In Greek mythology, Helen of Troy was the most beautiful woman in the world. She was so beautiful that she caused the Trojan War when her husband Paris abducted her from her home in Sparta. In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Helen is mentioned as an example of beauty:
“But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief,
That thou her maid art far more fair than she:
Be not her maid since she is envious;
Her vestal livery is but sick and green
And none but fools do wear it; cast it off.
It is my lady: O, it is my love!
O, that she knew she were!
She speaks, yet she says nothing: what of that?
Her eye discourses; I will answer it.
I am too bold, ’tis not to me she speaks:
Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.
What if her eyes were there, they in her head?
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars,
As daylight doth a lamp; her eye in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.
See, how she leans her cheek upon her hand!
O that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I might touch that cheek!” (Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene II)
In this passage, Romeo is comparing Juliet to the goddess Helen of Troy. He says that she is so beautiful that she outshines the stars in the sky. This is high praise indeed, and shows just how deeply in love Romeo is with Juliet.
When Mercutio sees Romeo, he starts making jokes about how his girlfriend is so lovely that she makes the world’s most beautiful women appear ugly. Mercutio also claims that last night, Romeo escaped their grasp.
Romeo: “I gave you the slip last night”
Mercutio: “I don’t doubt that, for you are the slipslop.”
What is a slipslop? A slopslop is a woman who is so beautiful that she makes other women look ugly in comparison. In this case, Mercutio is saying that Romeo’s girl is so beautiful that even Helen of Troy would look ugly next to her.
This is just one example of the many ways that Shakespeare uses Greek mythology in his plays. By referencing well-known stories and characters from Greek mythology, Shakespeare was able to add another layer of meaning to his works. In this instance, he is using the story of Helen of Troy to emphasize just how beautiful Romeo’s Juliet is.
Helen had a large number of suitors as she grew older. Her father organized a contest in which the suitor’s were forced to sweat so that Helen and whomever her husband would be might be safeguarded, after which he created a sporting event to choose Menelaus. When Menelaus brought Helen back to Pleistheines, they lived happily for about a year until Paris, the prince of Troy, came and fell in love with Helen.
Menelaus was not happy about this and asked his brother Agamemnon to help him get her back. Agamemnon agreed but only if Achilles came with him. Achilles was the best warrior of all the Greeks and his help would be crucial.
The Trojan War lasted for ten years. In the end, the Greeks won and sacked Troy. Menelaus got Helen back, but their happiness did not last long. On their way back home, they stopped at Egypt. While Menelaus was praying in a temple, Helen ran off with an Egyptian prince named Proteus. Menelaus searched for her, but she was never seen again.
The story of Helen of Troy has been told many times, and she has been mentioned in works of literature for centuries. One of the most famous references to Helen is in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. In the play, Romeo compares Juliet to Helen, saying that she is “the fairest maid” he has ever seen:
“I ne’er saw true beauty till this night./ This night, I look on thee and thou art all/ That mine eyes desire; and all the world is nothing/To this night’s revels. I will make myself/Assured against the which I feign myself:/A damnèd saint, an honourable villain! /So fair an enemy for mortal strife, /With love’s light wings did I o’erperch these walls; /For stony limits cannot hold love out, /And what love can do, that dares love attempt./ Therefore thy kinsmen are no stop to me. Romeo Montague will tear thee from thy father’s tomb!/I’ll forward with all speed to Mantua,/Where I will live till death do us depart.” (Romeo and Juliet, Act 1, Scene 4)
In this passage, Romeo is saying that he has never seen anyone as beautiful as Juliet, and that he would risk anything to be with her. He compares her to Helen of Troy, the most beautiful woman in the world. This allusion shows how deep Romeo’s love for Juliet is.
Paris and Helen left for Troy with part of Menelaus’s cash after Menelaus departed on a funeral in Crete. Pleistheines returned, discovered what happened, then called for all of Helen’s former suitors to keep their word and assist him in bringing her back.
The Greeks besieged Troy for ten years but were unable to breach the city’s walls. They decided to build a giant wooden horse and fill it with their best warriors. The plan was for the Greeks to sail away and make it look like they had given up and gone home. The Trojans would find the horse, drag it into their city, and celebrate their victory. The Greek warriors would then come out of the horse at night and open the gates to let the rest of the Greek army into the city. This is how the Greeks won the war and were able to bring Helen back home.
The story of Helen of Troy has been told for centuries and is still relevant today. Romeo and Juliet is one of many works of literature that references the story of Helen. In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare has Romeo compare Juliet to Helen when he says “Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night” (1.5.52-54).
This comparison is significant because it shows how deeply in love Romeo is with Juliet. He is so in love with her that he compares her to the most beautiful woman in history. It also shows how the story of Helen of Troy is still relevant centuries after it was first told. The story of Helen of Troy continues to be referenced in literature and other works of art, proving that it is a timeless tale.