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The Oresteia: Agamemnon; The Libation…

The Oresteia: Agamemnon; The Libation Bearers; The Eumenides (edition 1984)

by Aeschylus, W. B. Stanford (Editor), W. B. Stanford (Introduction), Robert Fagles (Translator)

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Title:The Oresteia: Agamemnon; The Libation Bearers; The Eumenides
Other authors:W. B. Stanford (Editor), W. B. Stanford (Introduction), Robert Fagles (Translator)
Info:Penguin Classics (1984), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:plays, classics

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Orestia by Aeschylus


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It started out a bit uninteresting, but it became better once Cassandra was introduced. ( )
  Frenzie | Jan 18, 2017 |
I did not read this edition. The complete work was included in a literature anthology which I own.
The first two plays were OK, and I read them more from a sense of duty than any other reason.
I really liked the third play. It kept my interest, as it dealt with the dilemma - Should he kill his father's murderer? Or should he refuse to kill his mother? He must do either one or the other, and the Gods will want to punish him either way. ( )
  CarolJMO | Dec 12, 2016 |
An interesting trio of 3 plays that make up a traditional Greek tragedy set--the only one extant.

The play looks at Athena's using a jury trial to determine Orestes' guilt in the murder of his mother Clytemnestra, in the required act of vengeance for her killing his father Agamemnon. Traditionally,
Greek law allowed/required a family member to seek revenge for any killing--leading to a never-ending multi-generational series of revenge murders. As had been going on in this family.

In Agamemnon, Clytemnestra and her lover (and nephew) Aegisthus murder Agamemnon and his new concubine Cassandra.

In The Libation Bearers, Agamemnon's son Orestes comes how to seek the required vengeance, meeting with his sister Electra.

In Eumenides, he flees Clytemnestra's Erinyes (ancient gods, who seek revenge and will hound him until he is killed in turn), seeking cleansing from Apollo. Apollo and Athena protect him and convince the Erinyes to participate in a jury trial. They then provide the Erinyes with a new option--to live below Athens in a huge area where they become the Fates. If I am understanding correctly.

Jury trials were fairly new to Greece when this was first performed, it would not have seemed standard to the Greeks, but would have given an example of why this new method was better than the old. ( )
  Dreesie | Nov 27, 2016 |
Three Greek dramas by Aeschylus, Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers and The Furies make for an interesting trilogy. An understanding of what went on before the Agamemnon was important; I got a lot out of the Introduction and Notes.

Agamemnon returns victorious from the Trojan War and meets a tragic fate.

In the second drama, Orestes, Agamemnon's son, returns to avenge his father's murder (Apollo told him to...).

The conclusion of the trilogy is the trial of Orestes, presided over by Athena, with Apollo as a witness for the defense and the Furies for the prosecution and 12 citizens of Athens are the jury.

I'm not sure I can say I enjoyed these dramas. I did find them interesting - to see the murder of a husband compared to the murder of a mother, to see Apollo argue that the true parent is the father not the mother, as the mother only 'hoards the germ of life' (WOW!) and makes a comparison to Athena, who did not come from a mother's womb. Also, I found it very interesting to see a newer god (Athena) arguing with older gods (the Furies) and essentially assuage them through bribery... ( )
  LisaMorr | Jan 27, 2016 |
I am not here to review the Oresteia--the foundational text of Western drama hardly needs my praise--but instead to say a few words about the Richmond Lattimore translation which I read. Lattimore has an exalted reputation as a translator-poet, but I found this rendering fussy, wordy, often unclear, adhering pedantically to the dodecasyllabic meter of the original which (as Paul Roche has argued) works for the swift-moving Greek tongue but lumbers in consonant-rich English. As Pope wrote in the Essay on Criticism,

A needless alexandrine ends the song
That like a wounded snake, drags its slow length along.

"Alexandrine" refers to a line written in iambic hexameter (twelve syllables, half of them stressed); the second line of Pope's couplet, in which he demonstrates how little suited such a meter is to English, reads uncannily like a parody of Lattimore's Oresteia in advance. Lattimore's twelve-syllable lines are cluttered with superfluous words whose apparent purpose is to fill out the meter and/or convey the alliterative music of the original. Check out these lines of Cassandra's (italics are mine):

Now I will tell you plainly and from no cryptic speech;
bear me then witness, running at my heels upon
the scent of these old brutal things done long ago.

