Friday, September 30, 2011

Euripides


‘…It is observed by Schlegel, that his tone of the tragedies of Euripides approaches more nearly to modern taste than to the stern simplicity of his predecessors. The passion of love predominates in his pieces, and he is the first tragedian who paid tribute to that sentiment which has been too exclusively made the moving cause of interest on the modern stage,—the first who sacrificed to

" Cupid, king of gods and men."

The dramatic use of this passion has been purified in modern times, by the introduction of that tone of feeling, which, since the age of Chivalry, has been a principal ingredient in heroic affection. This was unknown to the ancients, in whose society females, generally speaking, held a low and degraded place, from which few individuals emerged, unless those who aspired to the talents and virtues proper to the masculine sex. Women were not forbidden to become competitors for the laurel or oaken crown offered to genius and to patriotism; but antiquity held out no myrtle wreath, as a prize for the domestic virtues peculiar to the female character. Love, therefore, in Euripides, does not always breathe purity of sentiment, but is stained with the mixture of violent and degrading passions. This, however, was the fault of the age, rather than of the poet, although he is generally represented as an enemy of the female sex; and his death was ascribed to a judgment of Venus.

" When blood-hounds met him by the way,
And monsters made the bard their prey." 

This great dramatist was less successful than Sophocles in the construction of his plots; and, instead of the happy expedients by which his predecessor introduces us to the business of the drama, he had too often recourse to the mediation of a prologue, who came forth lo explain, in detail, the previous history necessary to understand the piece…’

Chambers’ Book of Days credits September 30th as being the day the Athenian tragedian Euripides was born.  The year was 480 B.C.  The text above comes from Sir Walter Scott’s “Essay on the Drama”.

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