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Medea and Other Plays (Penguin Classics)
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
Vellacott has provided excellent translations and commentaries on four of the plays of Euripedes, including his classic "Medea." They should be required reading of any college student. "Medea" is a study in how unbridled passion can overcome reason and lead to tragedy. This may be particularly pertinent with respect to the ongoing war between Athens and Sparta at the time the play was first presented. Medea, who had helped Jason in his quest, become his wife, and given him two sons, feels betrayed since he is marrying the daughter of the ruler of Corinth. With horrible vengence, she kills the bride and the king and then her two sons. "Hecabe" is a play about the wife of Priam, King of Troy, and the mother of Hector, Paris, Cassandra, and others. At the start of this play, the war between the Greeks and Troy is over and Hecabe is now a slave of Agamemnon. The ghost of Achilles had appeared and demanded a sacrifice over his tomb before the Greeks can set sail for home. They vote to sacrifice Polyxena, Hecabe's young daughter, despite the tears and entreaties of Hecabe. After Polyxena's noble death, Hecabe learns that her last child Polydorus had been murdered by the King of Thrace, Polymestor, to whom Polydorus had been sent for safekeeping. This finally drives Hecabe mad and she seeks vengence for Polydorus's death. Euripedes shows in this play the effects of war and vengence on innocent lives and how cruel men at war can be. "Electra" is another retelling of the vengence story of Electra and Orestes. In this version, they are less heroic and more realistic then the way they are portrayed by Aeschylus and Sophocles. Interestingly, the one true noble and honest character in the play is the peasant husband of Electra, who refuses to tough her because he is beneath her station. Was Euripedes making a social comment about the upper classes of Athens of his time? The final play is "Heracles." In this play, the wife of Heracles, his three young sons, and Heracles' father Amphitryon are in danger of being killed by the usurping king of Thebes, Lycus. Lycus wishes them dead since he had killed Megara's father, King Creon, and taken his throne and Lycus doesn't want the three sons to grow up to avenge the death of their grandfather. Heracles is believed by many to be dead. But, he returns in time to thwart and kill Lycus. Unfortunately, the goddess Hera, who has always had a hatred of Heracles, sends the minor goddess Madness down to drive Heracles temporarily insane. In his fits, he kills his wife and sons. When sanity returns to him, he realizes what he has done and how immoral the gods are. The Greek gods are not an acceptable standard for moral behavior. Man can serve as a standard, and this is exemplified in the play by Theseus, ruler of Athens.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon January 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
Euripides is the dramatist of the irrational. His greatest work, The Bacchae, Medea, Hippolytus, depicts a world in which irrational passions are a powerful and destructive force. In contrast to Aeschylus, whose greatest work - The House of Atreus trilogy - describes the harnessing of irrational forces into civic fabric of the polis and rationalistic worship of the Olympian pantheon, Euripides sees the passions as uncontrollable. Some of the gods, such as Dionysius in The Bacchae and Aphrodite in Hippolytus, appear as the personfication of destructive passions. Many of the human figures in Euripides plays appear unable not only to face the force of these passions, but also unable to recognize the danger represented by the passions. Euripides view is dark but powerful and his works are compelling but dispiriting. The Penguin series of his plays includes translations by Phillip Vellacott. Though most of these translations were produced decades ago, they retain their freshness and immediacy. This set of inexpensive books is an excellent way to experience Euripides.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on August 28, 2006
Format: Paperback
Euripides' Medea is a story about a woman's heartbreak and the revenge she consequently seeks on her husband. After her spouse takes another wife Medea is torn apart, unable to distinguish right from wrong. She plots to kill the new wife and eventually Medea murders her own children, all in order to spite her former lover.

Euripides expresses the power of passion without reason especially when it comes to love. Medea is willing to kill her own children out of despair, although they are the only people she really has. She has feelings of trepidation before killing the children, revealing her humanity, but appears triumphant after completing the murders. She appears at the top of a building at the end of the show which is usually reserved for divine appearances (intro), which is a metaphor for Medea's strength and even her unyielding brutality, qualities that many deities were believed to possess.

I really enjoyed this play because of Euripides' representation of the woman. Although tragic, Medea's dramatic actions express her passion, stubbornness, power, as well as her godliness and simultaneous humanity.
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Format: Paperback
Philip Vellacott's translations of any Greek play remains for me the epitome of a translators art. Really it's thanks to Vellacott that Euripides became famous in our day! These translations will never die.
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on August 21, 2013
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
The book was awesome to read and also very easy to understand. I really enjoyed this book. If your looking to read great book on Greek tragedies then this is the book for you.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2006
Format: Paperback
Having read a decent amount of classical poems and plays, I drew from previous experience and started "Medea" with the expectation of appreciating but not neccessarily loving it. But "Medea" pleasantly surprised me with its timeless story of a woman's revenge driven by her own selfish pride and the disgusting lengths she goes to hurt her husband. I found myself completely fascinated by Medea's manipulative antics and sociopathic tendencies. This play has definitely conquered time and remains thrilling a couple thousand years later with themes like betrayal, justice and honor which are still prevalent in modern stories. As a crime show junkie, I constantly drew parallels from recent story lines on a million shows on television to Medea's chilling story. I highly recommend this play.
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on August 23, 2014
Format: Paperback
Great
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 8, 2012
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Received the book in pretty good condition. Minimal markings in the book and no missing pages. Highly recommend this book for all that require it
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 30, 2006
Format: Paperback
I, too, was surprised how relevant and easily modern the issues presented in 'Medea' could be. I mean, gender, power, betrayal and revenge are universal and timeless, but Euripides' Medea is breaking all the rules: she's constantly exploding into feminist manifestos, seeking to (figuratively) neuter herself one moment and irradiating torrid womanpower the next, and spitefully slaughters her own family with impunity. In comparison to such a powerful character, the rest of the characters seem mere shades with vague wills and blurred senses of human values- except, perhaps, for Jason, who is so convinced of his own sexual superiority that he doesn't grasp what's going on until it's too late.

The whole thing seemed rather mythic to me, though not immediately because it's an ancient Greek fable with Furies and sun-gods and pervertedly creative murder weapons. I feel that the sheer amount of catharsis in the plotline (which, according to the notes, Euripides practically invented) makes it almost rudimentary and sensationalized. Why does Euripides (figuratively) transform the multifaceted Medea into a demon, rather than allowing her humanity and complexity to show through, perhaps even affirm her demonic actions? It's more daring to deify Medea, which is perhaps why the play seems to smack of modernity. But (to me, anyway) this seems to carve Medea into an archetype, lessening the value of the human realities of the play. It finishes like an allegory, and I think that limits it.
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3 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2006
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I was pleasantly surprised when I was reading "Medea". About halfway through the play, I realized that the themes of revenge, depression, and female empowerment are still relevant. Infidelity and vengeance are things witnessed everyday: in movies, in the news, maybe even in our own lives. This string of themes proves further that human kind hasn't changed too much.

Though I did have some problems with the plot and some of the overdramatics. Medea revealed to the audience a vulnerable, passionate woman who has a bit of a drama problem and needs just a little too much attention. I think any reader can appreciate the pain she suffered and the disgusting way people in power dealt with her. But is there a line being far over-stepped by killing one's own children just to make a man feel guilty?

Though there is some undeniable hyperbole, it is a story a reader or audience member can empathize, and is totally plausible in a modern setting.
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