The Plays Of The Greek playwrights

A Special Thanks For Introducing Me To This Subject

Special thanks to John Osborne, Acquisitions Editor, IDG Books, for getting me interested in this particular subject. I would never have thought to head down this track if John had not really motivated me to start reading the Greek plays.
A Good Introductory Book On This Topic

Seven Famous Greek Plays
by Whitney J. Oates and Eugene O'Neill, Jr.

Contains plays by each of the major playwrights discussed below. Gives you a great feel for the styles of each author. Allows you to focus on the authors most of interest.

An Introduction To The Greek playwrights

The Greeks had a large number of playrights. However, the four major playwrights were Aeschylus,Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes. The first three of these fellows were tragedians while the last was a comedian.

Aeschylus used a style that was at best turgid. Reading his plays is like swimming in mud. His interests are abstract and deal with truths expressed in very obscure terms. I could barely make it through one of his plays.

Sophocles had a mixture of abstract and obscure elements combined with more realistic, human characters. His plays are acceptable to read, but not among my favorite. He did write Oedipus The King, which is well worth the read if you have never read the play before.

Euripides is hot! He writes about real characters facing real tragic flaws that cause their eventual demise. This author's writing style is extremely readable. And, his characterization is almost equal to that of Shakespeare. Everything he writes can usually reduced to a single theme, expressed in the most modern terms. See the discussion of his play, The Medea, which appears below.

Aristaphanes is not your ordinary comedian. His plays use sarcasm and wit combined with an amazing combination of scatalogical humor peppered with four letter words. He uses characters to represent situations in Greek society that are hilarious.
The Media by Euripides

When I first read this play, I was blown away. Let me tell you about the play. Medea is the wife of Jason. You probably recall Jason as the retriever of the golden fleece, which made Jason a rich man in ancient Greece.

Well, Medea was the daughter of the king who owned the fleece. She fell in love with Jason, killed her own brother, and betrayed her father to steal the fleece for Jason. Of course, Jason married her and carried her back to Greece.

This play resumes 15 years later. Jason, is now older, much richer, and more powerful. Jason and Medea have two young sons together. Now, Jason decides to throw Medea over for a much younger women. Is this ungrateful or what, after all Medea has done for Jason? This is also big problems for Medea on several levels. First, she will be penniless -- no community propery or alimony in Greece. Second, she feels emotionally betrayed after all she did.

At first, she threatens revenge. Jason's father, the king, tells her to leave the country, as he doesn't want Jason or the grandkids harmed. So, Medea calls it and acts contrite. But, she tricks everyone and poisons the kids and Jason's new wife. She might even get to Jason, I don't remember. In the end, she just kills herself.

The theme in modern terms: payback's a bitch, ain't it?