The Orestia

Front Cover
Echo Library, Mar 1, 2009 - Fiction - 96 pages
The Oresteia is the only trilogy of tragedy plays to survive from Ancient Greece. Agamemnon, Libation Bearers, and Eumenides have established the enduring themes of Greek tragedy--the inexorable nature of Fate, the relationship between justice, revenge, and religion. In this family history, Fate and the gods decree that each generation will repeat the crimes and endure the suffering of their forebears. When Agamemnon is murdered by his wife, Clytemnestra, their son Orestes must avenge his father's death. Only Orestes' appeal to the goddess Athena saves him from his mother's Furies, breaking the bloody chain; together gods and humans inaugurate a way of just conduct that will ensure stable families and a strong community.
The Oresteia is majestic as theater and as literature, and this new translation seeks to preserve both these qualities. The introduction and notes emphasize the relationship between the scenes, ideas, and language that distinguishes this unique work.

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About the author (2009)

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.

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