- Euripides in Modern Europe
- Pharos: journal of the Netherlands Institute in Athens
- Volume | Issue number
- 17 | 1
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam Institute for Humanities Research (AIHR)
Euripides is considered the most human, modern and existentialist of the famous Greek tragedians. Extremely popular after his death, he continued to be staged, read and much recited in Hellenistic and Roman times. As the Greek-speaking elite of the Roman Empire disappeared, the popularity of the Euripidean expressions was lost. The most important manuscripts of Euripides surfaced in Italy after the successive destructions of the ancient centres of Greek scholarship. In 1503 the Greek texts were printed for the first time, rapidly followed by translations in neo-latin verses and in modern European vernaculars. The ‘Euripidean heritage’ (a cultural conglomerate of ideas and of literary, visual and musical artistic expressions that are related to, or imagined to be related to, Greek and Roman antiquity) contributed to innovations in European theatre in diction and action, in costume and styling, in characters and morality, in values and sentiments. In opera, Euripides, often heavily adapted, also formed a powerful source of inspiration. Moral judgment of Euripides remained generally negative. Only when the public function of theatre in Europe changed, the conditions encouraged a more favourable appreciation of Euripides. Dramatists like Henrik Ibsen, Bernard Shaw and Hugo von Hofmannsthal, while offending Christian morality, outraging censorship and creating scandals and court suits, opened up the European scene for Euripides. Available in modern translations, especially in German and English, Euripides could be called the Greek Ibsen or the Attic Shaw. From these times on, Euripides would be considered as more relevant to modernity than Sophocles or Aeschylus. When, in spite of censorship, public scandal and accusation of obscenities, European theatre dared to expose shocking intimacy and frustration in human relations, with a focus on the female condition, which until then had been considered as too immoral to be staged, and when psychoanalysis and its terminology developed — from that moment a ban was broken. Euripides could become the most modern of the Greeks tragedians, providing a fascinating example of the influence of the past on present cultural performance.
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