are met by Hector and his army. By the end of the day, the Trojans win the battle, and the end of Agamemnon’s army is near.
After the battle, the Greeks know that they can not win without Achilles. Agamemnon sends gifts to Achilles’ tent in an attempt to apologize and ask for his help, but still angry with Agamemnon, Achilles declines. Patroclus, who had been staying with Achilles in his tent (hmm, what’s going on there?), pleads with Achilles to fight again so that he and his comrades can win the war. When Achilles again denies his best friend, Patroclus asks if he can at least go into battle in Achilles’ place, wearing his armor, knowing that just seeing Achille’s armor would strike enough fear into the Trojans that they would retreat. Achilles agrees to let Patroclus go, but only if Patroclus promises to come home after the Trojans had retreated, and not pursue them any further.
The next day, Hector of the Trojans leads an attack on the Greek line. Shortly after the battle ensues, Patroclus arrives to the front of the line in Achilles’ armor and chariot. The Trojans, believing the warrior has returned to war, begin to retreat. Some Trojans go as far as to find shelter behind the city’s walls. Patroclus, unfortunately, does not uphold his promise to Achilles and continues to charge the Trojan line, wishing to take the whole city himself.
Patroclus attempts three times to climb the walls of the city. Each time Apollo pushes him back. Hector, seeing Patroclus fail, realizes it is not the great Achilles under the armor, but Patroclus. As Patroclus, accepting failure, retreats away from the wall, Apollo gives him a great blow to the back of his head, throwing his helmet off. As the helmet touches the ground, his spear breaks and the armor around him falls off. Hector, seizing his opportunity, throws his spear and pierces Patroclus just above his hip. Hector takes Achilles’ armor as his prize. The battle rages on as the Greeks attempt to take Patroclus’s body to camp.
When Patroclus’s body is brought back to the Greek camp, Achilles screams and wails for hours. The chiefs, worried Achilles would kill himself after losing his dearest companion, take turns comforting him and watching him to ensure his safety. Sorrow turning to anger, Achilles vows to take revenge. His mother begs him not to go, because of a prophesy stating that Achilles would die soon after Hector was slain. Achilles refuses her plea, and in a last ditch effort to save her son, Thetis has Vulcan, the son of Zeus and Hera, fashion a new set of armor for him.
At dawn, Achilles makes his heroic return and chases the Trojans back to Troy, slaughtering all enemies in his path. When he approaches the city walls, Hector tries to reason with Achilles, but he is not interested. He stabs Hector in the throat, killing him. Hector’s body is dragged back behind Greek lines and defiled by the soldiers as a final act of revenge. Not soon after, King Priam arrives at the Greek camps with a wagon of gold and other goods begging for his son’s body. Achilles agrees to let Priam take Hector’s body, and in thanks, Priam declares a 12 day truce. This is how The Iliad ends.
The Rest of the War
The Trojan War involved several more exciting episodes including Achilles himself meeting his destiny and being killed by an arrow to his only weak spot, his heel, shot by Paris and guided by Apollo. According to one myth, Odysseus and Ajax squabbled over the hero’s magnificent armor and Ajax went mad with disappointment when he lost out on the prize.
The final and decisive action for the war arrived with Odysseus’ idea of the Trojan Horse. First, the Greeks all sailed off into the horizon leaving a mysterious offering to the Trojans of a gigantic wooden horse which in reality hid a group of soldiers within. One solider was chosen to stay behind and tell the Trojans that the Greeks had given up and left a nice present. The Trojans took the horse inside the city walls, and while they were enjoying a drunken celebration of their false victory, Greek soldiers climbed out of the horse and opened the city walls for the returning Greek army. The city was sacked and the population was slaughtered or enslaved and Helen was taken back to Menelaus.
Though they won, due to their merciless ravaging of the city and its people, the Gods punished the Greeks by sending storms to wreck their ships. Those whose ships were not destroyed endured a difficult voyage home. Even then, some of the Greeks who were able to make it back to their homeland only did so to face famine, disease, and further misfortune.
Thanks for reading! Tune in next time, where we will dissect the constructs of masculinity in Ancient Greece! Sound complicated? I promise it’s not.
warplay opens NEXT WEEK! Reserve your tickets now; we can’t wait to see you there!