Grief Lessons by Euripides & Anne Carson
Four Plays by Euripides (New York Review Books Classics)

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Euripides, the last of the three great tragedians of ancient Athens, reached the height of his renown during the disastrous Peloponnesian War, when democratic Athens was brought down by its own outsized ambitions. “Euripides,” the classicist Bernard Knox has written, —was born never to live in peace with himself and to prevent the rest of mankind from doing so.— His plays were shockers: he unmasked heroes, revealing them as foolish and savage, and he wrote about the powerless—women and children, slaves and barbarians—for whom tragedy was not so much exceptional as unending. Euripides’ plays rarely won first prize in the great democratic competitions of ancient Athens, but their combustible mixture of realism and extremism fascinated audiences throughout the Greek world. In the last days of the Peloponnesian War, Athenian prisoners held captive in far-off Sicily were said to have won their freedom by reciting snatches of Euripides’ latest tragedies.

Four of those tragedies are here presented in new translations by the contemporary poet and classicist Anne Carson. They are Herakles, in which the hero swaggers home to destroy his own family; Hekabe, set after the Trojan War, in which Hektor’s widow takes vengeance on her Greek captors; Hippolytos, about love and the horror of love; and the strange tragic-comedy fable Alkestis, which tells of a husband who arranges for his wife to die in his place. The volume also contains brief introductions by Carson to each of the plays along with two remarkable framing essays: “Tragedy: A Curious Art Form” and “Why I Wrote Two Plays About Phaidra.”
 

About Euripides & Anne Carson

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Euripides, one of the three great Greek tragedians was born in Attica probably in 485 B.C. of well-to-do parents. In his youth he cultivated gymnastic pursuits and studied philosophy and rhetoric. Soon after he received recognition for a play that he had written, Euripides left Athens for the court of Archelaus, king of Macedonia. In his tragedies, Euripides represented individuals not as they ought to be but as they are. His excellence lies in the tenderness and pathos with which he invested many of his characters. Euripides' attitude toward the gods was iconoclastic and rationalistic; toward humans-notably his passionate female characters-his attitude was deeply sympathetic. In his dramas, Euripides separated the chorus from the action, which was the first step toward the complete elimination of the chorus. He used the prologue as an introduction and explanation. Although Euripides has been charged with intemperate use of the deus ex machina, by which artifice a god is dragged in abruptly at the end to resolve a situation beyond human powers, he created some of the most unforgettable psychological portraits. Fragments of about fifty-five plays survive; some were discovered as recently as 1906. Among his best-known plays are Alcestis (438 B.C.), Medea and Philoctetes (431 B.C.), Electra (417 B.C.), Iphigenia in Tauris (.413 B.C.), The Trojan Women (415 B.C.), and Iphigenia in Aulis Iphigenia (c.405 B.C.). Euripides died in Athens in 406. Shortly after his death his reputation rose and has never diminished.
 
Published February 3, 2015 by NYRB Classics. 312 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Biographies & Memoirs, Travel. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Grief Lessons

Publishers Weekly

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Writing with a pitch and heat that gets to the heart of the unforgiving classical world, Carson, a poet (The Autobiography of Red ) and classicist (<EMPHASIS TYPE

Jun 12 2006 | Read Full Review of Grief Lessons: Four Plays by ...

Publishers Weekly

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Writing with a pitch and heat that gets to the heart of the unforgiving classical world, Carson, a poet (The Autobiography of Red ) and classicist (Economy of the Unlost ), translates four of the 18 surviving plays by Euripides (485–406 B.C.): Alkestis , Herakles , Hekabe and Hippolytos .

Jun 12 2006 | Read Full Review of Grief Lessons: Four Plays by ...

The New York Review of Books

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The New York Review of Books

Euripides, the last of the three great tragedians of ancient Athens, reached the height of his renown during the disastrous Peloponnesian War, when democratic Athens was brought down by its own outsized ambitions.

Aug 01 2006 | Read Full Review of Grief Lessons: Four Plays by ...

The New York Review of Books

The volume also contains brief introductions by Carson to each of the plays along with two remarkable framing essays: “Tragedy: A Curious Art Form” and “Why I Wrote Two Plays About Phaidra.”.

Sep 16 2008 | Read Full Review of Grief Lessons: Four Plays by ...

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