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Title: Euripides and His Age
Author: Euripides, 480? BC-406 BC, Murray, Gilbert, 1866-1957
Language: English
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Home University Library of Modern Knowledge




Williams & Norgate

Henry Holt & Co., New York
Canada: Wm. Briggs, Toronto
India: R. & T. Washbourne, Ltd.

                     *       *       *       *       *

Home University Library of Modern Knowledge


(Columbia University, U.S.A.)

New York
Henry Holt and Company

                     *       *       *       *       *



LL.D., D.Litt., F.B.A.

Regius Professor of Greek in the University of Oxford

Williams and Norgate

Printed by
The London and Norwich Press Limited
London and Norwich


CHAPTER                                                                PAGE

    I Introductory                                                        7

   II Sources for a Life of Euripides: Memories remaining
      in the Fourth Century: Youth: Athens after the Persian War: the
      great Sophists                                                     20

  III What is a Greek Tragedy? Euripides' early Plays up to 438 B.C.,
      "Alcestis" and "Telephus"                                          60

   IV Beginning of the War: the Plays of Maturity from "Medea"
      to "Heracles"                                                      81

    V Full Expression: the Embittering of the War:
      Alcibiades and the Demagogues: the "Ion": the "Trojan Women"      107

   VI After 415: Euripides' last years in Athens: from
      "Andromeda" and "Iphigenia" to "Electra" and "Orestes"            142

  VII After 408: Macedonia: "Iphigenia in Aulis": "Bacchae"             165

 VIII The Art of Euripides: Traditional Form and Living Spirit:
      the Prologue, the Messenger, the "God from the Machine"           198

   IX The Art of Euripides, continued: The Chorus: Conclusion           228

      Bibliography                                                      247

      Note on the Pronunciation of Names                                251

      Index                                                             253




Most of the volumes of this series are occupied with large subjects and
subjects commonly recognized as important to great masses of people at
the present day. In devoting the present volume to the study of a single
writer, remote from us in time and civilization and scarcely known by
more than name to many readers of the Library, I am moved by the belief
that, quite apart from his disputed greatness as a poet and thinker,
apart from his amazing and perhaps unparalleled success as a practical
playwright, Euripides is a figure of high significance in the history of
humanity and of special interest to our own generation.

Born, according to the legend, in exile and fated to die in exile,
Euripides, in whatever light one regards him, is a man of curious and
ironic history. As a poet he has lived through the ages in an
atmosphere of controversy, generally--though by no means always--loved
by poets and despised by critics. As a thinker he is even to this day
treated almost as a personal enemy by scholars of orthodox and
conformist minds; defended, idealized and sometimes transformed beyond
recognition by various champions of rebellion and the free intellect.
The greatest difficulty that I feel in writing about him is to keep in
mind without loss of proportion anything like the whole activity of the
many-sided man. Recent writers have tended to emphasize chiefly his work
as a destructive thinker. Dr. Verrall, the most brilliant of all modern
critics of Euripides, to whose pioneer work my own debt is greater than
I can well express, entitled one of his books "Euripides the
Rationalist" and followed to its extreme limit the path indicated by
this particular clue. His vivid and interesting disciple Professor
Norwood has followed him. In Germany Dr. Nestlé, in a sober and learned
book, treating of Euripides as a thinker, says that "all mysticism was
fundamentally repugnant to him"; a view which is certainly wrong, since
some of the finest expressions of Greek mysticism known to us are taken
from the works of Euripides. Another good writer, Steiger, draws an
elaborate parallel between Euripides and Ibsen and finds the one key to
Euripides in his realism and his absolute devotion to truth. Yet an
older generation of Euripides-lovers felt these things quite
differently. When Macaulay proclaimed that there was absolutely nothing
in literature to equal _The Bacchae_, he was certainly not thinking
about rationalism or realism. He felt the romance, the magic, the sheer
poetry. So did Milton and Shelley and Browning. And so did the older
English scholars like Porson and Elmsley. Porson, while admitting that
the critics have many things to say against Euripides as compared, for
instance, with Sophocles, answers in his inarticulate way "_illum
admiramur, hunc legimus_"--"we admire the one, but we read the other."
Elmsley, so far from regarding Euripides as mainly a thinker, remarks in
passing that he was a poet singularly addicted to contradicting himself.
To Porson and Elmsley the poetry of Euripides might or might not be good
on the highest plane, it was at any rate delightful. Quite different
again are the momentous judgments pronounced upon him as a writer of
tragedy by two of the greatest judges. Aristotle, writing at a period
when Euripides was rather out of fashion, and subjecting him to much
serious and sometimes unintelligent criticism, considers him still "the
most tragic of the poets." And Goethe, after expressing his surprise at
the general belittling of Euripides by "the aristocracy of philologists,
led by the buffoon Aristophanes," asks emphatically: "Have all the
nations of the world since his time produced one dramatist who was
worthy to hand him his slippers?" (Tagebüchern, November 22, 1831.) We
must try, if we can, to bear duly in mind all these different lines of

                     *       *       *       *       *

As a playwright the fate of Euripides has been strange. All through a
long life he was almost invariably beaten in the State competitions. He
was steadily admired by some few philosophers, like Socrates; he enjoyed
immense fame throughout Greece; but the official judges of poetry were
against him, and his own people of Athens admired him reluctantly and
with a grudge.

After death, indeed, he seemed to come into his kingdom. He held the
stage as no other tragedian has ever held it, and we hear of his plays
being performed with popular success six hundred years after they were
written, and in countries far removed from Greece. He influenced all the
higher forms of Greek writing, both in prose and poetry. He is more
quoted by subsequent writers than any other Greek tragedian; nay, if we
leave out of count mere dictionary references to rare words, he is more
quoted than all the other tragedians together. And nineteen of his plays
have survived to our own day as against seven each of Aeschylus and
Sophocles. This seems enough glory for any man. Yet the fate that
grudged him prizes in his lifetime contrived afterwards to spread a
veneer of commonplaceness over the success which it could not prevent.
To a great extent Euripides was read because he was, or seemed, easy;
the older poets were neglected because they were difficult. Attic Greek
in his hands had begun to assume the form in which it remained for a
thousand years as the recognized literary language of the east of Europe
and the great instrument and symbol of civilization. He was a
treasure-house of Attic style and ancient maxims, and eminently useful
to orators who liked quotations. Meantime the melody and meaning of his
lyrics were lost, because men had forgotten the pronunciation of
fifth-century Greek and could no longer read lyrics intelligently. The
obviously exciting quality of his plays kept its effect; but there was
no one to understand the subtlety of his craftsmanship, the intimate
study of character, the skilful forging of links and clashes between
scenes, the mastery of that most wonderful of Greek dramatic
instruments, the Chorus. Plays had practically ceased to be written.
They were thought of either as rhetorical exercises or as spectacles for
the amphitheatre. Something similar happened to the whole inward spirit
in which he worked, call it philosophy or call it religion. Its meaning
became obscured. It had indeed a powerful influence on the philosophers
of the great fourth century schools: they probably understood at least
one side of him. But the sayings of his that are quoted broadcast and
repeated through author after author of the decadence are mostly
thoughts of quite the second rank, which have lost half their value by
being torn from their context, often commonplace, often--as is natural
in fragments of dramas--mutually contradictory, though almost always
simply and clearly expressed.

It was this clear expression which the late Greeks valued so highly.
"Clarity"--_saphêneia_--was the watchword of style in Euripides' own day
and remained always the foremost aim of Greek rhetoric. Indeed what a
Greek called "rhetorikê" often implied the very opposite of what we call
"rhetoric." To think clearly, to arrange your matter under formal heads,
to have each paragraph definitely articulated and each sentence simply
and exactly expressed: that was the main lesson of the Greek rhetor. The
tendency was already beginning in classical times and no classical
writer carried it further than Euripides. But here again Fate has been
ironical with him. The ages that were incapable of understanding him
loved him for his clearness: our own age, which might at last understand
him, is instinctively repelled by it. We do not much like a poet to be
very clear, and we hate him to be formal. We are clever readers, quick
in the up-take, apt to feel flattered and stimulated by a little
obscurity; mystical philosophy is all very well in a poet, but clear-cut
intellect--no. At any rate we are sharply offended by "firstlys,
secondlys and thirdlys," by divisions on the one hand and on the other
hand. And all this and more Euripides insists on giving us.

It is the great obstacle between him and us. Apart from it we have only
to exercise a little historical imagination and we shall find in him a
man, not indeed modern--half his charm is that he is so remote and
austere--but a man who has in his mind the same problems as ourselves,
the same doubts and largely the same ideals; who has felt the same
desires and indignations as a great number of people at the present day,
especially young people. Not because young people are cleverer than old,
nor yet because they are less wise; but because the poet or philosopher
or martyr who lives, half-articulate, inside most human beings is apt to
be smothered or starved to death in the course of middle life. As long
as he is still alive we have, most of us, the key to understanding

What, then, shall be our method in approaching him? It is fatal to fly
straight at him with modern ready-made analogies. We must see him in his
own atmosphere. Every man who possesses real vitality can be seen as the
resultant of two forces. He is first the child of a particular age,
society, convention; of what we may call in one word a tradition. He is
secondly, in one degree or another, a rebel against that tradition. And
the best traditions make the best rebels. Euripides is the child of a
strong and splendid tradition and is, together with Plato, the fiercest
of all rebels against it.

There is nothing paradoxical in this. No tradition is perfect. The best
brings only a passing period of peace or triumph or stable equilibrium;
humanity rests for a moment, but knows that it must travel further; to
rest for ever would be to die. The most thorough conformists are
probably at their best when forced to fight for their ideal against
forces that would destroy it. And a tradition itself is generally at its
best, not when it is universally accepted, but when it is being attacked
and broken. It is then that it learns to search its own heart and live
up to its full meaning. And in a sense the greatest triumph that any
tradition can accomplish is to rear noble and worthy rebels. The Greek
tradition of the fifth century B.C., the great age of Athens, not only
achieved extraordinary advances in most departments of human life, but
it trained an extraordinary band of critical or rebellious children.
Many a reader of Plato's most splendid satires against democratic
Athens will feel within him the conclusive answer: "No place but Athens
could ever have reared such a man as this, and taught him to see these
faults or conceive these ideals."

We are in reaction now against another great age, an age whose
achievements in art are memorable, in literature massive and splendid,
in science and invention absolutely unparalleled, but greatest of all
perhaps in the raising of all standards of public duty, the humanizing
of law and society, and the awakening of high ideals in social and
international politics. The Victorian Age had, amid enormous
differences, a certain similarity with the Periclean in its lack of
self-examination, its rush and chivalry and optimism, its unconscious
hypocrisy, its failure to think out its problems to the bitter end. And
in most of the current criticism on things Victorian, so far as it is
not mere fashion or folly, one seems to feel the Victorian spirit itself
speaking. It arraigns Victorian things by a Victorian standard; blames
them not because they have moved in a particular direction, but because
they have not moved far enough; because so many of the things they
attempted are still left undone, because the ideals they preached and
the standards by which they claimed to be acting were so much harder of
satisfaction than they knew. Euripides, like ourselves, comes in an age
of criticism following upon an age of movement and action. And for the
most part, like ourselves, he accepts the general standards on which the
movement and action were based. He accepts the Athenian ideals of free
thought, free speech, democracy, "virtue" and patriotism. He arraigns
his country because she is false to them.

                     *       *       *       *       *

We have spoken of the tradition as a homogeneous thing, but for any poet
or artist there are two quite different webs in it. There are the
accepted conventions of his art and the accepted beliefs of his
intellect, the one set aiming at the production of beauty, the others at
the attainment of truth.

Now for every artist who is also a critic or rebel there is a difference
of kind between these two sets of conventions. For the purposes of truth
the tradition is absolutely indifferent. If, as a matter of fact, the
earth goes round the sun, it does so not a whit the less because most
ages have believed the opposite. The seeker for truth can, as far as
truth is concerned, reject tradition without a qualm. But with art the
case is different. Art has to give a message from one man to another. As
you can only speak to a man in a language which you both know, so you
can only appeal to his artistic side by means of some common tradition.
His natural expectation, whether we try to satisfy or to surprise it, to
surpass or to disappoint it, is always an essential element in the
artistic effect. Consequently the tradition cannot be disregarded.

This distinction is often strongly marked in the practice of different
artists. One poet may be both a pioneer of new roads in thought and a
breaker of the laws of technique, like Walt Whitman--an enemy of the
tradition in both kinds. Another may be slack and anarchical in his
technique though quite conventional in his thought. I refrain from
suggesting instances. Still more clearly there are poets, such as
Shelley or Swinburne, whose works are full of intellectual rebellion
while their technique is exquisite and elaborate. The thoughts are bold
and strange. The form is the traditional form developed and made more

Now Euripides, except for some so-called licences in metre, belongs in
my judgment markedly to the last class. In speculation he is a critic
and a free lance; in artistic form he is intensely traditional. He seems
to have loved the very stiffnesses of the form in which he worked. He
developed its inherent powers in ways undreamed of, but he never broke
the mould or strayed away into shapelessness or mere realism. His last,
and in many respects his greatest, play, the _Bacchae_, is, as far as
our evidence goes, the most formal that he ever wrote.

These, then, are the lights in which we propose to look at Euripides. In
attempting to reconstruct his life we must be conscious of two
backgrounds against which he will be found standing, according as we
regard him as Thinker or as pure Artist. We must first try to understand
something of the tradition of thought in which he was reared, that is
the general atmosphere of fifth century Athens, and watch how he
expressed it and how he reacted against it. Next, we must understand
what Greek tragedy was, what rituals and conventions held it firm, and
what inner fire kept it living, and so study the method in which
Euripides used it for his chosen mode of expression, obeying its laws
and at the same time liberating its spirit.



It is in one sense impossible to write a life of Euripides, for the
simple reason that he lived too long ago. In his time people were only
just beginning to write history at all; Herodotus, the "father of
history," was his close contemporary. They had begun to record really
great events; but it had not occurred to them that the life of any
individual was worth all the trouble of tracing out and writing down.
Biography of a sort began about two generations afterwards, when the
disciples of Aristotle and Epicurus exerted themselves to find out and
record the lives of their masters. But biography in our sense--the
complete writing of a life year by year with dates and documents--was
never practised at all in antiquity. Think of the Gospels, of the Acts,
even of Tacitus's _Life of Agricola_. They are different one from
another, but they are all unlike any modern biography in their resolute
indifference to anything like completeness. Ancient "Lives" as a rule
select a few great deeds, a few great sayings or discourses; they
concentrate upon the last years of their subject and often especially
upon his death.

The dates at which various eminent men of antiquity died are well known.
The man was then famous and his death was a memorable event. But--except
in a few aristocratic states, like Cos, which records the actual
birthday of the great physician Hippocrates--no baby was eminent and not
many young men. Very few dates of birth are known; and in the case of
almost all the famous men of antiquity their early histories are
forgotten and their early works lost. So it is with Euripides.

History in later antiquity was chiefly a branch of _belles lettres_ and
made no great effort after exactness. As a rule it contented itself with
the date at which a man "flourished," a very rough conception,
conventionally fixed either by the time when he did his most memorable
work or the year when he reached the age of forty. The year commonly
assigned to Euripides' birth is a good instance of ancient method in
these things. The system of chronology was badly confused. In the first
place there was no generally accepted era from which to date; and even
if there had been, the numerical system, before the invention of Arabic
ciphers, was as confused as English spelling is at the present day, and
made it hard to do the simplest sums. So the ordinary educational plan
was to group events together in some scheme that might not be quite
exact but was calculated to have some symbolic interest and to stay in
the memory. For instance, the three great tragedians were grouped
together round the Battle of Salamis, the great triumph of the Persian
Wars in 480 B.C. Aeschylus fought among the heavy-armed infantry,
Sophocles danced in a choir of boys to celebrate the victory, and
Euripides was born in Salamis on the day of the battle. We do not know
the origin of this pleasant fable; but we have another date given in a
very ancient chronicle called the _Parian Marble_, which was found in
the island of Paros in the seventeenth century and was composed in the
year 264 B.C. It puts the birth of Euripides in 484 B.C., and since we
cannot find any reason why this year should be invented, and since the
_Marble_ is the oldest witness now extant, we shall probably do well
provisionally to accept its statement.

In some of the MSS. which preserve Euripides' plays there are "scholia"
or ancient traditional commentaries written round the margin. A few of
the oldest notes in them come from Alexandrian scholars who lived in the
second century B.C. Others date from Roman times, in the first few
centuries of the Christian era; others from the eleventh century and
even later. And among them there is a quite ancient document called
_Life and Race of Euripides_.

It is anonymous and shapeless. Sentences may have been added or omitted
by the various people who at different times have owned or copied the
MSS. But we can see that it is derived from early sources, and notably
from a "Life" which was written by one Satyrus, a writer of the
Peripatetic or Aristotelian school, towards the end of the third century
B.C. Fragments from the same source have been detected in the Latin
authors Varro and Gellius; and it has influenced the biographical notice
in the ancient Greek lexicon of Suidas (tenth century A.D.). Suidas used
also another earlier and better source, the _Attic Chronicle_ of

Philochorus was a careful and systematic annalist of the early third
century B.C., who used official documents and verified his statements.
His main work was to record all that affected Athens--history, myths,
festivals, and customs, but he also wrote various special treatises, one
of which was _On Euripides_. Satyrus wrote a series of _Lives of Famous
Men_, which was very popular, and we are now--since 1911--in a position
to judge how undeserved its popularity was. For fragments of his _Life
of Euripides_ have been unearthed in Egypt by Drs. Grenfell and Hunt and
published in their _Oxyrrhyncus Papyri_, vol. ix. The life takes the
form of a dialogue--apparently a dialogue with a lady. It is a mass of
quotations, anecdotes, bits of literary criticism, all run together with
an air of culture and pleasantness, a spice of gallantry and a
surprising indifference to historical fact. Evidently anecdotes amused
Satyrus and facts, as such, did not. He cared about literary style, but
he neither cared nor knew about history. The following considerations
will make this clear.

Euripides was, more than any other figure in ancient history, a
constant butt for the attacks of comedy. And we find, oddly enough, that
most of the anecdotes about Euripides in Satyrus are simply the jokes of
comedy treated as historical fact. For instance, in Aristophanes' play,
_The Women at the Thesmophoria_, the women, while alone at this private
festival, agree to murder Euripides because, by his penetrating study of
female character on the stage, he has made life too difficult for them.
Euripides, hearing of the plot, persuades his elderly father-in-law to
go in disguise to the forbidden celebration and defend him--which he
does in a ruinously tactless way. Some scenes of brilliant farce are
succeeded by a solemn truce between Euripides and the women of Athens.
It shows what our tradition is worth when we find that both the "_Life
and Race_," and Gellius and Satyrus himself, give as sober fact this
story which we know--and if we did not know could surely see--to be
comic invention. There is another class of fabulous anecdote which plays
an even larger part in the Satyrus tradition. In Aristophanes' _Frogs_
(1.1048), in a scene where Euripides is defending his plays against the
attacks of Aeschylus, there occurs the chance suggestion that Euripides
had learnt from his own experience all the varied villanies of his
wicked heroines. The idea took root, and he is represented in the
anecdotes as a deceived husband, like his own Theseus or Proetus, and
uttering lines suitable to the occasion out of his own tragedies; as
having two wives at once, like his own Neoptolemus--one of them named
Choirile, or "Piggy," and each of course worse than the other; as torn
to pieces by hounds, like his own Actaeon, or by wild women, like his
own Pentheus.

Something of this sort is possibly the origin of a famous joke about
Euripides' mother, which runs through Aristophanes and is repeated as a
fact in all the Lives. We know from Philochorus that it was not true.
The joke is to connect her with chervil--a grassy vegetable which grew
wild and was only eaten in time of famine--or with wild green-stuff in
general, or simply to call her a greengrocer. It was also a joke to say
anything about beet-root. (_Acharn._ 894, _Frogs_ 942), A man begs
Euripides to bring

  "A new-born chervil from thy mother's breast."
                                    (_Acharn._ 478.)

Or we hear that

                      "Wild wrongs he works on women,
  Wild as the greens that waved about his cradle."
                                     (_Thesm._ 455.)

When some one is about to quote Euripides his friend cries:

  "Don't, don't, for God's sake! Don't be-chervil me!"
                                     (_Knights_ 19.)

Now a much-quoted line from Euripides' tragedy _Melanippe the Wise_
runs: "It is not my word but my mother's word"; and we know that
Melanippe, and still more her mother, was an authority on potent herbs
and simples. Turn his heroine's mother into his own mother and the
potent herbs into some absurd vegetable, and the fable is made.

Setting aside this fog of misunderstanding and reckless anecdote, let us
try to make out the method on which our best authority, Philochorus, may
have put together his account of Euripides. He had almost no written
materials; he had no collection of letters and papers such as go to the
making of a modern biography. He could, however, consult the public
records of tragic performances as collected and edited by Aristotle and
his pupils and thus fix the dates of Euripides' plays, especially his
first and last performance, his first victory, and the like. He would
also find a few public inscriptions in which the poet's name was
mentioned, for the archives of that time were mostly engraved on stone
and put up in public places. There was also a portrait bust, authentic
though slightly idealized, taken in the poet's old age, and showing the
worn and beautiful face, the thin hair, and the lips somewhat fallen in.
These sources would give him a few skeleton facts; for anything more he
would have to depend on the accidental memories that survived. If he
wrote about 300-290 B.C. there was no one living who could remember a
man who died in 406. But there might be men of seventy whose fathers had
spoken to Euripides and whose grandfathers had known him well. Thus he
might with luck have struck some vein of intimate and intelligent
memory, which would have helped us to understand the great man. But he
did not. The memories are all about the poet's old age, and they are all
very external. We hear that he wore a long beard and had moles on his
face. He lived very much alone, and hated visitors and parties. He had a
quantity of books and could not bear women. He lived on the island of
Salamis in a cave which had two openings and a beautiful view--a good
cave was probably more comfortable than many a Greek house, so this may
not have been a great eccentricity--and there you could see him "all day
long, thinking to himself and writing, for he simply despised anything
that was not great and high." It is like the memories of a child, rather
a puzzled child, watching the great man from a distance.

Some few things come out clearly. He lived in his last years with a
small knot of intimates. Mnesilochus, his wife's father--or, perhaps,
another Mnesilochus of the same family--was a close friend. So was his
servant or secretary, Cephisophon. We do not hear of Socrates as an
intimate: the two owed a great debt to one another, and we hear that
Socrates never went to the theatre except when Euripides had a play
performing: to see a Euripides play he would even stir himself so far as
to walk all the way to the Piraeus. But it is likely enough that both
men were too vivid and original, perhaps too much accustomed to dominate
their respective circles, to be quite comfortable in the same room. And
we never find Euripides conversing with Socrates in Plato's dialogues.

Some of Euripides' older friends were by this time driven out from
Athens. The great "Sophist," Protagoras, had read his famous book, _On
the Gods_, in Euripides' own house. But he was now dead, drowned at sea,
and the poet's master, Anaxagoras, had died long before. Some of the
younger artists seem to have found a friend in Euripides. There was
Timotheus, the young Ionian composer, who--like most musicians of any
originality--was supposed to have corrupted the music of the day by his
florid style and bold inventions. His first performance in Athens was a
mortifying failure, and we are told that the passionate Ionian was on
the point of killing himself when the old poet came and encouraged him.
He had only to hold fast, and the people who now hissed would turn and

One fact is especially clear, the restless enmity of the comic writers.
Of the eleven comedies of Aristophanes which have come down to us three
are largely devoted to Euripides, and not one has managed altogether to
avoid touching him. I know of no parallel to it in all the history of
literature. Has there ever again been a tragic poet, or any poet, who so
centred upon himself year after year till he was nearly eighty the
mocking attention of all the popular wits? And how was it that the
Athenian public never tired of this incessant poet-baiting, these
incessant appeals to literary criticism in the midst of farce? The
attacks are sometimes rough and vicious, sometimes acute and searching,
often enough they hide a secret admiration. And the chief enemy,
Aristophanes, must, to judge from his parodies, have known a large
number of Euripides' ninety-two plays by heart, and been at least half
fascinated by the object of his satire. However that may be, the
hostility of the comic writers had evidently a general hostility behind
it. Our tradition states this definitely and the persistency of the
attacks proves it. You cannot go on constantly deriding on the stage a
person whom your audience does not wish derided. And the unpopularity of
Euripides, as we shall see later, is not hard to understand. The Satyrus
tradition puts it down to his personal aloofness and austerity. He
avoided society, and he "made no effort to please his audience." So that
at least he did not soften by personal pleasantness the opposition they
felt to his whole view of life. It was not only that he was utterly
alienated from the War Party and the mob leaders: here he only agreed
with Aristophanes. It was that he had pierced through to a deeper
stratum of thought, in which most of the pursuits and ideals of the men
about him stood condemned. Socrates reached the same plane, and they
killed Socrates.

It is somewhat harder to understand the universal assumption of our
authorities that Euripides was a notorious castigator of the female sex
and that the women of Athens naturally hated him. To us he seems an
aggressive champion of women; more aggressive, and certainly far more
appreciative, than Plato. Songs and speeches from the _Medea_ are
recited to-day at suffragist meetings. His tragic heroines are famous
and are almost always treated with greater interest and insight than his
heroes. Yet not only the ancients, but all critics up to the last
generation or so, have described him as a woman-hater. What does it
mean? Is Aristophanes ironical, and are the scholiasts and grammarians
merely stupid? Or is there some explanation for this extraordinary

I think the explanation is that the present age is the first, or almost
the first, that has learned to treat its heroines in fiction as real
human beings, with what are called "mixed characters." As lately as the
time of Sir Walter Scott, perhaps as lately as Dickens, common
convention demanded that a heroine, if sympathetic, should be so free
from faults as to be almost without character. Ibsen's heroines, who
were real human beings studied with sympathy but with profound
sincerity, seemed to their generation shocking and even horrible. All
through the ages the ideal of womanhood in conventional fiction has
mostly been of the type praised by one great Athenian thinker: "the
greatest glory for a woman is to be as little mentioned as possible
among men." If that ideal was really predominant among the women of
Athens, it is no wonder that they felt outraged by Euripides. They had
not reached, and most of their husbands had not reached, the point of
being interested in good study of character, much less the point of
demanding a freer and more strenuous life. To the average stupid
Athenian it was probably rather wicked for a woman to have any
character, wicked for her to wish to take part in public life, wicked
for her to acquire learning, or to doubt any part of the conventional
religion, just as it was wicked for her to deceive her husband. Such
women should not be spoken about; above all they should not be treated
with understanding and sympathy. The understanding made it all
infinitely worse. To people of this type the women of Euripides must
have been simply shocking and the poet himself a cruel enemy of the sex.
One only wonders that they could stand Sophocles' heroines, such as
Antigone and Jocasta. To cleverer men, like Aristophanes, the case
would, no doubt, seem rather more complicated. But Aristophanes, amid
the many flashes of sympathy he shows for "advanced" women, was not the
man to go against his solid conservative audience or to forgo such rich
material for jokes.

In any case this is the kind of picture we have of Euripides in his last
years; a figure solitary, austere, with a few close intimates, wrapped
up in living for what he would call "the service of the Muses," in
music, poetry and speculation; capable still of thrilling his audiences
with an intensity of tragic emotion such as no other poet had ever
reached; but bowed with age, somewhat friendless, and like other
solitaries a little strange in his habits; uncomprehendingly admired and
hated, and moving always through a mist of half-envious, half-derisive
laughter. _Calvus et calvinista_--one is reminded, amid many
differences, of the quaint words in which William the Silent describes
his own passage from youth to age, till the brilliant Catholic prince,
leader of courts and tourneys, sate at last in his lonely council
chamber "bald and a Calvinist." Let us try to trace the path of life
which led him to this end.

                     *       *       *       *       *

He was the son of Mnesarchus or Mnesarchides--such names often have
alternative forms--who is said to have been a merchant. His mother,
Cleito, the supposed greengrocer, was, according to Philochorus, "of
very high birth." He was born at Phlya, a village in the centre of
Attica. The neighbourhood is celebrated still for its pleasant trees and
streams in the midst of a sunburnt land. In Euripides' time it was more
famous for its temples. It was the seat of Demeter Anesidora (Earth,
Upsender of Gifts), of Dionysus of the Blossom, and the Dread Virgins,
old-world and mysterious names, not like the prevailing gods of the
Homeric mythology. Most famous of all, it possessed the mystery temple
of Erôs, or Love. Owing to the researches of recent years, these
mysteries can now be in their general nature understood. They are
survivals of an old tribal society, in which all the boys as they
reached maturity were made to pass through certain ordeals and
initiations. They were connected both with vegetation and with re-birth
after death, because they dated from a remote age in which the
fruitfulness of the tribal fields was not differentiated from the
fruitfulness of the flocks and the human families, and the new members
born into the community were normally supposed to be the old ancestors
returning to their homes. By Euripides' day such beliefs had faded into
mystical doctrines, to be handled with speechless reverence, not to be
questioned or understood, but they had their influence upon his mind.
There were other temples too, belonging to the more aristocratic gods of
heroic mythology, as embodied in Homer. Euripides was in his youth
cup-bearer to a certain guild of Dancers--dancing in ancient times had
always religious associations about it--who were chosen from the "first
families in Athens" and danced round the altar of the Delian Apollo. He
was also Fire-bearer to the Apollo of Cape Zôstêr; that is, it was his
office to carry a torch in the procession which on a certain night of
each year met the Delian Apollo at Cape Zôstêr, and escorted him on his
mystic path from Delos to Athens.

When the child was four years old he had to be hurried away from his
home and then from his country. The Persians were coming. The awful
words lost none of their terror from the fact that in Greek the word
"Persai," Persians, meant "to destroy." So later it added something to
the dread inspired by Rome that her name, "Roma," meant "strength." The
family must have crossed the narrow seas to Salamis or further, and seen
the smoke of the Persian conflagrations rising daily from new towns and
villages of Attica and at last from the Acropolis, or Citadel, itself.
Then came the enormous desperate sea-battle; the incredible victory; the
sight of the broken oriental fleet beating sullenly away for Asia and
safety, and the solemn exclamation of the Athenian general,
Themistocles, "It is not we who have done this!" The next year the
Athenians could return to Attica and begin to build up their ruined
farms. Then came the final defeat of the Persian land army at Plataea,
and the whole atmosphere lifted. Athens felt that she had acted like a
hero and was reaping a hero's reward. She had borne the full brunt of
the war; she had voluntarily put herself under the orders of Sparta
rather than risk a split in the Greek forces; and now she had come out
as the undisputed mistress of the sea, the obvious champion round whom
the eastern Greeks must rally. Sparta, not interested in matters outside
her own borders, and not capable of any constructive policy, dropped
sulkily out, and left her to carry on the offensive war for the
liberation of the Greeks in Asia. The current of things was with her.

But this great result was not merely the triumph of a particular city;
it was the triumph of an ideal and a way of life. Freedom had defeated
despotism, democracy had defeated kings, hardy poverty had defeated all
the gold of the East. The men who fought of their free will for home and
country had proved more lasting fighters than the conscripts who were
kept in the lines by fear of tortures and beheadings and impalements.
Above all "virtue," as the Greeks called it, or "virtue" and "wisdom"
together, had shown their power. The words raise a smile in us; indeed,
our words do not properly correspond with the Greek, because we can not
get our ideas simple enough. "Virtue" is what makes a man, or anything
else, good; it is the quality of a good soldier, a good general, a good
citizen, a good bootmaker, a good horse or almost a good sword. And
"wisdom" is that by which a man knows how to do things--to use a spear,
or a tool, to think and speak and write, to do figures and history and
geometry, to advise and convince his fellow-citizens. All these great
forces moved, or so it seemed at the time, in the same direction; and
probably it was hardly felt as a dangerous difference when many people
preferred to say that it was "piety" that had won in the war against
"impiety," and that the Persians had been destroyed because, being
monotheists, they had denied the Gods. No doubt "piety," properly
understood, was a kind of "wisdom." Let us take a few passages from the
old Ionian historian, Herodotus, to illustrate what the feeling for
Athens was in Euripides' youth.

Athens represented Hellenism. (_Hdt._ I. 60.) "The Greek race was
distinguished of old from the barbarian as more intelligent and more
emancipated from silly nonsense (or 'savagery') . . . And of all the
Greeks the Athenians were counted first in Wisdom." Athens, as the old
epigram put it, was "The Hellas of Hellas."

And this superior wisdom went with freedom and democracy. "So Athens
grew. It is clear wherever you test it, what a good thing is equality
among men. Athens under the tyrants was no better than her neighbours,
even in war; when freed from the tyrants she was far the first of all."
(V. 78.)

And what did this freedom and democracy mean? A speaker in Herodotus
tells us (III. 80): "A tyrant disturbs ancient laws, violates women,
kills men without trial. But a people ruling--first the very name of it
is beautiful, and secondly a people does none of these things."

And the freedom is not mere licence. When Xerxes heard the small numbers
of the Greeks who were opposed to him he asked why they did not all run
away, "especially as you say they are free and there is no one to stop
them?" And the Spartan answered: "They are free, O King, but not free to
do everything. For there is a master over them named Law, whom they fear
more than thy servants fear thee." (VII. 104. This refers specially to
the Spartans, but the same tale is told by Aeschylus of the Athenians.
It applies to any free Greeks as against the enslaved barbarian.)

