Eris, Helen, Paris, and Aphrodite sit amidst the ruins of Troy, arguing whose fault the Trojan War is. They’ve been debating this for thousands of years now and still haven’t reached a logical conclusion. Finally, they agree that perhaps they should leave it up to the audience. And they will each make their cases, beginning by explaining why it is not their fault.
Helen tells the story of why it’s Eris’ fault. She recounts the story of the wedding of Thetis and Peleus, during which, the uninvited Eris decided to cause trouble and crashed the party, rolling a golden apple in that said “For the Fairest” in order to cause a headache for Zeus, who was responsible for the guest list. Abruptly, Eris takes over the story, explaining how it really isn’t her fault at all, but Aphrodite’s fault. Since Zeus refused to decide who the fairest goddess was, Aphrodite, Athena, and Hera were all forced to find a mortal capable of making a sound judgment. In the end, it is all Aphrodite’s fault because, once they chose Paris, she bribed Paris by telling him that he could have Helen, if he chose her.
Aphrodite takes over, countering that the whole thing is really Paris’ fault. She relates the story of how Paris visited Sparta, seducing Helen and carrying her away, which led to the war because Helen’s husband, Menelaus, grew jealous and went after her. Next, Paris takes control of the story, placing the blame on Helen. After all, Helen was a selfish, spoiled brat who flirted so much that she had hundreds of suitors, all vying for her hand. Therefore, her family had no choice but to make all of the suitors swear an oath that they would each rise to defend the honor of whoever was chosen as Helen’s husband. It was because of this oath that Menelaus was able to call in thousands of powerful allies to help him lay siege to the walls of Troy.
The group has not been able to reach an acceptable solution to the problem of whose fault the war is and they go back to bickering. After this goes on for a little while, they realize that they’re talking way too much about before the war without focusing on what happened during the war itself. They ask the audience to withhold judgment until they hear the rest of the story. They go on to add that each individual had the opportunity to end the war, but failed to take it.
Helen blames Aphrodite for screwing up the first chance at peace. When the Greeks first arrived in Troy, Paris and Menelaus agreed to fight a duel to decide the matter. It could have all ended peacefully, but Aphrodite decided it interfere with the battle. She saved Paris and each side decided it was the victor. This brought about an end to hope for a peaceful solution. Aphrodite blames Paris for screwing up a chance at peace. As he witnessed the farewell between Hector and Andromache, he knew the precise consequences of what would happen if Hector returned to battle. In his love for Helen, however, Paris did not prevent his brother from returning to battle and this lead to the death of Patroklos.
Paris turns around and blames Eris for destroying the peace. She influenced Achilles, after the death of his beloved Patroklos, to return to battle. Because of her lust for war, Achilles went on to slaughter Hector and defile his body. Although Priam managed to recover the body, Achilles refused to call for peace and gave the Trojans only twelve days rest. Eris lays the final blame on Helen. After the Greeks constructed the Trojan horse and it was brought into the city, Helen knew that there were men inside and she called out to each of them, by name. They didn’t rise to her bait and Helen gave up trying, without bothering to tell anyone what was going on. The following morning, the Greeks burst from the horse and slaughtered the Trojans.
All four of them are left feeling the weight of the great loss of life. Slowly, they begin to realize that it doesn’t really matter whose fault the Trojan War was. The real tragedy lay in the fact that it took place at all, that it cost so much, and that nothing could really stop it. They are all humbled by this experience and urge the audience to think of them.