The following play is based on the ancient Greek story of CASSANDRA, daughter of Priam, King of Troy. The myth is faithfully rendered in its essence, although a few details are changed or embellished, and this version is given its own particular emphasis. Sources include THE ILIAD by Homer, the AGAMEMNON by Aeschylus, THE TROJAN WOMEN by Euripides, THE GREEK MYTHS by Robert Graves, and MYTHOLOGY by Edith Hamilton.
CASSANDRA (Princess of Troy, daughter of Priam and Hecuba)
PRIAM (King of Troy)
HECUBA (Queen of Troy)
NURSEMAID (Hecubaís helper and childhood-caretaker of Cassandra)
GUARD (Priamís bodyguard)
APOLLO (the Greek God of the Sun, Art, and Prophecy)
ANDROMACHE (Widow of Hector, Cassandraís valiant, slain brother)
ASTYANAX (A young child, son of Andromache and Hector)
AGAMEMNON (King of Mycenae, supreme leader of the Greeks)
ADDITIONAL GUARDS (3-4 more guards, Trojan warriors)
LOVER 1 (a young Trojan man)
LOVER 2 (a young Trojan woman)
GREEK WARRIORS (at least 3)
The setting, as it is conceived, is layered: that is, several scenes share the stage, and are "turned on or off" according to where the actors go and the action takes place. (On a real stage with a curtain, much of the action can take place near the front of the stage with the depth perception/broader view revealed by opening the curtain.) In the beginning, the dialogue takes place in a rather undefined space that could be a royal garden, a palace room, etc., as Hecuba and the Nursemaid discuss the baby Cassandra. The action then switches to the plain of Troy outside the city gates, where Cassandra confronts the famous wooden horse, blocking its path in the manner of a modern-day war protestor. From then on, the action takes place either there, or in the foreground, as others observe Cassandra, or as she comes closer to the audience to interact with the characters. (As in most of my theatrical creations, I give the Director plenty of room to work with, and leave much of the physical arrangement to his/her concepts and means.)
A realistic-looking replica (full body, or faÁade) of the famous WOODEN HORSE, which the Greeks deployed during the Trojan War (a large hollow horse in which a squad of Greek soldiers hid). The visual contrast of the large horse threatening the city and towering above Cassandra, who bravely stands in its path attempting to block its entry into Troy, is a defining image of the production. Needless to say, an utterly hokey or small-scale horse will sabotage the play from the start.
Appropriate Homeric wardrobe for the characters.
Helmets, breastplates, shields, spears, and swords, as required, by the Greek warriors, and possibly some of the Trojans.
Apolloís lyre, bow, and quiver of arrows.
Hecuba, the Queen of Troy, wife of Priam, and mother of Hector and Cassandra, is holding an infant in her arms. Beside her stands the girlís nursemaid.
HECUBA: Another daughter.
NURSEMAID: A populous family.
HECUBA: The family of a king must always be so. Sons to guard oneís back when times are hard, and the gold of strangers tempts a countryís soul. Daughters to pacify the proud and unruly who count as oneís friends; to love their envy to sleep, and quiet thoughts of treachery with kisses: to bind the kingdom together, and expand the royal family so that no one dangerous remains outside of it.
NURSEMAID: [Looking at Cassandra] And you, little princess, what fierce chieftain will you tie to your father? What savage lion will succumb to loyalty in your bed? [To Hecuba] Already, my Queen, I see your beauty in her eyes. With but one look, she will make the knees of the greatest of lords weak; for her the wild horse will stand still so that Priam may throw his saddle across its back. She will help your father to build his empire by being gentle.
HECUBA: She is still so young.
NURSEMAID: But you can see the direction her soul is taking. The woman that she will blossom into.
HECUBA: A princess. She must learn from the very start what it is to be a princess. The blood that flows through her veins is only half of it. She must be taught. Taught the rest. Taught to be regal, proud, confident, serene. To be delicious, but at the same time dignified. To be a princess.
NURSEMAID: The song.
HECUBA: I will sing her the song.
NURSEMAID: The song.
HECUBA: The song we have always sung.
NURSEMAID: The little harmless song that turns girls into princesses. [To Cassandra] Do you hear, little Cassandra? Do you hear, little child? Into this tiny, undecided mind, will enter the whispering suggestion that will set you apart from the rest of the world. No one ever sang it into my ear. But I am honored merely to stand by your side, to wash clean the cloths you are wrapped in, to stand on the edge of your glory. I am happy that you hear the song I never did.
HECUBA: [Sings the song]
I am a princess, I am a princess, and Iíll always be [Nurse parrots: "And Iíll always be."]
I am a princess, I am a princess, Iím the daughter of the king [Nurse parrots: "Iím the daughter of the king."
And as long as I hold my head up high
and walk upon the earth with pride
my country will survive,
Troy, great Troy will never die.
NURSEMAID: [Claps her hands] May the Gods bless her, mighty Hecuba! She will be a princess in every sense of the world. She will embody every noble attribute which we have forgotten, remind us, with every step she takes, and every proud glance she throws our way, of the greatness that resides within us, the people from whom she comes. Her pride will make this country proud; when we see her, our hearts will rush after her, she will lead us, like a flock of clamoring geese through the sky, we will beat our wings in the air to keep up with her. We will be more than we are. That is what a princess does to her people.
HECUBA: She is still such a small child. Life is so unpredictable; the future is so opaque!
NURSEMAID: I have no doubt, my Queen, that your daughter shall be great; this one, greater than the rest.
HECUBA: Yet, on the slopes of the high mountain, there are more dangers than on the level plain.
NURSEMAID: You are afraid for her?
HECUBA: No Ė it is too early to be afraid. There are times when it is the greatest of blessings to be born a princess, and other times when it is fatal; times when all the brilliant flowers of the garden are cut down, and only the weeds and vines are left behind. [After reflection] No matter. Whether it brings her grief or glory, she must be a princess. It is her fate.
They get up and walk away, singing the princess song.
Cassandra, now fully grown, is standing alone in the middle of the stage, in front of a wooden horse, on rollers, that towers above her.
CASSANDRA: NO! NO! NO! I will not let you pass. Tall, wooden horse Ė so crudely, boldly crafted, with strong, harsh lines, as hard as the prows of the ships that brought the Greeks, the pillaging, deceitful, murderous Greeks from across the sea. You were not made by an artist, brave, audacious horse; you were not made lovingly by a hand that knew horses, by a hand, as it were, scrubbing you and feeding you; you were made as if by the thrust of a spear, the slash of a sword. You were made by warriors, stepping on beauty on their way to victory. You are no work of art, no offering to the Gods; you are the sharp edge of sword, pointed at Troyís throat. Already, you are drawing blood from my intuition. I know you; I know who and what you are. I will not let the celebration of others distract me from the SHOUTING IN MY HEAD! Itís telling me. Telling me everything! I will defeat you. I will defeat you. Yes, I. I, Cassandra. GO AWAY! I WONíT LET YOU IN!
Enter Priam, with a guard who has fetched him.
