Stage Notes

Euripides: About The Author 

By Laura Moreno

Euripides
Euripides

Euripides (c. 484 BC - 406 BC) was a playwright and poet and is considered one of the great tragic dramatists of Ancient Greece, alongside Aeschylus and Sophocles. He’s known for the many tragedies he wrote, including Medea, The Bacchae, Hippolytus, Alcestis and The Trojan Women.

Very little is known of Euripides’ life. He lived in a time when history was recorded sporadically and often well after the fact. Historical writing in ancient Greece often focused more on great events and less on daily human life. Historians have pieced together that Euripides was born in Athens in approximately 484 BC. It is believed that he came from a prosperous family, allowing him a life dedicated to writing. He was reportedly married to a woman named Melito and they had three sons.

Euripides is considered one of the best-known and most influential dramatists in classical Greek culture. Of his 90 plays, 19 have survived. Like all the major playwrights of his time, he competed in the annual Athenian dramatic festivals held in honor of the god Dionysus. He first entered the festival in 455 BC, and he won the first of his four victories in 441. 

His most famous tragedies reimagine Greek myths and are known for probing the darker side of human nature, often changing elements of the myths or portraying the more imperfect, human sides of their heroes and gods. His plays involved plot elements of suffering, revenge, and insanity. The characters are often motivated by strong passions and intense emotions. Euripides frequently used the plot device known as "deus ex machina," where a god arrives or sends a solution near the conclusion of the play to settle scores and provide a resolution to the plot. Some of Euripides' works contained indirect commentary on current events. For example, The Trojan Women, which portrayed the human cost of war, was written during the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC). Euripides also made occasional use of satire and comedy within his plays, and he frequently wrote debates for his characters in which they discussed philosophical ideas. For all these reasons, he was known as a realist and as one of the most intellectual of the tragedians. His controversial writings led him to become the continual butt of jokes by comedic playwright Aristophanes, who caricatured him in the satire The Frogs and in other plays.

Toward the end of his life, Euripides was invited by the king of Macedonia to live and write there, and he never returned to Athens. He died in Macedonia in 406 BC. Because of his high status in Greek literature, his plays were preserved in manuscripts that were copied and recopied over the centuries. His works would have an influence on later writers such as John Milton, William Morris, and T.S. Eliot. Many of Euripides' plays are still adapted and produced today—particularly Medea, The Bacchae, and The Trojan Women.