The Oresteian Trilogy: Agamemnon; The Choephori; The Eumenides (Penguin Classics)
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Aeschylus (525-c.456 bc) set his great trilogy in the immediate aftermath of the Fall of Troy, when King Agamemnon returns to Argos, a victor in war. Agamemnon depicts the hero's discovery that his family has been destroyed by his wife's infidelity and ends with his death at her callous hand. Clytemnestra's crime is repaid in The Choephori when her outraged son Orestes kills both her and her lover. The Eumenides then follows Orestes as he is hounded to Athens by the Furies' law of vengeance and depicts Athene replacing the bloody cycle of revenge with a system of civil justice. Written in the years after the Battle of Marathon, "The Oresteian Trilogy" affirmed the deliverance of democratic Athens not only from Persian conquest, but also from its own barbaric past.
court, should finally dispose of any doubt that Aeschylus has intended to present Apollo’s case as, at the best, unsatisfactory. The Chorus-leader answers with a single sentence bidding the judges reverence their oath, i.e., judge according to their conscience rather than in fear of the will of Zeus as interpreted by Apollo. Athene then announces the perpetual constitution of the court of Areopagus, and bids the citizens (as the Chorus have already bidden them) enthrone fear as the great
CLYTEMNESTRA: Good news, if the proverb’s true, Should break with sunrise from the kindly womb of night. But here’s a richer joy than you dared ever hope : Our Argive men have captured Priam’s town. CHORUS: Have what? I heard it wrong – I can’t believe it ! CLYTEMNESTRA: Troy is ours ! Is that clear speaking? CHORUS: Happiness fills my eyes with tears. CLYTEMNESTRA: They show your loyalty. CHORUS: Have you some sure proof of this? CLYTEMNESTRA: I
and hilt to hilt ! [164–93] ELECTRA: The earth has drunk the wine, my father has our offerings. But listen – here is news ! [Ingreat excitement she pich up ORESTES’ lock of hair.] CHORUS: What is it? I throb with fear. ELECTRA: A lock of hair, cut off and laid here as a gift. CHORUS: Whose hair? A man’s? A young ripe girl’s? ELECTRA: Can you not tell? Look, it is plain! CHORUS: You are young, we old; instruct us, please. ELECTRA: None of his
Introduction, p. 32) must guard himself against the vengeance of the spirits of those he has killed, by undergoing a ritual purification as soon as he reaches his home. This remark of Clytemnestra’s is taken by the Elders to refer to this usual precaution; but the ‘forgotten dead’ Clytemnestra is thinking of is Iphigenia, whom Agamemnon on his return seems indeed to have forgotten. p. 55 Trace that hand. The following stanzas trace the course of Paris’s sin to its final retribution. p. 56
galling enough, is of minor importance, since convention allowed a soldier his concubine. Clytemnestra’s tragedy both began and ended with outrage to her motherhood, when Iphigenia was taken from her, and when Orestes killed her. In the climax of The Eumenides, the trial-scene, we have a long argument between Apollo and the Furies on the respective rights and status of a man and a woman in marriage and parenthood *; and a brief but emphatic argument on the rival claims to freedom of a husband and