A few phrases of background ‘Macedonian’, that we overhear from the farmer’s widow and her son, are constructed as accurately as I can from what little we know of the Greek dialect spoken in Northern Greece at the time. Scholars will be right to point out that of actual historical ‘Macedonian’ we know nothing – it may even not have been a dialect of the Greek language at all. And if my ‘Macedonian’ looks more like 5th century BC Thessalian to them, well, yes: it’s the nearest I could come. But this is not a scholastic exercise. It’s local colour, suggesting the otherness of this exile landscape into which the old dramatist has come. .
The listener need have no knowledge of any of this, nor of the play that Euripides finds himself writing, nor even of its existence. What matters here is the simple tale of an alienated old poet seeking solitude and peace in his sunset days, and having that peace blown asunder by one last wonderful and terrible inspiration.
Scholars will be right also to dispute that Euripides ever retired to Macedonia at all. His ‘exile’, and fatal last wild inspiration there, could very largely be legend. I’ve found dramatic means to respect the uncertain status of these. But they add up to a story too good to miss: and I have had my way with it.
Directed by Jeremy Mortimer
a Catherine Bailey production for BBC Radio 3
scheduled for transmission February 15th 2015