Overview

Iphigeneia among the Taurians


Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

AT: Iphigeneia in/on Tauris A: Euripides Pf:c.414–413 bc, Athens Tr: 1759 G: Greek drama in verse S: Before the Temple of Artemis in Tauris, some years after the Trojan War C: 5m, 2f, extras, chorus (f)Iphigeneia is priestess to the goddess Artemis, who brought her to Tauris after saving her from the sacrificial altar in Aulis. Her brother Orestes and his friend Pylades come to Tauris in search of a statue of Artemis, which they have been commanded by Apollo to bring back to Greece to cleanse Orestes of the guilt of his matricide. It is Iphigeneia's duty as priestess to sacrifice any strangers that land in Tauris. Eventually, however, she and Orestes recognize each other, and there is a touching reconciliation between brother and sister. When Thoas, the King of Tauris, comes to hasten the sacrifice, Iphigeneia pretends that the statue of Artemis must first be cleansed in the sea. She leads off a procession, carrying the statue, taking with her Orestes and Pylades. In this way they make good their escape. Thoas resolves to fetch them back, but the goddess Athene intervenes and orders Thoas to let the Greeks go.

AT: Iphigeneia in/on Tauris A: Euripides Pf:c.414–413 bc, Athens Tr: 1759 G: Greek drama in verse S: Before the Temple of Artemis in Tauris, some years after the Trojan War C: 5m, 2f, extras, chorus (f)

There was no shame in tricking a barbarian with Greek cunning, as Iphigeneia does successfully with Thoas. By the time Goethe came to write his version in 1787, Iphigeneia has to rely on Thoas' generous nature to let her and her brother go. The most impressive feature of Euripides' play is the beautifully managed revelation of the identity of the two siblings. Once he has found his sister, one feels that Orestes' healing can at last begin. Thus, while the leading authority on Greek theatre H. D. F. Kitto argues that a Euripidean tragicomedy like Iphigeneia among the Taurians offers ‘entertainment divorced from tragic reality and serious themes’, there is sufficient potential tragedy in the play to engage an audience at the deepest level. The story was used by Gluck in his opera (1779).

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


Reference entries

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.