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Euripedes ( -480 - -408 )  Category ( Playwrights ) [suggest a correction]

EuripedesEuripedes was the last of the three great tragedians of classical Athens. The other two were Aeschylus and Sophocles. Scholars continue to debate exactly how many plays he wrote, but eighteen of Euripedes' plays have survived complete. Fragments of other plays, some of them substantial, also survive. More of his plays have survived than the other great Greek playwrights, due to a chance preservation of a complete collection of his works. Euripedes is famous for having reshaped the formal structure of traditional Attic tragedy by including strong female characters and intelligent slaves, as well as satirizing many heroes of Greek mythology. Compared to the plays of his contemporaries, Euripedes' plays seem modern, as they focus on the inner lives and motives of his characters. This was something new to Greek audiences.

Not a lot is known of Euripedes' life. Some evidence suggests that his family was wealthy and influential. It was recorded that he served as a cup bearer for Apollo's dancers, but as he matured he began to question the religion he was raised with, especially since he was exposed to thinkers such as Protagoras, Socrates, and Anaxagoras. Euripedes married twice and had three sons. He may also have had a daughter. Other than his involvement in the theatre, the record of his life and activities is largely silent. The only reliable story is one recorded by Aristotle, which concerns Euripedes being involved in a dispute over a liturgy. This story strongly suggests that Euripedes was a wealthy man. Other stories suggest that he traveled to Italy and engaged in various political activities. A legend states that Euripedes left Athens at the invitation of King Archelaus I of Macedon and stayed with him until after 408 BCE. According to historian Pausanias, Euripedes was buried in Macedonia.

Euripedes first competed in the Dionysia, the famous Athenian dramatic festival, in 455 BCE. He came in third, reportedly because he refused to cater to the fancies of the judges. In 441 BCE he won first prize but throughout his long career he only attained that honor four times. Euripedes was a frequent subject for satire by other playwrights, particularly Aristophanes. When compared to the lifetime achievements of his contemporary playwrights, Euripedes was the least honored, but later his dramas became the most popular, largely because of the simplicity of the language of his plays. His influence on drama reaches modern times. His greatest works include: Alcestis, Medea, Electra, and The Bacchae. His play, Cyclops, is the only complete satyr play currently in existence.

Image: Statuette of Euripides, identified by an inscription on the base. On the background panel are listed some of Euripides' works. The statuette's head was restored after a bust now in the Archaeological Museum of Naples. Marble, found in 1704 in the Esquiline Hill at Rome, 2nd century AD..

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