Euripides was born in Attica, Greece probably in 480 B.C. He was the youngest of the three principal fifth-century tragic poets. 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. Fragments of about fifty-five plays survive. Among his best-known plays are Alcestis, Medea and Philoctetes, Electra, Iphigenia in Tauris, The Trojan Women, and Iphigenia in Aulis Iphigenia. He died in Athens in 406 B.C.
‘Medea’, in which a spurned woman takes revenge upon her lover by killing her children, is one of the most shocking and horrific of all the Greek tragedies. Dominating the play is Medea herself, a towering and powerful figure who demonstrates Euripides’ unusual willingness to give voice to a woman’s case. ‘Alcestis’, a tragicomedy, is based on a magical myth in which Death is overcome, and ‘The Children of Heracles’ examines the conflict between might and right, while ‘Hippolytus’ deals with self-destructive integrity and moral dilemmas. These plays show Euripides transforming the awesome figures of Greek mythology into recognizable, fallible human beings.
John Davie’s accessible prose translation is accompanied by a general introduction and individual prefaces to each play.
Previously published as Alcestis and Other Plays