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Racine's (and Euripides') Iphigenia

graphic of sulpture One of the more unpleasant stories about Agamemnon was that when he had gathered the ships of all the Greek armies at Aulis, ready to sail for Troy, unfavorable winds kept the fleet from departing. Agamemnon had offended the goddess Artemis, and he was told that he could placate the goddess and get favorable winds only if he sacrificed his daughter, Iphigenia. Some variants of the story say he did; some say he didn't. Some say that although he offered Iphigenia as a sacrifice, Artemis took pity and substituted a deer for the girl. Artemis took Iphigenia to Tauris, where she became a priestess. Euripides, a classical Greek playwright, wrote two Iphigenia plays, one about her sacrifice at Aulis, and another about her years in Tauris.

In seventeenth century France, Racine retold the story of Iphigenia at Aulis, modifying the ancient Greek story with neoclassical French sensibility. The Greek army is gathered at Aulis, the winds are unfavorable, Agamemnon is told to sacrifice his daughter. He waffles, saying he will, saying he won't. Ulysses pressures him into doing it, because the army would rebel if he did not. Agamemnon sends a letter to his wife, Clytemnestra, asking her to send Iphigenia to Aulis, where he will marry her to Achilles (who knows nothing of this). Then Agamemnon tries to send another letter, telling them not to come, but it is too late.

Iphigenia arrives and finds out what is in store for her. She is an amazingly dutiful daughter, and is willing to die for her father and the Greek cause. She is taken to be sacrificed, but at the end a messenger comes, saying that she had disappeared from the altar, and been replaced by a deer.

Racine's Iphigenia Activities Racine's Iphigenia Bibliography
Explore the links below


  • Iphigenia, Phaedra, Athaliah: Three plays by Racine. Translated by John Cairncross. Penguin, 1970. An inexpensive paperback version.
  • Iphigenia: The Diary of a Young Lady Who Wrote Because She Was Bored.



  • Dictys and Dares on Iphigenia: This is my synopsis of the ways that Dictys and Dares retell the Iphigenia story.
  • Iphigenia: This is chapter XI from The Warden by Anthony Trollope, wherein a young woman considers self-sacrifice (metaphorical) to help her father.
  • Iphigenia 2.0. A modern adaptation for theater by Charles Mee.
  • Iphigenia at Aulis by Euripides: Downloadable e-text with discussion forum, search engine and links to book purchases. From MIT.
  • Iphigénie en Aulide(1674): etext in French. Select textes and then scroll down to Racine and then to the play.
  • Phaedra by Racine: An English translation by Robert Bruce Boswell.


  •  Aretz, Susanne. Die Opferung der Iphigenieia in Aulis: Die Rezeption des Mythos in antiken und modern Dramen. 1999. Bryn Mawr Classical Review (in English) 2002.01.05 by Pantelis Michelakis (in English).
  • Hall, Frederic A. "A Comparison of the "Iphigenias" of Euripides, Goethe, and Racine." The Classical Journal Vol. 9, No. 9 (Jun., 1914), pp. 371-384. Access  full text through the JSTOR database (NOVA subscribes).
  • "Iphigenia and Other Daughters": Reviewed by Helen Foley.
  • "Iphigenia at Aulis" by Innokentij Anneskij: A discussion by V. N. Iarxo of a modern Russian version of the play. The essay's purpose is to discuss Anneskij's principles of translation.
  •  "Racine in England." A substantial essay by F. Y. Eccles, University of London, 1921. Scroll down through annoying stuff to find the essay.


  • Iphigenia: The IMDB page on the film Iphigenia at Aulis, 1977.
  • Iphigenia in Aulis: Translated and Adapted by Edward Einhorn. This site contains the full script of my translation/adaptation of Iphigenia in Aulis,originally performed at La MaMa’s First Floor Theater in New York City, 2013.
  • Iphigenia: Story of a Refugee: a Film/Opera; part of the "Iphigenia Project" linking the ancient story to modern immigration into Europe. 
  • The Iphigenia Project: Inspired by the true story of a murder trial in New York City, The Iphigenia Project, created by the M.F.A. third-year actors and director David Bridel, blends satire, social realism and the themes of Greek Tragedy in its investigation of the justice system today. 
  • Iphigenia 2.0. Charles Mee; The Re-making Project. Full text of his adaptation.
  • Iphigenia and Other Daughters: by Ellen McLaughlin. Includes free reading of script and options to purchase.
  • Opera Amended: Gluck's Iphigenia in Aulis; includes an essay on it by Bruce Scott and the option of downloading from NPR's website. 

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    Diane Thompson: 8/25/1998; updated: 8/6/2017