Plays by Euripides

Hippolytus (trans. Wertenbaker)

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Furious that Prince Hippolytus will not worship her, Aphrodite, goddess of love, seeks revenge. Infecting Hippolytus' stepmother, Phaedra, with an overpowering desire for him, Aphrodite's retribution will sweep both prince and queen to a brutal end.

A secret torment

Storms through her

Tosses her into that black harbour

Death.

Timberlake Wertenbaker's translation of Euripides' tragedy Hippolytus premiered at Riverside Studios, London, in February, 2009 in a production by Temple Theatre.

Iphigeneia in Tauris

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Iphigeneia, sister of the troubled Orestes, was the daughter of Agamemnon. No ideal father, Agamemnon had aimed to sacrifice Iphigeneia before the Trojan War in the hopes of guaranteeing victory, a sacrifice that was only undone by the intervention of Artemis.

Now Iphigeneia lives in forced religious servitude, in a haze of dreams and blood sacrifice at a temple to Artemis on the Crimean coast. As a result of one of these dreams, she comes to believe that Orestes is dead; the play opens with her lamentations.

Instead, Orestes is on his way to the very temple at which she serves, in the hopes of stealing an icon, a task demanded of him by the god Apollo. When Orestes is caught, Iphigeneia, not recognising her brother, must offer his life to Artemis as one of the regular Hellenic sacrifices. It is only after Orestes reveals his identity that Iphigeneia will plot against the gods to help her brother, and herself, escape from the temple with their lives.

In his introduction, J. Michael Walton writes: 'The play is comic in tone . . . [and] comes as something of a relief after Elektra and Orestes . . . This is Euripides in one of his least bilious moods, rehabilitating the murderous and demented siblings of Elektra and Orestes and awarding them the kind of operetta status of Offenbach's La Belle Hélène or his own Helen.'

video Medea (NT)

National Theatre
Type: Video

Age recommendation: 12+

This production was recorded through National Theatre Live on 4th September, 2014.

Terrible things breed in broken hearts. Medea is a wife and a mother, stricken with grief. For the sake of her husband, Jason, she’s left her home and borne two sons in exile. But when he abandons his family for a new life, Medea faces banishment and separation from her children. Cornered, she begs for one day’s grace.

It’s time enough. She exacts an appalling revenge and destroys everything she holds dear.

Helen McCrory takes the title role in Euripides’ powerful tragedy, in a new version by Ben Power, directed by Carrie Cracknell, with music written by Will Gregory and Alison Goldfrapp.

CAST
Nurse: Michaela Coel
Medea: Helen McCrory
Aegeus, King of Athens: Dominic Rowan
Jason: Danny Sapani
Kreusa: Clemmie Sveaas
Kreon, King of Corinth: Martin Turner
Jason’s Attendant: Toby Wharton
Medea’s son: T’Jai Adu-Xeboah
Medea’s son: Ricco Godfrey Brown
Medea’s son: Trevor Imani
Medea’s son: Kyron Wilson
Medea’s son: Joel McDermott
Medea’s son: Jude Pearce
Chorus: Lorna Brown
Chorus: Vivien Carter
Chorus: Amy Griffiths
Chorus: Hazel Holder
Chorus: Jane Leaney
Chorus: Caroline Martin
Chorus: Daisy Maywood
Chorus: Yuyu Rau
Chorus: Petra Söör
Chorus: Naomi Tadevossian
Chorus: Cath Whitefield
Chorus: Jane Wymark
Chorus: Clemmie Sveaas
Ensemble: Simon Desborough
Ensemble: Adrian Grove

CREATIVES
Director: Carrie Cracknell
Adaptor/Writer: Ben Power
Designer: Tom Scutt
Lighting Designer: Lucy Carter
Choreographer: Lucy Guerin
Music: Will Gregory
Music: Alison Goldfrapp
Sound Designer: Gregory Clarke
Fight Director: Owain Gwynn

Medea (trans. Lochhead)

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Liz Lochhead’s Medea brings a contemporary Scottish flavour to Euripides' story of the abandoned wife who murders her own children in revenge on her husband. It was commissioned and first performed by Theatre Babel at The Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow, on 17 March 2000.

Medea has been abandoned by her husband Jason in favour of Glauke, the daughter of Kreon, King of Corinth. Fearing that she plans revenge, Kreon banishes Medea. However, he grants her one more day of freedom, in the course of which Medea poisons Glauke and goes on to murder the two children she has had with Jason.

A stage direction in the published text states that 'The people of this country [ie Corinth] all have Scots accents, their language varies from Scots to Scots-English – from time to time and from character to character – and particular emotional state of character.' In the Theatre Babel production, the actor playing the part of Medea, who has come to Corinth from her native Kolchis, spoke in the heavily accented English of an East European refugee.

The Theatre Babel premiere was directed by Graham McLaren with Maureen Beattie in the title role. The production was revived at the Assembly Rooms for the Edinburgh Festival fringe in August 2000, and then remounted for a national tour later in 2000. It returned to the Assembly Rooms for the Edinburgh Festival fringe in August 2001.

The playtext published by Nick Hern Books was awarded the Saltire Society Scottish Book of the Year Award in 2001.

Medea (trans. Power)

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Medea is a wife and a mother. For the sake of her husband, Jason, she's left her home and borne two sons in exile. But when he abandons his family for a new life, Medea faces banishment and separation from her children. Cornered, she begs for one day's grace. It's time enough. She exacts an appalling revenge and destroys everything she holds dear.

