Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Mary English

Committee Member

Lee Behlman

Committee Member

Art Simon


The relationship between father and child seems to be a tumultuous one in the Greek tragedies, particularly in Euripidean tragedy. Father and child frequently do not have a loving and unrestrained relationship, but rather a distant, stoic bond void of communication. In Alcestis (438 B.C.), Hippolytus (428 B.C.), Iphigenia in Aulis (406 B.C.), and Tauris (414-410 B.C.), the children, Admetus, Hippolytus, and Iphigenia, deal with disregard, mistreatment, and abandonment by their fathers, Pheres, Theseus, and Agamemnon. Doomed to die, these children often hold their fathers accountable, indirectly or directly, as murderers in their passing. Even as the unwritten law of familial obligation from parent to offspring fails, there is another figure that assumes a parental role and succeeds in doing so. The gods of Mount Olympus function as the parents of the tragic hero(ine)s. In acting paternally or maternally toward these mortals, the gods embody noteworthy roles in these Euripidean tragedies. It is these greater roles that need to be analyzed when studying the relationships between the gods and mortals, to help understand their significance and what it is they represent.

In the introduction to his series on Euripides’ tragedies, Lattimore writes that the playwright depicts men not “as they ought to be (or as one ought to show them) but Euripides showed them as they were.. .Euripides was basically a realist” (v). Lattimore also states that Euripides “believed in a world he disliked. His gods represent this world” (v). If the gods represent the world Euripides lived in, a reality he disliked, then why, in these four specific plays, does Euripides present the gods as morally redeemable? Why are these Gods protective, caring guardians, and not the familiarly selfish, brutal, nonsympathetic fantastical characters? If Euripides is a realist and shows men as they are, what do the relationships between parent and child, and god and mortal say about the society that influenced his writing?

Gilbert Murray in his book Euripides and his Age echoes Lattimore’s sentiments: “What he did (so we young men were told) was to put upon the stage the hallowed legends in all their crudity, as if to say to his fellow-citizens: ‘These are the gods whom you ignorantly worship. Away with them, and find better!’” (Murray vii) Complicating Lattimore and Murray, Hazel E. Barnes states in her collection of essays titled The Meddling Gods: Four Essays on Classical Themes the general knowledge of Euripides’ depiction of the Gods, but she also takes it a step further when she acknowledges that this attitude towards the Gods is not universal in all of his tragedies: “The supernatural is not used cynically, as it so often is with Euripides, as though the author were mocking the very deities to whom his characters owe their deliverance” (Barnes 59). Euripides does not use Apollo and Artemis as sardonic figures, nor does he ridicule them. Instead he uses their divine presence to articulate why his characters do indeed owe the Olympians for their freedom and rescue.

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