36 Euripides Facts: Life History, Plays, And Other Details | Kidadl


36 Euripides Facts: Life History, Plays, And Other Details

Arts & Crafts
Learn more
Reading & Writing
Learn more
Math & Logic
Learn more
Sports & Active
Learn more
Music & Dance
Learn more
Social & Community
Learn more
Mindful & Reflective
Learn more
Outdoor & Nature
Learn more
Read these Tokyo facts to learn all about the Japanese capital.

Euripides was the last, and the most influential of the three famous tragedians in ancient Greek literature, the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles.

Being considered as the most socially critical of all ancient Greek tragedians, Euripides' plays appear to be of relatively modern times, in comparison to those of his contemporaries. The formal structure of traditional Greek tragedy was reshaped by his plays.

Euripides portrayed strong female characters and intelligent slaves in his plays. At the same time, he used satire for many heroes of Greek mythology. Despite being greatly criticized in his time, his plays dealt with personal and social issues of those times.

Life History Of Euripides

With no explicit records on the life of Euripides, the next best possibility is a reconstruction of his biography.

Euripides was born around 480 BC on Salamis Island to Mnesarchus, his father, who was a retailer, and Cleito, his mother. His family was likely a wealthy and influential one.

A prophecy by an oracle about Euripides winning athletic championships, or crowns of victory, persuaded his father to compel him to undergo athletic training. His education did include philosophy (under the famous masters, Anaxagoras and Prodicus) and painting.

Having explored the work of philosophers and thinkers like Protagoras, Socrates, and Anaxagoras, Euripides turned to question the religion he grew up with.

Destined for the stage, and not the track field, he turned to write. Although Euripides wrote approximately 90 plays during his lifetime, only about 20% of his plays have survived, while the remaining 80% of his plays have disappeared, owing to an accident of history.

At the time, the government motivated performances based on Athenian tragedy. This led the states to fund the playwrights and award prizes. Euripides was also asked to write the 'Olympic Victory Ode.' This poem, however, did not survive into the modern day.

Having married twice, he had three sons with one of his wives. It was his second wife Choerine who bore his three sons. However, both his wives were unfaithful to him, leading to his disastrous marriages.

Euripides led a reclusive life in a cave, after both his marriages dissolved. This is where he built his home and wrote a play later known as 'The Cave of Euripides.'

He won his first victory in 441 BC, while he had first received the honor of being chosen to compete in the dramatic festival in 455 BC. This festival was held in Athens to honor the god Dionysus and major playwrights competed in this dramatic festival.

Each year, the Athenian archon, or chief magistrate, would select three major playwrights to compete in the dramatic festival. The festival was turning into a secular artistic competition. Each playwright produced a tetralogy with three tragedies and a lighter satyr play.

While Sophocles, who was Euripides' senior, won about 24 first prizes, Euripides could get his hands on only four or five wins, the last one being after his death.

His peers associated him with Socrates, as a leader of declining rationalism, both of them being frequently mocked by comic poets like Aristophanes.

In the later stage of his career, Euripides looked forward to leaving Athens, as he was frustrated with his relative lack of success in any dramatic festival, the war caused devastation and the city's war-related decline.

Euripides left Athens ultimately in 408 BC, in response to an invitation from Archelaus, king of Macedonia. Towards the end of his life, he lived in the rustic court of Macedonia. As he continued to compose at King Archelaus' court, Euripides was working on 'Iphigenia' in Aulis when he died.

Euripides died in Macedonia in 406 BC. Euripides' death was caused by an attack of the Molossian hounds of King Archelaus, while his cenotaph near Piraeus was struck by lightning.

Contributions Of Euripides

Of the 90 plays that Euripides wrote, only 19 plays have survived, while a further 60 plays are lost or have only fragments available.

Euripides was one of the three playwrights whose works depicted the dynamics of Athenian thought when classical drama had peaked in the city-state during the fifth century BC.

His first play took the stage 13 years after Sophocles debut and only three years after Aeschylus' masterpiece. Tragic poets were mocked often by comic poets during the dramatic festivals Dionysia and Lenaia, with Euripides being mocked the most.

Euripides wrote about the darker side of people and included plots of insanity, revenge, and suffering. Plays, in times of ancient Greece, were written mostly like prose without stage directions, no notation of speaker change, or even punctuation consistency.