PRIAM: Not again! My mad daughter! My mad, beautiful daughter! Whoever would have guessed such a fate for that innocent child, that glowing infant, who laughed so joyously, so fearlessly, in my arms?
GUARD: She has been here, raving, in front of the horse all morning long. We canít bring it into the city. She dares us to keep moving it forward, to crush her.
PRIAM: My poor, mad girl! Destined to be an old maid! No one will marry her! Look at her! She spends her time babbling, frothing at the mouth like a dog with rabies, screaming and weeping incoherent warnings to the world, imagining her insanity comes from the Gods. She is afraid of everything, yet courageous in displaying her lack of common sense. What a shame! What an awful humiliation for a father! For a king!
GUARD: Forgive me for what I am about to say, great Priam, but surely, you should have locked her up long ago, sealed her behind a great stone, inside a wall, or a mountain, hidden her somewhere where her lamentations could not be heard. It does not reflect well on a great king to have such a daughter. Forever distraught and pessimistic!
PRIAM: I am weak. What can I say? I am weak Ė my hands are bound by a fatherís love. She was always so bright. So filled with promise. Until that day she came back from the field. What happened there? What happened in the field?
Enter Apollo. Radiant, with a lyre and a bow with a quiver of arrows. The Trojans do not see him, he is visible only to Cassandra.
APOLLO: [To Cassandra] Yes. What happened in that field?
CASSANDRA: You! You again! Apollo! You must remove the curse! [She rushes up to him, clutching him. He pushes her away] Set me free!
APOLLO: Now you clutch at my garments as I implored you to then! Too late! Too late, dear Cassandra. I wanted you, then - I, a god - and you, a mortal, said no. You rejected me Ė a god. And after I had given you such a great gift Ė the gift of prophecy!
CASSANDRA: I couldnít stand to live in darkness, Apollo, like the rest of mankind.
APOLLO: Bright little girl Ė you wanted to see things ahead of their time. To know the future. And for such noble reasons Ė not merely to be a voyeur of things to come, but to influence them! To be able to ward off catastrophes; to save men from their awful Destinies, which are hidden like monsters behind the bushes, beneath the waves, underneath the rock of Time; to guide your people away from dangers to safe and beautiful places; to defend the ones you loved more stoutly than the spear points of a thousand mighty warriors, with foresight, with that shining mind of yours! I lusted for you when I saw you playing in the field, running through the grass with flowers in your hair, incautious like a child with your womanís body; I lusted for you, Cassandra! But when I offered you the gift of prophecy to seduce you, Cassandra, and you took it, not to wear as a trinket or jewel exuding vanity, but to wield as a medicine to heal the world, well then, dear Cassandra, I fell in love with you. My throbbing genitals bowed down to my heart and begged forgiveness for their superficiality. At first, I wanted to chase you, to rape you like I tried to rape Daphne, whose cries of despair became bark I could not penetrate, yet even so, I pressed myself against the tree that she became and shouted with defiant ecstasy, trying to hug myself inside of her. In the same way, I wanted to overpower you, Cassandra, to mount you from behind, to bury my gold into your helpless, desirable earth. But I couldnít. My lust was killed by love. Cassandra Ė I gave you a great gift. You ought to have loved me for that. You ought to have laid down in the grass. I was a god. I could no longer rape you. You had to give yourself to me.
CASSANDRA: Apollo - I am a princess. What is a princess without her honor?
APOLLO: You are a princess, and I am a God. Do you truly think you could lose your honor by lying with a God? Without us, what would you mortals be? The sky above your heads, the oceans in their beds, the crops that rise from the earth, the world we hold together. You could have thanked me with your flesh, discarded those flimsy, relentless garments that revealed so much yet kept me away from it like ramparts crowned with sharpened stakes. The smoke of the offerings that drifts upwards into the heavens from your altar is like a drop of wine diluted in a giant tub of water. I wanted to drink you straight, Cassandra. I wanted you to pray to me with your body, with the look of love in your eyes, staring helplessly upwards into mine. I gave you the gift of prophecy, the means to save the world, and you said no!
CASSANDRA: Apollo, you pressured me. I needed time. I wasnít ready. I couldnít lie with you directly after receiving such a gift, it would be as if youíd bought me. Princesses arenít bought. - I needed time.
APOLLO: Time does not exist in the land of passion.
CASSANDRA: If Time does not exist, then what is the difficulty in waiting?
APOLLO: Such a clever girl! This is why I needed you! Gods need people, Cassandra, just like you need food! We need love, we need adoration, we need to be cherished. The output is so great! What we give to you, to the world! It needs to be sustained. Just an embrace Ė one embrace. For a hundred years, I could have lived off of it. What madness, this invention of yours, this honor! Denying a God, to save yourself as a virgin for some foul-smelling mortal, some mediocre warrior your father needs to bind to him with the wide-open legs of his daughter!
CASSANDRA: Apollo, I revere you.
APOLLO: Not enough!
CASSANDRA: I worship you.
APOLLO: Not enough! Burn my temple to the ground, just love me!
She starts to caress him, he pushes her away.
APOLLO: Too late!
CASSANDRA: You are petulant, like a mortal! Vindictive!
APOLLO: Your world is so fragile. Do you think we Gods can hold our breath forever, walk on tip toes? Donít make a sound!, donít tip anything over! Damn you human beings, youíre like ants for whom a sneeze is a hurricane! Sometimes we need to be ourselves, to stop taking little baby steps for your sake, we need to stretch our arms, to thrash around! Donít blame us for your delicacy, youíve done that to yourselves. I was furious Ė how dare you! I couldnít restrain myself! I couldnít take back the marvelous gift of prophecy I had bestowed upon you, but at the moment you denied me, I felt cheated, betrayed! Here, I had given you something precious and you refused to acknowledge it by loving me! I had to tear it down, to take it back from you! But the gift of a God cannot be revoked.
CASSANDRA: So, instead, you hurled a curse at me.
APOLLO: I could not retract your ability to see the future. But I could prejudice menís minds against you, so that no one would ever believe a thing you said, never attach any credibility to your premonitions or your visions. I could not bury your talent, but I could induce men to despise your utterances, and thereby render your talent useless! I could not prevent you from seeing and expressing the truth, but I could turn the world against that truth, and make men cling to lies and misconceptions.
CASSANDRA: What selfishness Ė to gash the world just to get at me! So much blood to punish one kiss not given. I was not wrong to deny myself from you.
APOLLO: Mortals! Who cares which side wins, in the end, you are all fools! I am killing no one, merely preventing you from saving the people you love. Why should they live any more than their enemies, who are loved by someone else? I owe you no favors, Cassandra. Your haughtiness has destroyed your ability. Who are men to ask that a God be better than them? We are higher, deeper, wider, why should we also be better? Our storms ought to be a thousand times more powerful than yours.
CASSANDRA: If I have so enraged you, Apollo, why spare me? Why not just strike me down with one of your golden arrows? Or send one of your enormous serpents to crush me, like the ones that murdered my only ally, the wild seer Laocoon, by the edge of the sea? Here I am, Apollo. The woman you desired, who would not let you touch her. The haughty woman who said no. Why not strike me down, right here, right now? Why let this living denial of your omnipotence persist? Erase it! Blot it out! Leave nothing in the world that has the power to say no to you! Let no trace of your limits remain!
