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Who is Euripides?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
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  • Last Modified Date: 23 September 2016
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Euripides was a Greek tragedian and poet who unfortunately did not receive many accolades during his lifetime, although he is now revered as one of the greatest Classical Greek authors. During his life, he wrote almost 100 plays, 18 of which survive into the modern age, and many of these plays continue to be performed in theaters all over the world. The work of Euripides is readily available in many libraries and bookstores in a variety of translations, for people who do not read Ancient Greek.

Not much is known about Euripides. He was born around 480 BCE, and he died in 406 BCE. During his lifetime, he had two wives, Melito and Choirile, and most accounts agree that he had at least three sons, and possibly a daughter as well. His work and contemporary evidence suggest that Euripides was born into a wealthy and influential family, and he certainly chafed against Greek religious beliefs, questioning the role of the Gods and the purpose of life on Earth.

The work of Euripides is deeply critical of Greek society, human emotions, and traditional Greek religious beliefs. This revolutionary and sometimes offensive content probably explains why Euripides was not revered during his lifetime. In fact, Euripides was often the butt of jokes, with comic playwrights like Aristophanes including him as a recurring figure in their plays.

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The plays of Euripides were quite distinctive, taking a radical departure from traditional Greek drama. Many of his plays featured strong female characters, along with intelligent slaves, which was rather unusual. The content of his work was also often deeply philosophical and introspective, dealing with human emotions in a way which other playwrights had not done. The work of Euripides also includes biting commentary on social issues and Athenian society, and it sounds like he was rather disenchanted with the society he lived in.

Some of the more well-known works of Euripides include Medea, Electra, The Bacchae, The Trojan Women, Orestes, Heracles, and Hippolytus. This master of Attic tragedy must have impressed someone, because his work has endured where the work of others did not. The fact that people continue to read, perform, and discuss the works of Euripides illustrates the compelling nature of his work, as many people continue to find it accessible and engaging thousands of years after it was written.

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