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.
Poet W. S. Merwin (William Stanley Merwin) was born on September 30, 1927 in New York City. He attended Princeton University. He has authored over fifteen books of poetry and some of those titles include "The River Sound" (Alfred A. Knopf, 1999), which was named a New York Times notable book of the year; "The Vixen" (1996), which won the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; "The Carrier of Ladders" (1970), which won the Pulitzer Prize; and "A Mask for Janus" (1952), which was selected by W. H. Auden for the Yale Series of Younger Poets. Merwin won a second Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for The Shadow of Sirius (published in 2008). He has also published books of translation, which include Dante's Purgatorio, numerous plays and books of prose. Some of Merwin's honors include the Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry, the Bollingen Prize, the Governor's Award for Literature of the State of Hawaii, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the PEN Translation Prize, the Shelley Memorial Award, the first Tanning Prize and a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers' Award. He also received fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation and a Ford Foundation Grant. He is a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets and received a five-year term as judge of the Yale Series of Younger Poets.