Life of Euripides Essays on Authors Essay
Life of Euripides
Euripides, the last of the great tragedians, lived a life filled with controversy and moral issues that influenced, as well as appalled, many people of his time. Throughout the centuries he has gained more acceptance in the literary circles as well as in the eyes of the public. It is difficult to write about his life only because he lived so long ago and there are many different opinions and theories as to what is factual and what is not. What is known about his life, and how he lived it, has remained an interesting topic. What his work influenced and who followed his ideas have contributed to his lasting popularity. His life was filled with triumphs and controversies that contributed to his greatness. It is this greatness that people have followed for over the last two thousand years.
Euripides was born on the island of Salamis around 480 B.C. However, a Parian marble states that his birth was in 485 B.C (Bates 5). He was born into a somewhat rich family and was educated in the arts (as in painting) and trained in athletics. He began to write around the age of eighteen and became interested in philosophy soon after. Many people considered his ideas and thoughts as being too controversial for the time period. Euripides wrote on subjects such as religion, injustice, the gods and women. Being the free thinker that he was, these topics were considered socially abnormal.
Euripides often wrote of socially insignificant people like women and slaves while giving them god-like powers. He often made his women characters evil by making them violent Medea. The more taboo subject of incest was brought into his plays also. Euripides wrote many great plays during his lifetime, yet he was constantly beaten in the State competitions. The official judges of the competitions were against him because he did not cater to the views and opinions of the Athenian crowds. Throughout his life he only won five awards, and the fifth one was not awarded until after his death (www.imagi-nation.com). He was under constant criticism from others about his tragedies. One well-known critic was Aristophanes, who constantly spoke negatively about Euripides ( Bates 7). He wrote Women at the Thesmophoria, which was about the murder of Euripides, and Frogs, in which Euripides was parodied again.
The plays of Euripides had influenced many other authors over the years. During the ancient Greek times many people considered his ideas as being too radical. However, some very important men supported him in Greece. It is thought that philosophers and writers like Socrates and Protagoras were his acquaintances. They are thought to have shown appreciation towards his work. Socrates is said to have attended no other tragedies except those of his friend Euripides (Lucas 40). Not many other people found his work to be as important or enjoyable as these men did. However, even though he was considered controversial, his plays survived many years and were often read and performed for the people.
Euripides was considered a pacifist and believed in human rights during a time when most people did not agree with the idea. He had trouble in the courts of Athens, as did most Athenians of the time ( Bates 10). He eventually resorted to living in solitude in a cave on the island of Salamis, his birthplace. It is believed that Euripides died while in a forest and the king’s hunting dogs attacked and killed him. He was buried in Macedonia.
Although Euripides wrote of controversial subjects that involved violence and evil, some of his supporters believed that he represented the people as they truly were in society (Oxford 226). He wrote many of his plays with plots that directly reflected the one-sided views of the government. The officials of the State did not appreciate the work of certain individuals who reminded them of their mistakes or who questioned the values held by certain individuals (Jacobus 183).
We possess nineteen of the ninety-two plays that Euripides wrote. These plays have miraculously survived over the centuries. These plays were the most extensive collection of Greek tragedies that had survived. The issues that Euripides wrote about influenced many great artists, authors, and playwrights for centuries after his death.
For many centuries Euripides’s work influenced great artists, not just writers. His controversial subjects and thought provoking subjects encouraged many playwrights to base their plots on the same issues. Shakespeare was the most famous of the playwrights who used elements taken from Greek tragedies. The carvers of sarcophagi (stone coffins), the painters of vases, and the makers of mirrors were all influenced by the work of Euripides (Bates 20). Most of these influences are based on Greek mythology, yet Euripides humanized the myths and allowed a visual representation to be established on stage.
The career of Euripedes was filled with controversy. He continued to write plays even though the majority of the people from Athens disagreed with him. His work gained much more appreciation and respect over the centuries and has been thought to be some of the greatest literature ever written. The morals and values that are associated with Euripides remain an important part of our society today.
Bates, William Nickerson. Euripides. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Press, 1930.
“Euripides.” Image-Nation. http://www.imagi-nation.com/moonstruck/clsc4.htm
Lucas, F.L. Euripides and His Influence. NY: Cooper Square, 1963.
Oxford Companion to Classical Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.
Jacobus, Lee A., The Bedford Introduction to Drama. Boston: Bedford Books, 1997.
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