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Euripidean Tragedy and Theology


This article discusses aspects of the representation of gods in the tragedies of the ancient Athenian playwright Euripides (5th cent. BCE). A first section considers difficulties of method arising from the nature of Greek religion and from the special characteristics of gods as represented in Greek poetry containing stories of the age of heroes. The second section argues for the importance of analyzing the dialectic of hope and despair in the human characters of the drama, with detailed discussion of Iphigenia in Tauris, Ion, and Orestes. The third section studies the spectrum of possibilities regarding the inference by an audience of the operations of the gods in the background. The examples of Medea and Hecuba receive detailed treatment. A fourth section briefly presents some ancillary conclusions. An appendix lists examples of possible actions of unseen gods in the tragedies of Euripides.

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