APOLLO: Such a bright, passionate girl! I loved you, Cassandra. Even now, to look at your beauty, and to be whipped by your spirit, moves me. No, I want to see you on the earth when I look down from behind the clouds, I want to see whatís causing me so much pain, I donít want my sorrow to be without an explanation. You are like a scar on my flesh, Cassandra. I want to see it every day, like the tattoo of a rose on my arm. I am as crazy as you, Cassandra.
CASSANDRA: Apollo. [Reaching out to him] Today, my people need me. This horse. This horse the Greeks have left behind, as they abandon their ten years of fighting against Troy. I know Ė I FEEL Ė it is a deception. My father has been told by an informer that if the horse is brought inside the city walls, the Gods will favor our cause forever, and no harm shall ever come to us, for the horse is said to be dear to you who dwell upon Olympus, who will protect its owners. But if we leave this horse unattended upon the barren plain beneath our walls, then terrible misfortune shall befall us. Thus, my fatherís men are desperate to bring the horse into the city.
APOLLO: But you know better. You know that they are wrong, that, in fact, the very opposite is true.
CASSANDRA: Thanks to you. [She is referring to her gift of prophecy]
APOLLO: But no one will listen to you.
CASSANDRA: Also thanks to you. Apollo [imploring him], please! My people! All the sacrifices Ė my dear brother, Hector!
APOLLO: Fallen beneath Achillesí ruthless spear.
CASSANDRA: Then dragged naked behind the chariot of his killer, three times around the walls of the city; and no one dared to come out and put an end to the infamy, in spite of all he had done for them!
APOLLO: The body desecrated.
CASSANDRA: [Weeping] My brother! My brother! And I was only a girl who could barely lift a spear! What could I do but weep! Hector! Hector!
APOLLO: The only man you ever trusted and felt safe with, who was not aged and unthreatening, like your father. The only man, whose beard was not long and gray, who you did not dread.
CASSANDRA: His heartless murder! His sacrifice must not be in vain! If for no other reason than that he fought so bravely and so nobly for it, this city must not be burned to the ground! We must prevail so that the generations that inherit this spot of bloody earth will remember my brother as a hero, not as a villain!
APOLLO: You are a patriot, without a voice. A champion of your land, who appears to be against it.
CASSANDRA: Because of you!
APOLLO: Because of the stinginess of that beautiful body of yours. That body that basks in the light of such an incredible mind! Even before I extended its vision. Stubborn, righteous girl, you have brought the heavens down upon your head!
CASSANDRA: [Imploring, touching him] Apollo, please! Make them believe me! I was younger then! I was afraid! I wanted to be good! I was not wise, I was only honorable. I did not know how the world works, I did not know the power of Gods, the ferocity of their desire. I am willing Ė it is just a little thing Ė a compromise Ė such a little thing! My people need to see!
APOLLO: Now Ėafter all these years Ė you would finally give in to me?
CASSANDRA: Apollo. If that is what you wish.
APOLLO: But you do not wish it.
CASSANDRA: I do.
APOLLO: For your people, not for me.
APOLLO: Itís too late!
APOLLO: Your stubbornness is a great part of your attraction, Cassandra. I suddenly find you less appealing.
CASSANDRA: What a vile thing to say!
APOLLO: I can have my choice of women. I do not need anyone to throw herself at me.
CASSANDRA: [Furious, slaps him in the face. He laughs heartily] You want it, and then you donít! You never wanted me, you only wanted to break my will!
APOLLO: Itís too late, Cassandra, do you understand? The time for you to say yes is past.
CASSANDRA: You are vindictive!
APOLLO: I am a God, and we who gave you the earth and all its treasures ought not to be treated as indifferently as you mortals treat each other. For every breath of life you take, you owe us. You owe us! You have diminished my godhood, Cassandra, left the fire of my divinity unattended in the night, pointed the world in the direction of my extinction. You have stolen a hundred degrees from my flame. I am beginning to die because of you. One day, because you did not love me, the world will cease to believe in me, and I will sputter out. And then, there will be only darkness.
CASSANDRA: Apollo! [She thrusts herself towards him, tries to kiss him. He pushes her away]
APOLLO: Itís too late!
APOLLO: You hurt me. Though you are a mortal, you hurt me, and Iíve never recovered from it, and I never will. The only treatment for a wound such as this is revenge.
CASSANDRA: My people!
APOLLO: Besides that, I have discovered that I need to know there is a woman who I cannot have. At least one. It makes chasing all the others more intriguing. How boring to pursue a certain outcome.
CASSANDRA: The curse! Remove it, Apollo! Have pity on my people! They did not start this war!
APOLLO: [Incredulously] Paris? Helen?
CASSANDRA: She wasnít kidnapped. She came of her own free will. She was just an excuse. The Greeks want our gold, our position on the Hellespont, command of the trade routes. They have also taken our women! My people, Apollo! Donít abandon them, just because you hate me!
APOLLO: Cassandra: you are stuck with my gift, and stuck with my curse. It could have been different, on that beautiful day in the field when you had flowers in your hair. But you said no. On that day, you rewrote the nature of the universe. There is no going back.
CASSANDRA: Apollo, you are cruel!
APOLLO: It is the nature of things. I know that my ego is huge, but the light I bring to the world is also bright. When the waters are turbulent, and the waves are three times the height of a man, who goes out into the sea in a little boat? No one, because they know the nature of things. When a God comes for a woman, which one closes her legs to him? None who knows the nature of things. No, they laugh and smile and lie down underneath the will that made the universe. They open like a blossom and accept the order of the cosmos. I am sorry for my ego, Cassandra, I feel as guilty and as helpless as a storm looking down at the devastation it has caused. But I cannot shut off the power. I cannot put an end to the rage or the vulnerability. It is the nature of things. You plead with me as though I were a mortal, but I am a God, and my weakness, just as much as my power, exceeds that of men. Though I love you, Cassandra, I cannot release you. I cannot give in to you, because I am already a slave to what I am. [Points to himself] I AM. [Apologizing] I AM.
After a while, Apollo walks away as Cassandra watches him.
PRIAM: I wonder what happened in that field?
GUARD: She stands there, alone, talking to herself.
PRIAM: She believes it is to a God.
Enter Hecuba, worried, and attended by the maid.
HECUBA: Dear husband, great Priam, lord and master, what is the trouble? I have been told our daughter is ill?
PRIAM: When is she not ill?
HECUBA: What is she doing?
Cassandra once more steps in front of the horse, and stands before it, defiantly.
PRIAM: What need is there for me to speak? Look.
CASSANDRA: You shall not pass, great horse, malicious intention of the Greeks! I, alone, in this city of fools, shall resist you! You shall not pass through these gates! Would they crush the daughter of Priam underneath your wheels? Would they destroy me to bring you in? Even if they will not listen to me, even if they despise me as mad, you will not enter! I interpose my body, this body I did not give to a God, between you and my people!
