44 pages 1 hour read

Ed. John C. Gilbert, Euripides


Fiction | Play | Adult | BCE

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The Plight of Women

In Greek tragedy, the chorus was usually the same gender as the main character. While Ion is the titular character, Euripides gives Creusa more emotional depth by featuring a chorus of female handmaidens. In extant Greek tragedy, the chorus’s contributions were usually emotional (whether celebratory or plaintive) in nature. The audience would be alerted to when the chorus spoke not only because of the multitude of voices but also because the choral sections exhibit a different meter. Translators sometimes try to capture the sing-song nature of this meter by using a rhyme, as in the following choral lines:

Never in histories of old,
Or tales that round our loom were told,
A child gotten of god hath borne
To woman aught but woe (506-09).

The handmaidens are an apt chorus for Creusa, as they acknowledge their share in her fate. For example, they claim that they wish to die should their mistress die at the hands of the irate lords of Delphi: “No escape, none. ’Tis death for me. / All seen, all known!” (1229-31). Later in the same speech, the chorus even assumes responsibility for encouraging their mistress to seek Ion’s death and further claims that they deserve the capital punishment: