Cassandra, the daughter of King Priam of Troy, is cursed with the gift of true prophecies that are not believed by anyone. She foretells the city’s fall should Paris bring Helen as his wife, as well as the death of several of Troy’s heroes and her family. The classic myth turns into much more in Lesia Ukrainka’s rendering: Cassandra’s prophecies are uttered in highly poetic language—fitting for the genre of the work—and are not believed for that reason, rather than because of Apollo’s curse. Cassandra as poet and as woman are the focal points of the drama.
Cassandra: A Dramatic Poem encapsulates the complexities of Ukrainka’s late works: use of classical mythology and her intertextual practice; intense focus on issues of colonialism and cultural subjugation—and allegorical reading of the asymmetric relationship of Ukrainian and Russian culture; a sharp commentary on patriarchy and the subjugation of women; and the dilemma of the writer-seer who knows the truth and its ominous implications but is powerless to impart that to contemporaries and countrymen.
This strongly autobiographical work commanded a significant critical reception in Ukraine and projects Ukrainka into the new Ukrainian cultural canon. Presented here in a contemporary and sophisticated English translation attuned to psychological nuance, it is sure to attract the attention of the modern-day reader.