Posts Tagged ‘tragedy’

Euripides (480-406) Dramatist, Greece

He was an intellectual rebel, who like Bernard Shaw in recent times made men uncomfortable and made them angry. In return they accused him of blasphemy and misogyny;  they lampooned him and cursed him; but they had to listen to his ideas and hear them couched in some deathless verses. For posterity his place along with Aeschylus and Sophocles among the pantheon of Greek drama is secure.
He was born about the momentous date in the Greek history, the great naval battle at Salamis. Born to well to do parents, instead of a career in art he chose at the age of twenty-five to be a poet. His first play Daughters of Pellas in 455 BC was a success. His was a fresh talent breathing lines that were close to reality and those who considered themselves guardians of Attic tradition had to sit up and note him. Remarkable was his realism, in his treatment of women characters whether heroines or cruel as varied as Alcestis, Iphigenia, Medea or Phaedra still sound plausible and their motivation defined. In his sympathy for the underdog, women in Greek society elicited his special attention. Out of his vast output,-some 80 to 90 tragedies only nineteen are extant. Alcestis, Medea, Andromeda, Iphigenia in Tauris, Electra are a few.

Euripedes was a democrat who hated demogogues and other power-mongers who were the bane of the society in his time. The gloom and doom of an internecine war with Sparta is reflected in “The Suppliants” and “The Trojan Women”. Like Socrates after him he as a citizen served in the war and also held position of a Consul in Magnesia.
As a result of relentless attack on him by the mob and a clique of comedians after the production of “Orestes” he left Athens. He was 72. Remainder of his life he spent time in the court of Archelaus of Macedonia.
His death, which took place B.C. 406, if the popular account be true, was, like that of Aeschylus*, in its nature extraordinary. Either from chance or malice, the aged dramatist was exposed to the attack of ferocious hounds, and by them so dreadfully mangled as to expire soon afterward, in his seventy-fifth year. His life was ever since the benchmark to many dramatists who sought to emulate him.
In his lifetime he was held in less esteem than the other two great dramatists. He had warm admirers in Alexander the Great and the Stoic Chrysippus, who quoted him regularly in several of his works. Among the Romans, too, he was held in high esteem, serving as a model for tragedy, as did Menander and Phrynichus for comedy.

In his survey of the shades of departed poets, Dante makes no mention of Aeschylus or Sophocles, but classes Euripides as one of the greatest of the Greeks. Dante’s assessment we may accept as definitive.
Quote:Question everything. Learn something. Answer nothing.
* Aeschylus was accustomed to contemplate while seated on the rocky outcrops facing the sea. Bald in head he had the misfortune for an eagle mistaking him for a rock. The eagles in that area were known to break the shell by force of impact and dropped its catch with deadly consequence.

For Additional Reading:
(An example of misogyny, after two failed marriages)
“O Zeus, why hast thou brought into the world
To plague us such a tricksy thing as woman?
If thou didst wish to propagate mankind,
Couldst thou not find some better way than this?
We to the temples might have brought our price
In gold or weight of iron or of brass,
And purchased offspring, each to the amount
Of that which he has paid; and so have dwelt
In quiet homes unvexed of womankind.
Now, to import a plague into our homes,
First of our substance we make sacrifice,
And here at once we see what woman is.
The father that begot her gladly pays
A dowry that he might be rid of her,
While he may bring this slip of evil home.
Fond man adorns with costly ornament
A worthless idol, and his living wastes
To trick her out in costly finery.
Ha has no choice. Are his connections good,
To keep them he must keep a hated wife;
Are his connections bad, he can but weigh
Against that evil a good bedfellow.
His is the easiest lot who has to wife
A cipher, a good-natured simpleton;
Quick wits are hateful. Ne’er may wife of mine
Be wiser than consorts with womanhood.
In your quick-witted dames the power of love
More wickedness engenders; while the dull
Are by their dullness saved from going wrong.”
This is sufficiently bitter, but nor more so than the words which Euripides is accustomed to use when speaking of women.



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I have a son who is a genius. The day Chuck was born I knew it for a fact. Didn’t he say, simplex munditis at 10 months? The first phrase he ever spoke was not in mother tongue as though he sensed he was making history of sorts.
The occasion was simple though. He lay in his crib and between drinking his constitutional and wetting the bed he had freed himself from his blankets. When his mother picked him up and wanted to tuck him back he just backed off to say, ‘elegant in simplicity’. His dimpled smile was right and his baby fat made him a dumpling. Later it seemed to me he didn’t have the patience to say the old blankets chafed him and in his birthday suit he felt great and like a brick of gold. Naturally he had to express his joy at being comfortable with a quote from Horace. Horace, no less!
At the age of four Juvenal and Goethe were jockeying for a spot in his intellectual firmament. Before he hit the five he knew Nietzsche was speaking his own lingo.
While his mother and I went from speculation to handouts.
Chuck was getting ahead till he had a title that was impressive. His bonus was phenomenal that spoke volumes than speaking 10 languages like a native.
One comfort we had in the cash strapped times was that dialects of the world were not in the immediate danger of extinction. From South America to Fiji our son Chuck had collected them all just in case.
One week end he dropped in to see us. He said he liked what he saw about us. Next thing he wanted to move in with us.
Before I could ask what was the idea he hinted the company was downsizing so he was on transition.
I was incredulous. I asked, ‘Son what with all your education?’
He was over educated he said and it was working against him. He shrugged and said, ‘Never mind Pop, I will find a way to brand my over-achievement into edutainment space.’
After fixing himself a sandwich he added: ‘meanwhile garbage is piling up on my elbow’. ( Later it struck me garbage was his pile of resumes returned unread.)

He was somewhat moody that he had not the bandwidth besides his language skills.
He said, ’Employers don’t want to wrap around their heads but park their behinds on shmucks who do not know their onions.
It was then I realized Chuck was a genius to his own hurt. I ought to have known: since the time he quoted from Horace by a spark of inspiration he was heading for disaster.
I gently patted him on his back and said ‘ Courage, son. You opened your life with such a stirring phrase far remarkable than Longfellow’s Excelsior. You quoted simplex munditis, unaided. I am certain Horace was at your bedside.’
My son’s eyes sparkled and faded. With downcast eyes he muttered, ’semel insanivimus omnes’*( We all have played fool once.)
Yes Chuck was right. He had played the fool to rely on his superior intelligence; just as his mother and I had warmed in our knowledge his genius was of a superior mode. The trouble was that the world only needed one with just enough skills to prove he wasn’t a moron.

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