The ripple effect: mirror images of Helen of Troy

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Santos-Muñoz, Yalitza Y.
Embargoed Until
Haydock, Nickolas
College of Arts and Sciences - Arts
Department of English
Degree Level
This thesis explores the concept of the uncanny as presented in three female characters that mirror Helen of Troy, Geoffrey Chaucer’s Criseyde from Troilus and Criseyde, William Shakespeare’s Cressida from the play Troilus and Cressida and Wolfgang Petersen’s Briseis from the movie Troy. Through the use of Girard’s theory of scapegoating and Freud’s concept of the uncanny, these characters are compared and contrasted both with each other and with Helen to understand how they carry the burden of Helen’s legacy and its meaning. In these texts feminine characters start as innocent, obedient women, but as the plots develops they go through a transformation process that ends leaving them as unfamiliar versions of themselves, unrecognizable to those who they pledged loyalty. Criseyde is subtly guided by her Uncle Pandarus to serve his purposes by loving Troilus and falling into a downward spiral of situations that affect not only her, but all those she claims to love and respect. Shakespeare's Cressida is constantly dealt with like goods to be sold on a market by those who were supposed to take care of her, pushing her into a series of decisions that once again leave her being the bad woman and Troilus the deceived, loyal lover. The Briseis in Wolfgang Petersen's Troy falls prey to a war that not only changes her physical circumstances but also her psychological understanding of war and men, altering her view of the world and her way of responding to the challenging circumstances that are presented to her.
Helen of Troy,
Shakespeare and female characters,
Chaucer and female characters
Santos-Muñoz, Y. Y. (2012). The ripple effect: mirror images of Helen of Troy [Thesis]. Retrieved from