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  1. The Oresteia: Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, The Eumenides by Aeschylus
  2. The Complete Aeschylus: Volume I: The Oresteia
  3. The Complete Aeschylus: Volume I: The Oresteia
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The Oresteia: Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, The Eumenides by Aeschylus

Dodds, Eric R. Dover, Kenneth J. Carter ed. A Reappraisal of Tragic Politics. Hansen, Mogens H. Harrison, Evelyn B. Jones, Lesley A. Kramberger, M. Redondo eds. Hakkert Publications, in press.

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Lewis, David M. Livingstone, Richard W. Meritt, Benjamin D. La giustizia di Zeus e la nascita della democrazia, Bari: Stilo Editrice, Kurke eds. Palladini, Letizia. Podlecki, Antony J. Raaflaub, Kurt A. Raaflaub eds. Rhodes, Peter J. Rosenmeyer, Thomas G.

The Complete Aeschylus: Volume I: The Oresteia

Coulson, O. Palagia, T. Shear, H. Frost eds. Shear, Lesley T. Shear, Julia L. Smertenko, Clara. Traill, John S. Skip to main content Skip to main navigation menu Skip to site footer. Abstract The present paper addresses Aeschylus, and the way he wanted to be remembered by his fellow Athenians and the other Greeks.

The Complete Aeschylus: Volume I: The Oresteia

Downloads Download data is not yet available. Aeschylus, Persae: Aeschylus, Persae, ed. Garvie, Oxford: Oxford University Press, The first volume to be published was, appropriately enough, Slavitt's own translation of Aeschylus' ''Oresteia'' B. Like much of the tragedy that would follow, ''The Oresteia'' -- the only complete trilogy that survives from antiquity -- conflates family, political and moral issues. It traces a convoluted cycle of crime and vengeance from the Mycenaean King Agamemnon's sacrifice of his daughter, Iphigenia, for political reasons, through his wife Clytemnestra's bloody revenge and ending with the founding of the first law court, where their son Orestes is acquitted for his retributive murder of his mother.

The cycle has been read as an allegory for the establishment of civilization itself; all the more disappointing, then, that in Slavitt's rendering it ends up sounding like a Maury Povich marathon. It is one thing to try to eliminate the archaisms and opacity of the original in order to streamline the plays for a contemporary audience; few audiences, to say nothing of actors, are likely to pine for phrases like ''a great ox stands upon my tongue,'' which is what the terrified Watchman in ''Agamemnon'' says when hinting that something is rotten in the state of Mycenae.

Slavitt's ''words fail. Like a dumb beast I will stare'' keeps the image but makes it less risible for contemporary readers.

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But Slavitt's freshening-up too often becomes a dumbing-down, trivializing the drama. It's not so much the chrome-plated, up-to-the-minute locutions Slavitt keeps using ''learning curve,'' ''a cocktail of. But surely no improvement in accessibility is worth the lapses in tone that mar this translation. Tragedy, and especially late tragedy, can be wry, irreverent, parodic, even burlesque; but it is never vulgar. One of the most chilling moments in ''Agamemnon'' occurs when a triumphant Clytemnestra confronts the horrified chorus after she's axed her husband and his concubine to death in the bathtub a scene in which Slavitt, in his introductory notes, claims rather bizarrely to have found one of the play's ''funnier'' moments.

But Slavitt's chorus is blase rather than aghast, probably because the allegedly terrifying Queen, in this version, is given to gum-snapping Mildred Pierce-isms like ''Watch what you say, mister. There's nothing wrong with refashioning the classics in a biting, contemporary fashion: Stanley Lombardo's ''Iliad,'' published last year, is a model for translations of this sort. But Lombardo who, unlike many of the Penn ''translators,'' knows Greek has fashioned a reinterpretation that grows coherently and organically out of a text he is intimately familiar with.

By contrast, too many of the Penn innovations seem merely gimmicky. It is not clear to me how Fred Chappell's use of Italian musical notation ''allegretto con alcuna licenza'' adds significantly to the intelligibility or performability of Eurpides' notoriously difficult ''Alcestis,'' which wobbles between farce and tragedy. Rachel Hadas's arch rendering of the same playwright's bittersweet, gossamer ''Helen'' into rhyming couplets seems hardly more contemporary in feeling -- let alone more performable -- than the stilted old Loeb's.

Ancient Greek Theater performance: Agamemnon - Aeschylus, tragedy

Marilyn Nelson, the translator of ''Hecuba,'' includes echoes of the spiritual ''Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen'' in that strange drama's choruses because, Nelson, who is an African-American, writes, ''Hecuba's story is my great-great-great-grandmother's story. Ironically, so many of the Penn translators are intent on their superficial gussying up of these works that they miss out on substantive issues in the texts that really are contemporary and fresh.

An example: despite its title, much of Sophocles' ''Philoctetes'' revolves around the moral quandary faced by Achilles' young son, Neoptolemos. Ordered to bring the exiled warrior Philoctetes back to Troy, he must choose whether to follow his inborn nature and deal with the reluctant Philoctetes openly, as his late father might have done, or to follow the example of an alternative father figure, the play's villain, Odysseus, by using trickery.

The Penn series' translator, Armand Schwerner, could easily have capitalized on this suggestive resemblance by among other things translating with greater faithfulness the play's strikingly frequent references to ''nature. Schwerner's Neoptolemos, however, blandly murmurs, ''That's how I am,'' a line that fails utterly to convey the text's emphasis.

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Unfortunately, readers seeking illumination of the plays' historical or intellectual background in the translators' prefaces are unlikely to find it. In a press release, the series' other editor, Palmer Bovie, refers optimistically to these prefaces as introductions ''to the thought and style of the original authors''; but with rare exceptions the prefaces are marked less by concern for the texts and their history and meanings than by the kind of self-congratulatory autobiographical effusions you're likely to encounter at the back of a Playbill for ''Cats.

It is not always a good idea to cite your own poetry when Euripides' follows.

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Yet even these exercises in vanity are preferable to the introductory remarks of Schwerner, who helpfully observes that ''fundamentalist pleasures now count as commercially vectored nodes on the rhizome of world television. The pity is that the occasional nuggets of gold may get lost in all this dross. There is a superb translation of ''Medea'' by Eleanor Wilner, the best I've read it makes the English feel remarkably like the Greek -- rich, sinewy, sardonic ; an appropriately brisk if perhaps too casual ''Ajax'' by Frederic Raphael and Kenneth McLeish; an ''Andromache'' that, in Junkins's translation, manages to be both lovely and dignified, despite the play's soap-opera plot twists; a ''Bacchae'' by Daniel Mark Epstein that, while no great advance over previous versions certainly not William Arrowsmith's witty and harrowing Chicago translation , is intelligent, eminently playable and prefaced by a straightforward and useful introduction.