Eurpidies And Women Essay

1327 words - 5 pages

There has never been any doubt that Euripidies was interested in the nature, behavior, impact and social status of women. Aristophanes presented him as a notorious hater and slanderer of women. In our present century he is more often seen as one who excites pity for the sufferings inflicted on women by gods and men. He was highly unpopular in his time because of his radical views about the gods and the effect they had on ones destiny. He believed that things were not absolute, but relative. His ideas of women were also very different from the dramatists before him. In an essay by A.W. Gomme, he says, "no literature, no art of any country, in which women are more prominent, more important, more carefully studied, and with more interest, than in the tragedy, sculpture, and painting of fifth-century Athens." (Gomme). Euripides portrayed women in an important way, giving us a glimpse of their lives and their roles in Athenian culture. Euripides may indeed have invented women and reversed traditional representations of them, but ultimately he uses the female figures for patriarchy. His plays, such as Medea and Hippolytos, perform ideological work in subtle and complicated ways. Euripides brought a new era of drama to Greece, with his untraditional views of women, destiny and the importance of the gods (Kitto 19).

In his drama, Euripides endows his female characters with great understanding and allows them to give voice to important ideas; nonetheless, their experience is shaped to the end by male power. His plays establish two models of womanhood - sacrificial and vindictive - which speak to both women and men. On the one had, they set forth codes of behavior giving women in the audience reason to participate in the culture; on the other hand, they reinforce men's need and right to continue to control women (Winkler 204). Also, we know about the concerns men had about women's sexuality. Euripides' plays represent women as sexual beings that can openly speak about their sexuality and desire as well as male anxiety about the lack of control that they may have.

Euripides explores human nature and passion, while making the Athenian view of destiny unlike that of the previous Greek playwrights. He contradicts the writings of Aeschylus and Sophocles, by writing as if "man's destiny basically evolves out of himself and his own control or lack of control of his passions" (Bulter 11). His characters, such as Medea and Phaedra, are representatives of those tragic figures involved in the battle of desire, passion and duty. These new ideas are the main reasons for the adverse judgements made by the Athenian people. The plays were sometimes thought to be too realistic and the characters motivations too undignified for a typical tragedy.

The most popular of Euripides tragedies is Medea. The character of Medea is initially seen as the victim who were are able to be sympathetic with. She is wronged by her husband, so we find reason to justify her...

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