The Oresteia: Agamemnon; The Libation Bearers; The Eumenides
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In the Oresteia Aeschylus addressed the bloody chain of murder and revenge within the royal family of Argos. As they move from darkness to light, from rage to self-governance, from primitive ritual to civilized institution, their spirit of struggle and regeneration becomes an everlasting song of celebration. In Agamemnon, a king's decision to sacrifice his daughter and turn the tide of war inflicts lasting damage on his family, culminating in a terrible act of retribution; The Libation Bearers deals with the aftermath of Clytemnestra's regicide, as her son Orestes sets out to avenge his father's death; and in The Eumenides, Orestes is tormented by supernatural powers that can never be appeased. Forming an elegant and subtle discourse on the emergence of Athenian democracy out of a period of chaos and destruction, The Oresteia is a compelling tragedy of the tensions between our obligations to our families and the laws that bind us together as a society.
The only trilogy in Greek drama that survives from antiquity, Aeschylus' The Oresteia is translated by Robert Fagles with an introduction, notes and glossary written in collaboration with W.B. Stanford in Penguin Classics.
'Conveys more vividly and powerfully than any of the ten competitors I have consulted the eternal power of this masterpiece ... a triumph' Bernard Levin
'How satisfying to read at last a modern translation which is rooted in Greek feeling and Greek thought ... both the stature and the profound instinctive genius of Aeschylus are recognised' Mary Renault, author of The King Must Die
For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
public criticism for glory in the past; argue the point, and the pose of the democrat may collapse, so he resorts to other platitudes. ‘A woman shouldn’t want to fight this way.’ He is losing his grip on the first issue and playing into Clytaemnestra’s ‘man-designing’ hands. Now she takes the offensive, as only a woman can. A victorious soldier can quite properly yield to a woman, she insists, and her appeal from apparent weakness to apparent strength makes him waver: ‘Do you really value
immortality, but at the time of Aeschylus they celebrated the things of this world. And the experience was a trauma of terror and reverence, of darkness broken by a blaze of torches, of ritual mounting to drama, drama resolving into vision, gods and mortals wedded here and now. As the Mysteries were absorbed by Athens, they became the force, as an ancient decree described them, that led mankind from savagery to civilization. More than agriculture, human culture was the harvest gift of Athens.
origins, the silent dead, to rouse their powers of revenge. They begin defeated. Apollo has inspired the matricide and snatched him from their grasp. Now it is their turn to suffer incriminations - all the nightmares, spurs and chills they dealt their guilty victims - but they quickly turn their suffering against the guilty god. The Navelstone is haemorrhaging again, and they know what that means: another Olympian violation of the Mother and the Fates. Now by taking revenge on the matricide,
no more of it than killing a beast, and his flocks were rich, teeming in their fleece, but he sacrificed his own child, our daughter, the agony I laboured into love to charm away the savage winds of Thrace. Didn’t the law demand you banish him? - hunt him from the land for all his guilt? But now you witness what I’ve done and you are ruthless judges. Threaten away! I’ll meet you blow for blow. And if I fall the throne is yours. If god decrees the reverse, late as it is, old men,
too; see 54ff., 604, 1063, 1127ff., 1237ff., 1500ff., 1694, and n. 49; LB n. 252, E n. 94. 827 I dragged that man to the wars: Odysseus tried to evade conscription for the Trojan War - out of prudence, more likely, than from any cowardice. Agamemnon is priding himself on his own prudence; society holds out a flattering mirror to the proud, but he knows a hypocrite when he sees one. The one loyal man he saw at Troy was Odysseus, and Agamemnon sings his praises - but as anyone in Athens would have