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Euripides

Euripides

Euripides, the son of Mnesarchus was a Greek playwright, born on Salamis Island around 484 BC. A prediction made at his birth, that he would receive ‘crowns of victory’ impelled his father to provide his son with training of athletics, a respected field in Greece at that time. Little did he know that Euripides was in fact destined for another vocation; a career on the stage. Euripides was quite misunderstood from the very beginning. He wrote 92 plays but received only five victories one of which was posthumous. In caliber he matched Aeschylus and Sophocles but in recognition he did not win the hearts of the Greek public. The reason was no doubt his disapproval of their demoralized ways and hypocrite thinking. Euripides was a free thinker and could not adapt to the intolerance violence that prevailed commonly in that period. It is said that he composed his works in a cave on Salamis Island. Most of his life and career corresponded with the struggle between Athens and Sparta for control in Greece but he didn’t last to see the final defeat of his city.

Euripides was the greatest tragedian of his times. Though highly criticized at that time, he is known for his plays that dealt with personal and social issues of the time. Euripides portrayed the social evils of the society in his renowned plays like the ‘Trojan Women’ and ‘Hecuba’ that depicted time of war and its destructive consequences. In another play which is supposedly his last one ‘Iphigenia at Aulis’ which was a story about fallacy and cowardice which lured Agamemnon’s ill-fated daughter Iphigenia, to the Greek camp with the excuse of marrying the hero Achilles only to find that, instead, she was to be sacrificed by her father in order to please the gods. After 415 BC, his style changed and he came more towards the emotional side. Euripides wrote some less intense plays such as ‘The Cyclops’ which conveyed the optimistic approach a young hopeful poet. In ‘The Bacchae’ he opened new doors to humor by showing Dionysus, the character persuading Pentheus to wear women’s clothing. ‘The Alcestic’ written in 438 BC is another tragic comedy which enthralled critics for a long time. ‘Medea’ is probably Euripides most famous play about preserving women’s dignity.

Euripides was much associated to Aeschylus and Sophocles, the other two popular tragedians. But those with a clever eye knew that although the duos ideas were original, Euripides had a unique versatility that showed in his plays and also over the course of his career where he could move easily between tragic, comic, romantic and political effects. His sharp wit was revealed by his modern characters, in a refined tone, his informal Greek and in his clever use of plots centered on themes that later on became a standard in Menander’s New Comedy.

However, Euripides was also an object of ridicule of the comic poets, especially Aristophanes, who characterized Euripides as an orator of destructive ideas, associated with declining standards in both society and tragedy. Thus slowly and tragically his life began to fall apart around him. His marriage was a disaster with his wife, who had bore him three sons, cuckolded him. His close friends were murdered for having controversial views. His death is said to have been by an attack of the Molossian hounds of King Archelaus.

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