Oh, how those wounded snakes drag their slow length along! Some of the redundancy may be in the Greek, but I blame Lattimore. I looked up these lines in the Fagles translation and found this:

No more riddles. I will teach you.
Come, bear witness, run and hunt with me.
We trail the old barbaric works of slaughter.

The Fagles translation of these lines, which is metrically more flexible, is clear and energetic, and there is to my eye not a superfluous word. Fagles may miss out on the evocative "scent" but he also avoids the confusion of "running at my heels upon" and the redundancies that clog the flow of Lattimore's rendering.

Or check out Lattimore's adjective-overkill in these lines of Clytaemnestra's:

Thus he went down, and the life struggled out of him;
and as he died he spattered me with the dark red
and violent driven rain of bitter savored blood

Here are the same lines as construed by Fagles:

So he goes down, and the life is bursting out of him--
great sprays of blood, and the murderous shower
wounds me, dies me black. . .

Once more, Fagles' metrically more flexible rendering is clearer and more forceful: Fagles has no need to pad out the meter with superfluous verbal placeholders (and strained efforts to preserve the alliterative quality of the Greek: Lattimore's "down," "died," "dark red," "driven rain," "bitter," "blood"). Moreover, in Lattimore's translation, the image of spattering blood is inconsistent with the more laborious image of life "struggling" out of the dying Agamemnon. Fagles has "bursting," not "struggling," which makes more sense. Admittedly, I don't know the original Greek, but even supposing Lattimore is more faithful to Aeschylus in this instance, the fidelity is achieved at the expense of coherence and energy.

Sometimes Lattimore's translation is downright murky, like the Chorus's line in this exchange with Cassandra, where alliteration triumphs over intelligibility:

Cassandra: Friends, there is no escape for any longer time.
Chorus: Yet longest left in time is to be honored still.
Again, I looked these lines up in the Fagles translation, where they make a lot more sense:

Cassandra: No escape, my friends, not now.
Chorus:But the last hour should be savored.
Even when Lattimore's translation avoids redundancy and needless obscurity, it is given to unnatural word order and stilted phrasing. Classical Greek is a dead language, but for Aeschylus and his audience it was living, breathing speech. Lattimore does not make Aeschylus' poetry live and breathe; he lovingly embalms it. I came away from this disappointing translation with only a muted sense of the touted majesty of these plays. ( )
1 vote middlemarchhare | Nov 25, 2015 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Aeschylusprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Albini, UmbertoIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Allen, Lewis & DorothyDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Allman, SylviaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Altena, HermanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Aryton, MichaelIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ayres, RosalindNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ayrton, MichaelIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Østbye, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Baldick, RobertEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Battezzato, LuigiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bolognese, DonIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Boutens, P.C.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brandes, PeterIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Burian, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Canfora, LucianoPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cantarella, RaffaeleTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cardó, CarlesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Collard, ChristopherTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Corrigan, Robert WilloughbyEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
d'Hane-Scheltema, M.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Del Corno, DarioIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Di Benedetto, VincenzoIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Doniger, WendyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Droysen, Johann GustavTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Due, Otto SteenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ebener, DietrichTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eichman, RichardFrontispiecesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fagles, RobertEditor and Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Foley, Helene P.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Foxworth, BoNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
García Valdés, ManuelaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gerbrandy, PietAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grene, DavidEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hughes, TedTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Koolschijn, GerardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Krupat,, CynthiaCover designersecondary 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
Nash-Williams, A. H.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
O'Flaherty, Wendy DonigerTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Padel, RuthIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Palli Bonet, JulioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pattoni, Maria PiaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Perea Morales, BernardoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Rex WarnerForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ricci, DomenicoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roche, PaulTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Shapiro, AlanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Simonsuuri, KirstiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Slavitt, David R.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sommerstein, Alan H.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stanford, William BedellEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stern, ErnstIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stoneman, RichardConsultant Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thomson, GeorgeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Vaara, ElinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Warner, RexTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilson, AdrianDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Young, DouglasTranslatorsecondary 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.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 8 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140443339, 0140440674

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