Euripides’s greatest hits

A quick glance at Amazon or LibraryThing is usually all it takes to find out what a given author’s most popular works are, but it’s not that easy for an author like Euripides, whose plays are published in collections more often than as stand-alone works. For the following statistics, I went to LibraryThing’s Euripides page, looked at all the books owned by at least ten users, and broke them down into their contents, given a more realistic picture of the popularity of each individual work. For example, only 64 users own Electra as a book, which would make it Euripides’s 8th most popular play; if we tally up all the collections and anthologies which include Electra, though, it shoots up to third place, owned by 2,133 users.

Medea, the most popular of Euripides’s plays, is owned by 3,246 LibraryThing users, and the numbers in parentheses below represent percentages of that number. I also note which plays won prizes at the City Dionysia.

  1. Medea (100, third prize)
  2. Bacchae (79, first prize)
  3. Electra (66)
  4. Alcestis (65, second prize)
  5. Trojan Women (54, second prize)
  6. Ion (49)
  7. Hippolytus (45, first prize)
  8. Iphigenia in Tauris (42)
  9. Hecuba (39)
  10. Iphigenia at Aulis (39, first prize)
  11. Heracles (35)
  12. Children of Heracles (34)
  13. Cyclops (33)
  14. Helen (31)
  15. Phoenician Women (27)
  16. Andromache (20)
  17. Orestes (16)
  18. Suppliant Women (15)
  19. Rhesus (14)

I’m pleased to note that the volume I own — Signet Classic’s Euripides: Ten Plays, translated by Paul Roche — matches this list very well, coinciding almost exactly with its top ten (the one exception being that it includes Cyclops rather than Hecuba). The modern popularity of Euripides’s works also seems to be in broad agreement with the judgment of his contemporaries; of his six prize-winning plays, four of them also make the top six on the above list, and one of them misses it by a hair. (The other, Iphigenia at Aulis, won the prize as part of a trilogy that included Bacchae, so it may not have been first-prize material in its own right.)

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