medea shortened script - EURIPIDES MEDEA AND OTHER PLAYS MEDEA HECABE ELECTRA HERACLES Translated with an Introductlon by PHILIP VBLLACOTT PENGUIN BOOKS

medea shortened script - EURIPIDES MEDEA AND OTHER PLAYS...

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". EURIPIDES MEDEA AND OTHER PLAYS MEDEA· HECABE ELECTRA· HERACLES Translated with an Introductlon by PHILIP VBLLACOTT PENGUIN BOOKS
NTRODUCTION* f':7 s MEDEA (431 B.C.) OF the four plays in this volume, three have in common a point of special interest for their first audience. Medea, Electra, and Herac1es are set respectively in Corinth, Argos, and Thebes j but for the'solution of their dilemmas, the cleansing of their guilt, they all look to Athens. This observation perhaps illumines one aspect of the unique greatness of Athens. The hypOCriSY of neglected ideals has often been condemned as a major sin; but in the moral world as in the romantic, it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved. The Athenians in their actions were certainly as cruel, as dishonest, as greedy, as revengeful. as irreligious, as other Greeks; but in their thoughts and aspirations many of them loved and honouredjustice,integrity, and generosity, and loved their city as the shining embodiment of those virtues - which it was not. Faith without works, may be dead - but faith is seldo lD en- tirely without works; and the works of the tragedians kept alive the faith of Athenians in the beauty of goodness,and inwhat their cityhad some- times tried to be, even ifsuccess had beenrare: the sanctuary of HelIas. In Electra, Orestes' guilt was incurred wittingly - but at the com- mand of agod; in Herac1es, the crime was committed in pure innocence. By contrast, Medea's only excuse was her natural passion for revenge; yet she, no less than the others, could rely on sanctuary in Athens. The Chorus of Corinthian women follow their celebrated h.~ of praise for Athens with questions voicing the instinctive protest that there are degrees of wickedness which pollute sanctuary - but that cannot change the story. That this principle of the open gate still had significance in historical times is shown byThucydides' insistence on it in Pericles' Funeral Speech (in Book ii), where it is stated with pride that Athens allowed free coming and going through her city gates. In Medea Euripides' compliment to his city in this hymn of praise appears in, some measure to compensate for the effect of the preceding scene• • A general Introduction to the life and work of Euripides Is given ID Alcertls aud 0t1w PIty's (Penguin Classics). ' 1
INTRODUCTION The king of Athens and his &iendly offer to Medea were part of the unalterable legend, and would be accepted as such by the Athenian audience; but the treatment of the episode in this play is not only curiously arbitrary and unrelated to the rest of the action, but more than a little satirical; and the figure of Aegeus provides the one Bicker of relief in the otherwise uniform sombreness of the drama. This, the earliest extant tragedy of Euripides (it is preceded only by AIcutls), shows a moral pattern similar to that of his last work,71H Bacchae. It opens with an oppressed victim claiming the sp:npathy of Chorus and audience. As the action develops inevitably, and the punishment shows itself twice as wicked as the

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