The free Athenian must also have _aretê_, "virtue." He must be a better
man in all senses than the common herd. As Themistocles put it; at every
turn of life there is a choice between a higher and a lower, and they
must choose the higher always. Especially there is one sense in which
Athens must profess _aretê_; the sense of generosity or chivalry. When
the various Greek states were contending for the leadership before the
battle of Artemisium, the Athenians, though contributing much the
largest fleet, "thought that the great thing was that Greece should be
saved, and gave up their claims." (_Hdt._ VIII. 3.) In the similar
dispute for the post of honour and danger, before the battle of Plataea,
the Athenians did plead their cause and won it. But they pleaded
promising to abide loyally by Sparta's decision if their claims were
rejected, and their arguments show what ideal they had formed of
themselves. They claim that in recent years they alone have met the
Persians single-handed on behalf of all Greece; that in old times it was
they who gave refuge to the children of Heracles when hunted through
Greece by the tyrant Eurystheus; it was they who, at the cost of war,
prevented the conquering Thebans from leaving their dead enemies to rot
unburied and thus offending against the laws of Greece and humanity.

This is the light in which Athens conceived herself; the ideal up to
which, amid much confused, hot-headed and self-deceiving patriotism, she
strove to live. She was to be the Saviour of Hellas.

                     *       *       *       *       *

Euripides was about eight when the ruined walls of Athens were rebuilt
and the city, no longer defenceless against her neighbours, could begin
to rebuild the "House of Athena" on the Acropolis and restore the
Temples and the Festivals throughout Attica. He can hardly have been
present when the general Themistocles, then at the height of his fame,
provided the Chorus for the earliest of the great tragedians,
Phrynichus, in 476 B.C. But he must have watched the new paintings being
put up by the same Themistocles in the temples at Phlya, with scenes
from the Persian War. And through his early teens he must have watched
the far more famous series of pictures with which Polygnôtus, the first
of the great Greek painters, was adorning the Acropolis; pictures that
canonized scenes from the Siege of Troy and other legendary history.
When he was ten he may probably have seen a curious procession which
brought back from the island of Skyros the bones of Theseus, the
mythical king of Athens and the accepted symbol, king though he was, of
Athenian enlightenment and democracy. Athens was now too great and too
self-conscious to allow Theseus to lie on foreign soil. When he was
twelve he may have seen Aeschylus' _Persae_, "the one great play dealing
with an historical event that exists in literature." When he was
seventeen he pretty certainly saw the _Seven against Thebes_ and was
much influenced by it; but the Choregus this time was a new statesman,
Pericles. Themistocles was in banishment; and the other great heroes of
the Persian time, Aristides and Miltiades, dead.

Next year, 466 B.C. Euripides became officially an "Ephêbus," or
"Youth." He was provided with a shield and spear, and set to garrison
and police duty in the frontier forts of Attica. Full military service
was to follow in two years. Meantime the current of his thoughts must
have received a shock. For, while his shield and spear were still fresh,
news came of one of the most stunning military disasters in Athenian
history. A large colony which had been established on the river Strymon
in Thrace had been lured into dangerous country by the Thracian tribes,
then set upon by overwhelming numbers and massacred to the number of ten
thousand. No wonder that one of Euripides' earliest plays, when he took
to writing, was the story of _Rhesus_, the Thracian, and his rushing
hordes of wild tribesmen.

But meantime Euripides had not found his work in life. We hear that he
was a good athlete; there were records of his prize-winning in Athens
and in Eleusis. Probably every ambitious boy in Greece did a good deal
of running and boxing. More serious was his attempt at painting.
Polygnôtus was at work in Athens, and the whole art advancing by leaps
and bounds. He tried to find his true work there, and paintings by his
hand were discovered by antiquarians of later times--or so they
believed--in the town of Megara. His writings show a certain interest in
painting here and there, and it is perhaps the painter in him that
worked out in the construction of his dramas such fine and varied
effects of grouping.

But there was more in the air than painting and sculpture. The youth of
Euripides fell in an age which saw perhaps the most extraordinary
intellectual awakening known to human history. It had been preparing for
about a century in certain cities of Ionian Greece, on the coast of Asia
Minor, rich and cultivated states, subject for the most part to Lydian
or Persian governors. The revolt of these cities and its suppression by
Persia had sent numbers of Ionian "wise men," philosophers, poets,
artists, historians, men of science, to seek for refuge in Greece, and
especially in Athens. Athens was held to be the mother-city of all the
Ionian colonies, and had been their only champion in the revolt. She
became now, as one of these Ionian exiles put it, "the hearth on which
the fire of Hellas burned." It is difficult to describe this great
movement in a few pages, but one can, perhaps, get some idea of it by an
imaginary comparison. Imagine first the sort of life that was led in
remote parts of Yorkshire or Somerset towards the end of the eighteenth
century, a stagnant rustic life with no moving ideas, and unquestioning
in its obedience to authority, in which hardly any one could read except
the parson, and the parson's reading was not of a kind to stir a man's
pulse. And next imagine the intellectual ferment which was then in
progress in London or Paris; the philosophers, painters, historians and
men of science, the voices proclaiming that all men were equal, that the
laws of England were unjust to the poor, that slavery was a crime, and
that monarchy was a false form of government, or that no action was
morally wrong except what tended to produce human misery. Imagine then
what would occur in the mind of a clever and high-thinking boy who was
brought suddenly from the one society into the heart of the second, and
made to realise that the battles and duties and prizes of life were
tenfold more thrilling and important than he had ever dreamed. That is
the kind of awakening that must have occurred in the minds of a large
part of the Greek people in the early fifth century.

A thoroughly backward peasant in a Greek village--even an Attic village
like Phlya--had probably as few ideas as other uneducated peasants. In
Athens some fifty years later we hear that it was impossible, with the
best will in the world, to find any one who could not read or write.
(_Ar. Knights_ 188 ff.) But the difference in time and place is
cardinal. The countryman who voted for the banishment of Aristides the
Just had to ask some one else to write the name for him. Such a man did
not read nor yet think. He more or less hated the next village and
regarded its misfortunes as his own advantage. He was sunk in
superstition. His customs were rigid and not understood. He might
worship a goddess with a horse's head or a hero with a snake's tail. He
would perform for the welfare of his fields traditional sacrifices that
were often filthy and sometimes cruel. On certain holy days he would
tear small beasts to pieces or drive them into a fire; in very great
extremities he would probably think no medicine so good as human blood.
His rules of agriculture would be a mixture of rough common sense and
stupid taboos: he would not reap till the Pleiades were rising, and he
would carefully avoid sitting on a fixed stone. When he sought for
learning, he would get it in old traditional books like _Hesiod_, which
taught him how Ouranos had been mutilated by his son Cronos, and Cronos
bound with chains by his son Zeus; how Zeus was king of gods and men,
but had been cheated by Prometheus into accepting bones instead of meat
in a sacrifice. He would believe that Tantalus had given the gods his
son Pelops to eat, to see if they would know the difference, and some
of them had eaten bits of him. He would perhaps be ready, with great
hesitation, to tolerate certain timid attempts to expurgate the story,
like Pindar's, for instance, which results, according to our judgment,
in making it rather worse. And this man, rooted in his customs, his
superstitions, his narrow-minded cruelties, will of course regard every
departure from his own way of life as so much pure wickedness. In every
contest that goes on between Intelligence and Stupidity, between
Enlightenment and Obscurantism, the powers of the dark have this immense
advantage: they never understand their opponents, and consequently
represent them as always wrong, always wicked, whereas the intelligent
party generally makes an effort to understand the stupid and to
sympathize with anything that is good or fine in their attitude. Many of
our Greek Histories still speak as if the great spiritual effort which
created fifth century Hellenism was a mass of foolish chatter and
intellectual trickery and personal self-indulgence.

It was not that, nor anything like that. Across the mind of our stupid
peasant the great national struggle against Persia brought first the
idea that perhaps really it was better to die than to be a slave; that
it was well to face death not merely for his own home but
actually--incredible as it seemed--for other people's homes, for the
homes of those wretched people in the next village. Our own special
customs and taboos, he would reflect with a shiver, do not really matter
when they are brought into conflict with a common Hellenism or a common
humanity. There are greater things about us than we knew. There are also
greater men. These men who are in everybody's mouth: Themistocles above
all, who has defeated the Persian and saved Greece: but crowds of others
besides, Aristides the Just and Miltiades, the hero of Marathon;
Demokêdes, the learned physician, who was sought out by people in need
of help from Italy to Susa; Hecataeus, who had made a picture of the
whole earth, showing all the countries and cities and rivers and how far
each is from the next, and who could have saved the Ionians if they had
only listened to him; Pythagoras, who had discovered all about numbers
and knew the wickedness of the world and had founded a society, bound by
strict rules, to combat it. What is it about these men that has made
them so different from you and me and the other farmers who meet in the
agora on market-day? It is _sophia_, wisdom; it is _aretê_, virtue. They
are not a bit stronger in the arm, not bigger, not richer, or more
high-born: they are just wiser, and thus better men. Cannot we be made
wise? We know we are stupid, we are very ignorant, but we can learn.

The word Sophistes means either "one who makes wise," or, possibly, as
some scholars think, "one who deals in wisdom." The difference is
slight. In any case it was in answer to this call for _sophia_ that the
Sophists arose. Doubtless they were of all kinds; great men and small,
honest and dishonest; teachers of real wisdom and of pretence. Our
tradition is rather bitter against them, because it dates from the
bitter time of reaction and disappointment, when the hopes of the fifth
century and the men who guided it seemed to have led Athens only to her
fall. Plato in particular is against them as he is against Athens
herself. In the main the judgment of the afterworld upon them will
depend on the side we take in a never-ending battle: they fought for
light and knowledge and freedom and the development of all man's powers.
If we prefer blinkers and custom, subordination and the rod, we shall
think them dangerous and shallow creatures. But, to see what the
sophists were like, let us consider two of them who are recorded as
having specially been the teachers of Euripides.

Anaxagoras of Clazomenae, in Ionia, was about fifteen years older than
Euripides, and spent some thirty years of his life in Athens. He
discovered for the first time that the moon shines by the reflection of
the sun's light; and he explained, in the main correctly, the cause of
eclipses. The sun was not a god: it was a white-hot mass of stone or
earth, in size perfectly enormous. In describing its probable size,
language failed him; he only got as far as saying--what must have seemed
almost a mad exaggeration--that it was many times larger than the
Peloponnese. He held, if he did not invent, a particular form of the
atomic theory which has played such a great rôle in the history of
modern science. He was emphatic on the indestructibility of matter.
Things could be broken up into their elements and could grow together
again, but nothing could be created or destroyed. There was order in the
world and purpose, and this was the work of a conscious power which he
called "Nous," or Mind. "All things were together in a mass, till Mind
came and put order into them." Mind is outside things, not mixed with
them, and some authorities say that Anaxagoras called it "God."
Meantime, he showed by experiment the reality and substance of air, and
disproved the common notion of "empty space." It will be seen that these
ideas, if often crudely expressed, are essentially the same ideas which
gave new life to modern science after the sleep of the Middle Ages.
Almost every one of them is the subject of active dispute at the present

Apart from physical science, we learn that Anaxagoras was a close friend
and adviser of the great Athenian statesman, Pericles; and we have by
chance an account of a long discussion between the two men about the
theory of punishment--whether the object of it is to do "justice" upon a
wrong-doer apart from any result that may accrue, or simply to deter
others from doing the same and thus make society better. The question is
the subject of a vigorous correspondence in the _Times_ while these
words are writing. We can understand what an effect such a teacher as
this would have on the eager young man from Phlya. One great word of
liberation was already in the air and belongs to no one sophist or
philosopher. This was the distinction between Nature on the one hand and
Custom or Convention on the other. The historian Herodotus, who was no
sophist but loved a good story, tells how the Persian king, Darius,
called some Greeks and some Indian tribesmen together into his presence.
He then asked the Greeks what payment would induce them to eat the dead
bodies of their fathers. "Nothing in the world," they cried in
indignation. "They would reverently burn them." He proceeded to ask the
Indians what they would take to burn their fathers' bodies, and they
repelled the bare thought with horror; they would do nothing but eat
them with every mark of love and respect. "Fire burns in the same way
both here and in Persia," the saying was, "but men's notions of right
and wrong are not at all the same." The one is Nature; the other is
man's Custom or Convention. This antithesis between "Phusis" and "Nomos"
ran vividly through the whole of Greek philosophy, and awoke with
renewed vigour in Rousseau and the radical writers of the eighteenth
century. It is an antithesis against which conformist dialecticians
have always turned their sharpest weapons. It has again and again been
dissected and refuted and shown to be philosophically untenable: but it
still lives and has still something of the old power to shatter and to
set free. All the thinkers of Greece at the time we are treating were
testing the laws and maxims of their day, and trying to find out what
really rested on Nature and what was the mere embroidery of man. It is
always a dangerous and exciting inquiry; especially because the most
irrational conventions are apt also to be the most sacrosanct.

This whole spirit was specially incarnate in another of Euripides'
teachers. We hear of Protagoras in his old age from that enemy of the
sophists, Plato. But for this sophist even Plato's satire is kindly and
almost reverent. Protagoras worked not at physical science, but at
language and philosophy. He taught men to think and speak; he began the
study of grammar by dividing sentences into four kinds, Optative,
Interrogative, Indicative, Imperative. He taught rhetoric; he formulated
the first theory of democracy. But it was as a sceptic that he struck
men's imaginations most. "About the Gods, I have no means of knowing
either that they are or are not. For the hindrances to knowledge are
many, the darkness of the subject and the shortness of man's life."
Numbers of people, no doubt, went as far as this, and without suffering
for it as Protagoras did; but his scepticism cut deeper and raised
questions still debated in modern thought. "Man is the measure of
things"; there is no truth to be had beyond the impression made on a
man's mind. When this given object seems one thing to A and another
thing to B, it _is_ to each one exactly what it seems; just as honey not
only seems sweet but _is_ sweet to a healthy man, and not only seems
bitter but _is_ bitter to a man with jaundice. Then you can not say, we
may ask, that one or other impression is false, and will prove false on
further inquiry? No: he answers; each impression is equally true. The
only difference is that each state of mind is not equally good. You
cannot prove to the jaundiced man that his honey is sweet, for it is
not: or to the drunkard that he does not desire his drink, for he does:
what you can do is to alter the men's state of mind, to cure the
jaundice or the drunkenness. Our cognition flows and changes. It is the
result of an active impact upon a passive percipient. And, resulting
from this change, there are in practice always two things to be said, a
pro and a con. about every possible proposition. There is no general
statement that cannot be contradicted.

Other teachers also are represented as having influenced Euripides;
Archelaus, who tried to conceive Anaxagoras's "Mind" in some material
form, as air or spirit--for _spiritus_, of course, means "breath";
Prodicus, who, besides his discoveries in grammar, is the author of a
popular and edifying fable which has served in many schoolrooms for many
centuries. It tells how Heracles once came to some cross roads, one road
open, broad, and smooth and leading a little downhill, the other narrow
and uphill and rough: and on the first you gradually became a worse and
worse man, on the second a better one. There was Diogenes of Apollonia,
whose theories about air seem to have had some effect on Euripides'
writings; and of course there was, among the younger men, Socrates.
Socrates is too great and too enigmatic a teacher to be summed up in a
few sentences, and though a verse of ancient comedy has come down to us,
saying, "Socrates piles the faggots for Euripides' fire," his influence
on his older friend is not very conspicuous. Euripides must have caught
something from his scepticism, his indifference to worldly standards,
his strong purpose, and something also from his resolute rejection of
all philosophy except that which was concerned with the doings and
feelings of men. "The fields and trees will not talk to me; it is only
the human beings in the city that will." That saying of Socrates might
be the motto of many a dramatist.

The greatness of these philosophers or sophists of the fifth century
does not, of course, lie in the correctness of their scientific results.
The dullest and most unilluminated text-book produced at the present day
is far more correct than Anaxagoras. Their greatness lies partly in the
pioneer quality of their work. They first struck out the roads by which
later workers could advance further. Partly in the daring and felicity
with which they hit upon great and fruitful ideas, ideas which have
brought light and freedom with them whenever they have recurred to men's
minds, and which, as we have seen, are to a great extent still, after
more than two thousand years, living issues in philosophic thought.
Partly it lies in the mere freedom of spirit with which they set to
work, unhampered by fears and taboos, to seek the truth, to create
beauty, and to improve human life. The difference of atmosphere between
the sophists of the Periclean circle and the ordinary backward Attic
farmer must have been visible to every observer. If more evidence of the
great gulf was needed, it was supplied emphatically enough in the
experience of Euripides. He was himself prosecuted by Cleon, the
demagogue, for "impiety." The same charge had been levelled even against
his far less destructive predecessor, Aeschylus. Of these three special
friends whom we have mentioned, Euripides did not live to see Socrates
condemned to death and executed. But he saw Anaxagoras, in spite of the
protection of Pericles, accused of "impiety" and compelled to fly for
his life. He saw Protagoras, for the book which he had read aloud in
Euripides' own house, prosecuted and condemned. The book was publicly
burned; the author escaped, it is said, only to be drowned at sea, a
signal mark in the eyes of the orthodox of how the gods regarded such

Thought was no doubt freer in ancient Athens than in any other city
within two thousand years of it. Those who suffered for religious
advance are exceedingly few. But it was not in human nature, especially
in such early times, for individuals to do such great service to their
fellow men and not occasionally be punished for it. They induced men for
a time to set reason and high ideals above the instincts of the herd:
and sooner or later the herd must turn and trample them.

One of the ancient lives says that it was this sense of the antagonism
between Anaxagoras and the conservative masses that turned Euripides
away from philosophy. One need scarcely believe that. The way he took
was not the way to escape from danger or unpopularity. And when a man
shows extraordinary genius for poetry one need not search for the
reasons which induced him not to write prose. He followed in the wake
not of Anaxagoras but of Aeschylus.



To the public of the present day a play is merely an entertainment, and
it was the same to the Elizabethans. Shakespeare can say to his audience
"Our true intent is all for your delight," and we feel no particular
shock in reading the words. The companies were just noblemen's servants;
and it was natural enough that if Lord Leicester's players did not amuse
Lord Leicester's guests, they should be sent away and others hired. If
they too proved dull, the patron could drop the play altogether and call
for tumblers and dancing dogs.

To a playwright of the twelfth century, who worked out in the church or
in front of it his presentation of the great drama of the Gospel, such
an attitude would have seemed debased and cynical. However poor the
monkish players or playwright might be, surely that which they were
presenting was in itself enough to fill the mind of a spectator. To
them, as the great mediævalist, Gaston Paris, puts it, "the universe was
a vast stage, on which was played an eternal drama, full of tears and
joy, its actors divided between heaven, earth and hell; a drama whose
end is foreseen, whose changes of fortune are directed by the hand of
God, yet whose every scene is rich and thrilling." The spectator was
admitted to the councils of the Trinity; he saw the legions of darkness
mingling themselves with the lives of humanity, tempting and troubling,
and the saints and angels at their work of protection or intercession;
he saw with his own eyes the kiss of Judas, the scourging and
crucifixion, the descent into Hell, the resurrection and ascension; and,
lastly, the dragging down to red and bloody torment of the infinite
multitudes of the unorthodox or the wicked. Imagine what passed in the
minds of those who witnessed in full faith such a spectacle! [_Poésie du
Moyen Age I_, Essay I.]

Now, in spite of a thousand differences of social organization and
religious dogma, the atmosphere of primitive Greek tragedy must have
been most strangely similar to this. It is not only that, like the
mediæval plays, Greek tragedy was religious; that it was developed out
of a definite ritual; not even that the most marked links of historical
continuity can be traced between the death-and-resurrection ritual of
certain Pagan "saviours" and those of the mediæval drama. It is that the
ritual on which tragedy was based embodied the most fundamental Greek
conceptions of life and fate, of law and sin and punishment.

When we say that tragedy originated in a dance, ritual or magical,
intended to represent the death of the vegetation this year and its
coming return in triumph next year, the above remarks may seem hard to
justify. But we must remember several things. First, a dance was in
ancient times essentially religious, not a mere capering with the feet
but an attempt to express with every limb and sinew of the body
those emotions for which words, especially the words of simple and
unlettered men, are inadequate (see p. 229). Again, vegetation is to us
an abstract common noun; to the ancient it was a personal being, not
"it" but "He." His death was as our own deaths, and his re-birth a thing
to be anxiously sought with prayers and dances. For if He were not
re-born, what would happen? Famine, and wholesale death by famine, was a
familiar thought, a regularly returning terror, in these primitive
agricultural villages. Nay, more, why must the cycle of summer and
winter roll as it does? Why must "He" die and men die? Some of the
oldest Greek philosophers have no doubt about the answer: there has been
"Hubris" or "Adikia," Pride or Injustice, and the result thereof must
needs be death. Every year He waxes too strong and commits "Hubris," and
such sin has its proper punishment. "The sun shall not transgress his
measures," says Heraclitus; "if he does he shall be pursued by Erinyes,
till justice be re-fulfilled." It is the law of all existing things.
"They all pay retribution for injustice, one to another, according to
the Ordinance of Time" (_Heraclitus_, fr. 94, _Anaximander_, fr. 9). And
the history of each year's bloom was an example of this refluent
balance. The Year Daemon--Vegetation Spirit or Corn God or whatever we
call him--waxes proud and is slain by his enemy, who becomes thereby a
murderer and must in turn perish at the hands of the expected avenger,
who is at the same time the Wronged One re-risen. The ritual of this
Vegetation Spirit is extraordinarily wide-spread in all quarters of the
globe, and may best be studied in Dr. Frazer's _Golden Bough_,
especially in the part entitled, "_The Dying God_." Dionysus, the daemon
of tragedy, is one of these Dying Gods, like Attis, Adonis, Osiris.

The Dionysiac ritual which lay at the back of tragedy, may be
conjectured in its full form to have had six regular stages: (1) an Agôn
or Contest, in which the Dæmon fights against his enemy, who--since it
is really this year fighting last year--is apt to be almost identical
with himself; (2) a Pathos, or disaster, which very commonly takes the
shape of a "Sparagmos," or Tearing in pieces; the body of the Corn God
being scattered in innumerable seeds over the earth; sometimes of some
other sacrificial death; (3) a Messenger, who brings the news; (4) a
Lamentation, very often mixed with a Song of Rejoicing, since the death
of the Old King is also the accession of the new; (5) the Discovery or
Recognition of the hidden or dismembered god; and (6) his Epiphany or
Resurrection in glory.[1]

[Footnote 1: The above is the present writer's re-statement, published
in Miss Harrison's _Themis_, pp. 341 ff., of the orthodox view of the
origin of tragedy. _See_ also Cornford _From Religion to Philosophy_,
first few chapters. The chief non-Dionysiac theory is Professor
Ridgeway's, who derives tragedy directly from the funeral cult of
individual heroes: _Origin of Tragedy_, Cambridge, 1910.]

This ritual of Dionysus, being made into a drama and falling into the
hands of a remarkable set of creative artists, developed into what we
know as Greek tragedy. The creative passion of the artist gradually
conquered the emotion of the mere worshipper.

Exactly the same development took place in mediæval drama, or rather it
was taking place when new secular influences broke in and destroyed it.
The liturgical plays first enacted the main story of the New Testament;
then they emphasized particular parts--there is a beautiful play, for
instance, on the Massacre of the Innocents; then they developed
imaginatively scenes that are implied but not mentioned in the Gospel,
such as the experiences of the Magdalen when she lived "in joy," her
dealings with cosmetic-sellers and the like; then, ranging right outside
the Gospel histories, they dealt with the lives of St. Nicholas, St.
Antony or any person who provided a good legend and had some claim to an
atmosphere of sanctity.

In the same way Greek tragedy extended its range first to embrace the
histories of other Heroes or Daemons--the difference is slight--who were
essentially like Dionysus: Pentheus, Lycurgus, Hippolytus, Actaeon and
especially, I should be inclined to add, Orestes. Then it took in any
heroes to whose memory some ritual was attached. For the play is, with
the rarest and most doubtful exceptions, essentially the enactment of a
ritual, or rather of what the Greeks called an "aition"--that is, a
supposed historical event which is the origin or "cause" of the ritual.
Thus the death of Hippolytus is the "aition" of the lamentation-rite
performed at the grave of Hippolytus; the death of Aias is the "aition"
of the festival called Aianteia; the death of Medea's children, the
"aition" of a certain ritual at Corinth; the story of Prometheus the
"aition" of a certain Fire-festival in Athens. The tragedy, as ritual,
enacts its own legendary origin.

There is then a further extension of the theme, to include a very few
events in recent history. But we must observe that only those events
were chosen which were felt to have about them some heroic grandeur or
mystery; I think we may even say, only those events which, like the
Battle of Salamis or the Fall of Miletus, had been made the subject of
some religious celebration.

However that may be, the general temper of tragedy moved strongly away
from the monotony of fixed ritual. The subjects thus grew richer and
more varied; the mode of representation loftier and more artistic. What
had begun as almost pure ritual ended by being almost pure drama. By the
time Euripides began to write the master-tragedian Aeschylus had already
lifted Greek drama to its highest level: whole generations have read his
plays without even suspecting the ritual form that lies behind them.
Aeschylus had also made the whole performance much longer and more
impressive: he composed three continuous tragedies forming a single
whole and followed by the strange performance called a Satyr-play. The
wild element of revelry which was proper to Dionysus worship, with its
bearded dancing half-animal satyrs, had been kept severely away from the
stage during the three tragedies and must burst in to have its fling
when they were finished. The other tragedians do not seem to have
written in trilogies, and Euripides at any rate moved gradually away
from satyr-plays. In their stead he put a curious sort of pro-satyric
tragedy, a play in the tragic convention and free from the satyric
coarseness, but containing at least one half-comic figure and preserving
some fantastic quality of atmosphere.

On the Great Festival of Dionysus each year--and sometimes on other
festivals--this ritual of tragedy was solemnly performed in the theatre
of the god. Like most Greek festivals the performance took the form of a
competition. The ground of this custom was, I suspect, religious. It was
desired to get a spirit of "Nikê," or victory, into the celebration, and
you could only get this by means of a contest. The Archon, or
magistrate, in charge of the festival selected three poets to compete,
and three rich men to be their "Chorêgoi," that is, to provide all the
expenses of the performance. The poet was then said to have "obtained a
chorus," and his work now was to "teach the chorus." At the end of the
festival a body of five judges, somewhat elaborately and curiously
chosen, awarded a first, second and third prize. Even the last
competitor must have a kind of "victory"; any mention of "failure" at
such a time would be ill-omened.

This, in rough outline, was the official mould in which our poet's
creative activity had to run. The record of his early work is, as we
had reason to expect, terribly defective. But we do happen to know the
name and subject of the first play for which he "was granted a chorus."
It was called the _Daughters of Pelias_. Its story was based on the old
ritual of the Year-god, who is cut to pieces or scattered like the seed,
and then restored to life and youth. Medea, the enchantress maiden from
the further shores of the Friendless Sea, had fled from her home with
the Greek adventurer Jason, the winner of the Golden Fleece. She came
with him to Thessaly, where his uncle Pelias was king. Pelias had
usurped Jason's ancestral crown and therefore hated him. The daughters
of Pelias doubtless sneered at Medea and encouraged Jason's growing
distaste for his barbarian prize. The savage woman determined at one
blow to be rid of Pelias, to punish his daughters, and reconquer Jason's
love. She had the power of renovating the life of the old. She persuaded
the daughters of Pelias to try her method on their father, with the
result that he died in agony, and they stood guilty of a hideous murder.
Medea, we may conjecture, was triumphant, till she found she had made
Jason a ruined man and taught him really to hate her. The play is
characteristic in two ways. It was clearly based on the old ritual, and
it treated one of Euripides' great subjects, the passions of a suffering
and savage woman.

The _Daughters of Pelias_ was produced in 455, when the poet was
twenty-nine, just a year after the death of Aeschylus and thirteen years
after the first victory of Sophocles. Euripides' own first victory--we
do not know the name of the successful play--did not come till 442, a
year before Sophocles' masterpiece, the _Antigone_.

We have only two examples, and those not certain, of Euripides' work
before that time. The _Cyclops_ is a satyr-play pure and simple, and the
only complete specimen of its class. It is probably earlier than the
_Alcestis_, and is interesting because it shows Euripides writing for
once without any _arrière pensée_, or secondary intention. It is a gay
and grotesque piece, based on Homer's story of Odysseus in the Cyclops'
cave. The farcical and fantastic note is firmly held, so that the climax
of the story, in which the monster's eye is burnt out with a log of
burning wood, is kept unreal and not disgusting. The later Euripides
would probably have made it horrible and swung our sympathies violently
round to the side of the victim.

The _Rhesus_ has come down to us in a very peculiar condition and is
often considered spurious. We know, however, that Euripides wrote a
_Rhesus_, and tradition says that he was "very young" when he wrote it.
My own view--explained in the preface to my translation--would make it
probably a very early pro-satyric play which was produced after the
poet's death and considerably rewritten. It is a young man's play, full
of war and adventure, of spies in wolf-skins and white chargers and
gallant chivalry. That is not much like the Euripides whom we know
elsewhere; but his mark is upon the last scene, in which the soldiers
stand embarrassed and silent while a solitary mother weeps over her dead
son. The poetry of the scene is exquisite; but what is most
characteristic is the sudden flavour of bitterness, the cold wind that
so suddenly takes the heart out of joyous war. Some touch of that bitter
flavour will be found hereafter in every play, however beautiful or
romantic, that comes from the pen of Euripides.

Up to the year 438, when the poet was forty-six, the records, as we have
said, almost fail us. But in that year he produced a set of four plays,
_The Cretan Women_, _Alcmaeon in Psôphis_, _Telephus_, and, in place of
a satyr-play, the _Alcestis_. The last is still extant and is very
characteristic of the master's mind. The saga told how Admetus, a king
in Thessaly, was fated to die on a certain day, but, in return for his
piety of old, was allowed to find a substitute to die for him. His old
father and mother refused; his young wife, Alcestis, gladly consented to
die. Amid exquisite songs of mourning she is carried to her grave, when
the wild hero, Heracles, comes to the house seeking hospitality.
Admetus, with primitive courtesy, conceals what has happened and orders
him to be given entertainment. The burial is finished when Heracles,
already revelling and drunken and crowned with flowers, learns the
truth. Sobered at the touch he goes out into the night to wrestle with
Death amid the tombs and crush his ribs for him till he yields up his
prey. One sees the fantastic satyr note. The play is not truly tragic;
it touches its theme tenderly and with romance. But amid all the romance
Euripides cannot keep his hand from unveiling the weak spot in the
sacred legend. Alcestis, no doubt, is beautiful, and it was beautiful of
her to die. But what was it of Admetus to let her die? An ordinary
playwright would elude the awkward question. Admetus would refuse his
wife's sacrifice and she would perform it against his will or without
his knowledge. We should somehow save our hero's character. Not so
Euripides. His Admetus weeps tenderly over his wife, but he thinks it
entirely suitable that she should die for him. The veil is not removed
from his eyes till his old father, Pheres, who has bluntly refused to
die for anybody, comes to bring offerings to Alcestis' funeral. A
quarrel breaks out between the two selfish men, brilliantly written,
subtle and merciless, in which Admetus's weakness is laid bare. The
scene is a great grief to the purely romantic reader, but it just makes
the play profound instead of superficial.

All the plays of 438 are, in different ways, typical of their author.
And we will spend a little time on each. The _Alcmaeon in Psôphis_ was
what we should call a romance. Alcmaeon was the son of that Eriphyle who
betrayed her husband to death for the sake of a charmed necklace which
had once belonged to Harmonia, the daughter of Ares. Alcmaeon slew his
mother and became in consequence mad and accursed. Seeking purification
he fled to the land of Psôphis, where the King cleansed him and gave him
the hand of his daughter Arsinoë, who duly received the necklace.
However, Alcmaeon's sin was too great for any such cleansing. He
wandered away, all the earth being accursed to him, till he should find
some land that had not been in existence at the time of his sin and was
consequently unpolluted. He discovered it in some alluvial islands, just
then making their appearance at the mouth of the River Acheloüs. Here he
at last found peace and married the daughter of Acheloüs, Callirrhoë.
She asks for the necklace and Alcmaeon goes back to get it from Arsinoë.
He professes to need it for his own purification and she willingly gives
it him; then she finds that he really wants it for his new bride, and in
fury has him murdered on his road home. A romantic and varied story with
one fine touch of tragic passion.

