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The Persians and Other Plays (Penguin…

The Persians and Other Plays (Penguin Classics) (edition 2010)

by Aeschylus, Alan H. Sommerstein (Editor), Alan H. Sommerstein (Translator), Alan H. Sommerstein (Introduction)

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1,85286,084 (4.02)19
Aeschylus (525-456 BC) brought a new grandeur and epic sweep to the drama of classical Athens, raising it to the status of high art. In Prometheus Boundthe defiant Titan Prometheus is brutally punished by Zeus for daring to improve the state of wretchedness and servitude in which mankind is kept. The Suppliantstells the story of the fifty daughters of Danaus who must flee to escape enforced marriages, while Seven Against Thebesshows the inexorable downfall of the last members of the cursed family of Oedipus. And The Persians, the only Greek tragedy to deal with events from recent Athenian history, depicts the aftermath of the defeat of Persia in the battle of Salamis, with a sympathetic portrayal of its disgraced King Xerxes.Philip Vellacott?s evocative translation is accompanied by an introduction, with individual discussions of the plays, and their sources in history and mythology.… (more)
Title:The Persians and Other Plays (Penguin Classics)
Other authors:Alan H. Sommerstein (Editor), Alan H. Sommerstein (Translator), Alan H. Sommerstein (Introduction)
Info:Penguin Classics (2010), Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Your library, Completed (inactive)

Work details

The Persians; Prometheus Bound; Seven Against Thebes; The Suppliants by Aeschylus


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Some have compared Prometheus to Jesus Christ. Certainly the opening scene of Aeschylus's play, with Prometheus splayed upon a rock as he is bound by Hephaestus, invites the comparison. I would not go so far and see the interplay between the Greek gods to be the relevant context for this scene. Played out at the "world's limit" in a bleak setting the drama portrays Prometheus suffering punishment for making humans "intelligent and masters of their minds". (line 444)

Prometheus' crime is not the only reason for his punishment for the chorus tells us that there is a war going on between the "Old" gods (Olympians) and the new generation of Gods. Zeus is seeking to maintain his primacy while Prometheus and his brothers are the dangerous new gods on the block. Atlas is suffering as well carrying the weight of the whole world on his back. The scales are not even - their is nothing like fairness or justice in this world. Prometheus is doomed even as he is visited by Io who is also suffering due to Hera's jealous rage over Zeus's attentions.

Being a god does not seem to lead to a completely pleasant life - there is strife and anger at every turn even for the most powerful. The winners in this play seem to be humans who do not have to relinquish the gifts endowed them by Prometheus. However, even these can be seen as a two-edged sword for our ancestors who had to endure hardships of many kinds in the struggle of living in the world. Prometheus cries out "O sky that circling brings light to all, you see how unjustly I suffer!" (lines 1091-2) Could that be our own cry even today? ( )
  jwhenderson | May 10, 2019 |
I rate this work as high as I do only for its classic interest; it is hard to view it as compelling drama in the modern world. Though award winning in its own time, theatre has moved on and left this sort of writing long behind, with all action happening offstage and delivered to the audience as long expository speeches by an annoying chorus that is by turns whiny, pompous, and groveling. It is always interesting to see the historical background of a field you are involved in, but this is not what I would classify among the best of classical drama. It doesn't hold a candle to the Oedipus Cycle, or even the author's own Oresteia. It also suffers in that these are mainly fragments of plays, or parts of trilogies or tetrads that are the only remaining parts of the work, so they feel unfinished, or like they start in the middle, which does them no benefit. Overall, recommended for people interested in historical theatre, or in the period in general, but for people wanting compelling drama, probably should look somewhere else. ( )
  Devil_llama | Dec 28, 2017 |
An excellent collection of Ancient Greek plays which have stood the test of time. The four plays herein - translated ably by Philip Vellacott - are, along with the three plays of the Oresteia, all that remains of Aeschylus' work.

