Some Criticisms of Euripides

The Scholion to Lycophron’s Alexandra, Line 14, explains why the poet portrays Cassandra speaking in an indirect way, and manages to include a little bit of literary criticism by way of illustration:

“On that account he will portray Cassandra babbling in a confused and crooked way. For, it is incumbent upon the orator and the poet to imitate the habits of the characters which they have put forth, and to avoid uncustomary usage, as Euripides occasionally did when he brought onto the stage barbarian women waxing philosophical, and slaves harshly talking-back to their masters, and kings going around begging with baskets or knapsacks, which are the kinds of things that would never really happen. For indeed, what king, even after losing the throne, would not feel shame to hold out a basket and beg for bread? Or who, though they saw him in such a state, would not be called back to their former state of reverence when they considered his earlier position? Euripides includes lots of these sorts of things in his plays, because he does not pay attention to the natural conditions of character, and on that account, he deserves our censure. And -what is even worse – he often contradicts himself.”

διὰ δὲ τοῦτο

μέλλει ποιεῖν μίμημα τῆς Κασάνδρας ὥσπερ ἐκείνη λοξῶς

ἐλάλει καὶ σκολιῶς. δεῖ γὰρ τὸν ῥήτορα καὶ ποιητὴν ἀπο-

μιμεῖσθαι τὰ ἤθη τῶν προκειμένων προςώπων καὶ μὴ ἀνη-

θίκευτον εἶναι καθάπερ ὁ Εὐριπίδης φιλοσοφούσας ἐπάγων

ἐνίοτε βαρβάρους γυναῖκας καὶ δούλους δεσπόταις τραχυ-

τάτως ἀντιλέγοντας καὶ βασιλεῖς προςαιτοῦντας μετὰ σπυ-

ρίδων ἢ πήρας, ὅπερ οὐκ ἂν γένοιτο· τίς γὰρ οὐκ αἰδεσθή-

σεται βασιλεὺς μετὰ τὴν τῆς βασιλείας καθαίρεσιν σπυρίδα

κατέχειν καὶ ἄρτον ζητεῖν; ἢ τίς αὐτὸν καὶ οὕτως ἐκστάντα

οὐκ ἂν πάλιν ἐτίμησε τὴν προτέραν ἐκείνου τύχην σκοπῶν;

τοιαῦτα γοῦν πολλά φησιν Εὐριπίδης διὸ καὶ μεμπτός ἐστιν

ἐν τούτοις ὡς μὴ τηρῶν ἠθῶν τὴν κατάστασιν. τὸ δὲ μεῖζον

ὅτι καὶ ἐναντία πολλάκις ἑαυτῷ λέγει.

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