Themes

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Last Updated on September 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 389

Euripides's last known play, Iphigenia at Aulis, was likely written at some time between 410 BC and Euripides's death in 406 BC. The play won the first place prize at the Festival of Dionysus in Athens in 405 BC. The play was unfinished at the time of Euripides's death, and the ending of the play, particularly the messenger's speech recounting Iphigenia's miraculous escape from death, was likely added at a later time.

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Like many of the ancient Greek tragic plays of the fifth century BC, Iphigenia at Aulis explores themes of the efficacy and futility of war, the nature of heroism, familial loyalty versus the common good, and the individual sin of pride (hubris) that leads to the downfall of many of the tragic heroes of these plays.

In Iphigenia at Aulis, Euripides criticizes and ridicules the patriotism and nationalism of the Greek people, especially that of their leaders, Agamemnon and his brother, Menelaus, and their pursuit of conquest and glory at all costs—even at the loss of thousands of innocent lives.

Agamemnon is portrayed by Euripides as weak, indecisive, dishonest, and cowardly. His pride drives him to agree to sacrifice the life of his own young daughter, Iphigenia, to appease the goddess Artemis, in order to obtain favorable winds to enable the becalmed Greek fleet to attack Troy.

Agamemnon's false heroism in betraying his daughter for his own pride and the glory of Greece is in direct contrast to Iphigenia's true heroism in her willingness to be...

(The entire section contains 389 words.)

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