The _Telephus_ also deserves special mention. It had apparently the
misfortune to be seen by Aristophanes, then a boy about sixteen. At any
rate the comedian was never able to forget it, and we know it chiefly
from his parodies. It struck out a new style in Attic drama, the style
of adventure and plot-interest, which threw to the winds the traditional
tragic dignities and pomps. The usual convention in tragedy was to
clothe the characters in elaborate priestly dress with ritual masks
carefully graduated according to the rank of the character. Such
trappings came to Tragedy as an inheritance from its old
magico-religious days, and it never quite succeeded in throwing them
off, even in its most vital period. It is very difficult for us to form
a clear notion what the ordinary Greek tragedy looked like in 438, and
how much we should have noticed any great change of dressing in the
_Telephus_. But there was a change which raised a storm of comment.
Telephus was a King of Mysia, not very far from the Troad. The Greeks in
sailing for Troy had missed their way and invaded Telephus' country by
mistake. He had fought them with great effect but had been wounded by
Achilles with his magic spear. The wound would not close, and an oracle
told Telephus "the wounder shall heal." The Greeks were back in Greece
by this time, planning a new invasion of Troy. The king goes, lame and
disguised as a beggar, into the heart of the Greek army and into
Agamemnon's palace. Euripides, since the king had to be a beggar,
dressed him as a beggar, with rags and a wallet. It is hard to see how
he could possibly have done otherwise, but we may surmise that his
beggar's dress was a little more realistic and less merely symbolical
than his audience expected. In any case, though critics were shocked,
the practice established itself. Telephus and Philoctêtes were
afterwards regularly allowed to dress in "rags," even in the work of

There were great scenes owing to the boldness of the ragged and
intrusive stranger. The Greek chieftains proposed to kill him, but
granted him at last the right of making one speech to save his life. He
seems to have spoken beside, or over, the headsman's block. And the case
he had to plead was characteristic of Euripides. The Greeks considered
quite simply that Telephus was their enemy and must be destroyed on
their next expedition. The beggar explained that Telephus had found his
country ravaged and was bound to defend it. Every man among the Greeks
would have done the same; there is nothing to blame Telephus for. At the
end of this scene, apparently, the beggar was discovered. It is Telephus
himself speaking! They fly to their spears. But Telephus has snatched up
the baby prince, Orestes, from his cradle and stands at bay; if one of
his enemies moves the child shall die. Eventually they accept his terms
and make peace with him. A fine melodrama, one would guess, and a move
in the direction of realism--a direction which Euripides only followed
within certain strict limits. But we find two marks of Euripides the
philosopher. The beggar who pleads for reasonable justice towards the
national enemy strikes a note which Euripides himself often had to sound
afterwards. It was not for nothing that Aristophanes in his
_Acharnians_, thirteen years later, used a parody of this scene in order
to plead the dangerous cause of reasonableness towards Sparta. The other
mark is a curious tang of sadness at the close. The Greeks demand that
Telephus, so brave and resourceful, shall be their ally against Troy.
But his wife is a Trojan princess and he refuses. He consents
reluctantly to show the army the road to his wife's fatherland and then
turns away.

The remaining play of the trilogy performed in 438 strikes a chord that
proved more dangerous to Euripides. The _Cretan Women_ told the story of
Aëropê, a Cretan princess who secretly loved a squire or young soldier.
Her intrigue is discovered, and her father gives her to a Greek sailor
to throw into the sea. The sailor spares her life and takes her to
Greece. The story as it stands is a common ballad motive and not
calculated to disturb any one. But the disciple of the sophists did not
leave these romances where he found them. He liked to think them out in
terms of real life. The songs in which Aëropê poured out her love were
remembered against Euripides after his death. It was all very well to
sympathize in a remote artistic way with these erring damsels; but
Euripides seemed to come too near raising an actual doubt whether the
damsel had done anything so very wrong at all, that respectable people
should want to murder her. Euripides is, as a matter of fact, not loose
but highly austere in his moral tone. But next to religion itself, the
sphere of sexual conduct has always been the great field for irrational
taboos and savage punishments, and the sophists naturally marked it as a
battle-field. The kings of Egypt commonly married their sisters, and did
so on religious grounds: to a Greek such marriage was an unspeakable
sin. There is a problem here, and Euripides raised it sharply in a play,
_Aeolus_, based on the old fairy-tale of the King of the winds who
dwells as a patriarch on his floating island with his twelve sons
married to his twelve daughters. "Canst face mine eyes, fresh from thy
deed of shame?" says the angry father in this play; and his son answers,
"What _is_ shame, when the doer feels no shame?" Euripides also treated
several times legends where a god became the lover of a mortal maiden,
and, as we shall see in the _Ion_, he loved to rouse sympathy for the
maiden and contempt for the god (p. 121). In one case he even treats,
through a mist of strange religious mysticism, the impossible amour of
Pasiphaë of Crete with the Cretan Bull-god. It is interesting, however,
to observe that there is in Euripides no trace of sympathy for the one
form of perverted indulgence on which the ancient tone was markedly
different from ours. It is reserved for the bestial Cyclops and Laius
the accursed.

Adventure, brilliance, invention, romance and scenic effect; these
together with delightful lyrics, a wonderful command over the Greek
language, and a somewhat daring admixture of sophistic wisdom which
sometimes took away a spectator's breath, were probably the qualities
which the ordinary public had felt in Euripides' work up to the year
438. They perhaps felt also that these pleasant gifts were apt to be
needlessly marred by a certain unintelligible note of discord. It was a
pity; and, as the man was now forty-six, he ought surely to have learnt
how to smooth it out!

It was not smoothness that was coming.



The next play of which we have full knowledge must have staggered its
audience. The _Medea_ was promptly put by the official judges at the
bottom of the list of competing plays, and thereafter took its place, we
do not know how soon, as one of the consummate achievements of the Greek
tragic genius. Its stamp is fixed on all the imagination of antiquity.

The plot of the Medea begins where that of the _Daughters of Pelias_ (p.
69) ended. Jason had fled with Medea and her two children to Corinth,
which is ruled by Creon, an old king with a daughter but no son to
succeed him. The famous warrior-prince will just suit Creon as a
son-in-law, if only he will dismiss his discreditable barbarian
mistress. Jason has never been able to tell the truth to Medea yet; who
could? He secretly accepts Creon's terms; he marries the princess; and
Creon descends on Medea with soldiers to remove her instantly from the
territory of Corinth. Medea begs for one day in which to make ready for
exile, for the children's sake. One day will be enough. By desperate
flattery and pleading she gets it. There follows a first scene with
Jason, in which man and woman empty their hearts on one another--at
least they try to; but even yet some fragments of old habit and
conventional courtesy prevent Jason from telling the full truth. Still
it is a wonderful scene, Jason reasonable and cold, ready to recognize
all her claims and provide her with everything she needs except his own
heart's blood; Medea desolate and half mad, asking for nothing but the
one thing he will not give. Love to her is the whole world, to him it is
a stale memory. This scene ends in defiance, but there is another in
which Medea feigns repentance and submission, and sends Jason with the
two children to bear a costly gift to the new bride. It may, she
suggests, induce Creon to spare the children and let her go to exile
alone. The gift is really a robe of burning poison, which has come to
Medea from her divine ancestor, the Sun. The bride dies in agony
together with her father who tries to save her. Jason rushes to save his
two children from the vengeance which is sure to come upon them from the
kinsmen of the murdered bride; but Medea has already slain them with her
own hand and stands laughing at him over their bodies. She too suffers,
but she loves the pain, since it means that he shall have happiness no
more. The Daughter of the Sun sails away on her dragon-chariot and an
ecstasy of hate seems to blind the sky.

The _Medea_ shows a new mastery of tragic technique, especially in the
extraordinary value it gets out of the chorus (p. 240). But as
illustrating the life of Euripides there are one or two special points
in it that claim notice. In the first place it states the cause of a
barbarian woman against a Greek man who has wronged her. Civilized men
have loved and deserted savage women since the world began, and I doubt
if ever the deserted one has found such words of fire as Medea speaks.
The marvel is that in such white-hot passion there is room for satire.
But there is; and even a reader can scarcely withhold a bitter laugh
when Jason explains the advantage he has conferred on Medea by bringing
her to a civilized country. But Medea is not only a barbarian; she is
also a woman, and fights the horrible war that lies, an eternally latent
possibility, between woman and man. Some of the most profound and
wounding things said both by Medea and by Jason might almost be labelled
in a book of extracts "Any wife to any husband," or "Any husband to any
wife." And Medea is also a witch; she is also at heart a maniac. It is
the madness produced by love rejected and justice denied, by the sense
of helpless, intolerable wrong. A lesser poet might easily have made
Medea a sympathetic character, and have pretended that long oppression
makes angels of the oppressed. In the great chorus which hymns the rise
of Woman to be a power in the world it would have been easy to make the
Woman's day a day of peace and blessing. But Euripides, tragic to the
heart and no dealer in pleasant make-believe, saw things otherwise; when
these oppressed women strike back, he seems to say, when these despised
and enslaved barbarians can endure no longer, it will not be justice
that comes but the revenge of madmen.

This kind of theme was not in itself likely to please an audience; but
what always galls the average theatre-goer most in a new work of genius
is not the subject but the treatment. Euripides' treatment of his
subject was calculated to irritate the plain man in two ways. First it
was enigmatic. He did not label half his characters bad and half good;
he let both sides state their case and seemed to enjoy leaving the
hearer bewildered. And further, he made a point of studying closely and
sympathetically many regions of thought and character which the plain
man preferred not to think of at all. When Jason had to defend an
obviously shabby case, no gentleman cared to hear him; but Euripides
insisted on his speaking. He enjoyed tracking out the lines of thought
and feeling which really actuate men, even fine men like Jason, in
Jason's position. When Medea was revealed as obviously a wicked woman
the plain man thought that such women should simply be thrashed, not
listened to. But Euripides loved to trace all her complicated sense of
injustice to its origins, and was determined to understand and to
explain rather than to condemn. The plain man had a kind of
justification for saying that Euripides actually seemed to like these
traitors and wicked women; for such thorough understanding as this
involves always a good deal of sympathy.

This charge could with even more reason be brought against another
masterpiece of drama, which followed three years after the Medea. The
_Hippolytus_ (428 B.C.) did indeed win the first prize from the official
judges, besides establishing itself in the admiration of after ages and
inspiring Seneca and Racine to their finest work. But it profoundly
shocked public opinion at the same time. The plot is a variant of a very
old theme found in ancient Egypt and in the Pentateuch. Theseus, not
here the ideal democrat on the Athenian throne, but the stormy and
adventurous hero of the poets, had early in life conquered the Amazons
and ravished their virgin Queen. She died, leaving a son like herself,
Hippolytus. Theseus some twenty years after married Phaedra, the young
daughter of Minos, king of Crete, and she by the evil will of Aphrodite
fell in love with Hippolytus. She told no one her love, and was trying
to starve herself to death, when her old Nurse contrived to worm the
secret from her and treacherously, under an oath of secrecy, told it to
Hippolytus. Phaedra, furious with the Nurse and with Hippolytus, in a
blind rage of self-defence, writes a false accusation against Hippolytus
and hangs herself. Hippolytus, charged by Theseus with the crime, will
not break his oath and goes out to exile under his father's curse. The
gods, in fulfilment of the curse, send death to him, but before he
actually dies reveal his innocence. The story which might so easily be
made ugly or sensual is treated by Euripides with a delicate and austere
purity. In construction, too, and general beauty of workmanship, though
not in greatness of idea or depth of passion, the _Hippolytus_ is
perhaps the finest of all his plays, and has still a great appeal on the
stage. But the philistine was vaguely hurt and angered by the treatment,
so tender and yet so inexorable, accorded to a guilty love, and
doubtless the more conventional Athenian ladies shocked themselves over
the bare idea of such a heroine being mentioned. It gives us some
measure of the stupidity of public criticism at the time, that we find
special attacks made upon one phrase of Hippolytus. In his first rage
with the Nurse he vows he will tell Theseus of her proposal. She reminds
him of his oath, and he cries:

"'Twas but my tongue, 'twas not my heart that swore."

It is a passing flash of indignation at the trap in which he has been
caught. When the time comes he keeps his oath at the cost of his life.
Yet the line is repeatedly cited as showing the dreadful doctrines of
Euripides and the sophists; doctrines that would justify any perjury!

The _Hippolytus_, as we have it, is a rewritten play. In his first
version Euripides had a scene in which Phaedra actually declared her
love. This more obvious treatment was preferred by Seneca and Racine;
but Euripides in his second thoughts reached a far more austere and
beautiful effect. His Phaedra goes to her death without having spoken
one word to Hippolytus: she has heard him but has not answered. The
_Hippolytus_ has more serene beauty than any of Euripides' plays since
the _Alcestis_, and is specially remarkable as the first great drama on
the subject of tragic or unhappy love, a theme which has been so
extraordinarily fruitful on the modern stage. To contemporaries it was
also interesting as one of the earliest treatments of a purely local
Attic story, which had not quite found its way into the great sagas of
epic tradition.

The note of the _Medea_ was struck again some two years later (426?) in
a play almost equally powerful and more horrible, the _Hecuba_. The
heroine is the famous Queen of Troy, a barbarian woman like Medea,
majestic and beautiful at the beginning of the action and afterwards
transformed by intolerable wrongs into a kind of devil. Her "evils" are
partly the ordinary evils that come to the conquered in war, but they
are made worse by the callousness of her Greek conquerors. The play
strikes many notes of special bitterness. For instance, the one champion
whom Hecuba finds among her conquerors is the general, Agamemnon. He
pleads her cause in the camp, because, God help him! he has taken her
daughter Cassandra, the mad prophetess vowed to eternal virginity, to be
his concubine, and consequently feels good-natured. There is another
note, remarkable in an Athenian. The mob of the Greek army, in a frenzy
of superstition, clamour to have a Trojan princess sacrificed at
Achilles' tomb. In the debate on this subject we are told that several
princes spoke; among them the two sons of Theseus, the legendary kings
of Athens. They would surely, as enlightened Athenians, prevent such
atrocities? On the contrary, all we hear is that they spoke against one
another, but both were for the murder! At the end of the _Hecuba_, as at
the end of the _Medea_, we are wrought to a pitch of excitement at which
incredible legends begin to seem possible. History related that the
Queen of Troy, maddened by her wrongs, had been transformed into a kind
of Hell-hound with fiery eyes, whom sailors saw at night prowling round
the hill where she was stoned. In her bloody revenge on the only enemy
she can trap into her power, she seems already to have become this sort
of being in her heart, and when her blind and dying victim prophesies
the coming transformation, it seems natural. One only feels that perhaps
the old miraculous stories are true after all. The one light that shines
through the dark fury of the _Hecuba_ is the lovely and gentle courage,
almost the joy, with which the virgin martyr, Polyxena, goes to her

I have taken the _Hecuba_ slightly before its due date, because of its
return with increased bitterness to the tone and subject of the _Medea_.
We will now go back. There had been in the interim a change in the
poet's mind, or, at the least, a strong clash of conflicting emotions.
The _Medea_ was produced in 431, the first year of the Peloponnesian
War. This war, between the Athenian empire, representing the democratic
and progressive forces of Greece, and the Peloponnesian confederacy with
Sparta at its head, lasted with one interruption for twenty-seven years
and ended in the capture of Athens and the destruction of her power.
When war was first declared it represented the policy of Pericles, the
great statesman of the Enlightenment, the friend of Anaxagoras, and of
those whom Euripides honoured most. It seemed at first like a final
struggle between the forces of progress and those of resolute darkness.
Pericles in a famous speech, which is recorded for us by Thucydides, had
explained to his adherents the great causes for which Athens stood; had
proclaimed her as the Princess of Cities for whom it was a privilege to
die; and urged them, using a word more vivid in Greek than it is in
English, to stand about her like a band of Lovers round an Immortal
Mistress. Euripides was as a matter of fact still going through his
military service and must have seen much hard fighting in these first
years of the war.

He responded to Pericles' call by a burst of patriotic plays. Even in
the _Medea_ there is one chorus, a little out of place perhaps, but
famous in after days, describing the glories of Athens. They are not at
all the conventional glories attributed by all patriots to their
respective countries. "It is an old and happy land which no conqueror
has ever subdued; its children walk delicately through air that shines
with sunlight; and Wisdom is the very bread that they eat." (The word is
"sophia," embracing Wisdom, Knowledge, Art, Culture; there is no one
word for it in English, and the names for the various parts of it have
lost their poetry.) "A river," he continues, "flows through the land;
and legend tells that Cypris, the Goddess of Love, has sailed upon it
and dipped her hand in the water; and now when the river-wind at evening
blows it comes laden with a spirit of longing; but it is not ordinary
love, it is a Passion and a great Desire for all kinds of godlike
endeavour, a Love that sits with Wisdom upon her throne." . . . "A pity
the man should be so priggish." We may imagine the comment of the
average Athenian paterfamilias.

Towards the beginning of the war we may safely date the _Children of
Heracles_, a mutilated but beautiful piece, which rings with this
particular spirit of patriotism (cf. p. 41 above). Heracles is dead; his
children and mother are persecuted and threatened with death by his
enemy, Eurystheus, king of Argos. Under the guidance of their father's
old comrade, Iolaus, they have fled from Argos, and tried in vain to
find protectors in every part of Greece. No city dares protect them
against the power of Argos. At the opening of the play we find the
children and Iolaus clinging as suppliants to an altar in Athens. The
herald of Argos breaks in upon them, flings down the old man and
prepares to drag the children off. "What hope can Iolaus possibly
cherish?" Iolaus trusts in two things, in Zeus who will protect the
innocent, and in Athens which is a free city and not afraid. The king of
Athens, a son of Theseus, appears and rebukes the herald. The herald's
argument is clear: "These children are Argive subjects and are no
business of yours; further, they are utterly helpless and will be no
possible good to you as allies. And if you do not give them up
peacefully, Argos declares instant war." The king "wishes for peace with
all men; but he will not offend God, nor betray the innocent; also he
rules a free city and will take no orders from any outside power. As to
the fate of these children not being his business, it is always the
business of Athens to save the oppressed." One remembers the old claim,
emphatically approved by the historian of the Persian Wars, that Athens
was the saviour of Hellas. One remembers also the ultimatum of the
Peloponnesian confederacy which Pericles rejected on the eve of the
present war; and the repeated complaints of the Corinthians that Athens
"will neither rest herself nor let others rest." These supply the clue
to a large part of the patriotism of the _Children of Heracles_. There
is another element also, and perhaps one that will better stand the test
of impartial criticism, in Euripides' ideal of Athens. She will be true
to Hellas and all that Hellas stands for: for law, for the gods of
mercy, for the belief in right rather than force. Also, as the king of
Athens is careful to observe, for democracy and constitutional
government. He is no despot ruling barbarians.

The same motives recur with greater fulness and thoughtfulness in
another play of the early war time--the exact year is not certain--the
_Suppliant Women_. Scholars reading the play now, in cool blood, with
the issues at stake forgotten, are inclined to smile at a sort of
pedantry in the poet's enthusiasm. It reminds one of the punctiliousness
with which Shelley sometimes gives one the sincere milk of the word
according to Godwin. This play opens, like the last, with a scene of
supplication. A band of women--Argive mothers they are this time, whose
sons have been slain in war against Thebes--have come to Athens as
suppliants. They are led by Adrastus, the great and conquered lord of
Argos, and finding Aethra, the king's mother, at her prayers beside the
altar, have surrounded her with a chain of suppliant branches which she
dares not break. They only ask that Theseus, her son, shall get back for
them the bodies of their dead sons, whom the Thebans, contrary to all
Hellenic law, have flung out unburied for dogs to tear. Theseus at first
refuses, on grounds of policy, and the broken-hearted women take up
their branches and begin to go, when Aethra, who has been weeping
silently, breaks out: "Is this kind of wrong to be allowed to exist?"

  "Thou shalt not suffer it, thou being my child!
  Thou hast seen men scorn thy City, call her wild
  Of counsel, mad; thou hast seen the fire of morn
  Flash from her eyes in answer to their scorn.
  Come toil on toil; 'tis this that makes her grand;
  Peril on peril! And common states, that stand
  In caution, twilight cities, dimly wise--
  Ye know them, for no light is in their eyes.
  Go forth, my son, and help. My fears are fled.
  Women in sorrow call thee, and men dead."
                                  (_Suppl._ 320 ff.)

Theseus accepts his mother's charge. It has been his old habit to strike
wherever he saw oppression without counting the risk; and it shall never
be said of him that an ancient Law of God was set at naught when he and
Athens had power to enforce it. It is Athens as the "saviour of Hellas"
that we have here. It is Athens the champion of Hellenism and true
piety, but it is also the Athens of free thought and the Enlightenment.
For later on, when the dead bodies are recovered from the battle-field,
they are a ghastly sight. The old unreflecting Greece would in the first
place have thought them a pollution, a thing which only slaves must be
sent to handle. In the second place, since the mothers were making
lamentation, the bodies must be brought to their eyes, so as to improve
the lamentation. But Theseus feels differently on both points. Why
should the mothers' grief be made more bitter? Let the bodies be burned
in peace and the decent ashes given to the mothers. And as to the
defilement, the king himself, we hear, has taken up the disfigured
bodies in his arms and washed their wounds and "shown them love." No
slave touched them. "How dreadful! Was he not ashamed?" asks a
bystander--the Greek word means something between "ashamed" and
"disgusted." "No," is the answer: "Why should men be repelled by one
another's sufferings?" (768) It is a far-reaching answer, with great
consequences. It is the antique counterpart of St. Francis kissing the
leper's sores. The man of the herd is revolted by the sight of great
misery and inclines to despise and even hate the sufferer; the man of
the enlightenment sees deeper, and the feeling of revulsion passes away
in the wish to help.

We spoke of a slight pedantry in the enthusiasms of the _Suppliant
Women_. It is illustrated even by points like this, and by a tendency in
Theseus to lecture on good manners and the Athenian constitution. The
rude Theban herald enters asking, "Who is monarch of this land?" using
the word "tyrannos" for "monarch." Theseus corrects him at once. "There
is no 'tyrannos' here. This is a free city; and when I say a free city,
I mean one in which the whole people by turns takes part in the
sovereignty, and the rich have no privilege as against the poor"
(399-408). These dissertations on democratic government could stir men's
passions and force their way into scenes of high poetry legitimately
enough at a time when men were fighting and dying for their democracy.
To those who are not "Lovers" of the beautiful city they will seem cold
and irrelevant.

Other plays of this period show marks of the same great wave of love for
Athens. The lost plays _Aigeus_, _Theseus_, _Erechtheus_, all on Attic
subjects, can be dated in the first years of the war; the _Hippolytus_
is built on an old legend of the Acropolis and a poetic love of Athens
shines through the story. The _Andromache_ especially is a curious
document, the meaning of which is discussed later on (p. 112). But the
two plays we have described at length, _The Children of Heracles_ and
the _Suppliant Women_, give the best idea of what patriotism meant to
our poet. With most men patriotism is a matter of association and
custom. They stick to their country because it is theirs; to their own
habits and prejudices and even neighbours for the same reason. But with
Euripides his ideals came before his actual surroundings. He loved
Athens because Athens meant certain things, and if the real Athens
should cease to mean those things he would cast her out of his heart. At
least he would try to do so; in point of fact that is always a very
difficult thing to do. But if ever Athens should be false, it was pretty
certain that Euripides would find hatred mingling with his betrayed
love. There were signs of this even in the _Medea_ and the _Hecuba_.

But before dealing with that subject we must dwell for a few moments
upon another fine play, which marks in more than one sense the end of a
period. The _Heracles_, written about the year 423, shows Theseus in the
same rôle of Athenian hero. In the _Suppliant Women_ he had helped
Adrastus and the Argive mothers and shown them the path of true
Hellenism; in the _Heracles_ he comes to the rescue of Heracles in his
fall. That hero has been mad and slain his own children; he has
recovered and awakes to find himself bound to a pillar, with dead bodies
that he cannot recognize round about him. He rages to be set free. He
compels those who know to tell him the whole truth. Frantic with shame
and horror, he wishes to curse God and die, when he sees Theseus
approaching. Theseus has been his friend in many hard days and Heracles
dares not face him nor speak to him. The touch of one so blood-guilty,
the sound of his voice, the sight of his face, would bring pollution. He
shrouds himself in his mantle and silently waves Theseus away. In a
moment his friend's arms are round him, and the shrouding mantle is
drawn off. There is no such thing as pollution; no deed of man can stain
the immortal sunlight, and a friend's love does not fear the infection
of blood. Heracles is touched: he thanks Theseus and is now ready to
die. God has tempted him too far, and he will defy God. Theseus reminds
him of what he is: the helper of man, the powerful friend of the
oppressed; the Heracles who dared all and endured all; and now, like a
common, weak-hearted man, he speaks of suicide! "Hellas will not suffer
you to die in your blindness!" (1254). The great adventurer is softened
and won over by the "wisdom" of Theseus, and goes to Athens to fulfil,
in spite of suffering, whatever further tasks life may have in store for

This condemnation of suicide was unusual in antiquity; and the
_Heracles_ also contains one remarkable denial of the current myths, the
more remarkable because, as Dr. Verrall has pointed out, it seems almost
to upset the plot of the play. Heracles' madness is sent upon him by the
malignity of Hera; we see her supernatural emissary entering the room
where Heracles lies. And the hero himself speaks of his supernatural
adventures. Yet he also utters the lines:

    Say not there be adulterers in Heaven
    Nor prisoner gods and gaoler. Long ago
    My heart has known it false and will not alter.
    God, if he be God, lacketh naught. All these
   Are dead unhappy tales of minstrelsy.
(_Her._ 1341; cf. _Iph. Taur._ 380-392; _Bellerophon_ fr. 292.)

But in another way, too, the _Heracles_ marks an epoch in the poet's
life. It seems to have been written in or about the year 423, and it was
in 424 that Euripides had reached the age of sixty and was set free from
military service. He had had forty years of it, steady work for the most
part; fighting against Boeotians, Spartans, Corinthians, against
Thracian barbarians, in all probability also against other people
further overseas. We have no record of the campaigns in which Euripides
served; but we have by chance an inscription of the year 458, when he
was twenty-six, giving the names of the members of one particular tribe,
the Sons of Erechtheus, who fell in war in that one year. They had
fallen "in Cyprus, in Egypt, in Phoenicia, at Halieis, in Aegina and at
Megara." There were ten such tribes in Athens. And this record gives
some notion of the extraordinary energy and ubiquity of the Athenian

It is strange to reflect on the gulf that lies between the life of an
ancient poet and his modern descendants. Our poets and men of letters
mostly live either by writing or by investments eked out by writing.
They are professional writers and readers and, as a rule, nothing else.
It is comparatively rare for any one of them to face daily dangers, to
stand against men who mean to kill him and beside men for whom he is
ready to die, to be kept a couple of days fasting, or even to work in
the sweat of his body for the food he eats. If such things happen by
accident to one of us we cherish them as priceless "copy," or we even go
out of our way to compass the experience artificially.

But an ancient poet was living hard, working, thinking, fighting,
suffering, through most of the years that we are writing about life. He
took part in the political assembly, in the Council, in the jury-courts;
he worked at his own farm or business; and every year he was liable to
be sent on long military expeditions abroad or to be summoned at a day's
notice to defend the frontier at home. It is out of a life like this, a
life of crowded reality and work, that Aeschylus and Sophocles and
Euripides found leisure to write their tragedies; one writing 90, one
127, and the third 92! Euripides was considered in antiquity a bookish
poet. He had a library--in numbers probably not one book for every
hundred that Tennyson or George Meredith had: he was a philosopher, he
read to himself. But on what a background of personal experience his
philosophy was builded! It is probably this immersion in the hard
realities of life that gives ancient Greek literature some of its
special characteristics. Its firm hold on sanity and common sense, for
instance; its avoidance of sentimentality and paradox and various
seductive kinds of folly; perhaps also its steady devotion to ideal
forms and high conventions, and its aversion from anything that we
should call "realism." A man everlastingly wrapped round in good books
and safe living cries out for something harsh and real--for blood and
swear-words and crude jagged sentences. A man who escapes with eagerness
from a life of war and dirt and brutality and hardship to dwell just a
short time among the Muses, naturally likes the Muses to be their very
selves and not remind him of the mud he has just washed off. Euripides
has two long descriptions of a battle, one in the _Children of Heracles_
and one in the _Suppliant Women_; both are rhetorical Messenger's
Speeches, conventionally well-written and without one touch that
suggests personal experience. It is curious to compare these, the
writings of the poet who had fought in scores of hand-to-hand battles,
with the far more vivid rhapsodies of modern writers who have never so
much as seen a man pointing a gun at them. Aeschylus indeed has written
one splendid battle piece in the _Persians_. But even there there is no
realism; it is the spirit of the war of liberation that thrills in us as
we read, it is not the particular incidents of the battle.

Forty years of military service finished: as the men of sixty stepped
out of the ranks they must have had a feeling of mixed relief and
misgiving. They are now officially "Gerontes," Old Men: they are off
hard work, and to be at the end of hard work is perilously near being
at the end of life. There is in the _Heracles_ a wistful chorus, put in
the mouths of certain Theban elders (637 ff.), "Youth is what I love for
ever; Old Age is a burden upon the head, a dimness of light in the eyes,
heavier than the crags of Etna. Fame and the crown of the East and
chambers piled with gold, what are they all compared with Youth?" A
second life is what one longs for. To have it all again and live it
fully; if a man has any _aretê_ in him, any real life left in his heart,
that is what ought to be possible. . . . For Euripides himself it seems
there is still a life to be lived. The words are important and almost
untranslatable. "I will never cease mingling together the Graces and the
Muses"--such words are nearly nonsense, like most literal translations.
The "Graces" or Charities are the spirits of fulfilled desire, the Muses
are all the spirits of "Music" or of "Wisdom"--of History and
Mathematics, by the way, just as much as Singing and Poetry. "I will not
rest. I will make the spirits of Fulfilled Desire one with the spirits
of Music, a marriage of blessedness. I care not to live if the Muses
leave me; their garlands shall be about me for ever. Even yet the
age-worn minstrel can turn Memory into song."

Memory, according to Greek legend, was the mother of the Muses; and the
"memory" of which Euripides is thinking is that of the race, the saga of
history and tradition, more than his own. The Muses taught him long ago
their mystic dance, and he will be theirs for ever; he will never from
weariness or faint heart ask them to rest. He was thinking doubtless of
the lines of the old poet Alcman to his dancing maidens, lines almost
the most beautiful ever sung by Greek lips: "No more, ye maidens
honey-throated, voices of longing; my limbs will bear me no more. Would
God I were a ceryl-bird, over the flower of the wave with the halcyons
flying, and never a care in his heart, the sea-blue bird of the spring!"
Euripides asks for no rest: cares and all, he accepts the service of the
Muses and prays that he may bear their harness to the end. It was a bold
prayer, and the Muses in granting it granted it at a heavy price.



Our Greek historians, with Thucydides at their head, are practically
unanimous in associating with the Peloponnesian War a progressive
degradation and embitterment in Greek public life, and a reaction
against the old dreams and ideals. We can measure the change by many
slight but significant utterances.

When Herodotus records his opinion that in the Persian Wars the
Athenians had been "the Saviours of Hellas" he has to preface the remark
by a curious apology (VII. 139): "Here I am compelled by necessity to
express an opinion which will be offensive to most of mankind, but I
cannot refrain from putting it in the way which I believe to be true."
He was writing at the beginning of the Peloponnesian War, and by that
time Athens was not the Saviour but "the Tyrant City." Her "allies" had
from time to time refused to serve or tried to secede from the alliance;
and one by one she had reduced them to compulsory subjection. The
"League" had become confessedly an "Empire."

Even Pericles, the great statesman of the good time, who had sought and
achieved so many fine ends, had failed to build up a free League based
on a representative elected body. The possibility of such a plan had
hardly yet been conceived in the world, though a rudimentary system of
international councils did in some places exist between neighbouring
villages; and Pericles must not be personally blamed for an error,
however fatal, which no one living knew how to avoid. But he realized at
last in 430 B.C. what Athens had come to (_Thuc._ II. 63): "Do not
imagine you are fighting about a simple issue, the subjection or
independence of certain cities. You have an Empire to lose, and a danger
to face from those who hate you for your empire. To resign it now would
be impossible--if at this crisis some timid and inactive spirits are
hankering after Righteousness even at that price! For by this time your
empire has become a Despotism (Tyrannis), a thing which it is
considered unjust to acquire, but which can never be safely

The same thought is emphasized more brutally by Cleon (_Thuc._ III. 37):

"I have remarked again and again that a democracy cannot govern an
empire, and never more clearly than now. . . . You do not realize that
when you make a concession to the allies out of pity, or are led away by
their specious pleading, you commit a weakness dangerous to yourselves
without receiving any gratitude from them. Remember that your empire is
a Despotism exercised over unwilling men who are always in conspiracy
against you." "Do not be misled," he adds a little later, "by the three
most deadly enemies of empire, pity and charm of words and the
generosity of strength" (_Thuc._ III. 40).

So much for the ideals of chivalry and freedom and "Sophia": for I think
the second of Cleon's "enemies" refers especially to the eloquent wisdom
of the philosophers. And as for democracy we do not hear now that "the
very name of it is beautiful": we hear that it is no principle on which
to govern an empire. And later on we shall hear Alcibiades, an Athenian
of democratic antecedents, saying at Sparta: "Of course all sensible men
know what democracy is, and I better than most, from personal
experience; but there is nothing new to be said about acknowledged
insanity" (_Thuc._ VI. 89).

The ideals failed, and, if we are to believe our contemporary authors,
the men failed too. Pericles, with all his errors, was a man of noble
mind; he was pure in motive, lofty, a born ruler; he led his people
towards "beauty and wisdom," and he wished it to be written on his grave
that no Athenian had put on mourning through his act. Cleon, they all
tell us, was a bellowing demagogue; violent, not over honest,
unscrupulous, blundering; only resolute to fight for the demos of Athens
till he dropped and to keep the poor from starving at whatever cost of
blackmailing the rich and flaying the allied cities. And when he--by
good luck, as Thucydides considers--was killed in battle, he was
succeeded by Hyperbolus, a caricature of himself--as a pun of the comic
poets' puts it, a "Cleon in hyperbole." This picture has been subjected
to just criticism in many details, but it represents on the whole the
united voice of our ancient witnesses.