HECUBA: [Beginning to cry, instantly comforted by her maid] My poor, dear daughter! So beautiful! So wretched! How we must have crossed the Gods to end up with a child like this! Outwardly so perfect, inwardly so twisted!
NURSEMAID: Please, great Queen, donít despair! Though she suffers, she has moments of happiness as well. She loves to look at flowers and the sea, and to sing Ė she plays the flute so well and dances with her tambourine with a look of ecstasy in her eyes.
NURSEMAID: But she is happy Ė at least, sometimes.
PRIAM: Shame! What a stain on the family name!
NURSEMAID: The war has affected her, my lord: the loss of her brother Hector has pushed her over the edge.
PRIAM: Sentimental woman, you see only what the heart wants to see. She has been this way for years Ė ever since that day she went off alone into the field. What happened there, to my happy child? When she came back, she was not the same.
HECUBA: Iíll go talk to her, Priam. Iíll solve this.
PRIAM: A motherís delusion.
GUARD: Great Queen, please, think twice! She might be dangerous! Sheís strange! Sheís not herself!
PRIAM: Unfortunately, she is very much herself. Hecuba, donít waste your time. Iíll have my men drag her out of the path of the horse. We need to get it into the city before the Gods turn against us.
HECUBA: Give me a moment, dear. [She goes forward towards Cassandra with the nursemaid. Priam motions that the guard should follow close behind, in case his irrational daughter should threaten the Queen.] Daughter. [Trying to get through, as Cassandra is fixated on the horse.] Daughter.
NURSEMAID: She doesnít hear a thing. Itís like she was in another world. Just her and the horse. Nothing else exists.
HECUBA: [Warily touching Cassandra] Daughter. Daughter. Cassandra. CASSANDRA! [Cassandra starts] Calm down! Itís me, your mother! Itís me, your mother. [She accepts the desperate hug of her daughter. Cassandra clings to her for a moment to be comforted, then separates to speak to her]
HECUBA: Shhh! Youíre having another one of your attacks, Cassandra.
CASSANDRA: [Protests] Mother!
HECUBA: Youíre not well. The strain of everything. Itís been so much for all of us.
CASSANDRA: The horse! [She points to it] The horse!
HECUBA: Calm down, child! Itís just a horse.
CASSANDRA: No, you donít understand!
HECUBA: Itís just a horse.
CASSANDRA: No, itís not just a horse! Itís a trap! By means of it, the Greeks will destroy us!
HECUBA: We have information about the horse, Cassandra, from Sinon, the Greek. They were going to sacrifice him to the Gods so he came running to us begging us for protection. He told us the story about the horse. If we manage to get it into the city, and then set up a rite of worship around it, the Gods will favor us and we shall never again have to fear the Greeks.
CASSANDRA: Sinon is no refugee, he is still working for the Greeks. He is lying. How ingenuous you all are, to believe him!
HECUBA: Think Ė no more will families have to suffer as we did when we lost dear Hector. The Gods shall protect us as if we had seven walls that reached to Heaven, and seven moats that were as wide as the sea.
NURSEMAID: [Wants to reach out and touch her, but is afraid of her] Yes, dear child, we will be safe forever. No one can harm who the Gods protect.
CASSANDRA: Incredible! So eager are you to win the war, that you are on the verge of granting the enemy the means to destroy you!
GUARD: [Coming closer] The Greeks have sailed away, Princess Cassandra. How can they beat us if they arenít here?
CASSANDRA: Have you explored the coves and beaches beyond the city? For years we have been cooped up behind these walls. We hardly know our land anymore. What if the Greek ships have not gone home as you believe, but only sailed out of sight to another landing? They may still be in striking range. Perhaps they will come back in the night.
GUARD: All the more reason to hurry and get the horse of good fortune into the city before they return!
CASSANDRA: [Exasperated] Unbelievable! I tell you Ė havenít you learned by now? Have my predictions ever proven to be untrue? Donít you think itís time to start believing in them?
GUARD: Rolls of the dice, Princess Cassandra. Do you know, once, I saw a blind man kill another man with a sword? Who would have thought it possible? But in a small, crowded room, itís almost bound to happen. The blind man swung his sword with gusto, and thatís all there was to the miracle. Youíre certainly not shy about throwing your predictions around.
CASSANDRA: Donít despise the fruits of knowledge by calling them chance. I am telling you what is going to happen. Listen to me.
HECUBA: Itís just a horse.
CASSANDRA: Itís more than a horse!
NURSEMAID: Your motherís right, dear. How could a wooden horse destroy a city such as ours, which has withstood ten years of siege?
CASSANDRA: How, then, could it save it? It cannot have the power to save it, without also having the power to destroy it.
NURSEMAID: What a pessimist! Dear Cassandra, you were such a happy child! What happened?
HECUBA: It can save us, Cassandra. Believe me. It is what the Gods said.
CASSANDRA: It is what the Greeks said the Gods said.
GUARD: Enough of this! The man who walks in circles goes nowhere. We are losing time. [To Hecuba] Your majesty: will you grant me permission to drag her out of the way? [She hesitates. He turns back to Priam] Your Highness?
Enter Andromache, carrying her son, the young Astyanax.
HECUBA: Wait! Let her beloved sister-in-law Andromache talk to her: the widow of her adored brother Hector, the mother of Hectorís son, precious Astyanax, who was the light of his fatherís eyes. Maybe Cassandra will listen to her.
GUARD: And why not to you, your majesty? You are her mother.
HECUBA: Stubborn children delight in tormenting their parents with their intransigence. Cassandra will not listen to us, she has rebelled against us by convincing herself that she is a prophetess; she has cast us aside for the Gods, let an imaginary connection take the place of a real one. No longer does she listen to the voice of we who are wise and experienced; she has deified an inner voice that comes from her innocence and fear, turned a childís voice into thunder. She lives her life tossed about on the wild ocean of fantasy that rules her from within, it smashes the tiny ship of clarity to pieces on the gigantic rocks of her nightmares. She has glorified her madness, and pitted it against the world. What an angry child, wearing the garments of concern! She preaches doom because she hates us! She wishes her dire prophecies would all come true and swallow us up like an earthquake because we did not spend our whole lives bowing down to her oversensitive mind! At the very least, she hopes we will lose sleep over them. But her discontent does not reach the lovely Andromache, who did not commit the unspeakable outrage of raising her. Andromache will be able to get through to her. Andromache!
ANDROMACHE: [To Hecuba] Dearest mother-in-law, what is wrong?
HECUBA: Your sister-in-law; sheís sick again. Sheís trying to stop us from bringing the horse into the city. Sheís been standing here for hours, blocking its path.
ANDROMACHE: [Looking at Cassandra with compassion, then coming over to her] Cassandra. Dear sister. Whatís wrong?
