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Iphigeneia at Aulis


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A: Euripides Pf: 405 bc, Macedon Tr:c.1555 G: Greek drama in verse S: The Greek camp at Aulis, shortly before the Trojan War C: 5m, 2f, extras, chorus (f)The Greek fleet, waiting to sail for Troy, is becalmed in Aulis. The priest Calchas has told Agamemnon that, in order to gain favourable winds, he will have to sacrifice his daughter, Iphigeneia. Pretending that he wishes to marry her to Achilles, Agamemnon sends for her and her mother Clytemnestra. A second message telling them not to come is intercepted by Menelaus, anxious to get the expedition under way so that he can fetch home his errant wife Helen. When Clytemnestra and Iphigeneia arrive with the young Orestes, they soon discover that they have been tricked into coming. Despite their pleas, the reluctant Agamemnon feels it his duty to the Greek army to go ahead with the sacrifice. Only the heroic Achilles promises to defend Iphigeneia. However, the whole army, led by Odysseus, insist on proceeding with the sacrifice. With great dignity and courage, Iphigeneia now willingly goes to her death, but is saved by the goddess Artemis, who at the last moment substitutes a deer as the sacrificial victim and removes Iphigeneia to the island of Tauris.

A: Euripides Pf: 405 bc, Macedon Tr:c.1555 G: Greek drama in verse S: The Greek camp at Aulis, shortly before the Trojan War C: 5m, 2f, extras, chorus (f)

This play, which was performed after Euripides' death and was almost certainly finished by another hand, is a melodramatic piece, with its main strength being the portrayal of the noble Iphigeneia. She is one of the most admirable of Euripides' female creations, even though Aristotle felt that her sudden willingness to embrace her sacrifice displayed inconsistent characterization. Notable too is the portrayal of Agamemnon, whose psychologically convincing uncertainty is like the vacillation of Orestes in Euripides' Electra, and perhaps throws doubt on the wisdom of the Greek expedition against Troy. The story was used by Seneca (1st c. ad), Racine (1674), Gerhart Hauptmann (1943), and by Gluck in his opera (1774).

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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