One character only shines out in this period with a lurid light.
Alcibiades, so far as one can understand him at all from our fragmentary
and anecdotal records, must have been something like a Lord Byron on a
grand scale, turned soldier and statesman instead of poet. His
disastrous end and his betrayal of all political parties have probably
affected his reputation unfairly. Violent and unprincipled as he
certainly was, the peculiar dissolute caddishness implied in the
anecdotes is probably a misrepresentation of the kind that arises so
easily against a man who has no friends. It needs an effort to imagine
what he looked like before he was found out. Of noble birth and a nephew
of Pericles; famous for his good looks and his distinguished, if
insolent, manners; a brilliant soldier, an ambitious and far-scheming
politician; a pupil of the philosophers and an especially intimate
friend of Socrates, capable both of rising to great ideas and of
expounding them to the multitude; he was hailed by a large party as the
destined saviour of Athens, and seems for a time at least to have made
the same impression upon Euripides. Even in the _Suppliant Women_,
peace-play as it is, Euripides congratulates Athens on possessing in
Theseus "a general good and young," and critics have connected the
phrase with the election of Alcibiades, at a very early age, to be
General in the year 420. More significant perhaps is the curious case of
the _Andromache_. The ancient argument tells us definitely that it was
not produced in Athens. And we find from another source that it was
produced by one Democrates or Timocrates. Now Euripides had a friend
called Timocrates, who was an Argive; so it looks as if the play had
been produced in Argos. This would be astonishing but by no means
inexplicable. It was an old Athenian policy to check Sparta by
organizing a philo-Athenian league in the Peloponnese itself (_Ar.
Knights_, 465 ff.). The nucleus was to consist in three states, Argos,
Elis and Mantinea, which had been visited by Themistocles just after the
Persian wars and had set up democracies on the Athenian model. It was
Alcibiades who eventually succeeded in organizing this league in 420,
and it seems likely that the _Andromache_ was sent to Argos for
production in much the same spirit in which Pindar used to send his
Chorus of Dancers with a new song to compliment some foreign king. The
play seems to contain a reference to the Peloponnesian War (734), it
indulges in curiously direct denunciations of the Spartans (445 ff., 595
ff.), and the Spartan Menelaus is the villain of the piece--a more
stagey villain than Euripides in his better moments would have
permitted. We have also one doubtful external record of our poet's
temporary faith in Alcibiades. In the year 420 there fell an observance
of the Olympian Festival, the greatest of all the Pan-Hellenic Games,
which carried with it a religious truce. Alcibiades succeeded in getting
Sparta convicted of a violation of this truce, and consequently excluded
from the Festival, which was a marked blow at her prestige. Then,
entering himself as a competitor, he won with his own horses a whole
series of prizes, including the first, in the four-horse chariot
competition. And Plutarch, in his _Life of Alcibiades_, refers to a
Victory Ode which was written for him on this occasion, "as report goes,
by the poet Euripides" (ch. 11). This revival of the Pindaric
_Epinikion_ for a personal victory would fit in with the known character
of Alcibiades; and it would be a sharp example of the irony of history
if Euripides consented to write the Ode.

Euripides' delusion was natural and it was short-lived. The _Suppliant
Women_ points towards peace, and the true policy of Alcibiades was to
make peace impossible. And even apart from that the ideals of the two
men were antipathetic. The matter is summed up in the _Frogs_ of
Aristophanes, produced in 405, when the only question remaining about
Alcibiades was whether he was more dangerous to the city as an honoured
leader or as an enemy and exile. The two great poets of the Dead are
asked for their advice on this particular subject and their answers are
clear. Aeschylus says: "Submit to the lion's whelp;" Euripides rejects
him with three scathing lines (_Frogs_, 1427 ff., cf. 1446 ff.). Long
before the date of the _Frogs_ Alcibiades had probably grown to be in
the mind of Euripides the very type and symbol of the evil times.

All Greece--we have the emphatic and disinterested testimony of
Thucydides for the statement--was gradually corrupted and embittered by
the long war. Probably all war, as it accustoms people more and more to
desperate needs and desperate expedients for meeting them, and sets more
and more aside the common generosities and humanities of life, tends to
some degradation of character. But this particular war was specially
harmful. For one thing it was a struggle not simply between two foreign
powers, but between two principles, oligarchy and democracy. In almost
all the cities of the Athenian alliance there were large numbers of
malcontent rich, who were only too ready, if chance offered, to
overthrow the constitution, massacre the mob, and revolt to Sparta. In a
good many of the cities on the other side there were masses of
discontented poor who had been touched by the breath of democratic
doctrines, and were anxious for a chance to cut the throats of the
ruling Few. It was like the state of things produced in many cities of
Europe by the French Revolution. A secret civil strife lay in the
background behind the open war; and the open war itself was a long
protracted struggle for life or death. Probably the most high-minded man
when engaged in a death-grapple fights in much the same way as the most
low-minded. And there can be no doubt that as the toils of war closed
tighter round Athens, and she began to feel herself fighting, gasp by
gasp, for both her empire and her life, the ideals of the Saviour of
Hellas fell away from her. She fought with every weapon that came.

Such times called forth naturally the men that suited them. The assembly
cared less to listen to decent and thoughtful people, not to speak of
philosophers. It was feeling bitter and fierce and frightened and it
liked speakers who were feeling the same. The same fear that made it
cruel made it also superstitious. On one occasion the whole city went
mad with alarm because of a prank played on some ancient figures of
Hermes. On another a great army was lost because it and its general were
afraid to move during an eclipse of the moon. So soon had Anaxagoras
been forgotten.

Is this the result, one is inclined to ask, of the great ideals of
democracy and enlightenment? Of course the old Tory type of Greek
historian, like Mitford, revelled in an affirmative answer. But a more
reflective view of history suggests a different explanation. We must
distinguish carefully between the two notions, Enlightenment and
Democracy. They happen to have gone together in two or three of the
greatest periods of human progress and we are apt to regard them as
somehow necessarily allied. But they are not. Doubtless Democracy is
itself an exalted conception and belongs naturally to the ideas of the
Enlightenment, just as does the belief in Reason, in the free pursuit of
knowledge, in justice to the weak, the wish to be right rather than to
be victorious, or the hatred of violence and superstition as such. But
the trouble is that, in a backward and untrained people, the victory of
democracy may result in the defeat of the other exalted ideas. The
Athenian democracy as conceived by Pericles, Euripides or Protagoras was
a free people, highly civilized and pursuing "wisdom," free from
superstition and oppression themselves and helping always to emancipate
others. But the actual rustics and workmen who voted for Pericles had
been only touched on the surface by the "wisdom" of the sophists. They
liked him because he made them great and admired and proud of being
Athenians. But one must suspect that, when they were back at their farms
and the spell of Pericles' "wisdom" was removed, they practised again
the silliest and cruellest old agricultural magic, were terrified by the
old superstitions, beat their slaves and wives and hated the "strangers"
a few miles off, just as their grandfathers had done in the old times.
What seems to have happened at the end of the war-time is that, owing
largely to the democratic enthusiasm of the sophistic movement in
Athens, the common people is strongly in power; owing to the same
movement its old taboos and rules of conduct are a little shaken and
less able to stand against strong temptation; but meantime the true
moral lessons of the enlightenment, the hardest of all lessons for man
to learn, have never worked into their bones. Just as the French
Revolution called into power the brutal and superstitious peasant who
was the product of the Old Régime and could never rise to the ideas of
the Revolution, so the Athenian enlightenment had put into power the old
unregenerate mass of sentiment that had not been permeated by the
enlightenment. Cleon was no friend of sophists, but their avowed enemy.
And when he told the Assembly in its difficulties simply to double the
tribute of the allies and sack their towns if they did not pay; when he
urged the killing in cold blood of all the Mitylenean prisoners, he was
preaching doctrines that would probably have seemed natural enough in
the old days, before any sophists had troubled men's minds with talk
about duties towards dirty foreigners. And the people who followed his
lead were the same sort of people who would naturally be terrified about
the mutilation of a taboo image or an eclipse of the divine moon. What
they had, perhaps, acquired from the sophistic movement was a touch of
effrontery. Boeotians or Acarnanians might commit crimes, when they
needed to, by instinct, without stating their reasons: in Athens you had
at least to discuss the principle of the proposed crime and accept it
for what it was worth. A cynic or a hypocrite trained in a sophistic
school might offer occasional help with the theory.

Perhaps the earliest touch of Euripides' bitterness against his country
comes, as we have seen, in the _Hecuba_ (p. 89). But the period we have
just reached, soon after the _Heracles_, is marked by one of the most
ironic and enigmatical plays he ever wrote. The _Ion_ is interesting in
every line and contains one scene which is sometimes considered the most
poignant in all Greek tragedy, yet it leaves every reader unsatisfied.
Is it a pious offering to Apollo, the ancestor of the Ionian race? If
so, why is Apollo the villain of the piece? Is it a glorification of
ancient Athens, her legends and her shrines? If so, why are the shrines
polluted by lustful gods, the legends made specially barbaric, and the
beautiful earth-born Princess shown as a seduced woman and a would-be
murderess? Nay, further, why does the hero of the play explain in a
careful speech that he would sooner live a friendless slave in the
temple at Delphi than a free man and a prince in such a place as
Athens--a city "full of terror," where men "who are good and might show
wisdom are silent and never come forward," while the men in power watch
enviously round to destroy any possible rival? (598 ff. _Cf._ Euripides'
words in _Frogs_, 1446 ff.) In Delphi he has peace, and is not jostled
off the pavement by the scum of the earth (635)--a complaint which is
often made in Greek literature about democratic Athens.

I think the best way to understand the _Ion_ is to suppose that
Euripides, in his usual manner, is just taking an old canonical legend,
seeing the human drama and romance in it, and working it together in his
own clear ironic mind till at last he throws out his play, saying:
"There are your gods and your holy legends; see how you like them!" The
irony is lurking at every corner, though of course the drama and romance
come first.

The _Ion_ is, of all the extant plays, the most definitely blasphemous
against the traditional gods. Greek legend was full of stories of heroes
born of the love of a god and a mortal woman. Such stories could be
turned into high religious mysteries, as by Aeschylus in his _Suppliant
Women_; into tender and reverent legends, as by Pindar in one or two
odes. Euripides uses no such idealization. In play after play, _Auge_,
_Melanippe_, _Danae_, _Alope_, he seems to have scarified such gods, as
he does now in the _Ion_. Legend told that Ion, the hero-ancestor of the
Ionians, was the son of the Athenian princess Creusa. Creusa was married
to one Xuthus, an Aeolian soldier, but the real father of Ion was the
god Apollo. Euripides treats the story as if Apollo were just a lawless
ravisher, utterly selfish and ready to lie when pressed, though
good-natured in his way when he lost nothing by it--a sort of
Alcibiades, in fact. Xuthus is a butt; a foreigner with abrupt and
violent manners, lied to by Apollo, befooled by his wife, disobeyed by
her maids, and eventually made happy by the belief that her illegitimate
son is really his own. Creusa herself, though drawn with extraordinary
sympathy and beauty, is at heart a savage.

Creusa, when she bore her child, laid him, in her terror, in the same
cavern where Apollo had ravished her: surely the god would save his own
son. She came again and the child was gone. As a matter of fact the god
had carried him in his cradle to Delphi, where he was discovered by the
priestess and reared as a foundling in the temple courts. Creusa was
then married to Xuthus, who knew nothing of her adventure. Some
seventeen years or so afterwards, since the pair had no children, they
came to Delphi to consult the god. Creusa there meets the foundling,
Ion, and the two are strangely attracted to one another. She almost
confides to him her story, and he tells her what he knows of his own.
Meantime Xuthus goes in to ask the god for a child; the god tells him
that the first person he meets on leaving the shrine will be his son.
(This, of course, is a lie.) He meets Ion, salutes him as his son and
embraces him wildly. The boy protests: "Do not," cries Xuthus, "fly from
what you should love best on earth!" "I do not love teaching manners to
demented foreigners," retorts the youth. Sobered by this, Xuthus tries,
with Ion's help, to think out what the god can mean by saying that this
youth is his son. His married life has always been correct; but once
when he was a young man, there was a time . . . It was a great
religious feast at Delphi and he was drunk. Ion accepts the explanation,
though he evidently does not much like his new father. He makes
difficulties about going to Athens. He is sorry for Creusa. He wishes to
stay as he is. Xuthus decides that Creusa must be deceived; he will say
he has taken a fancy to Ion and wishes to adopt him. Meantime let them
have a great birth-feast . . . and if any of the Chorus say a word to
Creusa they shall be hanged! Creusa enters, accompanied by one of
Euripides' characteristic Old Slaves. The man has tended Creusa from
childhood, lives for her and thinks of nothing else; he is utterly
without scruple apart from her. The Chorus immediately tell Creusa what
they know of the story. Ion is Xuthus's illegitimate son; he must have
known it all the time; he has now, with the god's connivance, arranged
to take the son back to Athens; as for Creusa, the god says she shall
have no child. Stung to fury to think that her child is dead, that the
boy whom she so loved is deliberately deceiving her, and that Apollo is
adding this deliberate insult to his old brutal wrong, Creusa casts away
shame and standing up in front of the great Temple cries out her
reproach against the god. She is disgraced publicly and for ever, but
at least she will drag down this devil who sits crowned and singing to
the lyre while the women he has ravished go mad with grief and his babes
are torn by wild beasts. In the horror-stricken silence that follows
there is none to advise Creusa except the old Slave. Blindly devoted and
fostering all her passions, he wrings from her line by line the detailed
story of her seduction, and then calls for revenge. "Burn down the god's
temple!" She dare not. "Poison Xuthus!" No; he was good to her when she
was miserable. "Kill the bastard!" . . . Yes: she will do that. . . .
The Slave takes poison with him and goes to poison Ion at the
birth-feast. The plot fails; the Slave is taken and Creusa, pursued by
the angry youth, flies to the altar. It is fury against fury, each
bewildered to find such evil in the other, after their curious mutual
attraction. Here the Delphian Prophetess enters, bringing with her the
tokens that were with the foundling when she first came upon him in the
temple courts. Creusa, amazed, recognizes the old basket-cradle in which
she had exposed her own child.

She leaves the altar and gives herself up to Ion. For a moment it seems
as if he would kill her; but he tests her story. What else is there in
the basket? She names the things, her own shawl with gorgons on it, her
own snake-twined necklace and wreath of undying olive. The mother
confesses to the son and the son forgives her. But Apollo? What of him?
He has lied. . . . Ion, temple-child as he is, is roused to rebellion:
he will break through the screen of the sanctuary and demand of the god
one plain answer--when he is stopped by a vision of Athena. She comes
instead of Apollo, who fears to face the mortals he has wronged; she
bids them be content and seek no further. Creusa forgives the god; Ion
remains moodily silent.

The _Ion_ is so rich in romantic invention that it sometimes seems to a
modern reader curiously old-fashioned; it is full of motives--lost
children, and strawberry-marks, and the cry of the mother's heart, and
obvious double meanings--which have been repeated by so many plays since
that we instinctively regard them as "out of date." It is redeemed by
its passion and its sincere psychology. On the other hand, it is more
ironical than any other extant Greek play. The irony touches every part
of the story, excepting the actual tragedy of the wronged woman and the
charming carelessness of the foundling's life. We should remember that
an attack on the god of Delphi was not particularly objectionable in
Athens. For that god, by the mouth of his official prophets, at the
beginning of the war, had assured the Spartans that if they fought well
they would conquer and that He, the God, would be fighting for them. The
best that a pious Athenian could do for such a god as that was to
suppose that the official prophets were liars. Still Euripides attacks
much more than Delphi. If his thoughts ever strike home, it is not
merely Delphi that will fall, it is the whole structure of Greek ritual
and mythology. It is against the gods and against Athens that his irony
cuts sharpest.

Irony is the mood of one who has some strong emotion within but will not
quite trust himself on the flood of it. And romance is largely the mood
of one turning away from realities that disgust him. In the year 416
B.C. Euripides, in his relation to Athens, was shaken for the first time
out of any thought of either romance or irony. During the summer and
winter of that year there occurred an event of very small military
importance and no direct political consequences, to which nevertheless
Thucydides devotes twenty-six continuous chapters in a very significant
part of his work, the part just before the final catastrophe. The event
is the siege and capture by the Athenians of a little island called
Melos, the massacre of all its adult men and the enslavement of the
women and children. The island had no military power. It had little
commerce and lived on its own poor agriculture. Its population was not
large: when it was depopulated five hundred colonists were enough to
people it again. Why then this large place in Thucydides' brief and
severe narrative? Only, I think, because of the moral issue involved and
the naked clarity of the crime. Thucydides tells us of a long debate
between the Athenian envoys and the Melian Council and professes to
report the arguments used on each side. No doubt there is conscious
artistic composition in the reports. We cannot conclude that any
Athenian envoy used exactly these horrible words. But we can be sure
that Thucydides took the war on Melos as the great typical example of
the principles on which the Athenian war party were led to act in the
later part of the war; we can go further and be almost sure that he
selected it as a type of sin leading to punishment--that sin of
"Hubris" or Pride which according to Greek ideas was associated with
some heaven-sent blindness and pointed straight to a fall.

In cool and measured language the Athenian envoys explain to the Melian
Senate--for the populace is carefully excluded--that it suits their
purpose that Melos should become subject to their empire. They will not
pretend--being sensible men and talking to sensible men--that the
Melians have done them any wrong or that they have any lawful claim to
Melos, but they do not wish any islands to remain independent: it is a
bad example to the others. The power of Athens is practically
irresistible: Melos is free to submit or to be destroyed. The Melians,
in language carefully controlled but vibrating with suppressed
bitterness, answer as best they can. Is it quite safe for Athens to
break all laws of right? Empires are mortal; and the vengeance of
mankind upon such a tyranny as this . . . ? "We take the risk of that,"
answer the Athenians; "the immediate question is whether you prefer to
live or die." The Melians plead to remain neutral; the plea is, of
course, refused. At any rate they will not submit. They know Athens is
vastly stronger in men and ships and military skill; still the gods may
help the innocent ("That risk causes us no uneasiness," say the envoys:
"we are quite as pious as you"); the Lacedaemonians are bound by every
tie of honour and kinship to intervene ("We shall of course see that
they do not"); in any case we choose to fight and hope rather than to
accept slavery. "A very regrettable misjudgement," say the Athenians;
and the war proceeds to its hideous end.

As I read this Melian Dialogue, as it is called, again and again, I feel
more clearly the note of deep and angry satire. Probably the Athenian
war-party would indignantly have repudiated the reasoning put into the
mouths of their leaders. After all they were a democracy; and, as
Thucydides fully recognizes, a great mass of men, if it does commit
infamies, likes first to be drugged and stimulated with lies: it seldom,
like the wicked man in Aristotle's Ethics, "calmly sins." But in any
case the massacre of Melos produced on the minds of men like Thucydides
and Euripides--and we might probably add almost all the great writers
who were anywise touched by the philosophic spirit--this peculiar
impression. It seemed like a revelation of naked and triumphant sin.
And we can not but feel the intention with which Thucydides continues
his story. "They put to death all the Melians whom they found of man's
estate, and made slaves of the women and children. And they sent later
five hundred colonists and took the land for their own.

"And the same winter the Athenians sought to sail with a greater fleet
than ever before and conquer Sicily. . . ." This was the great Sicilian
expedition that brought Athens to her doom.

                     *       *       *       *       *

Euripides must have been brooding on the crime of Melos during the
autumn and winter. In the spring, when the great fleet was still getting
ready to sail, he produced a strange play, the work rather of a prophet
than a mere artist, which was reckoned in antiquity as one of his
masterpieces but which set a flame of discord for ever between himself
and his people. One would like to know what Archon accepted that play
and what rich man gave the chorus. It was called _The Trojan Women_, and
it tells of the proudest conquest wrought by Greek arms in legend, the
taking of Troy by the armies of Agamemnon. But it tells the old legend
in a peculiar way. Slowly, reflectively, with little stir of the blood,
we are made to look at the great glory, until we see not glory at all
but shame and blindness and a world swallowed up in night. At the very
beginning we see gods brooding over the wreck of Troy; as they might be
brooding over that wrecked island in the Aegean, whose walls were almost
as ancient as Troy's own. It is from the Aegean that Poseidon has risen
to look upon the city that is now a smoking ruin, sacked by the Greeks.
"The shrines are empty and the sanctuaries run red with blood." The
unburied corpses lie polluting the air; and the conquering soldiers,
home-sick and uneasy, they know not why, roam to and fro waiting for a
wind that will take them away from the country they have made horrible.
Such is the handiwork of Athena, daughter of Zeus! (47).

The name gives one a moment of shock. Athena is so confessedly the
tutelary goddess of Athens. But Euripides was only following the regular
Homeric story, in which Athena had been the great enemy of Troy, and the
unscrupulous friend of the Greeks. Her name is no sooner mentioned than
she appears. But she is changed. Her favourites have gone too far; they
have committed "Hubris," insulted the altars of the gods and defiled
virgins in holy places. Athena herself is now turned against her people.
Their great fleet, flushed with conquest and stained with sin, is just
about to set sail: Athena has asked Zeus the Father for vengeance
against it, and Zeus has given it into her hand. She and Poseidon swear
alliance; the storm shall break as soon as the fleet sets sail, and the
hungry rocks of the Aegean be glutted with wrecked ships and dying men
(95 ff.).

                  How are ye blind
    Ye treaders down of Cities; ye that cast
    Temples to desolation and lay waste
    Tombs, the untrodden sanctuaries where lie
    The ancient dead, yourselves so soon to die!

And the angry presences vanish into the night. Were the consciences of
the sackers of Melos quite easy during that prologue?

Then the day dawns and the play begins, and we see what, in plain words,
the great glory has amounted to. We see the shattered walls and some
poor temporary huts where once was a city; and presently we see a human
figure rising wearily from sleep. It is an old woman, very tired, her
head and her back aching from the night on the hard ground. The old
woman is Hecuba, lately the queen of Troy, and in the huts hard by are
other captives, "High women chosen from the waste of war" to be slaves
to the Greek chieftains. They are to be allotted this morning. She calls
them and they come startled out of sleep, some terrified, some quiet,
some still dreaming, one suddenly frantic. Through the rest of the play
we hear bit by bit the decisions of the Greek army-council. Cassandra,
the virgin priestess, is to be Agamemnon's concubine. The stupid and
good-natured Herald who brings the news thinks it good news. How lucky
for the poor helpless girl! And the King, too! There is no accounting
for tastes; but he thinks it was that air of unearthly holiness in
Cassandra which made Agamemnon fancy her. The other women are
horror-stricken, but Cassandra is happy. God is leading her; her flesh
seems no longer to be part of her; she has seen something of the mind of
God and knows that the fate of Troy and of dead Hector is better than
that of their conquerors. She sees in the end that she must discrown
herself, take off the bands of the priestess and accept her desecration;
she sees to what end she is fated to lead Agamemnon, sees the vision of
his murdered body--murdered by his wife--cast out in precipitous places
on a night of storm; and beside him on the wet rocks there is some one
else, dead, outcast, naked . . . who is it? She sees it is herself, and
goes forth to what is appointed (445 ff.).

The central portion of the play deals with the decision of the Greeks
about Hector's little boy, Astyanax. He is only a child now; but of
course he will grow, and he will form the natural rallying point for all
the fugitive Trojans and the remnants of the great Trojan Alliance. On
the principles of the Melian dialogue he is best out of the way. The
Herald is sent to take the child from his mother, Andromache, and throw
him over the battlements. He comes when the two women, Andromache and
Hecuba, are talking together and the child playing somewhere near.
Andromache has been allotted as slave to Pyrrhus, the son of Achilles,
and is consulting with Hecuba about the horror she has to face. Shall
she simply resist to the end, in the hope that Pyrrhus may hate and kill
her, or shall she try, as she always has tried, to make the best of
things? Hecuba advises: "Think of the boy and think of your own gentle
nature. You are made to love and not to hate; when things were happy you
made them happier; when they are miserable you will tend to heal them
and make them less sore. You may even win Pyrrhus to be kind to your
child, Hector's child; and he may grow to be a help to all who have once
loved us. . . ." As they speak the shadow of the entering Herald falls
across them; he cannot speak at first, but he has come to take the child
to its death, and his message has to be given. This scene, with the
parting between Andromache and the child which follows, seems to me
perhaps the most absolutely heart-rending in all the tragic literature
of the world. After rising from it one understands Aristotle's judgment
of Euripides as "the most tragic of the poets."

For sheer beauty of writing, for a kind of gorgeous dignity that at
times reminds one of Aeschylus and yet is compatible with the subtlest
clashes of mood and character, the _Trojan Women_ stands perhaps first
among all the works of Euripides. But that is not its most remarkable
quality. The action works up first to a great empty scene where the
child's body is brought back to his grandmother, Hecuba, for the funeral
rites. A solitary old woman with a dead child in her arms; that, on the
human side, is the result of these deeds of glory. Then, in the finale,
come scenes of almost mystical tone, in which Hecuba appeals first to
the gods, who care nothing; then to the human dead who did at least care
and love; but the dead, too, are deaf like the gods and cannot help or
heed. Out of the noise and shame of battle there has come Death the most
Holy and taken them to his peace. No friend among the dead, no help in
God, no illusion anywhere, Hecuba faces That Which Is and finds
somewhere, in the very intensity of Troy's affliction, a splendour which
cannot die. She has reached in some sense not the bottom, but the
crowning peak of her fortunes. Troy has already been set on fire by the
Greeks in preparation for their departure, and the Queen rushes to throw
herself into the flames. She is hurled back by the guards, and the women
watch the flaming city till with a crash the great tower falls. The
Greek trumpet sounds through the darkness. It is the sign for the women
to start for their ships; and forth they go, cheated of every
palliative, cheated even of death, to the new life of slavery. But they
have seen in their very nakedness that there is something in life which
neither slavery nor death can touch.

The play is a picture of the inner side of a great conquest, a thing
which then, even more than now, formed probably the very heart of the
dreams of the average unregenerate man. It is a thing that seemed
beforehand to be a great joy, and is in reality a great misery. It is
conquest seen when the heat of battle is over, and nothing remains but
to wait and think; conquest not embodied in those who achieved it--we
have but one glimpse of the Greek conquerors, and that shows a man
contemptible and unhappy--but in those who have experienced it most
fully, the conquered women.

We have so far treated the _Trojan Women_ as though it stood alone. In
reality of course it belonged to a group, and one cannot but ask what
the other plays were, and whether their themes were such as could stand
beside this and not be shrivelled into commonplace or triviality.
Fortunately, though the plays are both lost, we know something about
them. They were _Palamedes_ and _Alexander_; and both are on great
subjects. The _Palamedes_ tells of the righteous man condemned by an
evil world; the _Alexander_ has for its hero a slave.

Slavery had always been one of the subjects that haunted Euripides. We
do not happen to find in our remains of his work any definite
pronouncement that slavery is "contrary to nature," as was held by most
Greek philosophers of the succeeding century. Probably no practical man
of the time could imagine a large industrial city living without the
institution of slavery. But it is clear that Euripides hates it. It
corrupts a man; it makes the slave cowardly and untrustworthy. Yet "many
slaves are better men than their masters"; "many so-called free men are
slaves at heart." And again, in the style of a Stoic, "A man without
fear cannot be a slave" (fr. 958: cf. fr. 86, 511, etc.). Much more
important than such statements as these, which are, according to his
manner, generally put in the mouth of a slave, are the many instances of
"sympathetic" and courageous slaves, and the panegyrics on men who have
no slaves but work with their own hands. These show the bent of the
poet's mind. It is not, however, till the year of the _Trojan Women_
that he takes the bold step of actually making a slave his hero and
filling his play with discussions of slavery, including a definite
contest in _aretê_ between the slaves and the masters. True, the slave
turns out in the end to be a prince. The herdsman whose favourite bull
the young nobles have seized for a sacrifice, and who pursues and
challenges and eventually conquers them in strength and skill as well as
magnanimity, turns out to be Alexander, son of Priam, who has been
reared by the slave herdsmen of Mt. Ida. By our standards that is a
pity. We should have preferred him a real slave. But probably on the
Greek stage thus much of romance was inevitable, and after all it had
its connection with real life. Many a Scythian and Thracian and even
Phrygian chief, like this Alexander, must have stood for sale in Greek
slave markets.

The root idea of the _Palamedes_, the righteous man falsely slain, has a
momentous place in the history of Greek thought. It starts, of course,
as a bitterness or a paradox. Righteousness to the fifth century
Athenian was almost identical with social service, and, in a healthy
society with normal conditions, the man who serves his city well will
naturally be honoured by his city. But then comes the thought, itself
fraught with the wisdom of the sophists: "What if the multitude is bent
on evil, or is blind? There are many men who are evil but seem
righteous; what if the man who is righteous seems to be evil?" Hence
come the story of Aias in Pindar, and Palamedes in this play, and the
ideal Righteous Man of Plato's Republic who "shall be scourged,
tortured, bound . . . and at last impaled or crucified" (_Rep._ p.
362a). The idea runs through the various developments of later Greek
mysticism and attains its culminating point in Christianity. It is in
full concord with the tone of the _Trojan Women_.

We know little of the _Palamedes_. That hero was the true wise man, and
his enemy was Odysseus, the evil man who "seemed wise" and had the ear
of the multitude. Palamedes is falsely accused of treason, condemned by
the unanimous voice of his judges and sent to death. Fragments tell us
of some friend, perhaps a prisoner, carving message after message upon
oar-blades and throwing them into the sea that the truth might be known;
and we have two beautiful untranslatable lines uttered by the Chorus:
"Ye have slain, ye Greeks, ye have slain the nightingale; the wingèd-one
of the Muses who sought no man's pain." Tradition saw in the words a
reference to the wise Protagoras, lately slandered to his death.

The consideration of these other plays of the same trilogy strengthens
the impression that I receive already from the _Trojan Women_, an
impression of some deepening of experience, some profound change that
has worked into the writer's soul. Other critics, and notably Wilamowitz
and Mr. Glover, have similarly felt that this play marks a turning
point. It was not a change of front; it was not sudden; it was not
dependent on visions or supernatural messages. It was the completion of
a long process of strong feeling and intense thought, not the less sane
because of its decided element of mysticism. It probably differed in
many ways from the sudden and conscious conversions which began the
ministry of certain Greek philosophers, both Cynic and Stoic, in the
fourth and third centuries before Christ. It differed still more from
the experience of Paul on the road to Damascus or Augustine beneath the
fig-tree. But it does seem to me that in this tragedy the author shows a
greatly increased sense of some reality that is behind appearances, some
loyalty higher than the claims of friends or country, which supersedes
as both false and inadequate the current moral code and the current



Critics have used various words to describe the change of mood which
followed the _Trojan Women_. They speak of a period of despair,
pessimism, progressive bitterness, _Verzweiflung und Weltschmertz_. But
such phrases seem to me misleading. In the first place I do not think
they describe quite truly even the particular plays they are meant to
describe; in the second, they do not allow for the great variety which
subsists in the plays of this period. The mood of the _Trojan Women_ is
not exactly pessimism or despair; and whatever it is, it does not colour
all the subsequent plays.

The plays after 415 fall into two main divisions. First the works of
pure fancy or romance, in which the poet seems to turn intentionally
away from reality. Such are the _Iphigenîa in Tauris_, the _Helena_ and
the _Andromeda_; they move among far seas and strange adventures and
they have happy endings. Next there are the true tragedies, close to
life, ruthlessly probing the depths of human nature; not more acutely
bitter than such earlier works as the _Medea_ and _Hecuba_, but with a
bitterness more profound because it is comparatively free from
indignation. The glory has fallen away and the burning anger with it.
The poor miserable heroes and heroines . . . what else can you expect of
them? Rage is no good; punishment worse than useless. The road to
healing lies elsewhere.

A good key to the first of these types of play is to be seen in
Aristophanes' comedy, _The Birds_. The gayest, sweetest and most
irresponsible of all his plays, it was written just after the news of
the final disaster in Sicily, when ruin stared Athens in the face. And
the two heroes of it, disgusted with the ways of man, depart to live
among the birds and build, with their help, a splendid Cloud City. In
much the same spirit Euripides must have written his _Andromeda_. He
produced it in 412, the same year in which he was invited by the
anti-war government which came into power after the news of the great
disaster to write the national epitaph on the soldiers slain in Sicily.
He wrote the epitaph in the old severe untranslatable style of
Simonides: "These men won eight victories over the Syracusans when the
hand of God lay even between both." In English it seems cold; it seems
hardly poetry. But in Greek it is like carved marble. Then, one must
imagine, he turned right away from the present and spent his days with
Andromeda. Only a few fragments of the _Andromeda_ remain, but they are
curiously beautiful; and the play as a whole seems to have been the one
unclouded love-romance that Euripides ever wrote. It was fantastic,
remote from life, with its heroine chained to a cliff over the blue sea
awaiting the approach of the sea-monster, and its hero, Perseus, on
winged sandals, appearing through the air to save her. Yet the fragments
have a wistful ring: "O holy Night, how long is the path of thy
chariot!" "By the Mercy that dwelleth in the sea caves, cease, O Echo;
let me weep my fill in peace." Or the strange lines (fr. 135):

    Methinks it is the morrow, day by day,
    That cows us, and the coming thing alway
    Greater than things to-day or yesterday.

There was a story told, in later times, of a tragedy-fever that fell on
the folk of Abdêra, in Thrace, through this play, till in every street
you could see young men walking as though in a dream, and murmuring to
themselves the speech beginning, "O Love, high monarch over gods and
men. . . ." The _Andromeda_ was five hundred years old when people told
that story.

