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Seven Famous Greek Plays: Prometheus Bound,…

Seven Famous Greek Plays: Prometheus Bound, Agamemnon, Oedipus The King,… (1938)

by Whitney J. Oates (Editor), Aristophanes (Contributor), Æschylus (Contributor), Euripides (Contributor), Sophocles (Contributor)

Other authors: Richard Aldington (Translator), E. P. Coleridge (Translator), R. C. Jebb (Translator), Paul Elmer More (Translator), E. D. A. Morshead (Translator)1 more, Gilbert Murray (Translator)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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342249,899 (3.8)None
"In the interval between the epics of Homer...and the age of the three great tragic poets, thinkers began to explore the various phenomena of the external world and came to understand many aspects of nature which had hitherto been shrouded in complete mystery. The creative literary activity of this epoch likewise betokens on the part of the Greeks an increasingly higher level of self-understanding and self-consciousness, in the best sense of the word. At this time appeared a group of lyric poets, who had looked deeply within their own natures, and through the vehicle of their poetry, made abundantly evident how thoroughly they understood the essential character of man's inner being. In Greek tragedy as we now have it we meet a fully developed dramatic form....The influence of tragedy on classic comedy is evident in the increasing preoccupation with subjects that are utopian or timeless, [while] the traditional satire on contemporary events and personages recedes more and more into the background." -- from the Introduction, by Whitney J. Oates and Eugene O'Neill, Jr.… (more)



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so this really isn't my thing, in general. the timing was good to read it, though, as i'd been primed after reading some historical fiction about rome, even though that was 500 years after most of these plays were written/produced. still, it puts you in the right frame of mind for the kind of violence that seems to have been prevalent then.

i'd read at least 2 and as many as 4 of these before, but didn't really remember much of them; already knowing the story doesn't detract any as you're kind of supposed to know the story going in anyway. to that end, each of the plays is introduced with a short explanation, giving the context to the reader. there is also a glossary at the end, so you can look up the many references to people and such throughout. personally, i found the introductions helpful, but would have much preferred references on the side or at the bottom of the pages to help explain the rest of the information that is found in the glossary. when i used the glossary, which wasn't too much, i didn't find it helpful. i don't want to know who some historical/mythological reference is but why it is important; i need more context. so i'm sure there was a lot that i missed. especially as i found myself mostly skimming as i went along.

ok, so i most enjoyed both of sophocles' plays, oedipus the king and antigone, at least one of which were rereads for me. i found these to be the easiest to follow without trouble at all, and the flow seemed better to me in them. also i just like the subject matter better (personal struggle). i also liked euripides' alcestis but didn't much care for his medea, although both were also easy to understand and follow. i wasn't into aeschylus' plays at all (prometheus bound and agamemnon) and found them hard to get through without a better background in the history. aristophanes' the frogs seemed a trifle that i didn't see much point to, although there were parts that were a little amusing. ( )
  overlycriticalelisa | Oct 17, 2013 |
Seven of the surviving 47 plays written by dramatists from the Golden Age of ancient Greece were "drawn upon" for this collection. With a Glossary and introduction to each play, as well as helpful "notes".

Aeschylus was born to a prominent family in Athens, 525 bc. He won writing competitions, became successful in the theatre, and fought in Marathon and Salamis. Of the 70 plays he wrote, 7 survive. Notable for lofty language, close to bombast (parodied by Aristophanes in The Frogs). Focus on universal and religious themes -- for example, in the trilogy of PROMETHEUS (Bound, Unbound, and the Firebearer), he treats the Titan with great detail. The first play, in which the main character is chained to a rock -- literally unable to move-- he sifts through the question of why there is evil in the world. We see wisdom pitted against brute force.

In AGAMEMNON (1st play of the tragic trilogy), Aeschylus turns to the post-Trojan War House of Atreus, opening in Argos, where Queen Clytemnestra has been running the place for ten years. The disenfranchised woman, with the help of her young lover Aeisthus, plots to murder Agamemnon. This sets up the 2d play, in which her surviving daughter and son kill her, and the third records the redemption of her son absolved from guilt. The intense depiction of Clytemnestra, including the Cassandra scene, reveal the importance of women in classical Greek society. Significantly, everyone is writhing in guilt until finally, and mysteriously, Orestes is absolved of the family curse by an Athena as a goddess of Mercy.

Euripides was born in Athens circa 480 bc. He probably wrote 92 plays, writing close to the close of the Peloponnesian War, as Athens was tottering on the brink of ruin. 19 of these plays survive, more than those of the other 3 great playrights. He became the most popular of the tragedians, after his death. During his life he struggled and was bitter. He recreated human "problems" at a human level and raised the study of character, while reducing the role of the Gods, the Chorus, and the Furies. The Gods were revealed to be petty and uncaring. The women were revealed as major characters.

THE ALCESTIS is a tragi-comedy, with the play opening on the day King Admetus' wife Alcestis has volunteered to die in his stead. The sheer force of self-sacrifice by a woman contrasts with the realization by Admetus that he is vile for accepting the sacrifice.

In MEDEA (431 BC), Euripedes turns to the legend of the Golden Fleece. Jason gains its possession, but only with the assistance of (you guessed it) a strong-willed woman, who falls in love with him. The play begins in Corinth where the two are in exile, his throne having been usurped. As Jason marries another younger woman out of sheer egoism, Medea plans to kill their children for revenge, then relents out of love for them. But then she resolves to kill them, and does. The final act hits with redoubled force.

SOPHOCLES was born, and mediates, between Aeschylus and Euripedes. Born 495 BC into a wealthy family, he wrote 125 plays, of which 7 remain, and he lived to his 90th year. His masterpiece is OEDIPUS THE KING, for its techniques as well as use of dramatic irony and choral odes. It was the genius of Freud to communicate this ancient paradigm of tragedy into modernity. Sophocles understood that behind every appearance of propriety is a reality of complexity and confusion.
  keylawk | Sep 24, 2007 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Oates, Whitney J.Editorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
AristophanesContributormain authorall editionsconfirmed
ÆschylusContributormain authorall editionsconfirmed
EuripidesContributormain authorall editionsconfirmed
SophoclesContributormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Aldington, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Coleridge, E. P.Translatorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jebb, R. C.Translatorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
More, Paul ElmerTranslatorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Morshead, E. D. A.Translatorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Murray, GilbertTranslatorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Campbell, LewisTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fleming, AndrewEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
O'Neill, Eugene, Jr.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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