CL 103A/EN 203A

fall 2009

 

Study questions on Euripides, etc.

November 16: Medea

Jason had sailed on the Argo with a band of Greeks to Colchis in search of the legendary Golden Fleece, the skin of a ram with wool of gold. Medea, the Colchian king's daughter and something of a witch, fell in love with Jason at first sight and showed him how to overcome the serpents that guarded the fleece, after which she helped Jason and his fellow Greeks escape and return to Iolkos, Jason's home in Greece. In Iolkos she tricked the king's daughters into killing him, in punishment for which she and Jason were exiled and settled in Corinth, where our play begins.

 

a. What is Medea like?

b. What is Jason like?

c. What difference does it make that Medea is a non-Greek?

d. What difference does it make that Medea is a woman?

e. There seems to be a lot about children in this play? What's going on?

f. What, if anything, is "tragic" about this play?

 

 

November 19: Hippolytus

Theseus, king of Athens, had sent his illegitimate son Hippolytus (his mother was one of the Amazons) to the court of king Pitteus of Troezen, a dependency of Athens, intending that his son would succeed Pitteus at the latter's death. In our play Theseus visits Troezen with Phaedra, his legitimate wife, daughter of Minos, king of Cnossos on the island of Crete, and Pasiphaë (who also the mother of the Minotaur).

a. How is Phaedra like Hippolytus?

b. Why does Phaedra lie about Hippolytus?

c. In what sense does Phaedra get what she deserves? In what sense is she an innocent victim?

d. In what sense does Hippolytus get what he deserves? In what sense is he an innocent victim?

e. In what sense does Theseus get what he deserves? In what sense is he an innocent victim?

f. How real are the goddesses Aphrodite and Artemis in this play? If they are only (or also) devices for representing something else, what does each represent?

g. Whose tragedy is it anyhow?

 

 

November 23: The Trojan Women

a. Who (if anyone) is the central character of this play?

b. What is the role of the opening scene between Poseidon and Athena in terms of the play as a whole?

c. Compare and contrast the women in this play. How are they all the same? How are they different from each other?

d. What is the role of the Helen scene in terms of the play as a whole?

e. Compare and contrast this play with Sophocles' Antigone.

f. What is Euripides' attitude toward the events he portrays on stage? How can you tell?

g. This play was produced in 415, the year the Athenians captured Melos, killed all its men, and enslaved the women and children. Does knowing this affect your reading of this play? how?

 

November 30:

I. The Bacchae :

a. What is Dionysos like?

b. What is Pentheus like?

c. How is this play similar to the Medea? How is it similar to the Hippolytus?

d. What is the relation between the rational and the irrational in this play?

e. What is Euripides' attitude toward the events he portrays on stage? How can you tell?

II. More generally:

a. Based on your readings in this class, compare and contrast Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides as tragedians.

b. Based on your readings in this course, are the Greeks different from us, or are the characters we see on stage different from ordinary folk? In each case, how?

c. Based on your readings in this course, what is "Greek tragedy"?

d. Read Aristotle's comments on tragedy at Poetics 1449b (beginning at [20]). How do his comments differ from your definition of tragedy? Who is right? Why?

e. Based on your readings in this course, what do Greek epic and Greek tragedy have in common? Similarly, how are they different