The _Iphigenîa in Tauris_ came one year earlier. It is one of the most
beautiful of the extant plays, not really a tragedy in our sense nor yet
merely a romance. It begins in gloom and rises to a sense of peril, to
swift and dangerous adventure, to joyful escape. So far it is like
romance. But it is tragic in the sincerity of the character-drawing.
Iphigenîa, especially, with her mixed longings for revenge and for
affection, her hatred of the Greece that wronged her and her love of the
Greece that is her only home, her possibilities of stony cruelty and her
realities of swift self-sacrifice, is a true child of her great and
accursed house. The plot is as follows:--Iphigenîa, daughter of
Agamemnon, who was supposed to have been sacrificed by her father at
Aulis, was really saved by Artemis and is now priestess to that goddess
in the land of the Taurians at the extremity of the Friendless Sea. The
Taurians are savages who kill all strangers, and if ever a Greek shall
land in the wild place it will be her task to prepare him for sacrifice.
She lives with this terror hanging over her, and the first Greek that
comes is her unknown brother, Orestes. Their recognition of one another
is, perhaps, the finest recognition-scene in all Tragedy; and with its
sequels of stratagem and escape forms a thrilling play, haunted not,
like a tragedy, by the shadow of death but rather by the shadow of
homesickness. The characters are Greeks in a far barbarian land, longing
for home or even for the Greek sea. The lyrics are particularly fine,
and most of them full of sea-light and the clash of waters.

In the same year as the _Andromeda_ came another romantic play, the
_Helena_. It is a good deal like the _Iphigenîa_ in structure, but it is
lighter, harder, and more artificial. The romance of Euripides is never
quite the easy dreaming of lighter-hearted writers. And the _Helena_, in
which he seems to have attempted a work of mere fancy, is, if we
understand it rightly, a rather brilliant failure. Some critics--quite
mistakenly in my judgment--have even argued that it is a parody. The
plot is based on a variant of the canonical legend about Helen, a
variant generally associated with the ancient lyric poet, Stesichorus.
Story tells that Stesichorus at one time lost his eyesight and took it
into his head that this was a punishment laid on him by the goddess
Helen, because he had told the story of her flight with Paris from her
husband's house. He wrote a recantation, based on another form of the
Helen-legend, in which Helen was borne away by the God Hermes to Egypt
and there lived like a true wife till Menelaus came and found her. The
being that went with Paris to Troy was only a phantom image of Helen,
contrived by the gods in order to bring about the war, and so reduce the
wickedness and multitude of mankind. In Euripides' play there is a
wicked king of Egypt, who seeks to marry Helen against her will and
kills all Greeks who land in his country. The war at Troy is over, and
Menelaus, beaten by storms out of his way, is shipwrecked on the coast
of Egypt. He and Helen meet, recognize one another, and by the help of
the king's sister, who has second sight, contrive to escape. It is hard
to say what exactly is wrong with the _Helena_; and it may only be that
we moderns do not know in what spirit to take it. But the illusion is
difficult to keep up and the work seems cold. Reality has gone out of
it. For one thing, Helen, in her thorough process of rehabilitation, has
emerged that most insipid of fancies, a perfectly beautiful and
blameless heroine with no character except love of her husband, whom, by
the way, she has not seen for seventeen years.

Another large experiment of this time is the _Phoenissae_, or _Tyrian
Women_ (410?). It is the longest Greek tragedy in existence, and covers
the greatest stretch of story. Aeschylus, we remember, had the habit of
writing true "trilogies"--three continuous dramas, carrying on the same
history. The _Phoenissae_ seems like an attempt to run the matter of a
whole trilogy into one play. It does not fall into either of the
divisions which I have sketched above: it is neither a play of fancy nor
yet a realistic tragedy. But even if we had no external tradition of its
date we could tell to what part of the author's life it belongs. It is
written, as it is conceived, in the large and heroic style; but it shows
in the regular manner of this period a general clash of hatreds and
frantic ambitions and revenges and cruel statesmanship standing out
against the light of a young man's heroism and a mother's and a sister's
love. It is like Euripides, too, that this beautiful mother should be
Jocasta, whose unknowing incest had made her an abomination in the eyes
of orthodox Greece.

The play tells the story of Thebes. The sin of Oedipus and Jocasta is a
thing of the past; Oedipus has blinded himself and cursed his children,
and they have in course of time imprisoned him in the vaults of the
palace. Jocasta still lives. The sons Polyneices and Eteocles have
agreed to reign by turns; Polyneices, the elder, has reigned his year
and gone abroad to Argos; Eteocles having once got the crown has refused
to yield it up. Polyneices comes with an Argive army to lay siege to
Thebes and win his rights by war. The drama is developed in a series of
great pictures. We have first the Princess Antigone with an old slave
looking from the wall out towards the enemy's camp, seeking for a
glimpse of her brother. Next comes a man with face hidden and sword
drawn stealing through the gates, seeking for Jocasta. It is Polyneices.
The mother has induced her sons to have one meeting before they fight.
The meeting reveals nothing but ambition and mutual hatred. They agree
to look for one another on the field, and Polyneices goes. There are
consultations in the beleaguered city. Creon, who is Jocasta's brother
and a sort of Prime Minister, advises the rash Eteocles; but the
prophets must be consulted too, that the gods may be favourable. The
prophet Tiresias--blind and old and jealous, as so often in Greek
tragedy--proclaims that the only medicine to save the state is for
Creon's son, Menoikeus, to be slain as a sin-offering in the lair of the
ancient Dragon whom Cadmus slew. Creon quickly refuses; he dismisses the
prophet and arranges for his son to escape from Thebes and fly to the
ends of Greece. The boy feigns consent to the plan of escape, but, as
soon as his father has left him, rushes enthusiastically up to a tower
of the city and flings himself over into the Dragon's den. A messenger
comes to Jocasta with news of the battle. "Are her sons slain?" No; both
are alive and unhurt. He tells his story of the Argive attack and its
repulse from every gate.--"But what of the two brothers?"--He must go
now and will bring more news later.--Jocasta sees he is concealing
something and compels him to speak. The truth comes out; the brothers
are preparing a single combat. With a shriek the mother calls Antigone;
and the two women, young and old, make their way through the army to
try to separate the blood-mad men. We learn from a second messenger how
the brothers have slain each other "in a meadow of wild lotus," and
Jocasta has killed herself with one of their swords. Antigone returns
and to bring the news to her only friend, the blind Oedipus. Creon by
Eteocles' charge takes over the government, he, too, a broken-hearted
man, but none the less ruthless; he proclaims that Polyneices' body
shall lie unburied and that Oedipus, the source of pollution, shall be
cast out of the land; Antigone meantime shall marry Creon's son, Haemon.
Antigone defies him. She will not wed Haemon nor any of Creon's kin: her
father shall not be cast out to die, for she will go with him and
protect him. Polyneices shall not lie unburied, for she herself will
return by stealth and bury him. There is still one human love that
Oedipus yearns for most; that of the sin-stained wife and mother who is
lying dead in the meadow of wild lotus. But meantime he takes the hand
of his daughter. Old man and young maiden they go forth together, away
from the brutalities of human kind, to the high mountains, to the holy
inviolate places on Kithairon where only the wild White Women of
Dionysus dance their mystic dances.

The _Phoenissae_ stands half way between the pure Romances and the
tragedies of the last period. Of these latter the clearest type is the
_Electra_ (probably 413), a play which before it was understood used to
receive the unstinted abuse of Critics, as "the meanest of Greek
tragedies," "the very worst of all Euripides' plays." It deals with the
moral problem of the Blood-Feud, stated in its sharpest terms.

Now the blood-feud, we must realize, in any society where there is no
public law and no police, is a high moral duty. A man commits an
abominable crime and revels in comfort on the proceeds; his victim is
dead, and there is no law which will act automatically. It becomes the
duty of some one--normally the heir or representative of the dead
man--to devote himself to the work of justice, to forsake all business
and pleasure in life till the wrong has been righted and the dead man
avenged. A man who would let his kinsman be murdered and then live on at
his ease rather than pursue the murderer, would obviously be a poor
false creature. Now comes the problem. The strongest possible claim is
that of a father murdered; the most horrible act a Greek could conceive
was for a man to slay his mother. Suppose a wife murdered her husband,
ought her son to slay her? The law of the blood-feud, as traditionally
preached from the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, answered, in spite of all
repugnances, Yes.

The story had been treated before Euripides by many poets, including
Homer, Stesichorus, Pindar, Aeschylus and possibly--though the dates are
not certain--Sophocles. Clytemnestra had with the help of her lover
Aegisthus murdered her husband Agamemnon; her son Orestes slays her in
obedience to Apollo's command, and his sister Electra aids him.
Aeschylus in his _Libation-Bearers_ had dealt with this theme on broad
lines and with gorgeous intensity of imagination. His Orestes is carried
to the deed on a great wave of religious passion and goes mad as soon as
it is done. The deed as commanded by God is right, but it is too much
for human nature to endure. In an ensuing play Orestes, after long
sufferings, is tried for the matricide and, when the human judges are
evenly divided, acquitted by the divine voice of Athena. Sophocles
treats the subject very differently. He makes a most brilliant play with
extraordinary clashes of emotion and moments of tragic beauty. But,
evidently of set purpose, he makes the whole treatment hard and archaic.
There is no shrinking back, no question of conscience at all.
Clytemnestra is a furious tyrant; she beats Electra with her fists, and
Aegisthus does worse (1196, 517). The climax of the play is not the
mother-murder but the killing of Aegisthus, which was presumably the
harder and more exciting job. When Orestes and his friend Pylades come
out of the palace streaming with Clytemnestra's blood their nerves are
unshaken and the Chorus is careful to say that they are not to be in any
way blamed (1423).

The spirit of Euripides is exactly the opposite; so much so indeed that
most critics feel clear that the two _Electra_ plays are closely
related, and related in opposition. The one is a deliberate protest
against the other; unfortunately the play of Sophocles cannot be dated
and it is not clear from internal evidence which play was written first.

In the _Electra_ of Euripides we find two main qualities. First, there
is psychological realism of the subtlest kind. Secondly, there is a new
moral atmosphere. With a power of sympathy and analysis unrivalled in
ancient drama he has imagined just what kind of people these children
must have been, who would thus through long years nurse the seeds of
hatred and at the end kill their mother. He studies them all; Electra, a
mixture of heroism and broken nerves; a poisoned and haunted woman,
eating her heart in ceaseless broodings of hate and love, both alike
unsatisfied; for he suggests, somewhat cruelly, that she might have
lived contentedly enough, had she only had a normal married life. The
name in its original Doric form suggested the meaning, "_Unmated_."
Orestes is a youth bred in the unwholesome dreams of exile, and now
swept away by his sister's stronger will; subject also, as Orestes
always is in Greek tragedy, to delusions and melancholy madness. The
mother herself is not forgotten, and a most piteous figure she shows,
"this sad, middle-aged woman, whose first words are an apology;
controlling quickly her old fires, anxious to be as little hated as
possible; ready even to atone for her crime, if only there were some
safe way of atonement." Thus, in the first place, Euripides has stripped
the old bloody deed of the heroic glamour that surrounded it. His actors
are not clear-minded heroes moving straight to their purpose. They are
human creatures, erring, broken by passion, mastered by their own
inhibitions and doubts and regrets. In the second place he has no doubt
at all about the ethics of the mother-murder. It was an abomination, and
the god who ordained it--if any did--was a power of darkness.

After the deed the two murderers come forth as in Sophocles. But this
time they are not triumphant and the Chorus does not hail them as having
done right. They reel from the door, "red-garmented and ghastly" and
break into a long agony of remorse. The Chorus share their horror.
Electra's guilt is the greater since she drove her brother to the deed
against his will; even while they love her, they can not quite forget
that, though they feel that now at last, by this anguish, her heart may
be "made clean within." The play ends with an appearance of the gods.
The Heavenly Horsemen, Castor and Polydeuces, who were kinsmen of the
dead, appear on a cloud, and speak in judgement and comfort. With a
definiteness rare in Euripides they pronounce the deed of vengeance to
be evil:

            "And Phoebus, Phoebus . . . Nay:
  He is my lord, therefore I hold my peace.
  But though in light he dwell, not light was this
  He showed to thee, but darkness."

Another note is also struck, that of pity for the suffering of humanity.
Orestes and Electra, condemned to part, break, as they bid one another
farewell, into a great cry, and the gods, hearing it, are shaken:

      Alas! what would ye? For that cry
        Ourselves and all the sons of heaven
        Have pity; yea, our peace is riven
      By the strange pain of these that die.

            *     *     *     *     *

      But hark! The far Sicilian sea
        Calls, and a noise of men and ships
        That labour sunken to the lips
      In bitter billows; forth go we
      With saving.

They speak such words of comfort and groping wisdom as they can find--no
one has ever claimed that they are omniscient--and depart upon their own
eternal task, which is not to punish but to save.

The appearance of the gods in the _Electra_ is so beautiful that no
critics have yet tried to explain it away as nonsense; and the lesson of
it so clear that its meaning is seldom denied. But I find just the same
lesson in the final scene of the _Orestes_, which is commonly taken as
the very worst instance of Euripides' habit of closing with a "God from
the machine."

The _Orestes_ (408 B.C.) deals with the fate of Orestes some days after
his mother's murder. He is mad and sick; his sister is nursing him with
devotion. The people have risen against them and they are held prisoners
in the palace till an assembly shall try them for murder and pronounce
their fate. Meantime Menelaus--Orestes' uncle and king of Sparta--has
arrived at the harbour with his wife Helen and their daughter Hermione.
He has sent on his wife and daughter to the palace and is expected
hourly himself. He is Agamemnon's brother; he has with him an army of
Trojan veterans; he can surely be counted on to cow the Argive populace
and save his dead brother's son. All our hopes hang on Menelaus, and
when at last he comes he proves false. He would like to help; but it
would be wrong for him, a foreigner, to dictate to the Argives; and he
has only a very small force with him. However, he will reason with
Orestes' enemies. One does not forget that, if Argos is left without a
king, Menelaus will normally inherit. The sick man blazes into rage
against him and Menelaus becomes an open enemy. Exasperation follows on
exasperation: Orestes' friend Pylades breaks through the guards and
enters the palace to share the prisoners' fate. The assembly hears and
at length condemns them. They are given a day in which to die as they
best please. Like scorpions surrounded by fire, the three, Orestes,
Electra and Pylades, begin to strike blindly. A brilliant idea! They can
kill Helen: that will punish Menelaus, and Helen deserves many deaths.
Better still, kill Helen and then capture Hermione! Hold a dagger at her
throat and then bargain with Menelaus for help even at the last hour!
Murder his wife and then force him to help! Splendid! The madness of
Orestes infects the whole play. Helen escapes, being half-divine; but
they catch Hermione, who, as a matter of fact, has always been kind to
them. Menelaus, who has heard news from an escaping slave, rushes up to
save Helen, but he finds no sign of her; he finds only the palace barred
and the madman on the roof, shrieking derision and holding the knife at
his daughter's throat. There is a brief wild attempt at bargaining; then
hate in Menelaus overcomes fear. He rejects all terms. Orestes' party
sets fire to the palace; and Menelaus at the head of his soldiers beats
blindly at the barred gate. "The fire of Hell," to use Dr. Verrall's
phrase, has been let loose; rage, hatred, revenge, all blazing to the
point of madness; what more can befall?

What does befall is strange and daring. An entry of a god not in
gentleness, not with any preparation or introduction, but sudden and
terrific, striking all beholders into a trance from which they awaken
changed men. The point has not been generally observed, though it is, I
think, clear.

At Apollo's first sudden cry "Menelaus, be still!" (line 1625) we know
that Orestes is supporting Hermione in one arm while with the other hand
he is holding the knife at her throat. He is in exactly the same
position at line 1653; he only moves from it at 1671. That is the
conduct of a man in a trance, suddenly, as it were, struck rigid. And we
shall find that the words spoken by both Menelaus and Orestes when
Apollo has finished his charge, are like nothing but the words of men
emerging from a trance; a trance, too, of some supernatural kind, like
that for instance which falls on the raging world in Mr. Wells's book,
_In the Days of the Comet_. Here, too, a raging world wakes to find
itself at peace and its past hatreds unintelligible. And the first
thought that comes to the surface is, in each case, the great guiding
preoccupation of each man's life; with Menelaus it is Helen; with
Orestes the oracle that made him sin. Nay more; when Orestes wakens,
half-conscious, to find Hermione lying in his arms, his natural
movement, as experiments on hypnotized persons have shown, is to accept
the suggestion and draw her to him in love. Greek legend knew well that,
as a matter of history, Hermione became Orestes' bride. There is daring,
perhaps excessive daring, in making it occur this way; but the
psychology of something like hypnotism had a fascination for both
Aeschylus and Euripides. For the rest, Apollo has spoken the word of
forgiveness and reconciliation. He concludes:

        Depart now, each upon his destined way,
        Your hates dead and forgotten.

MEN.                                   I obey.

OR.     I too; mine heart is as a wine of peace
        Poured with the past and thy dark mysteries.

APOLLO  Go now your ways: and without cease
          Give honour in your hearts to one,
          Of spirits all beneath the sun
        Most beautiful; her name is Peace.

        I rise with Helen Zeus-ward, past
          The orb of many a shining star;
          Where Heracles and Hebe are
        And Hera, she shall reign at last,

        A goddess in men's prayers to be
          For ever, with her Brethren twain
          Enthronèd, a great help in pain
        And queen of the eternal sea.

"Helen a goddess!" say some critics; "the notion is impossible. We have
seen her in this same play, a heartless ordinary woman." Yet I think
Euripides was serious enough. I do not say he believed either this or
any other particular bit of the mythology. But he was writing seriously
and aiming at beauty, not at satire. All legend said that Helen was made
a goddess; and Euripides was always curiously haunted by the thought of
Helen and by the mysterious and deadly power of mere superlative beauty.
As Apollo had said to Menelaus (1638):

    Thy bride shall be another: none may know
    _Her_. For the Gods, to work much death and woe,
    Devised this loveliness all dreams above,
    That men in Greece and Troy for thirst thereof
    Should strive and die, and so the old Earth win
    Peace from mankind's great multitude and sin.

The superlative beauty may probably enough be found in company with
heartlessness and treachery; but cannot these things be purged away,
like the hates of Menelaus and Orestes, and the pure beauty remain a
thing to pray to and be helped by, much as the old sagas pretend? There
is here again the touch of mysticism.

But however it be about Helen, or even about the above explanation in
detail of the last scene of the _Orestes_, it is clear that both the
most characteristic plays of the so-called period of gloom end with a
strong, almost a mystically strong, note of peace and reconciliation.
This note occurs, though with less intensity, at the end of other late
plays, such as the _Iphigenîa in Tauris_ and the _Helena_; and, though
without a god, in the _Phoenissae_. It does not occur at all in the
early plays. The _Medea_ and _Hecuba_ end in pure hate; the _Hippolytus_
ends in wonderful beauty and a reconciliation between the hero and his
father, who are natural friends, but it keeps up the feud of Aphrodite
and Artemis and contains a strange threat of vengeance (v. 1420 ff.) The
lovely Thetis of the _Andromache_ brings comfort and rest but preaches
no forgiveness; on the contrary the body of Pyrrhus is to be buried at
Delphi as an eternal reproach. Euripides all through his life was
occupied with the study of revenge. It was a time, as Thucydides tells
us, when "men tried to surpass all the record of previous times in the
ingenuity of their enterprises and the enormity of their revenges."
Euripides seems first to have been almost fascinated by the enormous
revenges, at least when they were the work of people who had suffered
enormous wrong. He seems, in plays like the _Medea_, to be saying: "If
you goad people beyond endurance, this is the sort of thing you must
expect them to do . . . and serve you right!" In the plays after 415 the
emphasis has rather changed: "You must expect to be wronged, and revenge
will do good to nobody. Seek peace and forgive one another."



Thus we come round to the figure from which we started, the old sad man
with the long beard, who seldom laughed and was not easy to speak to;
who sat for long hours in his seaward cave on Salamis, meditating and
perhaps writing one could not tell what, except indeed that it was
"something great and high." It was natural that he should be sad. His
dreams were overthrown; his City, his Beloved, had turned worse than
false. Public life was in every way tenfold more intimate and important
to an ancient Greek than it is to us moderns who seldom eat a
mutton-chop the less when our worst political enemies pass their most
detested bills. And Athens had not only been false to her ideals; she
had sinned for the sake of success and had then failed. And her failure
probably made the daily life of her citizens a thing of anxiety and
discomfort. You were never quite sure of your daily food. You were never
quite safe from a triumphant raid of the enemy. And the habitual bodily
discomfort which is the central fact of old age must have had for
Euripides much to aggravate and little to soften it.

It was natural, too, that his people should hate him. Nations at war do
not easily forgive those who denounce their wars as unjust; when the
war, in spite of all heroism, goes against them, their resentment is all
the bitterer. There is, of course, not the ghost of a suggestion in
Euripides that he thought the Spartans right or that he wished Athens to
be defeated; far from it. But the Athenian public was not in a mood for
subtle distinctions, and his air of disapproval was enough. Besides,
thought the meaner among them, the man was a known blasphemer. He had
been the friend of the sophists; he had denied the gods; worse, he had
denounced the doings of the gods as evil. These misfortunes that hurtled
round the City's head must surely be sent for some good reason. Very
likely just because the City, corrupted by the "charm of words," had
allowed such wicked sophists to live? He was at one time prosecuted for
impiety; we do not know the date or the details, but he seems to have
been acquitted. The day of Socrates had not yet come. But other charges
remained. He was a wicked old man: he had preached dreadful things about
women; he had defended in his plays adulteresses and perjurers and
workers of incest. What must his personal life be, if these were his
principles? No wonder that he lived so secretly, he and his wife and
that dark-skinned secretary, Cephisophon!

Perhaps he was a miser and had secret stores of wealth? We hear of an
action brought against him on these lines. A certain Hygiainon was
selected, as a rich man, to perform some "Liturgy" or public service at
his own cost, and he claimed that Euripides was richer and should be
made to do it instead. We do not know the result of the trial; we only
know that the plaintiff attempted to create prejudice against Euripides
by quoting the line of the _Hippolytus_ (see above p. 88) which was
supposed to defend perjury.

These things were annoyances enough. But there must have been some
darker cloud that fell over Euripides' life at this time. For we are
not only told in the Lives that "The Athenians bore a grudge against
him," and that "he lost patience with the ill-will of his
fellow-citizens," but one of our earliest witnesses, Philodemus, says
that when he left Athens he did so "in grief, because almost all in
Athens were rejoicing over him." The word used means, like the German
"Schadenfreude," rejoicing at another's injury. So there must have been
some injury for them to rejoice at.

The old Satyrus tradition, with its tone of scandal and
misunderstanding, says that his wife was false to him, but the story
will not bear historical criticism. And it would not be safe to use so
rotten a foundation to build any theory upon, however likely it may be
in itself that a man of this kind should meet with domestic unhappiness
in one or other of its many forms. In thinking of Euripides one is
constantly reminded of Tolstoy. And there are many ways of making
husbands miserable besides merely betraying them.

Whatever the cause, shortly after the production of the _Orestes_ in 408
the old poet's endurance snapped, and, at the age apparently of
seventy-six, he struck off into voluntary exile. It is only one
instance among many of his extraordinary vital force. The language of
the ancient Life is unfortunately confused just here, but it seems to
say that he went first to Magnesia, with which city he had had relations
in earlier days. He had been granted some civic honours there, and had
acted as Proxenus--a kind of consul or general protector--for Magnesians
in Athens. There was more than one town of the name. But the one meant
is probably a large town in the Maeander Valley, not far from Ephesus.
It lay in Persian territory, but had been granted by Artaxerxes to the
great Themistocles as a gift, and was still ruled, subject to the
Persian king, by Themistocles' descendants. Doubtless it was to them
that the poet went. We know nothing more, except that he did not stay
long in Magnesia, but went on to another place where barbarians or
semi-barbarians were ruled by a Greek dynasty.

The king of Macedon, Archelaus, an able despot who was now laying the
seeds of the great kingdom which, before the lapse of a century, was to
produce Philip and Alexander the Great, had always an eye for men of
genius who might be attracted to his court. He had invited Euripides
before and now renewed his invitation. Other men of "wisdom" were
already with Archelaus. Agathon, the tragic poet; Timotheus, the now
famous musician whom Euripides had once saved, so the story ran, from
suicide; Zeuxis, the greatest painter of the time; and perhaps also
Thucydides, the historian. It would not be like living among barbarians
or even uncultivated Greeks. And it is likely enough that the old man
hankered for the ease and comfort, for the atmosphere of daily
"spoiling," which the royal patron was likely to provide for a lion of
such special rarity. For it must have been a little before this time
that Greece was ringing with a tale of the value set on Euripides in
distant and hostile Sicily. Seven thousand Athenians had been made
slaves in Syracuse after the failure of the expedition; and the story
now came that some of them had been actually granted their freedom
because they were able to recite speeches and choruses of Euripides.
Apparently there was no book trade between the warring cities; and the
Syracusans could only learn the great poems by word of mouth. Sicily and
Macedonia were proud to show that they appreciated the highest poetry
better than Athens did.

It was a curious haven that Euripides found. In many ways Macedonia must
have been like a great fragment of that Homeric or heroic age from which
he had drawn most of his stories. The scenery was all on the grand
scale. There were greater plains and forests and rivers, wilder and
higher mountain ranges than in the rest of Greece. And the people,
though ruled by a dynasty of Greek descent and struggling up towards
Hellenism, was still tribal, military and barbaric. A century later we
hear of the "old" Macedonian customs. A young man might not dine at the
men's tables till he had killed his first wild boar. He had to wear a
leathern halter round his waist until he had killed his first man. We
hear that when some Macedonian at the court made a rude remark to
Euripides the King straightway handed him over to the Athenian to be
scourged, a well-meant but embarrassing intervention. And the story told
of Euripides' own death, if mythical, is very likely faithful in its
local colour. There was a village in Macedonia where some Thracians had
once settled and their descendants still lived. One of the king's big
Molossian hounds once strayed into this place, and the natives promptly
killed and ate her. The king fined the village a talent, which was more
than it could possibly pay, and some dreadful fate might have overtaken
the dog-eaters had not Euripides interceded and begged them off. And not
long afterwards, the story continues, Archelaus was preparing a hunt,
and the hungry hounds were set loose. And it so happened that Euripides
was sitting alone in a wood outside the city, and the hounds fell on him
and tore him to pieces. And behold, these hounds proved to be the
children of that Molossian who, through the poet's interference, had
died unavenged! The story can hardly be true, or we should hear some
echo of it in Aristophanes' _Frogs_; but no doubt it was the kind of
fate that a lonely man might well meet in Macedonia when the king's
hounds were astir.

How the poet really died we do not know. We know that he left Athens
after the spring of 408, and that he was dead some time before the
production of the _Frogs_ in January, 405. And there is reason to
believe the story given in the Life that when Sophocles in the previous
year was introducing his Chorus in the "Proagon," or Preliminary
Appearance, he brought them on without the customary garlands in
mourning for his great rival's death. The news, therefore, must have
reached Athens by the end of March, 406. Euripides had lived only some
eighteen months in Macedon.

The time was not long but it was momentous. After his death three plays
were found, _Iphigenîa in Aulis_, _Alcmaeon_ and _Bacchae_, sufficiently
finished to be put on the stage together by his third son, the Younger
Euripides. Two of them are still extant, and one, the _Bacchae_, remains
for all time to testify to the extraordinary return of youth which came
to the old poet in his last year. A "lightning before death" if ever
there was one!

But let us take first the _Iphigenîa in Aulis_. It is a play full of
problems. We can make out that it was seriously incomplete at the poet's
death and was finished by another hand, presumably that of its producer.
Unfortunately we do not possess even that version in a complete form.
For the archetype of our MSS. was at some time mutilated, and the
present end of the play is a patent forgery. But if we allow for these
defects, the _Iphigenîa in Aulis_ is a unique and most interesting
example of a particular moment in the history of Greek drama. It shows
the turning-point between the old fifth century tragedy and the
so-called New Comedy which, in the hands of Menander, Philemon and
others, dominated the stage of the fourth and third centuries.

Euripides had united two tendencies: on the one hand he had moved
towards freedom in metre, realism in character-drawing, variety and
adventure in the realm of plot; on the other he had strongly maintained
the formal and musical character of the old Dionysiac ritual, making
full use of such conventions as the Prologue, the Epiphany, the
traditional tragic diction, and above all the Chorus. The New Comedy
dropped the chorus, brought the diction close to real life, broke up the
stiff forms and revelled in romance, variety, and adventure. Its
characters ceased to be legendary Kings and Queens; they became
fictional characters from ordinary city life.

The _Iphigenîa in Aulis_ shows an unfinished Euripidean tragedy, much in
the manner of the _Orestes_, completed by a man of some genius whose
true ideals were those of modernity and the New Comedy. Two openings of
the play are preserved. One is the old stiff Euripidean prologue; the
other a fine and vigorous scene of lyric dialogue, which must have
suited the taste of the time far better, just as it suits our own. We
have early in the play a Messenger; but instead of his entrance being
formally prepared and announced in the Euripidean manner, he bursts on
to the stage interrupting a speaker in the middle of a verse and the
middle of a sentence. There are also peculiarities of metre, such as the
elision of -ai, which are unheard of in tragic dialogue but regular in
the more conversational style of the New Comedy.

The plot runs thus.--It is night in the Greek camp at Aulis; Agamemnon
calls an Old Slave outside his tent and gives him secretly a letter to
carry to Clytemnestra. She is at home, and has been directed in previous
letters to send her daughter, Iphigenîa, to Aulis to be wedded to
Achilles. This letter simply bids her not send the girl.--The Old Slave
is bewildered; "What does it mean?" It means that the marriage with
Achilles was a blind. Achilles knew nothing of it. It was a plot to get
Iphigenîa to the camp and there slaughter her as a sacrifice for the
safe passage of the fleet. So Calchas, the priest, had commanded and he
was backed by Odysseus and Menelaus. Agamemnon had been forced into
compliance, and is now resolved to go back upon his word. The Old Slave
goes. Presently comes the entrance of the Chorus, women of Aulis who
are dazzled and thrilled by the spectacle of the great army and the men
who are prepared to die overseas for the honour of Hellas. But we hear a
scuffle outside, and the Old Slave returns pursued by Menelaus, who
seizes the letter. He calls for help. Agamemnon comes out and commands
Menelaus to give the letter back. A violent scene ensues between the
brothers, each telling the other home truths. Menelaus's besotted love
for his false wife, his reckless selfishness and cruelty; Agamemnon's
consuming ambition, his falseness and weakness, his wish to run with the
hare and hunt with the hounds, are all laid bare in a masterly quarrel
scene. At last Agamemnon flatly refuses to give his daughter: "Let the
army break up, let Menelaus go without his accursed wife, and the
barbarians laugh as loudly as they will! Agamemnon will not have his
child slain and his own heart broken to please any one." "Is that so?"
says Menelaus: "Then I go straight to. . . ." He is interrupted by a
Messenger who announces that Iphigenîa has come and her mother,
Clytemnestra, is with her. Agamemnon sends them a formal message of
welcome; dismisses the Messenger, and then bursts into tears. This
shakes Menelaus; he hesitates; then abruptly says, "I cannot force you.
Save the girl as best you can." But now it is too late. The army knows
that the Queen has come; Calchas and Odysseus know. Agamemnon has lost
the power of action. The next scene is between the mother, father and
daughter; Clytemnestra, full of questions about the marriage, Iphigenîa
full of excitement and shy tenderness, which expresses itself in special
affectionateness towards her father. He tries to persuade Clytemnestra
to go home and leave the child with him; she is perplexed and flatly
refuses to go.

The next scene is close to comedy, though comedy of a poignant kind.
Achilles, knowing naught of all these plots and counter-plots, comes to
tell the General that his men--the Myrmidons--are impatient and want to
sail for Troy at once. At the door of the tent he meets Clytemnestra,
who greets him with effusive pleasure and speaks of "the marriage that
is about to unite them." The young soldier is shy, horrified, anxious to
run away from this strange lady who is so more than friendly, when
suddenly a whisper through the half-closed door startles them. "Is the
coast clear? Yes?"--then the whisperer will come. It is the Old Slave,
who can bear it no more but reveals the whole horrible plot; Iphigenîa
is to be slaughtered by the priests; the marriage with Achilles was a
bait for deceiving Clytemnestra.--Clytemnestra is thunderstruck,
Achilles furious with rage. "He is dishonoured; he is made a fool of.
What sort of man do they take him for, to use his name thus without his
authority? Why could not they ask his consent? They could sacrifice a
dozen girls for all he cares, and he would not have stood in the way.
But now they have dishonoured him, and he will forbid the sacrifice. . . ."
Clytemnestra, who has watched like a drowning woman to see which way
the youth's fierce vanity would leap, throws herself at his feet in
gratitude; "Shall her daughter, also, come and embrace his knees?" No;
Achilles does not want any woman to kneel to him. Let the women try to
change Agamemnon's mind; if they can do it, all is well. If not,
Achilles will fight to the last to save the girl.

There follows the inevitable scene in which mother and daughter--the
latter inarticulate with tears--convict the father and appeal to him. A
fine scene it is, in which each character comes out clear, and through
the still young and obedient Clytemnestra one descries the shadow of
the great murderess to be. Agamemnon is broken but helpless. It is too
late to go back.