CASSANDRA: Andromache! Beautiful Andromache! [Cassandra hugs and kisses her] How are you holding up? [Andromache says nothing, she has lost her husband. Cassandra fondles her hair and kisses her again. Then she turns to the boy in Andromacheís arms, and kisses him as well] Astyanax! Beloved nephew! You look every bit Hectorís son. Now that he is gone, especially. I see his light in your eyes, his goodness. He looked this way once, too, before they placed a helmet on his head, before they hid him underneath a dark plume and put a spear in his hand. Beautiful boy, you are yourself, and you are at the same time my brother raised from the dead. You have done what my brotherís mighty shield could not do on that dreadful day: turned away Achillesí spear, preserved his life. [She kisses him again] He is a sacred boy, Andromache. Thank you for loving my brother so well. [She kisses her again] Thank you for giving him a son; and for cherishing him as you do. The way you hold him endears you to me more than ever.
ANDROMACHE: [Gently] Cassandra. Sweetest sister-in-law. [Indicates the horse] The horse. Whatís wrong? Why wonít you let the horse enter the city? The people are waiting.
CASSANDRA: The horse?
ANDROMACHE: The horse. It stands here towering above us on wheels, eager to be pushed into the sanctuary of our war-worn city. Can you not practically hear it neighing, shaking its head, its wild mane, biting the bridle, restless like a horse that loves to run, when it is restrained? It will bring us the Godsí favor, Cassandra, once it is safely inside the city walls, save us from the despair which has darkened ten years of our lives, and left us with wounds which will never heal. Cassandra. Why do you oppose it? Let there be peace and eternal security for Troy, guaranteed by the Gods. Let there be no more widows like me, Cassandra, and no more grieving sisters like you. And no more orphans like poor Astyanax. How can you, who have suffered so much, stand here denying us the means to end our suffering? Cassandra. What has the war done to your heart?
HECUBA: [To Cassandra] Listen to her, daughter. She is not a parent.
CASSANDRA: Andromache. You donít understand.
HECUBA: No one understands you, Cassandra.
CASSANDRA: [To her mother] You have given a name to your inability to understand me: madness. Rather than admit that a child of yours has exceeded you in any way, you choose to call me mad. [To Andromache] Andromache, I am not mad! I see! Is seeing madness? Is that the kind of world we live in now?
ANDROMACHE: [Patient and sad] What do you see, Cassandra?
GUARD: She sees nothing. She just wants to feel important!
ANDROMACHE: Hold your tongue. She is a princess. Who are you?
PRIAM: Let him say what he wants. He protects a king.
ANDROMACHE: Cassandra. What do you see? I see a wooden horse. What do you see?
CASSANDRA: I see the destruction of Troy.
ANDROMACHE: How? What can a wooden horse do? The Gods never destroy men for worshipping a sacred image; but they frequently punish our failure to revere what is holy. No harm can come from praying to this horse; but if we fail to honor it, who knows what will happen? What is there to lose?
CASSANDRA: If it is brought into the city, Andromache, Troy will end.
PRIAM: [Stepping up to more actively participate. He is demanding, and losing all patience.] How? How, daughter, how? What will happen? Precisely how will this wooden horse destroy us? Enough of these authoritative generalities, make sense, girl, for once make sense! I am a soldier, Cassandra. Talk to the soldier in me. Give me one good military reason why I should not let this horse be brought into the city, and I will satisfy you, believe me. But be concrete! We tire of these decisive ravings, these supremely confident lapses of sanity, these incessant predictions of calamity which you hurl at us like javelins! [Turning away in shame and fury] My own daughter! MY OWN DAUGHTER![He returns, highly agitated] Tell us how the horse will destroy us! Tell us!
GUARD: She will tell you nothing, great King, for she knows nothing.
PRIAM: Nothing, except how to make a king look like a fool in front of all his people! My own daughter!
Hecuba goes to him to calm him.
ANDROMACHE: What do you see, Cassandra? Look at all the chaos you are creating! [Struggling not to be angry with her also] Cassandra, what do you see?
NURSEMAID: Maybe you shouldnít ask, Andromache. Her eyes; they are beginning to drift far away, like they do just before she loses it.
GUARD: Before she erupts like a volcano, spewing nightmares over everyone in sight!
ANDROMACHE: What do you see, Cassandra?
NURSEMAID: Her eyes. Theyíre Ė theyíre not hers any longer. Theyíre gone. Gone. Sheís somewhere else now. Iím afraid.
HECUBA: Dear God, Andromache, stop asking her, while thereís still time!
CASSANDRA: [Slowly, she is in a trance] I seeÖ
CASSANDRA: I seeÖ
HECUBA: We donít want to know.
NURSEMAID: We want to sleep tonight.
CASSANDRA: I see what I, at first, only felt and knew. Now I see it. As plain as day. And it is terrible!
PRIAM: Enough! I am already sufficiently despised for having such a daughter; do not show them that I cannot control you! One more hideous prophecy, one more time you defy me, and I will be the laughingstock of Troy! Your shameful reputation needs no enhancing. Go back to the palace, Cassandra, go back to your room, to your flutes, to your idols and your incense. In your room, you can say whatever you want to, be whoever it is that you think you are. If you love us, Cassandra, hide your strangeness from the world! Spare us the intimate exposure of your twisted fantasies! Do not strip your mind naked in the public square!
HECUBA: She doesnít hear you, Priam. Not a word. She is lost. Inside herself, she is lost.
CASSANDRA: I see men. Greek soldiers. Somehow, the horse will open the gates of Troy.
PRIAM: She is mad!
CASSANDRA: I donít know how. But the God is speaking to me in a rhyme:
"Wine jars in the shipís hold.
Such a simple clue.
Salvationís in your hands.
Iíve given it to you.
Poor, poor fools. Her NO closed your ears.
Soon the ones you love
will be buried underneath Greek spears."
PRIAM: That is you, my poor sick daughter; there is no God involved in this. You are even less a prophetess than you are a poet. What a misuse of our beautiful language! And you are cruel, as well. To imagine such a fate for us after such a heroic war!
GUARD: Your majesty, give the order to drag her away, so that the horse may finally advance. This is becoming distressing for the people. Look how dissatisfied they are with your permissiveness. You sacrificed your proud son Hector for their sake; how then, will you spare this defect, this blemish on the family name? It would be an affront to Hector to endanger the city he died for, merely to appease a child who does not respect you. Her opinions deserve no consideration. She is mad.
ANDROMACHE: [To the guard] Who are you? She may be mad, but she is a princess. Take care!
CASSANDRA: [Suddenly outraged and madly passionate. She shouts at them all.] Not enough? I have not given you enough? You want to know more? Do you want to know what will happen, what will really happen? Exactly as it will happen? Well, Iíll tell you! Iíll tell you what will happen! Every monstrous, gory detail which you are determined to bring into the world, by ignoring me! Every utterly avoidable catastrophe which you are struggling to give birth to, by dismissing me! [They are all stunned] Yes, let me tell you! Let me tell you so you can condemn me! The very night you drag this evil horse into our city, Greek soldiers will run through our streets, enraged by ten years of hardship and failure; enraged by the valor of our resistance which turned their best friends into ashes which they scattered over the sea. Though they are the invaders and the aggressors, revenge will be on their minds, as though the fault was ours, and they will slaughter us like animals once they get within our walls, cut our throats and gut us like sheep, burn down our homes, seize our gold. The devastation will be absolute. The men shall die, the woman, too, except for the most beautiful ones, who shall be raped and enslaved. Degraded, they will be dragged away in dark ships to countries which hate them. Nothing but soot will remain where the greatest city on the earth once stood.
