Euripides was, following Aeschylus and Sophocles, the last or youngest of the three great Greek Tragedians of the 5th century BC.
More tragedies (18 or 19) by Euripides survive than by Aeschylus and Sophocles combined (7 each).
The comparative abundance of Euripides's tragedies testifies to his popularity among not only the Athenians but the later Romans.
Euripides's popularity may result from the surprising modernity of his plays.
Euripides's characters can seem less heroic and elevated, more human and flawed, than characters by Aeschylus and Sophocles.
Lower-class characters often play key roles in the plot.
The chorus often shifts from the traditional "elders" to a group of average citizens or a particular identity group. See Tragedy Modernized.
When the gods appear in Euripides's plays, they are often surprisingly human, petty, and peculiar. Characters may refer to the gods casually or with surprising disdain.
Spectacle appears more often or is reported more graphically by Euripides than by earlier tragedians. In The Bacchae, for example, Dionysus destroys the palace with an earthquake, and the conclusion of Hippolytus features an extended, gruesome, emotionally indulgent death scene.
Nietzsche in The Birth of Tragedy (1872) criticizes Euripides as "the death of tragedy" for transforming tragedy as developed by Aeschylus and Sophocles from a heroic Dionysiac myth into a realistic or naturalistic comedy that depends on Socratic reason, everyday life, and intelligibility instead of myth, mystery and ecstasy.
Among Euripides's most widely taught, revived, and adapted plays:
The Trojan Women (415)
Iphigenia at Tauris (414)
The Bacchae (405)
Iphigenia in Aulis (405)
Also surviving by Euripides is the only extant Satyr play, Cyclops (date unknown). The normal presentation of tragedy in classical Athens was a trilogy of tragedies like the Oresteia with a related satyr play.
New York Times, January 13, 1997
Clay Pot Points to Cave of Euripides
ATHENS, Jan. 12— Greek archeologists say they have located the island cave where Euripides probably wrote some of his ancient masterpieces, the Culture Ministry says.
Historical evidence has long indicated that Euripides sought solitude to work in a cave on the island of Salamis near Athens.
Among the works of the reclusive Euripides, who was born about 485 B.C., are ''Medea,'' ''Hecuba'' and ''The Trojan Women.''
A clay pot inscribed with his name and dating from the period when he lived has been unearthed in a cave at Peristeria in the south of the island, said a Culture Ministry statement that was issued on Friday. Euripides died around 406 B.C.
''The pot with Euripides's name is a unique find that adds to our knowledge of intellectual life in the fifth century B.C.,'' said Yannos Lolos, an archeologist and professor at the Ioannina University who is in charge of excavations at the cave.
''I can picture him sitting at the terrace at the entry of the cave, looking out at the Saronic Gulf and composing his plays,'' Mr. Lolos said.
Mr. Lolos said his 15-member team chose to excavate the cave because it was the only one of three caves on the island that matched the historical description of the playwright's lair.
Euripides was considered eccentric for his love of solitude. Ancient biographers described him as stern, strict and unsmiling.
His tragedies in some ways reflect a brooding character, but they are also sensitive studies of the human condition and of a struggle to control passion and to fight the gods.
He was parodied in Aristophanes's comedy ''The Frogs'' and was criticized by contemporaries for his innovations in tragedy. Plato thought, for example, that he lowered the dignity of tragedy by sometimes having his heroes in rags.
Disappointed, he left Athens for the court of King Archelaus in Macedonia, where he wrote one of his most often-performed plays —''The Bacchae.''
The Culture Ministry said the hardest evidence tying Euripides to the cave was the clay pot inscribed with the first six letters of his name.
The pot dates to 440-430 B.C., and writing experts say the inscription was applied later, around the second century B.C., most probably by an admirer of the writer.
''He might have used that pot himself but we may never know for sure,'' Mr. Lolos said. ''The fact that someone inscribed the name on the pot shows that people were aware of the fact he had used this particular cave.''