The two women are left weeping at the door of the tent, when they hear a
sound of tumult. It is Achilles, and men behind stoning him. Iphigenîa's
first thought is to fly; she dare not look Achilles in the face. Yet she
stays. Achilles enters. The whole truth has come out; the army clamours
for the sacrifice and is furious against him. . . . "Will not his own
splendid Myrmidons protect him?"--"It is they who were the first to
stone him! Nevertheless he will fight. He has his arms. Clytemnestra
must fight too; cling to her daughter by main force when they come, as
they presently will, to drag her to the altar. . . ." "Stay!" says
Iphigenîa: "Achilles must not die for her sake. What is her miserable
life compared with his? One man who can fight for Hellas is worth ten
thousand women, who can do nothing. Besides, she has been thinking it
over; she has seen the great gathered army, ready to fight and die for a
cause, and, like the Chorus, has fallen under the spell of it. She
realizes that it lies with her, a weak girl, to help them to victory.
All great Hellas is looking to her; and she is proud and glad to give
her life for Hellas."--It is a beautiful and simple speech. And the
pride of Achilles withers up before it. In a new tone he answers: "God
would indeed have made him blessed if he had won her for his wife. As it
is, Iphigenîa is right. . . ." Yet he offers still to fight for her and
save her. She does not know what death is; and he loves her.--She
answers that her mind is made up. "Do not die for me, but leave me to
save Hellas, if I can." Achilles yields. Still he will go and stand
beside the altar, armed; if at the last moment she calls to him, he is
ready. So he goes. The mother and daughter bid one another a last
farewell, and with a song of triumph Iphigenîa, escorted by her maidens,
goes forth to meet the slaughterers. . . . Here the authentic part of
our play begins to give out. There are fragments of a messenger's speech
afterwards, and it is likely on the whole that Artemis saved the victim,
as is assumed in the other _Iphigenîa_ play.

The _Iphigenîa in Aulis_, in spite of its good plot, is not really one
of Euripides' finest works; yet, if nothing else of his were preserved,
it would be enough to mark him out as a tremendous power in the
development of Greek literature. Readers who enjoy drama but have never
quite accustomed themselves to the stately conventions of fifth century
tragedy very often like it better than any other Greek play. It is
curiously different from its twin sister the _Bacchae_.

A reader of the _Bacchae_ who looks back at the ritual sequence
described above (p. 64) will be startled to find how close this drama,
apparently so wild and imaginative, has kept to the ancient rite. The
regular year-sequence is just clothed in sufficient myth to make it a
story. The daemon must have his enemy who is like himself; then we must
have the Contest, the Tearing Asunder, the Messenger, the Lamentation
mixed with Joy-cries, the Discovery of the scattered members--and by a
sort of doubling the Discovery of the true God--and the Epiphany of the
Daemon in glory. All are there in the _Bacchae_. The god Dionysus,
accompanied by his Wild Women, comes to his own land and is rejected by
his kinsman, King Pentheus, and by the women of the royal house. The god
sends his divine madness on the women. The wise Elders of the tribe warn
the king; but Pentheus first binds and imprisons the god; then yielding
gradually to the divine power, agrees to go disguised in woman's garb to
watch the secret worship of the Maenads on Mt. Kithairon. He goes, is
discovered by the Maenads and torn in fragments. His mother, Agave,
returns in triumph dancing with her son's head, which, in her madness,
she takes for a lion's. There is Lamentation mixed with mad Rejoicing.
The scattered body is recovered; Agave is restored to her right mind and
to misery; the god appears in majesty and pronounces doom on all who
have rejected him. The mortals go forth to their dooms, still faithful,
still loving one another. The ghastly and triumphant god ascends into
heaven. The whole scheme of the play is given by the ancient ritual. It
is the original subject of Attic tragedy treated once more, as doubtless
it had already been treated by all or almost all the other tragedians.

But we can go further. We have enough fragments and quotations from the
Aeschylean plays on this subject--especially the Lycurgus trilogy--to
see that all kinds of small details which seemed like invention, and
rather fantastic invention, on the part of Euripides, are taken straight
from Aeschylus or the ritual or both. The timbrels, the fawnskin, the
ivy, the sacred pine, the god taking the forms of Bull and Lion and
Snake; the dances on the mountain at dawn; the Old Men who are by the
power of the god made young again; the god represented as beardless and
like a woman; the god imprisoned and escaping; the earthquake that
wrecks Pentheus' palace; the victim Pentheus disguised as a woman; all
these and more can be shown to be in the ritual and nearly all are in
the extant fragments of Aeschylus. Even variants of the story which have
been used by previous poets have somehow a place found for them. There
was, for instance, a variant which made Pentheus lead an army against
the Wild Women; in the _Bacchae_ this plan is not used, but Pentheus is
made to think of it and say he will perhaps follow it, and Dionysus is
made to say what will happen if he does. (_Aesch. Eum._ 25 f.; _Bac._ 50
ff. 809, 845.) There never was a great play so steeped in tradition as
the _Bacchae_.

The _Iphigenîa_ was all invention, construction, brilliant psychology;
it was a play of new plot and new characters. The _Bacchae_ takes an old
fixed plot, and fixed formal characters: Dionysus, Pentheus, Cadmus,
Teiresias, they are characters that hardly need proper names. One might
just as well call them--The God, the Young King, the Old King, the
Prophet; and as for Agave, our MSS. do as a rule simply call her
"Woman." The _Iphigenîa_ is full of informalities, broken metres,
interruptions. Its Chorus hardly matters to the plot and has little to
sing. The _Bacchae_ is the most formal Greek play known to us; its
Chorus is its very soul and its lyric songs are as long as they are
magnificent. For the curious thing is that in this extreme of formality
and faithfulness to archaic tradition Euripides has found both his
greatest originality and his most perfect freedom.

He is re-telling an old story; but he is not merely doing that. In the
_Bacchae_ almost every reader feels that there is something more than a
story. There is a meaning, or there is at least a riddle. And we must
try in some degree to understand it. Now, in order to keep our heads
cool, it is first necessary to remember clearly two things. The
_Bacchae_ is not free invention; it is tradition. And it is not free
personal expression, it is drama. The poet cannot simply and without a
veil state his own views; he can only let his own personality shine
through the dim curtain in front of which his puppets act their
traditional parts and utter their appropriate sentiments. Thus it is
doubly elusive. And therein no doubt lay its charm to the poet. He had a
vehicle into which he could pour many of those "vaguer faiths and
aspirations which a man feels haunting him and calling to him, but which
he cannot state in plain language or uphold with a full acceptance of
responsibility." But our difficulties are even greater than this. The
personal meaning of a drama of this sort is not only elusive; it is
almost certain to be inconsistent with itself or at least incomplete.
For one only feels its presence strongly when in some way it clashes
with the smooth flow of the story.

Let us imagine a great free-minded modern poet--say Swinburne or Morris
or Victor Hugo, all of whom did such things--making for some local
anniversary a rhymed play in the style of the old Mysteries on some
legend of a mediaeval saint. The saint, let us suppose, is very meek and
is cruelly persecuted by a wicked emperor, whom he threatens with hell
fire; and at the end let us have the emperor in the midst of that fire
and the saint in glory saying, "What did I tell you?" And let us suppose
that the play in its course gives splendid opportunities for solemn
Latin hymns, such as Swinburne and Hugo delighted in. We should
probably have a result something like the _Bacchae_.

For one thing, in such a play one would not be troubled by little flaws
and anachronisms and inconsistencies. One would not be shocked to hear
St. Thomas speaking about Charlemagne, or to find the Mouth of Hell
situated in the same street as the emperor's lodging. Just so we need
not be shocked in the _Bacchae_ to find that, though the god is supposed
to be appearing for the first time in Thebes, his followers appeal to
"immemorial custom" as the chief ground for their worship (201, 331,
370: cf. _Aesch._ fr. 22?), nor to observe that the Chorus habitually
makes loud professions of faith under the very nose of the tyrant
without his ever attending to them (263 f., 328 f., 775 f.). Nor even
that the traditional earthquake which destroys the palace causes a good
deal of trouble in the thinking out. It had to be there; it was an
integral part of the story in Aeschylus (fr. 58), and in all probability
before him. One may suppose that the Greek stage carpenter was capable
of some symbolic crash which served its purpose. The language used is
carefully indefinite. It suggests that the whole palace is destroyed,
but leaves a spectator free, if he so chooses, to suppose that it is
only the actual prison of Dionysus, which is "off-stage" and unseen. In
any case the ruins are not allowed to litter the stage and, once over,
the earthquake is never noticed or mentioned again.

Again, such a play would involve a bewildering shift of sympathy, just
as the _Bacchae_ does. At first we should be all for the saint and
against the tyrant; the persecuted monks with their hymns of faith and
endurance would stir our souls. Then, when the tables were turned and
the oppressors were seen writhing in Hell, we should feel that, at their
worst, they did not quite deserve that: we should even begin to surmise
that perhaps, with all their faults, they were not really as horrible as
the saint himself, and reflect inwardly what a barbarous thing, after
all, this mediaeval religion was.

This bewildering shift of sympathy is common in Euripides. We have had
it before in such plays as the _Medea_ and _Hecuba_: oppression
generates revenge, and the revenge becomes more horrible than the
original oppression. In these plays the poet offers no solution. He
gives us only the bitterness of life and the unspoken "tears that are
in things." The first serious attempt at a solution comes in the
_Electra_ and _Orestes_.

In a Mystery-play such as we have imagined, re-told by a great modern
poet, the interest and meaning would hardly lie in the main plot. They
would lie in something which the poet himself contributed. We might, for
instance, find that he had poured all his soul into the Latin hymns, or
into the spectacle of the saint, alone and unterrified, defying all the
threats and all the temptations which the Emperor can bring to bear upon
him. There might thus be a glorification of that mystic rejection of the
world which lies at the heart of mediaeval monasticism, without the poet
for a moment committing himself to a belief in monasticism or an
acceptance of the Catholic Church.

We have in the _Bacchae_--it seems to me impossible to deny it--a
heartfelt glorification of "Dionysus." No doubt it is Dionysus in some
private sense of the poet's own; something opposed to "the world"; some
spirit of the wild woods and the sunrise, of inspiration and
untrammelled life. The presentation is not consistent, however magical
the poetry. At one moment we have the Bacchantes raving for revenge, at
the next they are uttering the dreams of some gentle and musing
philosopher. A deliberate contrast seems to be made in each Chorus
between the strophe and the antistrophe. It is not consistent; though it
is likely enough that, if one had taxed Euripides with the
contradiction, he might have had some answer that would surprise us. His
first defence, of course, would be a simple one; it is not the
playwright's business to have any views at all; he is only re-telling a
traditional story and trying to tell it right. But he might also venture
outside his defences and answer more frankly: "This spirit that I call
Dionysus, this magic of inspiration and joy, is it not as a matter of
fact the great wrecker of men's lives? While life seems a decent grey to
you all over, you are safe and likely to be prosperous; when you feel
the heavens opening, you may begin to tremble. For the vision you see
there, as it is the most beautiful of things, is likely also to be the
most destructive." For the poet himself, indeed, the only course is to
pursue it across the world to the cold mountain tops (410 ff.):

  For there is Grace, and there is the Heart's Desire,
  And peace to adore Thee, Thou spirit of guiding fire!

He will clasp it even though it slay him.

The old critics used to assume that the _Bacchae_ marked a sort of
repentance. The veteran free-lance of thought, the man who had
consistently denounced and ridiculed all the foul old stories of
mythology, now saw the error of his ways and was returning to orthodoxy.
Such a view strikes us now as almost childish in its incompetence. Yet
there is, I think, a gleam of muddled truth somewhere behind it. There
was no repentance; there was no return to orthodoxy; nor indeed was
there, in the strict sense, any such thing as "orthodoxy" to return to.
For Greek religion had no creeds. But there is, I think, a rather
different attitude towards the pieties of the common man.

It is well to remember that, for all his lucidity of language, Euripides
is not lucid about religion. His general spirit is clear: it is a spirit
of liberation, of moral revolt, of much denial; but it is also a spirit
of search and wonder and surmise. He was not in any sense a "mere"
rationalist. We find in his plays the rule of divine justice often
asserted, sometimes passionately denied; and one tragedy, the
_Bellerophontes_, is based on the denial. It is in a fragment of this
play that we have the outcry of some sufferer:

    Doth any feign there is a God in heaven?
    There is none, none!

And afterwards the hero, staggered by the injustice of things, questions
Zeus himself and is, for answer, blasted by the thunderbolt. A clearer
form of this same question, and one which vexed the age a good deal, was
to ask whether or no the world is governed by some great Intelligence or
Understanding ("_Sunesis_"), or, more crudely, whether the gods are
"_sunetoi_." Euripides at times "hath deep in his hope a belief in some
Understanding," and is represented in the _Frogs_ as actually praying to
it by that name; but he sometimes finds the facts against him
(_Hippolytus_, 1105; _Frogs_, 893; _Iph. Aul._, 394_a_; _Her._, 655;
_Tro._, 884 ff., compared with the sequel of the play). The question
between polytheism and monotheism, which has loomed so large to some
minds, never troubled him. He uses the singular and plural quite
indifferently, and probably his "gods," when used as identical with
"God" or "the Divine," would hardly even suggest to him the gods of
mythology. If one is to venture a conjecture, his own feeling may,
perhaps, be expressed by a line in the _Orestes_ (418):

    We are slaves of gods, whatever gods may be.

That is, there are unknown forces which shape or destroy man's life, and
which may be conceived as in some sense personal. But morally, it would
seem, these forces are not better, but less good, than man, who at least
loves and pities and tries to understand. Such is the impression, I
think, left on readers of the _Bacchae_, the _Hippolytus_ or the _Trojan

But there is one thought which often recurs in Euripides in plays of all
periods, and is specially thrown in his teeth by Aristophanes. That
satirist, when piling up Euripides' theatrical iniquities, takes as his
comic climax "women who say Life is not Life." The reference is to
passages like fr. 833, from the _Phrixus_:

      Who knoweth if the thing that we call death
      Be Life, and our Life dying--who knoweth?
      Save only that all we beneath the sun
      Are sick and suffering, and those foregone
      Not sick, nor touched with evil any more.

(_Cf._ fr. 638, 816; also _Helena_, 1013; _Frogs_, 1082, 1477). The idea
recurs again and again, as also does the thought that death is "some
other shape of life" in the _Medea_ and even in the _Ion_ (_Med._, 1039;
_Ion_, 1068). Nay, more, death may be the state that we unconsciously
long for, and that really fulfils our inmost desires: "There is no rest
on this earth," says a speaker in the _Hippolytus_ (191 f.),

        "And whatever far-off state there be,
        Dearer than Life to mortality,
        The hand of the Dark hath hold thereof
        And mist is under and mist above:

and thus," she continues, "we cling to this strange thing that shines in
the sunlight, and are sick with love for it, because we have not seen
beyond the veil." A stirring thought this, and much nearer to the heart
of mysticism than any mere assertion of human immortality. Thus it is
not from any position like what we should call "dogmatic atheism" or
"scientific materialism" that the child of the Sophists started his
attacks on the current mythology. The Sophists themselves had no

Euripides was always a rejecter of the Laws of the Herd. He was in
protest against its moral standards, its superstitions and follies, its
social injustices; in protest also against its worldliness and its
indifference to those things which, both as a poet and a philosopher, he
felt to be highest. And such he remained throughout his life. But in his
later years the direction of his protest did, I think, somewhat change.
In the Athens of Melos and the Sicilian expedition there was something
that roused his aversion far more than did the mere ignorance of a
stupid Greek farmer. It was a deeper "_amathia_," a more unteachable
brutality. The men who spoke in the Melian Dialogue were full of what
they considered "Sophia." It is likely enough that they conformed
carefully to the popular religious prejudices--such politicians always
do: but in practice they thought as little of "the gods" as the most
pronounced sceptic could wish. They had quite rejected such unprofitable
ideals as "pity and charm of words and the generosity of strength," to
which the simple man of the old times had always had the door of his
heart open. They were haunters of the market-place, mockers at all
simplicity, close pursuers of gain and revenge; rejecters, the poet
might feel in his bitterness, both of beauty and of God. And the Herd,
as represented by Athens, followed them. Like other ideal democrats he
turned away from the actual Demos, which surrounded him and howled him
down, to a Demos of his imagination, pure and uncorrupted, in which the
heart of the natural man should speak. His later plays break out more
than once into praises of the unspoiled countryman, neither rich nor
poor, who works with his own arm and whose home is "the solemn mountain"
not the city streets (_cf._ especially _Orestes_, 917-922, as contrasted
with 903 ff.; also the Peasant in the _Electra_; also _Bac._, 717). In
the _Bacchae_ we have not only several denunciations--not at all
relevant to the main plot--of those whom the world calls "wise"; we have
the wonderful chorus about the fawn escaped from the hunters, rejoicing
in the green and lonely places where no pursuing voice is heard and the
"little things of the woodland" live unseen. (866 ff.) That is the
poetry of this emotion. The prose of it comes in a sudden cry:

    The simple nameless herd of humanity
    Have deeds and faith that are truth enough for me;

though even that prose has followed immediately on the more mystical
doctrine that man must love the Day and the Night, and that Dionysus has
poured the mystic Wine that is Himself for all things that live
(421-431, 284). In another passage, which I translate literally, he
seems to make his exact position more clear: "As for Knowledge, I bear
her no grudge; I take joy in the pursuit of her. But the other things"
(_i.e._, the other elements of existence) "are great and shining. Oh,
for Life to flow towards that which is beautiful, till man through both
light and darkness should be at peace and reverent, and, casting from
him Laws that are outside Justice, give glory to the gods!"[2]

Those "Laws which are outside Justice" would make trouble enough between
Euripides and the "simple herd" if ever they reached the point of
discussing them. He who most loves the ideal Natural Man seldom agrees
with the majority of his neighbours. But for the meantime the poet is
wrapped up in another war, in which he and religion and nature and the
life of the simple man seem to be standing on one side against a
universal enemy.

I am not attempting to expound the whole meaning of the _Bacchae_. I am
only suggesting a clue by which to follow it. Like a live thing it seems
to move and show new faces every time that, with imagination fully
working, one reads the play. There were many factors at work,
doubtless, to produce the _Bacchae_: the peculiar state of Athens, the
poet's ecstasy of escape from an intolerable atmosphere, the simple
Homeric life in Macedonian forests and mountains, and perhaps even the
sight of real Bacchantes dancing there. But it may be that the chief
factor is simply this. When a man is fairly confronted with death and is
consciously doing his last work in the world, the chances are that, if
his brain is clear and unterrified, the deepest part of his nature will
assert itself. Euripides was both a reasoner and a poet. The two sides
of his nature sometimes clashed and sometimes blended. But ever since
the _Heracles_ he had known which service he really lived for; and in
his last work it is the poet who speaks, and reveals, so far as such a
thing can be revealed, the secret religion of poetry.

[Footnote 2: In my verse translation I took a slightly different
reading, being then misinformed about the MS., but the general sense is
the same. ("Knowledge, we are not foes," etc.)]



Euripides was so much besides a poet that we sometimes tend to regard
him exclusively as a great thinker or a great personality and forget
that it is in his poetry that he lives. A biography like that which we
have attempted to sketch is of little value except as a kind of clue to
guide a reader through the paths of the poet's own work. It is only by
reading his plays that we can know him; and unfortunately, owing to the
two thousand odd years that have passed since his death, we must needs
approach them through some distorting medium. We read them either in a
foreign language, as a rule most imperfectly understood, or else in a
translation. It is hard to say by which method a reader who is not a
quite good Greek scholar will miss most. A further difficulty occurs
about the translations. I need not perhaps apologize for assuming
normally in the present volume the use of my own. There has been lately,
since the work of Verrall in England and Wilamowitz in Germany, a far
more successful effort made to understand the mind of Euripides, while
the recent performances of his plays in London and elsewhere have
considerably increased our insight into his stagecraft. Consequently we
can now see that the older translations, even when verbally defensible
and even skilful, are often seriously inadequate or misleading. A
comparison of Dr. Verrall's English version of the _Ion_ with
practically any of its predecessors will illustrate this point.

The greatest change that has come over our study of Greek civilization
and literature in the last two generations is this: that we now try to
approach it historically, as a thing that moves and grows and has its
place in the whole life-history of man. The old view, sometimes called
classicist, was to regard the great classical books as eternal models;
their style was simply the right style, and all the variations
observable in modern literature were, in one degree or another, so many
concessions to the weakness of human nature. There is in this view an
element of truth. The fundamental ideals which have produced results so
singularly and so permanently successful cannot be lightly disregarded.
Books that are still read with delight after two thousand years are
certainly, in some sense, models to imitate. But the great flaw in the
classicist view, as regards the ancient literature itself, was that it
concentrated attention on the external and accidental; on the mannerism,
not the meaning; on the temporary fashion of a great age, not on the
spirit which made that age great. A historical mind will always try, by
active and critical use of the imagination, to see the Greek poet or
philosopher in his real surroundings and against his proper background.
Seen thus he will appear, not as a stationary "ancient" contrasted with
a "modern," but as a moving and striving figure, a daring pioneer in the
advance of the human spirit, fore-doomed to failure because his aims
were so far greater than his material resources, his habit of mind so
far in advance of the world that surrounded him. We seem in ancient
Greece to be moving in a region that is next door to savagery, and in
the midst of it to have speech with men whom we might gladly accept as
our leaders or advisers if they lived now.

Meantime there are screens between us and these men; the screens of a
foreign language, a strange form of life, different conventions in art.
It is these last that we must now deal with, for we shall find it hard
ever to understand Greek tragedy if we expect from it exactly what we
expect from a modern or Elizabethan play.

One would have to make no such preface if we were dealing with the form
of Greek Drama that immediately succeeded the great age of Tragedy.
There arose in the fourth century, B.C., a kind of play that we could
understand at once, the so-called New Comedy of Menander and Philemon.
New Comedy is neither tragic nor comic, but, like our own plays, a
discreet mixture of both. It has no austere religious atmosphere. Its
interest--like ours--is in love and adventure and intrigue. It has
turned aside from legend and legendary Kings and Queens, and operates,
as we do, with a boldly invented plot and fictitious characters, drawn
mostly from everyday life. The New Comedy dominated the later Attic
stage and called into life the Roman. It was highly praised and
immensely popular. It was so easy in its flow and it demanded so little
effort. Yet, significantly enough, it has passed away without leaving a
single complete specimen of its work in existence. When after ages were
exerting themselves to save from antiquity just that minimum of most
precious things that must not be allowed to die, it was the greater and
more difficult form of drama that they preserved.

Let us try to see and to surmount the difficulties. Every form of art
has its conventions. Think, for instance, of the conventions of modern
Opera. Looked at in cold blood, from outside the illusion, few forms of
art could be more absurd, yet, I suppose, the emotional and artistic
effect of a great opera is extraordinarily high. The analogy may help us
in the understanding of Greek tragedy.

Let us remember that it is at heart a religious ritual. We shall then
understand--so far as it is necessary for a modern reader to think of
such things--the ceremonial dress, the religious masks, the constant
presence or nearness of the supernatural. We shall understand, perhaps,
also the formal dignity of language and action. It is verse and, like
all Greek verse, unrhymed; but it is not at all like the loose
go-as-you-please Elizabethan verse, which fluctuates from scene to scene
and makes up for its lack of strict form by extreme verbal
ornamentation. In Greek tragic dialogue the metrical form is stiff and
clear; hardly ever could a tragic line by any mistake be taken for
prose; the only normal variation is not towards prose but towards a
still more highly wrought musical lyric. Yet inside the stiff metrical
form the language is clear, simple and direct. A similar effect can, in
my opinion, only be attained in English by the use of rhyme. You must
somehow feel always that you are in the realm of verse, yet your
language must always be simple. In blank verse the language has to be
tortured a little, or it will read like prose.

Now all this sounds highly conventional; that it is. And artificial and
unreal? That it is not. We are apt at the present moment of taste to
associate together two things that have no real connexion with one
another--sincerity of thought and sloppiness of form. Take on the one
hand dramatic poems like Swinburne's _Locrine_, written all in rhymed
verse and partly in sonnets, or George Meredith's _Modern Love_, which
is all in a form of sonnet. These are works of the most highly-wrought
artistic convention; their form is both severe and elaborate; in that
lies half their beauty. But the other half lies in their sincerity and
delicacy of thought and their intensity of feeling. They are sincere but
not formless. Of the other extreme, which is formless without being
sincere, I need give no examples. The reader can think of the
worst-written novel he knows and it will probably satisfy the
conditions. In Greek tragedy we have the element of formal convention
extremely strong; we have also great subtlety and sincerity.

This quality of sincerity is, perhaps, the very first thing that should
be pointed out to a reader who is beginning Greek tragedy. Coming in the
midst of so much poetical convention it takes a modern reader by
surprise; he expected romantic idealism and he finds clear
character-drawing. I once read a critic who argued that Euripides had
low ideals of womanhood because, in the critic's carefully pondered
judgment, Medea was not a perfect wife. Even Coleridge complained that
the Greek tragedians could not make a heroine interesting without
"un-sexing her." Such criticisms imply a conception of drama in which
the women are conventionally seen through a roseate mist of amatory
emotion. We mean to be in love with the heroine, and in order that she
may be worthy of that honour the author must endow her with all the
adorable attributes. The men in such plays suffer much less from
beautification, but even they suffer. This spurious kind of romanticism
implies chiefly an indifference to truth in the realm of character; it
is generally accompanied by an indifference to truth in other respects.
It leads stage-writers to look out for the effect, not the truth; to
write with a view to exciting the audience instead of expressing
something which they have to express. It leads in fact to all the forms
of staginess. Now from Greek tragedy this kind of falseness is almost
entirely absent. "It has no utter villains, no insipidly angelic
heroines. Even its tyrants generally have some touch of human nature
about them; they have at least a case to state. Even its virgin martyrs
are not waxen images." The stories are no doubt often miraculous; the
characters themselves are often in their origin supernatural. But their
psychology is severely true. It is not the psychology of melodrama,
specially contrived to lead up to "situations." It is that of observed
human nature, and human nature not merely observed but approached with a
serious almost reverent sympathy and an unlimited desire to understand.
Mr. Bernard Shaw, in his _Quintessence of Ibsenism_ (1913), writes of a
new element brought into modern drama by the Norwegian school. "Ibsen
was grim enough in all conscience; no man has said more terrible things;
and yet there is not one of Ibsen's characters who is not, in the old
phrase, the temple of the Holy Ghost, and who does not move you at
moments by the sense of that mystery." Allowing for the great difference
of treatment and the comparative absence of detail in the ancient drama,
this phrase would, I think, be true of all the great Greek tragedians.
In Euripides it is clear enough. Jason, as well as Medea, Clytemnestra
as well as Electra, even satirized characters like Menelaus in the
_Trojan Women_ or Agamemnon in the _Iphigenîa in Aulis_, are creatures
of one blood with ourselves; they are beings who must be understood, who
cannot be thrust beyond the pale; and they all "move us at moments by
the sense of that mystery." But it holds in general for the other
tragedians too, for the creators of Creon and Antigone, of Prometheus
and Zeus. "What poet until quite modern times would have dared to make
an audience sympathize with Clytemnestra, the blood-stained adulteress,
as Aeschylus does? Who would have dared, like Sophocles, to make
Antigone speak cruelly to her devoted sister, or Electra, with all our
sympathies concentrated upon her, behave like a wild beast and be
disgusted with herself for so doing? (_Soph. Elec._ 616 ff.)."

But what we have now to realize is that this sincerity of treatment
takes place inside a shell of stiff and elaborate convention.

                     *       *       *       *       *

At the very beginning of a play by Euripides we shall find something
that seems deliberately calculated to offend us and destroy our
interest: a Prologue. It is a long speech with no action to speak of;
and it tells us not only the present situation of the characters--which
is rather dull--but also what is going to happen to them--which seems to
us to spoil the rest of the play. And the modern scholastic critic says
in his heart, "Euripides had no sense of the stage."

Now, since we know that he had a very great sense of the stage and
enormous experience also, let us try to see what value he found in this
strange prologue. First, no doubt it was a convenience. There were no
playbills to hand round, with lists of the _dramatis personae_. Also, a
Greek tragedy is always highly concentrated; it consists generally of
what would be the fifth act of a modern tragedy, and does not spend its
time on explanatory and introductory acts. The Prologue saved time here.
But why does it let out the secret of what is coming? Why does it spoil
the excitement beforehand? Because, we must answer, there is no secret,
and the poet does not aim at that sort of excitement. A certain amount
of plot-interest there certainly is: we are never told exactly what
thing will happen but only what sort of thing; or we are told what will
happen but not how it will happen. But the enjoyment which the poet aims
at is not the enjoyment of reading a detective story for the first time;
it is that of reading _Hamlet_ or _Paradise Lost_ for the second or
fifth or tenth. When Hippolytus or Oedipus first appears on the stage
you know that he is doomed; that knowledge gives an increased
significance to everything that he says or does; you see the shadow of
disaster closing in behind him, and when the catastrophe comes it comes
with the greater force because you were watching for it.

"At any rate," the modern reader may persist: "the prologue is rather
dull. It does not arrest the attention, like, for instance, the opening
scenes of _Macbeth_ or _Julius Caesar_ or _Romeo and Juliet_." No; it
does not. Shakespeare, one may suppose, had a somewhat noisy audience,
all talking among themselves and not disposed to listen till their
attention was captured by force. The Greek audience was, as far as we
can make out, sitting in a religious silence. A prayer had been offered
and incense burnt on the altar of Dionysus, and during such a ritual the
rule enjoined silence. It was not necessary for the Greek poet to
capture his audience by a scene of bustle or excitement. And this left
him free to do two things, both eminently characteristic of Greek art.
He could make his atmosphere and he could build up his drama from the

Let us take the question of building first. If you study a number of
modern plays, you will probably find that their main "effects" are
produced in very different places, though especially of course at the
fall of each curtain. A good Greek play moves almost always in a curve
of steadily increasing tension--increasing up to the last scene but one
and then, as a rule, sinking into a note of solemn calm. It often admits
a quiet scene about the middle to let the play take breath; but it is
very chary indeed of lifting and then dropping again, and never does so
without definite reason. In pursuance of this plan, Euripides likes to
have his opening as low-toned, as still, as slow in movement, as he can
make it: its only tension is a feeling of foreboding or of mystery. It
is meant as a foundation to build upon, and every scene that follows
will be higher, swifter, more intense. A rush of excitement at the
opening would jar, so to speak, the whole musical scheme.

And this quiet opening is especially used to produce the right state of
mind in the audience--or, as our modern phrase puts it, to give the play
its atmosphere. Take almost any opening: the _Suppliant Women_, with its
band of desolate mothers kneeling at an altar and holding the Queen
prisoner while she speaks: the _Andromache_, the _Heracles_, the
_Children of Heracles_ almost the same--an altar and helpless people
kneeling at it--kneeling and waiting: the _Trojan Women_ with its
dim-seen angry gods; the _Hecuba_ with its ruined city walls and
desolate plain and the ghost of the murdered Polydorus brooding over
them; the _Hippolytus_ with its sinister goddess, potent and inexorable,
who vanishes at the note of the hunting horn but is felt in the
background throughout the whole play; the _Iphigenîa_, with its solitary
and exiled priestess waiting at the doors of her strange temple of
death. Most of the prologues have about them something supernatural; all
of them something mysterious; and all of them are scenes of waiting, not
acting--waiting till the atmosphere can slowly gain its full hold.
Regarded from this point of view I think that every opening scene in
Greek tragedy will be seen to have its significance and its value in the
whole scheme of the play. Certainly the prologue generally justifies
itself in the acting.

                     *       *       *       *       *

And when the prologue is over and the action begins, we need not expect
even then any rapid stir or bustle. Dr. Johnson has told us that a man
who should read Richardson for the story might as well hang himself; the
same fate might overtake one who sate at Greek tragedies expecting them
to hurry at his bidding. The swift rush will come, sure enough, swift
and wild with almost intolerable passion; but it will not come anywhere
near the first scenes. We shall have a dialogue in longish speeches,
each more or less balanced against its fellow, beautiful no doubt and
perhaps moving, but slow as music is slow. Or we shall have a lyrical
scene, strophe exactly balanced against antistrophe, more beautiful but
slower still in its movement, and often at first hearing a little
difficult to follow. Poetry is there and drama is there, and character
and plot interest; but often they are unrolled before you not as things
immediately happening, but as things to feel and reflect upon. It is a
bigger world than ours and every movement in it is slower and larger.

And when the poet wants to show us the heroine's state of mind his
method will be quite different from ours. We should rack our brains to
compose a "natural" dialogue in which her state of mind would appear, or
we should make her best friend explain what she is like, or we should
invent small incidents to throw light upon her. And our language would
all the time be carefully naturalistic; not a bit--or, if the poet
within us rebels, hardly a bit--more dignified than the average diction
of afternoon tea. The ancient poet has no artifice at all. His heroine
simply walks forward and explains her own feelings. But she will come at
some moment that seems just the right one; she will come to us through
a cloud, as it were, of musical emotion from the Chorus, and her words
when she speaks will be frankly the language of poetry. They will be
none the less sincere or exact for that.

When Phaedra in the _Hippolytus_ has resolved to die rather than show
her love, much less attempt to satisfy it, and yet has been so weakened
by her long struggle that she will not be able to resist much longer,
she explains herself to the Chorus in a long speech:

      O Women, dwellers in this portal seat
      Of Pelops' land, looking towards my Crete,
      How oft, in other days than these, have I
      Through night's long hours thought of man's misery
      And how this life is wrecked! And, to mine eyes,
      Not in man's knowledge, not in wisdom, lies
      The lack that makes for sorrow. Nay, we scan
      And know the right--for wit hath many a man--
      But will not to the last end strive and serve.
      For some grow too soon weary, and some swerve
      To other paths, setting before the right
      The diverse far-off image of Delight,
      And many are delights beneath the sun. . . .

It is not the language that any real woman ever spoke, and it is not
meant to be. But it is exactly the thought which this woman may have
thought and felt, transmuted into a special kind of high poetry. And the
women of the Chorus who are listening to it are like no kind of concrete
earthly listeners; they are the sort of listeners that are suited to
thoughts rather than words, and their own answer at the end comes not
like a real comment but like a note of music. When she finishes,
defending her resolve to die rather than sin:

              O'er all this earth
      To every false man that hour comes apace
      When Time holds up a mirror to his face,
      And marvelling, girl-like, there he stares to see
      How foul his heart.--Be it not so with me!