Euripides represented the social evils of society in his famous plays like 'Trojan Women.' On the other hand, 'Hecuba' portrayed wartime and its destructive aftermath.

Post 415 BC, Euripides changed his style and wrote more emotionally. 'The Cyclops' was one such less intense play that conveyed a young hopeful poet's optimism.

In dramatic festivals of those times, many plays of Euripides were highly placed. 'Hippolytus,' 'Bacchae,' and 'Iphigenia' at Aulis won first place. The 'Trojan Women' and 'Alcestis' were placed second, while 'Madea' was placed third.

Of the 19 extant plays, a few plays have been translated, adapted, and are still being produced in theaters around the world. Owing to his high Greek literature status, Euripides' plays got preserved over the years. Thanks to ancient records, the chronological date of Euripides plays can be approximated.

Euripides has been credited to theatrical innovations that have noticeably impacted the drama of modern times. This holds true especially for representing traditional, mythical heroes as ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.

With these Euripides facts, you might wonder whether a tragedian writes from his own life's experiences.

Who was Euripides influenced by?

At a time when literature was mostly transmitted orally, it is said that Euripides owned a vast library composed of many philosophical works.

With an interest in philosophy, Euripides befriended a lot of leading thinkers of that era. This included Anaxagoras, Socrates, and Protagoras, who is believed to have first recited his provocative treatise 'Concerning the Gods,' at Euripides' home.

The vicious women from Euripides' plays are presumed to represent his own experience and retaliation against several unfaithful wives, although he did have three sons from one marriage.

Being invited to produce tetralogies for at least 22 Dionysian festivals, Euripides was not particularly popular.

In his youth, Euripides tried his hand at acting. He did not fare well at this as his voice wasn't strong enough to go across a 14,000-seat Greek theater. In ancient Greece, this tragedy meant turning towards producing and directing the play instead.

It is suggested that Euripides' realistic characterizations came at the expense of a realistic plot at times. He did rely on the deus ex machina to resolve his plays.

The deus ex machina is a plot device in which someone or something (often a god or goddess) gets introduced unexpectedly to provide an orchestrated solution to an otherwise unsolvable difficulty.

Euripides was considerably impacted by the Peloponnesian War that had ended Athens' Golden Age and had brought about a sense of uncertainty, injustice, and suffering.

He was influenced even more by a modern philosophical trend of skeptical inquiry that led to an end of his belief in traditional religion.

Famous Plays By Euripides

Euripides was considered more talented than Aeschylus and Sophocles, considering that he could swiftly switch between genres while drafting his plays, be it tragic, romantic, comic, or political.

'Alcestis,' despite being tragic, has a happy ending, hence representing the satyr play following three tragedies. Sacrificing herself to save her husband, 'Alcestis' is ultimately saved by Hercules from the supernatural figure of Death.

'Medea,' one of Euripides' most influential and famous plays, depicts an exceptional analysis of a woman's mistreatment, followed by her cruel retaliation. 'Hippolytus' talks about holding one's principles that lead to destruction for Phaedra and Hippolytus.

The 'Children of Hercules' has a plot concerning the King of Argos, Eurystheus, who targets the offsprings of the departed Hercules and how Athenians defend them. This play simply portrays the glory of ancient Athens with an eternal conflict between power and justice.

'Trojan Women' is set in the time soon after the taking of Troy. This play portrays the sufferings of wives and children of the city's defeated leaders, especially the old Trojan queen, Hecuba, and her children. 'Phoenician Women' is a diverse, multi-character play whose original version has been tampered with.

'Bacchants' is a play that is famously considered Euripides' masterpiece. The main storyline of this play goes about Dionysus, the god, who poses as a charming Asian holy man, who travels from Asia to Greece.

'Cyclops' is the only satyr play to have survived intact. The play's lazy, cowardly satyrs and their old disgraceful father Silenus are slaves to one-eyed, man-eating Cyclops Polyphemus in Sicily. 'Iphigenia in Aulis' is a plot of Agamemnon sacrificing Iphigenia to benefit the Greek expedition against Troy.

Having read so many interesting facts, as well as a few weird facts, about Euripides must have encouraged you to read one of his plays. So, go ahead, and take your pick.

Kidadl Team
Written By
Kidadl Team

Read The Disclaimer

Was this article helpful?