Euripides was accused by his contempories of being a woman hater. Why do you think this was so, and how justified do you think the accusation was?

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8/5/07     Classical Civilisation (S): Hippolytus, Medea and Electra    B.McAndrew



        Euripides was accused by his contempories of being a woman hater. Why do you think this was so, and how justified do you think the accusation was? In your answer you should consider not only how Euripides portrays his female characters, but also the sentiments expressed in the plays and the contempory view of women.


Euripides definitely had an opinion on woman that was not shared by many other play writes. Whether it is hatred or not, women play a major role in a Euripian play. Their role in society of that time was a great contrast to that of the men. Compared to today, women were miles apart from men; they were not even considered citizens of their region.

This is obvious in the chorus where in the Electra, Medea and Hippolytus there is a chorus of women. This was unheard of in the time when the plays were written. A chorus is typically made up of wise men of Athens, therefore making it up of women would in that age, be very controversial. In Medea the chorus side with her and Medea makes the chorus swear to silence. Therefore she can confide in them without having to put a face on. The image put across here is that the woman team up against the man. The chorus being women, side with the feminist Medea. “I heard her sobbing and wailing,” the chorus talk about the true Medea that is hidden under her facade.

The same is true in the Electra. The chorus is made up of country-women of Mycenae, who also side with Electra. When Electra moans about not having a gown or riches to go out and enjoy herself, the chorus offer a way out. “Borrow from me a lovely gown, closely woven, and a gold necklace.” The women are on her side, they try to persuade her to be like all the other women and go out partying. Electra wants none of this and aims to gain more self-pity by forcing herself to stay at home, doing all the work. Euripides writes her to be an attention seeking noble woman, who has married the peasant to make a statement. Not the most likeable of characters.

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In the Hippolytus, there are two choruses. One made up of huntsmen who follow Hippolytus and the other of women from Trozen. They support what they represent. This shows a contrast in opinions of women in comparison to huntsmen. The chorus of women worry about Phaedra and her illness, where as the huntsmen do not. They care more about the goddess Artemis and hunting, like Hippolytus himself. “How she wastes away on a bed of sickness and keeps to the palace.”

Clytemnestra in the Electra is the widow of Agamemnon, the national hero and adulterer. She killed her own ...

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