One of the "Big Three" of the Ancient Greek tragic playwrights, Euripides was born around 480 BCE. Details of his personal life are sparse and based more on legend than true historical record: He was married twice, but both marriages were disastrous. He did have children with his second wife, but little is known about his family life. Eventually he became a recluse, creating a sanctuary on his home island of Salamis in the Cave of Euripides (celebrated by devotees of the playwright after his death).
Much of the knowledge about Euripides' life comes from his involvement in the theatre. At a young age, he was a torchbearer during rites dedicated to Apollo. In 455 BCE, Euripides first competed in the City Dionysia, the largest of all Greek theatre festivals. He entered the competition many times, and won first prize in 441 BCE. He continued to compete, winning the competition four more times--and was even posthumously awarded the prize in 405 BCE (even though his last official competition entry was in 408). In total, Euripides wrote over ninety plays; however, only eighteen remain.
Euripides' dramatic philosophies were different from his predecessors (Aeschylus and Sophocles). While those two playwrights hearkened to history and an archaic age in their plays, Euripides creates characters--especially female characters--with greater complexity and even sympathy. A common source of dramatic conflict is the tension between reason and passion. Classics scholar Bernard Knox described Euripides: "He has been seen as a profound explorer of human psychology and also a rhetorical poet who subordinated consistency of character to verbal effect; as a misogynist and a feminist; as a realist who brought tragic action down to the level of everyday life and as a romantic poet who chose unusual myths and exotic settings." Altogether, Euripides embraced contradictory descriptions.
He was often criticized by his contemporaries, and was a frequent target of the Athenian comedians (notably Aristophanes). Later dramatists in the Renaissance and Neoclassical period used Euripides' plays as inspiration for their own. In fact, a typical classical education incorporate a study of the playwright alongside the great philosophers of the Greek and Roman period.
Euripides died around 406 BCE, probably while a member of the Macedonian ruler King Archelaus.
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