They answer:

      Ah, God, how sweet is virtue and how wise,
      And honour its due meed in all men's eyes!

"A commonplace?" "A not very original remark?" There is no need for any
original remark; what is needed is a note of harmony in words and
thought, and that is what we are given.

                     *       *       *       *       *

At a later stage in the play we shall come on another fixed element in
the tragedy, the Messenger's Speech. It was probably in the ritual. It
was expected in the play. And it was--and is still on the
stage--immensely dramatic and effective. Modern writers like Mr.
Masefield and Mr. Wilfred Blunt have seen what use can be made of a
Messenger's speech. Now for the understanding of the speech itself,
what is needed is to read it several times, to mark out exactly the
stages of story told, and the gradual rising of emotion and excitement
up to the highest point, which is, as usual, near the end but not at the
end. The end sinks back to something like calm. It would take too long
to analyse a particular Messenger's speech paragraph by paragraph, and
the printed page cannot, of course, illustrate the constant varieties of
tension, of pace and of emphasis that are needed. But I find the
following notes for the guidance of an actor opposite the Messenger's
Speech in an old copy of my _Hippolytus_. Opposite the first lines
comes, "Quiet, slow, simple." Then "quicker." "Big" (at "O Zeus . . .
hated me.") Then "Drop tension: story." "Pause: more interest."
"Mystery." "Awe; rising excitement." "Excitement well controlled."
"Steady excitement; steady; swifter." "Up; excitement rising." "Up; but
still controlled." "Up; full steam; let it go." "Highest point." "Down
to quiet." "Mystery." "Pause." "End steady: with emotion." These notes
have, of course, no authority: as they stand they are due partly to my
own conjecture, partly to observation of a remarkable performance. But
they have this interest about them. They grow out of the essential
nature of the speech and probably would, in their general tenour, be
accepted by most students; and further, some very similar scheme would
suit not only almost every Messenger's Speech, but also, with the
necessary modifications, almost every Greek tragedy as a whole. The
quiet beginning, the constant rise of tension through various moods and
various changes of tone up to a climax; the carefully arranged drop from
the climax to the steady close, without bathos and without any wrecking
of the continuity.

But there is another point about Messengers that can be more easily
illustrated. Their entrance in Euripides is nearly always carefully
prepared. The point is of cardinal importance and needs some
explanation. In mere literature it is the words that matter; in dramatic
literature it is partly the words, and partly the situation in which
they are uttered. A Messenger's Speech ought not only to be a good story
in itself, but it ought to be so prepared and led up to that before the
speaker begins we are longing to hear what he has to say. An instance of
a Messenger's speech with no preparation is in Sophocles' _Oedipus, The
King_ (I do not at all suggest that preparation is needed; very likely
the situation itself is enough.) Oedipus has rushed into the house in a
fury of despair, and the Messenger simply walks out of the house crying

    O ye above this land in honour old
    Exalted, what a tale shall ye be told,
    What sights shall see and tears of horror shed. . . .

Contrast with this the preparation in the _Hippolytus_ (1153 ff.).
Hippolytus, cursed, and of course wrongfully cursed, by his father,
Theseus, has gone forth to exile. His friends and the women of the
Chorus have been grieving for him: Theseus has refused to listen to any
plea. Then

              LEADER OF THE CHORUS

  Look yonder! . . . Surely from the Prince 'tis one
  That cometh, full of haste and woe-begone.

We are all watching; a man in great haste enters. Observe what he says.


      Ye women, whither shall I go to seek
      King Theseus? Is he in this dwelling? Speak!

Our suspense deepens. The Leader evidently has hesitated in her answer;
she wants to ask a question. . . . But at this moment the door opens and
she falls back:


      Lo, where he cometh through the Castle Gate.

Through the gate comes Theseus, wrapped in gloom, evidently trying still
to forget Hippolytus. The Henchman crosses his path.


     O King, I bear thee tidings of dire weight
     To thee, yea, and to every man, I ween,
     From Athens to the marches of Trozên.

Will Theseus guess? Will he see that this is one of his son's servants?
At any rate he shows no sign of so doing.


    What? Some new stroke hath touched, unknown to me
    The sister cities of my sovranty?


  Hippolytus is. . . .  Nay, not dead; but stark
  Outstretched, a hairsbreadth this side of the dark.

The forbidden name is spoken; there is evidently a moment of shock, but
how will Theseus take the news? Will he soften?

               THESEUS (_as though unmoved_)

    How slain? Was there some other man, whose wife
    He had like mine defiled, who sought his life?

Stung by the taunt the Henchman answers boldly.


  His own wild team destroyed him, and the dire
  Curse of thy lips. . . . The boon of the great Sire
  Is granted thee, O King, and thy son slain.

Will Theseus turn in fury on the speaker? Or will he even now soften?


    Ye Gods! . . . And thou, Poseidon, not in vain
    I called thee Father. Thou hast heard my prayer.

The shock is heavy but he recovers his calm, and with it comes the
horrible conviction that his curse was just and the gods have struck
dead a guilty man.

  How did he die? Speak on. How closed the snare
  Of Heaven to slay the shamer of my blood?

Then the Messenger begins his story.

Such preparations are regular in Euripides. In the _Electra_, Orestes
has gone forth to find King Aegisthus, and if possible slay him. Electra
is waiting in her hut, a drawn sword across her knees, sworn to die if
Orestes fails. How is the Messenger brought on? First the Leader of the
Chorus thinks she hears a noise in the distance; she is not sure. . . .
Yes; a noise of fighting! She calls Electra, who comes, the sword in her
hand. The noise increases; a cry; cheering. Something has happened, but
what? The cheers sound like Argive voices; "Aegisthus's men!" cries
Electra; "then let me die!" The Chorus restrain her. "There is no
Messenger; Orestes would have sent a Messenger." "Wait, wait!" cries the
Leader, holding her arm: and a man rushes in, shouting, "Victory!
Orestes has slain Aegisthus, and we are free" (747-773).

That seems enough, but even now Euripides has not extracted his full
effect from the situation. Electra, steeped to the lips in fears and
suspicions, recoils from the man. "Who are you? . . . It is a plot!" She
must get the sword. . . . The Man bids her look at him again; he is her
brother's servant; she saw him with Orestes an hour ago. She looks,
remembers, and throws her arms round the man's neck. "Tell me again.
Tell me all that happened." And so the Messenger begins.

                     *       *       *       *       *

This art of preparation belongs, of course, to the modern stage as much
as to the ancient, or more. So do the similar arts of making the right
juncture between scenes, of arranging the contrasts and clashes, and
especially of so ending each scene as to make the spectator look eagerly
for the next move. He must be given just enough notion of the future to
whet his appetite; not enough to satisfy it. These are general rules
that apply to all good drama. They can all be studied in Mr. Archer's
book, _Play-Making: A Manual of Craftsmanship_. In ancient times they
were more developed by Euripides than by his predecessors, but that is
all we need say.

                     *       *       *       *       *

Prologue; Set Speech; Messenger; there still remain two stumbling-blocks
to a modern reader of Greek tragedies, the _Deus ex Mâchinâ_, (or "God
from the Machine") and the Chorus.

About the appearance of the god we need say little. We have seen above
that an epiphany of some Divine Being or a Resurrection of some dead
Hero seems to have been an integral part of the old ritual and thus has
its natural place in tragedy. His special duty is to bring the action to
a quiet close and to ordain the ritual on which the tragedy is
based--thus making the performance itself a fulfilment of the god's
command (see above p. 66). The actual history of this epiphany is
curious. As far as our defective evidence allows us to draw conclusions
we can make out that Aeschylus habitually used a divine epiphany, but
that he generally kept it for the last play of a trilogy; that he often
had a whole galaxy of gods, and that, with some exceptions, his gods
walked the floor of earth with the other actors. (The evidence for this
is given in Miss Harrison's _Themis_, pp. 347 ff.) Sophocles, moving
towards a more "natural" and less ritual tragedy, used the divine
epiphany comparatively little. Euripides, somewhat curiously for one so
hostile to the current mythology, intensified this ritual element in
drama as he did all the others. And he used it more and more as he grew
older. He evidently liked it for its own sake.

There is one view about the _Deus ex Mâchinâ_ which needs a word of
correction. It is widely entertained and comes chiefly from Horace's
_Ars Poetica_. It takes the _Deus_ as a device--and a very unskilful
one--for somehow finishing a story that has got into a hopeless tangle.
The poet is supposed to have piled up ingenious complications and
troubles until he cannot see any way out and has to cut the knot by the
intervention of something miraculous--in this case, of a machine-made
god. Now devices of this sort--the sudden appearance of rich uncles, the
discovery of new wills, or of infants changed at birth and the like--are
more or less common weaknesses in romantic literature. Hence it was
natural that Horace's view about Euripides's god should be uncritically
accepted. But as a matter of fact it is a mere mistake. It never in any
single case holds good--not even in the _Orestes_. And there are some
plays, like the _Iphigenîa in Tauris_, in which, so far from the god
coming to clear up a tangled plot, the plot has to be diverted at the
last moment so as to provide an excuse for the god's arrival. Euripides
evidently liked a supernatural ending, and when he had to do without a
real god--as in the _Medea_ and the _Hecuba_--he was apt to end with
winged chariots and prophecies. Can we in the least understand what he
gained by it?

We must remember one or two things. The epiphany was in the ritual. It
was no new invention in itself; the only new thing, apparently, was an
improved piece of stage machinery enabling the god to appear more
effectively. Further, if we try to put ourselves into the minds of fifth
century Greeks, there was probably nothing absurd, nothing even
unlikely, in supposing the visible appearance of a god in such an
atmosphere as that of tragedy. The heroes and heroines of tragedy were
themselves almost divine; they were all figures in the great heroic saga
and almost all of them--the evidence is clear--received actual worship.
If Orestes or Agamemnon is present on the stage, it is not surprising
that Apollo should appear to them. It is, I think, chiefly due to the
mistake of over-emphasizing the realism of Euripides that recent
writers--myself at one time included--have been so much troubled over
these divine epiphanies.

I suspect, also, that we are troubled by a difference of convention
about the way in which supernatural beings ought to speak. We moderns
like them to be abrupt, thunderous, wrapped in mystery. We expect the
style of ancient Hebrew or Norse poetry. Probably a Greek would think
both barbaric. At any rate the Greek gods, both in Euripides and
elsewhere, affect a specially smooth and fluent and lucid utterance.

And apart from the artistic convention there is a historical
consideration which we must never forget, though we are constantly
tempted to do so. A well-educated Athenian of the fifth century before
Christ was, after all, not as securely lifted above what he called
"primaeval simplicity" as a similar man in Western Europe in the
eighteenth or nineteenth century after. He was just beginning, with
great daring and brilliance, to grasp at something like a philosophic
or scientific view of the world; but his hold was very precarious and
partial, and when it slipped he fell unsuspectingly into strange
abysses. A visible god in the theatre laid probably no more strain on
his credulity than, say, a prophetic dream on ours.

However, the above considerations are only pleas in mitigation of
sentence. They tend to show that the _Deus ex Mâchinâ_ was not in itself
ridiculous to the contemporaries of Euripides; we must go further and
try to see why he liked it. The best way is simply, with our antecedent
prejudices removed, to read and re-read some of the best epiphany
scenes; those, for instance, which close the _Electra_, the
_Hippolytus_, the _Rhesus_ or the _Andromache_. We have already seen in
the _Electra_ how the poet can use his gods for delivering his essential
moral judgment on the story; the condemnation of revenge, the pity for
mankind, the opening up of a larger atmosphere in which the horror
through which we have just passed falls into its due resting-place. In
the _Hippolytus_ the sheer beauty of the Artemis scene speaks for itself
and makes a marvellous ending. Notably it attains an effect which could
scarcely be reached in any other way, a strange poignant note amid the
beauty, where mortal emotion breaks against the cliffs of immortal calm.
After many words of tenderness Artemis finishes (1437 ff.):

  Farewell! I may not watch man's fleeting breath,
  Nor stain mine eyes with the effluence of death.
  And sure that terror now is very near. . . .
      (_The Goddess slowly rises and floats away._)


  Farewell! Farewell, most blessed! Lift thee clear
  Of soiling men. Thou wilt not grieve in heaven
  For our long love. . . . Father, thou art forgiven;
  It was Her will; I am not wroth with thee. . . .
  I have obeyed her all my days!

Of course the epiphany does not give what our jaded senses secretly
demand, a strong "curtain." It gives the antique peaceful close. The
concrete men and women whom we have seen before us, striving and
suffering, dissolve into the beautiful mist of legend; strife and
passion and sharp cries sink away into the telling of old fables; then
the fables themselves have their lines of consequence reaching out to
touch the present world and the thing that we are doing now; to make it
the fulfilment of an ancient command or prophecy, to give it a meaning
that we had never realized; and thus we are awakened to the concrete
theatre and the audience and the life about us not with a shock but
gradually, like one lying with his eyes half shut and thinking about a
dream that has just gone.

I do not for a moment say that the divine epiphany is the right, or even
the best, way of ending any tragedy; I only plead that if we use our
imaginations we can find in it a very rare beauty and can understand why
one of the greatest of the world's dramatists held to it so firmly.



And lastly there is the Chorus, at once the strangest and the most
beautiful of all these ancient and remote conventions. If we can
understand the Chorus we have got to the very heart of Greek tragedy.

The objections to the Chorus are plain to any infant. These dozen
homogeneous persons, old men or young women, eternally present and
almost never doing anything, intruded on action that often demands the
utmost privacy: their absurdity, on any plane of realism, is manifest.
We need waste no more words upon it. Verisimilitude is simply thrown to
the winds. That is, no doubt, a great sacrifice, and fine artists do not
as a rule incur a sacrifice without making sure of some compensating
gain. Let us try to find out what that gain was, or at least what the
great Greek artists were aiming at. And let us begin by forgetting the
modern stage altogether and thinking ourselves back to the very origins
of drama.

The word "chorus" means "dance" or "dancing-ground." There were such
dancing floors on Greek soil before ever the Greeks came there. They
have been found in prehistoric Crete and in the islands. We hear in
Homer of the "houses and dancing-grounds" of the Morning Star. The dance
was as old as mankind; only it was a kind of dance that we have almost
forgotten. The ancient dance was not, like our ballets, rooted in sexual
emotion. It was religious: it was a form of prayer. It consisted in the
use of the whole body, every limb and every muscle, to express somehow
that overflow of emotion for which a man has no words. And primitive man
had less command of words than we have. When the men were away on the
war-path, the women prayed for them with all their bodies. They danced
for the men's safe return. When the tribe's land was parching for lack
of rain the tribesmen danced for the rain to come. The dance did not
necessarily imply movement. It might consist in simply maintaining the
same rigid attitude, as when Moses held out his arms during the battle
with the Amalekites or Ahure in the Egyptian story waited kneeling and
fasting for Nefrekepta's return.

Now if we consider what kind of emotion will specially call for this
form of expression it is easy to see that it will be the sort that tends
quickly to get beyond words: religious emotions of all kinds, helpless
desire, ineffectual regret and all feelings about the past. When we
think of the kind of ritual from which tragedy emerged, the lament for a
dead god, we can see how well a dance was fitted, in primitive times, to
express the emotions that we call tragic.

This dance gradually grew into drama; how it did so is an old story.
Into the inarticulate mass of emotion and dumb show which is the Dance
there comes some more articulate element. There comes some one who
relates, or definitely enacts, the actual death or "pathos" of the hero,
while the Chorus goes on as before expressing emotion about it. This
emotion, it is easy to see, may be quite different from that felt by the
Hero. There is implied in the contemplation of any great deed this
ultimate emotion, which is not as a rule felt by the actual doers of it,
and is not, at its highest power, to be expressed by the ordinary
language of dialogue. The dramatist may make his characters express all
that they can properly feel; he may put into articulate dialogue all
that it will bear. But there still remains some residue which no one on
the stage can personally feel and which can only express itself as music
or yearning of the body. This residue finds its one instrument in the

Imagine the death of some modern hero, of Lincoln or of Nelson, treated
in the Greek form. We should have first a Messenger bringing news of the
battle of Trafalgar or the pistol-shot in the Washington Theatre. The
hero would be borne in dying; his friends would weep over him; we should
hear his last words. But there would always remain some essential
emotion or reflection--sadness, triumph, pathos, thoughts of the future
from which this man will be lacking or of the meaning of this death in
human history: neither Lincoln nor Nelson can express this, nor without
falsity any of their human companions. In a novel the author can express
it; in a modern play or a severely realistic novel it is generally not
expressed except by a significant silence or some symbol. For realistic
work demands extreme quickness in its audience, and can only make its
effect on imaginations already trained by romance and idealism. On the
Greek stage the Chorus will be there just for this purpose, to express
in music and movement this ultimate emotion and, as Mr. Haigh puts it,
to "shed a lyrical splendour over the whole." It will translate the
particular act into something universal. It will make a change in all
that it touches, increasing the elements of beauty and significance and
leaving out or reducing the element of crude pain. This is nothing
extraordinary: it is the normal business of poetry, at least of great
tragic poetry. An actual bereavement is an experience consisting of
almost nothing but crude pain; when it is translated into religion or
poetry, into "Rachel weeping for her children," or into "Break, break,
break," it has somehow become a thing of beauty and even of comfort.

The important thing to observe is what Mr. F. M. Cornford has explained
in his _Thucydides Mythistoricus_ (pp. 144 ff.), that a Greek tragedy
normally proceeds in two planes or two worlds. When the actors are on
the stage we are following the deeds and fates of so many particular
individuals, lovers, plotters, enemies, or whatever they are, at a
particular point of time and space. When the stage is empty and the
Choral Odes begin, we have no longer the particular acts and places and
persons but something universal and eternal. The body, as it were, is
gone and the essence remains. We have the greatness of love, the vanity
of revenge, the law of eternal retribution, or perhaps the eternal doubt
whether in any sense the world is governed by righteousness.

Thus the talk about improbability with which we started falls into its
proper insignificance. The Chorus in Euripides is frequently blamed by
modern scholars on the ground that "it does not further the action,"
that its presence is "improbable," or its odes "irrelevant." The answer
is that none of these things constitute the business of the Chorus; its
business is something considerably higher and more important.

Of action and relevancy we will speak later. They are both closely
connected with the question of verisimilitude. And as for
verisimilitude, we simply do not think of it. We are not imitating the
outside of life. We are expressing its soul, not depicting its body. And
if we did attempt verisimilitude we should find that in a Chorus it is
simply unattainable. In Nelson's case a Chorus of Sailors would be
every bit as improbable as a Chorus of Mermaids or Angels, and on the
whole rather more strikingly so. If we try to think of the most
effective Choruses in modern tragedies, I do not think we shall hit on
any bands of Strolling Players or Flower Girls or Church Choirs or other
Choruses that aim at "naturalness"; we shall probably go straight to the
Choruses of Spirits in _Prometheus Unbound_ or those of The Ages and The
Pities in Mr. Hardy's _Dynasts_. The Chorus belongs not to the plane of
ordinary experience, where people are real and act and make apposite
remarks, but to that higher world where in Mr. Cornford's words
"metaphor, as we call it, is the very stuff of life."

With very few exceptions, Greek Choruses are composed of beings who are
naturally the denizens or near neighbours of such a world. Sometimes
they are frankly supernatural, as in the _Eumenides_, or half
supernatural, as in the _Bacchae_; sometimes they are human beings seen
through the mist of a great emotion, like the weeping Rachels of the
_Suppliant Women_; the captives of the _Trojan Women_ or the
_Iphigenîa_; the old men who dream dreams in the _Heracles_. Even if
they start as common men or women, sooner or later they become

The problem of the Chorus to Euripides was not how to make it as little
objectionable as possible; it was how to get the greatest and highest
value out of it. And that resolves itself largely into the problem of
handling these two planes of action, using now the lower and now the
upper, now keeping them separate, now mingling them, and at times
letting one forcibly invade the other. I cannot here go into details of
the various effects obtained from the Chorus by Euripides; but I will
take a few typical ones, selecting in each case scenes that have been
loudly condemned by critics.

The first and most normal effect is to use the Chorus for "relief"; to
bring in, as it were, the ideal world to heal the wounds of the real. It
is not, of course, "comic relief," as indulged in so freely by the
Elizabethans. It is a transition from horror or pain to mere beauty or
music, with hardly any change of tension. I mean, that if the pain has
brought tears to your eyes, the beauty will be such as to keep them
there, while of course changing their character. It is this use of
lyrics that enables the Greek playwright to treat freely scenes of
horror and yet never lose the prevailing atmosphere of high beauty. Look
at the Salamis Chorus in the _Trojan Women_ immediately following the
child's death; the lyrics between Oedipus and the Chorus when he has
just entered with his bleeding eyes; or, in particular, the song sung by
the Chorus in _Hippolytus_ just after Phaedra has rushed off to kill
herself. We have had a scene of high tension and almost intolerable
pain, and the Chorus, left alone, make certainly no relevant remarks. I
can think of no relevant remark that would not be an absurd bathos. They
simply break out (732 ff.):

  Could I take me to some cavern for mine hiding,
    In the hill-tops, where the sun scarce hath trod,
  Or a cloud make the home of mine abiding,
    As a bird among the bird-droves of God. . . .

It is just the emotion that was in our own hearts; the cry for escape to
some place, however sad, that is still beautiful: to the poplar grove by
the Adriatic where his sisters weep for Phaethon; or, at last, as the
song continues and grows bolder, to some place that has happiness as
well as beauty; to that "strand of the Daughters of the Sunset,"

  Where a sound of living waters never ceaseth
    In God's quiet garden by the sea,
  And Earth, the ancient Life-giver, increaseth
    Joy among the meadows, like a tree.

And the wish for escape brings an actual escape, on some wind of beauty,
as it were, from the Chorus's own world. This is, on the whole, the most
normal use of the Choric odes, though occasionally they may also be used
for helping on the action. For instance, in the ode immediately
following that just quoted the Chorus gives a sort of prophetic or
clairvoyant description of Phaedra's suicide.

                     *       *       *       *       *

But the Greek Chorus does not only sing its great odes on an empty
stage; it also carries on, by the mouth of its Leader, a certain amount
of ordinary dialogue with the actors. Its work here is generally kept
unobtrusive, neutral and low-toned. When a traveller wants to ask his
way; when the hero or heroine announces some resolve, or gives some
direction, the Leader is there to make the necessary response. But only
within certain carefully guarded limits. The Leader must never become a
definite full-blooded character with strongly personal views. He must
never take really effective or violent action. He never, I think, gives
information which we do not already possess or expresses views which
could seem paradoxical or original. He is an echo, a sort of music in
the air. This comes out clearly in another fine scene of the
_Hippolytus_, where Phaedra is listening at the door and the Leader of
the Chorus listens with her, echoing and making more vibrant Phaedra's
own emotion (565-600).

At times, in these dialogue scenes, an effect is obtained by allowing
the Chorus to turn for a moment into ordinary flesh and blood. In the
_Iphigenîa in Tauris_ (1055 ff.) the safe escape of Iphigenîa and
Orestes depends on the secrecy of the Chorus of Greek captives.
Iphigenîa implores them to be silent, and, after a moment of hesitation,
because of the danger, they consent. Iphigenîa, with one word of radiant
gratitude, forgets all about them and leaves the stage to arrange things
with her brother. And the captives left alone watch a sea-bird winging
its way towards Argos, whither Iphigenîa is now going and they shall
never go, and break into a beautiful home-sick song. Similarly in the
splendid finale of Aeschylus' _Prometheus_ the Daughters of Ocean, who
have been mostly on the unearthly plane throughout the play, are
suddenly warned to stand aside and leave Prometheus before his doom
falls: in a rush of human passion they refuse to desert him and are
hurled with him into Hell.

At other times the effect is reached by emphasizing just the other side,
the unearthliness of the Chorus. In the _Heracles_, for instance, when
the tyrant Lycus is about to make some suppliants leave the protection
of an altar by burning them--a kind of atrocity which just avoided the
technical religious offence of violating sanctuary--the Chorus of old
men tries for a moment to raise its hand against the tyrant's soldiers.
It is like the figures of a dream trying to fight--"words and a
hidden-featured thing seen in a dream of the night," as the poet himself
says, trying to battle against flesh and blood; a helpless visionary
transient struggle which is beautiful for a moment but would be
grotesque if it lasted. Again, in the lost _Antiope_ there is a scene
where the tyrant is inveigled into a hut by murderers; he manages to
dash out and appeals to the Chorus of old men for help. But they are not
really old men; they are only ancient echoes or voices of Justice, who
speak his doom upon him, standing moveless while the slayers come.

These examples enable us to understand a still stronger effect of the
same kind which occurs in the _Medea_ and has, until very lately, been
utterly condemned and misunderstood. It is an effect rather reminding
one of the Greek fable of a human wrong so terrible that it shook the
very Sun out of his course. It is like the human cry in the _Electra_
(p. 157), which shook the eternal peace of the gods in heaven. There is
something delirious about it, an impossible invasion of the higher world
by the lower, a shattering of unapproachable bars.

Medea has gone to murder her children inside the house. The Chorus is
left chanting its own, and our, anguish outside. "Why do they not rush
in and save the children?" asked the critics. In the first place,
because that is not the kind of action that a Chorus can ever perform.
That needs flesh and blood. "Well," the critic continues, "if they
cannot act effectively, why does Euripides put them in a position in
which we instinctively clamour for effective action and they are absurd
if they do not act?" The answer to that is given in the play itself.
They do not rush in; there is no question of their rushing in: because
the door is barred. When Jason in the next scene tries to enter the
house he has to use soldiers with crowbars. The only action they can
possibly perform is the sort that specially belongs to the Chorus, the
action of baffled desire.

Medea is in the house; the Chorus is chanting its sublimated impersonal
emotion about the Love that has turned to Hate in Medea, and its dread
of things to come (1267 ff.):

  For fierce are the smitings back of blood once shed
    Where Love hath been: God's wrath upon them that kill,
  And an anguished Earth, and the wonder of the dead
              Haunting as music still. . . .

when a sudden cry is heard within. The song breaks short, and one woman

    Hark! Did ye hear? Heard ye the children's cry?


    O miserable woman! O abhorred!

          _Voice of a Child within._

      What shall I do? What is it? Keep me fast
    From Mother!

          _The Other Child._

          I know nothing. Brother! Oh,
    I think she means to kill us.

          _One of the Chorus._

                            Let me go!
      I will!--Help, help! And save them at the last!


    Yes, in God's name. Help quickly or we die!

          _The Other Child._

    She has almost caught me now: she has a sword.

One sees the Women of the Chorus listening for the Children's words;
then they break, as it were, from the spell of their own super-mortal
atmosphere, and fling themselves on the barred door. They beat in vain
against the bars and the Children's voices cry for help from the other

But the inrush of violent horror is only tolerated for a moment. Even in
the next words we are moving back to the realm of formal poetry:

          _Women Beating at the Door._

    Thou stone, thou thing of iron! Wilt verily
    Spill with thine hand that life, the vintage stored
      Of thine own agony?


      A woman slew her babes in days of yore,
      One, only one, from dawn to eventide. . . .

and in a moment we are away in a beautiful remote song about far-off
children who have been slain in legend. That death-cry is no longer a
shriek heard in the next room. It is the echo of many cries of children
from the beginning of the world, children who are now at peace and whose
ancient pain has become part mystery and part music. Memory--that Memory
who was mother of the Muses--has done her work upon it.

We see here the justification of the high formalism and convention of
Greek tragedy. It can touch without flinching any horror of tragic life,
without failing in sincerity and without marring its normal atmosphere
of beauty. It brings things under the great magic of something which is
hard to name, but which I have tried in these pages to indicate;
something that we can think of as eternity or the universal or perhaps
even as Memory. For Memory, used in this way, has a magical power. As
Mr. Bertrand Russell has finely put it in one of his _Essays_, "The Past
does not change or strive. Like Duncan in _Macbeth_ 'After life's fitful
fever it sleeps well.' What was eager and grasping, what was petty and
transitory, has faded away. The things that were beautiful and eternal
shine out like stars in the night."

This power of transfiguration belongs in varying degrees to all poetry,
but it belongs in special force to Greek Tragedy; and Greek Tragedy
attains it in part by all its high religious traditions and severities
of form, but most fully by means of its strangest convention, the
Chorus; the band of half-embodied emotions and memories, the lyric song
and the dance expressing things beyond speech. It is through this power
that tragedy attain its peculiar quality of encouragement and triumph.
We must not forget that Aristotle, a judge whose dicta should seldom be
dismissed without careful reflection, distinguishes tragedy from other
forms of drama not as the form that represents human misery but as that
which represents human goodness or nobleness. If his MSS. are to be
trusted he even goes so far as to say that tragedy is "the
representation of Eudaimonia," or the higher kind of happiness. Of
course he fully recognizes the place of death and disaster in it, and he
prefers the so-called "unhappy ending." The powers of evil and horror
must be granted their full scope; it is only thus that we can triumph
over them. Only when they have worked their uttermost will do we realize
that there remains something in man's soul which is forever beyond their
grasp and has power in its own right to make life beautiful. That is the
great revelation, or the great illusion, of tragedy.

It is achieved, apparently, by a combination of two extremes; in matter
a full facing of tragic facts, and in form a resolute transfiguration of
them by poetry. The weak artist shirks the truth by a feeble idealism;
the prosaic artist fails to transfigure it. Euripides seems to me to
have gone further than any other writer in the attempt to combine in one
unity these separate poles. In this lies, for good or evil, his unique
quality as a poet. To many readers it seems that his powers failed him;
his mixture of real life and supernatural atmosphere, of wakeful thought
and dreaming legend, remains a discord, a mere jar of overwrought
conventions and violent realism. To others it is because of this very
quality that he has earned the tremendous rank accorded him by Goethe,
and in a more limited sense by Aristotle, and still stands out, as he
stood over two thousand years ago, "even if faulty in various ways, at
any rate clearly the most tragic of the poets."


TEXTS.--Murray, 3 vols., 3s. 6d. each (Oxford, 1901-1913), with
    brief critical notes. This edition received much help from
    Wilamowitz and Verrall. _Wecklein-Prinz_ (Leipzig, about 1895 to
    1905), edited by Dr. Wecklein from Prinz's collations of MSS.;
    large critical apparatus and lists of emendations. Text much

FRAGMENTS.--_Fragmenta Tragicorum Graecorum_ by Nauck (Leipzig,
    second edition, 1889): this fine book still holds the field (26s.).
    _Supplementum Euripideum_ by H. von Arnim (Bonn, 1912). (Price 2s.)
    Contains the recent papyrus discoveries; a convenient and learned
    little book, defaced by metrical errors.

TEXTS WITH COMMENTARY.--Paley, 3 vols., 8s. each (Cambridge, second
    edition, 1880). Though old-fashioned and often based on wrong
    information about the MSS. and other matters this is a most sound
    and thoughtful work. Of the numerous modern editions (especially
    school editions) of particular plays we may mention _Euripides'
    Herakles_ erklärt von Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff (first
    edition, Berlin, 1889); since re-edited in two volumes. This is an
    epoch-making book, and together with the same author's _Analecta
    Euripidea_ (1875) has laid the foundation for modern criticism:
    also Verrall's Medea, Sandys' Bacchae, Keene's Electra, Powell's
    Phoenissae. In French, Weil's _Sept Tragédies d'Euripide_; in
    German Bruhn's editions of the Iphigenia in Tauris and the Bacchae
    deserve special note.

TRANSLATIONS.--There are complete translations of the extant plays
    in prose by Coleridge (Bohn) and in verse by A. Way (Macmillan). A
    good prose translation, which should really bring out the full
    meaning of the Greek, is greatly needed. By Murray there are at
    present translations of the following plays: Hippolytus, Bacchae,
    Trojan Women, Electra, Medea, Iphigenia in Tauris, Rhesus. In paper
    1s. each, in cloth 2s. (George Allen).

ESSAYS, ETC.--The best starting point is Haigh's _Tragic Drama of
    the Greeks_ (Oxford, 1896), pp. 204-321; Introduction to vol. i. of
    Paley's Commentary (see above); Articles in the Histories of Greek
    Literature by Mahaffy, Jebb (both Primer and article in
    Encyclopædia Britannica), Jevons, Murray. In French, the article in
    Croiset's _History of Literature_; P. Decharme, _Euripide et
    l'esprit de son Théâtre_ (Paris, 1893); P. Masqueray, _Euripide et
    ses Idées_ (Paris, 1908). In German, the "Einleitung" to
    Wilamowitz's _Herakles_, vol. i. (Berlin, 1889); Dieterich's
    article on Euripides in Pauly-Wissowa's _Real Encyclopädie_ is
    excellent, though severely compressed and ignorant of English work;
    articles in the Histories of Literature by Bergk (still valuable),
    Christ (in Ivan Müller's Handbuch), Bethe (in Gercke und Norden's
    Handbuch), Wilamowitz (in _Kultur der Gegenwart_); the account in
    Eduard Meyer's _Geschichte des Alterthums_, vol. iv., is good. Also
    Ed. Schwartz, _Charakterköpfe aus der Antiken Literatur_ (Leipzig,
    1906), second study, very good: H. Steiger, _Euripides, seine
    Dichtung und seine Persönlichkeit_ (Leipzig, 1912). Useful, though
    often uncritical, is W. Nestlé _Euripides, der Dichter der
    Griechischen Aufklärung_ (Stuttgart, 1901); also _Die
    Philosophische Quellen des Euripides_ (Leipzig, 1902). The ideas of
    "the Enlightenment," to which reference is often made, can be well
    studied in Mr. Brailsford's book in this Library, _Shelley, Godwin,
    and Their Circle_.