PRIAM: Monster! No Greek ever spoke to us this way!
GUARD: Silence her! [Draws a sword]
ANDROMACHE: Lift not a hand against her!
HECUBA: [Agreeing] No sword! If only an embrace could quell the rebellion.
PRIAM: It wonít.
GUARD: What a fatal vice is tenderness! [Putting it away] I apologize to you, my sword. If she were my daughterÖ
ANDROMACHE: She is not.
CASSANDRA: You, dear father, who despise my gift the most: do you think you shall last? Of course, the Greeks shall slay you, how should they let the king live? At least it will be quick, by the sword.
HECUBA: [Rushing to Priam] Silence, daughter! Such perversity! I love this man!
PRIAM: She hates me. It is what she wishes. She murders me in her imagination. After all the love we gave her. We tried to understand her, we triedÖ Priam
CASSANDRA: As for you, dear mother. They shall try to take you as a slave, but your sharp tongue will get in the way. You will curse them, revile them, treat them like dogs though they have all the power, until finally they tire of you, and tie you to a double post, arms spread out like this [she demonstrates]. Then they will hurl stones at you and batter you to death, as though you were a snake. Do you remember when Hector killed the snake that nearly bit me by the river, crushing it with a stone as its helpless mouth opened wide? It hissed so pitifully as it was overwhelmed. Your fate, mother, will be the same.
NURSEMAID: Stop! What terrible cruelty! Hecuba is your mother!
HECUBA: Vile, treacherous daughter! I gave you the milk from my breast and you dare to abuse me in your fantasies this way?
PRIAM: She hates us. I tell you, she hates us all.
CASSANDRA: As for my beautiful sister Polyxena Ėmy beautiful, dear sister. The Greeks, always threatened by the unseen, which is what drives them, will hear the voice of Achilles crying out from his grave, angered that he has been denied his share of the booty. Fearing his ghost even more than they feared his deadly spear point, they shall bring my dear sister to his grave, tie her there like a goat, and slit her throat so that her blood spills over his tomb. Though he is dead, Achilles shall have his slave, a sullen, unspeaking companion in the Underworld. How my sister will long to cry, but in Hades, there is not the strength to shed a single tear.
HECUBA: Jealousy. Polyxena, the beautiful sister. You are envious of her.
PRIAM: Cassandra would be more beautiful than Polyxena if she were not mad.
HECUBA: But she is mad. Therefore, she is threatened by Polyxena.
PRIAM: So she destroys her rival in a fantasy. She loves not her parents, nor her sisters, but wishes harm upon them all. She uses prophecies which she pretends are meant to save us as a means of masking her malice. [Outraged] Ingrate! How dare you pretend to know what is beyond knowing! We see through you. You spend your life dreaming disasters for us! You do not have the power to hurt us in the real world, but between your ears, you murder us constantly!
CASSANDRA: As for you, dear AndromacheÖ
ANDROMACHE: [Offended] What have I ever done to you?
CASSANDRA: A woman as beautiful as you is destined to be a slave. [As Andromache reacts to the suggestion:] Of course. A Greek warrior will take you. [Unexpectedly, she seizes Astyanax in her arms] As for Astyanax, the seed of Hector, do you think he can be spared?
ANDROMACHE: Cassandra, give me back my son!
HECUBA: Give him back!
CASSANDRA: [Still carrying Astyanax] They shall carry him up atop the wall that remains standing among the ruins, above the smoldering cityÖ [She begins to raise the child, who starts to cry]
ANDROMACHE: Give him back!
HECUBA: Give him back, Cassandra! Thatís Hectorís son!
PRIAM: I swear, Iíll put you to death myself if any harm comes to him!
ANDROMACHE: Give him back!
CASSANDRA: And then, heartless conquerors that they are, they shall raise his tiny body above their heads, as if he were a dollÖ
HECUBA: Get the child! For Godís sakes, someone, get the child!
Andromache and the guard rush forward.
CASSANDRA: And hurl him down to his death! [She hurls the child into Andromacheís arms]
ANDROMACHE: [Who has her crying child] Sheís mad! She IS mad! Completely mad!
HECUBA: Is the child all right? Is the child all right?
PRIAM: She goes too far!
GUARD: She is your daughter! Deal with her!
Priam starts forward, furiously, as Andromache, Hecuba and the nursemaid all speed away. Andromache speaks as she leaves.
ANDROMACHE: She is not the girl I loved and learned to call sister!
Priam, as he starts to physically drag her away, is stopped by Cassandraís words.
CASSANDRA: Wait: donít you wish to know what happens to me?
PRIAM: You are killed by your father?
CASSANDRA: [Breaking free of him] Surely, you would like to know the fate of the one who humiliates you in front of all your people?
GUARD: Let me take her away. Put an end to this!
CASSANDRA: Let me tell you, father. You will see that my fantasies treat me no better than the rest of you. You see, Agamemnon, King of the Greeks shall come for me.
GUARD: Of course. She imagines she is the one for the leader of the Greeks. Only the best will do for him.
PRIAM: What an ego!
AGAMEMNON: So, youíre Cassandra? You are every bit as beautiful as they say.
She stands there, saying nothing, looking at him.
AGAMEMNON: Are you also as mad as they say? [He touches her face] Never mind. Madness excites me. I despise the tame. [He begins to start to disrobe her, but she stops him.]
CASSANDRA: Agamemnon, I have already been despoiled. I sought sanctuary in Athenaís temple, and one of your men barged in with a swordÖ
CASSANDRA: You will not be the first.
AGAMEMNON: Do you think that matters to me? Am I the first man to ever look at the moon, to see a star, to put a foot into the sea? Some things are constantly used because use does not despoil them. Who calls the moon a whore merely because a hundred thousand eyes have groped her? Who refuses to put his ship into the sea, merely because he is not the first to sail in its waters? I have killed so many men, Cassandra, have so much blood on my sword: what hold can perfection possibly have over me? I want you, and I want you now. Used or unused. War is hard, Cassandra. I want my reward.
CASSANDRA: I am a princess. It is not right to take me by force. You must ask.
AGAMEMNON: I am a king.
CASSANDRA: Then act in a kingly way.
AGAMEMNON: This is how Greek kings act.
CASSANDRA: Trojan kings were noble.
AGAMEMNON: Trojan kings are dead.
CASSANDRA: But the Gods live.
AGAMEMNON: Obviously, they are on my side.
CASSANDRA: Donít do it, King Agamemnon. Donít demean yourself. [Again, she pushes his hands away] I am a princess.
AGAMEMNON: You are a slave.
CASSANDRA: I am a princess.
AGAMEMNON: Before the night is through, you will know what you are. [He either strips her, or strips off an outer mantle which leaves her in more revealing clothing, depending on the audience and goals of the production team.]
AGAMEMNON: What are you? Did you say a princess?
CASSANDRA: Yes, a princess.
AGAMEMNON: I do not see a princess. I see a slave. [He caresses her] My slave.
