Hecuba is a tragedy by Euripides written c. 424 BC (in the midst of the Peloponnesian War). The play is meant to take place after the Trojan War, but before the Greeks have departed Troy. It depicts Hecuba's grief over the loss of a daughter, and the revenge she takes over the loss of a son. Taking place near the same time is The Trojan Women, another play by Euripides.
Hecuba and other Trojan woman are being carried away as slaves by the Greeks in the aftermath of the Trojan War. The Greeks make a stopover in Chersonnese, Thrace, where Polymestor, a former ally of Troy, reigns. There, Hecuba finds out that the Greeks intend to sacrifice her daughter, Polyxena, at the tomb of Achilles. The former queen mourns and begs Odysseus to show mercy, nevertheless, the sacrifice proceeds. The news of the dignified manner with which Polyxena met her death is no consolation to Hecuba, who soon hears of a second tragedy: her son Polydorus, who was sent for safekeeping during the war to Polymestor, is found dead by one of her servants who went to bring water to cleanse the corpse of Polyxena.
Hecuba is now distraught over her double tragedy and conceives a plan to avenge Polydorus' death: She begs Agamemnon, the leader of the Greeks, to allow her to extract vengeance on Polymestor. The Greek king hesitates at first but eventually relents before the grief-stricken queen. Polymestor and his children are called to a tent, supposedly for an important meeting, and there Hecuba puts out the Thracian King's eyes and butchers his children.
The blinded King leaves the tent and hears Agamemnon justifying Hecuba's actions. He then prophesies disaster for both Agamemnon and Hecuba.
- Edward P. Coleridge, 1891 - prose: full text
- Arthur S. Way, 1912 - verse
- J. T. Sheppard, 1927 - verse
- Hugh O. Meredith, 1937 - verse
- William Arrowsmith, 1958 - verse
- Philip Vellacott, 1963 - verse