Read The Phoenician Women by Euripides Free Online
Book Title: The Phoenician Women|
The size of the: 563 KB
Edition: Oxford University Press, USA
Date of issue: September 1st 1992
ISBN 13: 9780195077087
The author of the book: Euripides
Format files: PDF
Read full description of the books:
Euripides (ca. 480-406 BCE) - Roman copy of a 4th century BCE Greek original
Sufficiency's enough for men of sense.
Men do not really own their private goods;
we simply care for the things which are the gods',
and when they will, they take them back again.
Euripides, his eleven year older competitor, Sophocles, and their deeply admired elder, Aeschylus, all lived through some of Athens' most exciting and trying times. Aeschylus was alive to witness and participate in the great victories over the Persians (Euripides has been said to have been born on the very day of the victory at Salamis, while Sophocles sang in a boys' choir in honor of that victory), all were alive to witness Athens' rise to the status of great power as the increasingly tyrannical head of the Delian League, and the two younger playwrights had to experience the long series of wars of struggle for hegemony over Greece between Athens and Sparta ending in crushing defeat for their beloved home polis. Throughout that time theater was by far the most significant art form, both politically and socially, in the polis of Athens.
The death and destruction of the decades' long war between Athens and Sparta necessarily had a profound effect on the younger playwrights' work, and The Phoenician Women (ca. 410) is one of the darkest plays Euripides wrote. Though the text that has come down to us has been significantly adulterated (like Aeschylus' Seven Against Thebes), I've found it to be particularly powerful.(*)
The Phoenician Women is a continuation of the story of Oedipus and Jocasta. Oedipus is self-blinded and suicidal and their sons, Polyneices and Eteocles, have imprisoned him for his own (and their) good. In order to avoid the foretold war between themselves, they have agreed to alternately share the rule, each relieving the other after one year. But, of course, already at the first annual changing of the guard Eteocles reneges. So war it shall be. This is set up quickly, and then the multi-leveled drama really begins.
The dramatic self-sacrifice of Menoeceus, the son of Creon (Jocasta's brother), assuages one god's resentment; great acts of martial valor on both sides mutually cancel; and Polyneices and Eteocles meet in single battle. Whatever the outcome, it will be a tragedy for their mother.
Alone among the mentioned playwrights, Euripides had a particular understanding and sympathy for women (who had no easy situation in classical Athens); again and again, he subtly undermined the dominant social attitudes towards women through his work. In his plays the men are laden with feelings of honor, pride and revenge, while the women are endowed with a much richer palate of roles and emotions. This is true again of this piece.
For the leading character in this play is Jocasta, whose son, Oedipus, (in Euripides' telling) was the result of a rape by her husband, Laius, (she wanted to avoid the foretold horrors); who was set up by Fate to marry her son unknowingly; who bore the shame and suffering of this marriage once Oedipus' identity was known; and who spoke reason to her intemperate sons repeatedly, vainly trying to save their lives and those of the armies arrayed against each other. I could not but identify Athens and Sparta with those sons, and I wonder if similar thoughts caused Euripides to place in her mouth such eloquent words of admonishment and wisdom.(**)
All ends badly in this dark play, whose dramatic poetry assures multiple re-reads just for the sheer pleasure of it. Yet Laius' curse has still not completely played itself out...
Read in the translation by Elizabeth Wyckoff
(*) Unlike Seven Against Thebes, which, though it is based on the same legendary events as Euripides' The Phoenician Women, became for me an empty piece of bravado in the interminable listing of the martial virtues of the twice seven captains. Euripides wisely chose to keep this bit short.
(**) The quotation at the top is a brief sample.
Read information about the author(Greek: Ευριπίδης )
Euripides (Ancient Greek: Εὐριπίδης) (ca. 480 BC–406 BC) was the last of the three great tragedians of classical Athens (the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles). Ancient scholars thought that Euripides had written ninety-five plays, although four of those were probably written by Critias. Eighteen of Euripides' plays have survived complete. It is now widely believed that what was thought to be a nineteenth, Rhesus, was probably not by Euripides. Fragments, some substantial, of most of the other plays also survive. More of his plays have survived than those of Aeschylus and Sophocles together, partly because of the chance preservation of a manuscript that was probably part of a complete collection of his works in alphabetical order.
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