Euripides is regarded as one of the three most important tragedians of classical Athens, Greece. He is the last of the great tragedians after Aeschylus and Sophocles. Scholars believe he was born around the year 480 B.C. More of his work has survived than the previous two authors. Among his most significant plays are Medea (431 B.C.), Hippolytus (428 B.C.), Alcestis (438 B.C.), and The Trojan Women (415 B.C.).
Historians know little about the life of Euripides that is not based on legend. Even the year of his birth is in question and guesses typically range between 485 and 480 B.C. Scholars believe, though this is based on legend, that he was born in Salamis. They strongly believe that his mother’s name was Cleito and his father’s name was either Mnesarchus or Mnesarchides. Most likely Euripides hailed from a prosperous and influential family. Historians believe he was also influenced by important figures like Socrates, Protagoras, and Anaxagoras. Aside from his entrance into dramatic competition, Euripides is not known to have participated publicly in other venues. Scholars have also concluded that he had two wives in the course of his life, three sons, and possibly one daughter. They are not sure which wife, Choerile or Melito, he was married to first.
Euripides is regarded as revolutionary among classic Greek playwrights. He changed the basic format of Athenian tragedy by portraying strong central women. He also portrayed slaves in his plays as intelligent which had not been done previously. During his tenure as a competitive Athenian playwright, Euripides won first place four times. This seems like a low approval rating in comparison with Aeschylus who won thirteen times and Sophocles who won eighteen times, but Euripides is often regarded today as the most sophisticated of the three.
An important feature of Euripides’s work was his use of realism to denote characters. Characters like Medea were created with greater complexity than had previously been used to portray a dramatic character. Euripides shows the motivations for her villainy and endows her with human emotions that an audience would be able to recognize and empathize with despite the eventual horrific consequences of her actions. Another feature of his work is the reliance on the literary device known as deus ex machina; this device features an interruption in the storyline by a god or goddess that brings about a conclusion to the plot.
Scholars believe that Euripides left Athens for Macedon due to his dissatisfaction with the drama competitions. Some scholars believe the cold climate may have brought about his death in c. 406 B.C. Other well-known plays by Euripides include Electra (420 B.C.), Iphigenia in Tauris (414 B.C.), and Bacchae and Iphigenia at Aulis (405 B.C.).