The one where Medea saves her kids: lost classics of Greek tragedy (link)
by Charlotte Higgins - The Guardian
Think of Greek tragedy and we tend to think of sad stories of the death of kings. Or, if not their deaths, then at least their comeuppances: Agamemnon killed in his bath by his wife; Ajax made mad and murderous by the gods; Oedipus blinded by his own hand; Jason destroyed after his wife, Medea, kills their children.
But only 32 complete plays survive, by just three playwrights – out of hundreds, or perhaps as many as 1,000 texts by around 80 authors. And, according to Matthew Wright, professor of Greek at the University of Exeter, the works we have by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides are neither necessarily the best plays of their time, nor especially representative. Some of these lost works, he believes, were likely to have been masterpieces: “There is no evidence that quality played a part in the transmission of the surviving texts.”
In one version, Medea was a kind of expert personal trainer who 'took on weak and feeble people'
According to his scrutiny of the remaining fragments, quotations and descriptions, the lost texts of fifth- and fourth-century BC Athenian plays display a vastly broader range of plot and tone than those that survive, with stories covering incest, sex, love, magic – and happy endings. Had more survived, we would have a “radically different” understanding of the nature of Greek tragedy as a genre.
Alexander the Great’s favourite play, for example, was decidedly jolly: in Euripides’s lost Andromeda, which told the story of the heroine’s rescue from death by the hero Perseus, the two marry. Another Euripides play, Protesilaus, about the first hero to be killed in the Trojan war, told of the dead man’s being brought back to life for a day because his wife loved him so much.