Aeschylus, Volume 2

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Harvard University Press, 1983 - Drama - 610 pages
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Aeschylus (ca. 525–456 BCE), author of the first tragedies existing in European literature, was an Athenian born at Eleusis. He served at Marathon against Darius in 490, and again during Xerxes' invasion, 480–479. Between 478 and 467 he visited Sicily, there composing by request Women of Aetna. At Athens he competed in production of plays more than twenty times, and was rewarded on at least thirteen occasions, becoming dominant between 500 and 458 through the splendour of his language and his dramatic conceptions and technique.

Of his total of 80–90 plays seven survive complete. The Persians (472), the only surviving Greek historical drama, presents the failure of Xerxes to conquer Greece. Seven against Thebes (467) was the second play of its trilogy of related plays on the evil fate of the Theban House. Polyneices tries to regain Thebes from his brother Eteocles; both are killed. In Suppliant Maidens, the first in a trilogy, the daughters of Danaus arrive with him at Argos, whose King and people save them from the wooing of the sons of their uncle Aegyptus. In Prometheus Bound, first or second play of its trilogy about Prometheus, he is nailed to a crag, by order of Zeus, for stealing fire from heaven for men. Defiant after visitors' sympathy and despite advice, he descends in lightning and thunder to Hell. The Oresteia (458), on the House of Atreus, is the only Greek trilogy surviving complete. In Agamemnon, the King returns from Troy, and is murdered by his wife Clytaemnestra. In Libation-Bearers, Orestes with his sister avenges their father Agamemnon's death by counter-murder. In Eumenides, Orestes, harassed by avenging Furies, is arraigned by them at Athens for matricide. Tried by a court set up by Athena, he is absolved, but the Furies are pacified.

We publish in Volume I four plays; and in Volume II the Oresteia and some fragments of lost plays.

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User Review  - Hera - LibraryThing

Oscar Wilde thought the Agamemnon the best play ever written and he may be right. The language is so beautiful and the tension is perfect. I love this play and the others in the trilogy. The story ... Read full review

Contents

agamemnon
3
the libationbearers
155
eumenides
269
Copyright

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About the author (1983)

Aeschylus was born at Eleusis of a noble family. He fought at the Battle of Marathon (490 b.c.), where a small Greek band heroically defeated the invading Persians. At the time of his death in Sicily, Athens was in its golden age. In all of his extant works, his intense love of Greece and Athens finds expression. Of the nearly 90 plays attributed to him, only 7 survive. These are The Persians (produced in 472 b.c.), Seven against Thebes (467 b.c.), The Oresteia (458 b.c.)---which includes Agamemnon, Libation Bearers, and Eumenides (or Furies) --- Suppliants (463 b.c.), and Prometheus Bound (c.460 b.c.). Six of the seven present mythological stories. The ornate language creates a mood of tragedy and reinforces the already stylized character of the Greek theater. Aeschylus called his prodigious output "dry scraps from Homer's banquet," because his plots and solemn language are derived from the epic poet. But a more accurate summation of Aeschylus would emphasize his grandeur of mind and spirit and the tragic dignity of his language. Because of his patriotism and belief in divine providence, there is a profound moral order to his plays. Characters such as Clytemnestra, Orestes, and Prometheus personify a great passion or principle. As individuals they conflict with divine will, but, ultimately, justice prevails. Aeschylus's introduction of the second actor made real theater possible, because the two could address each other and act several roles. His successors imitated his costumes, dances, spectacular effects, long descriptions, choral refrains, invocations, and dialogue. Swinburne's (see Vol. 1) enthusiasm for The Oresteia sums up all praises of Aeschylus; he called it simply "the greatest achievement of the human mind." Because of his great achievements, Aeschylus might be considered the "father of tragedy.

Emeritus Regius Professor of Greek, Oxford, Hugh Lloyd-Jones was knighted in 1989.

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