Penthesilea: A Tragic Drama

Front Cover
HarperCollins, Jun 20, 2000 - Fiction - 224 pages

An army of Amazons sets out to conquer Greek heroes for the purpose of stocking their women's state with new female offspring. They blast into the midst of the Trojan War, confusing Greeks and Trojans alike and for a moment forcing those enemies into a terrified alliance. When Achilles, the pride and mainstay of the Greeks, and Penthesilea (Pen-te-sil-lay-uh), queen of the Amazons, meet, a chase begins,

The like of which not even the wildest storms
Set loose to thunder across the plain of heaven
Have yet presented to the astonished world,

and it is the queen who is hunting Achilles, to the uncomprehending horror of the Greeks. Thus begins a tragedy of love in a world governed by the rules of war, on which "the gods look down but from afar."

For the first time, in this splendidly illustrated book, an English translation recreates the audaity, romance, and poetry of one of the strangest and most beautiful works of Western literature.

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Penthesilea: a tragic drama

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Kleist's obscure and complex early 19th-century play is here translated by Guggenheim Fellow Agee in blank verse, a more formal version than Martin Greenberg's translation (Five Plays, Yale Univ ... Read full review

About the author (2000)

Heinrich von Kleist (1777-1811) was virtually forgotten until the beginning of the twentieth century, when Rilke, Kafka, and Thomas Mann hailed him as a master of German prose and European dramatic literature. During Kleist's lifetime, Goethe, sensing in the younger man his greatest rival, carefully withheld from him the endorsement that would have established his reputation. At the age of thirty-four, impoverished and in debt, despairing of the literary honor he had hoped to gain for his family, Kleist consummated a suicide pact with an incurably ill married woman. Ironically, the spectacular circumstances of his death helped to rescue his oeuvre--primarily eight stories and eight plays--from oblivion.

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