The Orestia

The Orestia

by Aeschylus
     
 

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Of the life of Aeschylus, the first of the three great masters of Greek
tragedy, only a very meager outline has come down to us. He was born at
Eleusis, near Athens, B. C. 525, the son of Euphorion. Before he was
twenty-five he began to compete for the tragic prize, but did not win a
victory for twelve years. He spent two periods of years in Sicily,

Overview

Of the life of Aeschylus, the first of the three great masters of Greek
tragedy, only a very meager outline has come down to us. He was born at
Eleusis, near Athens, B. C. 525, the son of Euphorion. Before he was
twenty-five he began to compete for the tragic prize, but did not win a
victory for twelve years. He spent two periods of years in Sicily, where
he died in 456, killed, it is said, by a tortoise which an eagle dropped
on his head. Though a professional writer, he did his share of fighting
for his country, and is reported to have taken part in the battles of
Marathon, Salamis, and Plataea.

Of the seventy or eighty plays which he is said to have written, only
seven survive: "The Persians," dealing with the defeat of Xerxes at Salamis;
"The Seven against Thebes," part of a tetralogy on the legend of Thebes;
"The Suppliants," on the daughters of Dana�s; "Prometheus Bound," part of
a trilogy, of which the first part was probably "Prometheus, the Fire-bringer,"
and the last, "Prometheus Unbound"; and the "Oresteia," the only example of a
complete Greek tragic trilogy which has come down to us, consisting of
"Agamemnon," "Choephorae" (The Libation-Bearers), and the "Eumenides" (Furies).

The importance of Aeschylus in the development of the drama is immense.
Before him tragedy had consisted of the chorus and one actor; and by
introducing a second actor, expanding the dramatic dialogue thus made
possible, and reducing the lyrical parts, he practically created Greek
tragedy as we understand it. Like other writers of his time, he acted in
his own plays, and trained the chorus in their dances and songs; and he
did much to give impressiveness to the performances by his development of
the accessories of scene and costume on the stage. Of the four plays here
reproduced, "Prometheus Bound" holds an exceptional place in the literature
of the world. (As conceived by Aeschylus, Prometheus is the champion of man
against the oppression of Zeus; and the argument of the drama has a certain
correspondence to the problem of the Book of Job.) The Oresteian trilogy on
"The House of Atreus" is one of the supreme productions of all literature.
It deals with the two great themes of the retribution of crime and the
inheritance of evil; and here again a parallel may be found between the
assertions of the justice of God by Aeschylus and by the Hebrew prophet
Ezekiel. Both contend against the popular idea that the fathers have eaten
sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on edge; both maintain that
the soul that sinneth, it shall die. The nobility of thought and the majesty
of style with which these ideas are set forth give this triple drama its place
at the head of the literary masterpieces of the antique world.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
2940013693166
Publisher:
WDS Publishing
Publication date:
01/19/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
104 KB

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