IT IS NOT easy to classify the sixteen plays of Euripides that were produced as tragedies. Of the other three preserved as his the Rhesus seems clearly to belong to some writer of a later age and must therefore be considered separately. The Cyclops is a satyr drama and hence is irrelevant to our purpose. The Alcestis, which took the place of a satyr drama in 438 B.C., is much the earliest of the extant plays. Euripides was born probably in 484 B.C. He was first allowed to produce a play, The Daughters of Pelias, in 455). The plays that we now possess appeared in the last quarter century of his life, from Medea ( 431) to Bacchae ( 405), which came out after his death in the preceding year, and Iphigeneia at Aulis ( 401), which was performed even later.
I shall consider first seven tragedies of Euripides that show development. Medea and Hippolytus ( 428) are roughly contemporary with the Oedipus Tyrannus and have the same regard for unity of plot and a similar interweaving of character with action. Hercules Furens (ca. 424) and Hecuba (ca. 426) are plays in which reason and rhetoric are appealed to in an attempt to deal with the anomalies of fortune. They show a certain faith in political and legal institutions that tempers tragedy with morality. In the Trojan Women ( 415), the Electra ( 413), and the Bacchae ( 405) tragedy has shifted to a new basis. It has taken on a tone of universal pity that undermines any faith or satisfaction in success. The power of pity intervenes against revenge and tends to paralyze all human endeavor.
The specifically political plays must be considered together: Ion, Andromache, Suppliants, and Heracleidae of Euripides, with the Oedipus at Colonus of Sophocles. Two adventurous and happy