'Prometheus Bound' is the best, and the reason I picked up this book in the first place. Prometheus' struggle has always been, to my mind, the most compelling of all the Greek myths, but even so I was surprised at just how much depth Aeschylus discovered in the tale. 'Prometheus Bound' is a commentary on tyranny, rationalism, faith, mortality, justice and hubris all rolled into one (in a total of about thirty pages, no less!), with intriguing little suggestions that the story - benevolent Prometheus against the tyrannical Zeus - may not be as clear-cut as is often supposed. I am now even more fascinated by the story of Prometheus than I was going in, and am disappointed that the play's follow-ups, 'Prometheus Unbound' and 'Prometheus the Fire-Bringer', have not survived into modern times.

Having wanted to read just 'Prometheus Bound', the other three plays in the collection turned out to be a nice bonus. All four plays had plenty of poetic turns of phrase and a lofty, yet very human, morality. 'The Suppliants' sees a kingdom take in a group of refugee women who have fled forced marriages, with the king resolving to defy their would-be husbands by force if necessary. 'Seven Against Thebes' tells the story of an assault on the seven-gated city of Thebes, with a brother-vs-brother tragedy that has no small amount of pathos. The final play, 'The Persians', wasn't in my opinion as stellar as the others, but still has enough about it to be worth a read.

All in all, the translated plays were surprisingly accessible (no matter how many ancient classics I read, like The Iliad and The Odyssey, I am somehow always still amazed at just how well they come across) and I feel much more confident about the prospect of reading more Ancient Greek classics going forward. I've always wanted to read Lysistrata by Aristophanes and the Argonautica by Apollonius of Rhodes. Having enjoyed this book so much, I'm probably going to add Aeschylus' Oresteian trilogy to my list too. ( )
1 vote Mike_F | Mar 20, 2017 |
Because I'm not a classicist or poet, I don't usually rate ancient plays. However, I will say this edition with more modern language was easy to read and comprehend. I'm very familiar with the myths and legends referenced in the work and found the stories tragic and affecting. Of the four, I liked "Prometheus Bound" best for its discussion of deeper issues such as the nature of tyranny and the need for compassion and kindness.
1 vote MarysGirl | May 18, 2016 |
With an Introduction to each of three plays by Aeschylus. The Suppliant Maidens is the earliest Greek play still preserved, and was produced circa 490 BC. 50 daughters of Danaus flee from Egypt to Argos to avoid forced marriage. The action takes place in a Sacred Grove.

The Persians was produced in 472 BC, 8 years after the naval battle at Salamis, celebrated by the play. This is the only extant Greek tragedy not based on myth but on a contemporary event. In addition, this is the only tragedian known, ancient or modern, who dared present such a sympathetic picture of the deadly enemies of the audience. In addition, it is the Queen (although never named but as such), not Darius the King, who raises our sympathy. Perhaps precisely because the Athenians were free, fighting the enslaving despots of Persia, Aeschylus demands they comprehend the merits of their foes -- and ours.

"Seven Against Thebes" is a very strange play, produced ~ 467 BC. Possibly part of a trilogy based on the Oedipal myths. For me the importance of this elusive play lies in the very very clear invocation of "justice" urged upon the audience. ( )
1 vote keylawk | Dec 27, 2012 |
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» Add other authors (97 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Aeschylusprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bovie, PalmerEditormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grene, DavidEditormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lattimore, RichmondEditormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Slavitt, David REditormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Benardete, Seth G.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grene, DavidTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Matthews, WilliamTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morshead, E D. A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sandy, StephenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smyth, Herbert WeirTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vellacott, PhilipTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This LT Work is an anthology of four plays by Aeschylus, to wit:

The Persians,
Prometheus Bound,
Seven Against Thebes, and
The Suppliants (a/k/a The Suppliant Maidens).

Please do not combine this anthology with any of the individual plays, or with any other collection. Thank you.
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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140441123, 014044999X

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