Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Naomi Liebler

Committee Member

Lee Behlman

Committee Member

Meghan Robison


The Euripidean tragedies Hippolytus, The Bacchae and The Medea present us with female characters who have sacred and profound interactions with the gods. These women have powerful ritualistic abilities that move the tragic action. Similarly, Euripides' versions of Hecuba and Electra present us with dynamic: female characters who derive their agency from the religio-judicial need for cosmic atonement. It is up to these heroines to uphold the sacred laws decreed by the gods. Why does Euripides empower these females with such direct means of divination? Arguably, Euripides felt it necessary to use these deistic feminine connections to destroy the titular male characters. The tragedian's implication is clear: divine feminine power supersedes patriarchal power. This divine power is inherent in all women and it compels them act on behalf of cosmic necessity. The importance of Medea's, Phaedra's and Agave's respective spiritual connections shows us the crucial role that women played in ancient religious worship. And the spiritually authorative power that Hecuba and Electra wield shows how ancient religious worship and political clout were inseparable.

These females, through the power of divine association, are able to challenge the status quo. Powerful as they are, we cannot definitively say that they reflect Euripides' personal attitude towards women. We can say, however, that he created characters worthy of respect. They are a class of humans who play essential roles in society-they are not dismissible. As Helene Foley posits, "tragic female representations challenge the male failure to maintain binary balance in society" (9). If the archaic male was inclined to follow the advice of the Pythia, it makes sense that these "fictive female" voices would resonate with the classical male audience.

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