Classical Drama and Society
Orestes' mad scene here appears to be Euripides' comment as much on the Athenian theatre as the story of Orestes. In just the year before Sophocles had staged the tragedy of Philoctetes, a mythic character who is driven mad with pain. Sophocles had allowed his Philoctetes to go insane on stage. But with typically Sophoclean discretion, just as the hero was overcome with delirium, he removed himself from the stage. Euripides, however, did not pull such punches. His Orestes is a true madman—a genuine hallucinating, slobbering psychotic!—who is crazed furthermore not for physical but psychological reasons. Where Sophocles opened the door a crack, Euripides blasts through with all his invisible Furies blazing.
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