Euripides was born in Athens, Greece, around 485 B.C. He became one of the best-known and most influential poetic dramatists in classical Greek culture; of his 90 plays, 19 have survived. His most famous tragedies, which reinvent Greek myths and probe the darker side of human nature, include MedeiaThe BacchaeHippolytusAlcestis, and The Trojan Women. He died in Macedonia, Greece, in 406 B.C.

The most famous play is Medeia, though critics most esteem his Bacchae. Most often the tragic element of the plays derives from the suffering of the main character and their inability, no matter what they try, to improve their situation. In the words of Aristotle: “Euripides is the most intensely tragic of all the poets.” (Poetics, ch. 14).

  • Alcestis (438 BCE) – where Alcestis sacrifices herself to save her husband but is ultimately saved by Hercules from the supernatural figure of Death.

  • Medeia (431 BCE) – where Jason, of the Golden Fleece fame, abandons the title character for the daughter of the King of Corinth with the consequence that Medeia kills her own children in revenge.

  • The Children of Hercules (aka Heraclidae, c. 430 BCE) – with the eternal conflict between power and justice as its central theme.

  • Hippolytus (428 BCE) – where holding one’s principles leads to destruction for Phaedra and Hippolytus.

  • Andromache (c. 425 BCE) – where, after the Trojan War and now a slave, Andromache battles with Hermione, the wife of her master.

  • Hecabe (c. 423 BCE) – where the Queen of Troy seeks revenge for the death of her son Polydorus.

  • Suppliant Women (c. 423 BCE) – where the mothers of the Seven Against Thebes appeal to Athens so that the Thebans will allow the proper burial of their sons.

  • Hercules (c. 417 BCE) – dealing with the madness which drove Hercules to kill his wife and children.

  • Electra (c. 417 or 414 BCE) – where Electra and Orestes conspire to destroy their mother.

  • Trojan Women (415 BCE) – with Hecabe again the key character amid a catalogue of Trojan misery.

  • Ion (412 or 410 BCE) – which examines the discrepancies between religious faith and the human condition.

  • Iphigenia among the Taurians (c. 412 BCE) – where Iphigenia and Orestes battle the gods and Fate with a surprisingly happy ending.

  • Helen (412 BCE) – which describes the reconciliation of Helen and Menelaus.

  • Cyclops (412 or 408 BCE) – a satyr play describing Odysseus‘ encounter with the Cyclops on his long return journey to Ithaca following the Trojan War. It is the only complete surviving satyr play from Greek theatre.

  • Phoenician Women (aka Phoenissae, 409 BCE) – where a group of innocent women traveling to Delphi are trapped in Thebes.

  • Orestes (c. 408 BCE) – where Orestes kills his own mother and tries, without success, to take revenge on his aunt Helen.

  • Iphigenia in Aulis (after 406 BCE and produced posthumously) – where Agamemnon must sacrifice Iphigenia for the good of the Greek expedition against Troy.

  • Bacchae (after 406 BCE) – in which there is a running conflict between Pentheus, king of Thebes, and a demonic Dionysos.

Incomplete plays, often only fragments of which survive:

TelephusCretansCresphontesErechtheusPhaethonAlexanderOedipusHypsipyle, and Archelaus.