Dr. A. W. Verrall's theory of Euripides is developed in _Euripides the
Rationalist_ (Cambridge, 1905); _Euripides' Ion_ (1890); _Four Plays of
Euripides_ (1905); _The Bacchantes of Euripides_ (1910). See also G.
Norwood, _The Riddle of the Bacchae_ (London, 1908).

Murray's previous writings include the chapter in his _Ancient Greek
Literature_ (1898); introduction to vol. ii. of _The Athenian Drama_
(George Allen, 1902). (This volume is called "Euripides" and contains,
besides the translations of the Hippolytus, Bacchae and Frogs, since
republished separately, an Introduction and an Appendix on the lost
plays of Euripides). Introductions to his translations of separate
plays: see above; _Greek and English Tragedy_, an essay in English
Literature and the Classics, edited by G. S. Gordon (Oxford, 1912); and
the article on Euripides in Hastings' _Encyclopaedia of Ethics and
Religion_. (These writings have been sometimes quoted in the present

The Lives can best be read in the edition of the _Scholia_ by Ed.
Schwartz (Berlin, 1887). To this must now be added the fragments of
Satyrus in _Oxyrhyncus Papyri_, vol. ix. (also contained, though without
Dr. Hunt's introduction, in Arnim's _Supplementum Euripideum_; see
above). The ancient references to the facts of Euripides' life are
admirably collected in vol. i. of Nauck's small text of _Euripides_. See
also Wilamowitz's _Herakles_, pp. 1-40.

CHRONOLOGY OF THE PLAYS.--Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, _Analecta
    Euripidea_ (Berlin, 1875). Grace Macurdy, _The Chronology of the
    extant Plays of Euripides_ (Columbia University, 1905).

LOST PLAYS.--Fragments in Nauck; see above. No complete
    translation. A good many of the lost plays are treated and
    fragments translated in the Appendix to Murray's _Euripides,
    Athenian Drama_, vol. ii.; see above. The classical work on this
    subject is still Welcker's _Griechische Tragoedie_, a great book: 3
    vols. (Leipzig, 1839-41.) Hartung's _Euripides Restitutus_, 2 vols.
    (Hamburg, 1844), is uncritical and somewhat prejudiced against
    Welcker, but has much charm.

ANTIQUITIES, ETC.--The standard book is Haigh's _Attic Theatre_,
    3rd edition, by A. W. Pickard-Cambridge (Oxford, 1907). See also
    _Greek Tragedy_ by J. T. Sheppard (Cambridge Manuals) and _Greek
    Drama_ by Barnet in Dent's Series.


Greek names have mostly come to the modern world through Latin and
consequently are generally given in their Latin form. Thus in Latin the
K-sound was denoted by C; KH by CH, AI- by AE; OU- by U; U by Y, which
is really a Greek letter taken over into Latin for this express purpose.
Also one or two common terminations are given in their Latin form,
Homêros becoming Homerus, Apollon Apollo, and Alexandros Alexander. This
difference in writing did not mean a difference in pronunciation; the
Latin _Aeschylus_ was pronounced (except perhaps in the termination)
exactly like the Greek "_Aiskhulos_," _Thucydides_ like "_Thoukudides_."

The conventional English pronunciation follows the Latin form and
pronounces all vowels and diphthongs as in English, except that E is
always pronounced, and never used merely to lengthen a previous vowel:
e.g., "Euripides" rhymes with "insipid ease," not with "glides,"
"Hermione" roughly with "bryony," not with "tone." OE and AE are
pronounced as one syllable, like "ee" in "free," except when marked as
two syllables, as "Arsinoë." EU as in "feud." Of the consonants C is
pronounced as in English, CH as K. The only difficulty then is to know
where the stress comes and what vowels are long or short.

By Latin custom, if the last syllable but one is long, it will have the
stress (as _surprísing_, _everlásting_, _Achílles_, _Agamémnon_); if the
last syllable but one is short, the stress will be on the syllable
before (as _ádamant_, _dángerous_, _Aéschylus_, _Thucýdides_).

In the following index ´ denotes a stressed short vowel sound, as in
_cáttle_, _imbédded_, _pítiful_, _biólogy_: ^ denotes a stressed long
vowel as in _câke_, _creêper_, _spîteful_, _Octôber_, _endûrable_,
_g[^y]roscope_. In the case of the letter "y", this length has been
indicated by [^y].


         [_Not including the Bibliography._]

Abdêra, 144

Achílles, 177 _ff._

Acts, book of, 21

Actaêon, 66

Aêschylus, 11, 25, 58, 59, 67, 70, 121, 135, 182 _ff._, 186, 206, 234
  _Agamémnon_, 153, 207
  _Chöêphori_, 153
  _Euménides_, 183, 234
  _Lycurgeîa_, 66, 182 _f._, 186
  _Pérsae_, 43, 104
  _Promêtheus_, 66, 206, 238
  _Seven_, 43
  _Suppliants_, 121

Agamémnon, 133, 175-179, 206

Ágathon, 170

_Ágôn_ (Contest), 64

_Áîtion_ (mythical cause), 66

Alcibîades (iota with vrachy in Greek), 110-114

Álcman, 106

Altar, in tragedy, 210 _f._

Anaxágoras, 30, 51 _f._, 58, 116

Anaximánder, 63

Apóllo, 36, 121-126

Archelâüs (like "slay us"):
  (1) philosopher, 56;
  (2) King of Macedon, 169

Archer, W., 221

Architecture of plays, 209 _ff._, 215

_Árete_ (virtue), 38, 41, 50

Argos, 112

Aristîdes, 43, 47, 49

Aristóphanes, 25, 30 _f._, 74
  _Acharnians_, 26, 77
  _Birds_, 143
  _Frogs_, 25, 26, 114, 120, 172, 191, 192
  _Knights_, 27, 46, 112
  _Women at the Thesmophória_, 25, 27

Áristotle, 10, 20, 129, 244, 245

Athêna, 42, 131

Athens, after Persian War, 37 _ff._, 39-42, 45, 110;
  ideals of, 39-42, 109, 115;
  changes in, 107-115;
  and Euripides, 30-34, 89, 99, 119, 166 _ff._;
  constitution of, 97 _f._

Atmosphere of play, 210 _f._

Augustine, 141

Biography, 21;
  of Euripides, 23

Blood-feud, 152, 153

Browning, R., 9

Cephîsophon, 29, 167

Chárites (Graces), 105

Chervil, 26

Chorus, 83, 228-242;
  in dialogue, 237 _f._

Clarity in style, 13

Classicism, 199

Cleon, 58, 109 _f._, 118

Clytemnéstra, 152-157, 175-180, 206

Coleridge, 204

Comedy. _See_ Aristophanes, New Comedy

Convention in art, 201 _ff._;
  as opposed to nature, 53 _f._

Conversion, 141

Cornford, F. M., 64, 232, 234

Dance, 62, 229 _f._

Dêmokêdes, 49, 194 _f._

Democracy, 38 _ff._, 116

_Deus ex mâchinâ_ (appearance of a God from a stage machine), 64, 156 _f._,
  160-164, 221-227.
  _See_ Epiphany

Dickens, 33

Diógenes of Apollonia, 56

Dion[^y]sus, 64 _f._;
  his ritual, 64 _f._;
  festival, 68;
  in Bacchae, 188

Drama, Greek. _See_ Tragedy
  mediaeval liturgical, 62, 65;
  Elizabethan, 60, 235

Elizabethans, 60, 235

Elmsley, 9

Empire, Athenian, 108-110

"Enlightenment," 48, 96, 116.
  _See_ Ideas

Ephêbi, 43

Epicûrus, 20

Epiphany, 64, 156 _f._, 160-164.
  _See Deus ex Mâchinâ_

Eurípides: birth, 22, 35;
  death, 171 _f._;
  biography, 23 _ff._;
  portrait, 28;
  father, 35;
  mother, 26 _f._, 35;
  books, 28, 103;
  cave at Salamis, 29, 165;
  ideas, 7, 99;
  teachers, 50-59;
  as playwright, 7, 10, 85;
  mysticism, 8, 163;
  attitude to Religion, 190-194;
  influence after death, 10 _ff._;
  relation to Athens, 30 _f._, 89, 99, 119 _ff._, 126,
   166 _ff._;
  and Comedy, 30;
  attitude to women, 28, 32 _ff._, 84 _ff._, 121-126;
  style, 13 _f._;
  technique, 125, 198 _ff._;
  battle pieces, 104

Euripides' Ode on Alcibiades, 113
  Epitaph on those slain in Sicily, 144
  _Aêgeus_, 98
  _Aêolus_, 78
  _Alcéstis_, 70, 72 _f._, 88
  _Alcmaêon_ in Corinth, 173
  _Alcmaêon_ in Psophis, 71, 73 _f._
  _Alexánder_, 137-139
  _Álope_, 121
  _Andrómache_ (like "from a key"), 98, 112, 163, 210, 224
  _Andrómeda_, 143-145
  _Antîope_ (iota with vrachy in Greek), 239
  _Aûge_, 121
  _Bacchae_, 9, 19, 173, 181-190, 195 _ff._
  _Bellerophóntes_, 101, 190
  _Children of Héracles_, 93 _f._, 98, 210
  _Cretans_, 79
  _Cretan Women_, 71, 77
  _C[^y]clops_, 70
  _Danaë_, 121
  _Daughters of Pélias_, 69 _f._, 81
  _Eléctra_, 138, 152-157, 195, 219 _f._, 224, 240
  _Eréchtheus_, 98
  _Hécuba_, 89-90, 143, 163, 187, 229
  _Hélena_, 142, 146-148, 163, 192
  _Héracles_, 99-105, 191, 197, 210, 234, 239
  _Hippólytus_, 85-88, 163, 191 _ff._, 210, 213 _f._,
     217-219, 224, 236, 238
  _Îon_, 79, 119-126, 192, 199
  _Îphigenîa in Aulis_, 173-181, 191
  _Îphigenîa in Tauris_, 101, 142, 145-146, 163, 210, 229, 234, 238
  _Medêa_, 32, 81-86, 90, 143, 163, 187, 192, 206, 229, 240-242
  _Melaníppe_, 27, 121
  _Oréstes_, 158-163, 168, 191, 195, 229
  _Palamêdes_, 137, 139 _f._
  _Phoeníssae_, 148-152, 163
  _Rhêsus_, 44, 71, 224
  _Suppliant Women_, 94-98, 111, 210, 234
  _Têlephus_, 72, 74 _ff._
  _Thêseus_, 92
  _Trojan Women_, 130-137, 140 _ff._, 191, 210, 234, 236.

Forgiveness, doctrine of, 162-164

Frazer, J. G., 64

Freedom of Thought, 58, 96

French Revolution, 118

Gellius, 25

Glover, 141

Gods, 191-192;
  on stage, 156 _f._
  _See Deus ex Mâchinâ_

Goethe, 10, 245

Graces, The, 105

Grenfell, 24

Haigh, 232

Hardy, T., 234

Harrison, J. E., 64, 222

Hecataêus, 49

Helen, 162

Hellenism, 39

Héracles, Children of, 41.
  _See under_ Euripides

Heraclîtus, 63

Herd, The, 193 _f._, 196

Heroes, 65 _f._

Heródotus, 20, 39-42, 53 _f._, 107

Hêsiod, 47

Hippócrates, 21

Historical Spirit, 199 _f._

Homer, 36, 131, 229

Horace, 222

_Hubris_, 63, 128

Hunt, 24

Hygiaînon, 167

Hypérbolus, 110 _f._

Ibsen, 9, 33, 206

Ideas, 45 _f._, 116

Immortality, 36

Initiations, 36

Innocents, Massacre of, 65

Iônia, 45 _ff._, 49, 51

Jâson, 82-85, 206

Johnson, S., 211

Law, 39 _ff._

Leicester, Earl of, 60

Lincoln, Abraham, 231

Macaulay, 9

Macedonia, 169-173

Magnêsia, 169

Mary Magdalen, 65

Masks, 75

Mediaeval Drama, 62, 65

Mégara, 44

Melian Dialogue, 127-130

Mêlos, 127-132, 194

Memory, 106 _f._, 242

Menánder. _See_ New Comedy

Menelâüs ("slay us"), 113, 158 _ff._, 176 _f._, 206

Meredith, G., 103, 203

Messenger, 214-220

Milêtus, Fall of, 66

Military Service, 43, 101 _f._, 105

Miltîades (iota with vrachy in Greek), 43, 49

Milton, 9, 208

Mnesílochus, 29

Muses, 34, 105

Mysteries, 36

Mystery Plays, 62, 65, 185

Mysticism, 8, 163

Nature, opposed to Convention, 53 _f._

Nelson, Horatio, 231

Neîrekepta, 230

Nestlé, 8

New Comedy, 173 _f._, 201 _f._

"_Nómos._" _See_ Convention

Norwood, G., 8

Old Age, 166

Old Year, 63 _f._

Olympic Games, 113

Oréstes, 66, 153 _ff._
  _See under_ Euripides

Parian Marble, 22

Paris, Gaston, 61

Pasíphaë, 79

Patriotism, 98.
  _See_ Plays, patriotic

Paul, 141

Peasants, Greek, 46 _f._, 117

Peloponnêsian War, 91, 94, 107-110

Péntheus, 66, 181 _ff._

Péricles, 43, 52, 58, 91, 108 _f._

Persians, 37

Persian War, 37, 48

Phaêdra, 86-88, 213 _f._

Philóchorus, 24 _ff._, 27

Philodêmus, 168

Phl[^y]a, 35 _f._, 46

Phr[^y]nichus, 42

_Phûsis_ (upsilon with vrachy in Greek).
  _See_ Nature

Pindar, 48, 121, 140

Plato, 15, 29, 32, 50, 140

Plays. _See under_ Authors:
  Euripides', patriotic, 91 _f._, 98;
  early, 70-73;
  after 415, 142 _ff._

Plûtarch, 113

Poets, ancient and modern, 102 _f._

Polygnôtus, 42, 44

Porson, 9

Preparation, 216-221

Pródicus, 56

Prologues, 207-212

Promêtheus, 206.
  _See_ Aeschylus

Protágoras, 30, 54-56

Pythágoras, 49

Realism, 19, 76, 174, 224;
  aversion from, 103 _f._

Religion, 190-194

Resurrection, 35, 64, 181, 190 _f._

Rhyme, 203

Ridgeway, 65

Ritual in tragedy, 62-67, 174, 202;
  forms, 64, 181

Romance, 73 _f._, 142-146, 205

Russell, B., 243

Salamis, 29, 37, 165;
  battle of, 22, 66

Sátyrus, 23 _ff._, 31

Sátyr-plays, 67 _f._

Scott, W., 33

Sex questions, 78 _f._, 121

Shakespeare, 60, 208 _f._, 243

Shaw, G. B., 206

Shelley, 9, 18, 95, 234

Sicilian Expedition, 130, 170, 194

Sicily, 130, 170

Simônides, 144

Sincerity of Greek Tragedy, 204

Slavery, 137-139, 175-178, 123-125

Sócrates, 29, 56

Sophists, 45 _f._, 50-59, 116

_Sóphia_ (Wisdom), 38, 50, 92, 109, 194

Sóphocles, 9, 11, 34, 172, 206
  Ajax, 66
  Antígone, 34, 70, 206
  Eléctra, 153, 156, 207
  Oêdipus Tyránnus, 34, 216, 236
  Philoctêtes, 76

Sparta, 38

Speeches in tragedy, 212

Steiger, 9

Stesíchorus, 147

"_Súnesis_," 191

Superstition, 43 _f._, 116-119, 224 _f._

Swinburne, 18, 185, 203

Sympathy, shift of, 187 _f._

Tácitus, 21

Tennyson, 103

Thebes, 42, 149

Themístocles, 37, 41 _ff._, 49, 169

Theophany. _See Deus ex Mâchinâ_

Thêseus, 43, 95;
  sons of, 89;
  in Hippolytus, 87

Thesmophória. _See_ Aristophanes

Thracians, 44

Thucydides, 107-110, 127-130, 170

Timótheus, 30, 170

Tolstoy, 168

Tradition, 14;
  of fifth century, 15;
  in tragedy, 62-67, 174, 183;
  in art, 17

Tragedy, origin, 64 _f._;
  ritual in, _see_ Ritual;
  essence, 244 _f._;
  dress, etc., 75 _f._;
  performances, 68;
  "most tragic," 10, 135, 245

Translations, 198 _ff._

Trilogy, 67

Vegetation-spirit, 35, 62 _ff._

Verisimilitude in art, 229, 233

Verrall, A. W., 8, 101, 159, 199

Victorian age, 16

"Virtue," 38, 41, 50

War Party, 31, 114, 143, 166

Wars, Persian and Peloponnesian. _See s.v._

Wells, H. G., 160

Whitman, W., 18

Wilamowitz, 141, 199

William the Silent, 35

"Wisdom," 38, 50, 92, 109, 194

Women in Athens, 32 _f._, 84 _ff._;
  in Euripides, 84 _ff._, 121-126, 137

Xûthus, 121-126

Year, Old and New, 62 _ff._

Zeus, 206

Zeûxis, 170

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militancy of the author's temperament."--_Daily News._


By G. H. PERRIS. The Rt. Hon. JAMES BRYCE writes: "I have read it with
much interest and pleasure, admiring the skill with which you have
managed to compress so many facts and views into so small a volume."


By Dr W. S. BRUCE, F.R.S.E., Leader of the "Scotia" Expedition. (With
Maps.) "A very freshly written and interesting narrative."--_The Times._


By Sir H. H. JOHNSTON, G.C.M.G., F.Z.S. (With Maps.) "The Home
University Library is much enriched by this excellent work."--_Daily Mail._


By H. W. C. DAVIS, M.A. (With Maps.) "One more illustration of the fact
that it takes a complete master of the subject to write briefly upon
it."--_Manchester Guardian._

14. _THE PAPACY & MODERN TIMES (1303-1870)_

By WILLIAM BARRY, D.D. "Dr Barry has a wide range of knowledge and an
artist's power of selection."--_Manchester Guardian._

23. _HISTORY OF OUR TIME (1885-1911)_

By G. P. GOOCH, M.A. "Mr Gooch contrives to breathe vitality into his
story, and to give us the flesh as well as the bones of recent


By H. A. GILES, LL.D., Professor of Chinese at Cambridge. "In all the
mass of facts, Professor Giles never becomes dull. He is always ready
with a ghost story or a street adventure for the reader's


By J. L. MYRES, M.A., F.S.A., Wykeham Professor of Ancient History,
Oxford. "There is not a page in it that is not suggestive."--_Manchester

_A Study in Political Evolution_

By Prof. A. F. POLLARD, M.A. With a Chronological Table. "It takes its
place at once among the authoritative works on English

34. _CANADA_

By A. G. BRADLEY. "The volume makes an immediate appeal to the man who
wants to know something vivid and true about Canada."--_Canadian


By Sir T. W. HOLDERNESS, K.C.S.I., Permanent Under-Secretary of State of
the India Office. "Just the book which newspaper readers require to-day,
and a marvel of comprehensiveness."--_Pall Mall Gazette._

42. _ROME_

By W. WARDE FOWLER, M.A. "A masterly sketch of Roman character and of
what it did for the world."--_The Spectator._


By F. L. PAXSON, Professor of American History, Wisconsin
University. (With Maps.) "A stirring study."--_The Guardian._


By HILAIRE BELLOC, M.A. "Rich in suggestion for the historical
student."--_Edinburgh Evening News._


By J. R. SPEARS. "A continuous story of shipping progress and
adventure. . . It reads like a romance."--_Glasgow Herald._


By HERBERT FISHER, M.A., F.B.A. (With Maps.) The story of the great
Bonaparte's youth, his career, and his downfall, with some sayings
of Napoleon, a genealogy of his family, and a bibliography.


By DAVID HANNAY. The author traces the growth of naval power from
early times, and discusses its principles and effects upon the
history of the Western world.

In Preparation

_ANCIENT GREECE._ By Prof. Gilbert Murray, D.Litt., LL.D., F.B.A.
_ANCIENT EGYPT._ By F. Ll. Griffith, M.A.
_THE ANCIENT EAST._ By D. G. Hogarth, M.A., F.B.A.
_A SHORT HISTORY OF EUROPE._ By Herbert Fisher, M.A., F.B.A.
_PREHISTORIC BRITAIN._ By Robert Munro, M.A., M.D., LL.D.
_THE BYZANTINE EMPIRE._ By Norman H. Baynes.
_THE REFORMATION._ By Principal Lindsay, LL.D.
_A SHORT HISTORY OF RUSSIA._ By Prof. Milyoukov.
_MODERN TURKEY._ By D. G. Hogarth, M.A.
_FRANCE OF TO-DAY._ By Albert Thomas.
_GERMANY OF TO-DAY._ By Charles Tower.
_SOUTH AMERICA._ By Prof. W. R. Shepherd.
_LONDON._ By Sir Laurence Gomme, F.S.A.
_HISTORY AND LITERATURE OF SPAIN._ By J. Fitzmaurice-Kelly, F.B.A., Litt.D.

_Literature and Art_


By JOHN MASEFIELD. "The book is a joy. We have had half-a-dozen
more learned books on Shakespeare in the last few years, but not
one so wise."--_Manchester Guardian._


By G. H. MAIR, M.A. "Altogether a fresh and individual book."--_Observer._


By G. L. STRACHEY. "It is difficult to imagine how a better account
of French Literature could be given in 250 small pages."--_The Times._


By Prof. W. R. LETHABY. (Over forty Illustrations.) "Popular
guide-books to architecture are, as a rule, not worth much. This
volume is a welcome exception."--_Building News._ "Delightfully
bright reading."--_Christian World._


By Prof. W. P. KER, M.A. "Prof. Ker, one of the soundest scholars in
English we have, is the very man to put an outline of English Mediæval
Literature before the uninstructed public. His knowledge and taste are
unimpeachable, and his style is effective, simple, yet never dry."--_The


By L. PEARSALL SMITH, M.A. "A wholly fascinating study of the different
streams that went to the making of the great river of the English
speech."--_Daily News._


By Prof. J. ERSKINE and Prof. W. P. TRENT. "An admirable summary from
Franklin to Mark Twain, enlivened by a dry humour."--_Athenæum._


By Sir FREDERICK WEDMORE. (With 16 half-tone illustrations.) From the
Primitives to the Impressionists.




By Professor J. G. ROBERTSON, M.A., Ph.D. A review of one of the
greatest literatures of the world by a high authority.


By G. K. CHESTERTON. "The Victorian Compromise and its Enemies"--"The
Great Victorian Novelists"--"The Great Victorian Poets"--"The Break-up
of the Compromise."

In Preparation

_ANCIENT ART & RITUAL._ By Miss Jane Harrison, LL.D., D.Litt.
_GREEK LITERATURE._ By Prof. Gilbert Murray, D.Litt.
_LATIN LITERATURE._ By Prof. J. S. Phillimore.
_CHAUCER AND HIS TIME._ By Miss G. E. Hadow.
_THE RENAISSANCE._ By Miss Edith Sichel.
_ENGLISH COMPOSITION._ By Prof. Wm. T. Brewster.
_LITERARY TASTE._ By Thomas Seccombe.
_GREAT WRITERS OF RUSSIA._ By C. T. Hagberg Wright, LL.D.



By Dr MARION NEWBIGIN. (Illustrated.) "Geography, again: what a dull,
tedious study that was wont to be! . . . But Miss Marion Newbigin
invests its dry bones with the flesh and blood of romantic
interest."--_Daily Telegraph._


By Dr D. H. SCOTT, M.A., F.R.S., late Hon. Keeper of the Jodrell
Laboratory, Kew. (Fully illustrated.) "The information is as trustworthy
as first-hand knowledge can make it. . . . Dr Scott's candid and
familiar style makes the difficult subject both fascinating and
easy."--_Gardeners' Chronicle._


By W. LESLIE MACKENZIE, M.D., Local Government Board, Edinburgh. "Dr
Mackenzie adds to a thorough grasp of the problems an illuminating
style, and an arresting manner of treating a subject often dull and
sometimes unsavoury."--_Economist._


By A. N. WHITEHEAD, Sc.D., F.R.S. (With Diagrams.) "Mr Whitehead has
discharged with conspicuous success the task he is so exceptionally
qualified to undertake. For he is one of our great authorities upon the
foundations of the science."--_Westminster Gazette._


By Professor F. W. GAMBLE, D.Sc., F.R.S. With Introduction by Sir Oliver
Lodge. (Many Illustrations.) "A delightful and instructive epitome of
animal (and vegetable) life. . . . A fascinating and suggestive
survey."--_Morning Post._


By Professor J. ARTHUR THOMSON and Professor PATRICK GEDDES. "A
many-coloured and romantic panorama, opening up, like no other book we
know, a rational vision of world-development."--_Belfast News-Letter._


By Dr C. A. MERCIER. "Furnishes much valuable information from one
occupying the highest position among medico-legal
psychologists."--_Asylum News._


By Sir W. F. BARRETT, F.R.S., Professor of Physics, Royal College of
Science, Dublin, 1873-1910. "What he has to say on thought-reading,
hypnotism, telepathy, crystal-vision, spiritualism, divinings, and so
on, will be read with avidity."--_Dundee Courier._


By A. R. HINKS, M.A., Chief Assistant, Cambridge Observatory. "Original
in thought, eclectic in substance, and critical in treatment. . . . No
better little book is available."--_School World._


By J. ARTHUR THOMSON, M.A., Regius Professor of Natural History,
Aberdeen University. "Professor Thomson's delightful literary style is
well known; and here he discourses freshly and easily on the methods of
science and its relations with philosophy, art, religion, and practical
life."--_Aberdeen Journal._


By Prof. H. N. DICKSON, D.Sc. Oxon., M.A., F.R.S.E., President of the
Royal Meteorological Society. (With Diagrams.) "The author has succeeded
in presenting in a very lucid and agreeable manner the causes of the
movements of the atmosphere and of the more stable winds."--_Manchester


By R. R. MARETT, M.A., Reader in Social Anthropology in Oxford
University. "An absolutely perfect handbook, so clear that a child could
understand it, so fascinating and human that it beats fiction 'to a
frazzle.'"--_Morning Leader._


By Prof. J. G. McKENDRICK, M.D. "It is a delightful and wonderfully
comprehensive handling of a subject which, while of importance to all,
does not readily lend itself to untechnical explanation. . . . Upon
every page of it is stamped the impress of a creative
imagination."--_Glasgow Herald._


By F. SODDY, M.A., F.R.S. "Prof. Soddy has successfully accomplished the
very difficult task of making physics of absorbing interest on popular


By Prof. W. McDOUGALL, F.R.S., M.B. "A happy example of the
non-technical handling of an unwieldy science, suggesting rather than
dogmatising. It should whet appetites for deeper study."--_Christian


By Prof. J. W. GREGORY, F.R.S. (With 38 Maps and Figures.) "A
fascinating little volume. . . . Among the many good things contained in
the series this takes a high place."--_The Athenæum._


By A. KEITH, M.D., LL.D., Conservator of Museum and Hunterian Professor,
Royal College of Surgeons. (Illustrated.) "It literally makes the 'dry
bones' to live. It will certainly take a high place among the classics
of popular science."--_Manchester Guardian._


By GISBERT KAPP, D.Eng., Professor of Electrical Engineering in the
University of Birmingham. (Illustrated.) "It will be appreciated greatly
by learners and by the great number of amateurs who are interested in
what is one of the most fascinating of scientific studies."--_Glasgow


By Dr BENJAMIN MOORE, Professor of Bio-Chemistry, University College,


By RAPHAEL MELDOLA, F.R.S., Professor of Chemistry in Finsbury Technical
College, London. Presents clearly, without the detail demanded by the
expert, the way in which chemical science has developed, and the stage
it has reached.

In Preparation

_THE MINERAL WORLD._ By Sir T. H. Holland, K.C.I.E., D.Sc.
_PLANT LIFE._ By Prof. J. B. Farmer, F.R.S.
_NERVES._ By Prof. D. Fraser Harris, M.D., D.Sc.
_A STUDY OF SEX._ By Prof. J. A. Thomson and Prof. Patrick Geddes.
_THE GROWTH OF EUROPE._ By Prof. Grenville Cole.
_OCEANOGRAPHY._ By Sir John Murray, K.C.B., F.R.S.

_Philosophy and Religion_


By Prof. D. S. MARGOLIOUTH, M.A., D.Litt. "This generous shilling's
worth of wisdom. . . . A delicate, humorous, and most responsible
tractate by an illuminative professor."--_Daily Mail._


By the Hon. BERTRAND RUSSELL, F.R.S. "A book that the 'man in the
street' will recognise at once to be a boon. . . . Consistently lucid
and non-technical throughout."--_Christian World._


By Mrs RHYS DAVIDS, M.A. "The author presents very attractively as well
as very learnedly the philosophy of Buddhism as the greatest scholars of
the day interpret it."--_Daily News._


By Principal W. B. SELBIE, M.A. "The historical part is brilliant in its
insight, clarity, and proportion; and in the later chapters Dr Selbie
proves himself to be an ideal exponent of sound and moderate
views."--_Christian World._

54. _ETHICS_

By G. E. MOORE, M.A., Lecturer in Moral Science in Cambridge University.
"A very lucid though closely reasoned outline of the logic of good
conduct. . . . This non-technical little book should make for clear
thinking and wider tolerance."--_Christian World._


By Prof. B. W. BACON, LL.D., D.D. "Professor Bacon has boldly, and
wisely, taken his own line, mentioning opposing views only occasionally,
and has produced, as a result, an extraordinarily vivid, stimulating,
and lucid book."--_Manchester Guardian._


By Mrs CREIGHTON. "Very interestingly done. . . . Its style is simple,
direct, unhackneyed, and should find appreciation where a more fervently
pious style of writing repels."--_Methodist Recorder._


By Prof. J. ESTLIN CARPENTER, D.Litt., Principal of Manchester College,

In Preparation

_THE OLD TESTAMENT._ By Prof. George Moore, D.D., LL.D.
_A HISTORY of FREEDOM of THOUGHT._ By Prof. J. B. Bury, LL.D.

_Social Science_


Its History, Constitution, and Practice. By Sir COURTENAY P. ILBERT,
G.C.B., K.C.S.I., Clerk of the House of Commons. "The best book on the
history and practice of the House of Commons since Bagehot's
'Constitution.'"--_Yorkshire Post_.


By F. W. HIRST, Editor of "The Economist." "To an unfinancial mind must
be a revelation. . . . The book is as clear, vigorous, and sane as
Bagehot's 'Lombard Street,' than which there is no higher
compliment."--_Morning Leader._


By Mrs J. R. GREEN. "As glowing as it is learned. No book could be more
timely."--_Daily News._


By J. RAMSAY MACDONALD, M.P. "Admirably adapted for the purpose of
exposition."--_The Times._


By LORD HUGH CECIL, M.A., M.P. "One of those great little books which
seldom appear more than once in a generation."--_Morning Post._


By J. A HOBSON, M.A. "Mr J. A. Hobson holds an unique position among
living economists. . . . Original, reasonable, and illuminating."--_The


By L. T. HOBHOUSE, M.A., Professor of Sociology in the University of
London. "A book of rare quality. . . . We have nothing but praise for
the rapid and masterly summaries of the arguments from first principles
which form a large part of this book."--_Westminster Gazette._


By D. H. MACGREGOR, M.A., Professor of Political Economy in the
University of Leeds. "A volume so dispassionate in terms may be read
with profit by all interested in the present state of
unrest."--_Aberdeen Journal._


By Prof. W. SOMERVILLE, F.L.S. "It makes the results of laboratory work
at the University accessible to the practical farmer."--_Athenæum._


By W. M. GELDART, M.A., B.C.L., Vinerian Professor of English Law at
Oxford. "Contains a very clear account of the elementary principles
underlying the rules of English Law."--_Scots Law Times._

38. _THE SCHOOL: An Introduction to the Study of Education._

By J. J. FINDLAY, M.A., Ph.D., Professor of Education in Manchester
University. "An amazingly comprehensive volume. . . . It is a remarkable
performance, distinguished in its crisp, striking phraseology as well as
its inclusiveness of subject-matter."--_Morning Post._


By S. J. CHAPMAN, M.A., Professor of Political Economy in Manchester
University. "Its importance is not to be measured by its price. Probably
the best recent critical exposition of the analytical method in economic
science."--_Glasgow Herald._


By G. BINNEY DIBBLEE, M.A. (Illustrated.) The best account extant of the
organisation of the newspaper press, including Continental, American,
and Colonial journals.

In Preparation

  Gooch, M.A.
_POLITICAL THOUGHT IN ENGLAND: From Bentham to J. S. Mill._ By Prof.
  W. L. Davidson
_POLITICAL THOUGHT IN ENGLAND: From Herbert Spencer to To-day._ By
  Ernest Barker, M.A.
_COMMONSENSE IN LAW._ By Prof. P. Vinogradoff, D.C.L.
_THE CIVIL SERVICE._ By Graham Wallas, M.A.
_THE SOCIAL SETTLEMENT._ By Jane Addams and R. A. Woods.
_GREAT INVENTIONS._ By Prof. J. L. Myres, M.A., F.S.A.
_TOWN PLANNING._ By Raymond Unwin.

_And of all Bookshops and Bookstalls._

                     *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's note:

The following changes were made to the original text:

Page 162: Gesperrt emphasis changed to italics. "_Her_." for "H e r."
Page 190: "is" inserted. "but it is also a spirit of search"
Page 248: Nestle changed to Nestlé.

Minor punctuation errors were corrected.

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