APOLLO: Poor Cassandra. You could have been the companion of a god. Now, you are the slave of a man. Was it worth it? Was it worth it to defend your honor from me?
CASSANDRA: Apollo, you are cruel. If you had truly loved me, you never would have let this happen.
APOLLO: I was ready to alter the course of history for you, Cassandra. But you were proud. So proud. You were too good for me. This is what you reap. This violent, savage king, instead of me. [He plays a tune on his lyre]
"The golden god of sunlight
came offering you love and peace
but instead of him you chose to be
the slave of the Greeks.
So sad! So sad! But it canít be undone.
Not by the Fates who rule the universe,
and not by the golden sun."
CASSANDRA: Spiteful! It is the fate of beautiful woman, in the midst of being cherished, to be despised! The world has no place for us.
APOLLO: There was a place for you, once. In a Godís arms. But time has moved on. Make the best of your new life, Cassandra.
APOLLO: Lonely. But without his pride, a god dies.
CASSANDRA: Apollo, donít leave me alone with this vulgar man!
APOLLO: Is a bird still a bird in a cage? How much of what a bird is depends on the sky, and how much of what a bird is is inside of him? Will you tell me when you find out?
CASSANDRA: Donít leave me! Once you loved me!
APOLLO: Once is over with.
AGAMEMNON: You are mad. Talking to yourself. - I love it!
CASSANDRA: Donít touch me.
AGAMEMNON: I ride my horse into whatever pasture I wish. Your body is now a part of my kingdom. You belong to me.
CASSANDRA: Not my soul.
AGAMEMNON: I donít need your soul.
CASSANDRA: Donít touch me.
AGAMEMNON: I give the orders here.
CASSANDRA: Donít touch me.
AGAMEMNON: [Draws his sword and points it to her throat] What are you?
CASSANDRA: A princess. A princess of Troy.
AGAMEMNON: You are a slave.
CASSANDRA: What I am does not come from your sword.
AGAMEMNON: Do you feel it now? [He is pushing it harder against her] There. A drop of blood. Just a little more pressure, and the drop becomes a river. What are you now?
CASSANDRA: [Sings] I am a princess, I am a princess, and Iíll always be
I am a princess, I am a princess, the daughter of the king
And as long as I hold my head up high
and walk upon the earth with pride
my country will survive
Troy, great Troy, will never die.
AGAMEMNON: Troy is dead. It is burned to the ground.
CASSANDRA: Troy lives. Yesterday, it was a city. Today it is an idea. Yesterday, it stood high upon the hills of Ilion. Today, it stands high in menís minds as a vision of valor and dedication to what is right; it rules the imagination with a memory of loyalty which will forever guard the highest ideals of man. In dark times, what Troy was will protect the light.
AGAMEMNON: I rule everything around me, including you.
CASSANDRA: Troy rules everything that is beyond your reach. And there is far more beyond the length of your arm than there is within your grasp.
AGAMEMNON: You are audacious.
CASSANDRA: If I were not a princess, I would be audacious.
AGAMEMNON: Cassandra, I can break you. I will break you.
CASSANDRA: What you can see is yours. I will not be able to resist you. But what you cannot see will remain free. And it will be a universe. Between these ears, and in this heart, there is a universe, Agamemnon, and you will never own it.
AGAMEMNON: What a woman! A woman such as this is made for the gods!
CASSANDRA: I did not know it, then.
AGAMEMNON: You will love me one day, Cassandra. You will love me. [He begins to go]
CASSANDRA: When you are worthy of love.
AGAMEMNON: You will love me one day.
CASSANDRA: When you are worthy of love.
PRIAM: What an imagination!
GUARD: How self-flattering. In her fantasies, she seduces Agamemnon, and at the same time stands up to him. And tell us, princess, do you reform him, too? Do you conquer our conqueror, and resurrect Troy by softening his heart? Do you bring back the dead? As the story ends, does he bow down to kiss your feet?
CASSANDRA: [In a daze] No. His wife has grown to hate him in his absence. She has a lover. They plot to kill him, but they know I can see the future. I will warn him, because by the time we get back to Greece, he will be a changed man, who deserves to live.
GUARD: [Ironic] Of course. You will have redeemed him.
CASSANDRA: So they will send out a killer to dispatch me. An assassin. A quick thrust of the sword. Right here. [She points to her heart] Then they shall sever my head. As Perseus raised the head of the monster Medusa in his hands, so they shall raise mine in triumph, my quivering lips still trying to warn the king, whispering warnings without a body, from amidst cascades of blood-drenched tresses. My lifeless corpse shall be flung down the steps, while the people stagger backwards from the horror of it; my head, which they fear, will be buried in a secret place. Underneath bushes of roses, it will still speak, unheard as it is today while it is still upon my shoulders. And thus [turning to Priam], dear father will end the life of your young daughter.
GUARD: So, it is for your sake that the horse must not enter Troy.
CASSANDRA: Not for my sake. I donít care about myself. Not any longer. Not after such constant cruelty, from those I love. I am worn out, so worn out by all of you. No, I do it for you. For all of you, who I love, in spite of the contempt in which you hold me. I donít know why, I donít know why I love you! I canít help myself. I stand here, barring the path of the horse, because I know if it passes through the gates of Troy, it will unleash the prophecies that I have told you. Would that I could keep the phantoms that torment me locked up inside my brain! But you, if you do not listen to me, shall break down the door in my mind that keeps them away from you, and flood the earth with them! Please, dear father Ė donít give my despair to the world! Believe me! What I say will come to pass!
GUARD: "Dear father"? She imagines you and all your family and your people dead, and then, she dares to call you "dear"?
PRIAM: She is mad Ė yet so convincing.
GUARD: The mad are always convincing. Their passion sweeps one along like the fierce current of a river! To pacify their terrible eyes, we end up agreeing with them!
PRIAM: But it makes no sense.
GUARD: Of course not. Sheís mad. Her passion is riveting, but there is nothing there except for passion. Your Majesty Ė the people are gathered all around us. Look at them watching us from the plain, from the walls. They demand that the horse be brought into the city. They need to know that you place their safety above the crazy whims of your daughter. A king rules for the people. He is not commanded by his children.
PRIAM: Cassandra. You must get out of the way of the horse. We are all clear that it is in the best interest of Troy to bring it through the gates.
CASSANDRA: Father, have you heard nothing Iíve said?
PRIAM: Iíve heard it all, and itís made me sorrowful for you. I wish you could live in the world the rest of us live in. I love you, Cassandra, I know it is not your fault that demons rule your mind. But I cannot let my love for you deter me. I am a king. The horse must enter Troy.
CASSANDRA: I wonít let it. [She stands squarely in front of it again] I wonít let it.
PRIAM: The horse will enter Troy. I will command it.
CASSANDRA: I will resist.
PRIAM: Your resistance will be overcome. Please, Cassandra, do not embarrass me.
CASSANDRA: I am sorry, father, but because I love you, I must not give in. Order the horse forward if you must, I will not get out of its way.
PRIAM: [To the guard] Remove her.