Medea is a wife and a mother. For the sake of her husband, Jason, she's left her home and borne two sons in exile. But when he abandons his family for a new life, Medea faces banishment and separation from her children. Cornered, she begs for one day's grace. It's time enough. She exacts an appalling revenge and destroys everything she holds dear.

Ben Power's version of Euripides' tragedy Medea premiered at the National Theatre, London, in July 2014.

Orestes

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

'Orestes is a vicious play, filled with vicious characters, interested almost exclusively in themselves. Helen is shallow, Menelaos a backslider, Pylades, who does no more than haunt the fringes of most versions of the story, took a full part in the murder of Klytemnestra and is prime mover in the plan to kill Helen. Elektra sets up the taking of Hermione as a hostage. The only redeeming character is Tyndareus arguing that, if Orestes and Elektra had a grievance against Aigisthos and Klytemnestra, they should have invoked a perfectly good legal system. The decision of Apollo ex machina that he will sort everything out is the clearest evidence that Euripides' use of the device is ironic'.

Thus does editor J. Michael Walton describe Orestes, one of Euripides' later plays. In a story of murder, passion and vengeance, Orestes, having murdered his mother, the unfaithful Klytemnestra, now vows a plot of revenge against his uncle Menelaos, who has refused to offer moral support for the vengeful matricide carried out by Orestes and his sister Elektra. With blood already on their hands, they plot to murder Helen, Menelaos' wife, and Hermione, his daughter, in a near-unstoppable cycle of vengeance and bloodshed.

Rhesos

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

In the dark of night, intrigues and treachery flourish beneath the walls of the besieged Troy. A chorus of sentries stands guard while spies and heroes scheme to turn the tides of war in their favour. In Rhesos, Euripides portrays the reality of war, in which there is no place for honour.

Out of around a hundred plays by Euripides, Rhesos is one of nineteen that survive. Its place in the Euripides canon has been debated, with some scholars ascribing it to an unknown fourth-century dramatist.

Nonetheless, as editor J. Michael Walton writes, 'there is an inventiveness and a capacity for surprise in Rhesos that seems wholly in keeping with Euripides' dramatic and theatrical technique elsewhere. The establishing of the play as taking place at night is a conceit which was taken ip in the Chinese theatre and exploited comically by Peter Shaffer in his immaculate one-act play, Black Comedy. In Rhesos, all the confusion of sentry duty, the intrigue of spies and intruders, disguises and deceptions, are crammed into a single night when the fortunes of war turn against the Trojans by a mixture of devious behaviour and sheer bad luck. Events happen as they do because so many of the characters are figuratively, as well as literally, in the dark. It is a brilliant dramatic device and brilliantly exploited.'

Suppliants (Euripides)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The haunting spectre of unburied corpses begins the action of Euripides' Suppliants. Aithra, mother of the king of Athens, Theseus, pleads with her son to exhort Thebes to release the bodies of the sons of Athens killed in Thebes, hired by Polyneikes to fight in the post-Oedipal era of Theban civil war. Theseus agrees to the request, but only after ascertaining that it is the democratic will of the people of Athens that he should make this plea to the Thebans.

The Thebans, for their part, refuse, mocking Athenian democratic principles along the way. A battle between the two cities erupts; this time, however, Theseus fights only to gain that which his mandate had sought: the return of the bodies for their holy rites.

In the play, as J. Michael Walton writes, 'the level of the debate quickly rises to a dual consideration of the anture of war and the relative values of differing poltical systems. This is not Theseus' squabble, as he is quick to point out. He is soon persuaded that it is his buisiness. The rights and wrongs of interferences into the behaviour of other countries on moral grounds is a debate which has proved open-ended. All the deliberations of the United Nations Security Council have resulted only in guidelines to which every example seems to offer special pleading.'

Suppliants forms the last episode in the saga of the house of Oedipus.

Women of Troy

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Euripides' Women of Troy (sometimes known as The Trojan Women) is a tragedy that follows the fates of the women of Troy after their city has been sacked, their husbands killed, and as their remaining families are about to be taken away as slaves. It was first performed in 415 BC, during the Peloponnesian War.

This translation by Kenneth McLeish was published by Nick Hern Books in 2004 in its Drama Classics series, with an introduction by Marianne McDonald and J. Michael Walton.

In the aftermath of the bloody Trojan Wars, the women of the city lament their fate and look fearfully ahead to the future. Covering themes of religious scepticism, the injustices within roles of women and the destructive power of war, the play is once again relevant in an increasingly uncertain world.

Picture of Euripides

Euripides (484-406 BC) was a Greek dramatist. The last major tragic playwright of the classical world, he has also been called 'the first modern'.

Euripides was not highly successful in his lifetime, winning the first of only five victories at the Dionysia at the age of 43. By the end of the 19th century, however, Euripides was the most acclaimed Greek playwright. And, when the Royal Shakespeare Company presented a ten-play cycle The Greeks in 1980, seven of the works were by Euripides.

Only 17 of his 92 plays survive. These include Medea, The Bacchae and Electra. Euripides's innovations included the deus ex machina and the formal prologue. He used simple everyday language, bringing a new realism to the stage. Although contemporaries accused him of killing tragedy, he humanized drama by adding elements of sentiment, romance, and even comedy. He was the first to argue against the social inferiority of women, and the first to show women in love. He was also the first to explore such subjects as madness and repression.

A recluse, he shunned Athenian civil and social affairs, and in later life would sit all day in a cave on Salamis overlooking the sea as he contemplated and wrote 'something great and high'. In 408 BC Euripides was exiled for his unorthodox views to Macedonia, where he died less than two years later. According to tradition, when the Spartans arrived to burn Athens, they desisted after a reminder that this was Euripides's city.