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One of Euripides' late plays, Ion tells the story of Kreousa, queen of Athens, and her son by the god Apollo. Apollo raped Kreousa; she secretly abandoned their child, assuming thereafter that the god had allowed him to die. Ion, however, is saved to become a ward of Apollo's temple at Delphi. In the play, Kreousa and her husband Xouthos go to Delphi to seek a remedy for their childlessness; Apollo, speaking through his oracle, gives Ion to Xouthos as a son, enraging the apparently still childless Kreousa. Mother tries to kill son, son traps mother at an altar and is about to do her violence; just then, Apollo's priestess appears to reveal the birth tokens that permit Kreousa to recognize and embrace the child she thought she had lost forever. Ion must accept Apollo's duplicity along with his benevolence toward his son.
Disturbing riptides of thought and feeling run just below the often shimmering surface of this masterpiece of Europidean melodrama. Despite Ion's "happy ending," the concatenation of mistaken identities, failed intrigues, and misdirected violence enacts a gripping and serious drama. Euripides leaves the audience to come to terms with the shifting relations of god and mortals in his complex and equivocal interpretation of myth.
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