Grief Lessons Four Plays by Euripides

ISBN-10: 1590172531
ISBN-13: 9781590172537
Edition: 2008
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Description: Now in paperback. Euripides, the last of the three great tragedians of ancient Athens, reached the height of his renown during the disastrous Peloponnesian War, when democratic Athens was brought down by its own outsized ambitions. “Euripides,” the  More...

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Book details

List price: $14.95
Copyright year: 2008
Publisher: New York Review of Books, Incorporated, The
Publication date: 9/16/2008
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 312
Size: 5.49" wide x 8.00" long x 0.70" tall
Weight: 0.836
Language: English

Now in paperback. Euripides, the last of the three great tragedians of ancient Athens, reached the height of his renown during the disastrous Peloponnesian War, when democratic Athens was brought down by its own outsized ambitions. “Euripides,” the classicist Bernard Knox has written, “was born never to live in peace with himself and to prevent the rest of mankind from doing so.” His plays were shockers: he unmasked heroes, revealing them as foolish and savage, and he wrote about the powerless–women and children, slaves and barbarians–for whom tragedy was not so much exceptional as unending. Euripides’ plays rarely won first prize in the great democratic competitions of ancient Athens, but their combustible mixture of realism and extremism fascinated audiences throughout the Greek world. In the last days of the Peloponnesian War, Athenian prisoners held captive in far-off Sicily were said to have won their freedom by reciting snatches of Euripides’ latest tragedies. Four of those tragedies are presented here in new translations by the contemporary poet and classicist Anne Carson. They areHerakles, in which the hero swaggers home to destroy his own family;Hekabe, set after the Trojan War, in which Hektor’s widow takes vengeance on her Greek captors;Hippolytos, about love and the horror of love; and the strange tragic-comedy fableAlkestis, which tells of a husband who arranges for his wife to die in his place. The volume also contains brief introductions by Carson to each of the plays along with two remarkable framing essays: “Tragedy: A Curious Art Form” and “Why I Wrote Two Plays About Phaidra.”

Euripides, one of the three great Greek tragedians was born in Attica probably in 485 B.C. of well-to-do parents. In his youth he cultivated gymnastic pursuits and studied philosophy and rhetoric. Soon after he received recognition for a play that he had written, Euripides left Athens for the court of Archelaus, king of Macedonia. In his tragedies, Euripides represented individuals not as they ought to be but as they are. His excellence lies in the tenderness and pathos with which he invested many of his characters. Euripides' attitude toward the gods was iconoclastic and rationalistic; toward humans-notably his passionate female characters-his attitude was deeply sympathetic. In his dramas, Euripides separated the chorus from the action, which was the first step toward the complete elimination of the chorus. He used the prologue as an introduction and explanation. Although Euripides has been charged with intemperate use of the deus ex machina, by which artifice a god is dragged in abruptly at the end to resolve a situation beyond human powers, he created some of the most unforgettable psychological portraits. Fragments of about fifty-five plays survive; some were discovered as recently as 1906. Among his best-known plays are Alcestis (438 B.C.), Medea and Philoctetes (431 B.C.), Electra (417 B.C.), Iphigenia in Tauris (.413 B.C.), The Trojan Women (415 B.C.), and Iphigenia in Aulis Iphigenia (c.405 B.C.). Euripides died in Athens in 406. Shortly after his death his reputation rose and has never diminished.

Anne Carson was born December 16, 1950. Carson is a poet, an essayist, and a classicist. She is the director of the graduate program in Classics at McGill University, where she also teaches Latin and Greek. Carson is perhaps besst know for Autobiography of Red: A Novel in Verse, which won the 1998 QSPELL Prize for Poetry. Carson recently won the 2001 Griffin Poetry Prize for Men in the Off Hours. Carson also won the T.S. Eliot poetry prize for The Beauty of the Husband, the first woman to win the award in its nine-year history. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1998 and received a $500,000 MacArthur Fellowship in 2000. Carson is the author of seven books.

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