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Orestia by Aeschylus


by Aeschylus

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Oresteia (1-3)

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English (38)  Spanish (2)  Italian (1)  All languages (41)
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Umberto Eco once wrote in reference to literature translation that if you refer to a dictionary, exactitude is not one of the synonyms of faithfulness. In many of the comments that I've read on the Hughes translation of the Oresteia, it has been noted that Hughes is not true to the text. I feel that this is somewhat beside the point. This is a text that can capture an audience's attention with a story and world that is entirely alien to our own. As a reader, I was drawn deeply into the text, and often forgot that I was reading a translated work—a huge success for a translation between two vastly different languages. Of the three plays, I particularly enjoyed Agamemnon. The language is raw and often gut-wrenching, but it captivates the reader with drum-beat alliteration and an incessant pull forward. For example, when Clytemnestra describes the end of the Trojan war, she talks of:

"Troy on its hill / Cascades with blood, as under a downpour / Of bodies from heaven, / Shattered and entangled with each other / In every passage—mutilations, / Amputations, eviscerations. The woman / Are kneeling, shoulders heaving, with eyes hidden, / Over what were yesterday / Husbands, fathers, sons." (21)

This intensely visual language can be found throughout the text, and makes for a very powerful, moving translation. It may not be exactly true to the ancient Greek, but I'm sure it can affect audiences just as well as the original. I couldn't recommend it more. ( )
  mmcdwl | Sep 10, 2015 |
Aeschylus's The Oresteia my not contain the landmark Greek play Oedipus Rex within its cycle but it also doesn't contain the less impressive Antigone. Instead you get three plays that act as three acts, a beginning, a heightened middle, and a denouement. Agamemnon has little of the title character taking up its breadth of lines and none of Orestes, for which the cycle is named. It does set up the action of events, however, as Aegisthus and Clytaemnestra conspire together and kill Agamemnon. The Libation Bearers is set a few years later and features the son of Clytaemnestra and Agamemnon exacting revenge under the guidance of Apollo. The Eumenides is then the tale of the furies' attempt to get revenge on Orestes following his mother's curse in a short but literally divine trial. I do have my complaints about the amount of filler featured at the very beginning of these three plays but that quickly evaporates once the action sets moving at full bore over a course perhaps even shorter than the shortest of Shakespeare's plays. The crown jewel of Greek Tragedy will always be Oedipus Rex (or Oedipus The King) but it's doubtful these three plays would let any but the most stringent auditors down. ( )
  Salmondaze | Apr 19, 2015 |
Right's anvil stands staunch on the ground
and the smith, Destiny, hammers out the sword.
Delayed in glory, pensive from
the murk, Vengeance brings home at last
a child, to wipe out the stain of blood shed long ago.
—"Libation Bearers" line: 646

There is no mortal man who shall turn
unhurt his life's course to an end not marred.
—"Libation Bearers" 1018

You wish to be called righteous rather than act right.
—"The Eumenides" 430 ( )
  gvenezia | Dec 26, 2014 |
I tried to read 'Prometheus Bound' years ago, and couldn't finish it. Clearly I should have waited a while- The Oresteia, in the Fagles translation, is one of the most remarkable books I've ever read. Darker and more violent than anything the 20th century could come up with, it's also brighter and more hopeful than anything from the 19th century. It's as if someone had written both Schiller's 'Ode to Joy' and Eliot's 'Waste Land', and it was one book, only there was far deeper social, political and religious thought involved (this is no slight to those two poems). A less edifying, but funnier joy was finding the original 'better to live on your feet than die on your knees' statement being made by an old codger running around like a headless chook while the 'tyrant' murders the 'innocents.'

