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Research Mentor and Department
Famous Greek tragedian Euripides authored more than ninety plays, only a few of which still exist in full length. Euripides' play, Phaethon, the story of the sun deity's son who almost burns the Earth, survives in only simple fragments of the original. Despite the myth’s popularity, its interpretations have varied widely. Our team set out to reconstruct Phaethon through examination of Euripides's original fragments, consideration of the work of more recent scholars, and some degree of creative freedom. We wrote a collection of essays dealing with the issues of Phaethon's characterization as an impulsive adolescent, the presence of a deus ex machina, the centrality of Phaethon's parental figures, and Aeschylus's influence on Euripides's writing. These research essays then informed our writing of a full script for Phaethon, using the original fragments in combination with our own playwriting. This script was used in the staging of a workshop performance of Phaethon. Our research findings suggested a level of depth in Phaethon’s characterization that is not always found in more modern versions of the myth. We deemphasized his “rebellious teenager” qualities and focused instead on his status as a young man in the midst of an identity crisis, searching for his familial roots. Our research also pointed to the overlooked centrality of Merops and Clymene, and as such the structure of our final script emphasized their importance – placing the death of Phaethon relatively early on, developing Merops and Clymene’s relationship, and ending the play by highlighting their marital conflict. These findings, among others, informed our final product and led us to our goal of recreating the essence of Euripides’s original version of Phaethon.