GUARD: [Going up to Cassandra] Come, princess, this long day of mocking your father has finally come to an end. [He grabs her arm, she resists]
CASSANDRA: I wonít go!
GUARD: [Struggling] Come! Come, by God, will you make a fool of me, as well?
PRIAM: Canít you move her?
GUARD: Your majesty, she has the strength that comes from madness.
CASSANDRA: It is the strength that comes from love!
GUARD: The insane are not easily deterred. Their frightening visions are the equal of many men.
PRIAM: [Calling more men] Guards! Help him!
GUARD: [To Cassandra] Damn you for making me appear to be a weakling!
Several other guards appear. They all join in, trying to drag Cassandra away. She begins to scream and fight more ferociously.
CASSANDRA: Stop! Stop! You must believe me! You will destroy our city! Let me go! You donít know what youíre doing!
GUARD: She has the strength of a bull!
CASSANDRA: The horse! You must not let it in! Close the gates! Close the gates! Burn the horse! Burn it here, on the beach!
GUARD: She fights as though her life depended on it!
CASSANDRA: Your lives! I could not fight so hard for myself! Let me go, fools! Iím trying to save you!
GUARD: She truly believes what she is saying. No one could fight this way for a lie!
PRIAM: Whatís going on there? Careful with my daughter! Itís a wonder we have been able to hold off the Greeks for so long, with guards like this who canít even handle a woman!
GUARD: Damn you, princess, you shame me before my king! Get her away from here, damn it! Sheís beating us away like we were puppies! Where is your pride, men? Vanquish her!
CASSANDRA: [As the soldiers begin to get the better of her] No, father! Stop them! Stop them! Donít let them take me away! Iím trying to help you! I love you! You must believe me! Believe me! [They are now dragging her off stage] Father! Father! Stop them! Believe me! You must not let the wooden horse enter Troy! You must not let it into the city! [She has now been dragged off stage] Believe me, father! Please believe me! Please!
After a while, the guards return. They look at Priam.
PRIAM: Go on, then. Get on with it.
The guards line up on the flanks of the horse.
GUARD: One, two, three!
The guards begin to push the horse forward, towards the city, rolling it off stage.
Enter Hecuba with the nursemaid. She stands besides Priam.
HECUBA: Iím sorry, dear, for everything she put you through. What a humiliating, desperate day.
PRIAM: Weíve suffered together, my queen. The one who we thought would bring us the most joy has brought us the most pain. When I think of the dancing child she was, it makes me choke. I can hardly find the air to breathe. The sorrow!
HECUBA: I am luckier than you, Priam. I can show my sorrow. You must act the part of King.
PRIAM: What a terrible ten years itís been. How much weíve lost. The life of my son Hector. The mind of my beautiful daughter, Cassandra.
HECUBA: But at last, with this horse, our luck is about to change. We have won the war, Priam. After ten years of sacrifice. And with this sacred horse, our triumph will endure a thousand years.
PRIAM: May it be so.
HECUBA: Come, have we not promised the people a great celebration?
PRIAM: It is right to sing and dance after so much dying. It is right to drink, to make the world anew. Let cups of wine do for menís hearts what the spring does for the earth. Let us wash away our tragedies with the blood of the grape, which leaves no house in mourning. Let us drink this red liquid which does not come from the body of a friend, and rejoice that we still have a few friends left.
Arm and arm, they leave the stage, followed by the nursemaid.
HECUBA: Poor Cassandra, I wish we could take her for a moment from her dark world; I wish she could share this beautiful night with us.
Silence for a long while.
Then, a laughing, drunken pair of young lovers from Troy staggers by. Lover 1 (a man), Lover 2 (a woman).
LOVER 1: What a wonderful night! What a splendid celebration! How sweet is victory!
LOVER 2: Excuse me. I have to relieve myself. I drank so much! Will you be my lookout?
LOVER 1: Hurry up! How embarrassing if anyone we know should see us. [The lover squats down, lifts her dress slightly, and relieves herself]
LOVER 2: Who could ever recognize us, or if they did, who would remember it in the morning, after drinking so much wine? - Is anybody coming?
LOVER 1: Yes. Hurry! Oh, wait a minute. No, they went the other way.
LOVER 2: I think I went on myself. You donít mind, do you? [Finishing, staggers over to Lover 1, and kisses him] Do you remember the way home?
LOVER 1: I think so.
LOVER 2: You think so?
LOVER 1: That way.
LOVER 2: Always so sure, even of things you donít know. Well, the worse that happens is we go to the wrong house. Iím sure theyíll let us in, if the dogs donít bite us first.
They stagger off stage.
LOVER 1: No dog would bite you, my dear. Not tonight. You are too beautiful, and I love you too much!
LOVER 2: Me or the wine?
LOVER 1: You.
More silence. Then we hear a thump off stage. A Greek warrior emerges onto the stage, looking around. We hear another thump. Another warrior appears from off stage. Then another.
GREEK WARRIOR 1: From the hollow of the horse, through the trap door in the wooden belly. Now, through the streets heavy with sleep, to the gates of the city. A few guards to be killed, and we open them.
GREEK WARRIOR 2: Agamemnonís army, which seemed to sail away, has returned in the night and landed. They will rush through the open gatesÖ
GREEK WARRIOR 1: Ö and we will crush this sleeping city with wine on its breath.
GREEK WARRIOR 2: This sleeping, helpless cityÖ
GREEK WARRIOR 1: Which did not listen to its prophetess.
The band of Greek warriors crosses the stage vigilantly, heading purposely off stage.
After a while, we begin to hear screams. They go on for a while and become more and more intense and frightening.
Enter Cassandra, who comes forward to the edge of the stage to talk to the audience. In her hands there are two small silver balls.
CASSANDRA: It is done. This time, this place. My life. But not my voice. What is coming tomorrow can be seen today. There is no secret to foretelling the future, it is everywhere around us, utterly obvious. The present has a direction and a speed. [She puts down one of the balls, and rolls it on the floor. As it rolls, she says:] I know where itís going Ė donít you? Clairvoyance is nothing more than living with your eyes open; prophecy is having the courage to say what you see.
But there is a third element to prognostication, even after the valiant voice on the fringe, which is linked to seeing eyes, risks all to dislodge the obvious from concealment. It is the receptiveness of the one who is spoken to. Is he involved or is he indifferent? Will he heed the warning? Will he recognize the opportunity? Or will he choose one short day over the centuries; will he choose convenience over responsibility, groundless optimism over change? The truth is exposed, but that is the least part of salvation. Will the city believe? Will the world believe? Will you believe?
Every place and every time has voices speaking to it. The truth is never hidden. We hide from the truth. Donít dismiss the warning! [She puts down the second ball, and rolls it, either off of a high surface or off of the stage, to symbolize its plunge and fall] Do you see where it is headed? Let me tell you, nightmares are holy things. They save lives. Discomfort is a far better friend than complacence. The world offers us beauty but we must step over disasters to reach it. It is worth losing sleep to make a garden bloom.
I am Cassandra, my world is lost. Yours is begging to be saved.
I am Cassandra, Princess of Troy. You did not listen to me while I lived. Will you listen to me now?
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