Otherwise, the introductory essay is a little hand-wavy for my tastes, and the notes are often too detailed and insufficiently informative. Fagles' translation is modern in that it accepts and respects difficulty, while not being utterly obscure. It'll take you some time to read, but it's well worth it. ( )
1 vote stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
The Oresteia tells the story of the slaying of Agamemnon, Orestes avenging his father's murder, and his trial. From any online source or introduction to his plays you'll glean that Aeschylus is the earliest playwright whose plays we have. Only seven out of the dozens he wrote survive to the present day. The Oresteia is the only extant trilogy, a form he might have originated. It's listed fourth in Top 100 Plays and is on the Good Reading's "100 Significant Books" list. Critics trace Aeschylus' influence from classic French and Elizabethan drama to Wagner's Ring cycle. The title of Faulkner's As I Lay Dying is taken from a quote from the first of the trilogy, Agamemnon. Robert Kennedy, who called Aeschylus his "favorite poet," quoted a line from Agamemnon in a speech dealing with Martin Luther King's assassination. Even JK Rowling prefaced the final Harry Potter book with a quote from the middle play, The Libation Bearers.

The last of the trilogy, The Eumenides, was my introduction to Aeschylus in high school. I remember it, and the comments of my teacher, making quite an impression on me. That play includes a trial and deals with such issues, not only of justice and reason, but those of gender as well, as it deals with who has greater claim, a man's mother or his father? Or whether really the claims of a mother have any validity at all. The ending says a lot about how the Ancient Greeks saw women--and it isn't pretty. Thus the Eumenides is one of those plays that bears close study in the classroom, even if less moving than the first two dramas. In fact, the whole bit of a trial, with Apollo as defense council and Athene as one of the jurors seems a bit... bizarre to a modern reader compared to the realistic, yet mythic contents of the other two.

I can't speak to the dramatic value of the plays, since I've never seen one performed, but in the various translations I've read, Aeschylus' works are striking and beautiful as poetry, though they feel more stylized than Sophocles or Euripides; they make me think of an ancient frieze. Of course, it depends on a good translation for its beauties to emerge. I'd recommend comparing sections side by side before choosing one. If Lattimore's translation comes across as stilted, Weir-Smith's is downright flowery with archaic language and Slavitt strikes me as far too slangy contemporary. Hughes, Meineck, and Fagles read better I think. ( )
  LisaMaria_C | May 19, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (97 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Aeschylusprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Burian, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fagles, RobertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grene, DavidEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hughes, TedTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Koolschijn, GerardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lattimore, RichmondEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Levi, PeterIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lowell, RobertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morshead, E. D. A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Murray, GilbertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Preece, LaurenceIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shapiro, AlanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Simonsuuri, KirstiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stanford, W.B.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vellacott, PhilipTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Be like me! - amid the incessant flux
of appearances, eternally creating,
eternally driving into life, in this
rushing, whirling flux eternally seizing
satisfaction - I am the Great Mother!

- Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy
First words
I ask the gods some respite from the weariness/ of this watchtime measured by years I lie awake/ elbowed upon the Atreidaes' roof dogwise to mark/ the grand processionals of all the stars of night/ burdened with winter and again with heat for men,/ dynasties in their shining blazoned on the air,/ these stars, upon their wane and when the rest arise. (tr. Lattimore 1953)
Dear gods, set me free from all the pain,
the long watch I keep, one whole year awake..
propped on my arms, crouched on the roofs of Atreus
like a dog.

[tr. Flagles 1984]
The Oresteia of Aeschylus was first performed in Athens in the spring of 458 B.C., some two years before the poet's death. (Introduction)
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Disambiguation notice
This LT Work is the complete Oresteia trilogy of plays by Aeschylus, including:

Choephori (a/k/a, The Libation Bearers), and
Eumenides (a/k/a, The Furies).

Please do not combine this trilogy with any of the individual plays, or with any other collection. Specifically, do not combine this work with any edition that also includes Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound. Thank you.
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Book description
Translations of the extant plays of Aeschylus.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140443339, Paperback)

In the Oresteia—the only trilogy in Greek drama which survives from antiquity— Aeschylus took as his subject the bloody chain of murder and revenge within the royal family of Argos. Moving from darkness to light, from rage to self-governance, from primitive ritual to civilized institution, it's spirit of struggle and regeneration is eternal.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:57:51 -0400)

(see all 11 descriptions)

A trilogy of plays dramatizes the murder of Agamemnon by his wife, Clytaemnestra, the revenge of her son, Orestes, and his judgement by the court of Athena.

» see all 7 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140443339, 0140440674

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