Euripides was an Athenian born in 484BC. A member of a family of considerable rank, he disliked performing the public duties expected of him, preferring a life of introspection. He was not a popular figure, and at some point (and for a reason unknown) he went into voluntary exile at the court of Archelaus, King of Macedon. He died c.407BC and is thought to have written around ninety-two plays, of which seventeen survive.
Medea and Other Playsby Euripides
Four plays which exemplify his interest in flawed, characters who defy the expectations of Greek society, Euripides' Medea and Other Plays is translated with an introduction by Philip Vellacott in Penguin Classics. The four tragedies collected in this volume all focus on a central character, once powerful, brought down by betrayal, jealousy, guilt and hatred. The
Four plays which exemplify his interest in flawed, characters who defy the expectations of Greek society, Euripides' Medea and Other Plays is translated with an introduction by Philip Vellacott in Penguin Classics. The four tragedies collected in this volume all focus on a central character, once powerful, brought down by betrayal, jealousy, guilt and hatred. The first playwright to depict suffering without reference to the gods, Euripides made his characters speak in human terms and face the consequences of their actions. In Medea, a woman rejected by her lover takes hideous revenge by murdering the children they both love, and Hecabe depicts the former queen of Troy, driven mad by the prospect of her daughter's sacrifice to Achilles. Electra portrays a young woman planning to avenge the brutal death of her father at the hands of her mother, while in Heracles the hero seeks vengeance against the evil king who has caused bloodshed in his family. Philip Vellacott's lucid translation is accompanied by an introduction, which discusses the literary background of Classical Athens and examines the distinction between instinctive and civilized behaviour. Euripides (c.485-07 BC) was an Athenian born into a family of considerable rank. Disdaining the public duties expected of him, Euripides spent a life of quiet introspection, spending much of his life in a cave on Salamis. Late in life he voluntarily exiled himself to the court of Archelaus, King of Macedon, where he wrote The Bacchae, regarded by many as his greatest work. Euripides is thought to have written 92 plays, only 18 of which survive. If you enjoyed Medea and Other Plays, you might like Aeschylus' The Oresteian Trilogy, also available in Penguin Classics.
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Medea, for those who have not read it, is the living embodiment of a classic. This near-epic play by Euripedes captures the very essence of a Greek tragedy, including such classic elements as royalty, love lost, and murder. In this play, the mythical figure of Medea, an underdeveloped expatriate sorceress, is finally given an opportunity to be a central character. The actual text of the play, making only perfunctory reference to her history as a Colchan priestess, centers around her disillusionment with her husband, Jason. Jason, unfaithful to Medea, has sparked a fury within the woman that will not cease until retribution has been paid. There are several interesting elements about he book. First, the plot is revealed, more or less, through the eyes of a woman, a rarety in ancient Greek culture. This provides a unique opportunity to view the manner in whihc Greeks viewed females, even vastly powerful mythical females. Secondly, the author, Euripedes, makes Medea the heroine of the play, something seldom done to a conniving, murdering, trecherous character. Despite the obvious flaws that exist in Medea's character, the author saw fit to play down these traits, focusing instead on Medea's justification: her rage, her feelings of insecurity, her rightous anger. And somehow, Medea, for all her crimes, comes off without entirely being cast as the villan. I would highly recommend this play to anybody interested in classical works or Greek mythology. The play is not a long read; rather, the action (and there is a lot) is compressed into tightly charged bundles of literary insight, infusing readers with the tension and weighty drama of the piece. This play is too good of a read to pass up.