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    Euripides was born in the island of Salamis, in 480 B.C.E. His father is said to have been a tradesman or tavern-keeper, his mother a seller of herbs. His parents, however, must have had some means, judging by the fact that they gave him a gymnastic education to prepare him for the athletic contests. This was because they had misinterpreted an oracle given to them before his birth which had promised the child crowns of victory. It is said that Euripides actually won these sorts of contests in his boyhood, but in fact he was destined to win victories in a very different arena.
    He often associated with the philosophers Anaxagoras and Socrates, with the latter of whom he enjoyed an intimate friendship throughout his life. He also had instruction from Protagoras and Prodicus, who were sophists, a new class of wise-men who taught the cut and thrust of public debate and were notorious for the unscrupulous ways, sort of like present-day lawyers. As a result, he received the best of education in philosophy and rhetoric. In 455 B.C.E., he first put a series of plays on the stage. He did not win a prize until 18 years later, at age 43, and seems to have been victorious only four times in all. Nonetheless, he was indefatigable in writing tragedies. He took a lively interest in the important events and the public questions of the time, but personally, he kept away from public life, avoided society, and lived mostly in the enjoyment of an excellent library, amid his studies and poetical creations. He was twice left by his wives, a fact which may have encouraged him in his surly, unsociable ways. In 409 B.C.E., at the age of 71, he left Athens; it was said that he left to get away from the ceaseless attacks of the comedians, and from his domestic troubles. He went to Magnesia in Thessaly, where he was received as a guest of the city. Thence he went on to Pella to the court of Archelaus, king of Macedonia, who had gathered round him a number of poets and artists, and who treated him with great respect. Here he spent the last two years of his life and died in 405 B.C.E. According to a story for which there is little authority, he was torn to pieces by a pack of hounds when returning from a nocturnal festival.
    The tragedies of Euripides are of very unequal merit. Some of them, like the Medea or Iphigenia in Tauris, for instance, approach the lofty style of Sophocles, but others, like the Andromache and Electra, are very carelessly put together. His strong point is not artistic composition, well contrived disposition, or the coherent design which gives the inner motive of the action. It is sufficient, in support of this statement, to call attention to his habit of prefixing to every piece a prologue, explaining the story to the spectators, and connected loosely (if at all) with the play. Additionally noteworthy is the minor connection between the chorus and the action, and his liking for bringing in a deus ex machina, that is, a god who arrives onto the stage dangling from a large crane and solves everyone's problems. There are some critics who see these elements as indicating a more cynical and wizened frame of mind, where the universe seems so entirely out of whack that telling a compact plot with tidy lessons that work out does not seem appropriate.
    Euripides is a master in the art of devising pathetic situations, and shows extraordinary power in representing human passion, especially the resistless might of love in the case of women. His great talent is showing the individual psychology of his characters. Through a creative use of monologues, he places the audience inside their heads at their tortured moments. In his religious views he differs essentially from Aeschylus and Sophocles. With Euripides the gods are not moral powers, and fate is not so much the result of a higher dispensation as a perverseness of accident. The lack of grandeur is also a point which distinguishes him from his great predecessors. Instead of their sublime ideas he gives us maxims of worldly wisdom, often to all appearance dragged in without close connection to the plot. The motives of action are not so pure as in Aeschylus and Sophocles, and the characters of the heroes are not raised above the level of ordinary life, but brought down to it. He seems to be overly fond of pointing out the faults of his women heroes. His plays pay more attention to the course of politics than his predecessors'. In deference to the democratic leanings of his public, he makes his kings cruel tyrants, without dignity or majesty, and the heroes of the Peloponnese, in particular, he treats with unconcealed dislike. His dialogues contain show-pieces of rhetoric and sophistic argumentation. He was eventually very popular with his contemporaries, and has been still more so with succeeding generations. The tragedians of the next age made him their model and pattern without qualification, and the Roman poets preferred paraphrasing his dramas to those of the other tragedians.
    The number of his tragedies is variously given as seventy-five, seventy-eight, and ninety-two. Eighteen have come down to us: the Alcestis, Andromache, Bacchae (or the arrival of Dionysus at Thebes and the murder of Pentheus), Hecuba, Helena, Electra, the Heraclidae (or Demophoon of Athens protecting the descendants of Heracles against the persecution of Eurystheus); Heracles in Madness, the Suppliants (or the mothers of the Seven Chiefs who had fallen before Thebes, at whose prayers Theseus compelled the Thebans to bury the dead heroes); Hippolytus, Iphigenia at Aulis, Iphigenia among the Tauri, Ion, Medea, Orestes, Rhesus, the Troades (or the royal house of Troy after the conquest of the city); the Phoenissae (so called after the chorus of Phoenician woman, an incident in the story of Eteocles and Polynices); and a satyric drama, the Cyclops, the only example of this style of composition which has survived. The Bacchae was written in Macedonia in the poet's last years, and performed after his death at the same time as the Iphigenia at Aulis.
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