chapter  XI
19 Pages

New Tragedy: Euripides' Tragi-Comedies

This term, not altogether a satisfactory one, is intended to describe the Alcestis, Iphigeneia in Tauris, Ion, and Helen, four plays which are essentially akin, even though the Iphioeneia ought perhaps to be called romantic melodrama and the Helen high comedy. There is, indeed, ancient precedent for inability to classify these plays convincingly. The second Argument to the Alcestis, in a passage which is a perfect example of rule-of-thumb criticism, calls the play aaTVptKWT€POV, 'in the manner of the satyric play,' and states, simply on the ground of its happy ending, that it is comedy rather than tragedy, like the Orestes. Strange reasoning leads to strange results. There is something common to the Alcestis and the Orestes, but it is hardly comedy, and certainly not to be detected by a comparison of endings.