Works of Euripides

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Euripides also made occasional use of satire and comedy within his plays, and he frequently wrote debates for his characters in which they discussed philosophical ideas. For all these reasons, he became known as a realist and as one of the most intellectual of the tragedians. Euripides was famous in his lifetime; he was even caricatured by comedic playwright Aristophanes in the satire Frogs and in other plays.


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Because of his high status in Greek literature, his plays were preserved in manuscripts that were copied and recopied over the centuries. Euripides's dramas would have an influence on later writers as diverse as John Milton, William Morris and T. Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning were two more poets who admired him and wrote about him.

Euripides's plays are still adapted and produced for the theater today. We strive for accuracy and fairness. If you see something that doesn't look right, contact us! Sign up for the Biography newsletter to receive stories about the people who shaped our world and the stories that shaped their lives. Although very little is known about the life of Greek poet Homer, credited with being the first to write down the epic stories of The Iliad and The Odyssey, the impact of his tales continue to reverberate through Western culture.

Socrates was a Greek philosopher and the main source of Western thought. Little is known of his life except what was recorded by his students, including Plato. Ancient Greek statesman Pericles, leader of Athens from — B. Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, together with Socrates and Plato, laid much of the groundwork for western philosophy. Euripides would have been in Macedonia either in self-imposed exile or at the king's invitation. He had already corralled Agathon, the tragic poet, Timotheus, a musician, Zeuxis, a painter, and possibly, Thucydides, the historian.

Study Guides on Works by Euripides

Despite winning only limited acclaim during his lifetime, Euripides was the most popular of the three great tragedians for generations after his death. Even during his lifetime, Euripides' plays won some acclaim. For example, after the ill-fated Sicilian expedition , where Athens ventured into the Italian island in BCE with disastrous results, those Athenians who could recite Euripides were reportedly saved from slave-labor in the mines.

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Ancient playwright Euripides Life Works

Gill is a freelance classics and ancient history writer. She has a master's degree in linguistics and is a former Latin teacher. The first are the rich, who are indolent and yet always crave more. The second are the poor, who have nothing, are full of envy, hate the rich, and are easily led by demagogues. Between the two extremes lie those who make the state secure and uphold the laws.

Murray, Gilbert. Euripides and His Age. Without a clear moral structure, his characters' actions seem more ambiguous, less noble. As one of the foremost playwrights in all of Western literature, Euripides' contribution to the development of Western drama and literature in general is inestimable. Like all writers of his time, Euripides' biography is largely a matter of conjecture. His father's name was either Mnesarchus or Mnesarchides and his mother's name Cleito, [1] and evidence suggests that the family was wealthy and influential.

Euripides was exposed to the great ideas and thinkers of the day, including Protagoras , Socrates , and Anaxagoras. Their influence can be found in Aeschylus' attitude toward the gods. Anaxagoras, for example, maintained that the sun was not a golden chariot steered across the sky by some elusive god , but rather a fiery mass of earth or stone.

Euripides was raised in a semi-religious household; records show that, as a youth, he served as a cupbearer in a temple of Apollo. Euripides was married twice, to Choerile and Melito, though sources disagree as to which woman he married first.

The Surviving Tragedies of Euripides

Some call this rumor a joke made by Aristophanes , a comic writer who often poked fun at Euripides, but many historians believe that the story is accurate. The record of Euripides' public life, other than his involvement in dramatic competitions, is almost non-existent. The only reliable story of note is one by Aristotle about Euripides being involved in a dispute over a liturgy—a story that offers strong proof that Euripides was a wealthy man.

It has been said that he traveled to Syracuse, Sicily , that he engaged in various public or political activities during his lifetime, and that he left Athens at the invitation of King Archelaus I of Macedon and stayed with him in Macedonia after B. Euripides first competed in the famous Athenian dramatic festival the Dionysia in B. He came in third because he refused to cater to the fancies of the judges. It was not until B. He also won one posthumous victory. He was a frequent target of Aristophanes ' humor.

He appears as a character in The Acharnians , Thesmophoriazusae , and most memorably in The Frogs , where Dionysus travels to Hades to bring Euripides back from the dead. After a competition of poetry, Dionysus opts to bring Aeschylus back instead. Euripides' final competition in Athens was in B. Although there is a story that he left Athens embittered over his defeats, there is no real evidence to support it. He accepted an invitation by the king of Macedon in or B. The Bacchae was performed after his death in B. When compared with Aeschylus, who won thirteen times, and Sophocles , with eighteen victories, Euripides was the least honored, though not necessarily the least popular, of the three great tragedians—at least in his lifetime.

Later in the fourth century B. Alcestis is one of the earliest surviving works of Euripides' oeuvre. The play was probably first produced at the Dionysia in the year B. Its categorization has remained uncertain; some scholars insist, due to the play's ostensibly happy ending, that it is a satyr play; others suggest that the issues raised by the play are far too dramatic to be considered satirical, and that the ending of the play is implicitly tragic, not happy.

Nonetheless, Alcestis remains one of Euripides' most enduring works. Long before the start of the play, King Admetus was granted by the Fates the privilege of living past the allotted time of his death. The Fates were persuaded to do this by Apollo, who got the Fates drunk in order to make them acquiesce.

This unusual bargain was struck when Apollo was exiled from Olympus for nine years and spent the time in the service of Admetus, a man renowned for his hospitality. The gift, however, comes with a caveat: Admetus must find someone to take his place when Death comes to claim him. The time of Admetus' death comes, and he still has not found a willing replacement.

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His father, Pheres, is unwilling to step in and thinks it is ludicrous that he should be asked to give up the life he enjoys so much as part of this strange deal. Admetus' friends are equally reticent.


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  • Finally, his devoted wife Alcestis agrees to be taken in his stead because she wishes not to leave her children fatherless or be bereft of her lover, and at the start of the play, she is close to death. The play opens with Alcestis on her deathbed. She requests that, in return for her sacrifice, Admetus never again marry, nor forget her or place a resentful stepmother in charge of their children. Admetus agrees to this, and also promises to lead a life of solemnity in her honor, abstaining from the merrymaking that was an integral part of his household.

    Alcestis then dies.

    Euripides Biography | List of Works, Study Guides & Essays | GradeSaver

    Just afterwards, Admetus' old friend Heracles arrives at the palace, having no idea of the sorrow that has befallen the place. The king, wishing to be a perfect host, decides not to burden his guest with the sad news and instructs the servants to make Heracles welcome and keep their mouths shut—thus immediately breaking one of his promises to Alcestis to forego merriment.

    Heracles gets drunk and begins irritating the servants, who loved their queen and are bitter at not being allowed to mourn her properly. Finally, one of the servants snaps at the guest and tells him what has happened. Heracles is terribly embarrassed at his blunder and his bad behavior, so he decides to travel to Hades to reclaim Alcestis.

    When he returns, he brings with him a veiled woman whom he tells Admetus he has brought for his host as a new wife. Admetus agrees to take her breaking his other promise , but when he lifts the veil, he finds that it appears to be, in fact, Alcestis, back from the dead. This conclusion, to many, indicates a happy ending to the play.

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